As you might remember, we bought a house a year ago and were keen on renovating it, ecologically. It has been a year (well, less than a year since we started renovating) and what have I learned?
|this is what the living room looked like, originally|
- Healthy and environmentally friendly aren't one and the same. At certain points, you'll have to make choices. For us, the health aspect comes first.
- In a market where environmentally friendly renovating is a very new concept, such as Belgium, the few contractors who do are overbooked and overpriced.
- In renovating, it is often the house that will decide for you. Many things are just not possible because of what you have to work with. We decided to put in a new floor on the ground floor and thought we had lots of options. Yet when push came to shove, all we could put in was ceramic tile (something I was fiercely against) because we couldn't go deeper than the existing tile level.
- You can't really plan your renovation, there will always be things that come up and distort your plans. We had wood panelling that turned out not to be wood panels, but asbestos! We had a solid wood floor that turned out half eaten by some bug. We tore down casings and found great industrial strength beams...
- Research is key. Everyone and their grandma will have opinions for you, quite often contradictory, so you really need to research things yourself. Contractors will often have their own agenda for telling you what to do, so the only way to find out is get online and read read read until you get a grasp of the subject.
- Use what you have. Most contractors will try to have you do the newest thing which often means breaking down more than you'd like. Consider this well before you embark. Breaking down stuff means more time and more money and often it's not even the best option, it's just the easiest option not to have to work around the existing things. We were told we had to take off the entire roof because the way it was done in the fifties isn't the way it's done now (from an isolation perspective). Quite hesitant, we talked to many people who had some experience with roof isolation and found out it was possible to isolate without renovating the roof, and that the roof is actually quite sound and still has many years in it.
- Be prepared to make compromises. Even if your budget was limitless - which most often it is not - the house will put restrictions on what you can and cannot do. See point 3. And then obviously the budget comes into play and will rule out many things for you.
- Make smart budgetary choices. Sometimes, you have to spend some extra money to get a really good feature, at other times, you can go for the cheaper choice. It's up to you to make the right decisions here. We went for windows that were more expensive than what we could have put in, as we chose windows with separations, but they add a lot of value to the house and a plain window wouldn't have looked right for the period of the house (built in 1950). On the first floor, I chose the cheaper fiberboard doors. Less environmentally friendly and not solid wood, but they still look great and don't devalue the property.
- At a certain point, you'll just have to get cracking. This again may need some compromise, because you just need to get a move on and you'll have to do with what you've got.
- Don't fear the initial mess. You'll come to a point, somewhere along the breaking down, where you'll wonder if you've just ruined the place. Everyone gets there :) Don't worry though, mostly, you're very close to the build up at this point. Just don't bring in family to see your house at this point.
Our hallway, at that point where we thought we'd broken the house
We've now finally arrived at the point where we can start building up again, so the end is near and the fun work can start. I promise to go more in depth about certain choices and options when I have pictures to illustrate.