Home renovations | phase 1

It’s been a long time coming but here it is, the low down on the first phase of our home renovations, with a lot of help from Builders Warehouse. I’m going to leave all the talking to Dan but I just wanted to mention two things before we dive straight in:

  1. Please excuse the dire state of our garden, Winter in Jozi is harsh! And okay, we haven’t paid it much attention.
  2. Please let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post and if you would like to see a lot more home renovation/décor/organisational stuff on the blog in the future.

Alrighty, over to Dan…

Hi there readers of my lovely wife’s blog, it’s Dan here with a public service announcement.  As you may or may not know, Sarah and I bought our current home a little over a year ago with the intention of renovating.  There was a lot of work that needed to be done and to be honest, this was one of the reasons the house was in our price range.

It’s taken us a while to get around to giving the house a bit of a facelift, life is busy, money’s tight etc etc I think we all know this story!  But we finally got started and I thought I’d give you a run down of things you should know.

Boundary walls after being chipped (L) and waterproofed (R).

Alright so let’s get into it!  My first renovation pro tip is all about planning.  If you’re anything like my wonderful wife, patience may not be the foremost of your many virtues.  I strongly urge you to step out of that exciting and adventurous comfort zone (oxymoron?), take a step back and really think about this undertaking.  Your top priority should be fixing any major issues that can cause immediate problems relating to safety or structure.  Basically if something looks like it’s about a break or if you have electrical issues or water leaks, fix those first.  Not only are these things that could cost you a lot of money to sort out further down the line, they may pose a risk to the health and safety of yourself and your family, seriously, just get this done.  On the plus side if you have plumbing or electrical work to do that requires opening up some walls, doing this first means you can repair and repaint as the next phase of your renovation which you would presumably need to do anyway, great success!

Part of the boundary wall that was rebuilt.

My second tip is bang for your buck.  Any renovation is a costly exercise and ultimately you want to know that any money you’ve put into your house will result in returns.  The big aesthetic things usually give you a great return.  Think about yourself, when you go have a look at a possible home to purchase the first thing you see are the boundary and exterior walls.  If these are shabby you’re immediately left with a poor impression.  We actually started our renovation with this rule in mind, tackling our boundary wall first followed by our house exterior walls, fascia boards and gutters.

Exterior house wall after being chipped.

Next up, get loads of quotes.  Hiring contractors with teams of workers will give you peace of mind in terms of quality and delivery time, but will also cost you a lot of money.  We opted to use a less prominent builder who had come highly recommended by other families in our area.  I met with him and took him around the house showing him what I’d like to accomplish and the responses or advice he gave me made me confident he could handle the job, and handle it he did, our results have been excellent and all completed within agreed upon time frames.

Old fascia boards and gutters.

It’s difficult to give advice on who to hire since each case will be different, so I’ll stick to what I looked out for with this specific job.  Since we were wanting to redo our exterior walls I needed him to chip open the existing cracks and check how deep they were, re-plaster after he’d done that and paint the wall.  He advised me to waterproof over those areas before painting which was excellent advice and exactly what I wanted to hear.  We also had a section of wall that was being pushed over by a tree root causing an expansion joint in the wall to start opening up.  Rather than telling me to fill the gap (as other more prominent contractors advised) he pointed out the cause of the issue.  He advised me to knock down that section of wall, take out the offending root and rebuild the wall section.  This is something you really want to hear from a builder because it shows two things, one, he knows what he’s talking about and two, he takes pride in his work, wanting to fix an issue permanently rather than quickly patch it.

Before (L) and after (R).

After you’ve decided on who should do the work for you, you need to agree on terms of payment.  I would advise getting quotes on the job itself rather than paying someone per hour worked.  The logic is obvious here, paying per hour encourages someone to drag the job out for more money where paying for the completed job gets them to work fast so that they can take more work.  You will also generally be expected to pay half up front and the balance in increments as work moves forward depending on the size of the job.  Since our jobs were two weeks at a time, we agreed on half up front and the balance on completion.

Before (L) and after (R).

We were lucky enough to be given a bit of money on account at Builder’s Warehouse to help with material costs and to encourage us to check out their website.  I am not a human that is easily impressed but I honestly found it very easy to use.  Even if you aren’t sure which category the product you want is in, just type it in the search bar and it should come up, I found everything I was looking for with no trouble.  You’re also able to shop online and either pick up your items in store or have them delivered to your home.  I opted to collect since I never like paying for delivery if I don’t have to.  I went to collect my order really early in the morning, pretty much as the store opened.  It was a bit silly of me since I didn’t wait for them to call me or phone ahead to check if my order was ready, they had everything I needed except for a single tin of plaster primer which was coming in from a different branch later that morning.  Instead of making me drive to and fro the friendly ladies offered to deliver the whole lot to my house later that day at no charge, that’s great service and service means a whole lot to me.  Well done Builder’s Warehouse!

New gutters and fascia boards.

As a final note I’d just like to give a bit of general advice on any renovation or DIY project you may be undertaking.  Know your limits.  This one probably applies to guys the most but honestly everyone should hear it.  I was lucky enough to grow in a household with a father who taught me a lot about lots of things so I’m very comfortable with basic wiring, plumbing, motor mechanics and woodwork.  Not everyone has this foundation and even I know there are lots of things I can’t do.  I won’t work on my DB board since I’m not a qualified electrician, I won’t work on my geyser because it is a pressure vessel and requires professional knowledge.  Know what you can and can’t do and don’t be afraid to call on expert knowledge when necessary, it may cost a little money but you’re saving yourself time, hassle and future expense when something that has been improperly prepared eventually breaks even worse.

House exterior after renovations.

That’s all from me!  Hope you found this informative and I’m looking forward to sharing more about our home renovation as we make slow and steady progress.

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  • Reply
    August 1, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Very interesting post. Would like to see more in the future! Love the colour you picked for the walls, it really makes a massive difference and looks great.

  • Reply
    Kate Kearney
    August 1, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Really enjoyed this post! We are starting our renovations in 2 weeks and it’s a very exciting and daunting time – cant wait to also share and reveal our before and afters. Your walls look fabulous, well done!

  • Reply
    Leigh-Ann Otto
    August 2, 2017 at 1:08 am

    I looooveeeee the dark grey, almost like wet cement!!! (It’s my fav house colour!!). Please share aaaaallll the reno posts. I live for them!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Absolutely loved this post. Thank you for sharing your helpful tips. Looking forward to seeing more in the future. Planning to renovate our house as well.

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    […] second installment of our renovation diaries, if you missed the first one, you can catch up over here. Like with our first bunch of renovations, we have collaborated with Builders Warehouse again and […]

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    March 3, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    Any chance you could share the name of the builder that assisted you?

    • Reply
      March 7, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      I will pop you an email as soon as I find his contact number 🙂 If you don’t hear from me by the end of the week, please email me to remind me!

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