How I Renovated A Cafe For Less Than £500

You may have realised I haven’t been around much recently.

Just over six weeks ago I was made redundant and boldly stated I was off to become a full-time blogger and freelance writer.

Well, things didn’t exactly go to plan on that one.

A while back I started helping a lady I know with her Facebook page to help drive more custom to her cafe, she refused to take a freebie and paid me in food, a beautiful friendship was born!

A couple of days after my redundancy, as an admin on her Facebook page, I was receiving notifications left, right and centre from a post she had put up.

I thought this pretty strange as she leaves Facebook up to me, however, this was no ordinary post, things had got too much on her own and she announced she was selling up.

Off I power walked up to the cafe to make sure she was alright.

We talked about things she could do to drive a bit more traffic through the door in order to give her more cash in the till to take on a member of staff to relieve some of the pressure she was under being a one woman machine.

I managed to talk her around and she decided to carry on, and whilst on my travels a couple of days later I popped my head in to see how she was getting on and she dropped a bombshell on me.

She didn’t want a member of staff anymore, she wanted a business partner, what’s more, she wanted that business partner to be me!

I took a couple of days to have a good old think about it and accepted her offer.

And there we are, DJT is part owner in his own cafe and now you know why I’ve been so quiet!

Putting my money blogger skills into action

OK, so saving money is my thing, but DIY most certainly isn’t, or should that be wasn’t?

Immediately I was looking at every way possible to cut down the cost of giving the old girl a much needed makeover – the cafe, not Cheryl!

We were quoted £800 to sand and varnish the floor alone, obviously I told him to politely Foxtrot Oscar and decided we would do the whole thing ourselves, even if it did almost kill us.

There is a painter and decorator that comes into the cafe, so I asked him hypothetically how much he would have charged for the exact same job.

He would have quoted us £400 without materials, I’d have been looking at close to £750 in total.

Meaning, the floor and the decorating would have cost in excess of £1,550 – yeah, absolutely no chance!

We bought all the materials we needed and did the whole thing ourselves, some days I was here until gone 2am in the morning, one day the police even knocked on to make sure I wasn’t robbing the place!

Using my head, I knew the office I used to work in was being redeveloped into apartments and everything in there is to be scrapped.

To date I’ve salvaged a breakfast bar, a boiler and some amazing artwork that would have originally cost someone £100s.

Better still, we got our mate to fit it all and paid him in food!

We bought chair covers to hide the sins of the old, worn chairs that had seen better days underneath, and we upcycled the tables armed with nothing more that a roll of foil, black paint and PVA glue – I’ve never felt more A Team in my entire life.

The biggest expense was hiring the sanders and all the extras that go with them, but still a snip compared to the £800 I was quoted to have someone else do the job.  

Learning a completely new set of skills

It has to be said, I’m not a natural tradesman.

In fact, I estimated the entire job would take no more than two days hard graft.

Four weeks later I was losing the will to live with it all, but we persevered and now have a rustic, trendy little cafe that we are immensely proud of.

Not just that, I’ve learned skills I never thought possible.

I hate ladders, HATE them, and the minute I put a foot on that bottom rung I shake like a shitting dog!

However, four weeks of grafting away and not only do I have the confidence to climb them without having a nervous breakdown, but I can also pirouette on them whilst painting ceilings and walls with 12 cans of cider in me – skills mate, skills!

Power tools have always been off the radar for me.

You will struggle to find anyone clumsier than David Jack Taylor, I’m a complete and utter cluts and have been from birth.

Therefore, I’ve always thought it safer for me, and those around me, NEVER to touch a power tool as long as I live, until now.

I sanded the floor, admittedly there was one occasion where I had forgotten to attach any sandpaper and almost ended up digging through to the cellar, but apart from that I was accident free.

We originally planned to take the whole floor back to it’s original state and then add a light stain, however ran out of time, leaving a quarter of it unfinished.

When we came back in the next day the unfinished bit had this cool burnt wood effect to it which we loved, so then came the job or re-staining the floor and attempting to recreate the effect on the other three quarters – I just love making things harder for myself you see!

Anyway, somehow I managed it and found a hidden artistic talent in the process.

How I Renovated A Cafe For Less Than £500

How I Renovated A Cafe For Less Than £500

How I Renovated A Cafe For Less Than £500

How I Renovated A Cafe For Less Than £500

How I Renovated A Cafe For Less Than £500

How I Renovated A Cafe For Less Than £500

Final word

It has been monumental hard work running the cafe, closing to decorate then cleaning to open a few hours later, but it’s has been totally worth it.

The whole thing has come in under £500 and you wouldn’t recognise the place to how it was before, it has given me a sense of pride I haven’t felt before.

In all honesty, what I’m most proud of is the money we have saved from our own hard graft and ingenuity.

A modest estimate of replacing the furniture and boiler, buying and having the breakfast bar fitted on top of the decorating and floor would have come in close to the £4,000 mark, if not more.

A saving of over £3,500 is something I can’t help but be extremely happy about, who wouldn’t be?!  

So now onto the next job, turning this place into a little goldmine!

How I renovated a cafe for less than £500

I’m linking up with this Cass, Emma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

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David Jack Taylor is the founder and editor of the Thinking Thrifty blog. An award winning personal finance and lifestyle blogger, he shows how it is possible to live extremely well for less.
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28 thoughts on “How I Renovated A Cafe For Less Than £500

  1. Well done David that’s brilliant. Have you put pictures on Facebook I can’t see any on this blog. Would really like to see your handy work. Good luck with the business. Xx

  2. What! I am seriously impressed. You’ve done a fantastic job, and isn’t it amazing how much of a difference the seat covers alone made?

  3. Wow!! What an amazing achievement both on being asked to be business partner and making such a transformation on such a little budget! Love this!

    P.S. It was great to meet you via Emma at BlogOn recently! Looking forward to reading your blog now!!

  4. It sounds like you’ve done an amazing job and I’m more than a little jealous of your cafe – that’s what I would love to do x x

    Good luck with it all x x x

  5. Wow, what an amazing opportunity, you never know when they’re going to come up do you, or where from.

    I had a yen to run a cafe at one time, hundreds of years ago, so I’m just a teensy bit envious.

    Well done on all your hard work and I look forward to hearing all about it in future posts – and maybe some amazing thrifty (so profitable) recipes!

  6. I love this on so many levels. You are such a community driven person – this has to work. You will be the making of the place. Secondly I love salvage and that you were able to rescue and reuse. Well done fella!

  7. David that’s amazing! I truly believe that things come to us that are meant to happen and this was obviously your time to completely change your career and way of life… Fantastic that you managed to spruce the place up with so little money. I really hope it’s all successful for you!

  8. Wow, what a rollercoaster ride you’ve had recently! You’ve done a brilliant job with the interior and I hope everything goes well for you with your new business venture.

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