Couple transforms derelict cottage into modern home for £12,000

Heather Riches and her partner Sam Heemsbergen saw potential in a Worcestershire cottage that needed a little bit of love.

After purchasing the house in 2018 for £181,500, the couple got to work transforming the run-down property. 

Now the pair have a cosy, modern home and are thrilled with their efforts – and they’ve managed to complete the whole project for less than £12,000.

However, it hasn’t been an easy process – especially considering the cottage wasn’t fit for them to live in at first, with no sewage system, central heating or working toilets.

Freelance illustrator Heather and tree surgeon Sam had a lot of work on their hands, but wanted to renovate the house themselves – to keep costs low.

Thankfully, they also had a helping hand from Heather’s father – a trained carpenter. What’s more, his electrician friend assisted with all the rewiring.

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First, the pair insulated the exterior walls before plastering them, then installed a new sewage treatment and drainage system – digging everything out by hand.

In the living room, Heather and Sam removed the 1970s fireplace, installed a wood burner and put in another layer of glass on the windows, to make double glazing for extra warmth.

They also created an open plan kitchen and dining area, and painted cabinets and worktops with leftover oak paint from Heather’s parents’ previous home renovation.

After, they installed floor tiles, purchased from Facebook Marketplace, and a brand new sink – which was a Christmas gift.

The thrifty couple then put in tiles and cladding in the bathroom and insulated all the bedrooms before painting. 

Heather, 27, tells Jam Press: ‘We managed to buy a lot of things second-hand, such as the old tiles for the porch and bricks.

‘We found reclaimed pieces with a subtle patina were much more in keeping with the house.

‘For us, the most challenging part was financing the renovation. We have learned so much along the way and think we might have avoided some costly mistakes if we planned the work a bit better.

‘In an ideal world, we would have fitted central heating first before plastering the whole house, but for us, this wasn’t financially viable.

‘Physically, the most challenging part was digging a three-metre deep hole for the sewage treatment tank and our least favourite job was the plastering.’

But, two years on, and the duo are thrilled with the outcome.

Heather adds: ‘There are still so many things we plan on doing, but after looking at old photos of what the house was like it makes me realise how much we’ve accomplished over the years.’

The 27-year-old’s advice for anyone thinking of doing the same is to try and budget for unexpected costs and to invest in the right equipment.

She says: ‘If you’re learning new skills, start on any rooms you don’t plan on using much, practice your plastering skills in a cupboard or a spare room so when you do any work on a room you will be in all the time, like the kitchen, it will be a lot neater.

‘Plan to do jobs in blocks, book time off work to try and complete jobs instead of cramming things in over one weekend.

‘Also, invest in the right tools beforehand. This may cost more initially but it will make a project much easier and often give a better outcome.’

Cost breakdown of the renovation:

Insulating the walls and loft – £600

Plasterboard and plaster – £600

Skirting and architraves – £350

Sewage treatment and drainage – £3,000

Paint – £500

Bathroom tiles and cladding – £200

Building materials for kitchen inc roof – £2000

Stone drive – £900

Electrician – £650

Doors stripped – £120

Upstairs windows and fittings – £900

Kitchen – £500

Carport – £1,000

Garden fence and gate – £350

Total £11,670

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