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Diary of a renovation: should we stay or should we go?

09 Sep 2015

We had hoped to continue living in our house for most of the renovation project, camping out in the front half then switching over to the newly built addition at the back.

The rear of the house with the main living area, dining space and laundry was to be demolished but we would still be left with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and the second living room. So all good!

A temporary wall went up between the kitchen and the bit to be demolished, the digger arrived and down it all came. We had warned the neighbours of the impending noise. We had to demo the clinker brick wall by the entrance and it was hell – double thickness and riddled with reinforcing steel. Shame the internal walls weren’t so well built!

The concrete pad was laid, and the framing went up in what seemed like an instant. Such quick progress, we cooed. Locky, the builder, just cocked one eyebrow.

We all settled in for co-habitation. It lasted an amazing three months with builders tip-toeing apologetically past on the way to the loo, us cleaning dust off the kitchen bench and floor each night, and the dog a quivering wreck each time the building noise ramped up.

One side of the house lost all its windows to black polythene, the toilet delivered a nasty southerly draft to tender parts through a hole in the wall, and one by one the lights along one side of the house failed. It was ablutions by torchlight, and our eldest son spent his life in darkness going between a windowless study and a windowless bedroom. It was time to go.

We emptied the contents of the house into the garage and sought sanctuary in a cute furnished unit not far from schools and the motorway. And they let us take the dog.

Each week when we paid the rent, we would recheck the timeline and anxiously ask the builder when we might come back. Was it a false economy to move back too early and just get in the way of the plasterboard-stoppers and painters? It was the middle of winter – would we freeze? Would we need to get a porta-bathroom (yes, there really are such things)?

In the end, wisdom and comfort won out… helped by a phone call from the sister-in-law to say that we could move into her rental property around the corner while she sold it, rent-free. We are very lucky to be able to now stay away and let the entire project finish without us in the way.