Lurching forwards

I had a fun time a week ago Friday being a chimney sweep assistant – two and a half tubs of soot were removed and Calum is very grateful that he’ll never have to sweep the kitchen chimney again.  Apparently it’s marginally less awkward without the Rayburn in front of it, but not much.  He ended up having to climb up on the roof and sweep downwards from the chimney and then went into it with a much smaller brush through the access hatch on the outside of the house, attached a drill to the end of the rods and power-swept it all the way down.  £70 for a job well done on all three chimneys!

I was away last week and hoped that David would have been able to start, but it’s all come to a bit of a grinding halt again and the only sign of progress is three rows of slates laid on one side of the roof and lots of holes appearing in joists and walls as Dougie tunnels his way through the structure of the house with his cable runs.  The roof can’t progress until the rooflights are resized and Dougie can’t get too much more done until the studwork is in.  However, we’ve managed to track David down and he says he’ll be on site probably Wednesday, might be Thursday (I’ve been told this probably means Thursday!).  If he can spend a couple of days sorting out the bits Pete needs him to do for the roof and putting the studwork in, then we can get quite a long way down the road before we need him back again – I think we’re then okay until we need him to lay the floor over the underfloor heating, as Mick is intending to do all the insulation fitting and plasterboard work himself.

It’ll be good for Mick to get cracking on it again, actually – he’s been loving working on this one so much, that he’s now gung-ho to do another.  And look what I saw online today…

203 Talmine

This is about 20 miles west of us, so not exactly just up the road, but it’s just over the road from one of the north coast’s prettiest beaches, Talmine.  It’s derelict, but someone has drawn up plans to turn it into a one-bed cottage and the asking price is £22,500.  I’m sure it’ll be snapped up by someone before we’ve finished this one and sorted out the finances for the next, but if I’m going to have a stable of holiday cottages, this would be a perfect addition.

A good week’s work

Mick and I have been cracking on with more panelling removal and we’re making slow but steady progress.  Pete the Roofer was going to bring David the Joiner round for a look this week, but Pete’s wife (who works with Mick) passed on a message that David has the lurgy that’s going round (or man-flu, as she put it!), so hopefully he’ll be recovered soon and able to come round and size the place up.

One of the nice things about spring starting to spring is that flowers are popping up all over the place outside:

156 armadale - outside 2 156 armadale - outside 1

Inside, we’ve depanelled the dormer window in bedroom two and found this – I think the initials may stand for Harry Macdonald, Ethel’s husband’s uncle (if I remember correctly), who left the house to her husband.  (EDIT:  Thanks to my friend Elizabeth, it may also be Hughie Mackay, her mother’s cousin, a joiner who worked on a lot of the houses in the village.)

156 armadale - bedroom two - 8

It’s amazing how much more space there is with the panelling taken out of the top of the dormer window alcove – that thin piece of wood was only to fix the panelling to, so hopefully we can leave it open and maybe put a small armchair in there for a quiet reading spot.

156 armadale - bedroom two - 7

One unwelcome find in this room (and it’s not very clear on the picture, but trust me, it’s there) was woodworm.  Lots of it.  On all the roof beams on the west-facing roof.  It’s live as well, a bit of sawdust came out of the holes when I banged the beams with a hammer, so that’ll all have to be soaked with treatment stuff.

156 armadale - bedroom two - 6

It was when I was working in this room and Mick was working in the little bedroom next door that we realised we could hear each other so clearly that we could have a conversation in normal voices, despite being in separate rooms.  As our target holiday guest is a family with young to teenage children, we thought that Mum and Dad might not appreciate the lack of soundproofing at bedtime (for any number of reasons!), so we stripped off some of the panelling on the internal walls to see what was inside.  Answer?  Sweet nothing – that wood is the back of the panelling on the other side, so we can’t take down both sides or we’ll remove all the internal walls!

156 armadale - bedroom two - 5

The only other thing we’ve done this week is break into the living room fireplace – Mick has done a great job and it looks like it’s been filled in with concrete and bricks, so we should be able to enlarge it for the woodburner fairly easily.

156 armadale - living room - 2

Whoomph!

Mick took the day off work yesterday, as he’s away for the long weekend and wanted to get some more work done.

Actually, scrap that, what my pyromaniac husband wanted to do was light the big pile of panelling and since the wind was coming from the south and not too strong and he was going to be outside repairing some of the fanks so I can dose the sheep tomorrow, it seemed like a good time to do it.

I’m not quite going to say ‘I told you so’, but I did express my reservations about setting light to something nearly as tall as the house in fairly dry conditions with both peat on the ground and an oil tank in the vicinity, so I did have a quiet chuckle when this appeared on his Facebook timeline:

Today’s job – rebuild and hang the gate on the fanks. Took me a while but got there. Also ran round like a looney with a bucket of water throwing it everywhere as the old wood panelling took to an inferno………

We’ve been working mainly in the second of the bigger bedrooms this week, stripping out more panelling.

