Are you proud of your lockdown DIY? Then read these stories of taking on an utter wreck

For many, weeks in lockdown spent staring at the same ceiling cracks and dated decor is enough to spark a desire to carry out home improvements. 

Few, however, will go as far as Emma Meese who this month revealed she bought an abandoned ‘crack den’ in Cardiff last inhabited by squatters and transformed it into a stunning home, now on the market at £875,000. 

So is taking on a wreck a pleasure — or a world of pain? Samantha Brick spoke to women who did just that.   

BOUGHT FOR: £415,000

RENOVATION COSTS: £250,000

NOW WORTH: £1 million

Digital marketer Lucy Nash, 40, is married to Dan, 37, managing director of a glass company. They live in Birmingham with their daughter Mabel, two

Digital marketer Lucy Nash, 40, is married to Dan, 37, managing director of a glass company. They live in Birmingham with their daughter Mabel, two

Digital marketer Lucy Nash, 40, is married to Dan, 37, managing director of a glass company. They live in Birmingham with their daughter Mabel, two

She says: For seven years, we lived opposite the house — an end-of-row three-storey terrace. I knew it well enough to know that it was in a bad state

She says: For seven years, we lived opposite the house — an end-of-row three-storey terrace. I knew it well enough to know that it was in a bad state

The home is now used for photoshoots so pays for itself

The home is now used for photoshoots so pays for itself

She says: For seven years, we lived opposite the house — an end-of-row three-storey terrace. I knew it well enough to know that it was in a bad state

Digital marketer Lucy Nash, 40, is married to Dan, 37, managing director of a glass company. They live in Birmingham with their daughter Mabel, two. 

She says: For seven years, we lived opposite the house — an end-of-row three-storey terrace. I knew it well enough to know that it was in a bad state.

The roof clearly needed work, slates were falling off and windows had cracks in them. Dan and I then lived in a two-up, two-down that we had renovated.

When the ‘for sale’ sign went up, I managed to get us a peek inside. We were shocked — it hadn’t been touched for at least 40 years. Apparently, the late owner had given up on living in the main house and resided in an outbuilding.

Despite the walls that wobbled when you touched them and the all-pervading smell of damp, walking around it we could see the potential. We’re massive Grand Design fans and had a vision of what we wanted to do with it.

The general consensus among our family and friends was that we were mad — but we got the keys in August 2017 and began work.

We budgeted for professional help. As well as sorting the damp, the roof had to come off and the rear was extended.

We spent our first night in our home in June 2018. The front is a typical Victorian terrace and we’ve kept all of the original features. It has a formal front reception room, playroom, large kitchen extension with utility and downstairs loo.

The first floor has two bedrooms, a nursery, laundry room and family bathroom. The top floor is a master bedroom with large en suite.

These days, our home is used for interior shoots, so it pays for itself. 

BOUGHT FOR: £250,000

RENOVATION COSTS: £60,000

NOW WORTH: £390,000

Social media business owner Jenny Bruce, 40, is married to Kevin, 40, an accountant. She said everyone was horrified when they bought the property

Social media business owner Jenny Bruce, 40, is married to Kevin, 40, an accountant. She said everyone was horrified when they bought the property

Social media business owner Jenny Bruce, 40, is married to Kevin, 40, an accountant. She said everyone was horrified when they bought the property 

The kitchen was a no-go area with emergency tape to stop you from entering, so you didn't fall through what was left of floorboards

The kitchen was a no-go area with emergency tape to stop you from entering, so you didn't fall through what was left of floorboards

The kitchen was a no-go area with emergency tape to stop you from entering, so you didn’t fall through what was left of floorboards

My favourite room is the kitchen-diner, which has a wood burner. Downstairs is all open plan but rooms can be closed off

My favourite room is the kitchen-diner, which has a wood burner. Downstairs is all open plan but rooms can be closed off

My favourite room is the kitchen-diner, which has a wood burner. Downstairs is all open plan but rooms can be closed off

Social media business owner Jenny Bruce, 40, is married to Kevin, 40, an accountant. They have three daughters, Charlotte, seven, Flora, five and Anna, two, and live in Midlothian. 

She says: Everyone was horrified when I described the house we had bought. The kitchen was a no-go area with emergency tape to stop you from entering, so you didn’t fall through what was left of floorboards.

