What you can learn from our renovation journey so far

People have been asking how our house renovation is going so I thought I'd write a little life update....

It feels like we've been talking about, preparing for and planning our house renovation for years and in fact we have.

The plans have evolved over time and went from putting in for planning permission for a double storey side extension in June to then finding out we were expecting another baby and our plans going flying side ways out of the window.

We had already paid for drawings, obtained three quotes and geared up for total house disruption but something just didn't feel right about it. We questioned the spaces we'd be creating and those we'd be left with, its connection to the outside and most importantly the cost to value ratio.
A house always has a ceiling value and when you start spending more than that, you are tied to the house indefinitely or risk being in negative equity.

When we discovered we were expecting another baby we enlisted an architect for a quick sense check of our plans and whether they were achievable in the time we had.

It was useful to step outside of ourselves and review where we were. We tore the plan apart and put it back together again. We looked at option a and b, before finally settling on a brand new plan, option c.

Whilst this is not the text book way of going about a build and certainly not the most cost effective, it did help us see that our plan a was going to take a lot of time, money and disruption to our lives, given we had a one year old living in the house, and may not ultimately have given us what we wanted anyway.

Come August we commissioned the architect to do some new drawings and started the whole process of quoting again! This time working under Permitted Development, which is the ability to build to a certain specification outside of planning permission. This meant we could act quickly which was imperative given baby's impending arrival.

With the architect we came up with a staged development which would allow us to make further changes in time, once baby is here and the dust settles.
Getting the drawings finalised and a builder appointed still took far more time than expected but we were ready for a go date of early October.

After that it was a bit like holding your nose, jumping into deep water and hoping for the best. We'd prepared as much as we thought we could, tried to be detailed by highlighting the jobs to be done and got as watertight quote as we could.

Work got underway quickly and that first week so much seemed to happen. Walls were being knocked down, others knocked out completely leaving us with holes open to the elements. That shook the nerves, I can tell you. Diggers and a portaloo arrived on site with copious bags of building supplies and we knew there was no turning back.

We did what we could to gain some mental separation from the building work. We created a temporary kitchen in the utility room, put privacy film over glass doors and windows so we didn't feel like we were living in a goldfish bowl and neither did the builders feel too observed.

Believe me, it is intrusive enough having work done on your house without having to watch and be watched all day. There are times when I can only liken it to feeling like your house has been taken over or burgled. People walk freely in and out of your sanctuary and you just have to quickly get used to it.

If you are at home all day like I am, freelancing and caring for the Little Inspiration, you quickly assume the role of project manager and get asked questions constantly. I'll just get the little one down for a nap and a shout will come bellowing up the stairs. At times I've wanted to hide, pretend I wasn't home but you know you have to go downstairs and deal with whatever is happening.

Not that there really is ever any respite when you work from home and are a stay at home mum, but those five minute breathers and cups of tea you used to live for are long gone.

But on the flip side, you get to see the progress and be involved in the intricacies in a way you can't do when you are out all day. It has hopefully allowed us to see and deal with sticky points before they've arisen. I've learnt that you cannot hover at a distance on building work as things happen fast and deviate from plans all of the time!
However, it has also meant that some changes have felt slow and not as impressive at times, as I've seen it every day. Living without a proper kitchen when you cook and eat all of your meals at home quickly gets old and seeing the snails pace it has come together at has been excruciating at times.

We are not there yet but also not a million miles away from it being finished, or at least to the point of snagging. But neither are we far away from meeting our newest arrival, so it's a race to get it finished now and try to decorate, restore some order and prepare for a newborn baby in our household again.
I'll update again as we get nearer the end but for now, we are getting there slowly, we now have a functioning (but not finished) kitchen and we've settled into a sort of new normal where we are greeted by builders every morning over our breakfast.

The Little Inspiration has been a champ and dealt with the new people wandering around really well and certainly charmed the builders, but the lack of space with an active 1 year old has been tough.
I sometimes wonder what it will feel like when the final trades have left and we are alone in the house again. Will the quiet be deafening? Will we feel lonely? Afterall the builders are often my only source of adult conversation some days. Or will we just feel relieved and almost like survivors of a crazy, turbulent but unique time in our lives. Time will tell....


  1. I hope that it would become a wonderful place to live in, after such an amazing renovation journey.
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