By day, Blair Houston is chief financial officer for a health-tech company, but in the evenings and weekends, you’ll see him tackling DIY. An accountant by trade, he’s now honing his tradie skills renovating the Kingsland bungalow he shares with his wife Gretchen and their daughters Gwynnie, eight, and Margot, three.
This is the fourth time the Houston family has renovated – and it’s their biggest and most challenging project to date. The house was in a sorry state when they purchased it in June 2021, but they were drawn to its potential and the north-facing, leafy backyard, and relatively flat section.
Blair and Gretchen, who are in their early 40s, planned to start the renovation in late 2021, but Covid lockdowns brought delays.
Pandemic hold-ups haven’t been the only challenge they’ve faced. The Houstons are embracing DIY life to save money, unlike previous renovations where tradies were onsite until the end. Like many New Zealanders, the Houstons weren’t able to secure finance after Responsible Lending Code legislation came into force in December 2021.
“It’s been challenging with the supply issues and also banks aren’t lending, so it’s meant being on the tools a bit more for me. I was more used to a keyboard than a paint brush or hammer,” Blair says.
“We used builders for structural work and waterproofing, Gib installers, and a plasterer, but since plastering, we’ve been doing it all ourselves,” he explains.
“Blair’s laid proper tongue-and-groove flooring,” Gretchen says. “Things he wouldn’t have known he could do a couple of years ago, because of this need.”
“I’ve also done the spouting, the drainpipes and connected them all up to the system and plumbed-in the kitchen. I’ve got an uncle who is a plumber and when I was at university, I did some work for him, but he used to tease me about how useless I was. But the more I’ve done, the more confident I’ve become,” Blair says.
Blair also punched nails in new weatherboards, filling, and sanding ahead of external painting. “There were hundreds of those nails. It’s an easy thing that I don’t mind doing so that the builders can do the harder stuff. It just has to be done.”