Ten Things About Renovating A House
Many of you may have noticed from my snapchat (follow me by searching ‘labelsforlunch’) that I am currently renovating a house with my boyfriend. We bought it about 6 months ago and just as Kim Kardashian wisely said, it will cost double the money and double the time you expect. Truer words have never been spoken, she’s not just a pro at contouring, she knows other helpful ‘stuff’ too! I thought it might be nice to share a few insights into my life whilst we renovate and hopefully share a few things I have learnt. Here are Ten Things About Renovating A House:
Consult An Architect
Most of the time, Architects are called in for building projects like extensions and new builds. However, they can do so much more! We worked with an Architect to help us come up with the best floor plans possible. We discussed what we wanted from the house, our budgets, design ideas and lifestyles and he was able to give us floor plans which made the upstairs flow better. He left the structural walls in place to cut down on costs, but he was able to reimagine the space to make it look and feel more modern and functional. With this in mind, we have less bedrooms now, but a beautiful big office, a dressing room, ensuite and shower room, each room is perfectly proportioned and it feels more functional. When we started the building works, we knew the plans were perfect, rather than hoping that we had got it right. For this service, we used Architect Your Home and you can hire them for a day to create sketch plans, or they can be used for bigger structural projects. It wasn’t cheap, but nor was the building work and this way, we get it right first time!
Room-by-Room? Think Again!
When people say you can work on a house room-by-room, they are right, if you are decorating. However, if you are doing anything bigger than just cosmetic work, you have to think of it as a whole. There is no point laying carpet in a room if you have to rewire your house or move the pipework, electrics and what-not. These things have to be done as a whole as each little thing you do, may well have a knock-on effect to another room. Instead, we have thought of our house in three parts, The upstairs, downstairs and extension (which is three rooms attached to the main house). For instance, when the bathroom was being fitted, pipework was disturbed in the third bedroom, so all the floorboards had to come up in that room, and then there was a tiny leak a few days later which may have dripped down to the hallway. These things happen, but if we had decorated the hallway already, we would have been pretty gutted!
We found our tradesmen via Which? If you are a subscriber, you can type in your address and what work you want doing and you will find tradesmen in your area which you can contact for quotes. The great thing about Which? is they have quite a hefty process for being approved. Also, they insist that all the companies they work with give quotes, rather than a day rate which can suddenly turn into weeks of work and cost way more than they originally estimated. There’s no shaking heads moment where you suddenly discover your house is falling down but they can fix it for an extra few thousand pounds. Instead they will come round, look at the work you need doing and quote you for it. Unless you start changing a basic bathroom into a wet room, then the price won’t really alter. If you are working on a big project like we are, you might want to go to tender. Otherwise, try and get recommendations from friends on workmen and if you can, try and see examples of their past work.
Renovating Your Kitchen?
It turns out, when you are renovating a house, the kitchen is the very last thing you should do. I’m not entirely sure why, but it’s the rule. Our house was built in the 1860’s and I have a feeling we may have the original kitchen. Actually, that’s a lie, but the kitchen is freakin’ old and whilst we have a stash of my dream Miele appliances ready to be fitted, we can’t fit the appliances until we fit the kitchen and we can’t fit the kitchen until we have finished the house. I’m becoming master of the make-shift kitchen! I’m not even kidding when I say we don’t have a fridge (well, we do in the hallway waiting to be fitted!) instead we have a slab of marble where we keep our butter and salad items with a tea towel over (I swear, it really does work!). Instead of buying milk, we buy sachets of long-life milk, which is perfect for cups of tea (personally, I only drink herbal tea so it doesn’t bother me at all!). Instead of a cooker, we have a plug-in hob, I think these are usually sold to people who live in a bedsit, but actually, it works perfectly well if you are renovating your kitchen. We are able to make soups, pastas, rice dishes, stir-fries and loads of amazing one-pot dishes. I recommend buying one if you are renovating your kitchen, it is brilliant! My mum is actually considering getting one for the summer months when it gets too hot to cook on the AGA.
