I’ve mentioned it a million and one times already here but if you have yet to catch up on what our life has been lately, then one word should sum it up. Renovations. We bought and started renovating an old house here in Somerset a little under a year ago and the process has been absolutely insane from start to finish. Now that we have a few projects under our belt I thought I would take time out to write a post with some of the things I’ve learned so far. If you have experience renovating an old house let me know your tips and experiences in the comments or on my Instagram as I would love to hear them!
1) Preparation is everything
When you first decide to take on the project of a house renovation, it sounds obvious but you need to get your head straight first and make sure you fully understand what you are taking on and what will be involved in the process. We can all get swept up in the romanticism of owning and renovating our own home but make sure that you also keep a logical and level head. There will be so many decisions to start making the minute you get those keys in your hand! I would definitely say to enjoy the excitement and cherish every moment of it, but if you are planning any work then get a list on the go as early as possible and start brainstorming everything you want to do… because trust me, for every one thing you want to do during a renovation, there will be another 5 things that you’ll have to do that come along with that. Things can snowball quickly so the more clued up you are from the start, the better.
2) Surveyors, Builders and Tradespeople
Before you even buy a house, it’s a good idea to start looking around for trusted tradespeople. A good surveyor is so important. I know this because our surveyor was terrible and missed so many things that we later found out about so don’t make our mistake. Do some impeccable research first! Don’t just assume that everyone in the industry has your back and don’t be afraid to ask questions. When it comes to builders, electricians and carpenters then word of mouth is a powerful thing. Reach out to family and friends and ask who they have used on building projects in the past. Who would they recommend and what was the standard of their work like? A good builder will be only too happy to show you pictures of past projects and provide references, documents and anything else you need to see that will reassure you. You can also go online and check traders reviews and references.
3) Savings and Budgets
When it comes to renovating an old house then there are always going to be some nasty surprises (see below) and I can’t stress how important it is to be realistic with your savings and budgets. Whatever you think it will cost to do something is never 100% accurate – with old houses there are usually some hidden costs. These older properties look beautiful when the work is done but getting to that point can often be pretty expensive.
4) Old house problems
Renovating an old house is a learning curve so you can never fully prepare for the things you will find. Some of the hurdles we’ve faced have been:
Air flow, damp and condensation – old houses are prone to damp so chances are you’ll have to factor in some sort of damp proofing works if the property hasn’t been updated in a long time. We had some damp proofing done and also had a Drimaster installed in the attic which helps circulate air around the house.
Leaky roofs – no matter how much you think you know about a house, you never really understand where the problems lie until you live in it through a harsh winter. Leaky roofs and bad design will always reveal themselves at the most inconsiderate time!
Draughts and pointing – older houses do tend to be prone to getting chilly in winter and a lot do need to be re pointed so its worth factoring this in.
5) Living on site during building works and renovations
If you are planning on living in your house while you are renovating it then take it from me…. it’s not fun. We lived in ours for around 3 months while we had damp proofing and building work done and I can honestly say that it nearly broke us all. My husband was working a stressful full time managerial job, so coming home to absolute chaos and mess every day really got him down. He just found it so hard to unwind. I was running a business from home and spent months working from a makeshift desk in our small back bedroom. We had our work done in winter and taking the walls back to brick was hellish.
As someone who suffers from anxiety (and for most people in general I’d imagine) having your ‘safe place’ your home where you should be able to come back to and de-stress or re-charge taken away for such a long period of time wasn’t easy. I got on well with our builders so this did help but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the upheaval. Luckily it was only downstairs that needed work but the cold and the dust was brutal. However, it saved us money to live there and did mean that I was around most days to see each step of the process. Swings and roundabouts!
Our daughter is a teenager and was at school for most of it but I would say if you have smaller children then really think about the time of year you are having work done and whether it is practical to live on site. Because trust me, your house will be a building site a few days in!
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6) Taking time for yourself
One thing I would say to anyone renovating a house is that it can be easy to lose yourself and get completely wrapped up in the process. Taking a day out here and there and making time for friends and family is so important. You can’t let everything get you down, because the fun parts of renovation do come and they aren’t all doom and gloom. The further in to this process we get the more I find myself enjoying it and planning even more updates and designs. I have many a Pinterest board set up with ideas and inspiration so pop over and take a look.
7) Re-vamping Your Outdoor space
We got so carried away with renovating the inside of our home that when summer came we were suddenly left with a garden that had become a bit of a dumping ground! Although there was still so much to do inside of the house we felt it was important (for our own sanity as much as anything else!) to create a little outdoor space where we can all go and relax in the sun. Sometimes breaking away from the plans a little and bringing a bit of spontaneity to the project can be just the thing you need! I’ll be writing a full post on my garden updates soon so stay tuned.
I hope some of this feature has been helpful if any of you are also thinking of renovating an old house. If you have any questions you can always comment below or drop me a line over on Instagram @lifestylelinked where I also post daily IG stories, pics and videos about our progress.