For a new look in an old home

For a new look in an old home

For a new look in an old home

Right from sourcing raw materials on your own to getting more bang for your buck when it comes to labour, renovating your old home needn’t really be a daunting task, suggest Vinita and H S Balasubramanya.

For many, renovation generally means pulling down the walls in the home and recreating some elements from scratch. And when contractors don’t space their work or workers properly, it turns into a chaos. Projects take a lot more time to complete and there’s no sense of economics in the costs involved. To help you bring some order to the process, here are some suggestions on how to renovate some of the spaces in your home, along with information on sourcing the materials.

Sturdy kitchens

* Kitchens of the ‘60s had concrete counters and a large funnel-shaped chimney just above the stove. The easiest thing would be to remove everything and have a clear space for cabinets and cupboards fitted with standard-size trays or baskets and topped with a 20mm-granite counter. 

* If granite counters and sinks were |installed at some point of time, it is worthwhile retaining them since the 40mm granite used before the time of modular kitchens do not crack easily.

Besides, unlike doors or windows, used granite has very little or no resale value.

* 40mm granite slabs necessarily need a supporting wall. This may decrease the available space below the counter by a few inches requiring customised fabrication of baskets and trays.

* If the granite sink is being replaced with a stainless steel one in the kitchen, consider moving the former to the utility area.

Dazzling bathrooms

* Decades ago, when bathrooms were fitted with a big brass vessel housed in a brick fireplace to heat water, lofts were made to store firewood. With the availability of geysers, the entire fireplace and the loft above it can be demolished. Instead a loft can be made in the bedrooms for extra storage space.

* Consider using granite corner-wedges or shelves in the bathroom instead of more expensive plastic or chrome fittings. A good tile-layer should be able to incorporate these when installing the wall tiles.

Beautiful bedrooms

* Concrete lofts can be made at a height of two feet from the ceiling. Alternatively, fabricated metal lofts can also be installed at the same height. Installation should be done before the floor tiles are laid to prevent any iron dust from landing on the same.

* It is also a good time to fabricate additional storage lofts or shelves in the utility or garage areas.

Doors & windows

Many old houses had square window boxes (especially in the front) with the grill embedded onto the outside of the same. If the sides or bottom of the boxes have been removed, new grills will have to be fabricated for the windows. Then again, if the primary aim of the renovation is to allow more light, window grill(s) will have to be installed.

* Get the window grills made on a rectangular metal frame, which can be fitted on to the existing wooden frames. Unlike the window frames of today, older frames used to be embedded a good six inches into the walls and it is not advisable to remove them.

* When ordering new window grills, make sure that they match the existing ones in pattern.

* Ensure that all the fabricated metals have been coated with rust-proof paint before being fixed on the frames.

Hues of a home

Painters normally ask for a house to be handed to them once all the other workers are done. No one wants cement dust or fingerprints on a newly painted surface.

* Choose neutral, light colours if natural light is poor and to give the impression of a larger space.

* Installation of windows should be completed so that they can be closed at the end of the day. Ambient dust can spoil the freshly painted surface.

* Ensure the electrical connections are completed and are working satisfactorily. Painters will insist on having bright light (preferably tubelights) from more than one angle to detect undulations on the wall.

* A good painter will spend considerable time taping newspaper on the edge of the tile-lines in the bathrooms, kitchen and utility areas. Fans should be covered and decorative light fixtures removed. The edge of the modular switch plates should be protected using masking tape.

* Ensure the floor and skirting is free of paint spots after the job is done.

The source

Renovation done with a contract for both labour and material becomes an expensive proposition. A little homework on the cost of materials cost and sourcing them on
your own goes a long way on trimming the budget.

* Masonry: Cement and gravel (jelly stones) have a fairly standard cost. However, sand being expensive and varying in cost, it is worth the effort of sourcing it directly from the lorry owners. Seek out the nearest bulk supplier of sand and bargain heavily for the required amount. Ask the contractor or mason for the grey-coloured industrial sand (which is easily available).

* Electrical connections: Seek out the wholesale dealer or distributor for the brand that you have decided on for elements like electrical switches, wire, exhaust fans, fans etc, as these are going to be in your home for at least the next 20 years or so. Wholesalers generally offer massive discounts.

* Sanitary connections: Decide on the washbasin, commode, taps, geysers and other fixtures for the bathroom and kitchen sink, since most plumbers ask for the same in order to mark the correct positions of the taps and drain.

* Framing right: Wooden doors and windows are an option if both the wood and the carpenter are seasoned and good. Otherwise consider installing fibre reinforced plastic or glass reinforced plastic (FRP/GRP) doors and frames, which are not affected by humidity and heat.

* Flooring & tiling: Source the flooring and tiling material from a dealer who is not too far away. Should the need for more material arise at short notice (and workers always inform you at the last minute), it can be procured easily.

Fruitful labour

Once the renovation plan is finalised and the material to be used is decided upon, the right labour needs to be identified in order to execute the plan. The basic requirement of the renovation will need removal and building of walls, plastering of the grooves made by the electrician or plumber for installation of new switches/pipes and laying of new floors (not the tiling). So, a contractor who is a good mason and has a good plumber and electrician will do for a start.

For all the other jobs, labour can be sourced from different places. For instance, outlets that sell tiles will provide you tile-layers who will charge the market price and will not have to pay a commission to the contractor. Similarly, reliable painters and fabricators can be hired independent of the contractor.

For jobs like painting and fabrication, always get at least three to four quotes from different dealers and then take the final call. Most people have a problem of unfinished renovation when an advance is paid. It is best to pay in small installments up to the half-way mark collating the amount of work properly finished. The remaining 50% payment should be made after the entire body of work is completed. For instance, make sure that the tiling contractor finishes grouting both the floor tiles and the wall tiles completely before making the final payment.

So, go on, give your home that much-needed change. There’s no reason to be intimidated by it.