The Renovation – Phase Two

So, we’d knocked a lot of walls over and pulled all ceilings down, but what happened next?

Well, when we removed all the carpet, we were delighted to find a variety of original floorboards in many of the rooms, such as the bedrooms and lounge. My partner’s Dad suggested we used these for the flooring in the kitchen/dining room, which would not only maintain a traditional element of the house, but also provide a big cost saving due to the size of the area.

However, this meant that the floorboards would need ripping up, and replacing with chipboard flooring in the rooms they had come from. Frighteningly, for a short while, the upstairs of our home was visible from the downstairs rooms! In the photo, you can see how we literally took the house back to the outside walls and joists, at this point!

Peekaboo!

As we were going to be relaying the floorboards, we needed to ensure the kitchen and dining room floor was level, which it certainly was not! It didn’t effect us too much luckily, but when we took up the existing flooring, we found that the extension built in the 90s was not constructed very well, and there was a clear slope from the dining room into the kitchen.

This was a time consuming job, and my Dad was roped in to help dig the concrete flooring, so that my partner’s Dad could create floor joists in the dining room to solve the problem. However, if we wanted our open plan kitchen and dining room, this was necessary work that had to be done (Dad still has nightmares about this as he lost his thumbnail from all the hammering – so sorry!).

Upstairs, it was also necessary to rebuild the studwork for the bathroom wall, which we had taken away to extend into the second bedroom (you can read about that here). This enabled us to create more space ready for our walk-in shower. Unfortunately, as we extended into the second bedroom and the shower was mounted on an outside wall, we were unable to have recessed shelves like I’d hoped (a minor disappointment in the grand scheme of things!).

As the house was built in the 1930s, we didn’t feel comfortable with trusting the existing electrics, and also wanted to make amendments to the plumbing. For those of you that have read my previous blog post, you’ll know that there are certain elements of a house build where you may feel more comfortable relying on a trained tradesman. Hands up, these were two jobs that we did not want to tackle ourselves!

The majority of the plumbing work happened when all the walls were dismantled, whereas the first fix of the electrics was carried out once the plasterboard was in place. It’s so hard to decide where you want the plug sockets to go when you’ve never lived in the house and there are no walls to to help you envisage their placement! It turns out that 90% of the house got rewired in the end! The plumber had to reefed pipes into the bathroom and kitchen, and also relocated a number of radiators.

One of my requests was that the upvc windowsills were replaced with pine, as I felt this would be much more in keeping with the rest of the house. I’m so glad that we did, as they are subtle and traditional, and align with the architraves and skirting. We needed to make sure these were in place before the plastering could be done.

Thankfully, my partner and his Dad were able to do all the plasterboarding and they also sorted the blue grit to save on cost, but again, we felt it was important to hire professional plasterers to get the finish spot on. It’s amazing how much the house changes after the plasterers have been and gone!

It’s crazy to think how much hard work goes on behind the scenes that you don’t consider when you view a finished house! I’m so glad I took plenty of photos to document the process, as I’m not sure some of our family and friends would have believed what went on! Have you had a similar experience with your renovation?

If there’s anything about this phase of our journey that you’d like to know more about, then please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments, and I’d be happy to help!

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Can you renovate a house yourself? Or should you hire a professional?

Perhaps you’re considering whether you should take on a renovation project or opt for a new build? While both have their positives and negatives, renovations are often a popular choice, as they can be significantly cheaper, and present the opportunity to put a stamp on your home.

However, undertaking a house renovation can present many dilemmas and challenges before you have even begun. It’s important to consider a multitude of things before going ahead and securing an offer on a tired and rundown house.

One of those initial decisions should be whether you intend to renovate the house yourself, or instead hire a team of professional tradespeople to carry out the work. Here, we help you decide which way you’re going to attempt a fixer upper!

Write a pros and cons list

Again, both have their advantages and disadvantages, so one of The Renovation Lab’s top tips is to write a pros and cons list. Weigh up the options and you will soon be able to see which list makes you feel more comfortable.

If you’re on a low budget, then undertaking tasks yourself can provide huge savings, and there are plenty of great tutorials on the Internet to guide you along the way.  Maybe money isn’t such an issue, but you’re tight for time, and getting the professionals in will speed up your transformation.

It’s important to make the decision that is right for you and your goals so this list will ensure you get your priorities in order.

Consider a mix and match method

While you may feel your handy skills stretch to stripping wallpaper and ripping out the old kitchen units, it is usually best to call in a professional to take down any supporting walls, or contact the experts for plastering. Nobody likes an uneven wall, and it will bug you forever, so it often pays to invest in the right assistance.

Write a list of all the tasks you expect to encounter during your renovation and jot down where you think you will need professional help. This can help you see where costs are likely to arise, but also where you can save some funds by getting your hands dirty.

This article gives fantastic advice about what you can tackle yourself and what is best to leave to the pros.

Call on friends for support

Our decision was made easy for us, as we have a builder in the family, as well as a number of close friends in the trade. As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and we found this to be especially true!  You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to lend a hand, especially if you offer an incentive or two, such as one day returning the favour!

While we appreciate everyone might not be so lucky, it’s also worth asking friends for recommendations of reliable tradespeople, as knowing someone you trust has experienced a positive service will give you peace of mind.

Utilise your expertise

Are you a fine artist in your spare time? Then why not try exchanging your fine paintbrush, for one with a thicker handle, and save yourself some cash at the same time. It can feel like a real accomplishment when you make changes to your own home, especially when you sit back and reap the benefits when it’s all finished.

I don’t have any particular DIY skills, let’s be honest, but I was given the job of sanding the staircase spindles and banister. This was mainly due to my personality trait of being a perfectionist, which meant I was determined to get rid of as many layers of varnish as possible, and make sure everything was neatly sanded before we primed and painted. Use your abilities to your advantage!

