Real-life reno': And so it begins

23:50, Jun 25 2014
Real-life reno': And so it begins
80s RETREAT: We love our house but it's outdated, it's cold and it's impractical for a young family. Basically, it's time for a change. Here's a view of the lounge and kitchen from before we moved in.

Introducing our new columnist, Adam Hicks, who is taking on renovating his 'big blue house' but under a seriously tight budget. Over the next wee while he'll be coming to you weekly, detailing the bundle of joy and pain that is doing up a house (with a newborn in the mix). He'll talk through cutting corners, getting permissions, knocking down walls, building them up again ... and he'll do it all while making us laugh. 

Right, over to him ... 


FAMILY OF FOUR, SOON TO BE FIVE: Rebekah, Adam, Tasman and Alvin

We're racing the clock to renovate our house before our new baby is born later this month.

The builder says it's going to cost at least $150,000.

We've got $100,000 at most.


Family of four - soon to be five.  Rebekah, Adam, Tasman and Alvin
STREET VIEW: The house and some of its eight off-street parks - if only we had a caravan.

Welcome to the challenge that is consuming the thoughts of my every waking hour.

We've renovated before, but this is a whole new world (of pain). 


First, I should explain who 'we' are. We are your average family of four - Mum, boy, dog and Dad.

Rebecca is the mum. She is eight-and-a-half months pregnant and would dearly love a sleep in. "Just once. That's not too much to ask is it?" She is also the boss, the brains and the style guru behind our family business, the online design store - - and will be in charge of all colour, tile, fabric, wallcovering and accessory choices in the project. 

Tasman is our recently turned five-year-old boy. He has started school and can eat dinner, get dressed and brush his teeth all by himself. But most of the time he chooses not to. He prefers drama. He has his own pair of construction gloves and a hammer and all his life skills will culminate with a free rein to smash walls during demolition.

Alvin is our dog that Tasman named after our former neighbour's guinea pig. Alvin is a girl. Her mother was a shih tsu who found love with a poodle in a Christchurch park. Officially she is a shi-poo, but I often wonder what they'd call her if the father was a bulldog. Throughout the reno, I expect her role will be to bark at the builders. 

And I'm the Dad. Ad the Dad. I work an office job by day, help manage The Inside by night and spend my spare time working with the mother-in-law running a made-to-measure curtain business. 

Yep, I'm a regular adventure junkie.

But for now my primary focus has to be the renovation. I'll be looking after the planning, financing, project management and general can-kicking duties.


It's big. It's blue. And it's on a hill in Nelson with sweeping views over the port.

If it was in the window of a Real Estate agent the headline would read something like "Good bones, magic views - bring plenty of money and a can-do attitude".

It was built in 1974 and has had three previous owners. We bought it in mid 2013 from Brian and Bev, a lovely old couple in their 80s who renovated it over 20 years ago and turned it into a unique retirement palace set over two floors: living up top and holiday accommodation downstairs.

It covers a massive 250m2 but only has two dedicated bedrooms which are on opposite ends and levels of the house. It's not practical, nor safe, to have young kids so far away so we've all ended up sleeping in the one room for the past year. Us the boy and dog (it makes me wonder how we got pregnant again).

It doesn't get much better in the style stakes either, with dark red axeminster carpet, four toilets (yes, four), off-street parking for at least eight cars, including a double garage and two carports, a 600m2 section but not a blade of grass, three decks, a conservatory, one-and-a-half kitchens and a glass house. 

It has low water pressure and when I wash in the tiny upstairs bathroom, it takes five minutes to get wet, meanwhile both elbows touch opposite walls of the shower at the same time. 

In short - it's outdated, it's cold and it's impractical for a young family. It's time for a change.

We knew it needed work when we bought it. But it wasn't until shortly after Rebecca peed on the stick of doom (often referred to as a pregnancy test kit) that the terror of the prospect of nursing a newborn in a building zone sparked us into action.

We officially pressed the go button in November, and had hoped to complete the conversion to a modern, four-bedroom family home before the baby had arrived in late June (oh wow, that's now?!).

But here we are a week out, and it's looking increasingly like the build won't even begin before baby arrives.

Looks like I'll be changing nappies while wearing a tool belt after all. What's that they say about best laid plans?

Head here for more photos of Adam's house in the 'before' stage.