Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (14) Behind the Front Facade

The windows being installed
The windows being installed

When undertaking a renovation project it is advisable not to have any other major events going on in your life at the same time. However, life is rarely that simple and we have been busy these last few months heavily involved with our daughter’s wedding, dealing with an elderly parent with failing health and working on the house. Something had to give, hence my time for blogging. Time to bring it back up to speed!

From the front of the house it still looks pretty much like a building site. Safety fencing still in place, a bright blue portaloo sits next to a pile of debris waiting for a ‘grab’ lorry to remove it and a rather full skip.The house, although now complete with new windows and front door still awaits the render to be painted, the roofer to tile the garage roof and a porch to be built. Most of the activity has been taking place inside and to the rear.

I had wanted to renovate the original front door, but was persuaded to opt for a similar design in a composite material in French Grey  due to security and draughts. It was pointed out that what was the point of energy efficient windows with a draughty front door, the previous owner had hung a very heavy curtain in front of the door, so I relented. We are pleased with the new windows, despite our compromise on material. These were put installed  in stages, the sloping glass roof causing the most grief, due to fixing the glass to a steel beam. The sloping rear roof was finished off with a water proof fibre glass resin prior to the installation of the roof lantern.The seven-metre-wide bi-fold doors which open fully across the rear of dining / day room onto the garden are amazing. We are now fully secure and in the dry.

New window and door openings have been made where necessary and old openings either blocked up or adjusted in size in the existing house. The ceilings have been removed due to their poor state of repair. Partition timber frames to form new walls have been built and the electrician has finished his first fix. We did our own electrical drawings for the electrician and provided a key to the symbols so he knew exactly what he was quoting on. This is time consuming, but well worth the effort. Thinking about where you want your plug sockets for lamps etc. means knowing your furniture placement. Light switches too have to be placed for ease of use, and whether they need to be one way, two way or more. Do you want them dimmable?  It’s actually quite difficult as one often takes light switches for granted, until it’s put in the wrong place and plastered over! Lighting circuits for layered lighting, for task (bright lights for cleaning etc.), ambient (lamps ) which create a warmer, cosier atmosphere, or specialist lights to high light a feature or art work. It’s also worth discussing your plan with your electrician because often they will come up with ideas and suggestions. We wanted LED lights for energy efficiency and nickel plated ‘toggle’ switches. Although more expensive than white plastic, it’s the small details which make the difference to a house. I chose a matching nickle plate finish for the original door handles, which have come up beautifully.

I would advise where possible, to walk round the property with your electrician and electrical drawing close to the completion of the first fix to ensure that everything is where is should be, and to make any necessary changes before the plaster board walls and ceilings are fixed in place and plastered.  The electrician also suggested a media system with ceiling speakers. This sounded expensive. We researched various systems and options and makes. The Sonas System appeared to be a recommended system. We received a quote from a recommended company and asked him to quote for his extra wiring work involved. It was approximately £5k for the total package, including outside speakers for when entertaining. We oomed and arhed and looked at our original budget to see where and if economies could be made elsewhere. That’s quite a lot of economies to make! After much deliberation we decided to have the system installed and probably take us over budget, as it was better to install it now than a retro fit later.

The first fix plumbing, including the insulation and underfloor heating to the new sitting room, dining/day room, kitchen and utility room has been laid and the floors have been screeded. Unfortunately, I wasn’t on site this day and  the new screed floor level is flush with the original wooden floor in the hall and original sitting room which I wanted to keep and sand and re-finish. This cannot now be done because by the time the new flooring finish is laid over the screed one will end up with a marked floor level difference.

All the plumbing pipes (unconnected) and electrical wires (not live) have been bought out of the side of the house ready to be connected. This is because the new boiler/mud room has yet to be built. This is being built later to enable the digger to have access to the rear for the remainder of the terrace to be completed.

The problem with the slightly differing floor levels upstairs from the existing house into the extension were rectified by lifting some of the original floorboards and planing the joists slightly at and angle to meet the new floor level. The boards were replaced, and now there is no noticeable difference to the levels. Unfortunately this will not resolve the floor level difference on the ground floor.

When writing retrospectively it sounds very quick and easy, but as we all know it takes time, planning and dealing with compromises and sometimes set backs.

The new render on the extension being stabilised prior to painting
The new render on the extension being stabilised prior to painting

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