It was so exciting each evening coming home to see what work had been done on the kitchen diner, and with a whole team of builders things with progressing quickly.
So far they have been doing a great job – they are clean, tidy and we have been included in every decision that has cropped up. Having a project manager has been great, communication is really easy and we always know where we are with the budget.
Me and David took ages choosing our builder. It was an important decision and one we needed to get right. (To view our plans click here)
For us it was not just about getting builders in to quote for the work, but also so we could meet them and determine if they were up to the job. And so the interview process began…
Some of the builders viewed the job like a deer in head lights and required us to guide them through every aspect of what needed doing. As soon as I had to start explaining what made walls structural or not, we knew they were not the builder for us.
Some of the builders just never came back to us with a quote. We took this as a sign that they did not want the job. We were not about to start a relationship where we had to do all the chasing.
But one builder stood out as being very different to the rest. They were part of a much bigger company who do everything from building houses from scratch to smaller domestic projects. Our project is a small job for them, but that is not to say they treated it with any less professionalism.
They were the only builder to take complete ownership of the project and tell us what needed doing and provide suggestions and ideas on how to make it look good. They would take care of everything from ordering the bi-folding doors to liaising with building control. We would be given a team of builders who would be led by a foreman, who would be guided by a project manager.
The only thing standing between our builders and them starting work was our commitment to remove the chimney breast, opening up the kitchen diner. With a bank holiday approaching, we were running out of excuses not to do it. We knew the drill, we had already removed it from the first floor, we just needed a skip, dust sheets and some serious determination.
In many ways it was going to be harder than before. The chimney downstairs had a fireplace on both sides so the wall is twice as thick, which means twice as many bricks. Plus all of the soot, dust, dirt and rubble would have collected in these two ground floor chimneys – this was going to be messy on a whole new scale. Our only saving grace was, unlike before, we didn’t have to haul all the bricks down stairs.
As before, the general division of labour was David knocked out the bricks and I sorted them into bags ready to take out to the skip, and generally tried to keep the mounting piles of soot/rubble under control.
It was tiring, exhausting, dirty work. But me and David made a great team and somehow, between the two of us, we got it done.
The previous owners of housenumber59 made some strange choices, the most unusual being their choice of windows.
According to our neighbours, when the previous owners of housenumber59 first moved in, the house had hideous aluminium windows. I can understand why they were keen to have them replaced.
They obviously replaced the windows on a budget as they opted to keep the old box frames that the windows sit in. But, for reasons that are beyond me, they selected to have a brown ‘wood’ effect – at an extra cost. Horses for courses.
The fact that they chose to keep the old box frames, was actually a blessing in disguise. We always knew we would eventually change the windows, but it always seemed like a long off distant dream. The windows themselves were less than 10 years old and we could not justify the expense based on aesthetics alone. But with the old box frames rotting and starting to cause damp, getting the windows replaced suddenly became a priority.
We researched and chose three companies to quote for new windows throughout.
Housenumber59 was about to get a facelift!
Out of the three companies we went for the middle quote, a local based company who have done a number houses near us and always get rave reviews. And we can see why. To say we are thrilled is an understatement.
Having windows replaced, including all new box frames and decorative moulding is no mean feat. Naturally we were concerned about the rooms we had already decorated – cream carpets and off white walls do not lend themselves well to building work! But we needn’t have worried. The windows fitters were amazing, truly skilled craftsman.
Whilst some of our other big projects to date, like the plumbing and electrics, have all been necessary it is so exciting to complete a project that has made such a significant improvement to the appearance of the house.
Housenumber59 is starting to look how a Victorian house should look.
With the bathroom done and dusted, we could start turning our attention to the kitchen diner. This is going to be our biggest project to date, there is a huge amount of work to be done and we will not be able to do all of it ourselves.
It might be easier to explain each part of the project separately…
Knocking down walls
Me and David will take out the chimney breast, opening up the kitchen and back reception room. We have already taken out the chimney on the first floor (we did this when we opened up the bathroom), so it is just a case of brick by brick bringing it down to ground level.
The wall between the back reception room and the old downstairs bathroom will also come down. As it has structural elements, we will leave that to our builders.
We plan to open up the entire back of the house and have bi-folding doors installed. We love the idea of extending the dining room into the garden by opening a wall of glass. It will also make the currently dark kitchen feel light and airy.
This has involved quite a lot of planning. We needed to get a structural engineer to draw up the plans for a steel frame and building control will need to oversee the work.
The current kitchen has a concrete floor and when the chimney is removed there will be a large hole in it. The back reception room has a suspended floor and the old downstairs bathroom has a raised concrete floor. The whole space is a patchwork of uneven, damp, broken flooring. We plan on having the entire floor relaid, making the floor level and uniform. This will make installing our chosen floor finish much easier.
Walls and ceiling
We need to brick in the current back door as the new bi folds will become the main access to the garden. We will also brick in the 1930’s serving hatch!
We will need all new power sockets for the kitchen and the entire room re-plastered. The ceiling also needs to be pulled down and replaced. We will have spot lights fitted above the kitchen and a pendant light fitted above the dining area.
In order to make the most of bi-folding doors, you need a nice flat level between inside and outside. Well, our garden is anything but flat or level or nice! So we decided that now was time to get the garden landscaped.
There is a large concrete slab that an old lean-to sat on that will need to be removed, then lots of earth will need to be cleared, a retaining wall built and a new patio laid.
We want to keep the kitchen diner simple – off white walls and oak flooring. We want it to be clean, fresh and quite modern but with a hint of Victorian charm. I like the idea of having a light airy room with big splashes of colour – a colourful Persian rug and large vibrant paintings on the wall.
One Sunday me and David sat down with pens and lots of paper and sketched out the layout for our kitchen. It took all day and many attempts, but we finally came up with the perfect design.
Having a plan made it really easy to get quotes, like for like. We are still a long way off from actually ordering a kitchen, but we do have a few companies in mind.
Of this list there are very few things we will be doing ourselves, so we have been busy trying to find a builder. It has not been an easy decision, trying to find a good builder who you can trust with your home, your ideas and your money. We have nearly made a decision and are very excited to get a start date!