Five Mistakes we made with our First Home Renovation

Buying your first home is pretty exciting (stressful as hell but pretty awesome). If you’re lucky enough to be in the same position, you may have done things differently, but perhaps you made some of the same mistakes? If you’re just about to buy your first home, don’t see this as gospel! These are just some of the things we did that we’d probably do differently now that the rose-tinted view of home renovation and home ownership has faded. For us, our first home is an older property in need of renovation. At around 100 years old, it has its pros and cons! We moved here in March 2017, and are renovating as we go. So without further delay, here are five mistakes we made when we first moved in. 

1. If you have to renovate and have the option (and money) don’t move in:

While this is how most of us would love to do it, to be able to live somewhere else, clean, free of dust, stuff, belongings, DIY materials and everything including the kitchen sink, it’s not always possible to live elsewhere and get your renovation done quickly so you can move into a finished (or mostly finished) house. There are definite pros to living in a space as you do it, but I’ll come to that in another post. Mostly, though, it’s chaos, there’s dust, stuff in storage, so many brushes, paints, wood bits, plasterboard sheets and god knows what else just hanging around the house like part of the furniture (which, by the way, is ALWAYS dusty). This wasn’t exactly an option for us but it could have been if we had the money to renovate fully. We could have lived with my partner’s long-suffering parents a little longer and just got stuff done or a few main rooms done before moving in. So if you’re lucky enough to have bought a house (even if it needs a little TLC or a whole load of work) and you have the extra pennies to get a lot of the big jobs done, delay moving in as long as you can if you have the option, it will help you retain your sanity a little longer.

2. Don’t ‘destroy’ everything in one go:

I wish I could go back and tell myself not to do this, but in my head, it made sense, to us it sort of made sense, and I can definitely make arguments for and against this even now, but to be completely honest I’m not sure I’d do the same again. Picture this, we moved in and we got to work! Wallpaper was stripped, things were torn apart, holes were made in walls and it was more than a little chaotic. One positive and huge annoyance about this was that if we waited we wouldn’t have realised all the plaster needed to come off the bedroom walls until later (we’d even stripped all the bloody paper off before realising). BUT, and there’s a big but we didn’t actually need to do it then and there, yes we made a mess, yes the prep was done but then it all stopped so don’t destroy everything until you’re ready to put it back together because it can become a messy space and a sort of dead zone where no one goes and nothing happens for a while. We ended up living in one of the bedrooms that had chipped plaster on the walls, wallpaper hanging off, and was generally not a nice space to be in while we were working on our bedroom. We dubbed it squat two. It looked (and still does) like something from Fallout in the aftermath of nuclear warfare, or the victim of abandonment. When we moved in it was pleasant enough, the carpet left a lot to be desired and the wallpaper was mostly intact until we moved in and let rip. This moves me quite nicely on to point three…

3. Make sure you have a plan:

This may sound like we’re complete idiots but trust me, it can become overwhelming pretty quickly. We had vague ideas of what we wanted and how the end goal would look, but not really having anything particularly solid for the parts in between has caused stalls at times and things don’t seem to go anywhere. I know it’s part of the learning process and a huge amount of it (for us anyway) comes down to money, but I have started to implement having more of a solid plan when going into projects. Pinterest is your friend, lists are your friend, and things like Instagram and YouTube are great resources for research and planning out your space. When I say a plan I also mean costings, we tend to save up and get some work done but actually having a breakdown of costs for exactly what you need for each room and allowing yourself a little breathing room is always a good idea too (maybe I should take my own advice). We’re still not perfect and yes plans do change, things do stagnate, and sometimes looking at Instagram and seeing all the beautiful homes whilst you’re surrounded by, eating, and wearing dust during your fifth breakdown of the month can be hard to see past when you’ve not got goals to check off to stay focused. So in an ideal world, you have your project (for example your bedroom), you map out the list of things needed from start to finish, plan the aesthetic (even if it’s a rough idea to start), list the jobs, find tradesmen if needed, work out costs and get going. That, in my mind, isn’t a bad place to start, there’s room for individual ways of working of course, and I’d love to hear how others go about it too. We’re still learning and improving, but by tearing things apart and having no real plan past that point was a definite mistake on our part. 


4. Don’t let it completely take over your life:

This. For a while it consumed us and I know you have to put in long days, late nights, every spare moment, but when you’re doing something on a budget, something that will take time, be a huge learning curve, hard work, stressful, exciting, and so much more than you ever expected, it can take over your life. For a while we didn’t make time for our hobbies, we didn’t make time to do a lot else, we put weird pressure on ourselves to get on with things and discount all else when really, for us, there was no huge rush. After a while and when we’d learned a little we took a step back, the house isn’t going anywhere, we still don’t have loads of money, this is going to take a few years (and then some) so we needed to mix it up, make time for life, the people in it, and know our renovation woes will still be there waiting. Unless of course, your roof is falling down, your pipes have exploded and your house is uninhabitable or something, then I pray for you and I hope it’s sorted and you get to breathe again soon. Remember to take time for you and get away from reno every now and again. 

5. You’re not always going to enjoy it, and that’s ok:

In my head, it was all going to be amazing. It isn’t. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have this revelation and I’m not the only one that will tell you. Most of my friends or other people I know that have renovated have all agreed that a lot of the time it sucks. I think I’ve had about 3650 breakdowns and wanted to burn my house down several times, and as crazy as that makes me sound justifying that crazy is perfectly fine. It’s fine to have an awful time, it’s not all fun, who the hell enjoys panting ceilings (who are you, you sadist?), not everyone loves the maybe she’s born with it, maybe she’s aged ten years kind of look that renovating can give you, but you’re not alone, there are many of us filled with hopeful naivety when we embark on this journey. I am still learning, still loving and mostly hating (but also loving) this renovation journey. I’m one of the lucky ones and sometimes you just have to remind yourself of that, especially when you’re living in a house falling to bits but full of promise, love and good intentions. 

I’d love to hear your stories, come follow us on Instagram and share your tales, pro tips and the mistakes you made when you first started out!