It has been almost a year since we moved into our new home (the exact date was 23rd December, and we completed and exchanged within 24 hours – not the most carefree way to spend the run-up to Christmas!). And although we’ve achieved a lot, we still have a long way to go…
So thought I’d share a few things we have learnt along the way…
1. EVERYONE WILL THINK THEIR PROJECT IS WORSE…AND YOU’LL THINK THAT TOO
It’s a weird old thing, renovation chat…there’s a lot of ‘oh but mine was disgusting’, or ‘we couldn’t even live in ours it was so gross’. And I must admit, we’re guilty of it – yes we lived in it from day 1, not really because it was actually liveable (we had no heating, gas pipes, or a working kitchen) but because we didn’t have a choice…all our money went on the mortgage. But everyone think theirs is the worst, regardless, because to the individual living in it – it is harder than you can imagine.
We would spend our life explaining to people how bad it really was – mainly because I take nice, glamorous pictures for a living so could never really show the horror that was our life in those first few months (when 3 ceilings collapsed, we wore puffa coats to bed, we had to shower at friends’ houses and Chris had to stand outside the door every time I used the only bathroom in the ‘dungeon’ as it petrified me).
So when people showed me pictures of their 1950s working kitchen, I would always think ‘you should really see ours’…but the truth is, no matter what stage you’re at with the house, even if you’re just renovating one room or building an extension – it’s always HARD, it’s always DUSTY and it’s always horrible to live through it. So we’re learning not to compare and just appreciate that there are other people who ‘get’ what we’re going through.
2. A GOOD BUILDER IS HARD TO FIND (ON YOUR OWN)
We’d only had experience of one set of builders before, and they were fine, but not exceptional. We’d gotten used to doors fixed the wrong way round and switches in annoying places but when they left us with tons of snagging issues in our last place, we knew we’d never make the mistake of under researching again.
This time, we asked around via friends for builders, plumbers and electricians and we have been SO happy, it has made such a difference to our lives. We really didn’t think it could change our outlook on building work so dramatically but it has.
Having people you can rely on, who realise that you are the customer and strive to achieve everything you want for your house is priceless.
Our plumber has come round at a moment’s notice when Chris accidentally burst a pipe whilst laying some flooring, and for our builder, nothing is a problem. He gets all our ideas, asks us before installing or adding anything and in general, is a pleasure to deal with. A few have already asked for their details but if you are local and want to email me, we are happy to recommend (they just might be a tad busy with us for a while!).
3. YOU’LL WANT TO CRY EVERY TIME SOMEONE SAYS ‘YOU’RE ALMOST FINISHED, AREN’T YOU?’
As much as I love ‘Homes Under The Hammer’, it has ruined renovations for everyone. You see someone come in, they have an accessible budget straight away, a timeframe of 6 weeks and bang, they’re done. In terms of flipping properties for profit and to get renters in, I get it – time is money.
But when it comes to buying property in today’s economy, every house we looked at was the top end of our budget, all needing quite a bit of work (although none quite to this extent!). We have had to save bit by bit and even remortgage once we were in to do just the minimum: plumbing, heating, electricity meters and a working bathroom.
Now we are on phase two, we are borrowing from my work account and figuring out a payment plan to pay it back….we’re luckier than most that we can fund it ourselves over time but it means that our answer to anyone asking when we’re finished is ‘oh, years….we don’t really have a deadline’ and it always comes with a bit of embarrassment and having to explain our financial situation…
4. THE DUST
I wrote about this more when we did our loft conversion, but it’s something you never really get used to. You realise after a while how it becomes so everyday you don’t even notice it…I sneeze every morning when I wake up (pregnancy also has something to do with this right now, too!) and I’ve almost accepted that dust is just the scent of our house.
Although, looking on the bright side, it’s better than the constant smell of mildew that existed when we moved in (that took about 6 months to get rid of).
5. YOU’LL ALWAYS FORGET HOW FAR YOU’VE COME…
People ask how we got through it so far, and we just shrug and go ‘it wasn’t that bad’…
Actually it was, but we didn’t have a choice but to be positive and move forward. But even when we’re being positive, we still forget how far we’ve really come.
We now sleep in a room that doesn’t give me nightmares, we have a bathroom I love being in, with great water pressure and hot, steaming water (we no longer have to fill a bucket outside, to take to the downstairs dungeon loo just to flush the chain). We have an almost finished study, which my husband used all weekend to finish some editing he needed to do. All of our radiators, although cost a fortune at the time installing, are ones we chose from the start and look great in every room. We no longer think we may risk death by switching on a plug in the skirting boards.
I could go on, but you get the gist.
We’re just about to embark on the next part: our master bedroom and the hallway. It wasn’t really in the plan to do this next but as always, life happens and you have to adapt. It’s a big room and with a baby on the way early next year, it would be great to use the space for the new arrival. We’re installing an ensuite there too, so hopefully I can utilise it pretty much as a studio flat for the first few months! Wish us luck…
As always you can follow along on Instagram Stories for daily renovation updates.