My name is Grace Kigenyi. I have lived in Jinja for the last 58 years. I was born in Kasese but my parents moved back to Jinja because that is where my father hails from.
I am privileged to have known most of Jinja from those years. The house where I reside is located on plot 50b, on Main Street. I own a shop that is located at the front of my resident on the same plot.
The premises were owned by a gentleman called MB Tailor and we acquired them in 1973. It was actually my mother who was the first African businesswoman to own a shop in Jinja in 1962 on Iganga Road, adjacent to the main street.
In 1973 when President Idi Amin allocated shops that previously belonged to Asians, my mother was one of those allocated the premises where I live. We actually started living here as a family.
I believe the building was built in 1927. It is still standing and it is still very strong. About five years ago, I decided to remodel the residential part of it as well as the shop.

The process
The doors and the frames are original. I re-plastered the walls and did some designs on them. I also redid the tiles on the floor.
The ventilators are the originals. The doors had a grey paint which I removed and now it looks like natural timber. In those days, they used mvule tree (Milicia excels). It is now reclaimed timber. I left a little of the paint perches as memorabilia.
I would like to believe that the architectural skills that the Asians had were quite good because a building this old, still stands strong. When I chipped the floor, I was shocked to see that the bricks were intact and as good as any new building.
Many people come into the house and get shocked and see a place that is beautiful behind the old buildings. Unfortunately the front windows were weather beaten and I had to replace them with modern ones.

Cost
It cost me close to Shs38m to remodel the interior. The money was put into tiling, re-plastering, renovating windows and doors, paint work and ceiling. I had to redo the ceiling. It was originally made out of asbestos which is pretty dangerous to human health. I also redid the washroom, bathroom.
I spent Shs8m on the washroom. The aluminium fitting for the sliding door and glass in the bathroom cost Shs1.2m and the bathroom cabinet Shs1.4m.
The tilling cost me Shs1.3m while the the toilet seat cost me Shs800,000. The wiring, switches, metre and a few other small fittings cost Shs2m.
When I was working on the ceiling, I had to replace the timber which cost me Shs3.5m. Workers had to remove the iron sheet and reconstruct the roofing. I had to remodel the wall that separated the main house from the shop because I needed more space.

How I handle the cost
I am remodelling in phases. I am now working on the kitchen and then the servants quarters which I will turn into a guest wing. For anyone who wants to remodel a building or house, I would suggest that they first look at the strength of a structure.

Seek professional advice
If they find out that the structure is still strong then they can go ahead and restructure. On the other side, they need technical advice. For example, when I wanted to start remodelling the house, I called my son-in-law, an architect with the Madhvani Group of Companies. He came and looked at structure and gave appropriate advice.
Upon his advice, I had to install beams which support the whole weight all the way to the top.
I would advise anyone who is remodelling a house to look out for technical people to advise them. The house is composed of two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and two guest rooms.

rbatte@ug.nationmedia.com