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How hard is it doing up a house?

22 replies

cakeaddict · 15/06/2009 13:40


We are trying to move house at the moment to something bigger. However, due a property shortage in our area, there is very little on the market and what has been available has been snapped up very quickly.

Many of the houses we have looked at have needed what I consider to be a 'lot of work' needed. But as we have been looking for months now and still no nearer finding what we really want, I'm beginning to wonder if we need to compromise a bit and look at taking on a house that needs some work.

I'm not talking about anything majorly structural, but have just seen a couple of houses on the market which would need new kitchen, new bathroom, new boiler/potentially extra radiators in rooms that don't have them, complete redecoration throughout.

Neither me nor DH is particularly DIY minded - DH commutes and is out of the house from 7-7 every day and doesn't fancy coming home to lots of work or a crappy house. On the plus side these houses are well below our budget so could afford to throw some money at them (though imagine we'd get through that fairly quickly) and my Dad is recently retired from the building trade and happy to come and help out (though doesn't live nearby).

We have a 2 year old, and expecting another baby in December - not the ideal circumstances to try and do up a house.

Has anyone done a similar amount of work? How long did it take? How bad was it? Would it be madness given our situation? Or are we being too picky and expecting to move into something perfect?

OP posts:
fishie · 15/06/2009 13:43

i took on a house like this bc. we still haven't finished it and haven't done a single thing since ds was born 4 years ago. only do it if you are very determined to get it done or if you don't mind it taking a decade.

you will either need childcare so that you can get on with it yourself or somewhere else to go while your dad / builders do work during the day.

mumblechum · 15/06/2009 13:43

I've done up loads of wrecks when I was in my twenties and married to a very handy man. We'd do a lot of the physical work ourselves, then sell on for a big profit.

Nowadays am married to a non handy but good earning man so get builders/plasterers/electricians in to do all the work.

Be prepared for lots of builders not turning up to give estimates/not sending their estimates in/not turning up to do the work.

Even when they do turn up, expect it to take twice as long and cost twice as much as you initially envisage.

If you're getting kitchens/bathrooms replaced, I'd move out to a hotel for a week or so, two year olds and builders rubble do not mix!

GooseyLoosey · 15/06/2009 13:44

We did a similar amount of work on our last house (much more on the current one). We did a lot ourselves so it was stressful and took at least 4x longer than we had planned (several years in the end). On the otherhand, our major project was all done by other people and only took 8 months and came in on budget. I think it is stressful (probably more than you could imagine) as inevitably things go wrong and you have to deal with them, but the result is something that is uniquely yours so I would say it was worth it.

Fizzylemonade · 15/06/2009 13:58

cakeaddict, you haven't said if you are in rented or trying to sell.

If you are in rented my advice would be to stay in it whilst work on the new house is done so in effect you over-lap the properties. Trust me it is worth a few months extra rent rather than the stress.

See the other thread about boring vs brave where people have said how stressful it is doing up a house with children (been there done that myself)

My dh and I are very handy, we can fit bathrooms, most of a kitchen etc and we have done stuff ourselves and had workmen in to do electrics, gas stuff. I would never want to do a whole house again

cakeaddict · 15/06/2009 14:06

We are selling, so would have to live in it. (Though the advantage of being on maternity leave next year would be that I could flee to my parents with the kids during the really messy bits!)

The houses that we're considering aren't total wrecks, so I suppose that the question is how much of it could we live with for a little while and how much would we need to do urgently.

It's certainly given me food for thought though and reinforced my gut reaction that this isn't going to be easy... I just wish there were some perfect houses out there to buy instead!! I'll check out that other thread as well.

Thanks all for responding so quickly.

OP posts:
DrEvil · 15/06/2009 14:29

We moved to a house which was in shocking decorative order and very dodgily maintained, then dh went off for 6 months leaving me with a 1 yr old and a 3yr old!

I had stuff done that was necessary (new boiler, loft insulation, garden sorted and new kitchen) by mates or tradesmen and the rest I have sort of muddled through the best I can. A year later I have decorated the dining room on 3 weeks of weds mornings whilst the boys were at creche, I've painted the conservatory and had the main bedroom replastered and decorated just recently.

I absolutely hated my room painted yellow and orange and used as a dumping ground for all sorts of rubbish so I was very happy when it was finally done.

