Friday, 24 May 2013

Operation Kerb Appeal, Part 1 - A New Front Door!

I am bringing sexy back to the front of my house.  And, yippee, I squeezed a random  and totally uncalled for Justin Trousersnake reference!  Apologies in advance, I'm feeling pretty random today.  'Operation Kerb Appeal' will come in many parts, and will take quite a while, as we are concentrating on the inside spaces first.  So, more to come on this for sure!  

The aesthetic we are going for is traditional with a modern twist, the hubby and I love this look but our house will be more mid-century modern inside when done, so we are hoping to marry the two to tie the spaces together.  We like the picture below, this is a still from a UK daytime show called 'Homes Under the Hammer', where folks buy properties at auction and renovate them, and the house on the show is actually almost the same house we have.  We have plans to add in those lovely railings too, hard landscaping and plants to break it up.  We also want to reinstate a Victorian-esque pathway in black and white tile, a bit like this here, but that will come later, once we have removed about 3 tons of fugly concrete.  

Love the railing / shutter combo, and the crisp paint
So, remember here, when I told you all my front door was about as sturdy as a wet paper bag, we got on that pretty quickly after moving it is in all its gory glory.

Mmmmm, not very attractive!
Definitely on its last legs!
I like the colour, but not much else!
So, we hired our usual contractor who owns his own company that we would recommend to anyone that asks, he did our double glazing in our flat, plus he kindly came to take out the dining room window when we realised our sofa would not fit into our new house...more on that here!  

He was both supplying and fitting the new door for a fixed price, he even went the extra mile to get some custom sandblasting done for us on the window light above the door, we have our house number in there.  The standard door in the catalogue with the leaded number was really granny gravy it had leaves and colours and all sorts, which made the door look much less classy, which is not cool, so we upped the spec for not much moolah, plus changed our minds halfway through, as originally there was going to be some small panes in the door, which he took with good grace and a smile, even though we were being really annoying.  We lost some light in the hall without the windows, but it's worth it as I hate it when people know you are looking at them through the peep hole, especially when you are pretending to not be there.  So all in all we are really happy with our choice as it looks mucho sexy.  Result!  We have already been asked by some of our neighbours who we got it from, as they are looking to upgrade theirs too, so we dished out his details pronto, good tradesman are hard to find! 

We opted for a composite double glazed door, as the house is not very airtight, so we went for man-made over wood, more expensive, but worth that extra warmth in a drafty old house, plus the extra sound proofing is a bonus with a yappy mutt in residence.  Plus, as our guy is extra awesome, and has started to do woodwork as a hobby, he is going to noodle with our old mahogany door and make us some stuff.  We told him to get his butt on Etsy pronto, as his hand carved stuff is really funky and cute, plus as many people have been really complimentary about his work, us included, he is thinking of bringing it into his business model too, as a trendy up-cycling USP.  How cool is that! 

The front door is something we were considering DIYing to save cash, thanks heavens we thought better of it!  It was worth every one of the £1,062 we spent as it was a beast to get in place as there is literally not a straight wall or angle anywhere in the house.  It took Richard absolutely ages to wrestle it into its spot and get it level.  We just heard the occasional grunt of exertion, mumbly self flagellating, and prayers to the God of Doors that are a bugger to fit for divine intervention, emanating from the hallway.  It was then the hubby decided to pop his head round the corner to offer some assistance, he promptly became the official door propper-upper.  It took two visits in the end to get it done, one to fit the door and the next to tidy up the issues left by one the previous owners who had bodged the fitting of the previous door, so all in all our guy went way above and beyond.

However, we have a new issue, our new and beautifully fitted door has highlighted a ceiling that's totally out, we never noticed before, probably as the old door was way off too, but that's fine, we will rip out the ceilings and replace eventually as the original coving which we were hoping to salvage (the only visible original feature in the place) is looking less than hot since we started the re-wiring job.
Notice the wonky picture & ceiling, the 
door is actually perfectly square!
Simple, stylish, and no annual
re-painting required!
As a parting note, you can see from the picture above, the rest of the front now looks much worse as my new front door is so lovely.  Boo!

Is there anything you have tackled that you thought was a huge mistake, which you then had to call in the pros, or are you always realistic about your DIY limitations?

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bye Bye Strange Tiny Wall!

So we had a weird half wall, which separated the sitting and dining room, as originally, they had been two separate rooms.  

