When we started our renovation, our home improvement experience was limited to say the least; in our previous home we had renovated a front door, painted a couple of rooms, arranged installation of kitchen tiles and fitted a wood burner, you know, the small stuff. If you’ve never done it before, take it from us, an actual house renovation is a huge, all consuming, and sometimes chaotic project when compared to general decoration.
We learnt a load and have now condensed it all into an online course called How To Renovate a House. It's a process to help first time renovators avoid as many pitfalls as possible. In today's blog post we want to share some of the mistakes that were made during our project for your amusement in the hope that it will prevent you making similar mistakes, or at the least, realise that no house reno project ever goes to plan!
1. We stripped our fireplace back to expose the beautiful brick…and then it was plastered over!
It still hurts to think about. Our house has beautiful red brick and we really wanted to make it a feature behind our yet-to-be-installed-at-the-time wood burner. When it came to plaster the whole living room we gave our plasterer instructions which we thought were very clear. Only to come home and realise he didn't listen. We were NOT happy since the beautiful red bricks which we had painstakingly scraped back to brick and washed repeatedly to remove soot damage had been completely rendered over. In the end we decided that we would just live with it, but we still think about it to this day. Something so important in the design of the room was completely removed down to our lack of clear instructions or contractor's listening skills. Communicating clearly is one of our biggest tips if you're hiring people in to do work to your house. In our online renovation course we have created an approach to avoid this type of situation (shameless plug!).
2. We decided to change the way our lounge door was hung, after the room was plastered… which meant redoing the electrics!
In the old days, they used to value their privacy and so doors often opened into the room (rather than towards the wall), nowadays, this creates a feeling of reduced ‘flow’ through a house so in our living room we decided to change that. The catch? We also had to change the side the light switch was on, and since the plastering had already been done, our lovely, brand new plaster had to be chased out (aka drilled to smithereens) and then re-skimmed. We can still see the repair job to this day and gets on our nerves, big time! Changes of mind will happen during a renovation but by planning ahead and not rushing into work you can avoid additional costs and substandard finish. Again, our online course gets first time renovators planning detailed layouts early on, not forgetting which way the doors swing and placement of electrics, to prevent this sort of thing from happening to you.
3. We consulted an architect before we even thought about what we wanted ourselves
Architects are expensive and many people we spoke to who had experience in the trade questioned whether we needed one at all, but when it comes down to it if you're planning on removing a wall or remodelling, architects are worth the investment. in the course we talk all about whether you need an architect, how much they cost and how best to work with them, and we talk through one of the biggest mistakes we made. If we were to do our renovation all over again, we would most certainly have put more thought into layout upfront before hiring out architect. It would have saved a lot of time and money if we had understood what we wanted before consulting the professionals, as there was a lot of back and forth on designs.
4. We didn’t prepare ourselves for the disruption of living in a renovation
OK, we realised that renovations were pretty disruptive, but seeing beautiful smooth plaster being blown out by some overzealous drilling in the next room and nearly dying (exaggeration) due to working from home whilst the sound of hammer drills smashing our wall down penetrated our mind, body and soul, was quite something. Then stepping over huge holes in the floor from the central heating installation, clearing dust from the remaining 1 metre square of worktop to make a very bleak (and mostly microwaved) dinner. It was an unforgettable time and not for the faint hearted. DO NOT underestimate the power of the disruption! Having said that, you come out the other side and it is only temporary, the size of the prize is enormous – keep thinking about that.
5. We tried to up-cycle doors…and failed miserably
When we moved in, we found out that the doors has been covered in a layer of chip board and underneath was the 1930’s three up/one down panelled look. Clearly at some point since the ‘30’s this look had gone out of fashion leading to home owners boarding over the panels but with some careful removal and sanding, all can be restored… Or so we thought. We bought a belt sander and set about sanding off the layers of cracked paint from the wood. Our cunning plan all came unstuck when we realised that the main panel section was actually made of Bakelite (an old form of plastic), how did we know this? The sander had melted it and was irreparably damaged. In the end we tipped the door and bought our lovely wood look 30’s door, so perhaps this was a happy mistake!
Well, those are our top 5 blunders when we renovated our house, lots more we could have added to this list, let me tell you! All our learnings and a ‘hindsight’ approach is now in our How to Renovate a House Online Course so if you're about to take on work to a property or if you're half way through, take a look and see if it's for you. We only wish there was something step-by-step for us to follow when we started.
Fifi & Neil xoxo