I would say that if you can move out and pay someone to do loads in one go and make a list of priorities, what you can and can't live with as it were.

I'm generally pleased we did it as I now have some of the house exactly the way I want it, in contrast though the bits that haven't been touched look bloody awful.

Good luck!

DrEvil · 15/06/2009 14:30

ps; my dh is SHOCKING at DIY. He can't do a thing, I do it better and I'm pretty bad.

goldenpeach · 15/06/2009 22:11

From experience a job you estimate at two hours takes four. There is always a hitch. Start from less important room down the list and by the time you get to living room you will be a dab hand. If you are in a hurry, hire professionals. Before you do stuff, borrow diy books from library or read on the internet, there are plenty of sources of info and great tips that will save you time. There are also wonderful products for sale, paint strippers, for instance. I stripped my doors and even a fireplace! You will need somebody to keep the little ones away, maybe a family member can come and stay? If your partner doesn't cooperate it will be tough, my partner at the time I did my first house up kept muttering and it was stressful to motivate him to help. My current one is really good at diy, so I didn't have to do as much in our second house.

SoupDragon · 15/06/2009 22:15

A lot. it depends how much money you have to throw at it TBH. If you pay someone to come in and do the lot, it'll be done reasonably quickly, if you're doing it on a budget and therefore with DIY thrown in, it could be ages.

I spent last year renovating a friend's house on a tight budget. It was hard, dirty work (but my word it was fun knocking stuff down/ripping out!). It's still not finished.

sunburntats · 15/06/2009 22:18

Ok the truth.........

Its stressful, its filthy, its dusty, its awkward, its impractacle it takes a long time, costs a fortune and i would never do it again.

Kitchen...prepare to be without a sink, washing machine, cooker or worksurface for extended lengths of time.
I survived for 3 months with a microwave, washing up bowl and kettle.
Had to take washing round to friends and family.

Bathroom...prepare to have no bath/ shower and hope that there is a morrisons/tesco near by so that you can use their loo like i had to do for a week. Walking on floorboards in the depths of winter.

Pulled off wallpaper and the plaster came with it leaving bare brick underneeth...every room, every ceiling had to be replastered.

We did this before we had children, i could NOT have done it with children and i became quite depressed with the whole thing.

Tis truly awful

Doozle · 15/06/2009 22:27

We renovated our kitchen and knocked a wall through and that took nearly 2 months. Very stressful being without a kitchen for that length of time, especially with a toddler around. We had to get out of the house most of the day, due to dust and just getting in the way.

Have to say though that we've now got exactly what we want so that's the real upside and on reflection, I am glad we did it.

One of the hardest things - and this surprised me - was all the decision-making you have to do. There are endless bits and bobs to decide on so helps if you have very clear ideas on what you want.

GrendelsMum · 22/06/2009 16:03

I've been thinking a bit more about this. I think that the size of the house makes a big difference. In a large house, you can cope with one or two rooms being out of action, because you can simply not use them. In a small house, it's much more depressing and difficult, as the dust and noise is on top of you all the time.

I also have a theory that the skills you've developed in your professional life can be a great help - if you've done project management before, for example, it makes project managing a build easier. I actually find renovations incredibly relaxing compared to my day job!

willowstar · 23/06/2009 19:11

we were in a very similar situation to you, we HAD to find a house but though our area is saturated with new(er) houses, there were very few older properties or properties with gardens coming on the market and when they did they retained their price. So we have bought an old house that needs complete renovation, bar the windows and central heating that the current owners have done. It needs the old plaster removed, new insulated boards put on all walls and ceilings, new kitchen, bathrooms, conservatory needs to be demolished and rebuilt... the whole lot basically.

We are moving in next week (fingers crossed!) and our baby is due beginning of October. We both work full time and can't afford to get people in except for the essentials. Everyone has been telling us we are mad, we have no family nearby to help, don't know many people.

But...we are both determined and capable people and have decided that this isn't going to break us...we are going to just have to make it fun instead of thinking of it as drudgery! We have planned what we absolutely have to do before the baby arrives and will do the rest after that bit by bit.

