Saturday was a bad day for us. Very bad. There was name calling and withering glares. Visiting the flat had not gone well.
We couldn’t paint as the plaster was still damp and it was teaming with builders trying to finish everything up. Building control still hadn’t signed off our opening or chimney, which could mean even more expense, which even now, after it’s sunk in, makes me want to cry a little. But I haven’t cried and I didn’t cry, I just got angry because I was frustrated. The shower and bath tap were, for some reason wrong, and we didn’t get what the plumber was saying and so we just let him put what he wanted on, which we don’t really like and ended up costing us more. Massive regretsies. Again, this makes me want to sob like a spoilt child. Our final invoice has come through and the ‘little bit of work’ that the electrician needed to do to the sockets that ‘won’t be much extra’ was actually an entire circuit re-wire, which doesn’t sting, it’s hurts very badly right now. In short, when people say moving is the most stressful time of your life and that it will cost more than you expect (higher than our contingency), they are very, very right.
I actually started this post last week when I was really excited but I didn’t put it up because I wanted pictures of the finished flat but unpainted and un-finished floors.
Mr. Brown is now working in the production team for a feature film and I am so happy for him. He really deserves it but sadly this leaves me with all the floor staining, varnishing and wall painting. I don’t mind doing this at all it’s just that the time frame is tight. Our move date has been moved to Sunday, his one day off, and the dust clouds filled our flat last Sunday as we began to get as much packing as possible done whilst he’s around. We’re currently living with boxes filling up my parents living room, fortunately I’ve mastered the art of climbing around objects like a cat burgler.
So, before we move into chaos have a sneak peak at everything before it gets painted and furnished. It helps remind me that it’ll all be worth it and that every working socket, every smooth wall, every skirting board was worth draining out our bank account for.
This is the before picture of the layout, you may have seen it on the blog before.
This is the new layout. We moved the kitchen which instantly gave us a second bedroom and having the opening onto the garden off the kitchen made the most sense. Fortunately there was already a huge window there so we could put a door in easily. I’d say 90% of the flat was treated for rising damp by Rentokil, who I’d highly recommend. This was our greatest saving, as I mentioned before, because the previous owner had taken out insurance against the damp. Well worth doing. Unfortunately, everything else, everywhere else needed replacing.
Taking the chimney out was EXPENSIVE and I mean, costs kept jumping in after we’d agreed to do it and it got more and more painful. We don’t regret it because the kitchen feels so much better now but building control are now telling us there may have to be extra brackets. Gulp. We split the cost with our upstairs neighbour but trust me, if you want to remove a chimney be prepared to pay a lotta money. The cheapest option is to take it out from the stack as you don’t need building control to get involved.
This is how our kitchen looked when we went to view the flat, it’s the only picture I could find with an idea of the size of the chimney.
This is the kitchen post Rentokil.
Removal of the chimney.
Where the chimney came out and some floorboards were damaged from damp we took floorboards from the bedroom as we’re getting it carpeted. It was the cheapest fix for the floor and we’re really happy with the result.
Again the opening between the lounge and kitchen was P-ricey because it was a load-bearing wall and for some unknown reason the cost for building regs was a hellavalot higher than for the chimmers. However, it makes such a difference because it brings in so much more light to both rooms and light is so very important. Although, if they want us to dig under the foundations and fill them with concrete we may end up bankrupt.
We designed a galley kitchen with minimal cabinets, not the ones we wanted as they weren’t in stock until Jan but still nice – all our appliances were from Ikea and our washing machine is a hand-me-down. The kitchen, in total, cost us £2,500. We’re pretty proud of that and the installation was reasonable too. We’re going to be adding shelves above the sink for our nice pieces of crockery etc.
With bedroom 2, which will be our home office, we put a window where the door was and the whole lot was re-plastered because it was a total mess after all the kitchen tiling was pulled off. Henry, our plasterer, did such a brilliant job. All it needs now is a paint and the carpet. Now the carpet… well I made a mistake on that front. We were tired when we went to get it and I made a quick decision and now I know that it’s the wrong one and I tried to change it but it was too late. I’m just going to have to suck this one up I guess. This is also the only room I haven’t quite figured out yet in terms of layout of furniture and what furniture. I do have a plan but it’s dependent on whether we get a sofa bed or camp bed for guests.
The bathroom was gutted as well but after some deliberation we decided to keep the layout the same, which saved us some money. There was talk at one point of moving the wall from the bedroom in a bit to give us more space in there but in the end it wasn’t going to benefit us that much. We insulted the walls between the two and everything in there now is brand spankers new. Better Bathrooms was by far the cheapest option for us although sometimes items aren’t in stock and they don’t notify you to tell you it’ll be 2 months until your order will arrive! In the end, to speed things up we used our plumbers company to source the bath and shower screen. The sink and its cabinet were from Ikea.
We’ve come to terms with the shower, even though it’s square, but we will change the shower head.
With our bedroom Mr. Brown wanted doors out onto the garden, which would have looked amazing but, if we did that we’d struggle to fit storage into the room and boy do I need clothes storage. Once again Ikea came to our rescue with their Pax wardrobes. I was really struggling to figure out how we were going to get a wardrobe to fit in until Pax swept in and saved the day. There’ll be a whole post on that another day.
Unfortunately, some of the plaster is still wet so I’ve been painting around it.
This wall is my nemesis. I’ve filled the scratches, painted and tomorrow I’ll be doing the same thing all over again. Oh how I wish we’d just had it skimmed as well.
So that’s pretty much that. Most of the rooms had to be plastered because wallpaper hides so many wrongs. Because we want to move as soon as we can we decided to pay our builder to sand the floors in the living room, kitchen and hall (hence why they look like new wood) and then I’ll be staining and varnishing them. After all that we’re going to paint everything white so that I can think about colour schemes. I’ve managed to think about most things but I want to get, without sounding horribly pretentious, a feel for the rooms before I decide on a colour. However, the living room and hallway are probably staying white.
So, that’s where we’re at. We got our keys on 21st August, so this has been a looong process but the building work took 5 weeks plus the extra week for the floors, so not too shabby. And we love our builder, he’s so incredibly nice and he’s done such an excellent job. All the workmen he brought on board did a fantastic job too – the electrician Mark was very good and we’ve got our certificates for when we want to sell. Lee, our plumber is CORGI registered and moved our boiler and troubleshooted how we were going to put it into the bathroom and make it look nice.
So if you want a builder in SE London I highly recommend LBS Contractors and they are fully insured (which you should always ask about, very important) and they’re good peeps because when my chair was damaged Raimondas agreed to have it fixed and was very apologetic and it’s in the process of getting it repaired.
If you’re looking into renovating my two pieces of advice, having made these mistakes, are this:
1. Don’t rush a decision, we’ve done it on a couple of occasions and regretted it. Don’t feel you have to rush anything, it’s your home. When there are builders everywhere it’s easy to forget that.
2. Always, always get a price for something before they start work. We agreed to the sockets because we didn’t realise the extent of the work that was being undertaken. Get a quote and then agree.
All in all it’s been a smooth journey, the main hold up was building control, which is easy to expect and the things we’re not happy about are down to our own inexperience. Hopefully reading this will stop you from making the mistakes we did. Generally we plan everything out really carefully, it’s only when we felt we had to rush a decision that things went wrong. Take your time and consider everything.