Renovation 101 - lessons learnt

Press journalist and first-home hunter Georgina Stylianou shares the highs and lows involved with getting a wobbly foot on the great property ladder.

Renovating your first home is a rite of passage...and a huge learning curve. 

But many first homeowners would know a little more about sandpaper grit, cutting-in brushes and a magic product called ‘No More Gaps’ than we did.

Robbie and I have learnt a lot about renovating – and each other – in the last seven weeks. Here’s my summary of our key findings, one for each week. 

Lesson Number 1: Take some time off work if you’re moving into a total dump. 

We had two days off and it wasn’t anywhere near long enough. A few more would have taken the edge off the whole situation and saved the inevitable crash of the work-renovate-sleep-repeat cycle. 

Lesson Number 2: Use painter’s tape.

A little more time spent at the start of the process can save a whole lot of time touching up mistakes and scraping paint off aluminium windows. We learnt this lesson the hard way. 

Lesson Number 3: You will need more mineral turps, rags and hand cream than you can ever imagine when working with oil-based paints. Lesson 3.1: Know the quickest route to your closest Bunnings/Mitre 10/Placemakers, and the opening hours. Lesson 4: Don’t look under suspiciously-placed tarpaulins in the garage. 

I had enlisted the help of my dad to load all the accumulated rubbish in the garage onto a trailer to take it to the tip. Near the back of the garage a large object was clearly trying to not be seen. I whipped the tarp off to reveal an oven that I had never seen before, with a smashed glass frontage. A quick phone call to Robbie and the truth was unearthed. The second-hand oven we bought off Trade Me (that Robbie picked up and installed while I was out) ended up getting smashed under the not-so-watchful eyes of Robbie and his clumsy, but loveable, amigo Garth. Instead of owning up, Robbie rushed out and bought a brand new oven. 

‘‘Wow, it’s really clean,’’ I remarked when I got home.

‘‘Yeah, they must have had it professionally done before they sold it,’’ Robbie replied. 

I had no idea he could be so sneaky. 

Lesson 5: Do things outside of the house before you kill each other.

There’s a never-ending list of things to do and not enough time, or money, to do them in but it’s important to remember you’re human. Robbie treated me to dinner and tickets to NZ Opera’s La Bohème and it was so lovely to do something together, outside the house. 

Lesson 6: Take before and after photos from the same spot. 

The day we took possession I took photos of every room before we ripped up the carpet and started demolishing the kitchen. Things happened so quickly in those early days that I snapped a few pics whenever I could but never from the same spot or angle.

Lesson 7: Celebrate the small victories.

Installing a splashback in the kitchen, hanging matching curtains in the bedroom and finishing painting a wall – praise yourself, high-five someone and smile. 

Georgina Stylianou is a reporter at The Press. This is part of her weekly column about owning her first home. 

Email or tweet @gstylianoupress

The Press