Should you stay or should you go now?

Hands up, who started singing? I know I was as I was typing it, so if you weren't I salute you. I didn't know it was a Clash song, I had to google that, but I knew the words - and more than I've included here. Surprisingly though this isn't a musical post, it's something more literal, should you move or improve?

No doubt, something that crosses most of our minds at some stage. I know when we were thinking about replacing our kitchen, we knew that although our kitchen was getting tired, it wasn't completely broken. But we also knew that by the time we wanted to move on, it would most likely be in the completely broken, so we decided to go for it and enjoy the new kitchen rather than just have a new one put in just to sell the house.

But I'm not going to talk about that in this post either, I'm going to indulge in some nostalgia today and we're heading back to my previous house, which was the first house I bought on my own. It was an Edwardian style house and a probate sale, and I suspect that the owners had had the house for a very long time.

We're heading back to 1993 and while I'd just bought the house, improving it was essential. Every room needed bringing up to date and the garden needed completely taming. I've found a load of old photos, but sadly not all of them just yet, and I'm still deciding which to share with you today. They've brought back so many memories that I think I'll be sharing all of them at some point and looking out the ones that I haven't found yet.

I'll give you a taste of the work we undertook, but as the sun is shining let's focus on the garden today.

REWIRING THE WHOLE HOUSE

REWIRING THE WHOLE HOUSE

PART-WAY THROUGH DECORATING THE FRONT BEDROOM

PART-WAY THROUGH DECORATING THE FRONT BEDROOM

THE RE-DECORATED BOX ROOM

THE RE-DECORATED BOX ROOM

AND THE COMPLETED VIEW, WITH HAND-PAINTED TILES

AND THE COMPLETED VIEW, WITH HAND-PAINTED TILES

I'll leave the rest of upstairs as the back bedroom has its own story, as we replaced the bomb-damaged ceiling. Yes, I know I said 1993, but the ceiling was battened which was typical of bomb damage. That gives you an idea of what I took on, and I don't think I knew just how much that was until we started. Thankfully my dad, a veteran tradesman and my brother, an electrician along with my ginger cat, Quickly were willing to take on a lot of the work. I kid you not about the cat, every time there was DIY work going on he was there helping out, the other cats (I had three more) made themselves scarce, just like normal cats.

In the dining room, you can see work is still underway, but that built in cupboard was my pride and joy. I personally, and painstakingly, scraped years and years worth of paint off of the original in-built cupboard, and it turned out rather well. The curtains behind the glass were a genius idea as they hid a multitude of sins, but I remember mum thinking how old-fashioned they were, as it was something her nan would have had.

WORK IS UNDERWAY IN THE DINING ROOM, AND THE STEPLADDER WAS IN REGULARLY USED

WORK IS UNDERWAY IN THE DINING ROOM, AND THE STEPLADDER WAS IN REGULARLY USED

We'll leave the kitchen too, as I don't have the "after" pictures yet, I must have them somewhere and that can be a whole blog post on its own. Let's head out into the garden, in 1993, it looked like this:

THE BACK GARDEN IN 1993: WHO KNEW WHAT WAS HIDDEN IN THERE...

THE BACK GARDEN IN 1993: WHO KNEW WHAT WAS HIDDEN IN THERE...

Yes, it was quite the mystery garden. We knew from the gardens next door that there was more to discover, but we also knew that we needed our secateurs to find out exactly what! There was a path on the right-hand side that was just about squeeze-through-able, but as with all gardens, it continued to grow. The birdbath looks great with its ring of yellow plant doesn't it? Only thing was the plant was planted in a plastic washing up bowl that had perished, so as soon as I investigated further it disintegrated in my hands. I'd forgotten that until I saw this picture, funny how our memories are tied into photos isn't it?

There was a garden shed though, right outside the back door:

A GARDEN SHED THAT WAS AS RICKETY AS IT LOOKS

A GARDEN SHED THAT WAS AS RICKETY AS IT LOOKS

It wasn't long before the brambles had at least been cut down, something that was a regular task over the next few years, and taming was a little way off yet. But with them cut down and a clearer pathway beginning to emerge it was time to start building a new shed. I think my dad was in his element as he made the frame out of angle line, or grown ups meccano as I often called it.  