Consider building regulations

You might be confident that you can carry out the physical task of a renovation, but it’s imperative that your knowledge is also up to date and that your build complies with any necessary legal requirements. We highly recommend that you consult with any professionals when it comes to extensions and other similar endeavors.

It would be heartbreaking for all your hard work to be undone, following a visit from the building inspector, when it isn’t up to their strict standards. If you’re preparing to improve your home then there is a wealth of useful information regarding planning permission on the Citizen’s Advice website.

Be prepared to project manage

If you are looking to hire professionals to help with renovation work for particular tasks, please be prepared to project manage. Organisation is also key. If your electrician is ready to second fix, but your plasterer has phoned to say they’re not available for another month, then you have a problem on your hands. Delays are inevitable, but you must be willing to be flexible, while also being firm enough to ensure the project keeps moving and the jobs get done.

It can sometimes feel easier to ask for favours from friends and relatives in this instance, but often they can be the hardest to manage, for fear of feeling cheeky or applying too much pressure. Just something to bear in mind when scheduling each phase of your renovation.

The scope of the project

Let’s say you’re capable of carrying out the works on your renovation venture. If you are planning a large-scale project, then you may need more than your single pair of hands, or the help of your friend, parent or partner.

If you’re working towards a tight deadline, then it can pay to have additional workers on site; so more than one task can be tackled at a time. However, some builders may like to be left to their own devices, so check out their preferences before you assume they will work with you.

DIY renovation vs. professional contractor

Hopefully this article has given you a starting point from which to begin investigating the best option for you. Everyone is different, so what may be right for someone else, may not be right for you.  Therefore, it’s really important that you take the time to figure out a strategy before you steam ahead.

With all that being said, please don’t be afraid to give renovation a go. It’s incredibly rewarding, whether you decide to give it a go yourself, or hand over the responsibility to the professionals. You’re in charge of the decisions and that’s the most important thing when making a house your home.

What did you decide to do? Let me know in the comments!

Getting started…the destruction phase!

I’ll never forget my partner’s Dad’s words…

“I’ve just devalued your house by about £40k in 48 hours!”

Eeeeek!

The pace at which two guys managed to dismantle the walls and ceilings was quite frankly unbelievable! The house was a shell of its former self in what felt like minutes.

At first, we thought we would simply need to redecorate, but soon discovered that the existing walls were constructed of lath and plaster (narrow strips of wood are nailed to the stud walls or ceiling joists and are then coated with plaster – very old fashioned!).

While we could have simply painted or wallpapered over this, our builder suggested we do a ‘proper job’ (said in a Devonshire accent), and start with a clean slate. It was going to be a lot more time consuming, but would provide us with a much better finish, so we happily took his advice.

It was a messy process to say the least, causing a mega tonne of dust, with rubbish filling reams and reams of rubble bags. However, the latter could be used as kindle wood, which saved us many trips to the recycling centre, as many friends and relatives were quick to take this off our hands.

If you’ve gone through a renovation yourself, you’ll know that the sheer amount of tidying required seems never ending, but there is something so satisfying about removing all the old material. Very cleansing for the soul!

For the most part, the structure of the house would be staying the same, but there were a couple of walls that needed knocking down completely, to achieve our desired layout.

In my previous post, you can see how the house looked when we purchased it, and you will find a photo of the tiny bathroom. It was important to us that this room was made bigger, so we decided that we would extend into the second bedroom, by the width of a shower tray.

The idea was to install a walk-in shower with a glass panel to give the illusion of more space. We removed the studwork here, and in the photo below you can see the makeshift timber marker on the floor, which shows where the new divide will sit.

The next wall on the deconstruction list was the one that separated the kitchen from the dining room. We had lusted after an open social space so this was our answer! Luckily for us, it was a badly constructed breeze block wall (it had been part of an extension), so it fell down without too much effort. The door into the dining room would later be boarded up so that there was just one entrance into the new hub of our home.

Admittedly, this hasn’t been the prettiest of blog posts, but I think there’s something so fascinating about seeing the stripped back insides of an older property, and what really goes into renovating a home behind the scenes!

If you have a similar post sharing your renovation journey, I’d love to read, so please share in the comments below.

The ‘LAB’ in Renovation Lab

So, my name is Lauren Ashton Beardsley, and I am the ‘LAB’ in renovation lab. I’ve created this blog to share my renovation experiments, and document my future journeys involving renewing and restoring.

Let me tell you a little about me and my home… I live in the beautiful county of Devon in South West England. North Devon will always be my home, and always has been since I was born, other than a short stint in London for university (the fast-paced way of life was just not for me!).

I bought my first home here with my partner in December 2016, and we have been renovating ever since, although this has mostly been completed by my partner’s Dad (we are very lucky to have a builder in the family!).

I work in marketing for a local builders merchant, which has also been very handy, especially when we’ve needed tips and advice regarding materials.

We love our 1930s terraced house so much, but I can’t help but feel like another project will one day be in the pipeline, as we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of this one! However, we’d have to live in the next property while it’s being renovated, which could be a completely different story! (I plan to write about our first renovation in much more detail, so please check back again to see more!)

Perhaps you’re looking to buy a ‘doer-upper, half-way through your renovation journey, or simply love seeing before and afters; either way I hope you enjoy following my experiments and experiences. I know I took plenty of inspiration from others when I was imagining and planning my new home, so I want to share my results, and would love to be able to connect with others who have similar interests (although I’m always open to see different tastes too!).

I cannot wait to see how this blog develops and grows, and hope to make many new friends along the way! Please say hello and introduce yourself/blog in the comments 🙂