Friday 7 August 2015

Giving an old building new life

In September 2013 my wife Sue and I live in Derbyshire after retiring from London. After a shopping trip to Matlock we were driving through the town of Wirksworth in Derbyshire. We'd taken the road as an alternative route because the A6 main road was very busy. We'd been through this route a few times before, but this time we decided to stop, have a cup of tea and look around. Some parts of the town are plain ugly, but other parts reveal the long history going back to Roman times. We were walking around the older parts of the town and we happened to glance in an estate agent (realtor) shop window and saw some properties for sale. A couple of weeks later we came back for a serious house hunt as we wanted to buy an investment property.

We'd short-listed five properties in Wirksworth for closer inspection. They were of various sizes, ages and values. Some had been converted into holiday homes and all had different features worth consideration. However on walking through the door of No 2 Warmbrook we knew this was the house we wanted to buy as an investment. It's small compared to our home, but our budget was not unlimited. As it was a later Victorian property, 2 up 2 down style of house, we knew what to expect.

The decor was in poor shape and there was a damp musty smell to the house. We could see no signs of subsidence which was a plus point.  The lounge and bedroom ceilings were cracked. The back bedroom had been subjected to a crude partial conversion to provide a cramped bathroom and a half sized bedroom too small for a bed. I could see the tile roof was sagging at the back of the house and also in the front of the adjoining terraced house. A quick peek through the loft hatch revealed light coming through the roof in a few places and no insulation in the attic. 

Paint was flaking off the front door and on the street facing brick work. All of the interior paint work was aged and tired. The wall plaster was original but showing its age, blown in places and mostly covered in thick wallpaper to hide the imperfections. Up in the bathroom there were signs of rotten floor boards and some woodworm. The light fittings looked to be about 30 years old.

The roof of the shared outhouses was in a state of near collapse and the garden was weedy with a rotten fence. The Vendor had not put too much investment into preparing the house for sale. The Estate Agent mentioned there'd not been a lot of interest in the property.

The house was just what we wanted!  We put in a cash offer a couple of days later and called our solicitors and said we had some more business for them. We contacted our Buildings Surveyor and asked him to run a survey, but he had to turn us down as he'd surveyed the property originally for the vendor. The repeat the survey for us would have been a conflict of interest, so we found another surveyor and went ahead with the purchase process. After the usual tribulations of house purchase it became our property at the end of November 2013.

We quickly set about the restoration process of our new property. Our plan was to replaster, remodel and repaint the building. As we worked on the project we found evidence of some woodworm activity which require treatment and also the roof required a major overhaul.

After a couple of very dusty months the interior walls are smooth with new plaster. We've completely repainted the walls, ceilings and wood work. We took out the cramped compromise bathroom where the previous owner had taken half of the back bedroom. The house no longer has a bath, but a much more convenient and spacious shower room with completely new fittings. In the process we absorbed the back bedroom which had been too small to use. The wiring for the house has been checked and refurbished. The central heating and plumbing has been tidied. There's new carpet in the lounge, bedroom and stairs. The kitchen floor was given a new screed and a new vinyl surface. The roof no longer leaks and the sagging rafters and roof tiles were fixed. We treated the roof timbers with woodworm treatment and an anti-fungal as a precaution. The roof has been properly insulated to 30 cm deep fibreglass wool. It is now a well appointed warm and cosy house.

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