The First Weekend!

I’m fortunate that I’m not doing a classic move- I sold my house in southampton and have been living in my mum’s house since April while waiting for the solicitors to just TAKE MY MONEY ALREADY. Instead of a proper move with all your treasured memories in one van, I’m going back and forth with what I can fit in my car and keeping the house as empty as I can to make renovations easier. On the predicted completion date I filled my car to the brim with tools, the kitchen wear I’d packed up from my old house, a bed base and hope. Then drove for 6 hours praying that when I got there I’d be able to pick up the keys.

I grabbed my Dad in Brum on the way up- he works for Birmingham council as a technician, which means there’s not much in this world he hasn’t fixed. A great guy for having around to deal with the potential disasters waiting for me!

Turns out, the house was in pretty good nick.

2015-07-19 09.40.57

The front doors and backdoor look old but the key mechanisms glide easily. This is great as it saves me from having to have them changed- locksmiths are super expensive. YAY!

2015-03-30 14.55.09

Despite the old wiring all the lights in the house work, even if the switches are in random places. YAY!

2015-03-30 14.58.23

The hot water and boiler are newish and comes on easily. YAY!

2015-03-30 14.59.47

All of the toilets, including the grotty outside one work- YAY!

2015-07-19 09.38.11

After initial checks of the house it was then off to Ikea to buy a new mattress. My nearest ikea is 5 minutes drive away- you jelly? This bed base was gifted to me by a friend so I just had to buy a tube of bed in Ikea- turns out they take 3 days to fluff out from being vacuum packed so the mattress is currently paper thin and underwhelming. Hopefully that will change over time!

2015-07-19 09.42.212015-07-19 09.42.16

Then the rest of the evening was spent doing exciting stuff like cleaning the kitchen. The cupboards are in all right order and the cooker even works! We also found a working extractor fan in the hood.

2015-07-18 07.45.03

I took out the drawers to clean them. I found a lot of old spider egg sacs 😦

Under the sink the plaster is very crumbly and there was a fair bit of mould back there. The passage down the side protected the other wall though so the backs of those cupboards are pretty good. To be frank, I’ve stayed in worse student houses.

Then it was to bed for my first night in my future home… which I spent most of it NOT sleeping. I was wrecked from helping my dear chum Keith move house the previous day, exhausted from the relief that this one was finally mine, but still I didn’t get to sleep until around 2am as my brain decided to panic about whether the new house was haunted or not. Eventually I drifted off…

…only to be woken up by this weird smell and boiling heat. In my sleep deprived state I was like ‘is that gas, am I going to die, should I check to see if the CO2 detectors have failed–zzzzz’.

After waking up in the morning not dead I decided to investigate. Apparently turning the hot water on had also turned on the heating, but the clock was fucked and decided that the middle of the night was the best time to test the radiators and start cooking the dust that had built up on them since the house was last used. Got to appreciate my survival skills in such a situation was like ‘ehhh go back to sleep’.

But, still that means the heating works! YAY!

2015-07-18 13.19.56

The house still smelt like old and cat and mould despite airing out, so it was time to pull the sitting room carpet up. That’s my Dad doing the first honours. We cut it into manageable pieces with a snap blade and rolled it up before filling my car up and taking our first trip to the local dump. The underlay was saturated underneath which explains the damp smell and also made the underlay heavy enough to warrant two people per roll.

2015-07-18 20.16.21

This is some of the second load to the dump- fortunately it’s only 5 minutes drive down the road, (YAY!) though very busy in the middle of a sunny saturday.

2015-07-19 09.41.33 2015-07-19 09.42.35

The main job of the day was the hunt for white goods. Not many places have fridges and washing machines in stock ready to go, so before I left for Manchester I drew up a list of every British Heart foundation furniture store or second hand appliance shop within an hour radius and we started a tour of them. In the third shop in Cheetham Hill we found a Zanussi machine and an inbuilt fridge freezer which had just been cleaned out for £80 each. YAY! There’s always a risk with buying second hand, but they come with a 6 month warranty, I got them on the spot and my money went into a charity and not on producing more appliance waste.

2015-07-19 09.41.15

We also found THIS.

