AN HONEST ACCOUNT OF OUR RENOVATION JOURNEY
Note: It’s not all instagram flat lays and pretty decorations.
I’ve been meaning to share a new post about the renovation over here for some time. Things finally started to move into interior design mode, versus building site mode a few weeks back, maybe a couple of months in fact. That’s when we took these photos; a waterproof and sealed extension, complete. But it’s probably good that I’ve been delayed in writing this post, because since I had the original blog post idea (a real and honest update of what it’s truly like to do a structural home renovation) things have gotten so, so much worse.
In fact yesterday was official crumbling point, which makes this the right time to share the warts and all realities of doing a home renovation.
Don’t get me wrong I know the end result will be worth it all (god help me if it’s not), but the process of getting here has tested limits, sanity, relationships not to mention the bank balance.
Much like ‘realities of buying a house’ post which seemed to go down well, I wanted to do an honest review of the renovation process, as to be honest I don’t believe many other renovations i’ve followed on instagram etc show the whole truth and pain it takes to get the dream house at the end. I knew there would be delays and that we’d be pushed on budget, but the emotional and mental strain it would create, I was not expecting at all.
So here we go, as we near a few weeks from completion (bathroom, kitchen and carpentry to go), here are the things i’ve learnt during the last two and a half years of planning and five months of being on site.
DELAYS & DECISISIVENESS
Let’s start with the fact that I did not want or expect, worst case scenario, that this build would take five months and still not be completed, that’s on top of over two years of planning. But, as a result of bad weather, mistakes that take time to correct, poor planned timings with contractors, indecisiveness and just things generally things taking longer than they need ought to … we’re five months in and we’re not yet done!
It’s just those little delays that are seemingly irrelevant, that add up and create that knock on affect.
For us, it started with no pre planned skip licence or skips on site delaying the start. It continued with the builders making errors that required things to be re done or new jobs to be added (we almost lost over a foot of space due to the wall being built initially in the wrong place). Lots of little things like this add up over time. Then we moved into delays in decisions being made causing delays in deliveries and materials on site, which then innately creates delays in contractors being there to complete jobs. All of that compounded by contractors, often without any notice or consultation, deciding they can’t do the day you agreed any more and confirming they’re coming next week instead. Of course all of this builds to create a huge knock on impact for every other contractor and job you have lined up (each of which who can’t d0 their work until the one before has finished). Before you know it two weeks are wasted each time.
Not to mention, regardless of preparation or smooth flowing works, everything just takes longer than you’d expect it to. That two day job, always takes four. You get the jist right?
Even more so when your boyfriend doesn’t have decisiveness in his vocabulary.
As an inpatient person who is also a grade A control freak, this has caused major anxiety (my workflow plan is tested / ruined every single day). Add on top of that a perfectionist boyfriend who can’t make decisions and has incredibly unattainable visions (innately causing delays) and you’ve got stress, tears and continuous bickering. It’s incredibly testing.
‘It’s a simple decision, just order X’ … despair, panic, withdrawal and indecisiveness, no matter how big or small the task. You wouldn’t even dare to believe the hours spent tweaking the same designs, going back and forth on decisions! Bless his soul, but fuck me it’s exhausting when your boyfriend is this anal.
My top tip: Try to remain pragmatic, decisive and open minded. Things don’t always go to plan during a renovation and this is normal, your vision innately has to evolve, you need an open and optimistic mindset not to let that dampen your spirit (Jase, I hope you’re reading this). Decisions aren’t forever, if it doesn’t work in large you can replace or change it … the longer you take fussing about, ultimately the longer you delay the finished result.
NOMADIC & SLEEP DEPRIVED
If you’re lucky enough to own a big house whereby you can live in a specific room or area whilst the work is going on, then things aren’t quite so uprooted. But when you own a one bed flat and every single cm of space is impacted, you ultimately have to move out. And even if you’re fortunate enough to have family nearby (which we are), there’s still a whole host of challenges that comes with being a nomad. From living without all your belongings, trying to not get on peoples toes whilst you don’t have your own home to retreat to, and generally just missing the security of your own space and home comforts – there are always a plethora of hurdles on the way. It’s quite an emotionally challenging and tense time … more to come on that.
