We’ve been in the midst of a renovation project now since early March. That’s nearly 8 weeks of upheaval and chaos, of tradespeople being in my house almost every day of the week, of noise and mess, of a myriad of decisions needing to be made. 

5 Lessons I Learned Living Through a Renovation Project

When I told people we were going to be living in our house during the process, I had many many people telling me to just move out for a while, let the builders get on with it and then move back in once it’s completed. Well, sure, that would have been fantastic but there were a lot of reasons that wasn’t possible, the most important of which was that it would have added quite a bit of cost on the project which we simply didn’t have. Every penny has been spent on this project and so throwing away money simply for the sake of convenience would have been foolish for us right now. 

Catching up? Our initial plans are here / We Find a Builder / Building Work Begins / Building Work is Nearly Complete

Has it been difficult? Well, I’d be lying to say it was a breeze. But has it been impossible? Of course not. We have carried on, the pets have adapted, we have adapted. I still work out of my office on most days, we still got to enjoy the garden on the Easter Bank Holiday, we even had Wayne’s mum here for a weekend – life simply goes on.

However, there are a few reasons I believe things have gone rather smoothly from the start of the project until now, as we are nearing the end of this phase of the building work. So I figured if others may be going or planning their own renovation project, they might be interested in a few lessons I’ve learned along the way. Of course, every single project is different and our project wasn’t a full house renovation, just adding on and taking down a few walls!  

Planning is Everything

Before they even remove the first brick, it’s important to have a plan in place. We spoke to our builder at length before we started to understand the way the work would be planned out. Then every single week, we’d speak again to talk about the plans for the week ahead. There was rarely a time I didn’t know who was going to be in my house and what they were going to be doing. 

This allowed me the opportunity to plan out my week, to know what supplies or materials they would be needing and when, to understand what decisions were going to need to be made as each piece of the puzzle was completed. I’m very lucky to be working with a number of sponsors for this project and so keeping everyone in the loop in terms of timing was important and knowing what was happening and when was absolutely intrinsic to ensure everything was timed perfectly.

Of course, being on site every day is really helpful. There were so many small things I caught before they became a problem (ie, I needed additional supports built into a wall I’m planning shelving which was almost missed, the plug socket in the kitchen for the cooker I wanted inside a cabinet and not on show, the exact location of a radiator and lighting etc etc). Being on site certainly helped with this so I’m not sure how living off site could have even worked. It meant my builder was able to ask me questions on the fly as he came across unexpected challenges without having to wait for a reply. 

Dusting is a Pointless Exercise

Yes, there’s a lot of dust. Yes, it gets on absolutely everything constantly. Despite the side of the house being worked on was cut off to the rest of the house during most of the building process, dust particles are tiny, they sneak in, they are caught on any breeze and they happily settle on every single surface all the freaking time. There is no getting around it.

There was also dust and mud tracked into my hallway which is then picked up on people’s shoes and pet’s paws and moved to other areas of the house. I mean, my dog feels gritty. It’s not good. My house never feels particularly clean. When the work first started, I was cleaning and dusting almost every day until I realised what a total waste of my time that was when it would only be a few hours before the dust would settle again. 

So now, I wait until a Saturday to clean. I have around 1 and a half days of a (relatively) clean house and then on Monday, the process starts again. I’m learning to just let go of the mess. There is just no getting away from it so I’m learning to live with it for now. When I have my house back, when the build is done, I can do a big deep clean but for now? Breathe in (the dust), breathe out (the dust) and know it’s not going to kill me to have a bit of dust around for a couple of months.

Don’t Feel Intimidated to Ask Questions

I think people are often intimidated by those who they feel know more than they do. When you are doing building work, you are dealing with a lot of various different experts, from your architect to your structural engineer, to inspectors and of course, your builder, your plumber, your electrician. And while, yes, of course, you need to vet them first before you hire them and this means you need to place your trust in them, that doesn’t mean you need to stay silent if there’s something you don’t understand.

After all, they work for you. You are paying them. So while you should always be respectful and open to really anyone you meet, asking questions is important. I’m not saying follow them around all day, pointing and going, ‘Whatcha doin’ now?! What’s that?’ (for the love of all that is good, please don’t do this) but if there’s something happening that doesn’t seem right or you aren’t sure why they are doing something in a certain way, just ask the question. It’s your house, after all. It’s okay for you to know what is happening. You will never regret communicating with what will be your team and hey, maybe you’ll learn something along the way.