Now, my Dad is a bit of a bargainer. He will happily negotiate anyone down, whereas I’m the kind of guy who just goes ‘that is the price I will pay it, k thanx.’ My red velvet chesterfield sofa set he got me for £35- the guy at the dump wanted £40 for them, but noooo my Dad wasn’t having that.

This fire surround was £50, reduced to £30, probably because no one could fit it in their car. I went out to measure my car- the height of the surround was 4’1″, my car’s 4′ at it’s widest point. I figured we could jig it and so gave my dad a ring back in the shop to say ‘I think we can do it, see if you can get them to chuck it in for free with the washing machine and fridge.’

2015-07-18 14.50.51

We got it!

Now we just had to get it home-I think the guys in the store were glad to be rid of it and very surprised that we didn’t ask for home delivery.

2015-07-18 14.50.59

I love my car so much. It’s a vaxhaul astra, bought because of it’s tiiiiny 1.2 engine and surprising inside size. To give you an idea, we managed to fit both the fridge freezer and washing machine inside it with a bit of wiggling.

This is my dad with my length of car rope- a present he gifted to me after that time we bought a 3 seater sofa at the dump that was too long for my car and he used the shoe laces from his trainers to hold the boot closed for a very careful journey home.

2015-07-18 14.59.49

There was a guy watching us the entire time laughing. I was laughing too- in the end we opened the back window, rested it in there and tied it down for the 30 min drive home. We didn’t take the motor way this time, but to be honest it was hard enough getting the damn thing in, it wasn’t going to budge and fall out any time soon.

2015-07-18 17.03.47 2015-07-18 17.04.00

So confident were we in our fireplace skillz that we stopped for lunch at a carvery which had the most amazing looking desserts- seriously going back there for a giant eclair!

2015-07-18 18.16.13

I don’t know about you guys, but I appreciate things even more when they’re free. Hello 70s fireplace, meet your replacement.

2015-07-18 18.34.25

Cheers Car, you’re the best.

2015-07-19 08.04.56 2015-07-19 09.33.25

Sunday was an early morning pulling up the front bedroom carpet and discovering that the floorboards are pretty much good to go! YAY

2015-07-19 09.33.54

Just need to get rid of the cupboard taking up half the room- it’s wrapped around the chimney breast and that top panel is just empty space! Silly 70s, adding storage while taking it away at the same time.

2015-07-18 20.12.38

One day I’ll pull up the carpet in the bathroom, today is not that day. For now I just sprayed some upholstery cleaner on it and vacummed.

2015-07-19 09.43.43

Dad swept the patio while I vacuumed, that enough gardening for me.

2015-07-19 09.40.37

Then it was back down south again to get some work done ready for Manchester MCM comic con. See you soon, my little fantabulous house!

Advertisements

House Horrors

Also known as the ‘Why you should get a survey done’ or ‘invest in rubber gloves if you’re buying a house’

My last post was a cheery little jaunt around the house focusing on lots of the positives. And there are lots- don’t get me wrong! There’s just a lot of things that have to be fixed to make the house, um, safe to live in. So, in no particular order, The dangerous, the depressing, the disgusting and the downright ugly.

The dangerous

2015-03-30 14.45.58

This is the back wall, the bane of my existence. This is why you should always get a survey, because I completely missed this- turns out when they put the cavity wall inside the house they decided to only put it UPSTAIRS, and just pinned the downstairs with a single wall.

2015-04-29 10.06.32  2015-04-29 10.06.44

Over time these rusted, and the wall started to bend out. It’s not on the brink of collapse but you can see it once you know what to look for. Estimated cost of rebuilding this wall is 3 grand.

Every cloud has a silver lining though- I was going to put a new window in that wall any way so that means less wall to build!

2015-03-30 14.50.15  2015-03-30 15.06.24

First thing I spotted when I viewed the house was some issues with the facia board on the roof, which needs some spot repairs. Also the only access to the roof to check its condition is this tiny hole which I wouldn’t even fit through- one of the first port of calls is to get two roof hatches put in so we can get up there and find out what lurks within.

2015-03-30 14.55.27

2015-04-29 10.10.15

This is a problem that is HALF fixed- there’s evidence of past leaks in the bay window at the front of the house. The survey said the leak is fixed, now it’s just cleaning up the damage from the leak. This means fixing the ceiling AND fixing the floor joists which have rotted away at the bay.

