The big renovation

Making the best of paint and polish is all very well, but there comes a point when it’s not enough. No amount of decorative ‘charm’ could cover the fact that the back of the house was decrepit, dark, lacking in space, cold and impractical. Time to bite the bullet and get on with some major renovations.

Around 2000 I had worked with a building designer and developed some detailed plans, but hadn’t proceeded at that point when the builders started coming back with quotes that were more than I’d paid for the house. So the renovations waited a few more years until I felt a bit more financially secure.

For the record, they did end up costing more than I’d paid for the house initially – a lot more – but by that stage I’d been living in it for around 15 years, so I’d had my money’s worth.

Now, I missed out on Dad’s handyman genes and struggle to hammer a nail straight, so there was no question of trying to do the renos myself. I seriously considered going to a full service architect and putting the whole project in their hands, but the more I looked at the original plans, the more I realised that we had got it right first time around. Eventually I found a builder who was able to project manage the build for me and work began in early 2011 (in fact, I remember it well – it was the day that David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art opened – what a party that was!)

Keep Out! Or possibly ‘abandon hope’
A huge skip was installed on the street outside
Thus far and no further – the rear of the house had to be demolished
Busting up the concrete paths in preparation for demolition
Demolition begins at the rear of the property
The view from what had been the kitchen

Seeing the home that has sheltered one for a decade and a half suddenly being torn apart is a sobering experience. There was no choice but to move out for the duration as all the functional areas of the house – kitchen, bathroom – were being demolished and the rest would be largely without power, heating, full of dust and full of the furniture and contents of the rest of the house. Fortunately I was working out of town at that point and had some alternative accommodation, and Mum and Dad kindly provided the room I’d last lived in aged about 20 for me to stay in when I did come to town.

Demolition of the bathroom and laundry
The old kitchen from the rear
My little house, minus the back end
The back yard, scraped and levelled ready for building
New footing posts to stop the rest of the house falling down
A desiccated rat found under the house
Preparations for pouring the slab
Ready for concreting
I’m the proud owner of a very large block of concrete
Test grind to check what the polished concrete will look like
Little specks of gold aggregate will warm up the otherwise blue and grey of the concrete
Rooms start to appear
And trusses for the roof
Big beam to stop the house falling down when this wall is removed
How to Build a House
Back porch
Vast acreage under roof
Looking back from dining room through the lounge and hallway

Credit to my builder and his team, the project went remarkably smoothly, save for a delay which saw some very bog-standard aluminium-frame windows take about two months to arrive – from Launceston! (Kevin McCloud always seems to be banging on about the windows causing delays on Grand Designs, on designs far grander than mine.)

Dining room into kitchen with new plasterboard Dining room into kitchen with new plasterboard
Dining room into kitchen with new plasterboard
New kitchen – and what a view
Old meets new – the living room taking shape
Bathroom starting to look almost habitable
Quite pleased with my very simple tiling design. Every time I went into a tile shop at the beginning of this project, I’d break out in a cold sweat – there are just too may choices.
My polished concrete floor, at last!

So, after three or four months of living out of a suitcase, I was able to move back in, although there was still a long way to go as I was going to be doing most of the interior decoration myself.

Stay tuned for more mood boards and to see the finished results.

Related posts

25 years in New Town

Early renos at the New Town house

The gardens of New Town


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