Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Renovating an old house

As spring approaches I always expect to see homes popping up for sale on my usual routes, a popular time to get the house on the market with people keen to find their dream home. I like to keep an eye on the market, partly through sheer nosiness but also to see what's available and what the potential is, should I be in a position to move one day. My attention is always on older property, doer-uppers, a gem of a find with walls to be knocked down and a new impression to be made in old fabric. Anything from a Victorian house with dolls house style frontage or a terrace or a 1930's detached with bay windows (like my childhood home).

However, as much as old house are my preference, they do from experience with my current Victorian home have difficulties in comparison to new builds. For the generous room proportions and pretty facades, they are hard work and have some potential sources of headaches and tears......although worth it in the end. Here are some of my plans and pitfalls I've encountered and become aware of along the way.
period property

How I wish I had the foresight to have the house rewired before moving in. Several years later and electrics failing and being patched up and a great deal of head scratching from one electrician when some of the sockets started to be faulty. Even still, although work was completed, some sockets upstairs still don't work and the plan is for a complete rewire at some point and what a pain that will be with plaster having to be removed, dust everywhere and having to still live in the house whilst it's done. Next time I will have the electrics completely checked out and a survey done before moving in and bite the bullet then, a lot easier to get it over and done with in the first few months. 

Lots of fun and games with damp in my old house. In fact the damp proofing company had to come back about four times and I became friends with the plasterer as he was in my house that often, I think I learnt his whole life story. Old house and damp go hand in hand, my property has a single brick wall and the driving rain beats against it and the water causes salting on the inside walls so the paint starts to bubble and the plaster blows. I now have a membrane in the wall that helps but good ventilation is key too. 

In older houses there may be asbestos which brings about fear in everyone. It can lurk behind plasterboard, ceilings, insulation around pipes, boilers and also the dreaded artex may have asbestos fibres in it. Work on asbestos is dangerous, needs checking out and you need experts who have had asbestos awareness training that qualifies them to remove it safely. Asbestos fibres are a silicate mineral and were used to strengthen concrete among other things and fire resistant so became incredibly popular to use many years ago. There are different types - white, blue and brown asbestos with different degrees of hazard to human health. The fibres can get into the lungs causing cancer and lung related conditions - the Health and Safety Executive estimate that asbestos kills approximately 5000 workers every year and therefore it is something that only experienced tradespeople should deal with. Always get it tested and checked out if you are in doubt when renovating your home.   

Look at the brickwork of your home to see if any work needs to be done. Mortar weathers away a lot quicker than brick so water ingress can become a problem. The exposed side of my Victorian house needs re-pointing and as it is possibly the most boring job ever, finding somebody who will do this is very difficult as I have found. The old pointing needs to be removed, tedious and messy, then the correct mix of mortar used to re-point. Once its done though, many of the damp issues on my interior wall may be sorted out at long last.

Layout changes
Another element of my home I would like to change is the internal layout. Knocking down internal walls can create improved spaces for family life, which is what I would like and to increase light into the back rooms of the house. Improving the flow this way is a lot easier than an extension and you won't need planning permission you are living in a listed building but building regulations may be so consult your local council. My plans are for downstairs to be one space which we could have as open kitchen and living space for relaxing and for my son to play and learn.

Do you have any tales of renovating an older property? I would love to hear about your tales of accomplishment and of any snags you encountered.
open plan living
image source: Ideal Home

*collaborative post


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