Grab a cuppa, sit down and let me ramble at you let’s chat about the realities of home renovation. This will be a long one.When I say renovation I don’t mean slapping on a bit of paint and installing a new kitchen worktop I mean sorting out every.single.thing in the house – everything from top to bottom. Perhaps I’ll do a post whereby I list everything we need to do? Let me know in the comments below if you’d like to see that. When we viewed and eventually bought the house, we knew it needed work and quite a bit of work at that. We were quite prepared to take it on and do the majority of it ourselves. When we got the keys we realised the reality was a little bit different. I remember turning the key in the door for the first time, walking in bubbling over with excitement and then as we walked from room to room I felt overwhelmed and sad. And then I felt guilty for feeling overwhelmed and sad because y’know we were homeowners and in such a fortunate position.
The house was filthy – not just a bit of dust or unkempt since it had been put on the market but 22 years of filth and dirt. Dirty knickers, used nappies hidden, filthy bedsheets, thick layers of grease, all of which had been consciously hidden during viewings. Which meant we needed to spend an entire week just scrubbing the house, taking a literal half a tonne of rubbish to the council tip in one trip and many other subsequent trips. Along with removing carpets (which we hadn’t planned to remove straight away) then even sanding back the floorboards to get rid of the smell (we blogged that here). We were so fortunate to have family who helped us deal with the mess the house had been left in because I wanted to walk away and curl up under my duvet. We eventually moved in but kept the majority of our belongings in boxes in the cellar. We originally thought they would be there for a few weeks but fast forward seven months and they’re still down there in the cellar – I really miss listening to our CDs, I really, really miss our lamps and I really miss having more than 2 saucepans and just a couple of plates.With excited grins we bought tins of paint, drills, brushes, wallpaper scrapers and had plans to get on and jolly well ‘do’.
It Was at This Stage That We Realised Our Surveyor Had Done a Crap Job, He Missed a Lot:
Our electrics are just…just there is no explaining them. Without fail every electrician who has come to quote us for the work has been shocked that someone could do what they were witnessing to domestic electrics and still be alive. Almost everything in our house is run from a plug in the cellar which is fed through the floor of our living room (and was hidden under the carpet when we viewed and first moved in) and then snaked through the house. We currently have a multi plug extension running from our dining room which provides us with TV in the living room – yep, that’s as dangerous as it sounds. None of the plugs in our conservatory work (or the loft, or the landing, or the spare room or our bedroom, or the utility room, or the garage…you get the point) and the way the previous owner had hidden his dodgy work in this room was to staple all of the wires to the wall and then just cover with tongue and groove panelling rather than run the cables into the wall.
Throughout the house rather than run the cables through ceilings and walls he has just stapled them to ceilings then covered with polystyrene tiles which are apparently illegal and fire hazards. The consumer unit for the electrics (basically the unit you use to flip the fuse back up when something trips) has been hacked into with a knife and fuses replaced or added to with fuses from different units. When we moved in, we unpacked a few bits – got our sofa in place and unwittingly sat down to watch a spot of Saturday afternoon telly and BANG. Our electrics went. At first they went in the living room but bit by bit they went in the garage, in the conservatory, in the cellar, on the landing, in the utility room and some of the remaining ‘working’ plugs were still are very hot.
The house has two extensions onto the original Edwardian building. Neither extension has foundations. We knew one of them had an issue with a very damp wall and we negotiated the predicted price of this work from our house purchase price – we were prepared for that amount of work. In reality both of these extensions need totally knocking down – one of them for good and the latter will need planning permission to be rebuilt.
The plumbing in the bathroom is connected to the plumbing in the kitchen. This can lead to some very interesting smells. There are pipes EVERYWHERE. If I wash my hands in the upstairs bathroom you can hear the pipes clanging in the living room – which is no where near the bathroom.
Our garden wall, which is a wall facing onto a fairly busy road with a bus stop next to it, is buckling. It faces onto a public highway so needs not only planning permission to be approved but also a serious amount of money to rebuild as it runs the entire length of the side of our house and garden. I can’t sleep at night thinking about it falling onto someone waiting for a bus.
Smaller Problems We Weren’t Aware Of:
There are many other issues too but these are just the most costly ones to fix, others surprises have included our conservatory roof leaking every time it rains (which is nearly every day up here), our bathroom leaking considerable amounts into the dining room each time we shower, our patio doors not opening, our front door takes 10 minutes to lock, our stairs don’t appear to be held up by anything other than carpet and so many more things. This is all before the stuff we knew we’d need to get fixed like plastering issues, potential damp course, cable ties, moving bathrooms, new ceilings, levelling out floors, new kitchen, ripping out downstairs loos, getting planning permission, new windows, new plumbing, removing electric and gas fires.
One day I’ll tell you about the loft but for now I’ll spare you the 25,000 word essay on that particular topic but it’s safe to say anyone who has seen our loft has never quite felt the same about life again. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful to be a home owner mortgage payer and be in a position to do stuff – all of those years of renting have left me desperate to bang in some nails and paint some walls. We knew we were taking on a project, we just didn’t know how big it would be. Managing a project like this is starting to become a full time job and y’know, we both already have one of those each. I’m a real homebody, I like to be cosy on the sofa, lit with lamps and feel secure but I feel tense and tired all the time. I’m constantly scared something will go wrong, another issue will be revealed or someone will run off with our money (I’ve watched too many episodes of Cowboy Builders, thanks Channel 5). Basically I’m knackered.
I’ve had a few complaints about the lack of “thrifting” on this ‘ere blog. This, my friends, is why we’re not in and out of charity shops like we used to be. We are only just at the stage where we can start shopping for structural things, like bricks, supporting lintels or even just basics like screed to even out floors and the likes of new toilets, kitchens and soil pipes are finally converting from mere dreams on the horizon to decisions we need to make swiftly. I can understand the frustrations of being a long term A Thrifty Mrs reader and suddenly having one major feature – the second hand posts – go missing. But please try to understand the frustrations we have at the other side of your screen. We have 3 plugs working, our shower leaks into our dining room, our front door takes olympic skills to lock, our conservatory roof is so shoddy everything gets covered in inches of water every time it rains – second hand items, in fact most items will be destroyed if we bring them into this house. I don’t know about you but I don’t want a second hand steel supporting lintel holding up my house.
In the next few months our house will encounter an incredible amount of work which will fling brick dust, plaster, paint, wood chipping, sealant and many other gunky items across our belongings. It is neither wise nor thrifty for us to be buying bits and bobs from charity shops right now. We can’t do it, we can’t afford to waste the money we’ll lose when they get destroyed. Since March we have been waiting, sitting and waiting – waiting for our life in this house to begin. It will be lovely, it will be cosy but for now we’re lit with the bulb of one ugly ceiling light or peeing in the dark, waiting for builders, electricians, joiners and plumbers to have all the permissions they need to get started. So if things have been a bit thin on the ground round here it’s because I haven’t had anything to show you – be that thrifty purchases, projects or renovations.