I can’t believe it’s been nearly one year since we got the keys for our first house! It’s absolutely insane and to this day, we’re still not done with all of the renovations. By the time that you’re seeing this, it’s only five days short from the one-year mark and boy oh boy. A lot of work has been put into this house and I really want to share more about everything that we’ve learned throughout the long and tiring journey. Before I do that, I want to ask you the readers a few questions. Near the end of last year, I shared a diary of the day by day life with the renovations. It’s part one and I’ve been contemplating if I should do the other parts. I have at least another twenty days of a little short dairy of work we did on that day but I’m not sure if it’s that entertaining. Should I rather just share the highlights? I plan to eventually share before and after pictures but only when I consider the room done and well, not a single room in our house is completely done. Take our bedroom for an example. I still need my dressing table and a laundry basket. We still need to decorate and furnish our lovely attic and the list goes on. I don’t really want to show before and after pictures before I’m actually finished. I reckon that we will only finish with the entire house in two years or so.
We’ve been working on small things around the house these last few months but we’re still nowhere close to being finished. We’re finally tackling our back garden. The hope is that by the end of the year we will have our plants down but even then, we’re still not done. We need to build the fireplace and lounge area, clean out all the extra rubble and replace the last part of our fence. All of this are massive jobs and we’re splitting them up into more manageable bits. We’re also doing some work inside the house. We want to build a really nice storage area in the living room as the old IKEA storage from the apartment just doesn’t fit. This would serve great storage for the vacuum cleaner, cleaning supplies, dog and cat food and any extra products (I like ordering in bulk). Now, everything is out in the open and it adds to the feeling of clutter and mess. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the number of hours we will have to put in when we finally get to our front garden. I want to do it this year but it’s going to be such a big job and after the back garden I doubt I will have the energy for it. The list just goes on and on and on and on. It never stops. I doubt I will ever get to the point where I finally say, alright folks the house is done.
I’m getting slightly off topic. My other question is would you rather just have a blog on the highlights of the renovations? Let me give you an example: We build our own office table. Would you rather see a blog on this instead of more day by day accounts of what our first month looked like? I definitely want to catch up with everything we’ve done so far and share everything but I’m stuck on how I should do it. At the moment I plan to have a renovation blog go up every two months until I catch up with the recent work but yeah. I just need to decide how I want to go about it.
Okay, that is everything I wanted to say. I think it’s about time I finally get started with the actual point of this blog. These are my tips to anyone who wants to renovate.
- Clean at the end of the day
I can’t tell you how important this is once you get into the swing of things. There is just nothing like coming to the house the next day and have everything clean and ready to go. I would always give the house a quick broom at the end of the day. I will also wash the limited number of dishes at the house so we could use it the next day. I will take out the scraps outside where we would dump it and just overall tidy up the work area. This way when you come over bright and early the next morning, you don’t trip over the mess from the previous day. Some days there wasn’t much I could tidy up but that was because I just did a quick clean every single day so everything stayed manageable.
- Meal prep
We were working on the house for two months before we moved in. In this time, we were at the house almost every single day and obviously, we needed to eat. As I have celiac, I couldn’t exactly rush to the shops and get an instant meal and my options for a takeaway meal is limited. Regular takeaways also quickly add up which will come back and bite you in the ass. So, I always meal prepped. On the days I had to stay in the city for whatever reason, I would cook two batches of meals and have enough food for at least 4 to 5 days for the two of us. It came to a point where I had to cook a meal when we got home at nine or ten at night for the next few days. I mainly made three meals. Bacon, rice, and spinach. Spaghetti Bolognese and chicken pasta. It was all meals that you could easily pop in the microwave and eat straight from the container. There were a few days where Onno would buy ready-made meals from the supermarket if I didn’t have time to prepare more meals. This way I at least still had something to eat.
- Budget and bill slips
It’s incredibly important to work out the budget BEFORE you start the renovations. Take a moment to go to the hardware shop and gathering prices of possible materials you will need. Plan beforehand how much money you need for the kitchen and etc. It’s also important to save all the bill slips so you can go back and check where the money is going. We would also just look over the budget every week so we can access where we are and if we need to make any adjustments. By doing this we quickly saw that some things we would have to delay until we’re moved in. We also got quite smart on reusing materials where we could.
- To-do list
I found that by knowing exactly what needed to be done, we could stay on track. We have a blackboard in our kitchen where we would write down everything we need to complete. This way I could walk in the next day and know what I needed to focus on. Without a to-do list, I doubt we would’ve gotten to the point where we wanted to be before we moved in.
