It’s been a long time coming this post and I can tell you sure as eggs is eggs we’re nowhere even close to the finish line yet. But enough is enough and considering I’ve been promising an update on my house renovation project since I started writing for RMS back in April last year it seemed like the time was right to give you a bit of background to the whole project.
I’m hoping now that this post is out there so to speak that we’ll now see more substantial progress week on week; after all I’ve not given myself much room to hide now have I (and that’s no bad thing!). I also want to apologise in advance for some of the photography that you’re about to see in this post; I am unfortunately no Mr Crohill behind the lens and many of these were taken on the hop before building work really got going. Hopefully they won’t be too painful/boring to look at.
Ste and I had a five year plan from the moment we purchased our first house; I say we but I think it was more a case of me telling him what the plan of attack was and him going along with it. Anyway I digress, I was absolutely determined that by the time we reached the five year mark we would either have sold or be in the process of selling our first home (which you can see more of on Instagram #WitherfordWay) in preparation for the next big step in our lives. As much as I adored our completely renovated two bed terrace, the parquet floor we installed on the whole of the bottom floor, the shiny chic kitchen and our walk in wardrobe (which is essentially what our second bedroom became) I knew the house simply wouldn’t be able to contain all the paraphernalia that comes with having children and also the locality where we stayed there were too many rats, and we constantly called our friends at Melbourne rat removal to help us get rid of the rats every now and then.
I knew that we would need somewhere bigger, and ideally in a good area for schools with a good-sized garden and drive and perhaps a garage too. I know…I don’t ask for much do I?! But the reality was somewhat different, put simply we just couldn’t afford the next step up without compromising significantly on one or more of our ‘must haves’. Call it fate but serendipitously I discovered a semi-detached three bed house literally on the next street from our first house that had everything EXCEPT the fact it hadn’t been updated since the 1970s. Regardless we fell in love…
I’ll skip past the bit where we competed against five other buyers for the house, offered over the asking price, went to closed bids and almost lost the house when the buyers in our own chain pulled out before others bought it instead.
In fact looking at these photos below it’s hard to see what exactly Ste and I saw in the property; it looks so suburban, so conventional and actually really very drab. But something sparked both of us off when we went in the front door; looking past the patterned carpets and mismatched curtains and the disheveled garden we could see the house had potential. It felt like home.
We knew that we would have to strip the house back to its bare bones, reorganise and extend to maximise the space according to our lifestyle. We wanted four beds as opposed to the existing three, a larger kitchen and a separate utility. Given that I work from home, the original dining room would need to be converted to a snug/office and we wanted another bathroom upstairs to service the four bedrooms and that was before we even got onto the aesthetics of the house. The outside space needed significant rejigging and landscaping too. The enormity of the project excited us, but I should caveat this with the fact that Ste has his own building company so we knew there would be lots of helping hands along the way.
The Plan & First Steps
So we had a plan and then sh*t hit the fan. Almost a month to the day that we first set foot in the house I fell pregnant although we didn’t find out until a month after that. Hector wasn’t planned by any stretch of the imagination…at least not at this stage of our lives. I stopped being of any real use around the house at about 5 months pregnant when Ste deemed it too dangerous to send me up ladders and breathe in what was becoming an increasingly dusty environment. Dispatched home to my mum’s where we were staying, it was all I could do to not tie myself into knots about Ste doing it all on his own and how we were going to afford such a project with me being on maternity leave and a reduced salary when I finally returned to part-time work.
And that wasn’t all. Our house is actually sited on a conservation area called The Bournville Village Trust which was set up back in Victorian times by George Cadbury, yes he of Chocolate fame! Essentially the Trust exists to protect and maintain the houses in the area for future generations and I agree wholeheartedly with its ethos. Unfortunately there exist some individuals who choose to exert their ‘power’ disproportionately without rhyme or reason, discriminating against some and allowing others free rein.
Our initial plans were rejected by the Trust, despite being accepted by the council and when questioned couldn’t actually give us a legitimate reason as to why they had made that decision. It took over a year, a huge amount of confusion, several redrawn plans, buckets of tears, numerous site visits armed with tape measures and lots and lots of late night chats before we managed to get the seal of approval from the Trust. Even the council stated that we were being unfairly discriminated against since we had adhered to all design and planning specifications in our initial plans. I still scratch my head in confusion to this day especially when so many houses on our road have managed to build extensions almost identical to that of our original plans. Suffice to say it’s put a dampener on our vision for the space and my gut says we’ll eventually move on rather than staying here for a goodly while as previously planned.
And it got worse. Once work commenced we found that the outer footings of the new proposed plans sat directly on a main run of drains. To cut a long story very short, the equivalent of £25K worth of work diverting the drains around the extension was required. Yep that’s £25,000 of our precious budget suckered up underground which we’ll never ever literally see again. I cried. A lot.
Ste has actually been my hero in all of this; he’s persevered unrelentingly, as much as he’s been able to, with a rapidly growing business and a baby who he actually wants to watch growing up, with pushing work onwards at the house. I’m not going to lie, time is scarce as is money and it’s been tough. His family have been our godsend helping to landscape the garden and strip the house free of lath and plaster and clearing out the rubble into hundreds of skips.
As it stands we have a huge base at the bottom of the garden ready for the shed and greenhouse and the raised beds. The lawn has been levelled and reseeded (perfect for Hector’s ball games). We have the ground structure in place for the sun terrace and patio and before long the bricks that currently are cluttering up the space at the back of the house will be part of the upper storey.
Inside, all walls are down and ready for insulating and plasterboard and first fix. It’s strangely calming walking around the house which although is as dusty as hell, is vibrating with the promise of the next adventure. The first storey of the extension is up and although rain has stopped play recently, it won’t be long until the second level is up.
We’re hoping (and keeping all fingers and toes crossed) that in eight weeks we will have made significant progress. Our target is to have the extension at the back finished complete with roof and the utility and garage also in place and watertight. At least then we can start work on the inside bit by bit safe from the elements and with increasing daylight (and therefore workable) hours as we head into Spring.
Ste also intends to boost house renovation project morale by sorting out our driveway, getting it all ready and prepped for the resin finish that will be added when all the messy work is out of the way. Personally I think it’s only fair to our long-suffering but very lovely and understanding neighbours to be presented with one less eyesore! I’ll be sharing another update in a couple of months time so stay tuned for that.
I’d love to hear all about your own house refurb projects if you have any on the go? Did you come up against any ridiculous planning restrictions? How did you overcome them? Let us know in the comments box below…