Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Making a house a home (part II)

Man at work

It’s been a couple of weeks since we got the keys for our new house, and we’ve been rather busy with it. Things haven’t quite gone to plan, however…

Plaster

I mentioned last time that, as we started removing the wallpaper from the walls, that the plaster appeared to be in a poor state. This turned out to be something of an understatement, as we were able to pull off huge chunks of plaster from the walls with little more than our bare hands. Consequently, the dining room is now being completely re-plastered from floor to ceiling, using damp-resistant plaster.

Elsewhere, in the living room, we’re just having the first metre from the floor re-plastered, as part of the damp-proofing works that we’re required to do as a condition of the mortgage. We’re also having the skirting boards replaced as part of this, mainly because the original ones came off in pieces.

Plumbing

It was Neil, in the dining room, with the lead pipe. I suppose it was inevitable that there would be lead water pipes in a house that is over 100 years old, but we didn’t expect them to be still in use. Whilst most of the lead piping was redundant and disconnected, there were several metres that fed our main drinking water supply. As the EPA explains, this is not a good thing and so we’ve had these replaced with copper pipes. In doing so, we’ve also ended up with better water pressure, which is nice.

Electrics

I mentioned that the plug sockets were old and in weird places. But rather than simply have the existing sockets moved to sensible places, we’ve had a whole new ring main fitted downstairs. This is partly because the wiring for the old sockets was poor, but also because we wanted more sockets in different places. So now the dining room has 5 sockets rather than 4, and the living room has 7 rather than 3. Plus, we’ve been able to add a socket in the hallway which previously didn’t have one at all, an additional socket in the basement which will be useful if we decide to buy a tumble dryer, and several extra sockets in the kitchen, which only had 3 in nonsensical places.

However, as the remaining wiring isn’t great, we’re strongly considering having the rest of the house re-wired too, especially as one of the bedrooms only has one working plug socket.

Gas

When the house was built in the 19th Century, it would have been heated using open fireplaces. Whilst most of the chimney breasts remain, the fireplaces have been bricked up, and a series of gas fires installed. Later, probably in the 1980s, central heating was then fitted with radiators, but three of the gas fires remain.

One is upstairs and therefore not a priority for us. One is in the dining room and attached directly to the boiler, so we need to keep that for now, but there was a free-standing gas fire in the living room. We’ve got rid of it, and had the gas pipe connecting it capped off.

Bathroom

We started re-painting the bathroom, but haven’t progressed beyond a coat of white primer on the ceiling (which was varnished wood panels). We’ll get on and finish it eventually.

All in all, the house is, unfortunately, turning out to be more work than we’d originally anticipated. It wasn’t our intention to buy a house to do up – we’d hoped that it would just require a few jobs doing and then we could move in. We’re fortunate that we’re able to carry on renting our current flat for the time being, although we do need to move sooner rather than later. We’re paying rent, a mortgage and two lots of utility bills, which will cost a lot of money. But we have also been very lucky that a couple of friends have been able to do the electrical and plumbing work for us, rather than requiring us to pay an electrician, which has been very much appreciated.

I imagine that we’ll be able to move over in August, provided the house doesn’t throw up any more surprises.

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