So house building. Yeah. That. It’s a really strange one to be honest. There are all these things that you do along the way (ie pounds that you pay willingly, to planning departments, to architects, to, well everyone except your own bank accounts). It’s very strange actually doing it properly as opposed to paying a rubbish company (immediately available, never go with someone immediately available) to knock a wall down, and paying someone else to put in new windows, and popping to Wickes for a kitchen since that’s what we did last time. Felt like a ‘big build’ since I had a nine month old and nearly three year old with me at all times, but turns out, it wasn’t.
I’m more of a particular person than I realised. I’m not a perfectionist, that is not what I mean at all (I’m really messy and untidy, and my brain works in the strangest way, Mr R eighteen years on sometimes questions how we end up somewhere when we started off somewhere else entirely), but when it comes to houses (homes) there is nothing worse than rocking up at a house viewing and looking at somewhere that’s been ‘done’ and just thinking ‘ugh’. Because ‘done’ effectively means that you have no reason to change all the fixtures and fittings and have to pay a premium for someone else’s taste… and even if it’s not poor taste, it’s not my taste.
Which I think is why for the last two houses we’ve bought we’ve bought in a time-warp state. The first was a tribute to the 1930s in the bathroom (iron bath not-in-a-good-way) and elsewhere 1970s (with a ’70s avocado kitchen, windows that you couldn’t climb out of in a fire, and these weird orange doors). It was a lovely home. We only took down a couple of walls and a lot of wallpaper. Wood chip wallpaper. I am having a moment remember the state of my hands after stripping one particularly stubborn ceiling.
*Still having a moment*
Our old house was perfect. Eventually. It took us four years after the main work for us to have the money (and patience) to finally put down a not-horrendously-cheap floor in the hall and kitchen and to have it professionally painted (I had done a fairly rubbish job on most of the rest), and then we moved to Jersey and promptly sold it!
Whereupon we went house hunting. Again. And looked at lots of finished and new build houses. Again. And I wondered why the developer had used a weird brown/red granite (granite! It’s not cheap, at least go for a nice one!) and weird shiny white wardrobes. And pretty quickly, it became clear that we were going to be going for a project. Again.
But I’m not sure had we know what we know now, we would have done THIS particular project… though actually, I’m glad I didn’t know what I know now, because I’m really quite emotionally involved with the house now.
I looked at a lot of houses, all over the island, all different. There was the house which already had planning permission, but was share transfer… that ignited the ‘I fancy a project’ spark. There was the new build which I wanted to love, but that had the master bed two floors away from the kids, and the aforementioned brown worktop. Its garden also sat next to a generator, and it hummed all day. Loudly. I walked past several times at varying times of day willing it to be off, but alas, it wasn’t. We also had decided we wanted a garden that may have room for a pool… the weather is milder on the whole in Jersey, and there are a lot of pools. I then promptly went and saw a Victorian semi literally on the beach (did I mention how important off street parking and detached was?) and it became the top contender.
There was then this house that popped up on my Facebook feed, which was very pretty from the outside. There were no internal photos. This is not a good sign.
Despite getting lost on the way to see it, when I rocked up, the drama was forgotten. A walk round the garden (with a well! And a pool! And load of overgrown conifers!) had me mentally moving in, whereupon the very dated house itself, in the strangest layout, was already in my heart… Never mind that we had to have four bedrooms and there were only two that you could stand up in…. never mind that…
The purchase was pretty straightforward all told. It’s after things got tricky. Like when you introduce yourself to a neighbour who informs you they’ll object to any plans you put in and hold you up and cost you as much money as they can. She meant it too.
We got our plans passed first time, and were in San Francisco when we heard (let it be noted, there have been zero holidays since). By heard, I mean logged onto the gov.je website as we had every day for the last month (planning meant to take eight weeks, ours took eleven) and I still remember jumping up and down on the bed whooping as a family before going out for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (not my choice). My jeans that no longer fit also remember the day. I think that slice of cheesecake started off a slide into a bigger jeans size…
I digress. We then went through an appeal process (neighbour objected to planning and it’s heard by an independent adjudicator, highly stressful, takes a good four months that COULD HAVE BEEN SPENT BUILDING), and we won that. We then put in for the Building regs, and – you guessed it – that didn’t take the five weeks it’s advertised to either. Eleven weeks later…. well, she did say she’d hold us up as long as possible.
The good news was we had builders! Just no permission to take down any walls.
All this feels a very long time ago now, as the house is well under way. We’re nearly watertight (so close!) and we nearly have the windows for the single storey extension here. That’s to say, we have the surrounds. Apparently the glass is yet to arrive…. it begs the question of when does a window go from being a hole in a wall to a window… I wager most would include glass in the equation else they are just framed holes in a very large wall.
I felt the need to write this up now, as we’re approximately half way through building. Four and a half months! And I need to remember how far we’ve come, before getting daunted by how far we have to go. So, some pictures will follow…
I think in short what I’m saying is that you have to be a little bit mad to do a renovation on this scale. What we thought was a simple adding two bedrooms, had turned out to be – engineering wise – quite a lot more than that. And then there’s the architectural side of things when, to get planning you have to put in a double pitched roof as is the vernacular for your area (a green zone) which costs more than a straightforward normal roof.
I’ve found it a strange learning curve also that the architect can design something, but not know what it will cost! For that you have to give your drawings to an engineer and Quantity Surveyor who’ll work out how you build the pretty 3D picture put before you, and then how much (and how long) it will cost (and take). Roughly. Because it’s amazing the things that wood chip can cover up…. new lintels everywhere, thanks House.
I’m lucky enough to have really great builders, and the luxury of being onsite nearly every day (today I have already asked them to shift a doorway that they had started building not where I thought it would be). So far, no disasters, but we are but a shell. There are many, many decisions still to make.
That said, I’ve got my stair runner ordered and my curtains made (thanks Mother-in-Law). So the end must surely be in sight?!
Here’s some pictures of our renovation – the first few months. (Ie the before and oh-God-What-Have-We-Done), including the original house plans (worth noting that bed 3 had a ceiling that only the eight year old could fit into)
Pretty, but faded, and a little overgrown.
Landing (nice window right?! That and the bannisters stay)
View from the road. Nice garage, totally in keeping…!
Can’t. Even. No, I never used it.
The ‘make safe before we move in before we do the work’ messages to the electrician…
PROGRESS shot. There are a lot more shots of walls missing etc… but this is what’s taken the time so far…!