Earlier this year I was working on a refurbishment of a flat that had been owned by my clients for twenty years – and had had nothing done to it. The brief was to replace the kitchen and bathroom, put in a new boiler and the rest was largely dictated by the state of the place when the strip out revealed such nasties as damp within the walls because of a leaking shower valve, and replacement floorboards in part of the kitchen because of a leaking pipe from the kitchen sink. Not only was the place dated, it wasn’t actually very functional either.
So I was asked to put together a scheme that brought the place up to date, would appeal to the tastes of both father and son (who would be sharing four days of the week), but that wasn’t an expensive job. This was a challenge for me because the budget was small, but the clients were being very realistic. They knew it was time to do the maintenance and look after the place, but kitting it out in a high end finish was not the look they wanted because they didn’t have a ‘high end’ lifestyle – and nor were they trying to attract buyers or tenants. It therefore made no sense for me to look at luxury finishes, or even fashionable styles for the fit out. This was something that needed to be timeless and appeal to two generations of the family.
So my starting point was to make sure that I could achieve a kitchen that would increase the usable space, be cost effective to fit and enable the menfolk to relax when they were both there. As the family home is a rambling farmhouse in Lincolnshire, I took my inspiration from farmhouse styles and kept the colours soft but more countryside/coastal than urban. Because we needed to keep tight control of the budget we didn’t allow for replastering the walls and instead clad them in a tongue and groove to 1200mm from the floor. This hid all the ripping out of the old kitchen, allowed us to chase in all the electrics and gave us a really durable up stand above the work surface – which then meant we didn’t have to tile behind the cooker either. We didn’t change the lighting circuit but instead introduced a fitting that had three multi directional spot lights – and incorporated under unit lighting that can be turned on as required for task lighting. In the end fitting the kitchen on the opposite wall gave us the best use of the space – it also meant that the guys could start with new pipework and not link into a system that hadn’t been maintained for twenty years. This can be a great more cost efficient than working with the existing drainage.
I sourced a kitchen online that was in a shaker style and had a wooden work surface – which incidentally was cheaper than any of the laminate selection – and that, along with a painted floor, completed the country kitchen look. All at a cost of £7200. This included materials, labour, the kitchen units, work surface, paint and light fittings. Looking at it I have to say, it looks a lot more expensive than that!
The same applies for the bathroom, although the neglect in this room needed a great deal more work to rectify. Because of that we had to replaster and level the floor. We also retiled behind the bath and fitted an extractor fan (now regulation in bathroom refurbishments.) The one stipulation was that the floor had to be limestone effect tile – I had sourced an end of line tile ‘floor boarding’ that was half the price – but no matter. This room also needed a new lighting circuit and we quickly discovered that there were no straight lines, so fitting the corner cupboard became an endless drama. As a result the room is quite clinical but any extra work would have pushed the price up, so we stepped back and left the room as it was, functional and crisp. And this room again came in at the very reasonable price of £6900 – even with the cost of tiling.
Both these rooms have transformed the flat and given it a level of function it hasn’t had for twenty years. At a cost of £14,100 ( not including the boiler) this work was realistically priced – there were no frills, no floor coverings, no new windows and the walls were much less perfect than we usually create – we didn’t do anything to them, other than paint. So the point I’m trying to make is that it is possible to achieve a budget transformation. Not all work has to be prohibitively expensive – BUT and this is a big but – your contractors have to be committed to that pricing structure from the very beginning. It meant we actively looked for ways to achieve results that would be cheaper for us to execute (like the tongue and groove wall board) and the only way that can really be achieved is to use someone who will cost, price and source every item being used on the job – in conjunction with the labour costs to fit it. Someone without a level of experience would find that hard to do, because you need to know about builders merchants and raw materials. For me it was an interesting exercise working to such a tight budget, but I like to know this sort of stuff. And of course, for people who have bought their first homes, this is the type of budget they usually have. So take heart, it is possible, you can achieve a refurbishment on a shoestring!