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House Renovation Journey Part 1

We embarked on our house renovation about 6months ago now back when the sun was shining brightly. We've not finished yet as much as I would have liked to report that we have but how far have we got? Well it's a very old house that we have had to take back to the bear bones in parts and as with many old houses, or even any house potentially, you just don't know what you will uncover until you get started. We knew we would find things unplanned and have to tackle and that's exactly what has happened, hence the reason it's not complete yet but let me start at the beginning as it's always good to reflect on how far you've come to appreciate where you're at.

We always knew when we bought our house that it required work but we didn't get started for about 3 years after living here, mostly because I had my daughter just after we moved in and well time was consumed by this and looking after my eldest.

Fast forward 3 years and our worlds were thrown into the most unexpected experience - lockdown! With waaaay more time on our hands, lots of time to talk, dream and plan we decided we would finally take the plunge and get cracking. Well we can't do much else at the moment can we? The main two things that prompted a full renovation rather than room by room was the fact we needed new windows throughout and the whole plumbing system needed to be replaced and upgraded. Actually there was a third - the exterior of the house really had to be addressed before we had internal problems - but that is a different post altogether.

These main factors would also mean we would go from a very cold and drafty house to something much warmer and sealed tight - I mean do you need any more incentive?

The renovation begins!

So to explain further as you're probably wondering why this prompted ripping out the whole house. Our plumbing was very old fashioned and was on a one pipe system which means the output of heat is much less than the modern two pipe system, so we would have the heating on full blast and it just didn't heat the rooms very well (not helped of course that you could feel the wind through practically every window). We knew we wanted the keep the pipework exposed and make a feature of it - it is an old house and we wanted to keep as much of it as authentic as possible and yes we could have chased the pipes in but we wanted them to form part of the design and avoid the house looking like it had been totally modernised. This meant the new plumbing system could only be added once all walls had been plastered and painted - so hence the total overhaul all in one go. Eeeeek - let the crazy times commence!

We discovered a blocked in window in the master bedroom

One of the most interesting things we discovered was that we found where two windows would have been in both the lounge and the master bedroom. The walls were all either lathe and plaster or old lime plaster, as the building is red brick, we had to take it back to the brick as it was so old and crumbling off. We didn't want to patch it in but rather have a solid base to decorate from. An old house that hadn't been maintained properly for many years meant it was past the patching up phase, plus we discovered so many things had been done poorly and I'm definitely one for making sure things are correct and done well so they last for many more years.

Once upon a time there would have been dual windows

So back to the blocked in windows, we did consider opening the window up in the bedroom but to be honest it was something not factored into our budget and we had already ordered the windows by this stage. The reason they had been blocked in is unknown but it could be traced back to the time when a window tax was introduced in 1696 by William III and seems plausible it could have been because of this, but we don't know for sure. If you ever see old buildings with bricked up spaces where there would have obviously been a window it is most likely because of this tax, people soon bricked them up to reduce the amount of tax they would have to pay.

For our lounge we did luckily find out the reason why we have two different sized windows.

The bookcase used to be the second window in the lounge

The smallest window used to be the front door

The smallest window was in fact the original front door, and our bookcase was the original 2nd window. We have a side extension which we have no idea as too when this was built but this would have meant they reconfigured the front of the house relocating the front door and the two odd sized windows. Of course we could have chosen to make the window larger to match in but I feel like we would be erasing history and I love the quirks of this house - I didn't want to stamp them out.

In the master bedroom we had quite the drama when the husband accidentally knocked a hole in the wall and we could see straight into next door! I'm all for being neighbourly but perhaps this was a step too far ha! How can he have made such an error you're thinking? No he's not some wall bashing maniac, it all boils down to the history of the building. Our property is the end of a row of 3 cottages and apparently many years ago, we don't know specific dates as this was info gathered from the neighbours, all 3 cottages were once upon a time all connected, so essentially treated as one large property. I'm not sure when or the reason why but they were eventually carved up back into 3 separate properties again and this means there is an odd footprint of the house in how they did this. So where the hole was made in the adjoining wall is because when they blocked off the house, they only had a single layer in this section, it was a paper thin wall and essentially they hadn't built a wall on the neighbours side - all very bizarre as most of the wall had been built right, just this section wasn't.

Oh hi neighbours!!

Sound proofing the stud wall in the lounge

We of course had to rebuild the wall, and as it was so fragile as it was old lathe and plaster wall we decided to build a stud wall in both here and our lounge over the top so as to not cause any further damage to our house and our neighbours but also preserve this part of the house too. It means we have a more robust and solid wall. We used soundproof insulation too as we have I feel like the noisiest of children and even though the neighbours don't actually live in the house next door, they will soon and it's only fair we consider their eardrums....when they were next door you had to try harder not to listen to their conversation so heaven knows how terrible two crazy children must sound at 6am every morning....maybe this is why they haven't yet moved in?!!

The ceiling also had to be fully re-boarded as there had been a huge bulge in one area that it transpired was due to where there had been a leak from the bathroom above and one of the beams had dropped as it has become so water logged and damaged. Honestly so much to discover with this house as you can see, not one room was totally straight forward to update.

The house has been so stripped back there has been several holes (!!) to outside or next door it was quite concerning at some stages!

A hole in one of the bedrooms from trying to repair the external wall

Another hole in the the second bedroom!

So much time was spent in every room re-boarding the walls and prepping the external walls for re-plastering. As I've mentioned it's an old house and one that hadn't been well loved as old houses should be to prevent long term issues. Pretty much all walls have been re-boarded to offer strength but also give us a much flatter and better surface to work from. Yes some are still wobbly and there isn't a straight line in site as we didn't want to flatten them out and make it look like a new build on the inside - those wavy lines from wall to ceiling are what you expect in an old house and I love them.

Yep that's another hole into next door!

To see your house really stripped back you understand more about it's structure, you learn so much about building techniques of that era and I have definitely learnt so much from our journey and I have such an appreciation for how houses were builded 100, 200 plus years ago. They didn't have the fancy high tech tools of today and they still managed to construct houses that still stand solid today, it's honestly so impressive.

Wow it's exhausting looking back at this stage - the mess, the dust - it was unbearable to live in during this phase and I cannot express how happy I am to not be living like that now.

I'll share more of the journey in the next post so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading

NB x

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