Posted By on 14th September 2014

I’m sure all UK readers will be familiar with the Channel 4 television programme ‘Grand Designs’ which follows the fortunes of couples who buy unusual, unloved, difficult and quirky properties, and convert them into beautiful modern homes. Who could forget the Victorian water tower in London or the decommissioned lifeboat station in Tenby?

I don’t always like the finished product, it’s usually too modern for my taste, but you have to admire the guts and determination needed to see such a project through to a successful conclusion.

It also makes you wonder how some of the participants find the time, the energy or the extra money to make babies, have babies, or go on holiday during the process. It’s amazing how many of them do one or other or all three!

I’m not suggesting what we’ve done here is on anything like such a grand scale. Babies and holidays are out of the question too as, given my age, that particular ship sailed some time ago, and we haven’t been away on more than day trips since 1980!

Not that I’m complaining, I’ve always been a home bird, but it has been a huge learning curve, hard work, and at times stressful. So what have we learned?

Well, I can only speak for myself, so here goes.

Everything always takes a lot longer than you expect.

Keep track of your spending. As a job evolves it’s all too easy to lose sight of the bottom line.

If you’re planning to be a ‘hands-on’ project manager, choose a property within a reasonable traveling distance of where you live, as the daily commute is just an added annoyance. Ours was a round trip of about 42 miles, and that was plenty.

However, if you’re planning to manage the job whilst living on site, I would encourage you to reconsider. Unless you are an exceptional person, it will drive you mad.

Tradesmen don’t always turn up when they say they will. (Yes, ‘Stand-up Steve’, you know who you are.) Some even disappear for 6 weeks without a word. Thankfully Adrian has reappeared and pictures of the garage demolition will follow shortly.

Don’t be tempted to tidy-up or clean-up at any point during the proceedings. There is always more mess.

Once you do feel it’s safe to start cleaning, invest in an old fashioned mop and bucket, because once you start, you’ll be mopping up dust for weeks.

Finally, builders, plumbers, plasterers and electricians all like to sing. Nothing wrong with that you might say, except that, to a man, they can’t carry a tune in a bag!

Would we do it again?

Peter says he would, as it would allow him to put into practice everything he’s learnt over the last few months. In other words he’d do the next one better.

As for me?

Maybe if I was 20 years younger I would, but as things stand, ABSOLUTELY NOT.

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