We are building a granny flat.
Although, because my mother wisely married a man some years younger than herself it is, in reality, a flat for Grandpa too. They are both moving in as soon as we finish.*
Isn’t the word “finish” lovely?
Much nicer than the word “bankrupt”. Or “homicidal”.
We all know the dangers of renovations.
My husband and I have always agreed – noticing our decaying bathrooms and the doors falling off the kitchen cupboards and the sag and strange stain on the ceiling just over the bed – that were it not for the certain knowledge that our marriage would not survive a renovation, we would do something about it.
So WHY did I think building a granny flat was any different to a renovation?
Well, it was the old garage under the house, not strictly part of the house and therefore the impact on us and our lives would be minimal. Wouldn’t it?
I thought the same about having a baby. You have a life, you pause to give birth, then your life continues as it always has, except with the addition of a baby. Boy, did I find out the hard way. Ditto granny flat.
We have our life. We have had pause to have chat to an architect and then our existence continues as usual – except with the addition of a builder and his 500 merry men. ** And their 2000 pieces of construction equipment specifically designed by rogue heavy metal bands to blow your eardrums apart and deconstruct your brain.
Deliberately, this information is nowhere shown on the plan. In fact, none of the pain of a reno is shown on the plan. The plan bears no relation to the product.
The plan is the most dangerous part of a renovation. The plan is a ticking time bomb, disguised as a luscious foldout from Beautiful Brides and Bathrooms magazine.
It was my fault. Because in the beginning I viewed the plan as the “fun” part.
It’s the grand vision. It’s the dream. Imagining the layout and drawing a plan is brilliant fun. It’s like playing house when you are a kid and you can see the beautiful new bathroom – no mould, just gleaming tiles and taps like a Reece catalogue. The kitchen in your mind is slick and shiny and fancy and soooo much bench space, you can see yourself doing a My Kitchen Rules.
Everything in your mind’s eye is ideal and when you look at the plan you don’t see squiggly pencil marks – you see sliding cupboards and glass coffee tables and schmick perfectly-positioned furniture, soft lights and deep, shady verandahs. You see a photo shoot for Retirement Living with Grandma and Grandpa swanning about baking sponges and pottering in the potplants.
I cannot emphasise enough how dangerous this vision thing is. So very, very fricking dangerous.
It’s like bushwalking towards a cliff and only seeing the view.
“Oh look, isn’t the sun on those mountains magnifi…aaaaaaarhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Poomf.
Understanding a plan is like understanding a map. Every squiggly line carries a secret meaning and it could mean a cliff or it could mean an extra $40,000 in engineering fees.
“Oh look, mum and dad can lie in bed and see the garden if we just remove that post… arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Ka-ching!
I didn’t even know you would need engineering for a granny flat. I thought engineering was for space programs and suspension bridges and Stephen Conroy’s ego.
But then there are a lot of things I don’t know.
For example, I don’t know why the Chinese can build a perfect replica of Albury or a high- tech city housing 20 million people, in the time it takes to get approval from the local council for a two-room granny flat.
I suppose I thought I knew a lot because I am the daughter of DIY expert who has always built his own houses and it didn’t look hard and it didn’t cost anything much and also because I have watched every home renovation and building programme that has ever been on tele and it all looked pretty straightforward.
I have seen Noni Hazelhurst concrete an entire driveway without getting a spot on her cardie.
I have watched three people on Selling Houses Australia, renovate an entire house in just under an hour (with ad breaks) all for the cost of an organic pineapple.
The big question is: Why did I believe them?
I have also seen Man vs. Wild and never been tempted to drink my own urine.
My journey has not been without small wins. I have acquired some useful knowledge. For example, yesterday I stood with the builder and a couple of his mild men around a small hole in the ground discussing a pipe we could see poking out of the side.
We discussed where the pipe came from and where it went. We discussed if we could move the pipe and what would happen if we did move the pipe or what the pipe actually had in it and if we should get a plumber with a camera (Ka-ching!) to come and show us where the pipe went and what was in it and whether it was worth disturbing this pipe to make way for a step and if we could perhaps go over the pipe or under the pipe or around the pipe or if it wouldn’t be better to perhaps move the step (Ka-ching!) which came out from a door which would have to be moved too, ( Ka-ching, Kaaaa-ching!!).
We stood looking into this hole for one and half hours.
So I understand now that when I see council workers standing around leaning on their shovels looking into a hole…it’s for a very good reason.
That hole is full of money.
*Maybe. If I am still living there myself. If the house hasn’t been classified a crime scene.
**OK I exaggerate, they are not “merry”. They are merely mild and competent and make artisans from the 16th century look like builders from the 21st century. Which makes me want to walk around the site whacking them all with a Scanpan.
MORE ARTICLES BY JEAN KITTSON
*Jean Kittson is a much-loved Australian performer, writer and comedienne with a thirty-something year career in theatre, print, radio and television. You can follow her on Twitter: @jeankittson.