Living abroad, Restoration

What you can achieve in just one year – Renovation Madness

On 29 May 2020, we received the keys to our house. From then on, the renovation began immediately. Now comes an retrospective of how our house and life looked in the spring of 2020 and how it is now. What goals and projects we had within and whether we achieved them. To anticipate the suspense: We achieved everything!

May – June 2020

On may 29, we collected the keys from the real estate office and signed the final documents. Afterwards, we headed straight for the house. However, we were forced to travel to Sweden for the second time with our Smart, as our big car was not yet registered.

We packed the car to the limit and still couldn’t take a lot of things with us that we would have liked to take to Sweden in May. Among them were all my plants. They had to stay in Germany in the end, simply because we couldn’t find any space. In our luggage we had an air mattress and a sleeping bag and warm clothes. We also had dishes and some food. Also the dog had to sit in the passenger’s footwell. However, Henry had his transport box, so he had more space than Felix. I had to drive almost the whole way there because Felix had to work.

No electricity in the house

However, when we finally arrived at the house with the keys, the first problems started: Why isn’t the electricity working? We signed an electricity contract beforehand, of course. And electricity was essential in our house. Almost everything depended on it: Water, refrigerators, heating and, of course, electricity to charge your laptop! It was the first small “catastrophe”, firstly because we had no toilet, no water to wash our hands and secondly we couldn’t charge our almost empty laptop. We searched the entire house and couldn’t find a single main switch. It was terrible.

So we called Vattenfall and asked for the switch. In the end, we had to call Vattenfall three times and finally had a technician sent to us. And here it comes: The switch to the house was directly on the electricity pole outside the house. Crazy – we hadn’t expected that.

Anyway, the power finally went on. But the water still didn’t work. Beforehand, Felix had found an electrician who wanted to work for us. Some of them just hung up as soon as you started speaking in English…Well, our electrician came the same day to make an estimate. We had to replace the fuse box in the bathroom. It was located in the door to the bathroom. Furhtermore, he found out why the water was not working – The transformater of the water pump was broken.

However, it was pretty uncomfortable. You can’t really start a renovation in such circumstances.

No water in the house

Unfortunately, the electrician still couldn’t exchange the transformer. That day, I swept the house and tried to bring a little order into it. However, this was quite tedious, as the house hadn’t been tidied for years. The dust and dirt was firmly set and therefore I couldn’t get far without water. Furthermore, the first day ended for us in our sleeping bags in our current blue room. We had to brush our teeth and go to the toilet outside. Moreover, we ate dinner in town for the first few days, as it was simply too inconvenient to cook without water. Also, we bought a few bottles of still water at the supermarket. Therefore we were at least able to make coffee. Unfortunately, we discovered the outhouse by the lake too late, which would have been a nicer alternative.

We spent the weekend felling the first trees. Especially the two spruces directly at the house entrance on the north side were too close to the house. Felix felled them both quite quickly and without any problems. The house was swept and we went through all the rooms and looked around. We set up the kitchen a bit and made a nice place for ourselves outside in the garden. In the house it was dirty and dusty. The air was stagnant despite the constant ventilation. It smelled of the previous owners and of illness.

Enough! We will handle this ourselves:

However, we only survived two days without water. Then we organised the transformer the following Monday and thank god the electrician came right over and installed it. Afterwards we had running water, a toilet and a shower! It was really pure luxury. The bathroom was cleaned and put into operation. It was surprisingly good, despite the dusty chandelier that hung too far down so that you could touch it with your towel turban.

Now that we had electricity and water, we could take a short breather and start directly with the first renovation work.

Thus we cut down the birch tree directly by the veranda on the south side. It had severely damaged the gable of the roof. Unfortunately, we received quite a lot of criticism for this from some parts of the family. The argument was that we had removed something so beautiful. It is true that it looked beautiful. But it destroyed the roof and thus damaged the entire house. Therefore, the negative consequences of the beauty of this quite exceed what beauty is supposed to achieve.

The first container full of rubbish – Renovation Madness Level 55%

I don’t know how we did it all anymore.

Felix worked part-time the whole time and he didn’t have a 9-5 job, but at least 12 hours a day. I studied part-time and had a part-time job. Moreover, on top of that we cut down trees, mowed a jungle of lawns, got the water running, had appointments with craftsmen, got quotes for renovation tasks, cleared out rooms, scraped off disgusting old wallpaper, sorted through old photos, enjoyed the evening.

