“Living through a home renovation is like living in the wild”.
This is my first (of probably, many) blog posts about the renovation of our house. I’ll try and keep this as short and sweet as possible as I could write for days on this subject!
It’s been nearly two years since we put the offer in on our house. The house price had already been reduced by nearly £20k from it initially being on the market to the date that we put on offer in, so it took a lot of to’ing and fro’ing with the offers. We very nearly gave up, however when we gave our final offer it was accepted! I had always imagined feeling totally europhoric when having an offer on a house accepted, however I can honestly say that isn’t how I felt. Of course, I was happy, and it was an amazing feeling ringing Luke to tell him the good news, but there was also a mixture of nervousness and an “oh my god, I’m going to be a homeowner” type of feeling. As I’ve always had such a good relationship with my mum and dad, there was also a tiny bit of sadness to know that I would be leaving what I had called home for years and years.
We had looked at around 8 houses before deciding that Bay Tree Cottage was the one for us; the majority of which were new builds! In the end we chose a house which was completely opposite to what we had in mind. Bay Tree Cottage was built around 1890, has a big old brick fireplace, the original doors downstairs, a garden that went on forever with a summer house at the bottom and is set in a semi-rural location with fields front and back.
It was a combination of these things and the cosy-feel that it had when viewing it that won our hearts. We knew it needed some work, which included the whole of the outside re-rendering (the coloured coating over the bricks that some houses have outside), but we were willing to put in that work. As for the inside, we thought that a few coats of paint and new carpets would do the trick, but how wrong we were.
We got the keys to the house on May 1st 2015, and we didn’t spend our first night in the house until February 14th 2016! On the day that we got the keys (a happy, happy day), we ripped all the carpets up as the whole house seemed to have a smell of garlic that we couldn’t get rid of. It was only when those carpets were up, that we realised the floorboards were in a state and needed replacing. It was only when the floorboards came up, that we realised the house wasn’t actually safe. Many of the joists were rotten and the landing was almost collapsing, all of the plaster on the walls needed coming off due to excessive damp and when we started sorting out the loft we realised that the roof had quite a bad leak. It seemed that whoever had owned the house over the many years had tried to do a ‘quick fix’ on every little job that needed doing, instead of paying money and spending time to get the job done properly.
I am incredibly lucky to have a boyfriend who can pretty much put his hand to anything; he has redone a lot of the plumbing, rewired electrics and pretty much rebuilt parts of the house from scratch and done an amazing job of everything he has done so far and saved us thousands of pounds. But, as we both work full-time, it is mostly only weekends that we can do the renovations so it’s taken so much more time than we originally anticipated. I would say that the house is only half-done now; although the majority of the rooms are complete, its the main parts that still need renovating (kitchen, bathroom, the whole of the outside of the house…).
We worked from the top down, so we started renovating the three bedrooms and taking most of the rendering off. This took about 13 months to do, which sounds like a long time but we stripped the house back so that it was literally just a bare brick shell. Upstairs we had no floorboards, no ceilings, and no plaster on the walls (some of the bedrooms didn’t even have walls at this point). Then, we started on the living room and finally the dining room.
I always feel a tiny bit annoyed when people refer to knocking down a wall or redecorating as ‘renovating’; you haven’t lived through a renovation until you’ve witness your boyfriend fall through the ceiling, had holes in your bedroom wall so that you can see directly outside and been unable to go upstairs because the landing is on the brink of collapse. Our next project is the bathroom, so as I write this Luke is currently knocking out a chimney breast down from the bathroom into the utility room to make the bathroom bigger. I daren’t even look inside the utility room right now. After this, we will then be taking off the rest of the rendering so that by late spring/early summer it should all be re-rendered. Currently, the house from the outside is an embarrassment. When the rendering is done and I can scatter some potted plants around and put a new slate house sign and post box up, I think it’ll be the biggest transformation yet to Bay Tree Cottage.
I’d like to think that I have an ‘eye’ for interior design, and this is the only thing that I’ve been able to do other than a bit of painting and knocking some plaster off. Of course, this has been my absolute favourite part. My two favourite rooms are, by far, the living room and dining room. We have kept the original features but everything else is brand new. Our sofas are from DFS, living room furniture from Oak Furniture Land and the dining set is from Barker and Stonehouse. I have then accessorised with numerous candles, cushions and throws and tried to keep the decor as warm and rustic as possible. Two of my favourite accessories are the dining room clock from Inspired Interiors (Ripley) and the Laura Ashley chandelier.
I often wonder about what I find the most exciting; buying a house or renovating one. Looking back, I do think that renovating it has been far more exciting and rewarding. I completely understand why people opt to buy a new build, everything is shiny and new and there’s nothing really to do but move in. But for me, that’s the downfall – there’s nothing really to do but move in. Renovating a house hasn’t been easy, in fact it’s probably the hardest and most life-changing experience that’s ever happened to us, but seeing the rooms as bare brick shells transform into a warm, homely cottage is just an amazing feeling. We never expected for this to be such a HUGE project – this only dawned on us after we had got the keys to the house, which is probably why the stress has made me cry at times. We’ve had some laughs and had big arguments, but we’re transforming our home just the way we want it. It’s taking a long time, but we have so many memories to look back on.
I would highly recommend buying an old house and renovating it for anyone that is willing to put the time, hard work and money into doing so. Unless you have family members that are skilled to do all the major renovations, you would need to have a lot of money to pay builders/plumbers/electricians/plasterers to come and do the work for you. I will always prefer older houses that ooze with character, but I would always bear in mind that there’s the potential for many structural problems to arise that don’t show up on your house survey when buying it.
With a bit of luck and Luke’s hard work, hopefully there will be a post about our shiny, new bathroom in the not too distant future.
(Picture above is to the front and back of the cottage)