Keep Your Pets Close

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know how important my pets are to me. We have 2 cats and a dog and while I wasn’t at all worried about us, I wasn’t entirely sure how well they’d all cope with so much change in the house. Animals thrive on routine and even the smallest change can potentially bring on stress, often exhibited in strange ways or in what may seem at first glance to just be ‘naughty’ behaviour. 

Of course, I know my pets really well by now (and for those without pets, trust me when I tell you they all have their own very distinct quirky personalities) so I’ve just been very mindful of keeping an eye on them to make sure they were okay. To be fair, I already knew our 15-year-old cat Pablo would be just fine – he’s about the most chilled cat you’ve ever met and nothing really bothers him and true to form, he’s been totally fine and could care less about who’s here and what noise is happening, he’s just chilling out in the living room sleeping most of the day. Of course, he did end up peeing on the floor in the new extension already – there was a bit of dirt and rubble on the floor and I’m sure he figured it was a litter tray! But well, I can’t really get upset by that, he doesn’t know, he probably thinks we built a giant litter tray just for him! ;)

In her younger days, Meisha probably would have been a bit more put off by the number of people who’ve been here and yes, one of the guys did try to pet her and she hissed and spit at him (whoops) but otherwise, our 6-year-old Bengal hasn’t been too bad. She hangs around me most of the day anyway (my little leopard print shadow is what I always call her) so she’s been fine too thankfully. She’s also loved climbing on all the scaffolding and ladders. For her, I’m sure she thinks its a giant cat tree! ;) But thankfully, aside from insisting on putting her feet in every bit of wet cement, I’ve not had to worry about her too much.

Now our 4-year old Sheltie, Quito is another matter entirely. He’s incredibly sensitive and I knew this going in so it was him that I was most worried about. He’s wildly anxious when the guys are in the house, barks quite a lot and is generally stressed out most of the time so I’ve kept him with me, in the office with the door closed but with the layout as it is in our house, he does have the run of my office and our master bedroom which is joined through a little ‘jack n’ jill’ room in between. 

I only take him out of the room on a retractable lead and do so every couple of hours so he can get outside into the garden, sniff around and see who’s here. He doesn’t relax until he can sniff out the guys here for the day which is fine – they all like him. He’s had a few tummy issues as well so we’ve switched him to dog food for sensitive stomachs and basically we make sure he feels protected and loved all of the time. The anxiousness seems to have subsided a bit and while he does like to bark at the guys in the morning still (I think he’s telling them this is still his house so they better make sure they behave), once I’ve done the rounds with him to sniff everyone and make sure they are okay, he will then relax. As I write this, he’s snoozing on the floor right next to me. So yeah, he’s dealing pretty well now as I think he’s gotten used to the chaos.

But my point is, I suppose, to keep a close eye on them during any building work and note any ways you can make this chaotic time a little easier for them. There are plugins you can get for cats which will calm them or you can consider adapting areas in your home as safe zones for your pets. And try not to get upset if they do anything that’s out of the ordinary – they are just trying to cope like you are!

Know that It’s All Temporary

And finally, while there’s a lot of mess and a lot of upheaval, one thing I’ve had to keep telling myself is that this is all temporary. There’s a very definite point where it will be finished and I’ll have my lovely new kitchen diner to enjoy. You can let it get to you and you can walk around annoyed and upset by the additional stress and chaos it’s brought into your life or you can look at it and be grateful that it’s bringing you that much closer to a home you’re going to love. 

As a blogger, it’s been really hard taking photographs – I simply do not have many rooms to shoot in at this moment in time and even those rooms are difficult to keep clean and looking photo-ready (they usually aren’t). So creating content and not being able to do much in terms of photography has been challenging. I’ve not been able to go out too much since I have to keep the dog with me at all times during the week. Many days I feel like I’m confined to my office most of the day. I’m a total introvert and so having people here all the time is mentally and emotionally exhausting and sometimes the pressure has really got to me. But ya know what? It’s temporary. And temporary things have an end date.

So no matter where you are in your planning, know there will be things that will come up you weren’t expecting and perhaps you’ll cope much better than you thought you would. Maybe you’ll realise it’s not as bad as all that. Or maybe you’ll realise things are really just that shitty for a while and you’re going to have to just deal with the pain of transition for now. But I promise, you’ve probably gone through a whole lot worse than this and you’ll be fine.

And now it’s your turn… have you had to live through any major renovation of your own home? What lessons did you learn along the way?

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