So we have finished our home renovations and I know that Ally has been keeping the blog updated with all the details. However I wanted to share some of the more practical behind the scenes stuff that will be helpful to anyone who is managing their own similar project. This post follows a massive instagram stories post which shows lots of before and after pictures of our project – if you are interested head over to Cherrysimpso on Instagram.
This is a long post so get a cuppa and enjoy.
Renovation – the boring bits
I am a qualified Architectural Technologist and have worked in the construction industry for many years working on everything from large factories to one off dwellings and small renovations. This helped us to get everything we needed prepared and ready for our builder and also to save money because we didn’t need to hire a design team or architect.
Some people are surprised that I prepared drawings and dealt with Building Control on our small project. However because walls were being removed and a wood burning stove being added it is very important to make sure you have all bases covered in terms of structural regulations and fire regulations. Get this wrong, or cut corners here and you might find you have trouble when you go to sell your house as you cant prove that the work has been carried out to the correct standard. Worst case scenario is that you home will not be safe.
1/ Choosing an architect / design team – A good architect will always come out and measure up your space rather than just use old drawings. (On the same theme, your flooring installer and your kitchen manufacturer should come out and take their own measurements.) Keep your eyes and ears open for local projects that look good and don’t be afraid to ask who their architect was. Word of mouth is still the best way to find your design team however a good website doesn’t do any harm. Just be aware that on websites some businesses share pictures which are computer generated mock ups rather than finished projects so make sure you see their work in the flesh.
2/ Contacting Building Control – I just called into their office (Building Control are a government agency so they are usually nearby) with a set of drawings and chatted to an available officer who was able to point out what needed extra attention and what was possible without making an application. They can advise you about other experts that you may have to contact – for example a structural engineer who can size your steel beams. Take their advice and use their contacts as this will make the process run more smoothly as the officer already has a relationship with them. The structural engineer company we used was M. A. McCloskey Ltd and I was extremely happy with their service and their sensible sizing. Bear in mind that both the structural engineer and Building Control application costs money.
3/ Finding a Builder – We found our building by asking for recommendation from Slemish Design Studio – they are local and do great work. They recommended AMD Services who also happened to have a renovation project just around the corner from our house. I kept an eye on the progress and called in at the house to chat to the workmen and was impressed with the detail and quality of the workmanship – so w went ahead and got in touch. We were delighted when he was happy to take on the job. Remember that a good builder tends to be a busy builder so if you know who you want persevere until they have time to look at your project. Don’t give up on them if they don’t call out on the same day you call.
4/ Knowing where to spend and where to save – We budgeted the large chunks of money for the tough stuff and the things that needed to last. So the construction work, flooring and kitchen were our main outlay. However we found that because our space was small we were able to save a little more than expected (hence the purchase of a boiler tap). We used Johanna Montgomery for our kitchen design – initially I was worried about the cost but we were very please when it turned out to be extremely reasonable and gave us the bespoke design that we wanted. The kitchen was of upmost importance because it is visible from all corners of our new space and as we have some little niggly design features to worry about, e.g. lower than average ceilings.
We saved money on furniture, fittings and finishes. Our copper light fittings were purchased from an Instagram ad (eek) and cost under £30 each, and lots of our furniture was picked up from sale sections and we have become quite handy with spray paint. The key to furnishing on a budget is to know what style and colours you are going for and snap up the bargains when you see them.
5/ Project managing your project – We didn’t move out of our house during the renovation which meant we were both around all the time which undoubtably helped us both to be on top of all the little jobs as they got done. It is essential to be on site when big deliveries arrive – e.g. kitchen worktops, to make sure they bring the correct thing and that it is suitably fitted before they leave. Also open big deliveries before the delivery men leave just incase the wrong thing was arrive. We found that twitter was a very useful tool when we had little emergencies and the customer service from Ikea (we were missing a bolt from a chair) and Dunnes Stores (product arrived was not the right colour) was excellent.
And finally – I am happy to help answer any queries or questions about our renovation or your project. Just drop us a line and hopefully i can point you in the right direction if you need professional help or its just asking about the terminology or technical issues you might have.