2015-04-29 10.09.14

The house is generally a bit damp, which is reasonable for a property this age which has been kept unused for so long! This is the peeling wallpaper and damp in the sitting room, with another bout of wrecked joists. Wheeeee gonna contact me a damp expert.

Silver lining- if I replace the window with a door there’s less wall to get mould on it.

2015-03-30 14.58.52

See those kitchen ceiling tiles? Probably asbestos. Brilliant.

To be honest, I’m probably going to just dampen them down, pva over them and glue more (safer) tiles over the top.

2015-03-30 14.55.09

The electrics haven’t been touched in a couple of years so it’s time to put a new shiny consumer unit on there. Here’s hoping I don’t break a fuse before that happens…

The depressing

2015-03-30 14.45.52 2015-03-30 15.14.54

This is the garage, which is also probably filled with asbestos. BONUS- the garage is owned by the council, not me, so if it has to be taken down it’s THEIR problem.

There’s a fine bit of spray paint on there, and round the corner is a little hovel where local kids like to hang out on their bikes. This is the kind of thing you don’t find out about until you move in- fortunately they seem all right which is why it’s depressing that they don’t have any where to hang out except my shitty back lane.

2015-03-30 15.05.52         2015-04-29 10.15.20

2015-04-29 10.15.04

The bedroom on the end has wallpaper in the worst condition and damp in the ceiling-which I thought was the roof but survey said it was just that the chimney has been capped without a vent and all it needs is an airbrick. WIN!

This is in ‘depressing’ because the commode, ripped wallpaper and lock that we found outside the door all points to an older person who suffered dementia and would be locked up at night to stop them from hurting themselves.

I’m choosing to believe that instead of ‘the crazy haunted room’, because I like sleep at night, ta very much.

The disgusting

2015-03-30 15.07.18

Here’s the bathroom complete with comode and power assist bath entry. There was also a dead Shelob in the bath but I couldn’t take a decent picture- why is it spiders always look bigger in person?

2015-07-17 23.40.04

On my first night in the house I found a dead bee in the sink, which prompted this post of horrors. I’m ashamed to say I just spat my toothpaste over it like ‘fuckit, I’ll deal with it tomorrow.’

2015-03-30 15.07.272015-07-19 09.36.22

The bathroom had this pegboard cupboard that used to hold the water tank- ripping it down I made the discovery that it’s actually an original cupboard that’s been hacked to bits- probably when the bathroom was first put in.

2015-04-29 10.15.30

Lucky me- a second comode!

2015-03-30 14.59.472015-03-30 14.59.32

This is the outside toilet to the side. It’s actually not that bad- the flush is pretty good all things considered. The other room is the utility room which if I’m lucky I’ll be able to knock through, put a cavity wall up and make all of this into a nice bathroom.

2015-03-30 14.58.13

Under the stairs, which has a step down but is actually not a basement? Lots of lovely white mould in here and I have no idea what the hell to do with it except maybe board it off and make a cupboard…

2015-03-30 14.57.06 2015-04-29 10.05.42

Outside needs some tlc, a sweep and the bins emptied as they were full to the top. The passage around the side is a dumping ground, which I will probably use as my own dumping ground during building works.

The downright ugly.

    2015-03-30 14.56.03

2015-03-30 14.56.27    

There are two Simple Fetching gas fireplaces in the house, which will be capped off and ripped out as soon as I can. This whole house has the feeling of being updated in the 70s to something ultra modern from the time, ripping out and covering as much original as possible. It makes me wonder how much people will be cursing what I’ve done in years to come…

That’s it folks- I’ve got a lot of work cut out for me, the main problems being the back wall, the joists and how to tackle the damp. Unfortunately most of those rely on workmen so half the challenge will be finding decent people do do the work. Next post is the story of the first weekend in the house!

The Fantabulous House Tour

Without further ado, this is the house!

This will be the positive post of positive things, I’m putting the Host of Horrors in a different post.

front 2 2015-03-30 14.50.04 front 1

2015-03-30 14.47.43 2015-03-30 14.50.26 2015-03-30 14.29.17 2015-03-30 14.29.29

See the little round window to the side? You’ll see that later.

