What I wish I knew about home renovations before I started | Our 1930s home

1930s house renovation

Neil and I sold our small one bedroom flat 2 years ago for essentially the same price we bought our 3 bed 1930s semi detached outside the city - where we live now and are renovating.

The house itself stood out on the market.

Not because of it's large garden, or good sized bedrooms... but because of it's affordability and the HUGE amount of work it required bringing back to the modern day.

2 years on, after taking on the first and biggest renovation we've ever done, the house isn't finished but we've learned a lot.

Today I’m sharing what I wish I knew before we started to impart some experiences and learnings if you're about to take on a home renovation project too.

Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat. But the next time round, I'll be more the wiser...

5 things I wish I knew before starting a home renovation

1. I wish I knew… just how difficult it would be living in a property while renovating it

When we bought the house our plan was to move everything into one room and decorate room by room around it. We didn't have the luxury of moving somewhere else temporarily while the work happened. If you’re planning to do the same, keep in mind that having nowhere to sit and chill, having boxes up to your ears and zero storage is really tough.

Nails protruding from the floorboards, layers of dust you try to clean night after night so you can chill in a ‘clean’ house, tools everywhere you turn... It’s not glamorous.

If I was doing this again, or if we had kids or a dog, I’d be looking at options to temporarily live with a family member and put furniture in storage while one or two rooms (at least) get completed.

2. I wish I knew… that living in a house while you're renovating slows down the work

There are big plus points to being able to live somewhere else temporarily. Unfortunately we weren’t able to, but if you do have the opportunity, consider it wisely. Yes it costs more, but my bet is you’ll get the work done twice as fast.

Not living in the home you’re renovating means contractors can be left to do their job without having to move furniture, boxes or work around you trying to cook a meal around them.

If you’re DIY'ing some of the work you won’t need to worry about clearing up to make rooms 'habitable' again, giving you more time on wallpaper stripping etc.


1930s home decoration - interior blogger fifi mcgee

See the grand reveal of our Kitchen Diner now it’s all complete!


3. I wish I knew… how hard it would be to budget, lucky we found a solution

In the beginning we were naive with our budgets. We thought we could get the whole house done how we wanted it with 15K.

It wasn't until we (well, Neil!) started researching costs for the works we wanted to get contractors in for... Opening the chimney breast / installing a wood burner, knocking down a wall creating an open plan kitchen diner etc that sh*t got real.

It was time to budget well.

I'm really fortunate that Neil is a whizz with financial tracking and all things spreadsheets, if I had to do this on my own I'd have spent double the money to get us to where we are now.

Neil set us up with a renovation budget planner which allowed us to record 'finger in the air' budgets (what we thought work would cost), actual quotes from contractors as they came in, and actual paid out.

In the moments when payments were going out constantly (it’s scary how fast money gets spent when you’re home renovating) our planner helped track everything to make sure we weren't breaking bank.


A digital planner to help you track renovation costs


4. I wish I knew… that an architect isn't always necessary

When we first hired an architect we thought it was a necessity for all builds big and small. Yes they are useful to talk things through with and scope out what’s possible, but they are EXPENSIVE and we found that eventually we made our own design (via the awesome website www.roomstyler.com).

In the end we realised that the main thing that was needed was a structural engineer to contribute by creating the design for the steel beam for example. Architects can sometimes offer project management service and so this would have been useful if we were time-poor, however thankfully when we were right in the thick of the house renovation I was working part time and able to manage it. It's hard to say if we would have run into additional problems without the architects plans but it's probably worth talking to your builder since if the build is fairly straightforward they might suggest that it is not entirely necessary.

5. I wish I knew how incredible the feeling is when it’s all complete

It would have saved a couple of tantrums and a lot of late nights worrying. But the end goal makes it ALL worth it. The next renovation project I do I’ll know just how ‘worth it’ it is now that I’ve experienced rooms transformed before my very eyes.

My overall advice to you? In any way you can keep your spirits up and most importantly stay organised.

I hope this post helps you if you're about to embark on a similar home renovation project!

Thanks for reading,

Fifi xx


Interior blogger uk Fifi McGee

Want to read about our renovation from the day we moved in? Click ‘Our House’