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Creating a stylish home with renovation and design tips by Rachel Hunt: Part 1 – building an extension

By Rachel Ducker  |  January 24, 2020

Writer and home makeover designer, Rachel Hunt shares the story of her home renovation in our three-part special. Follow her journey from attempting to complete a double storey extension before the arrival of her first child to the finishing touches of her now complete home. She offers up expert advice for any type of renovation project as well as tips on decorating and adding that final flair to your home.

Just over a year ago my husband and I embarked on a journey we thought we were completely ready for. After jumping on the property ladder in 2017, we purchased a two-bedroom red brick cottage, complete with planning permission for a double storey home extension. It was small and snug with heaps of potential.

We tied the knot in 2018 and did what most couples do once the wedding was out of the way and started nesting. With our tweaked, inherited extension plans from the previous owner; we were ready to start ‘Project Hillside’, taken from the name of our cottage.

Where to start

Hillside had heaps of potential and came complete with planning permission for a two storey extension

The next step was to secure a good builder. In my opinion, having been through the process (and having spent most of my days with these guys), I would say this is the most important decision of your build. You want a builder who is reliable and affordable. If you can achieve this you’re half way there – trust me!

Your builder should be able to provide you with the contacts for decent electricians, plumbers, carpenters and plasterers or may even provide these services themselves. Always get more than one quote and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You will also need to organise building regulations to oversee your build via the council.

Prepare for the inevitable

It took two weeks to lay the foundations and a month and a half before the house was watertight

With a strong team behind us, the groundworks commenced, what could go wrong? As I watched our downstairs bathroom being torn apart to make way for the new foundations, you guessed it – it was the perfect time to fall pregnant! The show must go on as they say and at least this gave us a deadline for completion – it also made me more determined to get more involved.

A house can go up surprisingly quickly when you need it to. All in all it took two weeks to lay the foundations and a month and a half before the house was watertight. Plus a few further weeks to get all of the electrics, plumbing and plastering done. What we didn’t anticipate was a five-month wait for the builder to return to the site.

Another good tip – always keep in mind that if a builder takes on other work whilst working on yours it could delay things for your build.

Stay positive

Keeping positive throughout the tough times and thinking of the bigger picture was essential

I spent my next few months caught between liaising with tradesmen, purchasing materials and battling morning sickness. To say it was an enjoyable time for me would be a complete lie, but at the end of each day seeing a little bit more completed was worth it.

July arrived – I remember being nine months pregnant with a paintbrush glued to my hand, I was still painting on the day I went into hospital to have our baby. I wondered if it would really be possible to bring our son home? Without the help of my superstar team at Access Plastering this wouldn’t have been possible, so I owe a huge thank you to Olly and his team.

After months of building work Hillside is complete with the footprint almost doubled in size

With all of the messy bits now over it was time to make it a home. Keeping positive throughout the tough times and thinking of the bigger picture was essential. So the moral of the story is – even when you think you’re ready to take on a house project, as first timers we learnt a lot of things along the way – but what an experience. Now there’s just the garden to landscape – stay tuned!

With the building work complete, next up was to decorate each room and make this a liveable space for my family. To read more about how I undertook my home makeover, look out for the next two instalments detailing my room by room house makeover and tips for updating your home and adding those all important finishing touches.

If you don’t have time to read – click here to view the video!