2015-03-30 14.45.58 5ef4aad9a2472691c19eee902f9a7837315bda78 2015-03-30 15.12.03 

2015-03-30 14.59.21 2015-04-29 10.07.04

Small paved patio, lane access to the rear with shared parking.

current-layout

It’s about to get super confusing, so here’s a floor plan. The estate agent was the guy who owned it, so to make the map I went on google satellite view and traced over it…

The Sitting room

2015-04-29 10.10.05  sitting 1

2015-04-29 10.10.15  2015-04-29 10.10.25

2015-04-29 10.10.42

The sofa came free with the house, as well as some other things. These pictures are all the house during viewings- exactly as it was left.

The Dining room

5a78252354f6a3efff720f1ddd1e4a14662ab272 dining 1 

2015-04-29 10.09.28 2015-03-30 14.56.43

Original cupboard, 70s carpet, 70s gas fire, surprisingly good recliners.

The Kitchen 

        2015-04-29 10.08.23 2015-04-29 10.08.04 2015-03-30 14.58.23    

The kitchen is in surprisingly good nick. The cupboards are all solid wood and will probably just need painting, the boiler is working and makes hot water quick and it’s a decent size.

The Stairs

 2015-07-19 09.38.53 2015-04-29 10.11.21 

Up the stairs to the bathroom on the left and the back bedroom

The Bathroom

bathroom1 bathroom2    

The last person who lived here was a 90 year old man, which you can see in evidence around the house.

The Back Bedroom

backbed1 2015-03-30 15.06.40

This is the back bedroom which has three windows- here’s the little one you can see from the front. This is actually my favourite room in the house- the front bedroom is bigger but this one has a nice feel to it, so it will probably become my room once it’s fixed up!

The Hallway

2015-03-30 15.08.32 hallway 1 14b1af4057eedc4a8960aacf4db91cde764e28db

Lovely bannister and all right carpet- besides some of the wallpaper I’ll be leaving this exactly as it is!

The Middle Bedroom. 

2015-04-29 10.13.24  2015-04-29 10.13.47    

Wow, such 70s wood. This room has the LEAST wrong with it and will become my safe haven during the renovations.

Front Bedroom

2015-03-30 15.08.44 2015-04-29 10.11.49   2015-03-30 15.08.52-1       

2015-04-29 10.12.02  2015-04-29 10.12.12 

This room on the front is the largest in the house- normally the master bedroom but I care more about my work than having room in a sleep house, so I might be changing it to be a living room/library.

The grand plan for renovations

hoepful-layout

This looks simple, but trust me, I’ve been working on it for months since first seeing the house. I considered turning one of the bedrooms into a bathroom (because wow, tiny bath), extending the kitchen into the back passage (heh), having my workroom in the old kitchen, moving the kitchen into the dining room-

What’s the house equivalent of having eyes bigger than your stomach? Biting off more than you can chew?

I reeled the over thinking back and decided what would work for me with minimum fuss. My work room is important to me, so that should get the biggest space- I need it for stock and that means it should go on the ground floor. I also figure that a dining table can be used as a work table for most of it’s life, instead of rotting in a separate room of the house. I want to change the window for a set of french doors so I can load stock more easily and open up onto the garden for entertaining in the summer.

The utility room and outside toilet can be knocked through together and made into an actual bathroom connecting onto the kitchen- shower or bath depending on the space. When that’s finished I can refit the upstairs bathroom so I don’t have to go without showering.

This is all pie in the sky stuff, hopefully the house will give me points on enthusiasm. Next post will be the results of the building survey (arrrg!) and the host of horrors I encountered throughout the house (double arrg!).

-Tab

The HUNT.

The Fantabulous house isn’t my first house. 5 years ago my mum saw a duplicate of her house around the corner from us and with her help I bought it. It was a 4/5 bed, relatively cheap and had 2 front doors so was perfect to split into two and rent out the bottom to a live in lodger. I was just starting out with the self employed m’larky so a steady rental income really helped out during the winter months.

It was a great house, but I bought it with my current partner in mind, and when that didn’t work out it was just me knocking around in there like a ginger bean in a 5 bed pod.

Also, as much as I try not to be a snob, as pretty as I made the inside of this house, I’d never be able to make the outside of a 1950s post war terrace look pretty.

I just love fancy things, okay?
Me with a fabergieeeee egg in Norway. I just love fancy things, okay?

SO.

The hunt began for a house.

