Starting a renovation

It’s been over a year since I’ve blogged about our house, so before I begin, let me fill you in – in May 2016 we settled on a three bedroom (sold as a two bedroom) house in the Queen Charlotte Sounds of Marlborough. It’s a batch, built in 1959, many owners and one hell of a reno project.

It was always our intention to renovate, it’s a typical kiwi batch, beautiful location, well built but, zero insulation and plenty of places for the wind to get in. We’ve gone through one winter and although the temperature here is not as low as further South it does dip to 0 degrees, we wanted to live in the place for about a year so we could get to know how the house behaves in the land during all seasons – but honestly it’s been tough, we’re glad to begin our renovation.

I intend to blog more about our reno as we go, but to start things off, if your renovating a batch or old house in NZ like us, then there’s a few things I recommend you do before you begin. We’re intending to do much of the renovation ourselves, in a bid to save money and because we want to.

Before you start ripping down walls however, spend time in the house as it is (if it is indeed habitable), make notes on where the sun travels, how does the house handle the wind (we’re in an “extreme” wind zone), where does the rain water run…? All these things will make sense when you go to plan the changes, for example you may need to redirect running surface water during heavy rain, as it could affect a portion of the house. If it’s a batch, it’s likely there’s something.

The aesthetics of the place are just as important, considering the views are massive. Our place is in a little bay area, high on the hill side, on a natural ridge, looking out over the water. The current configuration is living down stairs and sleeping up stairs, but that’s not the best way of maximising the views, so it’s our intention to convert the place into an upside-down-house – where the living will be on the top floor and bedrooms on the lower. For our place this makes perfect sense as, the back door is on the top floor, leading out onto the deck and garden.

We have ideas on what we want to do, so we’ve made notes and little sketches on how the layout will be changed. It’s all “fun and games” chatting about possibilities and playing with ideas – but there’s one important thing we’ve learned and that’s be prepared to change your ideas… At this stage nothing has to be set in stone, but throw all concepts to the wall and see what sticks.

So to recap:

  1. Live in the place for a year (art least) to get a feel for land and seasonal changes
  2. Consider the views, and what’s possible with layout changes to maximise them
  3. Make plans, sketches and notes on what you find and keep them all in a folder
  4. Don’t settle for your first idea, be ready to change your exceptions
  5. Bonus point: Talk to your neighbors they may know things about your house you don’t