So here we go again..!! YAY!!

Weare officially living in Santana the static caravan and it is officially day 1 of our house renovation.

It feels AMAZING to have started… (I wonder how long that feeling will last!!)


Firstly, I just want to say that yet again, I have to admit that I have been rubbish with the blog. No excuses, just life. 

BBUUUTTT after asking you guys on insta poll if you would be keen to hear progress updates about the build, it would appear that you would, which is absolutely incredible 🙂 

On that note, I would like to say the BIGGEST THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for all of the support and kind words that have been sent to us from IG. I am so humbled and blown away by it all and I find it completely unbelievable that I get to share this journey with so many of you. So thank you so much. 


From this day forward, I am going to be better and you heard it hear first. 

I am intending to blog bi-weekly about the build and I am seriously hoping that that isn’t too much to ask of myself. If it is, then I promise I will just give up for good. 


AAANNND… very excitingly *drum roll please* I have not only decided to blog about the build I have also decided to Vlog about the whole thing too!! 

I know, I should maybe nail the bi-weekly blog before I decide to take on a whole other medium that I know nothing about… but hey ho… I like a challenge and I am hoping that video will bring it all to life a bit more!! 


So, a shameless plug but if you want to follow my video updates then head over to my new you tube channel ‘athomewithgem’ where you can subscribe to see all!! If it fails miserably, then I apologise in advance!! 



Day 1:

I am extremely pleased to tell anyone who will listen, that after what has felt like an eternity, today, we have finally taken a sledge hammer to the house and the strip out has begun. I can not actually believe we have started!!

The plan for this week is to strip the whole house out completely… wallpaper (!!), plaster, flooring, plumbing, electrics, kitchen, bathroom, walls… you name it it’s all going. 

Our builder tells me he has budgeted for 18 skips on this build… no joke!! 

Hopefully they will get everything stripped in a week and then next week the real fun begins… in will come the diggers and (fingers crossed) the foundations will be dug out for the extension! EEEEK!!!

I am so excited for the extension to start. I always think you can visualise a space until you are blue in the face (see what u did there, I am a poet and I didn’t know it) but until you actually see it all dug out, I find that it is really hard to actually get sense of it all. 

Next time I write (in 2 weeks!!), I will go into a bit more detail on design of the build etc.

However, I thought seeing as I have been rubbish with updates thus far, that today, I would just give recap of everything that has gone on to get us up to this point…

Drawings/ Planning/ Party Wall:

What a total nightmare, pain in the arse and general headache that has all been.

I am not going to dwell on it too much because I have conveniently forgotten about it all but it was hard going. 

Pretty much everyone on our road objected to our plans, the conservation officer wasn’t happy with some of the designs, it took forever to get planning, we had party wall disputes… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

But we made it and although it was stressful and horrendous, it is done now and just before Christmas we finally got all of the paperwork we need to start the build!! That was a good day!! 

If anyone out there is currently going through any of that, then I really feel for you. But keep going and don’t give up… you will get there in the end and it will be worth it!!  

Finding a builder:

As you may know, I renovate houses for a living and I have a great team that I work with all of the time. 

The way that I work with them is that everyone has responsibility for their own bit and I then oversee the build as a whole… project manage if you like. 

For our house though, I wanted to use a main contractor to do the project management alongside me.

The reason for this is because the build is quite complicated structurally and although I know a little bit about house building, I am not a builder and I definitely don’t want the house to fall down!! 

Finding a main contractor was tough. I probably had 8/9 different builders over and non of them cut the mustard… until we met Martin!! 

Martin was like a breath of fresh air when he walked into the house. He was so approachable and professional and and I knew instantly he was the one… price dependant of course!! 

I think it is such an emotional decision choosing someone to build your home for you… you need to be able to trust them implicitly and most importantly for me you need to feel like you can talk openly and honestly with them.

I am no expert but having just been through it and realising how hard it can be, I thought I would put down a few of my top tips for planning, party wall agreements and for finding a builder…

1.Planning – Make sure you have an open line of communication with your planning officer. It is really really important your plans don’t get rejected, so an open line of comms with your Planning Officer is vital… ask what they like/ what they don’t. It’s so important you know this info during your application. That then gives you the chance to amend the drawings as you go along, so when it comes to decision day, you know you have submitted drawings they will pass and you don’t have any shocks or rejections.

2.Party wall – Plan ahead for party wall agreements as they take some time to sort out and can severely delay your start if you don’t think about them soon enough. If you are doing building work that affects your party wall, then in most cases it is a legal requirement to inform all neighbours that are within a certain proximity of that party wall. Your neighbour can then agree to the work and your start date (which is great and you can just carry on) or they can dispute it, which is what happened to us. If you enter into a dispute then surveyors need to be involved to draw up agreements and this can take some time to sort out… or it did for us!!

3.Builders – it’s hard to pick just one tip here, but I think the most important part of the process for me is going to see projects that the builder has already completed and ones that they are currently working on. You can learn a lot from seeing the site… Is it tidy? What is the finish like? Does everyone working there seem friendly and happy etc? As part of that process I also think it’s important to speak to previous clients of the builder to get their feedback on their experiences and if possible I find it really important to do that independently of the builder being there. You literally can not get better than recommendations from previous clients!!

So there you have it, day 1 is done!!! What a great day for our little family… 

15.01.18… the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel!!

Hopefully I will see you over on the Vlog soon and again here in a few weeks butfor now, Ciao and thank you for sharing this journey with us.

All my love, 

Gem xx

P.S. The first few photos are of Santana the static and all of the others are the ‘before’ snaps of the house (with a couple from today!!)

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