Southampton was out of the question because anything with victorian features was 200k+, and I’ve loved old houses since I was a wee mite and visited my Aunt’s 4 story Victorian townhouse in Sunderland. 14 foot gilded library ceiling anyone?

This is my Mum and her twin sister, Meg. My mum's the colourful one.
This is my Mum and her twin sister. My mum’s the colourful one.

My Mum said when they were kids she’d always build a tiny snug lego house with one lego child for herself, and my Aunt Meg would build a massive ornate house and fill it with children. They both got what they wanted and what I want is a medium sized, ornately snug house, sans the children.

With a budget of around £100k I started looking at houses up North, between the Leeds/Sheffield area. I liked Leeds, I had friends in Sheffield, and working from home I could live wherever, within reason.

But that’s when I fell into the gaping chasm that is house hunting. Where you start reeling off more and more demands from a house, the budget starts creeping up and suddenly you’re looking at 300k houses like ‘ITS POSSIBLE IF I JUST SHARE WITH MORE PEOPLE’.

My main problem was this bed:

This bed looks normal sized, but makes you look like a hobbit on the set of lord of the rings.
This bed looks normal sized, but in real life  makes you look like a hobbit on the set of lord of the rings.

I won this bed on ebay several years ago. Unseen.

To give a clue for scale, that mattress is a 6 foot superking. When it arrived the courier whispered ‘this is the largest bed I’ve ever moved’. It took 6 hours to haul its sorry ass into my bedroom, where it DID fit, but not without a pleading call for Mum!help and the removal of a leg.

So I’d grown attached to it.

I used to covet beautiful workrooms, but then I realised I got all my energy for WORK from SLEEP, so I invested my house money into making my bedroom a place you’d *really* want to sleep in. In my naivety, my initial ‘must haves’ for a house list looked something like this:

  • Must be beautiful with original features.
  • Must be near a motorway junction for going to conventions for work.
  • Must fit my giant bed in it.
  • Must have somewhere for my car.
  • Mustn’t be in manchester because hot damn do I hate that place.

I had my first house viewing in October 2014. It’s now July 2015 and I completed on the Fantabulous house last friday. That’s because house hunting became a journey of self discovery, mainly me figuring out my fucking priorities.

The question is, what do you want in a house, and what do you actually NEED?

Here are the things I actually needed:

  • A Decent sized workroom that’s easy to get stock to and from my car.
  • Something I wouldn’t feel bad gutting and ramming my ‘eclectic’ sense of style in instead.
  • A place I could make new friends, have old ones visit me, and host my annual Feast of Friendsmas, where I cook a ridiculous meal for oodles of people that I love.
Got to love a house that you can cram 13 people round a dinner table without resorting to covering the guests with butter.
In my old house you could cram 13 people round the table without resorting to covering the guests with butter.

I looked at beautiful homes in the middle of nowhere, beautiful homes with no access for me to bring in crates of stock from comic conventions,  beautiful homes in suburban holes that gave me the creeps, beautiful homes that were tiny flats in the roofs of abandoned buildings, beautiful homes that were actually just shells held up by estate agent hopes, beautiful homes where you were paying 40 grand extra for bodged DIY, an ikea kitchen and some laminate floor.

I spent half a year of monthly trips up north, seeing 5+ houses each time. 17 houses that were HELL NOs, 11 ‘hmmm naws’, 2 that I almost went for, 1 that I started a bidding war on before dropping out when the estate agents were dicks- spent a LOT of time, and about £600 in travel and hotels.

EVENTUALLY I realised how dumb I was being and sold my giant bed on ebay to the next sucker.

I had to change my mind about Manchester- I’d not been fond of it having visited there for MCM Manchester comic con for several years, and endured the full brunt of the one way system.

The Fantabulous house was a grainy photo with an independent estate agent, no floorplan, looked pretty ugly from the photo. But it was close to a railway station that runs between manchester and leeds, was £105k (after some negotiation), had decent car access and potential to be done up to something amazing.

I knew that while it wasn’t perfect and I probably had about 30k of work to do to it, I could be happy there.

c7706d192b0238595908032b871c980f3070b110
The Fantabulous house in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester.

It might not have all I want, but it’s got what you need to be happy. Something to work on, something to dream about and Someone to share it with.

Though guess what? The damn front bedroom would have been big enough for the monster bed.