We didn’t intend to paint our house, we actually wanted to get professionals in who would be able to give us the perfect finish we wanted. However, after getting some quotes we discovered that it would actually cost a small fortune. I’m not talking hundreds, I’m talking thousands. One quote was actually £9,500 excluding paint and materials. Insane right?!?! Especially when realise it was for painting straight over perfect plastered walls! Don’t worry! Invest in a *really* good pair of ladders (or even a tower if your ceilings are super high like ours) and paint yourself. We got all our walls plastered before painting as we wanted them to be perfectly even, so make sure you seal them first with Valspar Contract Matt Emulsion Paint. This paint can be used straight over plaster, but you can also layer it up with two or three coats and do your ceiling with this paint too. As for the woodwork, just use a combined Primer and Undercoat, then finish with a layer or two of paint. Every time we had issues, we just went to B&Q and asked their staff. They are super helpful and even shake the paint for you in their machine so you don’t have to spend ages stirring it. As for brushes, we are obsessed with Harris Brushes and Rollers, they cost a tiny bit more, but they are the nicest to use, easy to control and they won’t loose their bristles mid-stroke. As for colours, Valspar can literally colour match any shade you want and mix it up for you on site so you get that designer shade, at a fraction of the price. I can’t say enough good things about Valspar Paint and the level of knowledge and help you can get from going into B&Q stores and asking questions to their staff. They have helped us more than google and that’s impressive!
We couldn’t have been happier to discover we had beautiful old, wide floorboards in our house which were actually pretty amazing condition. Especially when considering the age of the building. Our builders hired a sander for us and we worked solidly one weekend to sand all the upstairs floors. It took a long time and it was hard work, but the floors look perfect now. Make sure you wear a face mask when sanding (floors and walls) and don’t buy the cheap ones, invest a few extra pounds in the good ones. Your lungs will thank you! We got our floor sander from The Hire Station, we got a belt sander (like a giant hoover) to do the main bulk of the floor, and a hand sander to do the edges.
When it comes to designing our rooms and bathrooms, we have used Pinterest for everything. We have a million mood boards; I have boards, he has boards and we even send each other pins and show our builders pictures on Pinterest to explain what we mean. I’m pretty sure if our builders hear the words ‘Wait, let me find it on Pinterest’ one more time they will scream! Before buying a house, I used Pinterest for inspo. Now, I use it for designing rooms, we have found design common ground on Pinterest, explained our ideas with each other by sharing images on Pinterest and even solved design issues by searching on it. Brilliant!
Damn! I never knew how much flooring costs!! We may have spent a lot of time sanding our floorboards, but actually, it’s saved us a fortune. We love the finished result and even though sanders / sandpaper / varnish / paint isn’t cheap, it’s still a lot cheaper than other flooring. Laminate flooring can be a bit naff, but reclaimed floorboards can cost around £50 per square meter for the wood and then another £40 for fitting it. Ouch! As for tiles, we spent £100 per square meter on our upstairs bathrooms (yep two of them, double ouch) but once you add in the money for aqua boarding and fitting, it probably cost more like £150 per square meter. Yes, it’s a lot, however, I would say even cheap as chips tiles cost around £35 per square metre plus the fitting costs, so it made sense to just buy our dream flooring. Again with carpet, you need to remember you are paying for the price of the carpet, as well as fitting it and the underlay beneath it.
When we moved into our house, we made the decision to start work on the renovations ASAP, so we kept everything in storage boxes. Living with minimal items isn’t easy, but it’s possible. We watch all our TV on laptops / iPads, we wash up after every single meal because most of our kitchen items are still packed up and we are even living with skeleton wardrobes. You may have noticed how much I recycle my clothing in my style posts?! However, when we finally do finish and unpack everything, we can unpack for good. If we had started renovating after a year or two of living here, we would have had to have unpacked and repacked and that would have been much worse!
There is no escaping it, builders aren’t free, nor is paint / varnish / sandpaper / tools… everything really. But we always say to each other, ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. My bank account might be on the empty side, but it won’t be forever. We have already spent way more than we planned to, but at the end of the day, it’s our home and it’s also a long term investment. My best advice is to keep a check on your spending, cut down on the luxuries (no Chanel for me in a while!) and try and manage your cash flow. Just remember that there are extra costs with everything; you don’t just buy carpet, you also have to pay for fitting and underlay. When you buy a bathroom; the taps, tub, shower, plugs, everything is sold as separates and it quickly mounts up.
PS. I will post photos soon of the full project, but it’s not really ready to show yet, so far, there is still a lot of plastered walls and primed wood! However, if you follow me on Snapchat (search ‘labelsforlunch’) I do post lots of photos on there which will give you an insight!