Maybe it was the boost of the sun. That’s really what’s so wonderful about Sweden and the scandinavian countries in the north: The sun. It was incredibly hot, the sun hardly ever set, and that was already at the beginning of June. The “sunsets” fade and it becomes a smooth transition to sunrise.

We have about two weeks in Sweden. In that time, the two of us really got a lot done. We started tearing down the dining room. Previously it was the bedroom of the previous owners. For years. As the wife of the preowner died of cancer here in the house the room smelled of death and disease. It was really toxic. Therefore, it was the best decision to start the renovation in this room and transform it.

I remember very well how careful and cautious we were with everything in the beginning. We were afraid of breaking something, of destroying something.

July – August 2020

Finally, in the middle of july, we moved. It was quite stressful and inconvenient. On the one hand, we completely misjudged how many things we had. On the other hand, the journey was exhausting and instead of catching our breath, the main renovation work was waiting for us.

We regretted a little that we didn’t use a moving service. Also, in the end, it would have been cheaper and we could have taken all our belongings with us. But that’s over now, and we still managed to move.

Before we moved, we arranged for craftsmen to renovate our chimney and repair two tiled stoves and a cast iron cooker. This work was done in June, just as we were packing our boxes. In retrospect, that was one of the best things we could have done! Because in winter we regularly heated the dining room and bedroom with wood.

Back in April I wrote an article about what our summer was like last year. You can read it here.

My husband’s father and his little brother helped us move. They were in Sweden with us for about two weeks and helped with the renovation. The entire time flashed by!

Thanks to this manpower, we were not only able to make great progress, but also to complete tasks that we would otherwise not have done. For example, the men brought down a large metal cupboard from the third floor, which we unfortunately could not disassemble. Moreover, my father-in-law took apart the entire kitchen and removed all the small nails from the panels. A real fuss job!

Living in the attic

The more we think about our house, the better we found it. Also the fact that it has three floors gives so much potential!

Ground floor

The ground floor was completely uninhabitable. The reasons for this were as follows: The guest toilet had been blocked for months and stank terribly. The room next to the kitchen used to be a bedroom and had been in the process of being remodelled since May. Moreover, we wanted to convert this room into a dining room and break up the wall between the two rooms. Then there were two passage rooms. One, our garden hall, was in bad condition, precisely because the guest toilet was located here. The entrance hall used to be a library and was ultra dusty.

Next was the large living room. The condition here was very interesting, as the previous owner had apparently planned and started a renovation here, but abandoned it and did not complete it. In this room we set up a makeshift kitchen. With two large tables as countertops. Two electric hobs and a fridge. We also stored our microwave and all the food there. Unfortunately there was no running water which made it a bit inconvenient. The crowning glory was when we found that mice lived in the room and we found several holes in the wooden floor. Many of our food items were completely eaten by the mice as we saw it too late.

First floor

The bathroom was on the first floor. It was in good condition. You could use it and there was hot water.
However, there was a strange thing: To get to the bathroom, you had to walk through two rooms. The passage to the bathroom was open, so you couldn’t close a door. But there was a door to the bathroom. But it was blocked and inside was the fuse box for the whole floor! In our opinion, this was really stupidly designed.

However, we chose a room as our bedroom, which was connected to another room by an open passage. The study was supposed to go there. In addition, there was a door on the other side of this room that led into another bedroom. This room was again connected to a room of the same size. We decided to renovate the bedroom and the study. The other two rooms were in good condition or in such a condition that it was only necessary to wallpaper them. The advantage of our choice of room was that it was all on the left side of the house. The kitchen, dining room, bedroom and bathroom were all there and were heated by the same chimney!

The attic

On the top floor there are a total of three bedrooms and a passage room. Two bedrooms were connected to each other. We lived and slept here in the summer of 2020. At the beginning we had our mattress, which was just on the floor. A large air mattress and a single bed. The day before we went back to germany in June, we tidied up and cleaned the attic. In the meantime, it has changed completely, as we got rid of furniture and also added new ones.

These are all expose photos taken by Mikael Ackelman. However, Leva&Bo wrote an article about the house. By the way, it was one of the top 3 most sought-after properties in the region.