STARTING TO TAME THE BRAMBLES, AND BUILD A NEW SHED

STARTING TO TAME THE BRAMBLES, AND BUILD A NEW SHED

And I'll have you know that that slant is just an illusion of camera angles, it was perfectly straight. I know I measured it plenty of times, as dad has a habit of preferring things with a bit of a lean. The windows were old ones that dad had from I'm not sure where, but he was right, they did come in useful one day. 

We'd found the breeze blocks you can see scattered around the photo in the garden, on the left-hand edge. I think some of them went back to where they came from and others I found new homes for. A strange thing to have discovered in all those weeds.

THE SHED THAT DAD BUILT

THE SHED THAT DAD BUILT

But it wasn't long before the new shed took shape. The door was from an inbuilt cupboard in one of the bedrooms, so small that a coathanger didn't actually fit in sideways, and so useless as a wardrobe. But pretty useful as a shed door. The wood that was added to the metal frame, was from my brother's dogs kennel, which they no longer used. He had two alsatians, so it was a fairly big kennel.  

THE FINISHED SHED AND NEW FENCE

How I'd wished I'd hung onto that zinc bucket and butler's sink, but sadly I didn't. My re-use tendencies clearly had left me at this point. I'm not sure where the crazy paving slabs came from, but I do remember collecting bottles to add some interest to the round-edged patio. That was something else I'd forgotten about, I was adamant it had to be round, and well here we are again creating circles in this garden, although this time in grass.  

THIS PATIO WASN'T SQUARE EITHER, I SEEM TO HAVE A THING FOR CIRCULAR SHAPES IN GARDENS

THIS PATIO WASN'T SQUARE EITHER, I SEEM TO HAVE A THING FOR CIRCULAR SHAPES IN GARDENS

And so the garden started to take shape. This was the garden that got me into gardening, partly because it was a challenge and partly because it was hard to not get into gardening after I'd seen - and contributed - to the work bringing it back under control. 

THE COMPLETED SHED

And as with anything, my garden continued to evolve. Net curtains were added to the inside of the shed, not because I was house proud or anything, but because the dark window used to reflect the spotlights from the football ground over the road and give me the heebie-jeebies. Trellis was added to the front of the shed to soften it further. Turfs were laid when we were confident that the brambles had lost their grip, and a new fence was erected, on the left-hand side as you look by me and dad and on the other side by the now new neighbour.

You wouldn't quite believe it's the same garden would you?

IN 2000 WHEN THE GARDEN IS MORE ESTABLISHED AND MATURE, YOU'D NEVER KNOW, WOULD YOU?

IN 2000 WHEN THE GARDEN IS MORE ESTABLISHED AND MATURE, YOU'D NEVER KNOW, WOULD YOU?

And I think this garden is a fantastic example of what you can achieve if you choose to stay and improve. I think there'll always be a time when moving on is the right thing to do, but for me, if I fell in love with a house, had invested time and money into it, then if there were no other factors I'd choose to improve, rather than move. But then again I've only ever lived in five houses, maybe that's a factor too.

So would you move or improve?

Slater and Gordon Solicitors have recently undertaken research to help you make up your mind. I don't think it that surprising that 61% of people said they'd renovate rather than move, but I am surprised that only 35% consider location as the most important factor when choosing a new home. Or maybe I've just watched too many TV programmes of the same name, same name, same name.  I would think that location is one of the things you can't change about a house so it's important to get that right, but I also suspect that if the right house comes along and you fall hard for it, then location could easily go out of the window!

Let me know what you think, and if you're in the move or improve camp, I'm keen to know.

* This is a collaborative post, but all views and opinions are my own.

10 tips for the perfect home renovation

Whether you’re house is old or new, you're buying an old property, getting your house ready for sale, or just want to refresh your home a renovation is no easy task. It can easily eat up all your time, energy, patience and quite a bit of cash too.  But it doesn't have to be that way, these tip and tricks will help you plan how to successfully tackle the job at hand.  

1.    Start with the end in mind

Yes it's been said before, by Stephen Covey no less. The success and failure of your project will depend on the work you to prepare. So before you bring start, sit down and take your time to come up with a plan.

You should know what you're aiming for and find out how to get there. Which rooms need to be tackled, what needs to be changed exactly, which materials you need and how much money you want to spend. You should make all of these decisions before starting work.