So we were going to leave it as is, as I had some ideas to put a drop dish there for keys and the like for when we come in.  Although in reality, from the time we moved in, it was always covered in crap, phone chargers, newspapers, letters, and other general detritus you seem to accumulate when you are a grown up.  So it constantly was a mess, except at Christmas, when we haphazardly put Christmas crap on it, and it still looked rubbish.  
My favourite use for the half wall was to display a collection of random stuff the dog brought in from outside to chew, leaves, rocks, render, bits of plaster, bits of brick, plastic etc.  I wish I had a picture as it was awesome.  My mother tried to throw it away, and I was all 'leave that!', and she was all 'Why are you keeping lumps of mud and leaves?', and we were all, 'cos it's funny!', and the she was all 'you two are idiots....', and we couldn't really argue with that as it was true.  

So, when we started to get the inside of the house ready for the damp proofing firm to come in and get us watertight, the first thing we did was remove the skirting baseboards to get at the plaster.  So, much to our confusion the half wall was not brick, but had been built in cinder block, so we do what we always do, made a hasty decision, and within 20 seconds we had the sledgehammer ready to go.  This was the first proper indoor demolition we had done so the husband, went at it it with wild abandon! 

And we are now left with a room that looks so much bigger.  Success!  We are actually so close to having this space habitable again, after it has been in a disaster zone since the end of January, that we are totally over excited about being able to finally paint it and move out of the pack rat squat bedroom where we have been living since the end of January.

Ah! Much better!
P.S. As a note to anyone who knows my husband and I personally, you know that is totally us to keep a collection of rubbish as ornaments as we are weirdos, however, if anyone knows my Mother personally, you will know I am paraphrasing BIG TIME as she really called us '*%$@*&@ %£@ar$*'.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Nobody Likes a Damp Patch!

What is this post you may be wondering...This topic is kinda dull so I have attempted to jazz it up a bit with a daft title, make of it what you will, and get your brain out of the gutter!  Or not, you will see why shortly. 

As we all know, water is meant to stay outside of your home, and you do this in four main ways, all of which guarantee you are sitting pretty in a nice dry unfortunately all of the fab four in our place need attention which sucks, but it really could be worse...! hear me talking about the four, so what are they?  

Your Roof
Your Guttering
Your Drainage
Your Walls

All of the above if left unchecked and in a bad state of repair spell disaster and crazy money to put right.  So check often and keep on top of this stuff....Here's what needs to be done, and how we intend to do it!

Your Roof

Lets start with the worst and most expensive offender, your roof!  A leaking roof is a huge expense if it all has to be replaced, but I have read that a roof should last anywhere between 10 and 100 years depending on the roof (Google, I love you!).  Those flat-ish, felt roofs wear out quickest, with well maintained slate lasting up to 100 years.

So our original slate roof has been replaced possibly about 10-15 years ago with some slate-esque man made concrete composite type stuff.  I don't think it does the house justice, but I don't have the £15,000 - £20,000 to reinstate it as it was, so we're living with it for as long as will be humanly possible!  So happy days, all we have is some loose lead flashing round one of the chimney pots, which a roofing contractor can fix for not a lot of money in comparison.  We will be getting on that very soon now spring has finally sprung, and I will share costs etc.!

Your Guttering

I will also include fascias and soffits here as they need to be in good repair too, our front elevation needs to be replaced completely, as it is the original 110+ year old soft wood with a gaping hole right in the middle for water and critters to get into (a side note, a previous owner has put wire mesh in the hole, instead of fixing it, dumb, but at least I don't have some protected bats, bees or swallows up there which would spell disaster for my plans for a awesome master suite!).  We have already had a quote for £650, or £500, if our adjoined neighbour has theirs done at the same time, which they are considering now....Result!

Our down pipe had a huge gaping hole in it which we estimate has been there forever, as we have already uncovered the carnage it has caused inside the house.  It was so bad, that in heavy rain you could literally hear the water running under the suspended floor....I mean holy crap there was a river under there!

That brown crap amongst the other crap was a
floor joist!
Your Drainage

We have one drain round the front of the house, which was blocked and a damaged down pipe + blocked drain  = Damage x £££££££££.  Plus there is no drainage round the back at all.....awesome!  We have gross water butts and some hosepipe which is about as effective as a chocolate fireguard. 

The hubby showing off his DIY muscles with the water
butt in the background
So in the UK, you can't plumb your rainwater into the mains without permission, the water companies get very displeased when you do that, so they charge you a fortune, see here for more info.  So we are going to dig a soak-away instead.  Which in layman terms in a giant hole in your back garden, that you fill with sand, bricks, rubble and other crap, back fill and then turf over, the guttering then routes into the hole, letting the rain water soak in to the ground in its own time.  

We are going upmarket, and getting these cells, that kind of look like milk crates that you tie together and wrap in a membrane, this prevents the soil settling down into the hole, meaning you need to dig the whole thing out every so often...rubble can be free but we think digging holes for the rest of our days to top it up sounds rubbish, so the fancy stuff is worth the cash, like this here where they explain it better than me.