We are determined to make it as fun as possible and to just do it though we expect it will take us about 5 years to sort out the whole house and are trying to be realistic about it. Good luck with whatever you do!

willowstar · 23/06/2009 19:12

also, must add that my OH has built a house before so knows how to do everything, so that is going to help a lot, but he is out of the house 12-14 hours as it is so that is what is going to hinder us more than anything.

kitsmummy · 23/06/2009 20:38

We did this with our 4 bed victorian terrace - new boiler, some new windows, plastering, new radiators, bathroom, kitchen, downstairs toilet, garden, reclamation fireplaces put in etc, floor sanding, new floors, structural work in teh kitchen, the works really. Had the builders in for about 10 weeks, dusty, dirty, gross, but you just have to let it go for that amount of time. Without a kitchen for a while etc. After the builders went we had the entire house to paint and decorate from top to bottom. We had a 4 year old and I was pregnant during this time. We've pretty much been doing the house for the last 18 months but it's nearly done now, thank god. DH works long hours and DD is now 9 months old. It's not for everyone but I'm obsessed with houses interiors, so for me it's been worth it

soopermum1 · 23/06/2009 21:58

for me, was a nightmare. did similar kind of work on a 2 bed maisonette. got ripped off and messed around by builders, had to live in dust and rubble, was sanding floors at 8 months pregnant. loved the end result but it took a year and quite frankly put our marriage under a lot of strain. when we sold (for a handsome profit so it wasn't completely a disaster)we deliberatley choose a house that just needed a lick of paint and some new carpet.

would advise against unless you're very chilled and laid back.

secretive · 26/06/2009 10:35

Craig PHillips (TV DIY man and Big Brother winner etc) is now running weekend DIY courses for women. Next one in Richmond. You learn a lot : decorating, tiling, laying floors, unblocking sinks etc). it's called

mikimoo · 06/08/2009 20:46

I think it depends very much on your state of mind - and the builders you employ. We're just at the finishing stages of quite a big project - loft conversion, new heating, plumbing, bathroom, kitchen refurb and complete redecoration - and I'm due to have my first baby next week.

I usually get quite stressed about things like this but I mentally prepared myself to live in hell before the work started - and anything less than hell has been a bonus. I must admit it hasn't been absolute hell (apart from a couple of meltdown moments - three water leaks and one gas leak in the space of three days when I was home alone and suffering from SPD!) but it has been made so much better by being very lucky with the builders - however we spent a lot of time vetting prospective builders, asking them about their 'tidy' policy, working hours etc (believe me, there is a massive difference in their attitudes), and made sure they were good communicators. We were prepared to move out for bits but in the end we didn't need to - they always plumbed the loo back in at the end of the day and gave us running water (even if it wasn't hot) - something which they promised to do from the outset.

The biggest stress has been decorating ourselves - I have found myself lying on the floor painting skirting boards this week when it's been too hard to bend down. We've still got quite a lot of painting to do, the baby's room is not quite there and carpets are due to be fitted when I'm due but despite that it's not been as bad as we thought.

Good luck!

HerHonesty · 07/08/2009 10:27

what you actually list is actually quite a lot of work.

i second what other people have said, it tends to take double the time you think, cost more than you budget and is quite stressful, messy and dirty.

i am on project number 4, have been very surprised at how much having kids slows everything down.

normalserviceresumes · 07/08/2009 10:33

I wouldn't do it again.

When we moved here we had to:
re-plaster every room and every ceiling
put flooring down
new kitchen
new stairs
complete redecoration

It was horrid. It was filthy, messy, expensive, frustrating.

cakeaddict · 08/08/2009 15:18

Thanks for all the replies - it confirms my initial fears that it would all be too much hard work, especially at this particular stage of our family life. But I'm pleased to report that since I first posted, we offered on a house which needs barely more than a lick of paint and which I think is the best possible outcome for us at the moment. So keeping fingers crossed as we try to nudge our solicitors towards exchange of contacts (and there lies a whole other thread...). Thanks!

OP posts:
DamonBradleylovesPippi · 08/08/2009 15:27

cakeaddict I was going to post 'DONT!' as the house you first dscibed is what we bought. I thought it'd be okay to leave in it but it wasn;t and luckily my dd myself and the bump relocated somewhere for two months while builder refurbished. and it was a stress. I'd have gone insane.

I'm glad you have found something else. good luck

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