Old House, New Home. What’s Your Next Move?

Renovation, restoring, extending, decorating of tired old houses is a passion for some, a nightmare for others. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and am I’m currently enjoying Old House New Home on Chanel 4 http://www.channel4.com/programmes/george-clarkes-old-house-new-home. The joy and sense of achievement after all your hard work ( and cash) when it’s finished for you to enjoy and live your life is a celebration indeed.  For some it’s a way onto the property ladder or an upgrade to a larger home, hoping for a cheaper purchase price, which will increase in value when completed – hopefully worth more than they’ve spent, and to live and enjoy their old house, new home. Some lenders will require the house to be habitable though, insisting on there being a bathroom and kitchen.

Of course there is always competition, winning these properties from other like minded people or property developers and builders. The latter looking for pure profit of course, and may renovate as quickly and cheaply as possible for a quick return. If the plot is large enough a developer is likely to demolish the existing house and build a larger one, two or possibly more (subject to planning consents).The latter option is not so easy for non builders or developers due to mortgage restrictions although there are some specialist companies who offer this type of lending, and information can be found on  http://www.buildstore.co.uk/   I personally dislike the waste of demolishing a structurally sound house, requiring work, but see the attraction on saving 20% on the VAT bill. It’s also not very green or ‘eco’, unless replacing with an ‘eco’ ‘passive’ house.

Extending our existing homes if possible has become more popular due to the high cost of moving – stamp duty, legal and agents fees, plus the extra on the purchase price for that extra bedroom, living space or bathroom.

Whichever way you decide to move, renovation project or extending, the ordinary home owner has a distinct disadvantage  – VAT. 20% is a high proportion of the budget.(Barn conversions and some renovation projects and building your own home are zero rated).  VAT is on fixtures, fittings and labour charges. If a dwelling has been empty for longer than two years or more you may be illegible for a reduced rate of 5%. For details go to https://www.homebuilding.co.uk/ To encourage and help ordinary folk, the Government should lower the VAT threshold on renovation projects. It’s greener too. Years ago, grants were available to help fund bathroom installations (if there wasn’t an inside bathroom), damp and woodworm treatments. Alas this help has long gone. Wouldn’t it be helpful to bring funding back for essentials, subject to certain criteria – income and length of residency, perhaps to assist those on lower incomes make a home of their own?

With the housing crisis, and lack of affordable homes especially in certain areas, a lot of young people with the dream of owning their own home is just that, a dream, despite working hard. There are Government schemes – Help to Buy ISA where the Government will top up your savings by 23% (up to £3000.00). The drawback being that the house you buy must have a purchase price of up to £250,00 .(up to £450,000 in London). Mmn. Try finding a house in the home counties for that price. The Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee is a better deal, it lets you buy a home with a 5% deposit. The guarantee is to the mortgage provider, not you as a buyer. The purchase price is up to £600,00, which is more realistic in the high priced London area. However, you still have to prove you can afford to make the repayments of course, and with the average living salary, its still a tough call.

Hard earned cash pays their rent, living expenses and student loans, with little left to save for their deposit. House sharing in your twenties is not the same when in your thirties, especially if you want a family. This is now a major decision factor too, maybe putting your life ‘on hold’. You can’t make the home your own either, due to tenancy agreement restrictions.  Are we regressing to earlier decades, when complete families lived in a few rooms in a house shared with others? In 1918 the majority of households in England and Wales were rented, with just 1% socially, rising to 31% in 1981. Today the highest percentage of renters is in London, along with the highest property prices.

The newly built starter homes on big estates are, in some cases, poorly designed and cheaply built, with little more than a ‘postage stamp’ for a rear garden. There are great architects who could design  well planned homes, which could adapt to the changing needs of the occupants over the years  to extend if need be, i.e. the option for a loft conversion. The ‘Lifetime Homes’ concept was developed in the early 1990s’ by a group of experts including Habinteg Housing Association and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to design homes to support the changing needs of the individuals and families at different stages of their lives. From raising children, coping with illness or reduced mobility.    http://www.lifetimehomes.org.uk/pages/revised-design-criteria.html

Shelter are currently running a campaign to celebrate 50 years, called ‘What does home mean to you? https://england.shelter.org.uk/ to raise funds and awareness of the housing crisis. So what does home mean to you?

House plan found on Google search, unfortunately without reference to the designer, for accreditation.



Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (10) It gets Worse Before it Gets Better

A lonely, empty and neglected house.

A lonely, empty and neglected house.


Since the builders arrived on 8th January, the house has changed dramatically. The side lean to housing the old boiler has been demolished, as has the garage. The roof tiles being removed first and stored safely for re-use elsewhere. One chimney stack has been removed and the roof reinstated using the old tiles from the lean to.


The wooden floor in the old dining room has been removed and the wood stacked in the sitting room for re-use where possible. The original internal doors have been taken off and also stored in the sitting room for re-use. These doors will need a lot of preparation prior to painting, and the handles will need restoring too, as I feel it’s important to re-use and re-cycle where possible and to retain the integrity of the house to use fixtures, fittings and finishings that enhance the existing architectural details, but are still functional. It may not save you much money on your materials bill when you equate the labour hours spent, but you can do it yourself to make savings. Original skirting boards and picture rails had been carefully taken off and stored before the walls were removed, also to be re-instated in some rooms of the original house after the plastering has been carried out. This has caused interesting comments from builders – basically they think the picture rails should go!

