One of the things that I’ve thought about a lot while I’ve been in California is how much we’ve achieved in the past year. Facebook keeps sending me those reminders of what I was doing this time last year and seeing all the photos of our house renovation pop up really brings it all home to me how crazy the past 12 months have been. If you’d have told me 12 months ago that today I’d be sitting in California and our house would be nearly completely finished, there’s no way I’d have believed you. We were living at Nick’s parents, Nick was waking up at 6am to drive to the house to get a couple of hours work done before driving an hour to work all day as a food judge, having to do his copywriting work in his lunch break before driving an hour home and working until 10pm at night on the house before driving back to his parents and flopping into bed completely exhausted. This went on for the best part of 4 months. Then he broke his leg. (Luckily most of the house was finished by that point!)
I know it’s easy to make stuff like this look like no big deal on blogs and social media but I just wanted to write a post about what real hard work it’s been. Nick & I did 80% of the work ourselves (and I’ll be honest, 90% of that was just Nick). We knew that in order to maximise our return on investment, we needed to be doing the work ourselves. We didn’t hire a £250-a-day skip, we drove to the local tip several times a day or dug several enormous holes in our back garden and buried the rubble – which is completely backbreaking. We didn’t hire a decorator or a painter, we only had skilled tradesmen in for things that were completely essential. The only ‘luxury’ was having a tiler as Nick had made a bit of a mess in our last home so I put my foot down on that one!
1. It will take longer than you expect
Everything you plan to do is guaranteed to take longer than you expect or allow for. Even if you get tradesmen in to do the job, there always will be delays, whether it’s people just deciding not to turn up for the day without letting you know, or delays with supplies being ordered and delivered or in getting the building inspector to come and sign off the work before you can do the next bit, everything will take longer than you want it to. Try not to stress out too much. Most of the time it’s out of your hands. Go and have a cup of tea and appreciate the rest.
2. It will cost more than you expect
Yep. There’s a whole ton of stuff that we didn’t budget for that soon adds up. We were quite accurate with our estimates for the big stuff like plasterboard and paint but all the little things like nails, screws and paint rollers that cost £5-£10 each time means the costs quickly mount up. That’s without factoring in the furniture that you didn’t realise wouldn’t fit up the stairs (hello new bed*!)
3. Things will go wrong
Countless things went wrong during the renovation process. Nick sliced his hand open rather badly on a porcelain toilet that he was smashing out, Nick’s dad hurt his hand while he was knocking down a wall for us, my dad did his back in while he was helping to strip wallpaper and that’s without mentioning the physical things that went wrong with the house! You’re bound to measure something wrong at some point or drill a hole in the wrong place or drag a bucket along a freshly painted wall (yes these all happened) but don’t sweat, most things can be fixed quite easily – as long as you don’t nearly electrocute yourself on a random wire poking out the kitchen wall that the electrician assured you was dead!
4. Nobody around you will quite understand your exhaustion
Unless they’ve been through it themselves, nobody else will quite understand the extreme exhaustion you’re going through. The constant calculation of measurements for huge, really expensive items and worry that you’ve given the correct figures mixed with the hard manual labour is truly exhausting (& that’s before you add a toddler into the mix). Trust me, it’s nothing on a newborn baby.
Obviously, here we are a year later and I can honestly say it was totally worth it. I love our house so much. But this kind of project isn’t for the faint-hearted!
You can see the finished rooms at the links below (we still haven’t got much art on the walls though, I think it will always be a work in progress!)
*This post is in collaboration with Oak Furniture UK as part of their DIY Disasters campaign