Well – they finished a few weeks ago actually, but what a difference!
So the builders in question were fantastic. Real professionals and no mistake. They arrived on time, and completed the job early. This is of course replacing a roof and they did it during one of the wettest Octobers on record and also through “the great storm of 2013”.
So what did they do? Firstly they uncovered an alcove that had been plastered over. The alcove was actually a good sized in-built bookcase that had been covered over circa 1980. So that it looked better, David (the builder) suggested that instead of the ceiling going directly into the alcove, he would build it down a little – and boy was he right. It looks much better and more solid.
They were surprised by how well the roof was built. The timbers were probably from around 1900, which was when we think the house was remodeled. So in fact “all” that they had to do was pull away the old building materials, leave the timbers and then rebuild the roof around it. A single membrane system was used which means that there will be less issues with leaking. He also put in the skylight (we had planning and listed consent for it) and it all it has lightened the whole back of the room.
What is a really nice feature of our house is that almost all of the convex internal corners have a piece of wooden beading on them. This is a typically nice architectural feature as it softens the corners. David (thoughtful as ever) went and put that in as well where we had to cover a down pipe. It has made the overall changes in the house much more in keeping (you can just see it in the corner of the photo).
All in all very happy!
One would think that living in an old Victorian Pile there would be ghosts. I have had thoughts that I might be looking at the TV, and then see a ghost. Of course nowadays with Digital TV, you don’t get the noise (i.e. snow) on TV anymore, so poltergeists cannot come that way. Hence the time in our house has been eventual on a haunting front.
So who is here?
Yes truly exciting. As we have now had the planning permission granted we can start work. And we are going to start work on one of the flat roofs (the one that leaks). The first builder turned up today and started knocking holes in the ceiling ready for the replacement. They expect to be done in 2 weeks. We shall see.
What a boring thing to write a blog post about – cleaning. But there did not seem much on the subject, so thought I would divulge what I have spent part of the weekend doing.
When we bought the house a lot that was left (which in general was good stuff). One of the items we inherited (well 3 actually) were some Crystal Chandeliers. Now I am not usually one for such things as they can be a little over the top – however that is a normally the case for a 1970s semi-detached in suburbia, and actually in a house like ours they fit in reasonably well.
However they were dusty and had not been cleaned for probably 15 years +. They sat above our heads like some Damocles Sword, until a number of stars aligned to make us get up and do something about it. These were:
1. We FINALLY have a ladder that can reach (it weighs a ton, but is very useful – let me know if you want more details)
2. Our builder is starting work NEXT WEEKEND (yes – excitement is not the word). More on this when I get a chance
3. We cleaned paint off an old marble fireplace (when I have some good photos I will post)
4. My parents went on holiday and pointedly showed us how lovely some of the CLEAN chandeliers in the hotel were and HOW SIMILAR THEY WERE TO OURS.
So we started the task on one chandelier, and it was not as difficult as I feared. First of all we took photos so we knew where to hook all the bits back on (there were a lot believe me). And then with hot soapy water we cleaned each piece, dried it and put it back up. We then replaced the light bulb and voila: it looks as good as new. We found some other light fittings around the house that we were not keeping and used that to repair odd bits. Not difficult and looking the photo, I am sure you would agree.
One of the reasons for moving down to Devon was to be by the sea. The Victorian Pile is about 15 minute walk from the sea or a 10 minute drive to the beach.
When we first moved down the weather was grey and wet. We still went down to enjoy the sea… But with rain and wind it was exhilarating rather than relaxing.
For a bit we felt that there would be no Summer, but lo and behold: the UK is having a heat wave.
Although the John Masefield poem reminds me more of a stormy sea, every time I wake up I think of it:
I MUST down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life.
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
I have been getting a number of questions around what does it mean to live a listed house – so I thought I would put finger to keyboard and write a few comments for prospective owners. If I don’t cover something then let me know.
One of the things that seems to be a consistent misconception is that listing covers only the outside of the house. This is not the case – it covers everything within the property boundary. So this means that the grotty conservatory that someone put on to the house will be covered. Doesn’t matter if the house was built in 1356 and an internal wall was built out of scrap in 1952 by a blind builder – it is listed and that is it.
The key is the fact that you MAY be able to remove it – but do not pin your hopes on it. However it does seem that the planning officers are being a little more reasonable about what you can change, however it will be at their whim not yours.
However it does seem that as long as you do not remove original material from the house they may smile more on your planning. We are lucky where we live as the house works well for us in terms of layout. However if you purchased an old cob cottage that was listed and you want to pull out the internal walls, expect to be rejected.
Now the issue with all of this is that the listing itself details enough to identify the property – this is not what is listed. The other element is that is something has been changed in the property without planning permission EVEN BEFORE YOU MOVE IN, you are liable for the changes.
So for our house I spoke to the planning officer prior to moving in. He seemed reasonable that we could “modernise” things like the 1990s kitchen and a bathroom from around 1980, but if they had been original and hence rare he would of been unhappy. Sympathetic modernisation was his words.
But when it came to getting planning, we went through the our architect and he handled the relationship. This seemed to make most sense as he knew the planning officer and knew how to word things. He is supporting our changes (but the changes we are making are to bring the house back in line with what the house “should be”).
But we still haven’t received the final go-ahead. Looks as though we are not going to be finished by winter. If you buy a listed house you need to be patient and think of yourself as a caretaker rather than outright owner.
So after nearly 5 months of having moved in, we have finally submitted details for planning. We have been very fortunate that our architect has been very helpful in terms of submitting plans that we are happy with. He grew up across the road from us, and hence has a real appreciation for the house and the architecture.
What has been more complex is that we have needed a statement of historical interest. This document basically cost us around £700 and all it did was say that the house was old and was interesting. Not much different from the listing to be honest.
So hopefully once all this has been approved we can get the builders in and fix the roofs, Sofit boards etc. joy!!
So I got home Friday to find that the water problem had got much worse. There had been lots and lots of rain on Friday, and at last it got the better of the flat roof. The carpet was in about 1cm (0.5″ for my American readers). Water was literally running down the inside of the house.
What do you do in this situation?
Well not a lot you can do really! We took the carpet out, got some buckets and then sat down and had a bottle of wine! There was nothing else for it. We thought about it overnight, and then talked to our friendly builder. We all decided that actually what had happened was that the drain in the flat roof was blocked, and then the water rose and went down between the wall and the flashing. Our builder unblocked the drain in the roof (gratis even though I tried to get him to take money for a beer) and temporarily that has stopped the water.
It has meant that I have had to call our architect as to be honest we need to get a move on to stop things like that happening.
So what is the silver lining? Well when we lifted up the carpet we came across a hatch in the floor. We have not opened it yet, but it is exciting to think what could be down there as we had not known about it. Talking to friends and collagues the vote seems split 50:50 between either treasure/booze or a dead body!
I will keep you posted.