As first time home owners there are certainly many things you have to consider that I’d never even thought of before. Now don’t get me wrong, I am really happy with the overall finish and we certainly have made a huge aesthetic transformation to what we started with, but there are some aspects of our renovation that I would do differently if I could.
So, firstly, why the rush?!
We were living in rented accommodation and managed to get a three week overlap where we could live in the comfort of one home, whilst drastically changing the next. Most of the work required was dusty and messy and in a small two-bed, we knew there would be no ‘give’ once we’d moved us, a baby, and all our stuff in, so we really needed it to be liveable and child-safe by the end of those three weeks.
Not an excuse, but, we had a lot to get done!
As those who have gone through the process know, when buying a house you can never really be 100% sure when (if?) anything is going to happen until you actually have the keys in your hand. For us, that day ended up clashing with what was supposed to be our first big family holiday to Copenhagen. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the holiday but at least it meant Matt had nearly the whole 3 weeks off to help blitz the house. Below is the actual job list we had on site during the process, the tradesmen found it hilarious but it kept things organised and will give you an idea of all that we aimed to complete in three weeks.
Oh, and remember to add a one year old into the mix too!
We had a couple of days childcare from my mum (with me popping back home to breast feed before nap times) and then the rest of it was generally a fine display of tag team parenting. Between Matt and myself, we were working on the house from 6:30am to 11pm at night. For three weeks. We didn’t see any of our friends for a month, barely got any sleep and visibly lost weight, so it is understandable that the self-inflicted pressure we put ourselves under resulted in us making some mistakes.
What were those mistakes so I can avoid making them too?
Our time and budget restrictions meant we had limited choice when it came to plasterers and we ended up going with the cheapest quote, which it turns out is often not the wisest thing to do. They spent half their working day smoking in our front garden, drinking us out of milk and tea, and generally not doing as beautiful job as I’d imagined. If you can, work with tradesmen who have been personally recommended or who have MANY good reviews. This is not a decision to rush.
Spend on the basics and the fancy bits will look after themselves.
I wish we had had the foresight to get new skirting boards for the whole of the upstairs. Of course it is too late now that the plasterers have been and gone (you’d have to rip out the originals, replaster, install new ones) and the cost and hassle of doing it post-plastering and decorating would not be worth it. Whilst a lot of people wouldn’t even notice the gaps between the wall and floorboards, or the missing skirting in the bathroom, it bugs me every time I see it and I wish we’d spent more attention on the bare bones of the house whilst we had the tradesmen here.
Thinking ‘we can clean that up later’ when we got paint splashes on door furniture and light switches.
For your information it is so much harder to do this retrospectively once it has dried and gone all crusty. Keep a pack of baby wipes on you at all times and just wipe that hardware every single time you see a speck or splatter! Thinking you’re saving time by not doing it on the job is really false economy.
Losing vital things that will make your wallet cry ugly sad tears when having to replace them.
Like having to spend £50 quid on radiator replacement valves (yawn) because the random box you put them all into at the beginning of the renovation was nowhere to be seen by the end.
Ordering a dreamy shower head to find out upon arrival there is no way it will ever fit.
We forgot the wall in our bathroom is angled so the vast, wide, rain like sensation we were going for would have had to have been placed so low it would only have sprayed us from the shoulder down. We also did our measurements standing on the floor in the bathroom, forgetting that once a bath is installed (within which we would stand for our shower) you would be roughly 6 inches off the ground. Thankfully we were able to return the dreamy shower head in return for a not-so-dreamy but still pretty and much more practical shower head. It delayed the work in the bathroom a little bit but wasn’t a huge problem in the long run.
Rushing decisions about colour (or in our case, no colour).
Sometimes, when you have a hundred and one decisions to make, you sometimes just go with what you think is easier; the standard, the status quo, the safe option. But, in reality, it is no harder to apply grey grout than it is white, or to apply mint eggshell to a door than it is white paint. You can see which decision we did go with, and which we chickened out on in my bathroom makeover post here.
Woah, lets just take a breather from the negative for one second, hey?
Yes, lets. We did achieve so much in such a short space of time and I will be forever proud of how hard we laboured and how well we worked together as a team, juggling everything and still remaining happily married by the end of it! There were so many decisions that we had to make as we went along and the majority of them we’ve been really happy with, like our exposed brick wall for instance. Or the last minute decision to get the plasterers to scrape and skim the artex on the ceilings, or to get the electrician to install an extra light on the landing.
I hope this has given you a little insight into how we achieved everything despite the little blunders along the way. We learnt so much during the process and it has certainly been helpful to document some of the mistakes we made so that we remember not to make them again when approaching our next project. I hope you can learn from our mistakes too! The most important thing to remember is that no house is ever perfect; there are foibles and quirks in every home and ultimately that is what gives it its character!
What mistakes have you made whilst doing DIY? Make me feel better about ours and let me know your biggest blunder in the comments below!