Our situation is a slightly unusual one. My partner Steve and I live together, have a 2 year old together, and we work together. And this year, in a pandemic, whilst working from home in one room – we decided to undertake some serious renovations.
We’re still together, I’ll just say that now – I can feel your worry.
Steve works on refurbishments here at Paramount, so for him it was a great way to gain even more knowledge and experience first hand. For me – well I just wanted a house ready for summer when the promise of lockdown lifting, and long days playing in the garden as a family, were all that was getting me through January!
We embarked on an 8-10 week build including a rear extension, a garage conversion, and moving and creating a brand new kitchen. 16 weeks on, as the builders pulled away last night for (hopefully) the last time, I finally had some time to reflect. I want to share the valuable lessons this project has taught me.
The back room before we started the refurb
1. Give your living situation consideration.
It’s not always possible to move out of a property whilst work is being carried out. We certainly couldn’t afford to rent, and given covid our options to stay with friends or family were limited. We spent 3 months living in the upstairs of our house – at times it was really fun (think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory vibes, all in one bed) and at other times it was a nightmare (think two year old, climbing the walls).
Whatever the solution that is right for you – make sure you have a plan, and plan for everything to be longer. I wish we had considered storage of items more carefully, meaning that we could have perhaps made a small makeshift kitchen upstairs, or removed our spare bed fully to make that room more of a usable living space.
Speak to friends and family – you could be surprised by who might help. Although the idea of living with in laws can be daunting, trust me, so is watching the day by day progress of a project you feel can never move fast enough!
Digging the foundations
2. Book professional cleaners.
Some building firms will offer this service at the end of a project. Ours didn’t, and given the expense on the work this seemed to be an easy win for us to do ourselves at the end. I have never seen so much dust. You wipe, it appears again minutes later! It’s never ending.
Check whether your refurbishment works include cleaning at the end, and if not - budget it in. It’s worth every penny, and will allow you to walk into a space clean fresh and ready to go at the end.
The extension starting to take shape
3. Set boundaries with your contractors.
I wish we had done this sooner but we were far too polite. We didn’t want to cause a fuss, didn’t want to be ‘the difficult’ client. Actually it was our home, and it was a huge amount of money to us being spent, so I wish we had asserted ourselves a little more in certain areas sooner. For example, agreed rules around use of the kitchen (this was during covid times), how the property was left at the end of the day, and who we would liaise with throughout the project.
And actually as soon as we did assert ourselves, it was well received and dealt with immediately.
The view from our future kitchen
4. Keep your creative mind busy.
If I had a pound for every time someone has said to me ‘but it’ll be worth it’ in the last few months, I’d have paid for the extension.
Steve, having a far more technical understanding than me, dealt with all of the logistics and liaisons with the builders so he could walk in and see progress each day. I could just see more and more mess. What kept me on board and excited was planning the interiors, the furniture, the garden toys – Pinterest was a great friend in those lonely times and I highly recommend it for anyone undertaking a project in their own home. However……
The kitchen taking shape
5. Be patient.
Not a trait I’m known for admittedly. The temptation to buy all of the sofas, and wall art, and rugs I had seen along the way was huge. But I am so glad we didn’t.
Firstly - we’d genuinely have run out of space storing it all! Secondly, the space looks so much different now that we’re in it. Ideas change, themes etc. I have changed my mind over and over on colours, styles. We brought a few key items, and now we are going to live in the space and see what we need to complete it!
The kitchen we've been dreaming of
6. You guessed it - it will be worth it.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but like childbirth, once it’s over you really do forget the pain!
It’s been a journey, with incredible highs, and terrible lows – but we are so thrilled, and what a great experience to have together. I’ve been buying and selling property every two years for the last six, and I’ve promised a good friend I will learn to just ‘be’ in our new dream house!
The extension is finally complete
So if you need me, I’ll be on the reading chair with a glass of wine until further notice. Steve and our daughter, on the other hand, will be enjoying the new lounge space!
If you'd like to see more refurbishments, head over to the Paramount Maintenance page to see some of our ongoing and past projects!