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How do you approach renovating/doing up a house? Any tips most welcome...

29 replies

Pannacotta · 09/07/2008 11:19

We moved in a couple of months ago, to what will hopefully be our long term family house.
But it needs loads of work: repairs to the roof, re-wiring, new boiler/rads, new kitchen and bathroom, an en-suite to go in, total redecoration, sanding of floorboards and new carpets!
Am feeling very daunted by the size of the project (it's quite a big house).
We did up our previous houses but they were much smaller and we didnt have two young DSs then (they are 3 and 1)...
Any advice on how to proceed would be much appreciated.

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chocolatemummy · 09/07/2008 11:23

go into each room with a separate piece of paper and make a list of all that needs doing in that room. Once you have done that choose two rooms that you NEED to have finished first and ONLY start on those rooms.
When we did our first renovation, the whole house was a dump. we had a big bedroom so we did that room first and basically used that as the bedroom/living room and made the kitchen and bathroom our next priority as that is where you cook and wash

frogs · 09/07/2008 11:24

Step 1: Have loads of money.

Argh, we missed that bit.

But seriously, the right order is:

  1. Roof

2. Wiring
3. Plumbing/heating/bathroom/kitchen
4. Replastering/making good
5. Sanding floorboards
6. Redecoration
7. Carpets

If you any chance to avoid living in the house while the wiring, plumbing and heating is being done, then grab it with both hands. It is hell.

We are currently stalled at Step 3, having run out of cash. Tis a bummer, but at least we have heating and hot water.
chocolatemummy · 09/07/2008 11:24

oh and is poss make the garden safe and on any decent day the kids can be outside lol

frogs · 09/07/2008 11:26

CM, that doesn't work so well if you need wiring and plumbing done, as they will be EVERYWHERE. All at the same time. You will have three lots of builders' radios going, and a big bunch of guys treating your home as their workplace.

Like I said, hell. I still bear the scars. Floor sanding is quite bad too, the dust gets everywhere -- into every plate, book and item of clothing. Argh.

snice · 09/07/2008 11:26

Get roof on the go asap before autumn/winter comes around when roofers are rushed off their feet ladders

lalalonglegs · 09/07/2008 11:30

Do roof immediately but then definitely sit tight for a while so that you can really plan and see how the very best use of space can be achieved. Use the time to save as much as poss because everything always costs more.

Don't worry abt dc's - they will love the chaos and danger and think it is a huge adventure and builders are coolest people ever (a sentiment you are unlikely to share ).

noddyholder · 09/07/2008 11:35

Gut first and strip all walls etc remove kitchens and old carpets.Then do roof followed by wiring and plumbing.Don't do anything decorative until you are sure all the remedial and structural work is finished.\move out!

chocolatemummy · 09/07/2008 11:40

It depends on what needs doing!
obviously if roof and plumbing wiring etc need replacing its different.
the first house we renovated the whole downstairs was out of action, after getting it fumigated it needed a damp course and flooring replaced so we lived upstairs almost for the whole first year, so we made the big bedroom and bathroom good and used smallest bedroom as kitchen using paste tabel and fridge, microwave etc each house is different

SheherazadetheGoat · 09/07/2008 11:50

longer you leave the roof the more expensive it will get so bite the bullet and do it.
rewiring - get some old retired buffer who will do it cash in had (probably at a snails pace but at least it will done)
are teh kitchen and bathroom horrendous or just not to your taste? if former just leave for a while.
get floors sanded professional by the time you factor in hiring machines, sandpaper and the sheer misery of doing it, it is worth it.

Pannacotta · 09/07/2008 15:23

Thanks for all the suggestions.
I would love to do it room by room but because it needs full re-wire and new heating this isn't an option.
Really need to sort out the roof, bit tricky as the builders/roofers I've had to look at it don't agree on what needs doing - you cannot see much without scaffolding as it's very high and inaccessible.
Think I better get going and get some more roofers to quote and get the work booked in.
Am getting quotes for the electrics, the first almost made me faint, was approx £10K!!!
We are leaving the kitchen and bathroom for now, but DS2 managed to rip off and break a kitchen door yesterday, which goes to show how knackered it is!

