Newlywed & renovating: finding tradesmen

Finding tradesmen

I’ll get straight to the point. Finding tradesmen for our renovation – good, quality, tradespeople that tick all the right boxes – is hard. Probably the most stressful part of this renovating process so far.

Marcus, my husband, and I had reached the point in our renovation where we could do no more after spending a couple of months gutting our recently purchased, 1930s doer-upper. We had successfully ripped all the carpets out and removed the dated wallpaper from the walls, expunged the kitchen and bathroom of the majority of their contents and successfully managed to remove a non-supporting wall that separated the tiny toilet from the rest of the bathroom upstairs. We were left with nothing but dusty walls and buzzing imaginations of how we wanted the property to look and function.

Sorting the basics

However, before we could start thinking about extending the kitchen – our main goal – the basics needed to be sorted first. Winter was on our doorstep, and it was important to replace the rusted pipe system that ran throughout the house, install new radiators and a much more efficient combi boiler, and ensure new windows were put in to retain the warmth they pumped out. Additionally, the windows weren’t very secure, which was another reason to get more updated ones as quickly as possible. For the heating, we are lucky enough to have a life-long friend in the trade who could help us. He was incredible and very swiftly we had a whole new heating system in place, with a few vital pennies saved in our pockets. The windows were slightly trickier. We looked at both local, independent traders, and well-known retailers. In the end we chose one of the bigger companies – although we had to practise our haggling techniques to end up with a price we were happy with. Sadly the local firm never got back to us, which is something we have, morosely, learned to get used to during our renovation process.

Going through the list

Next on the list was the electrician. Marcus and I were well aware the whole house needed rewiring, and we wanted spotlights downstairs and several more plug sockets – considering there was only one in each room at this stage. We tried to find one through many different ways: we asked for recommendations from friends and family and went online and did local searches. We even saw an electrician lived in our street from spotting his van parked up there everyday, so got him round as well. We must have had 20 different people over, and the quotes and time scales they could do the work in varied tremendously – with not one person that stuck out as ‘the one’. We knew how important this work was for our renovation, so weren’t willing on giving up the search.

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Hidden gems! • Since we started gutting the new house I’ve been hoping to find some hidden gems of the original 1930s build. We’ve got some beautiful timber flooring (hidden under the hideous carpets), and intact picture-rails. And now, thanks to a clever gadget and a chisel and mallet provided by my Dad, we’ve found some fantastic vintage doors! Why people wanted to cover them up back in the day I’ll never understand!! Can’t wait to begin their restoration!! #homerenovation #homerenovations #homerefurb #homeprojects #interiorsofinstagram #interiordesign #restoration #vintage #1930shouse #doerupper #interiordesign #houserefurb #homeprojects #houseproject #fixerupper #DIY #diyhomedecor #diyhome #surrey #surreylife #surreyhomes #renovation #renovating #homeimprovement

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A few weeks later, unable to contain our excitement, we decided to get a few builders and construction companies round to the house to discuss some of our ideas for the kitchen as well. We had agreed we wanted a rear extension to create a kitchen-diner, which would stretch the five-metre width of the house and out by three metres. This way, it would match up with our neighbours’ extension, not take up too much of the garden space, it would be covered under permitted development, and hopefully wouldn’t be a too complicated a build so achievable within our budget. We did our research prior, so were fairly confident at how much it would cost. Or so we thought. We had people quoting triple the amount we were expecting, while others came up with a figure drastically lower – which was just as much as a red flag. Our confidence in what we were doing was knocked. At one point it felt like the only good thing that came out of all of this time was finally finding an electrician for our renovation, which was recommended to us by one of the builders. He gave us a fair price, could do it in a reasonable time, and had all the right qualifications, which we checked on the NICEIC website – a trade body which provides assessment and certification services.

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Being honest

At this point, Marcus and I had to have an honest conversation with each other – we discussed whether an extension was still viable for our renovation, and what we could do instead. Our hearts low, and our heads sore, we agreed to get some quotes for a knock through, instead. More builders came round, but it was one in particular – who we found on CheckaTrade – that asked us whether we had thought about extending. We told him our original plan – to which he said he would also give us a quote for. We were sceptical, based on our previous experiences. However, when I opened up their quote around a week later I cried. It had everything we wanted, and at what we considered to be a fair price. When we enquired more, he encouraged us to come and see some of his most recent jobs before signing on the dotted line – which made me like him even more. Meaning, the extension is well and truly on, and we are currently in the process of getting the designs and structural calculations done.

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It’s fair to say I’m glad this part of the renovation is over, but looking back I wouldn’t change the time and effort we put in to finding the right tradesmen, nor the way we went about it. From friends, to recommendations, to searching online, each way helped us find the right people, who in turn are helping us create our dream home.

Read more Newlywed & Renovating blogs in the series.

Featured image: Georgina and Marcus tackle stripping wallpaper in their new home. 

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