Lessons learnt in home improvements

Towards the end of 2017 we undertook a pretty big redecorating project. Previous to this the most we had done was to buy a couple of tins of paint and crack on at having a go painting rooms white (previously everything was magnolia). We did change some flooring in my office from carpet to wood and if anything it was this one-room make-over gave me such a taste for wanting to do more ‘big job’ changes rather than the little tweaks I normally do by adding/taking away on item at a time.

We moved in 2015, so it’s taken a couple of years of living here to make some final decisions on what we wanted to do and really know what we wanted to change and why. Plus of course the saving up side of things – because there’s no denying renovation or decor projects aren’t cheap. But after two years, we took the plunge to do some work and get a few things sorted ahead of the baby arriving. With projects taking place both in and outside the house meant it was a pretty speedy learning curve – learning more than I thought I would about working with tradesmen and some tips and tricks for choosing things like carpet and hopefully making sure you’re not paying more than you need to. Here are just a few of the lessons I learnt:

Get multiple quotes

BUT don’t just go on the final figure on the quote. Look at how they deal with the process. Are they reliable at the quote stage (if not, are they really going to be reliable when on the job?). Do you feel comfortable with them being in your home? Do they have previous examples of their work to show you? How do they work – do they do it themselves or do they have a team? There’s a lot to factor in and whilst budget is number one, there are other factors to consider too.

Same applies when shopping for items – shop around. Get quotes from multiple places and don’t be uncomfortable about getting multiple tradespeople or businesses to take the time to quote. It’s what they need to do to get your hard earned cash! Don’t be afraid to tell them you’re getting multiple quotes too. They will likely ask what others have quoted or even who else you’re getting to quote. It’s up to you if you want to tell them. I personally prefer to keep it vague and don’t want the other quotes to influence them.

Be specific about what you want

When I say specific, I mean very specific. If you want help changing light fittings as well as painting – ask up front. Most things within reason can be accommodated (I mean, you can’t ask your painter/decorator to re-plumb your bathroom… but you know, a decorator can usually do some things like lighting changes or concealing wires etc). But worth considering that extra details might require a different team member or are likely to cost a little more. Asking up front and getting specific details in writing helps the whole process go smoothly and avoid shocks. 

For a great and not remotely exciting example – as part of the external work we had done we wanted a bin store built. What we didn’t do was discuss the specific details of size/shape of this. I think both sides made assumptions of what this would look like and funnily enough – they didn’t match up. So when we discussed specifics part way through the job it meant a little extra added cost as what we had in mind was a bigger build than what the tradesmen were thinking. All sorted fairly easily, but doing this up front is the lesson we learnt to avoid add-on costs or niggles as you go through the process.

Get recommendations

Not just for the tradesmen you’re working with, but if you’re working with a painter/decorator – chances are they can recommend a good kitchen fitter or carpenter. If you’re starting from a place where you don’t really know where to start on who to work with and getting ones that come recommendations then use services like My Builder or Rated People as you can get people to pitch/contact you and see previous reviews and examples of work and reviews from other customers online.

Get it all in writing

From the quote to the contract to the final invoice. Get it all in writing. This is the only way to protect yourself from any disagreements or miss-communications along the way. A contract will set out the terms so you know what to expect and agreed up front.

If the tradesperson isn’t comfortable or keen to do this, I’d take this as a warning sign and not proceed with working with them,

Go with your gut

From paint colour to carpet colours or styles. There’s only so much your practical head can tell you – you have to live with it. You have to love it too. We ended up doing a last moment switch of paint colour in our bedroom because the one we had gone with wasn’t right (way too pink) but SO happy we did as the switch made all the difference. I’ll be doing a post all about the bedroom decoration in the next couple of weeks in case you’re curious! But I’d rather make a change than stick with something you’re not sure about. Especially when odds are you’re spending a pretty penny to make it happen you want to make sure it’s as good as it can possibly be.

Be patient

The biggest tip I’d say is be patient – accept that your home will be chaos for a number of weeks. If they say the work will take two weeks, allow two and a half (or even three). These things have a habit of running over. Especially when it comes to anything outside as weather can stop work in a second. The same sort of rule applies to budget too – allow a little contingency for changes or unexpected issues.

Overall, getting your house into a home that really looks and feels like ‘you’ or even gets towards that ‘instagramable’ house goals. It takes time, and sure – the pressure of the internet to have a life and home that’s perfectly photogenic at all time sucks. In reality, it takes time to live somewhere and really learn how you live and what

Take the chance to have a clear-out

We used all the re-do projects as a perfect time to have a proper clear out as both Ollie and I are both pretty bad at hoarding stuff and with my blog I do tend to have a pretty big abundance of things. Which of course is lovely in so many ways, but honestly – even if i went full-drag style make-up every day I’d still never get through it all so have to be pretty ruthless at what I keep vs. what gets passed on to charity/friends/family etc.

A home project is the perfect excuse to get ruthless – we started it all off by hiring a skip and having a brutal clear out of anything unnecessary which has made putting everything back in its place much easier. We only need to find homes for the things we love. A simple version of the Marie Kondo method works a treat for this – only keeping things that are useful, you love or you need.

I feel like such an adult right now – it’s a fun process undertaking changes at home but definitely has some stressful moments for sure. But plan it out, find good people to work with, set (and stick to) your budget and go for it. Happy house-projecting!

All photography by www.bangonstyleblog.com

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1 Comment

  1. February 14, 2018 / 8:15 pm

    I haven’t lived in a house of my own that isn’t rented so I can’t wait till I can actually start really redecorating! Great tips though, I’ll keep them in mind when I get round to it. I can imagine being patient is really tough..

    Katie | katieemmabeauty.com

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