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GrapefruitMoon · 09/07/2008 16:34

if possible, get the electrics and plumbing done together. Saves having the floorboards taken up twice. plus electricians like to put earthing on all pipework - no point in doing that if the plumbing is all ripped out a few months later....

We took on a similar project 8 years ago and are just about finished! (We did take breaks when we ran out of money or couldn't face the mess.

Pannacotta · 09/07/2008 16:36

Thats a good point Grapefruit, hadnt thought about that.
Think our house will soon be overrun with tradesmen.....

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GrapefruitMoon · 09/07/2008 16:39

Also, if the house is liveable in, it's worth moving in and waiting for a bit before you do anything. We had the rewiring done straightaway and now some of the sockets and switches are not exactly in the right place - e.g. we got sockets for bedside lights on the wall where we put the bed first, then we later moved the bed to another position and there is no socket on one side so we need to use an extension lead....

claricebeansmum · 09/07/2008 16:46

Definitetly the roof and as others have said try to get the plumbing and wiring done at the same time. You need to be watertight and then warm.

It is worth giving some thought to how you live now and how you will live. DC will need more sockets than you imagine once they are teens, TV and telephone point in bedrooms - they don't have to be used but then they are there if you need them. Think carefully about plumbing - are you going to need a megaflow? Will your showers need pumps or is there enough presure? Would underfloor heating be a good idea? Heated towel rails - electric or oil filled? Is it worth replacing windows?

Carpets and redecoration along way down the list...

notcitrus · 09/07/2008 16:49

Does the roof need urgent repairs to ensure it's fit for winter/not leaking, or is it just a roof much older than its lifespan?

Obviously the former needs doing ASAP but otherwise you could consider waiting a couple years, especially if you might want to do a loft conversion at some point. Our surveyor sounded horrified by our roof (80 year lifespan, 110 year old house!) but a builder and a TV aerial guy both said it was currently fine (fixed a couple tiles and unblocked gutters), but it was old and fragile so could go from fine to urgently needing repair in one big storm.

So we got the whole house replumbed, new boiler, some wiring all done at once, and then started on more minor repairs and a new bathroom. 3 years later and after heavy storms and because of baby on the way, we're having a loft conversion complete with new roof done.

That should be the end of the structural stuff and we might be able to do some cosmetic things, but as I see it I might as well keep the old stained carpets while the kids are small! At some point we'll need to rebuild the kitchen (it's a dodgy extension), but it's functional and I doubt we'll have the money for some years.

I've found invaluable for providing good tradesmen - most recently on Monday when Mr NC screamed "Get an emergency plumber NOW!!"...

SpangleMaker · 09/07/2008 18:09

Get any changes to room layout, and kitchen/bathrooms designed first (you can change the details later). This'll inform any electrical/plumbing/wall-moving work.

We built a 2-storey extension a few yrs ago and the building work, plumbing and electricals were planned around the room (kitchen & bedroom) designs.

My DH is a kitchen designer & he often gets customers coming in who are planning renovations, he does them a plan then (he hopes) they come in whenever they are ready to finalise the spec. This helps them know where to put plumbing, sockets etc & sometimes influences them to move a door/window.

There's no doubt that doing a big renovation is stressful, tiring, expensive etc but it's also HUGELY rewarding.

Pannacotta · 10/07/2008 10:44

Thanks for all the replies.
Still feeling bit daunted by the prospect.
Does anyone think it's wothwhile using an architect for ideas/inspiration (as well as drawings for the kitchen extension)?
They do seem expensive but am thinking it might help us really make the most of the house (and garden).
Spangle how much does your DH get involved in suggesting layout/alterations? Not sure how much we could expect from a kitchen designer.

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cupsoftea · 10/07/2008 10:49

can you move out for the work to be done all in one go.

Pannacotta · 10/07/2008 13:43

WOuld love to move out while the work is done but no way we can afford to...

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MrsMattie · 10/07/2008 16:22

We've been going strong with renovating our house since we moved in (with a 3 yr old!) in October 2007.