Next epic fail for the house and owners past is that the ground outside is above the floor level inside, and the concrete is set right up to the brickwork...a very bad idea, as the bricks act like sponges and pull the water up the walls, giving you rising damp.  So we have had a great time sledgehammering a drainage channel around the entire property, which I will share in more detail soon...literally back breaking but free!  

Your Walls

So, your brick work, siding or whatever, needs to maintained so water runs off.  So we have bricks, and I have read that your pointing, or the mortar that goes between the bricks should be softer than the bricks themselves, so then the pointing gets worn out over the years and the bricks are not damaged by water which freezes and pulls their faces off, called spalling, like this here.

The litany of issues above, mean that a lot of our pointing is shot to bits, and needs to be re-done.  Plus some previous owner has got the professionals in at some stage who have used concrete mortar in places, that doesn't go deep enough, so the surrounding bricks have spalled.  I know they got professionals in as the joints they have done are the fancy ones that an avid DIYer wouldn't tackle (struck vs. bucket handle, which is done with guess what?  A bucket handle!).  

Some idiot has painted over blown render too (epic fail number...oh hell, I've already lost count!), huge mistake, and yet more spalling has been the result.  So I will be tackling this very soon armed with some fab tutorials from YouTube and some relatively inexpensive tools, which will be dull and very time consuming, but a fraction of the cost of getting in the professionals.  You can actually see the spots where I have started to pick off the render in the picture of the hubby above, such a dull and time consuming job, especially when the dog eats the render and you have to go wrestle her, stupid animal!

Last on the agenda, is damp proofing, the membrane that stops the water soaking up the walls, yep, this is super important, and yep we totally needed this done too, and as far as I know can't be DIYd!  We did manage to save a ton of cash even though we got a specialist company in, down side is that it ended in an unforeseen disaster, which I will fill you in on very soon.  

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The To Do List!

IS in the interest of full disclosure let's get some of our plans in a 'to do list' as I need to see them getting crossed off, for my own sanity!  I will include some estimated costs here and there and we can see how awesome / wrong I am as we finally get to check some of these suckers off!

We are thinking that we will do all the big structural stuff in around 3-5 years so we don't over burden ourselves financially as we have big plans, huge in fact!  Then we can do the smaller jobs in between the big stuff on the rooms that are not so heinous to get the rooms to a blank canvas that I can then decorate, furnish, style, and make homely, which let me tell you is filling me with glee.  The dusty and disruptive crap is not so much fun and is going to bug me a lot, but it is a means to an end!  

So this is the list as we thought of it when we first moved in, it was devised when we viewed the property a couple of times while we put in an offer, when we got the survey, and when we first moved in, it has since been refined and amended, and some of our ideas have been scrapped already.  Because of the ceiling price for the property of its style and size, in the given location, and of course the purchase price, we set a budget of £60,000 to do all the work, so we would not be massively out of pocket, just a teeny bit out of pocket if we did need to sell for any reason.

1. Get a new consumer unit so we don't die when we use the hairdryer, and re-wire the entire house, you known so we don't die!
2. Damp proof the entire ground floor 
3.  New soffits, fascias and guttering everywhere 
4.  Get a big ass boiler as we have big bathroom plans 
5.  Landscape the front garden and make it sexy, put in a local authority approved dropped kerb and driveway. 
£Your guess is as good as mine
6.  New front door
7.  Re-instate the Victorian-esque tiled pathway to the front door which some doofus has covered in concrete or removed completely
£Your guess is as good as mine
8.  Move the bathroom upstairs into a small bedroom
9.  Convert the loft to re-instate the third bedroom with a full width dormer and a en-suite
10.  Build a side return to widen the kitchen area
11.  Demolish the existing bathroom extension
£Free as I am that good with a sledge hammer
12.  Heighten the first extension off the back of the kitchen and have doors opening out to the garden
13.  Dig a soak-a-way in the back garden as there is zero drainage
£Free as I can dig with the best of them
14.  Repair the floors in the living room that have suffered from the damp
15.  Replace all the doors throughout with reproduction period doors and add more Victorian-esque hardware
16.  Replace all the radiators with more traditional styled ones
17.  Get sexy modern light switch plates to give it the 'high spec' look
18.  Build a huge patio for alfresco living, complete with pizza oven and BBQ, as we are known for our great summers in the UK - Yeah right!
£Your guess is as good as mine
19.  Put in new kitchen, flooring and tiling
20. Put in some salvaged period fireplaces, again, because some doofus has removed them all
21.  Get a wood burner in the living room

Crap, so I'm not genius, but this little lot is clearly over our £60,000 budget, and I bet I have forgotten some glaringly obvious costs too.  Of course, not included here is what we have to spend on carpet, decor, furniture, and finishing touches.  So, the challenge is to DIY as much of this as possible to get it to be as close to the budget as possible...this is going to be hard!

