New windows…

The previous owners of housenumber59 made some strange choices, the most unusual being their choice of windows.

Brown windows 1

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.

Brown windows 2

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.

Sash windows 2

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.

Sash windows 3

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.

Sash windows 7

Sash windows 8

Housenumber59 is starting to look how a Victorian house should look.

Before and after
Before and after

C x

The new boiler…

Radiator1

Once the wiring had been completed it was time for the heating and hot water system to be overhauled. Our current system was complicated, outdated and the fact that you couldn’t drink the water from the bathroom tap baffled me (then why are we brushing our teeth with it!?). With the boiler in the kitchen, hot water tank in the backroom, cold water tank in the loft and a pipe structure that resembled a labyrinth it was time to simplify things.

We decided to install the new boiler upstairs, in what will be the new bathroom. The bathroom will be plenty big enough and I never liked the idea of losing valuable kitchen cupboard space to accommodate a boiler.

Over the next couple of days we saw some big changes, not only was house number 59 now warm and toasty, but we got to say goodbye to the bright blue radiators and hello to nice new shiny ones!

In most rooms we had chosen standard white radiators, but felt that the living room deserved something a bit special. Placed in the bay window, the radiators would be a focal point and needed to look good, so we upgraded to column radiators.

Radiator2

We were thrilled, not only do they look great but they pump out a lot of heat.

C x

 

Project staircase…

Stairs middle2

When you are renovating a house slowly, room by room and living in it at the same time, you have to accept that things won’t always be perfect. I have accepted that we will have to live in varying degrees of squalor until we get round to decorating every room.

For example, in the living room we have boarded over where the gas fireplace was removed and it looks pretty ugly. I can live with that because I know that one day, in the not too distant future, we will buy a beautiful salvaged Victorian fireplace to rightfully reclaim its throne.

It is nice though to do little mini projects to help house number 59 feel a bit more loved, even if they are just temporary fixes. As the hallway will be the last room we decorate we decided it could do with a temporary fix, in particular the staircase.

At some point the original Victorian spindles and the nosing they sit on had been removed and replaced with a more ‘modern’ banister (utter sacrilege in my opinion). To restore the staircase to its former glory will be a major project, and not one that will be happening anytime soon.

David had removed the carpet within the first 5 minutes of owning the house leaving us with bare wood, which for practical reasons worked quite well, but they looked terrible and needed some love.

First we removed all the old paint – this was hard labour with a heat gun and scrapper. Then we sanded each step and gave them a really good clean.

Stairs before      Stairs middle

Finally we painted the risers and the banisters in white gloss and the treads and hand rail in a dark oak matt varnish.

Stairs after

This ‘mini project’ actually ended up taking longer than expected, but it was worth it. The hallway now looks fresher and less like a building site, but is still practical and easy to keep clean.

C x

The re-wire…

Porch light

Having the house re-wired was a necessary task, but not a particularly exciting one. Most of the work is hidden and if anything the house ended up looking worse due to the new wires being chased into the walls.

I failed to get too excited about the new fuse box, light switches and plug sockets – although we did enjoy coming home from work each day and discovering what work had been done.

One part of the re-wire that was actually quite exciting was the installation of a front porch light. Everything we had done up to this point had been a temporary fix, knowing that at some point we would re-do it, but this light fitting would be the first permanent feature of the house and so it required some careful thought.

Having never thought about outside lights before we took a walk around the block to get some inspiration and after much deliberation we decided on a simple but elegant lantern.

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New mains pipe…

New mains pipe 1

One of the many plumbing alterations we needed to make was to move the main stopcock from under the living room floor to somewhere more sensible. If there was ever a leak and we needed to turn off the water we would have to lift up the floorboards in the living room – not a problem when we have good access to the floorboards, but it might become an issue when we get round to fitting carpet. Also, for some reason we were the only house without an outside stopcock for emergencies. So if we ever had a water leak we really would be stuffed!

Rather than joining new plastic pipe to the existing lead pipe, it made sense to replace the entire mains pipe and have one continuous bit of plastic pipe from the new outside stopcock to the new stopcock under the stairs.

We plan to re-pave the front garden so weren’t too worried about digging it up, but decided to use a moling company to minimise the mess.

In less than a couple of hours, the lead pipe had gone and we had a new mains water pipe ready for the plumbers to fit a new stopcock under the stairs. The outside stopcock had to be fitted by the water company which, as you can imagine, took a little bit longer to do. But they got there, eventually.

New mains pipe 2

Whilst having a new mains water pipe wasn’t the most thrilling thing in the world, it was officially the start of our project, so for us it was pretty exciting!

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The plans…

Plans

Having the entire house re-wired and re-plumbed meant that we really had to think about the bigger picture. We planned on removing a chimney breast to extend both the kitchen and bathroom so needed to think about those rooms carefully and have an idea of the final layout.

We wanted to move the boiler upstairs, to the room that would eventually become part of the bathroom, so needed to know that it was definitely ok to remove the chimney before our plumber started work.

It was slightly nerve racking as our entire plans rested on the fact that it would be ok to remove the chimney breast. If we were told that it wasn’t possible or that it would involve a lot of structural work, it could potentially cause massive delays and force us to reconsider our plans.

Lucky both a structural engineer and our local council confirmed that our plans were ok.

Phew!

C x

A wise man once said…

A wise man gave us the following advice during our first few weeks of living in house number 59 – if you get the infrastructure right first, the rest will be a lot easier. Thankfully we listened to him, because he was right.

It was so tempting to dive straight in with decorating, I was already scouring eBay for reclaimed Victorian fireplaces, but we needed to think about the bigger picture first. The heating and hot water system needed to be updated and the fuse box and wiring were quite frankly dangerous. If we started decorating and putting in new carpet it would make updating these things at a later date a whole lot harder and potentially undo all our hard work.

Whilst David and I are confident DIY’ers, re-wiring and re-plumbing an entire house was something we needed some help on. So our priority was to get quotes for a complete re-wire of the house and a new heating and hot water system, to include new boiler and radiators. And then somehow find the money to pay for them…

C x