The renovation plan & budget

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I remember watching countless Property Ladders & Grand Designs and wonder just how the hell no one ever sticks to their renovation timelines or plans, “can’t be that hard, can it” I thought, well now I know better!! When renovating a massive timber house (from the 1800s), especially an old ones you have to expect plans & timelines to be constantly derailed and quite often not by your own doing!!
We’ve had to adjust & reaction to problems all along the way of our “phase 1” and for me a web developer where things are systematic & more often than not go to plan that’s been hard!! Things always take longer, stuff always costs more and stresses can appear from the most unexpected places, that’s just how renovating an old house is!!!

Anyways, back to our plan, we decided we’d do it like this.

  1. Do all demolition ourselves then bring in “professionals” (quote marks are because we’ve found many professionals to be anything but that, but that’s for another post later)
  2. We’d move in on the ground floor only in late 2020 / early 2021 having sold our current home to release some money.
  3. After we move in downstairs we’d focus on insulated the roof upstairs & creation of bedrooms & a bigger bathroom upstairs.
  4. After the inside was done we’d move onto the outside of the house, new panelling, painting and a new entrance way.
  5. Lie down & rest, have a life again!!

Right now, March 2021 we’re probably at about 1.6. We’ve done the demo work but plans changed & we’ve (me doing the hand-ons work, Elin doing the admin side & finer details with a bit of help here and there) ended up doing 80-90% of the work ourselves due having a bad experience with a carpenter right at the start of the project. In short, a very bad “professional” job combined with the help & encouragement of William our timberman made us realise we could “do it ourselves” despite zero, I repeat zero renovation experience. 6 months ago I didn’t own a single power tool, now I’m renovating a 300m3 house from the 1800s, which is quite the learning curve to say the least!!!

It has been & still is “bloody hardwork” in all areas, physically & mentally we are exhausted but we can see the (first) finish line is near (point #2 above). Despite all I probably wouldn’t change much about this minus the timeline, it’s tight, very tight & I really don’t know at the moment if we’ll be moving to the house on April 30th or to a very temporary rental instead, watch this space!!


Renovation planning spreadsheet
Renovation planning spreadsheet

Unlikely a lot of TV renovation shows our budget is a shoestring for a project this size and considering we spent a large sum of money on a new road at the start to ensure reliable access to the house for us & machine that need to access the property for sewage, deliveries etc

We constantly have to comprimise & adjust the budget and we had to juggle timing the selling of our current home in order release money for the renovation. Selling of our current home went more or less to plan and our ultimate goal to be mortgage/loan free seems within reach!

Tips on planning a renovation & budgeting

  1. Don’t think too far ahead, have a goal of where you want to get then break it down in mini phases (and those into even smaller phases) otherwise the project will just feel overwhelming & you might find you just stand still.
  2. Have a buffer budget for the unexpected: the reality is very few things will be cheaper or less work than you plan for so you need to have a budget for this & estimate both money & time pessimistically
  3. Plan your budget in a spreadsheet: we did this early on and it helped us see what was possible & when, without doing so you might find yourself with a mountain of invoices you don’t have money to pay for.
  4. Get your hands dirty & do it yourself!!! Once you start you’ll see that there are a tonne of jobs you can do yourself which don’t need professional help or at very least you just need a consultant to guide you. We were lucky enough to find William, who came in to repair the timber structure & inadvertently ended up being our consultant all the way through the project so far. With his guidance we would never have had the confidence to do so much of the work ourselves.
    Once you invest in yourself you’ll grow in confidence & save a lot of money!! As I mentioned we had never done any renovation before but I started by rebuilding the kitchen floor with the help of William and have since rebuilt all ground floor floors, framed walls & now building a new ceiling, lots of principles are the same and you soon start to see with a bit of trial & error you really can “do it yourself”!!
  5. Choose your trades men & women wisely, as I’ve mentioned we had a bad experience at the start which scared us badly but we learnt a lot from it and we now only let in people we 100% trust & who “buy in” to what we’re trying to build.
  6. Listen to others but stick to your guns if you feel passionate about something: over the past 6 months we’ve heard opinions are every man (& woman) & his dog, literally. “Use this insulation”, “just knock the whole thing down & build new”, “run your water pipes here”, “that can’t be done” etc etc. When you’re new to renovation it’s hard to know what’s true & what to follow but follow your gut feeling & nearly everything has a solution if you want it enough.
  7. Be naive & optimistic: to be honest if I knew 6 months ago what I know now I would have run a mile from this project! You need your naivety & optimisim to even start a huge renovation project so use it to your advantage & dream big, reality will catch you eventually and that dreaming is what will pull you through!
  8. Friends & family: corona has made our renovation even harder with not being able to have childcare or gatherings of people helping but we have had friends in small groups help us with big tasks like when we dug out the soil underneath the house. Without our friends help god only knows how long that would have taken!!
  9. Expect to go to well out of your comfort zone & limits: physically & mentally a renovation is a huge stress, I have developed tinnitus from the power tools, have a busted elbow which falling through a window, a broken foot from dropping a iron radiator on it with just trainers on & we are both mentally exhausted and yet somehow we’re still going!! Be prepared to be more tired physically & mentally than you ever have been, and thats coming from a parent of 3 energetic children! But remember that dreaming, it’ll get you through!!! 🙂
  10. If you can reduce or stop working for a period of time: we’ve both had a mountain of paid work over the last 6 months and that along with “normal” family life has been hard to juggle. Not everyone has the luxury but if you can take time off for the renovation so family doesn’t get negatively effected by the extra responsibilities.

So there you have it, our plan along with 10 hopefully useful tips if you’re starting out on a renovation. If you are please comment, we love to see what others are doing!!

Until next time, thanks for reading!!

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