The builders started on the same day we completed on our new house.
As soon as we got the keys, they wasted no time moving their tools in, clearing out old musty carpets, and preparing for the main work to start.
The building work will be ongoing for months whilst we live in the house, but there were some immediate big jobs to do to make the house liveable before we’d actually be able to move in.
Our initial time frame was 1.5 weeks before we would be able to move in, but I planned for another week on top of that, as although you never know what delays will arise, there are bound to be some.
We are now coming to the end of week three, and we are still imposing ourselves on family and enjoying a 50 minute each-way school run in London traffic (I’m averaging 3.5 hours in the car every day).
But it SEEMS like the end (of the beginning) could be in sight. Things are taking shape in the house, and it could be quite possible that we will be living there by this time next week. The house will still be very much a building site, and we are happy to live around this, but there are just a couple of important things that need to be finished off before the house is functional enough to live in – just the small matter of a working heating system, some sort of rudimentary kitchen setup, somewhere to bath/shower, and a working toilet.
Plus, once we are in, it will be much easier to embark on the smaller DIY tasks ourselves in the evenings – the entire house has been replastered, so there is a LOT of painting to get on with. I’m also itching to get quotes for carpets, shutters, etc, which is proving impossible before we are actually IN the house.
The house isn’t anything remarkable. It’s your average London mid-terrace, with two double bedrooms and a box room, a boxy narrow kitchen (still twice the size of our last kitchen though!) next to the dining room, and a living room at the front of the house. But it has high ceilings and is slightly larger than most of the other 3 beds in our town (the hallways are wider and the box room is more of a square rather than a narrow rectangle). After living in the area for five years, doing house viewings on and off for the last year, we knew that there were actually only a very small handful of roads in our town near enough to Arlo’s school with these slightly bigger three beds with a south-facing aspect (one thing Sam and I both agreed was an absolute must-have for our next house). So, when this one came up on one of those roads, and it just so happened to be the road that had the closest walk to the train station whilst also being not TOO long a walk to school, we knew immediately that it was “the one”.
We never set out to buy a “project”, but all things considered, it was our best bet. And despite the standard complications of having two small children, very little spare time, and a baby on the way, we saw it as a great opportunity to create a home that was exactly how we wanted it. There was so much that needed doing in our new house, it just made sense to attack the renovations at full pelt and update everything right from the start.
Below are a couple of photos from moving day. They are a bit rushed as I had literally five minutes to take them before the movers arrived with all our stuff. You can see that the builders have already moved their tools in by this point.
Our living room – that fireplace has been removed to reveal a recessed iron plate behind, so the plan is to plaster around it, leaving the recess as a nice feature.
The dining room – to the left is a falling down lean-to that will be ripped out to make way for our 3 metre extension.
Our bedroom on moving day – the carpet has been taken out and the walls replastered since this photo.
The boys’ bedroom – the wall with the cupboards and fireplace has now been completely removed in order to remove the wall downstairs between the kitchen and dining room. The chimney breast runs through both floors so the whole thing had to be removed upstairs and downstairs. So now, instead of a chimney breast and annoyingly shallow sections of recessed wall, the boys have one flat wall running from the door to the back wall with the window which has created quite a bit more space in their room.
The kitchen – it looks NOTHING like this now. The entire wall on the right has been removed, so the kitchen and dining room have now combined to create one big room. All the kitchen units have been ripped out, so it is currently one big hole of a room. Our builder is going to install some basic, salvaged units so we can have a functional kitchen in the meantime – because we are extending out the back of this room, it will be at least three months before we can measure up, order and finally get to the point where we can install our permanent kitchen.
I was really keen to snap these few quick photos, as within a matter of days, the house no longer looked anything like this. I didn’t manage to photograph the bathroom as it was, but it features in the video run-through I have waiting to edit. That will have to wait until my main computer is unpacked, which will be a couple of weeks yet at least.
Here’s a brief run through of all the work we are having done to the house:
New heating system including replacing all pipes and the boiler.
New electrics throughout the house.
Knocking down stud wall between toilet and bathroom to make one room
New bathroom fittings and tiling
Knocking through wall between kitchen and dining room to create one big room (the chimney runs through this wall so the wall also had to be taken down on the first floor between the bathroom and one of the bedrooms too – stud wall has now been put up in it’s place.
Building a cloakroom toilet under the stairs on the ground floor
Sealing off the dining room door so we just have one entrance through the kitchen to the big family space at the back of the house
Extending the kitchen/dining room by three metres all the way across the back of the house – this will give us a 7 x 6m kitchen/dining/family area.
The extension is phase two of the building work which will start in a couple of weeks once all the other building work to the main part of the house has been completed. I think it will be a bit ambitious to assume we will have our new kitchen fittings and flooring installed before baby number three arrives in June, but we are hoping to at least have some sort of unfinished but livable room by that point. If the builders are still in every day working on the main extension itself, I will have to chuck them out and halt work for a bit, as I’m planning a home birth, and it would be nice to have a bit of privacy and peace and quiet in the first few weeks after birth. We’ll just have to see what stage the work is at when I reach full term in May!
These photos were taking on “demolition day”, when the chimney and the load-bearing wall at the centre of the house came down.
This is the house as it looks now. We have new plaster on most of the walls, the bathroom is taking shape, but obviously it’s still WAY off the finished product.
Fresh plaster on the dining room walls
Arlo and Rory surveying their new bedroom
The bathroom – still yet to have a door, tiles, or a bath.
I’m excited to get cracking with the decorating and ordering the few bits of new furniture that we would like to get (a new bed, sofas, and wardrobes would be nice!)
I’ve always promised myself that if we were ever having building work done, I’d check myself before I moaned about how hard it is to live through. Back when owning a house seemed like a completely impossible dream, and then when we’d achieved that dream but had less than zero money to ever contemplate home improvements, I always found people moaning about building work a little grating. Yes, it can be very inconvenient, but it’s a temporary state, and the end result is being able to make your house better, and that’s a huge privilege that I would never want to lose sight of.
To tell the truth, so far I haven’t really had anything to moan about. Yes, we are living out of suitcases, the children are feeling the effects of being displaced, and I am 25 weeks pregnant. But actually, move day went so smoothly and packing wasn’t too stressful at all, I’m in the best stage of pregnancy for all of this stuff to be going on, and we haven’t yet felt the full effects of building disruption as we are lucky enough to have family close by who have space for us to stay.
There have been a few teething problems and mini stresses in the past few weeks with certain aspects of the building work, but overall, we are just really really excited to be making this all happen.