It’s incredibly important to do A LOT of research before and during the renovation process. Stupid mistakes can cost money, time and energy. One of the biggest mistakes I made in the renovation was painting the door and window frame in two of the rooms in normal wall paint. This is a big no. Removing this paint was an enormous bitch and took days to remove. It was a lot of elbow grease to undo my silly mistake. If I simply took some time to research some of the things we planned to paint, I would’ve known better. Never be ashamed to do that research or ask questions. It’s better to know the correct step by doing your research than to learn it by spending hours correcting the incorrect step.
- Rest days
Renovating a house is A LOT of hard work. It’s grueling and incredibly overwhelming. You have no idea just how much needs to be done until you actually get to it. You have no idea how long things will take until you get started. It’s so incredibly important to take one day off every 10 days or so to rest otherwise you’re going to burn out. Although all of my rest days were relatively forced by dentist appointments in the city. Did I mention I had two teeth pulled while we renovated? Fuck, I was in so much pain. I practically lived on my pain meds for a week after every tooth was pulled. I actually bite back the tears at the thought of getting the implants in somewhere this year or next year. Please kill me. Why can’t they just knock you out and wake you up when the work is all done? Why?
- Manage your expectations
I feel like this one is incredibly important especially if you’re walking into the renovation with no experience and you’re learning on the job. You’re not a professional and the work you deliver won’t reflect that. So, if you’re looking for a perfectly level and neat job…just manage your expectations. I personally think we did a pretty good job but if you start to look closely in certain spots you can tell amateurs did it. We made quite a bit of messy oopsies with the ceiling Onno took a week to plaster. The finish doesn’t look that great and we definitely need to address this before we sell the house. Then again, we definitely could’ve delivered a better end result if we did more research going into it. We also learned from our mistake so if we would have to redo it now, I can tell you it would look a lot better.
- Set realistic time goals
You have literally no idea how long certain steps will take you. I promise you that you will walk into something and think this will a quick job and you will finish days later. You need to be realistic about how long things are going to take. Let’s take painting for an example. Depending on the size of the room, a roof can take you two to three hours to paint. For woodworks, so doors and window frames, you need to sand, prime and paint it. The primer can take 8 hours to dry. Most areas will need more than one layer. All of this can quickly add up and something as simple as repainting the door can take you days. It took Onno nearly a week to plaster the ceiling of the attic in our bedroom and the ceiling in the second room (we call it the blue room). You will be surprised how long certain things take so definitely plan some extra breathing room. So, let’s say you think the project will take ten days, add another five to be safe.
- Watch YouTube videos or building TV shows
This is a tip but not really. It’s just an added little bonus. If I were you, while you’re waiting for the keys (so it could be anywhere from a month to six months), watch a lot of building videos. You can learn quite a bit by watching how it’s done. You will probably also find a good number of videos of renovating mistakes. I just started watching this new TV show on Netflix. It’s from 2011 but I’m learning quite a bit. The show is called to build or not to build and every episode they teach you a bit. It can be super entertaining to watch and can kind of welcome you into this new world.
- Prioritize living areas or the inside of the house before you move to the outside.
Depending on how much time you give yourself to renovate the house or what work you plan to do, this tip might not be that important for you. So, we bought a four-bedroom house and every single bedroom needed to have work done. Every single room in this house needed to be worked on. We walked into the start of the renovation process with every intention of completing every room. It’s absolutely hilarious to me now because it’s not possible to do that in 2 months. Not only did we have to do so much work inside the house, but we also planned to finish the garden BEFORE we move in. This is so hilarious to me as it’s one year later and the garden is still a sore spot. Anyway, if you want to redo everything, I would suggest you prioritize the living areas. The kitchen, lounge, bedroom and etc. Although there is a certain task that’s efficient to do everything in one go, take painting the walls and ceilings for an example. We also painted all the upstairs doors in one go which was an enormous task which was completely unexpected. We also painted the stairs before we moved in. We also had the floors but that was about it. Two of our bedrooms we’re completely untouched with their feature walls uncompleted. We actually build our office desk and painted it about two weeks after we moved in. I’ve been working on the one room for the last year now (it’s been a slow process as I would only work on the room every few weeks for a day or so and then leave it again) but the old blue room is completely untouched. It still needs a paint job and the attic floor isn’t even in yet. We still want to build a closet. There is so much work we still want to do in this house it’s crazy but just take one step at a time and focus on the main areas and move your way through the house. It’s a slow process but by spreading the extra touches out it gives the wallet some breathing room.
This blog was a little all over the place but I hope it helped somehow. Writing these renovating blogs is almost equally exhausting as doing the actual work if I’m completely honest. We’re still working on the house so it’s like urgh here we go again. I’m so tired but it’s all worth it. I promise.
Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a click!