Flooring and doors stored for re-use

Flooring and doors stored for re-use

The chimney breast has been knocked out. Easy to say, and not so easy to do. There were masses of bricks and was solid as a rock! The existing wall between the kitchen and dining room has gone too. So we are left with one large space and a beam and block floor, which is ready for the insulation, damp proofing, underfloor heating and concrete to be laid upon. Some of the hall/ dining room wall has also gone, with a lintel in place ready for (much later on) our glass petition wall and door. Block work  has been laid to form a new wall and doorway into, what will be a cloak room. It is a challenge getting to the kettle which is perched on what was a shelf in the pantry ( also gone) to switch it on for tea. That is, after filling the kettle from a small water pipe on the other side of the ‘kitchen’. The rusty old sink is in the skip. Hence no one wants to make the tea!

The walls dividing the airing cupboard, bathroom, toilet and corridor have been take down leaving one huge space upstairs. The dividing brick wall between the two bedrooms was removed because it was only sitting on the floorboards and not a supporting wall. By replacing the wall with stud work (wooden frame, insulation and plaster board) it will be lighter, making a steel beam below unnecessary.

A huge pile of rubble from all the masonary removal was piled in the front garden, some has been crushed and flattened to avoid a ‘mud bath’ and the rear garden looks like the Battle of the Somme. A deep hole has been dug for the soakaway, with earth piled up in mounds all along the sides. Some of the crushed bricks and mortar will be used as a hardcore base for the terrace. Somehow our past efforts with the weed killer look quite feeble and perhaps unnecessary.

The builders have been working on the internal structure work, which needs doing whilst waiting for our neighbours surveyor to complete the Party Wall Agreement. However, we would like to commence digging the footings this week, but can’t until the Agreement is signed. I’m concerned that this is going to hold up our progress. I’m chasing all parties hard.

I have found some information which maybe of help if your planning you’re own self build or renovation project, if you didn’t already know that Jewsons (among other suppliers) offer a pricing service for the project and list all the materials required with their prices. If Jewsons don’t supply a particular material they still include in it a market price. These prices can be compared to other suppliers prices to get the best deal. They charge £180.00 plus vat for this service and I think well worth the money.

Plant hire can be difficult for self builders, due to the insurance policy required to cover the plant. Jewsons also offer self build insurance which covers plant hire too. They have recognized the growing market of self build and home renovations. But as stated before, shop around for insurance cover and be sure to read the small print!

It’s Not Just For The Rich and Famous

I recently received an email from a friend, and I quote, Some people are a bit scared of Interior Designers because they feel it would cost a fortune – it’s only for the rich and famous.” She then went on to say “That a lot of people who are good at D.I.Y. lack vision or ideas, need advice only.”

I have under my various headings of Interior Design, Home Styling and Home Staging defined what each application is, and the options available to my services, including advice only. However, in our busy lives, if by chance someone looks at my web site, nine times out of ten they will look at some of the pictures and perhaps scan the words briefly, not really taking in the information, and then leave the web site. We’re all guilty of doing this. So to rectify any misconception of Interior Designers being ‘scary and expensive’ I decided to clarify my services, and write a brief synopsis of the definitions on one page.

Interior Design – Basically an Interior Designer is indispensable when planning major structural or layout changes to your existing home, like a bathroom or kitchen or planning a new build. They will provide detailed drawings of your layout,  furniture placement, lighting, electrical and plumbing requirements which all need to be planned prior to starting any project.They will  assist in all aspects of interior decorations and furnishings. Interior Designers will do as much or as little as you require, in line with your brief and budget. They can even save you money  sometimes by preventing costly mistakes.

Home Styling – Cost Effective solutions by making the most of what you own already, and enhancing your style with a few additions and changes. This is ideal if you want to do carry out work on your home, and really don’t know where to start. Again this service is tailored to you, whether you just want advice and some ideas for you to carry out the work yourself, or for me to source items or implement work on your behalf, even if it is just one room you are struggling with.

Home Staging – Preparing a private residence for sale or let. A well presented property helps to achieve the optimum selling price and a faster sale. You are selling a lifestyle too. I offer advice, recommendations and budgets which can either be implemented by me or yourself.

I firmly believe that well planned and executed interiors are available to everyone, whatever their budget, it’s not just the preserve for the  rich and famous.’

Work Tops

I nearly lost it big time time recently, when being helped in the kitchen to chop apples. Vast amounts of apples needed to be chopped because I was making chutney. Not that I wasn’t grateful for their help you understand, but my assistant had started to chop the apples directly on the top of my work top, no chopping board! This is a cardinal sin in my book, as not only will the knife ruin the work top surface, it also blunts the edge of the knife.

My assistant argued that as the surface was stone, surely it couldn’t hurt. Stone  work top surfaces, whether granite or natural stone or a composite are brilliant, hard working heat resistant and fairly easy to keep clean, but  will scratch and at worse chip if abused. Like anything it has to be looked after, they are not indestructible.

Formica work tops are good too, hard wearing, easy to keep clean, but not resistant to heat as stone tops, but chop anything directly on the top and you will get knife cuts in the surface which ruin the surface and will harbour germs.

Solid wood work tops are widely used too, and yes I know they are wooden the same as chopping boards, but have you seen the surface of a well used chopping board? Your work top will look the same, and far more expensive to replace than a chopping board. Regularly oil the top of your wooden work tops to maintain them. Wood is not as heat resistant as stone surfaces and require more maintenance than both stone and formica work tops, but have a lovely look and feel to them, and are worth the effort.

Why not have different work top surfaces around different areas of  your kitchen. Perhaps stone around the sink and ‘wet areas’ and cooking area near to your cooker and hob. You could also have a wooden work top on an island or breakfast bar. If your’e really into cooking you could also have a slab of marble inset somewhere for rolling for pastry and of course a built in chopping board specifically for chopping!