Taking the dilapidated shell of a dwelling and bringing it back to life has become a national preoccupation, thanks to reality reno-television and the seeming ease of DIY projects. However, as anyone who actually watches these shows or attempts these constructions can tell you, the process can drive you, your relationship and your bank balance to the brink. Whether you plan to extend the kitchen, refit the bathroom, or attempt a “simple” makeover, here are our tips for surviving that trying time. Godspeed …
Start by getting leads from friends, family, colleagues and your designer, if you have one. Ask (on Facebook) and you shall receive. On top of their insurance, check their references – not just for the work they’ve done but also for how reliable they are. Are they good at returning calls? Did they start on time each day? Did they stick to the budget? Was the work completed as discussed?
When the builders move in, any semblance of sanity tends to move out. Keep the relationship productive and intact by communicating. Get everything in writing, from quotes and plans to payment schedules, expectations and which party will be responsible for the upfront payment of materials and permits. This eliminates any he-said, she-said arguments down the track.
Are you having trouble visualising what you’re working so hard towards? There are myriad apps to help you with every decision – reversible and irreversible – from paint colours to room reconfigurations.
Don’t let the fast-forwarded footage on Grand Designs fool you. That’s usually your initial timeframe, doubled. Save yourself the frustration and disappointment by breaking up the work into bite-size chunks and setting timeframes for each one. And don’t forget to factor in waiting times. Not to be a Negative Nancy but there will be a holdup on your custom cabinetry, just as the granite colour you chose for your bathroom countertop will be out of stock when you order it from the suppliers.
Then add 15 per cent on top of it. There are always creeping costs to do with labour, miscalculations and unforseen expenses, such as insect or water damage.
There’s nothing more maddening than being unable to find your good work shoes under a pile of scrap wood, plaster crumbs, cigarette butts and duct tape. Clean up at the end of each day to ward off stress-related diseases. If possible, make a part of the house construction- and chaos-free by erecting plastic divider curtains to keep dust and debris from getting everywhere.
Sure, approach that kitchen cabinetry with some confidence and cockiness, but know when you’re in over your head. Hiring a professional to knock out a part of a project that’s slowing you down can give the renovation momentum and you renewed motivation to complete the rest on your own.
Document the entire process. When motivations begin to falter, just take a look at the photos to remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Updating your friends and family on progress can serve the same purpose.
And no, we’re not just talking staying with friends when running water becomes unavailable. Get out of the house to stop the renovations from consuming you. When sourcing a bathroom mirror begins to spiral into weekly shopping trips, daily arguments and continual bedtime web browsing on Gumtree and eBay, take a breather and make time for life; a weekend getaway or dinner where you’re both banned from discussing porcelain splashbacks. The house isn’t as important as your relationship.
When it comes to frayed nerves, renovations are right up there with having a newborn child. (Except with the newborn child, it’s not up to you and your partner to customise every minuscule aesthetic detail.) Try to keep your sense of humour throughout the whole ordeal. You may be roughing it in the lounge room, but why not think of it as glamping? Eating from takeout boxes in the soon-to-be foyer? A living-room dinner picnic. Focus on the big picture and don’t forget why you embarked on this crazy journey in the first place.