Even having a space to stay whilst the building works go on, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll actually get to use it much. Because once you finish your day in the office, the DIY begins.
Evenings become a rat race around town to get to all the stores you need to before they close to pick up materials for the next job to be done, heading to the ‘site’ checking things have been done as they should have been that day (note: they probably won’t have been), followed by long nights lit by lamps trying to move the DIY along. We’ve both had busy work periods throughout the last few months too, so we’ve been truly run ragged trying to juggle everything.
If the evening isn’t spent doing DIY until midnight, its spent pulling your hair out arguing over what cupboard door front you want and trying to finalise plans and orders to keep everything else moving (note: go back to ‘Delays and Decisiveness’ for a reminder of what this entails). There is no time to stop thinking. Exhaustion is guaranteed.
Top Tip: It’s a really challenging thing to move in with someone else, to live from a suitcase, to spend every second juggling people, work, your renovation. I think the biggest tip I have on this, is that everyone will need space at certain times, and it’s important to create it. That space can often be a time to stop and recharge. We’ve been running on zero for a long time now and there comes a point when you have to accept stopping and pausing, is going to be beneficial in the long run. There’s only so much pushing on you can do, before you have to accept a break is required.
COSTS & DISAPPOINTMENT
If you live in London you’re better off being a builder than working in any other type of employment, my god those prices!
We started the renovation process over two and a half years ago with what we thought was a healthy figure in mind for the renovation, we will net out at the very least double that. That’s considering my dad is a property developer and my boyfriend an architect – it’s not like we weren’t informed. And even then, that cost is a third of the price of most builders quotes we got. We were utterly MIND BLOWN by some of the costs we received.
Fortunately we shopped around and have managed to achieve things that we couldn’t have afforded if we weren’t savvy. In Jase’s defence often some of the delays and indecisiveness have been worth it, allowing us to find smart ways to do something without the price tag, or equally spending a lot of time (A LOT OF TIME) shopping around for the best deals on certain items. The latter is something he has really done on pretty much everything we have invested in on this place – but the reality is, this level of work means things take a lot longer and adds pressure from a progress point of view.
And whilst in the main it’s been worth it, there are occasions where it doesn’t always pay off. Some of our best buys or deals have been scuppered due to an unforeseen cost elsewhere, the knock on impact it’s had on contractors and the costs associated with that, or just delayed progress so much we’ve ended up having to pay more to get things in time for a builder who’s been planned in (!).
On top of that … sometimes the result isn’t quite what you had in mind. I have to say this doesn’t impact me as much as generally i’m incredibly positive, grateful and optimistic about all the things we’re doing, buying and creating, Jase (a debilitating perfectionist) on the other hand wallows in depression that sometimes his vision isn’t the reality – if it’s not 11/10, it’s simply not good enough. Unfortunately with multi billion luxe residential renovations filling his time by day, our little flat probably is quite disappointing come night haha.
Top Tips: Firstly, you have to accept that the two variables on a project like this are time and money. You very rarely have both, which means you inevitably sacrifice the other. In doing things as effectively as we can, in order to create the most high end finish possible within our budget, we’ve had to take a lot more time than I expected, to get the best deals and do what we can ourselves (because typically off the shelf isn’t in an architects plan). And even then, as I mentioned above, it doesn’t always pay off (where we saved on material, we may have ended up having to pay more for the builder or vice versa, a great deal on works, but an urgent requirement on material leading us to have to pay for next day delivery etc). Secondly, you have to remain grounded and grateful … yes not everything will be ‘perfect’ (unless you have a shit ton of money) but it’s going to be a hell of a’ improvement when it’s done.
EMOTIONS & ARGUMENTS
Add exhaustion, nomadic life, indecisiveness, time pressure, constant let downs, delays and back breaking budgets and DIY and what do you get … one hell of a lot of emotions and arguments.
Typically Jase and I don’t really argue that much. The odd one here or there. Periods of utter irritation by each other. But in 12 years, they are sort of normal. But this last 3 months (especially as tasks have moved back into our remit, rather than directly with the builders) we have argued almost every. single. waking. hour. of the day.
