Setting the scene…
For reasons that have escaped me, I’ve rather foolishly been working on a rather large and ambitious (for me!) bit of DIY lately – sorting out some storage for the loft bedroom .
I wanted to record how it went as someone might find it useful to see how I approached it – either as inspiration for tackling a similar project themselves, or (much more likely) as a cautionary tale showing how not to do it.
It’s also good for me to record the whole experience so I can look back in future to see what I can do when I put my mind to it. It will also hopefully serve as a warning to my future self to not to try something too ambitious with limited time again, but there’s no guarantee that will work…
As this was something of a mammoth job for me, I’ve split it up into three posts, as that’s sort of how I approached it – planning (this one), breaking the back of it (tomorrow’s installment), then sorting out the last bits that I’d conned myself into thinking would be quick (to follow in a couple of days time).
By doing it as a trilogy of nonsense, it might help build up the tension – ‘will our stupid, dishevelled hero get it finished in time???’ – for dramatic effect!
It probably won’t though, as I’m assuming most of you can see pictures, or if you follow me on Instagram (or the hashtag #philsfrolicsloftproject), know how this turns out, but humour me, my heads frazzled!
I’ve posted before about getting more ambitious about my DIY and making more things for around these house using the limited tools and skills at my disposal.
The idea was that after making a few bits and bobs (bath board, small shelf unit etc.) I’d keep building up my experience and abilities gradually, learning the techniques and skills needed in an organic way.
If the journey were to be a graph, it would look something like this – gently creeping up over time, like a leisurely stroll along a slow moving river, letting me enjoy the views in a relaxed way, with no sudden climbs to make the experience too arduous.
Then, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure about, I decided to sort out the loft room…
When we bought the house, the loft had already been converted to use as a bedroom rather than somewhere to dump stuff you only see around Christmas when taking down, or putting back, the decorations.
We’d given it a lick of paint and put in a bed, the desk I’d upcycled and some bits and bobs to make it a nice room for when family and friends come to stay.
However, there was also a pile of boxes that had been sorted through, but still hadn’t found a proper home. The only storage up there was a weirdly small section of the eaves (it’s on my to do list!), and an odd MFI-style wardrobe that had been made ‘built in’ by sticking some shelves between it and the wall.
We’d had a carpenter round to quote on replacing it with a wall length unit and shelves, and got quoted £1,200.
Not having that to hand (one day, I’ll work out how people do!) we started saving, but something always cropped up, and growing kids need more food and new clothes, so it was looking like it would be a few years before that would be possible.
Then I started getting more ambitious with DIY…
I carry a small brown exercise book around with me, which has square lined pages I use to doodle ideas for things I one day might get around to making.
As well doodles of things like plans for The Girl’s wardrobe I hope to get round to at some point, plans for the bedroom (not like that!!!) and the aforementioned shelf unit, this had a rough sketch of what the loft unit could look like.
Whilst up there looking for something or other, I decided I needed to update my doodle by getting accurate measurements for the space, rather than simple sketch I’d done.
This led to a scale drawing going into the book, with lots of side notes and scrawls about details it would be good to have if I were ever able to get it done.
From this, the gem of an idea was born, and I started scouring our local timber merchant’s website for what they stocked and prices.
More doodles were made as ideas were tested on paper and dismissed (too expensive, too rubbish, too difficult), websites and forums were scoured looking for advice about everything from the right thickness for the cabinet carcass (all the sides), to different door making techniques; from how to secure in place to best screws for different materials.
After a bit of thought (well, a lot really, I’m an amateur), I had a plan – a basic wall length base cabinet unit made up of three sections with a pair of doors each, topped with a couple of rustic looking planks, with a couple more as individual shelves above.
I’d just need to make the cabinets myself, having never done anything like that before.
And the doors. Which needed to have v-groove cladding to match the wall.
And it turned out the wall wasn’t fully clad behind the wardrobe after all, so that will need to be fixed.
And for some reason the cladding edges were reversed halfway along, so instead of male to female joins, they were male to male, if that makes sense. This meant that half of the otherwise-fine-looking cladding on the wall had to come off and be redone.
And I’d have to accurately cut large sheets of MDF for the carcass (never done before) with only a crappy second hand circular saw (only used one less than half a dozen times before).
And the main times I could do anything on it would be evenings and weekends (when not otherwise engaged) as I’m at work during the day. Even then, I couldn’t be too noisy as the kids would be asleep the floor below me.
And I had to keep costs down as I’m a public sector worker with two small children who insist on eating and growing.
It’s fine, I thought, there were six weeks ‘til my parents were due to visit, so I started ripping the wardrobe/shelf combo out, thinking I’d have ages to get it done.
Then, I was politely reminded that in fact we had a relative over in a couple of weeks, and some friends staying a week or so after that.
Since the ripping out had uncovered the cladding issue, as well as a lack of suitable joists I hadn’t factored in when thinking about the shelves, this news did not fill me with joy.
This did not please me.
But, having spent so long researching and figuring things out, I was pretty sure it was doable in the limited free time I had – just needed to get cracking!
Would I muster the energy to get the job done? Would I have enough time before people needed to sleep in a room that wasn’t full of crap? Could I complete a project beyond my comfort level without needing a trip to A&E?
Find out, next time…