Kevin and I had spent time working in London and New York before returning home to Midlothian, where we were renting. For what we wanted, a generous-sized family home, we were priced out of the market.

When I first saw our house online, I sent it to Kevin as a joke, saying: ‘Look at this wreck!’ But, one day, I decided to drive past to see what state it was in.

Its condition was even worse than I thought, but it was an Arts and Crafts architect-built house from the 1920s with three good-size bedrooms.

Our offer of £250,000 was accepted and we got the keys in July 2016. We gave ourselves three months to make it habitable so that we could move in. Our to-do list was endless, including removing the downstairs floorboards, putting in central heating and replacing the bathroom. We employed local electricians, plumbers and a joiner.

My favourite room is the kitchen-diner, which has a wood burner. Downstairs is all open plan but rooms can be closed off.

Am I tempted to do it again? No. It was good fun but this is our forever home. 

BOUGHT FOR: £290,000

RENOVATION COSTS: £500,000

NOW WORTH: £875,000

Psychologist Sophie Smith is married to Joe who runs a tech company. They live in the South West of England

Psychologist Sophie Smith is married to Joe who runs a tech company. They live in the South West of England

Psychologist Sophie Smith is married to Joe who runs a tech company. They live in the South West of England

Psychologist Sophie Smith is married to Joe who runs a tech company. They live in the South West of England. 

She says: We bought our home at auction without ever going inside.

We had been living in a rented flat, and were looking for a renovation project, when we spotted the barn online. Even though it was fairly disgusting, it was the most downloaded property on the auction site. We thought it had potential.

The first time we saw inside was the day we got the keys. It was more rundown than we expected and it smelled of mould.

We had been living in a rented flat, and were looking for a renovation project, when we spotted the barn online. Even though it was fairly disgusting, it was the most downloaded property on the auction site

We had been living in a rented flat, and were looking for a renovation project, when we spotted the barn online. Even though it was fairly disgusting, it was the most downloaded property on the auction site

We had been living in a rented flat, and were looking for a renovation project, when we spotted the barn online. Even though it was fairly disgusting, it was the most downloaded property on the auction site

We have tried to keep the character of the building. It has a modern feel but we have kept the rustic charm of exposed beams and a wood-burning stove

We have tried to keep the character of the building. It has a modern feel but we have kept the rustic charm of exposed beams and a wood-burning stove

We have tried to keep the character of the building. It has a modern feel but we have kept the rustic charm of exposed beams and a wood-burning stove

A former council building that had been derelict for ten years, it was a dumping ground for everything from loos to building materials. Outside was a paradise for graffiti artists.

Inside, it was dark, dingy and with lots of spider webs. I was very jumpy.

Our bid was successful in February 2017 but it was a listed building, so there were lots of hoops to jump through before we could even begin any work.

The roof was the worst job. Even though engineers said it looked in good condition, when we got in there we discovered the structural beams were rotten and needed to be replaced.

It was too late to back out but that nasty surprise cost us an additional £100,000 that we had not budgeted.

We hoped to be finished by Christmas 2019, but the whole process took longer than we had anticipated.

Last March, we were three weeks away from moving in and then lockdown happened, which delayed the builders from finishing off the last jobs. Instead, we cracked on sowing grass seeds for our lawn and landscaping outside.

Inside, it was dark, dingy and with lots of spider webs. I was very jumpy

Inside, it was dark, dingy and with lots of spider webs. I was very jumpy

Inside, it was dark, dingy and with lots of spider webs. I was very jumpy

We have tried to keep the character of the building. It has a modern feel but we have kept the rustic charm of exposed beams and a wood-burning stove.

My favourite room is the kitchen. There’s a splashback window behind the sink that looks on to a green with an oak tree. Most days I get to see rabbits, foxes and even a green woodpecker.

We have got three double bedrooms, each with an ensuite.

There is an office, which also has an ensuite and an area we use for a gym with mirrors, mats and a treadmill.

The living room, dining area and kitchen are open plan.

We finally moved in in June last year. We didn’t do it to make money. For us, the priority was a comfortable family home — and we have no regrets.

It’s joyous to say it’s finished and there is nothing left to do. We aren’t tempted to sell — just yet.

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