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

2.     Have a budget and stick to It

As part of your plan, create a budget for your project. Have an idea of what you'll need to spend and where you can save money, and make it realistic.  Knowing all your expenses beforehand gives you time to plan and design everything - it may mean when you add up what you want and compare this to what you can afford you'll have to make some tough decisions about how to proceed.

3.     Find the right materials at the right price

Buying quality products no longer means that you have to opt for the most highly priced items. You can easily find a wide variety of good, high-quality products such as door handles, taps, and toilets that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

4.    Do your research

Good advice is easy to come by whether that's guides or online DIY videos – it's never been easier to become an amateur builder. But if you prefer to talk to someone, many hardware shops both online and local often offer free and expert advice when you need a helping hand with your projects.  So make use of the free resources available and learn how to plan, what to expect and how you can make your project a success.

5.     Get a professional in

Sometimes you have to know when to get a professional in. YouTube videos and books will only get you so far and at times, even the most confident and experienced amateur DIY enthusiast will need some help. And that's ok. They do this every day, they're tradesmen and if you want a professional finish then it's worth paying.

When it comes to smaller jobs it's fine to do it yourself. In fact, it will save you money which you can use to make your budget go further, or even to add a contingency fund to your budget. When it comes to the more complicated jobs like plumbing and electrical, however, it is strongly advisable to get a professional in.  Our rule of thumb is that if it has the potential to go wrong and cause damage to our property, or if a professional can get a better finish that us as part-timers can or if it requires specialist tools, then it's worth getting a professional in.

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

6.    Stay true to your style

You don't have to follow the interior trends and fashions unless of course you are ultra hip and trendy.  Most of us add these touches as accessories which can be easily changed when trends change, or when you've become bored or fed up with an item.

Accessories are a great way to avoid buyers regret. That bold wallpaper looks great as a swatch but can you really live with it for the next five or so years?  When it comes to designing your decorating scheme for your house, opt for items that will look good even in ten years’ time and that are functional.

We've all heard of design classics and they're classics for a reason.  You know how you and your family live and your house has to work for everyone that lives there.  Know your house, your space, the people in it, and plan accordingly.

7.     Renovate, don't rebuild

One of the easiest and quickest ways to blow your budget is to make large changes, such as moving your plumbing whether that's a kitchen or a bathroom.  Unless there is a clear cut reason as to why you're redesigning the layout of your house, consider this long and hard before you start your project.

No matter how easy it looks on YouTube tutorials and how well you think you can do this, a re-structuring of the plumbing is not only a high-risk factor, but it will also cost you a pretty penny in the long run.

8.    Light it up

And before you take a hammer - or sledgehammer - to your wall to add  a new window consider if there's a less expensive and strenuous way to light the room. There are plenty of different types of lights available to chose from, and often it's because we want more light in a space that we think about making changes.

If you do choose to replace your windows, be careful to choose windows that are right for your house. They will arguably be one of the more expensive purchases you will make, but it's not worth compromising on the quality in order to save some cash, as hopefully it's something you'll only do once.

9.     Go green

Wherever you can opt for more environmental-friendly materials, such as hardware and furniture made out of recycled products. This is not only beneficial to our environment but you can often find some quirky and unusual products that will help set your home apart from the rest.

Choosing energy and water efficient options don't cost any more than “regular” ones. But they will save you a substantial amount of money as you could significantly reduce your energy bill.

10.     Prepare yourself

Many people have been tried and tested during their home renovations, whether the project has failed or not. It's a testing time so prepare yourself emotionally for the upheaval. Because you've set out your plan you'll have an idea of what's to come, but it's hard to plan for every occasion and you may face challenges along the way.

Being tired, stressed, exhausted, and on the verge of tears will become more common with the more amount of work you tackle.  You see homeowners on the TV house renovation programmes and think it's put on for the show. Sadly it's not, I've been there. 

You'll deal with emotions you don't usually feel - and you wouldn't associate with a house project - and that's normal. You might feel panic, shock, anger, frustration and fear. But remember that when your work is finished you'll have a lovely new space and it will all have been worth it.

Trust me.

 

This is a collaborative post, but all opinions remain my own.