Are you a realist when it comes to budgeting, or are you like me, a guestimator who is wildly off?

Friday, 10 May 2013

Why Start a Blog?

So, as you know, we completed our purchase, way back in October 2012, on the worlds most daunting (to us) renovation project of a dilapidated Victorian semi in the burbs in need of big love to bring it kicking and screaming into the modern day.  There are days now that we have been living in chaos since the end of Jan 2013 when we ask ourselves why we did that, what was going through our crazy pea brains!  More on that here, where yes, we indeed blame the DIY-centric Internet at large with their great ideas, spunky optimism, and great style and taste, and those damn lifestyle TV home shows, where they simply make things awesome with £2, glue, shoelaces and lolly sticks - I exaggerate, but you get my meaning.

After cleaning her up a bit (sort of) with a huge amount of elbow grease, ignoring her damp spots, general ugliness and peeling paint, getting super busy with my job and working abroad for 11 weeks in 4 visits, and making a conscious decision to have Christmas in relative normality before tearing the living daylights of the place to start building it back up again, we made a start!  

Just 10 days after moving in, I was here for over a month 
This is the Chihuahua waiting for her Xmas dinner!
It was fun, it was daunting, as we were trying to DIY as much as we could, saving buckets of cash as we went, and the more we did the crazier it got.  Funny things would happen, we would find stuff hidden all over the place, behind fire places, in the ceilings, under the floors and buried in the garden.  We fell in love with more tradesman (seriously I love those guys, I want to marry them so they never leave my husband and I, he feels the same way).  We discovered the laziness of at least the last two previous owners half doing jobs that even we could manage, and the terror kept on coming.  

So, the thinking behind this diatribe of my musings and house related stuff, was how do we remember all this crazy stuff, and keep a log of what we are up to?  How can we look back and see how far we have come, how much we have saved, how much we have spent, what house stuff we have fallen in love with and have to have, budget be damned?  How do we keep our nearest and dearest up to date on why we haven't been to visit in a while, how do we log our epic fails and masterful triumphs, well hopefully eventually we will have some of those to share...hehehehehehe!

Yes that's right folks, post it, warts and all, on the Internet for the world and his wife to see or not of course only time will tell!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Moving Day, In With the New

So we were in, a quick dash to pick up the keys, and drive the mile or so to our new address, some sweet reverse parking of the van and with some trepidation we opened the front door, while making a mental note that one of the first things to go had to be door!  I mean a loud fart could have blown it open, not very secure to say the least!

As we started to unload, we had a good rootle around to survey our new pad, as when we viewed it previously, it was packed to the gunnels with the previous owners belongings, and we knew this house had issues, but seeing it bare, we could see just how much work was needed.  Mmmm, I love damp patches!

I managed to have the foresight to take some pictures of the 'crazy' in our new pad, long before I decided to start this blog as an online diary of the renovation we were about to undertake.  So for your viewing pleasure, the highlights!
Stylish!  A thrifted shelf-holder-upper!  A nice housewarming gift from the previous owners
Manky moldiness, yum!
Who can be without their very own polystyrene fire hazard?
Not us that's for sure!
Mmmm, flaky plaster, to set off the fire hazard! 
Random hole 
Random wires and really rotten floor, it literally moved about 3 inches if you touched it! 
Flaky paint
The husband hard at work, yummy!
Break for a photo opp!  Hubby & Brother in Law a.k.a Slave labour 
"A full on Monet!" and yes that is a Cher Horowitz Clueless reference! Bam!
Saggy floor, peeling paint and mould combo here!
With just over an hour to unload the van and return it we set off at a lightning pace, box after box flying into the new pad, just in the nick of time as the heavens opened.  Right just the sofa to get in now.....

Epic fail, number two of moving day, the first being the parking ticket.  Lesson Learnt: measure your damn sofa before you move!

It fitted in the front door, but the living room door was a no-go, no matter how we lifted, twisted, begged, cursed and beat it, it just would not fit.  So change of plan, back out the front door (still raining) and round the back.  In it went, well half way and promptly got stuck again, it finally ended up in the bathroom for a couple of days (no idea how Matthew's brother managed it) and then back out, round the front and up the stairs to live until our window chap could come round and take a window out to get the blighter in!!  So luckily when we find a good trades person, we hang on to them for dear life so we have a group of people to call when things don't go to plan.

How do you guys find moving house?  Loads of fun or stressful nightmare?  I thought it was fun, but in the same vane, I am never doing it again...!
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