The Tale of an Attic: Thinking before You Renovate

Our homes are our castles. They’re the place on Earth we have the most control over, so it’s no wonder we want to make them as comfortable and right for us as possible. But things can go wrong if we don’t take the time to consider all the factors involved. Below is a shopping story that illustrates the importance of biding your time and getting all the facts when it comes to home renovation.

An architect friend of mine, who I’ll call Chris, had a ripper idea while he was having the tiles fixed on his roof. Why not create more space in his house by turning the attic into a proper room? A study with a relaxed feel that he could escape to when he needed to get some work done? His Edwardian red brick home had generous living areas but his two daughters were growing up. They currently shared a bedroom but were clamouring for their own rooms, and his tiny study near the kitchen would soon be lost forever.

The attic wasn’t a proper room at that stage, just a space between the ceiling and the roof – but there was easily enough height to stand up in, so it could be done. The entrance hole was large and situated in the main hallway of the house.

Chris didn’t think too much about what the job would involve. Because he was an architect, he assumed he had the expertise to  oversee the job himself, and he wanted to do it cheaply. He bought a fold-down extension ladder and had it installed. Then he purchased some cheap flooring – chipboard – and paid someone to install it.

It wasn’t until later that he thought to consult his friend Alan, a builder. It was lucky he did. Not only had he got the type of flooring wrong – chipboard absorbs moisture, so it’s not suitable for roof cavities – but the flooring structure wasn’t strong enough for the purpose. It would put too much weight on the ceiling joists, which would lead to sagging. The floor needed to be underpinned by load-bearing timber. The flooring Chris needed and that he ultimately bought with his friend’s guidance was thick board covered by malamite; with the supporting timber underneath, the floor ended up being 15 cm thick.

Acting on Alan’s advice, Chris also put a safety fence around the entrance to which the folding ladder was attached.

The tale ended happily. The room is now a study, complete with mood lighting, built-in drawers, cupboards and desk. It has a lovely attic-y feel. But in ripping the floor out and starting again, Chris ended up spending more money than he needed to. In trying to save both time and money, he’d wasted both.

This story illustrates just how important it is, when you want to do any sort of redecorating that involves purchasing, to bide your time.

Just as we sometimes give in to impulsive shopping, so we also act impulsively when we want to make major changes such as renovating our homes. It’s vital to carry out research, but sometimes the information we need isn’t available instantly. Perhaps Chris had wanted to contact Alan right away but couldn’t. Or perhaps he feared that if he took Alan’s advice, the whole thing would get too complicated (and too expensive!).

It’s especially difficult to take your time when you’ve been undecided for a while and then you finally make a decision. It’s natural to want to start right away and ask questions later.

What lessons can be taken from Chris's experience?
  • Listen to yourself when you want to dive straight into a home  renovation project. Perhaps there are things you need to consider that you’re not aware of yet. Think about what they are, and where you might get the right information.

  • Before you begin, wait until you’ve considered all the factors involved; wait until you have all the information you need. Think about the plan for your project as a puzzle for which you need all the pieces before completing. Ask yourself if you have all the pieces before you begin to carry out your plan.

  • Consult with someone who can see the whole picture. Individual tradespeople quoting on their own jobs won’t necessarily consider every factor; they may be concerned only with their piece of the puzzle. Even if they are aware of other considerations, some (not all) may fail to inform you of the ultimate requirements and costs because they want to provide a cheap quote.

  • Develop ‘negative capability’. The poet John Keats coined this term to describe the state of uncertainty and unknowing in which creativity manifests itself. When it comes to making big changes to our homes, being open to uncertainty can help us determine the type and extent of research we have to do and all the factors we need to take into account.

  • By all means be organised and use your rational mind. But also let your inner self guide you, when it comes to both the changes you decide to make and the people you contract to help you carry them out.

  • Above all, keep your mind (and your ears) open!

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you might also like Steps to Take before You Buy a Big-Ticket Item

1 comment :

construction contractors said...

Plan ahead for plumbing and wiring. These items can present certain challenges in the attic, and you'll need to make sure that the flooring is not pinching any wires.