The bodging cycle
All too often I hear potential clients say; “as we plan to sell in a year or two, we don’t want to spend a lot, so are looking for a cheap fix”. This comment usually follows a discussion about ripping out or dismantling a previous cheaply put together, or poorly thought through project, that had been completed last year by the previous owner. One reason for this could be the British obsession with house prices and moving which is not shared by our European neighbours. The approach of not spending more on a property than its current value, coupled with the British property ladder, where people live in a house until they outgrow it or earn more, leads to a succession of owners undertaking cheap or bodged makeovers.
Replacing kitchens and bathrooms is a common makeover or cheap fix. New owners rip out the existing kitchen because it is not to their taste and install a kitchen of their choice from a DIY store’s budget range because they are selling next year. Next year the new homeowner will move in to the house, but take a dislike to the newly installed budget kitchen and so the whole cycle continues.
This cycle is not solely limited to kitchens and bathrooms, conservatories are erected as a cheaper option to a proper extension, in the belief that they will provide that extra space for a year or two “before we move”. Extensions are often added on with little or no thought for how the layout of the house will work, often with one of the original rooms having no windows and little consideration as to how the aesthetics of the house will work. Corners are cut on materials and finishes all in a bid to save money and time. I have come across partial loft conversions where the owners and the builder have cut corners in the belief that as long as a staircase was not installed, the new attic room would not need to comply with regulations.
Closer to home, I am plagued by the previous owners cheap fixes. I discovered during the first winter living in my current house that the boiler couldn’t get the house warm. The services of a heating engineer confirmed my suspicions that the boiler couldn’t cope with the house in its extended form, with the two single storey extensions which had recently been grafted on by the previous owner. More worryingly, whilst in the middle of shelling out £3,000 for a new boiler and heating system, I discovered that the roofs of the extensions had been constructed with no insulation and that the only way to insulate them was to remove areas of roof tiles and battens.
Shortly after the boiler installation, the dishwasher in the kitchen packed in. Removing the kick panel to the cupboard door that covered the machine, revealed that the dishwasher had been installed prior to the floor being tiled. This resulted in the dishwasher being too tall to pull out without either first removing the kitchen sink and worktop or the tiled floor. The bodges continued into the garden, stone paving patios which looked amazing on viewing the property proved all too quickly to have been laid with little or no cement in the pointing or beneath the stones or compaction of the sub base. Today, a couple of years on, the paving is dangerously uneven with rocking stones, loose stones and no pointing to speak of. The only solution is to rip it all up and start again. And so the list goes on of sorting out the previous bodges.
I like to think that I know a lot about houses, but what I don’t possess is x-ray glasses to see whether there is insulation in a sealed loft, or a crystal ball to know whether cement in sufficient quantities was added to the sand before bedding the stone paving or whether the base had been compacted. I certainly don’t think about removing kick panels in a kitchen when viewing a property to see whether the tiling extends to the wall. These things I take for granted as being the correct way to do something rather than simply being a bodge for a quick fix prior to moving.
Take a long term view
With the housing market in the doldrums and homeowners staying put for longer, should we not take a more long term view on improvements and forget the cheap fix? Yes, the home is likely to be your greatest asset and you don’t want to be out of pocket, but it is also your home, the place that you live and spend most of your time; it is not simply an investment. Not worrying about whether the new buyer would like your colour scheme, or whether knocking two rooms into one would add value, frees you to concentrate on what improvements are important to you. Projects you have in mind can be carried out over a longer period and not simply rushed to be undertaken quickly before selling up. With a long term approach quality can only be improved, unless of course you are happy sorting out any bodges that you make today in three or four years time. Finally, when you have completed your project, live and enjoy your accomplishment for many years to come.