Renovating: Along with death and divorce it is touted as one of the most stressful things you can do. I think I agree. Here are some things I’ve learnt over the last 8 years of renovating our house:
- We survived. Like Stuart Diver, buried under 3,500 tonnes of rock and mud, we survived.
- We stayed married. And, no animals or humans were harmed in the making of this house. Just.
- Finishing is better than Christmas as a 4 year old.
- Communication: Building companies – please use this tool. It is more important than your nail gun – a gun which, when you finally turned up months late, I was perhaps tempted to see in a new light…
- Music: Builders, choose it wisely. Triple M is no good when there is enough banging going on already. Kyle Sandipants is banned. In fact, the best move is to ask ME what I want to listen to you sing to. And maybe the rest of the neighbourhood.
- If you turn up, I will give you unlimited tea and coffee and Tim Tams and the odd sausage sanga. If you don’t, I will serve you tears with a large dash of PMS.
- A good tradie is Heaven-sent. A bad one is quite sadly the joke of the building site.
- What you see on The Block is all a lie. Carpet Court will not lay your carpet in 48 hours because you are in a challenge. In fact, general rule of thumb to go by is that they like to cause a challenge, not help in one.
- If you want to start up an ethical swimming pool building company, you will be the world’s first, and, once word gets around, a multi-squillion gazillionaire.
- Choose nice people to work on your house wherever you can. They move in. You need to like them.
- Choose a paint colour and walk away. It will be fine. I’m sure “Dulux” means ‘Confuse the pants of you’ in some language.
- Be black and white and brave in your conversations with everyone building your house. However, make sure you leave your tradie talk at home – it doesn’t work with, say, frail great aunt Nelly or the highly sensitive neighbour (and it’s likely your fault the neighbour is highly sensitive now anyway).
- When you’re so buried in boxes you have to pole vault out of bed; when there are 10 different trades with difficult questions at your door at 6.45am and you’re in your dressing gown with the flu; when your kitchen ceiling leaks and bulges with rain water like a pregnant belly for months; when you have a set of gumboots outside every exit because you are surrounded by a mud moat, my advice is this: Finish one little thing. Paint the architrave in the laundry and close the door. When every single other part of your house has a bloke with his noise and dust in it, go into your laundry, sit on the floor and meditate with your gorgeous architrave.
- Always say thank you (except maybe to pool builders – feel free to acquire a nail gun in this case). You may have waited 20 months for a roofer to show up, but when you sit in your kitchen in torrential rain and thunder and lightning, you will appreciate him. Building a house is no mean feat, it involves many coming together to meet your sometimes incredibly picky, individual wishes, and, they may not be able to sing, but I do believe they are proud of the work they do for you. Plus, you want them to show up the next day.
- And finally, try and enjoy it where you can. We loved finding old bits of newspaper in the walls, the pages of which were selling 1920’s Buicks. And one of the first Australian Women’s Weekly’s rolled up in the floor – amazing to think I would work for this magazine 40 years later. Restoring the original features of the house, like our hard wood French doors and a pressed metal ceiling, was an artistic endeavour, and are now thoroughly enjoyable to live with. Add your own flare and be courageous with it. It is a stressful time, but try and have a laugh with those blokes and your husband and kids while you’re all living through it, it creates good memories to go with your beautiful, finished new home.