We managed to rewire the whole house and put in new lights / light switches, put in a new boiler and radiators, decorate the upstairs hallway and bedrooms (stripping wallpaper, plastering, painting), do a bit of glazing and put in a new bathroom upstairs (included knocking a bathroom and toilet into one big room) - all this while still living in the house. I won't lie - it was incredibly stressful, for me more than anyone, I think. We didn't do any of it ourselves and yet it was still exhausting. Some things went very smoothly, but some things didn't go fantastically well - poor workmanship, things costing more than we'd budgeted etc.
There were periods when we were all sleeping on a mattress in the front room (when the upstairs was being decorated)... periods when I had to spend every day out of the house for fear my 3 yr old would be injured on dangling wires...periods when we had no bath or shower...periods when the mess and chaos reduced me to tears of frustration.

We finally decided to move out for 3 months in May while we completed the bulk of the rest of the job (kitchen extension, decorating of downstairs, new downstairs loo). We move back in in August when hopefully those things will be completed - we'll still have to do the floors , get new carpets and spend a loit of time and effort and a bit of money toidying and putting together the room sso that they're habitable (for when our secxond child is born in November!).

Honestyly? yes, it will all have been worth it. Our house will be a much more solid, pleasant place. Would I ever do this again? NO WAY. Some people just aren't cut out for this malarkey and I'm one of them!

My advice would be:

Ask everyone you know - friends, colleagues, neighbours - for reccomendations of good tradespeople they have used. Ask to see their work.

Get three quotes for every bit of work you need doing. If people are rude, take ages getting back to you etc at this stage, write them off. It's not a good sign. In our experience, the pleasant, helpful tradespeople always turn out to be the best at their jobs too.

Get everything in writing - draw up contracts. Agree on payment schedules. Don't pay people too much upfront.

Be realistic - if you are going to live there while you're doing it it may take you a bit longer to get things done. Prioritise the stuff that needs doing most urgently.

Set a budget but give yourself leeway because things almost always go a little bit over.

Our renovation, realistically, is going to take a full year by the time it's done. It has a huge impact on youyr life - it really does! - so be prepared for that!

Happy to chat to you in more detail about particular aspects of renovation if you want?


lalalonglegs · 11/07/2008 15:42

Quite a lot of kitchen designers are more interested in shifting product than giving you best layout. I'm a big fan of using architects if you can find one with whom you gel. You cd try Arcitect Your Home, a firm that will charge a few hundred to give you half a day's time in order to think through your plans and your home's potential.

noddyholder · 11/07/2008 15:56

Mrs mattie it will be lovely.I renivated 7 houses in 10 yrs with ds growing up!Finally stopped when he was 13 although he knows nothing else.I plan to do one more with us living in rented as i don't think we could take it!

SpangleMaker · 11/07/2008 16:59


Well maybe my DH is different to other kitchen designers (he's a trained interior designer, unlike many, and is quite obsessive), but he has suggested layout etc changes to several customers. In one case, his suggestions really transformed their extension, though they were people we already knew so maybe he spent more time thinking about it.

High end kitchen designers would help more than the average Magnet bod (who are trained more in sales than design). Architects are may be a better bet for you, but there are good ones and bad ones so I would ask to see previous work. [Mind you DH is often very critical of architect designs for interiors, he is convinced architects have no understanding of kitchen design, but then he is something of a purist!]

My DH does surveys for free, drawings do not cost if the customer is buying (or walks away) but if they want to take the plans home he would charge approx £100, depending how much work he'd done.

Pannacotta · 11/07/2008 17:56

Lots of food for thought, thanks everyone.

MrsMattie your renovation sounds like ours in terms of what you are doing. Are you going to the house to check on progress while the work is done?

lala have looked at architect your home but they dont cover my area (Norfolk), sadly.

We do have two recommendations for architects but the one I really like the sound of charge approx £90 an hour, which seems a lot of money. But am seriously thinking of getting using an architect, even if it's simply professional advice as I'm a bit overwhelmed by the scale of the project, also with two young DSs, it's hard to focus on what we need to do.

Spangle your DH does sound like a very dedicated kithen designer, helped too by his design training I'm sure. Are you anywhere near Norwich? I was thinking of getting quotes from really good companies (and paying for plans where needed) just to see what they come up with, we love to cook and eat so the kitchen renovation/extension will use up most of our budget...

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SpangleMaker · 11/07/2008 18:08

Nowhere near Norwich, I'm afraid! But your idea of getting a few companies out is a good idea.

I think it's worth getting the architect out too; although it seems expensive believe me it will be a small % of the total cost and worth it to get a great design.

Good luch!

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