With the kitchen and bathrooms complete, walls painted, heating on, lights working and floors almost tiled, we finally moved in! What a pleasure it has been to spend two lovely weeks as a family enjoying our newly renovated home.

Wooden clad exterior of remodelled house

The end result: The family can finally move in

It has given me lots of time to reflect on the project, and while I’ll be producing more specific articles around major home renovation in Homebuilding & Renovating in the months to come, I wanted to share some immediate post-project reflections.

The Biggest Stressor

The only cause of stress – real, sleepless night, butterflies-in-belly stress – was and is money. Perhaps better put, it’s the stress of wondering if you can afford your project and continue to meet your ongoing commitments.

Our ‘extras’ column was significant in the end – perhaps 20-25% of our original budget – and I’m of the view now that we could have avoided some of these, but not all, with better thought in the design process and a more realistic and honest approach with ourselves at the earliest stage.

As anyone in building will tell you, there are good extras and bad extras. I think there is a third type, too. Good extras are the ones you elect yourself, with a clear understanding of the costs involved from the outset.

Bad extras are bills you don’t expect for work you didn’t imagine or even want done. The bulk of ours were in the ‘good’ category but some fell into a middle ground which involved us saying ‘OK’ but not really having a clear idea of the cost implications — or perhaps better put, the cost implications not being made clear to us.

That creates a problem, not that you didn’t say yes, but that the extras bill is almost always a nasty surprise — and that creates stress. If you can swallow it up, then fine, but increasingly towards the end of the project we couldn’t, and that left us with a few difficulties. The lesson here is to never be afraid to talk about cost and money at every opportunity with your builders and subcontractors.

Our Way of Life has Improved

Be bold. For all of the pain, stress and sleepless nights, every time I see the house it gives me a lift, and the compliments from all quarters are nice to hear. What really counts is the improvement in lifestyle that it has given us. We have plenty of space. We have a warm, cosy home. We have heart-lifting views through the house and to the garden.

It’s also very nice to be in a house where you know that you won’t ever have to move to gain extra space — it really is everything we want.

Did We Do the Right Thing?

On some of those sleepless nights I wonder if we did the right thing. But regardless of costs, of values (we have probably made our money back) and of the difficulties of the project on a financial level, it has got us to where we wanted to be.

I could certainly have lived without such a bruising experience, but I can’t honestly say that I would have changed any of the elements of the house — and, as I keep telling anyone who will listen, this time next year the stresses will be gone, the finances will have hopefully recovered a bit, the memories of the project will begin to dissipate and we’ll be left with what we always wanted: a dream family home in a wonderful location with a lovely garden.

One question I get asked now, having carried out a self build previously, is how the two compare. Perhaps I’m still bit embattled, but while I could definitely see us building a new house from scratch, I can’t see us renovating on this scale again. The optimism of naivety got us to where we are today, and I’m glad we did it — but just don’t ask me to think about moving for a while!

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