Of course I am going to blame Jase for this (lol), the poor sod really has lost his sanity as part of this process and as he’s carrying the weight of all the work (it’s his design, he managed all the planning & approvals, he’s effectively been project managing all the builders throughout the renovation, having to adapt the plans every time a error is made on site, leading the conversations with contractors and suppliers, coordinating most the orders and generally running around trying to sort things) on top of work and three other private projects, the pressure and exhaustion is PEAK.
You then add me in, bossing him about and getting aggy things are too slow, adding my own interior style into the mix (he’s grappling badly with this one) and it’s no wonder we wake and fall asleep to bickering.
Jase can’t make decisions. I get annoyed because, really, it’s not that complicated? He gets stressed because I have ‘no idea’. I am insulted and become more pushy to move forward. He becomes more indecisive. I get stressed because he’s delaying things and decide to make plans myself. He gets angry that I am being so demanding, and panics at the control being taken away. I get frustrated he’s making things so complicated … and so the cycle continues.
That said, we do find those moments of humour in it all … and they are key.
We’re also quite good communicators – so we’re very open to telling each other how things are making us feel, which helps move forward positively after you’ve finished pickering about whatever the topic of the moment is (tiles, floor, kitchen, timing plans, wall colours … you name it).
As it stands right now, we’ve reached what I have coined ‘peak crumble’ – which effectively means despite all our efforts and work to create a flow of works and order of ceremony to work us towards a move in date (AKA my master plan) … every. single. fucker. under. the. sun. has. not. delivered.
One job not finished, means another is delayed. One job done wrong, means another has to be postponed whilst another is fixed. One contractor decides he’s not coming today, he’ll come tomorrow instead … three other jobs lined up have to be moved. Et voila … this week has been a mirage of said renovation complications.
Which means my goal of moving in next week … well, it’s laughable. We don’t even have a toilet.
Top tip: Rip up the plan, you’ll enjoy the process more, if you remove the expectations.
And one final renovation story, for your entertainment, here’s one example from this weeks adventures just to bring this to life (you can follow the ‘live’ account on my stories too) …
The tiling of our shower has been riddled with issues from start to finish. Jase continually changing his mind on tiles and us spending three weeks going in circles on the final design (i’m not even joking, the tile choosing and ordering process could make a comedy sketch in it’s own right). The tiles taking more time to be delivered than we expected. The wrong tiler turning up to do the job, costing us double the price (we had another tiler who was half the price lined up, but another tiler got sent without us knowing). Then there not being enough tiles for said double-the-price-tiler to complete the job. Three hours of manic phone calls to try and source 11 tiles to finish the job, to no avail, meant a weeks wait for a new box to come in store. Culminating in last night me rushing from from work to Surrey in the rain (after a HECTIC week at work), without my car as I didn’t have time to go home to get it, to pick up said box of tiles before the store shut at 530pm, as the builder was coming back at 8am the next morning. Waiting there for two and a half hours for Jase to finish work and pick me up …
Only to receive a text at 8pm: ’tiler coming Saturday instead’.
ARE YOU SHITTING ME.
Not only meaning I ran around like a mad woman for no reason (I could have just driven the next day), it then has meant the floor fitting has to be pushed back because the tiler will be working when this was due to happen, which then means the bathroom fitter can no longer come the day he was due as the floor isn’t laid, causing him to delay by a week … and before you know it two weeks are added on and i’ve got 15 more grey hairs, because one contractor decided to come in a day later.
I don’t know whether my story telling does the exhaustion and madness of it all justice, but it’s been like this on nearly every element of the renovation in recent weeks – and from what I hear, it’s not just our project, this is just the reality of a home renovation when you’re not paying a builder to totally project manage the entire thing for you (and you have high standards for the finish).
Anyway as I said that incident officially wiped out our moving date. So for now my plan is ripped up, i’ve resigned to be a free spirit with no expectations on completion and instead of cry, I just laughed.
Now I’ll just hope, pray and wait in patient optimism that it’ll all be done eventually, and worth it in the end.