A small impression from the endless renovation ToDo list

renovation of an old house
ToDoDoneComment
Completely remove old kitchen and expose walls and floorYESGood condition of the panels and the wooden floor
Sorting all books in the entrance hall and remove the shelvesYESNot all the shelves could be dismantled. That’s why we ended up leaving three of them. We were able to carefully dismantle two and put them up in another room. Unfortunately, the others had to be destroyed and disposed of.
Scraping off the facade and remove the old paintYESWe started with it, but this work still took ages.
Start renovating the workroom. Expose the windows and remove the wallpaper.YESThe windows here were painted black and hidden with wooden panels. The worst task in this room was the floor. It was painted blue!
Dismantling and disposing of the camperYESMy father-in-law had shown the initiative and completed this gruesome task within one day.
Renovate the facade – Find a craftsmanYESThe long sides of the house were in good condition. They “only” needed to be repainted. The short ones, on the other in contrast, had to be completely replaced. Some of the birds lived in them!
Installing a new power system in the houseYESEspecially remove the fuse box from the bathroom door.

However, this is only a small part of our planned renovation tasks. Or rather, of tasks we had to do. The amazing thing was that we had a lot planned and managed to do even more!

Our renovation helpers – Family & Friends

As mentioned before, my husband’s father and his little brother helped us. Both of them were with us for the longest part of the summer. An addition, my maid of honour came to the north from berlin for a week. Furthermore, my mother and sister were with us for about a week. Both of them helped a lot. The most unexpected task was done by my mother: She pruned a lilac in the garden. This gave us a lot of space for the terrace! We hadn’t been aware of how large the space was until then.

September – October 2020

Facade Renovation

By receiving this fantastic support, we were able to implement and start a lot of projects. It eliminated most of our tasks completely.

The renovation work on the facade began directly in July. Our facade was in two states. The short sides of the house were badly rotten. Even birds were nesting in the facade. The long sides, on the other hand, were in better condition. The north side was painted in three colours but was in the best condition.

So we decided to completely replace and insulate the short sides. The long ones, on the other hand, just to scrape them off and repaint them. This way we could save money and at the same time address the main problems. If you want to know more about our facade renovation you can find the article here.

Roof renovation

The work on the roof began in mid August, but was not completed until the beginning of October. However, here we made a huge error in estimation. Also the craftsmen were not very cooperative. The facades and roof work were then finished at the same time, so that the scaffolding could be dismantled directly.

Indoor Renovation Tasks

The work outside was in full force and inside, of course, it didn’t stop.

New electric system & heating

After all the walls had been removed in the summer, craftsmen came and insulated some of the walls from the inside, then it was time for wallpapering and painting. After this process, our electricians and also our plumbers came and installed the new systems. Because before there were only electric radiators in the house. Also the stoves hadn’t been active for years either. The most successful thing was that the fuse box was removed from the bathroom door. So you could now enter the bathroom from the hallway and also start renovating it!

Kitchen

As already mentioned, we started renovating the kitchen and dining room in May. In July, my father-in-law disposed of all the furniture and removed the walls and the plastic mat. What emerged was a well-preserved wooden floor!

In July we opened up the wall. We decided against removing the wall completely because the bathroom is directly above it. Over the summer we sanded and repainted the panels. We also cleaned the ceiling and unfortunately had to paint it again because the contrast to the ceiling in the dining room was so great. The floor was sanded and finally the kitchen ordered by us was delivered.

We built almost the entire kitchen together. Only the worktop was cut to size for us by our craftsmen. However, the kitchen wasn’t finished all at once. I think the process took a total of 3 weeks. Among other things, the worktop for the kitchen island wasn’t delivered until later.

One of my first posts is about our kitchen renovation. You can read it here.

https://ivy-green.com/kitchen-remodel-planning-tips/

Bedroom

Also in these months, our bedroom was finally finished. This was also necessary because the last roof work consisted of installing a new hatch in the roof. So we had to move into our real bedroom. However, you can’t imagine how relieved we were to finally sleep in a bed!

November – Dezember 2020

Finally, we did a little less over the winter. The temperatures allowed us to be active in the garden until November. Some trees were felled. Here we again received active support from the family. The kitchen was also finally finished. As the months went by, more decoration was added, but the basic structure had been in place since around the end of October/beginning of November.

