Surviving the Renovation: 9 Tips from the midst of it!
If you've been following Skirting Boards and Chandeliers on social media you'll know that we are right smack bang in the middle of our first-floor rear extension! It's been four weeks now and we are nearing the end of the building work and are nearly ready to start installing the kitchen and decorate the rooms (which we are doing all by ourselves of course!). The stud walls are in, most of the flat roof is on and the first fix of electrics are in place. I can't tell you how exciting it has been to stand in the skeleton of the upstairs rooms and imagine lounging in our new master bedroom or showering looking out over the garden and putting Ethan to sleep in his new bedroom. It's been a long time coming.
If you read my previous post then you'll remember the difficult and (unexpectedly) emotional journey I've been on in the preparation for this building work. However I've actually found having the builders around the house quite exciting! Yes there is clutter everywhere as we have had to empty the rooms that were being knocked out and have no other storage. And yes there is constant dust as the builders traipse their dusty shoes into the bathroom do their business (often out of the bowl might I add!) but otherwise the dirt has been kept to a minimum as we boarded up the areas being worked on. This leads on to my first top tip....
1. Contain the Mess
This isn't always possible but if you can then separate the messy zone where the builders are working from the clean area using boards. In our current project we are working exclusively at the rear of the house so from the landing and reception room forward there is no mess or brick dust (only normal house dust as there is so much clutter I'm struggling to hoover). From the onset we've had a plan of action and strategically decorated each room in order. Unfortunately for us the kitchen was the final piece of the puzzle, hence the reason we've put up with our horrid cream cabinets and sickly green tiles for so long. If you need to protect rooms and carpets then consider if your builders can access the site from the exterior scaffolding. If this isn't possible then lay down sheets and tape them to the floor to avoid shifting if they have to walk through carpeted areas. This should keep dust and mess to a minimum.
2. Set up a temporary kitchen
Set up a mini kitchen on a flat surface or table in a safe area close to plug sockets consisting of a microwave, camping stove and fridge. You could source second hand ones of these as you only need them for a few months or use your old ones like us if you have room for larger appliances. We also have our lean mean grilling machine and our coffee machine set up so gourmet dining is not completely off the cards. Thankfully we have enough space for this! We're also lucky to have a downstairs bathroom right beside our make-shift kitchen where we keep the washing up bowl, sponge and washing up liquid. So washing up happens in the bath and we dry the dishes straight away, yes like the days before dishwashers (who even remembers that anyway)! However my next point addresses how you can minimise how much washing up you need to do...
3. Throwaway eating items
It was my husband's bright idea to buy wooden spoons, forks and knives as well as recyclable plates and cups to save on washing up. We still have to get our hands wet if we cook meals or decide we deserve wine from a glass and sometimes we need these small moments of indulgence. Also the kids want their favourite dinosaur plate now and again too but definitely the ease of using throwaway utensils makes the burden that little bit lighter.
4. Easy cooking
Consider some batch meal cooking before D-day if you know that you will have a big enough freezer to store it all in. We prepared some Chilli, Spaghetti Bolognese and Green Thai Curry but I'd say just go for your favourites so that there is some semblance of normality in your fragile home. Microwavable rice is actually quite fluffy and tasty and you can do pasta quickly on the camping stove. Friends also recommended a slow cooker but we never got round to this. Also I've been pleasantly surprised that microwave meals these days are way better than I remember with Sainsburies doing an amazing seafood paella. Oh and the odd takeaway doesn't do any harm (I'm actually writing this after a huge Chinese!)
5. Set up a kitchen for the builders
I cannot in any way take credit for this one as the builders came up with it themselves, but it's a really great idea. It means they are not reliant on you to make a hot drink for them whenever you manage to get round to it (which when you have two young kids never really happens anyway). I love that our workmen set up their own kitchen in the garage and dining area in the garden. A little kettle, UHT milk and other condiments for their lunch. I've NEVER had any tradesmen do this before and we have used a lot in our home over the years. Although our builders brought their own things you could actually provide it for them - a kettle, cups, coffee and tea etc. and while you're at it why not sneak them some biscuits. The reason to go to this effort isn't to keep them sweet but it is just a small way you can appreciate what they are doing for you. Yes they are doing a job that they are getting paid for but it's hard work! And they are looking after your bricks and mortar so I think it's nice to be nice.
6. Lean on your Friends
I've been exploiting the good will, kindness and generosity of my lovely friends and neighbours (you know who you are!) in using their washing machine over the past few weeks. I've managed to cope perfectly fine with the makeshift kitchen, possibly because I've been without an oven for a couple of years anyway, however lack of a washing machine has been the hardest practical task to co-ordinate. Having two mucky kids, a mountain of holiday washing and now the added pressure of a school uniform to get ready every week has made this is the one thing that I've found a tad stressful. If you're stuck or in case of an emergency (such as bed-wetting incidents) use the local launderette. I've had to do this a couple of times and am now on first name basis with the guy who works there.
7. Consider Security
Even though our rooms are open to the elements, we have very good protection from the scaffolding and canopy that has been installed but someone could still climb up the ladder and enter our home. So with compromised security on the building its important to consider how you can board up entrances and exits. This may not be possible but needs to be considered especially if you are going away from the site (even for just a night). Where the doors are we have put a large length of timber on the inside of the door just below the handle so it can't be open as we are hoping to keep these doors and handles. This leads on to the next point...
8. Don't go away!
I know this is probably counterintuitive but the truth is you need to be there when everything is happening. In the first week my husband was nearly on site every day to avoid small (and some major) mistakes from happening. It's not that our building team are incompetent but as my father-in-law designed our extension, it means that John knows every inch of detail on our plans. Also it's not great to leave the house when security isn't great. However if one of you can stay in the property the rest of the family could live elsewhere. If there are circumstances which mean you can't live in the property then try to stay close by with friends or family so you can have regular site visits. In saying all of this we just went away last week. Why do I never listen to my own advice!
9. Revel in the process
As crazy as it is having your home (and future financial security) ripped apart and tore down in front of your eyes, the building process is fascinating, exciting and actually quite cathartic. Every day you see something new and the physical and pragmatic approach in creating rooms is really interesting. We think of our homes as such physical and lifeless entities but I believe that buildings are created by people to serve the purposes of how we spend our time with other people. They are precious things and it's exciting being part of their transformational journey! From previous experiences I know I'll soon have that smug sense of achievement in the not too distant future when the flooring goes in and we've completed a room and that smell of dust and sweaty men is nothing but a distant memory!
I hope that these tips lighten the burden and headache of undergoing building work on your home especially if you have kids. Please get in touch with any questions you have about our renovation and I'd love to hear any other tips that have worked for you. Also I'd be so happy and grateful if you could take 20 seconds (maybe less) to vote for me as I've been nominated for the Best Newcomer category and the Amara Interior Blog Awards. I need to get in the top six to be invited to the award ceremony in October at the Design Museum and network with the best bloggers in the industry. Click here to put a smile on my face. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!