One project we set out to complete before the end of the year was the garden hall. It was in terrible condition and was the main passageway in the house. However, it took a few weekends, and even after that there was always something small to be done. Only now, this summer, have I managed to paint the windows.

New Year’s Eve

Also, it was the first christmas in our house in Sweden. We spent it as a couple (and with our animals). Our neighbours came over at lunchtime with a little present. In the evening we cooked a great roast deer together. However, it was quiet but also like nothing we have experienced before. Over New Year, my mother and sister came to visit. Also a good friend from Germany, whom I have known for over 10 years, visited us.

But the turn of the year also showed us our stress levels all over again. Everything we had achieved during the year and all the pressure still weighed on our shoulders. In addition, the pandemic put pressure on our comfort. It was hard not to see the family as often as usual. Furthermore, we underestimate the dark season very much. It really creeps into you unnoticed and pulls at your mood. You quickly feel overwhelmed and exhausted. But we have learned from our mistakes and our inexperience. This winter we are prepared.

January – Febuary 2021

Since the exams were coming up at the beginning of january and Felix had a lot to do at work, we concentrated on work and university in the coming months. I also got the opportunity to do an internship in a museum in our area from February to March. It was a great experience where I was able to learn new skills. Also I started the blog in January.The first articles followed and I rebuilt the site a few times.

Nevertheless, we also did something in the house during this time. However, most of it was actually more planning and research. On the one hand, my preparation for the garden seasion and the collection of decoration ideas. On the other hand, we did small tasks, such as tidying up the attic again and adding another single bed.

We also put together our renovation goals for the year:

  • Cut down the remaining trees
  • Dig up the garden
  • Plant a vegetable garden
  • Build a terrace
  • Make paths
  • Plant a hedge for privacy
  • Planting berry bushes
  • Build a parking space on the other side of the house
  • Build the veranda on the front side (with balcony above)
  • Empty the 1st floor of the shed
  • Install the two soapstone stoves on the top floor
  • Renovate the living room
  • Repair the back porch (paint and replace roofing felt)

March – April 2021

As soon as the weather got better, we were only to be found in the garden. Hedges and shrubs were planted, flower beds created, cherry trees ordered, seeds sown, quotations obtained from craftsmen and finally the materials ordered.

During a holiday in Germany we found a great wallpaper and matching colours for our living room. Also Felix built a large wooden terrace within one day!

Spring came really fast. Except for a few days, we had great sunny weather, now and then there were a few snowflakes, but nothing remained. Among other things, it was even possible to go on a bike tour to a nearby castle. There we had a wonderful picnic. We also celebrated some of our birthdays in bars and restaurants in Stockholm.

However, plans for the summer have been made and the whole family is planning to visit us soon.

May 2021

May once again brought us many positive developments. Felix has now been given a swedish contract and is officially allowed to stay in Sweden but work for his team in Germany. Work on the veranda also began. This is now in full swing and will be completed in the next few days.

Furthermore, we had our 1st wedding anniversary last weekend. We celebrated it with a weekend in Öebro and a bar tour. Also we viewed the house we wanted to buy at the time. We were both relieved when we saw the situation on the spot. It was really remote and would have been busier and more expensive. We were very lucky, so to speak, that it was snatched up. On the other hand, we probably would have pulled the plug ourselves as soon as we had seen it on the spot.

However, we are very happy that we discovered our house by chance and decided to look at it. All our efforts have also paid off. Not only do we live in an incredibly beautiful house, but we have also given it a significant increase in value.

No risk – No fun

As you can see, we took many risks last year. We were incredibly lucky with many of them. For example, we got a loan for the house and the renovation. That we were able to buy the house at all (there were many other interested parties and one lady wanted to outbid us at the last moment!). On the other hand, we had a good estimate of the probability that everything would work out. We calculated the costs well, even though we had to borrow some money in the end because the roof renovation became unexpectedly expensive.

But I think it all worked out because together we are a great team and we trust each other. Also, we are both the type to follow through with a task and we complement each other very well. I can do the organisational tasks very well, Felix is super precise and patient.

Before- After- Renovation- Compilation

In the coming weeks I will expand the gallery with the remaining rooms.

What is your favourite room? And do you have any questions or comments for us?

Until next time,

Signature Ivy Green