156 armadale - bedroom two - 1

Old nails left behind from last time the roof was worked on.

156 armadale - bedroom two - 2

That’s one heck of a big stone!  Sitting just over the fireplace in that room.

156 armadale - bedroom two - 3

Back wall of the house.

156 armadale - bedroom two - 4

This fell out when I took the skirting board off.  Wonder what happened to the rest of the deck?  We also found a lot of hair grips!

156 armadale - living room - 1

And finally, I had a quick look under the tiles in the living room fireplace.

Good news on that front though, Pete the Roofer says that David the Joiner is on board and he’ll be bringing him over early next week to have a chat.

The jigsaw puzzle

It’s struck me today that project managing this is a little bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle.  You find the odd piece or two that go together and gradually you work out how it all fits together.

The heating engineer came round this afternoon and delivered the good news that (a) the boiler is a combi boiler and (b) it’s in pretty good shape and doesn’t need replacing.  Hooray!  The hot water feed from it hasn’t been connected up, seems that Ethel and John simply used the Rayburn and the hot water cylinder upstairs, which means that’s a closed circuit and we can simply disconnect it from the header tank, drain it and take it all out.  Does mean I have to find another use for my saved mirrored door, but I’m glad of the extra space in the bedroom.

So I’m starting to piece the timetable together like a logic problem.  Pete is replacing the roof and needs the joiner (who’s the only major trade I’ve not yet spoken to) to enlarge the existing Veluxes and cut the new ones, which will depend on us having stripped the panelling in the relevant areas.  He’ll also need the stonework person to patch the harling into the spots where the fascia boards are being removed, who’ll also need to patch up the spot where the electrician is moving the mains power cable.  The electrician needs to work with the joiner if any cabling needs running up the new studwork behind the plasterboard.  The heating engineer needs to put the underfloor heating down and install the woodburner and hearth before the joiner lays the wood floors.  The joiner is the one we’re going to need the most flexibility from, I think, in terms of popping back and forth.  Fortunately he’s the one who lives closest!

Budget Day

Not just for Mr Osborne, but I thought I’d add up how much I’ve spent to get here so far, as the solicitor’s bill arrived this afternoon.

The only two expenses I’ve had (not counting the running costs for my sheep – I’m keeping my crofting budget separate) are the interest on the money I’ve borrowed from my family and the legal fees, so the accounts so far look like this:

Difference between money borrowed and purchase price – £70.51
10th Nov – Interest – £96.68
10th Dec – Interest – £276.88
11th Jan – Interest – £276.88
10th Feb – Interest – £276.88
10th Mar – Interest – £276.88
16th Mar – Solicitor’s bill – £766.00
Total:  £2,040.71

So it’s cost me a little over £2,000 just to get the keys.  In fairness, that’s not bad – I had to sit down when I opened the solicitor’s letter, as I was expecting that to be four figures and possibly starting with a 2!  I shall drop in and pay it tomorrow and leave a large Easter egg for Jane, my solicitor 🙂

I had a call back from Dougie the electrician this afternoon – he was up the road in Melvich, could he come and have a look?  Sure.  The good news is that he’s agreed to quote for it, so I need to think about what I want in each room in terms of lighting and sockets (I don’t need to finalise positions just yet), think about where I want the TV and the phone, as he’s going to hide all the cabling currently tacked to the front of the house for those, and decide whether I want the power to the byre to be on a separate meter to the rest of the house.  He’s also going to move the position of and seriously upgrade the heating controls (it’s a cheap clockwork timer and the noise is really annoying) and move the meter and fusebox etc. – he’d seen that the main power cable into the house is chased into the harling down the outside wall and then goes through a wooden panel above the front door, which isn’t ideal, so since we’re getting the door replaced and we’ll have someone patching the non-harled bits that will be revealed when Pete takes the fascia boards off, it’s going to go through the wall at the height of the connection and all be hidden in a little cupboard on the landing.  Mick has suggested that we ask him to also quote for putting in outside lights, particularly one to illuminate the fanks (sheep handling system), and also for wiring in a back-up generator so that if we do have guests in and there’s a power cut, it’ll cut in and take over.  We actually have a generator here, but it’s not wired in, so it can go down the road.

Another two hours stripping out panelling and bedroom one is very nearly ready for work to start.  The priority over the next few days is to get the surfaces with the Veluxes/proposed Veluxes bare so that if Pete wants to start cutting holes in the roof next week it’s all ready to go.  I uncovered a MAHOOSIVE spider which I thought was dead, but turned out not to be.  Mick really Does Not Do spiders, so I had to dispose of it out of the bedroom window.

The boring bits

It’s been nearly eight years since I last moved house, so I’d forgotten what a pain all the administrative bits are.  Over the last two days I’ve managed to mess up sorting out the council tax (apparently I don’t go on to business rates until it’s available to let, so I tried to apply for a major works discount using their online form and accidentally tried to backdate the claim for two years – well, they asked how long the house had been empty, so I told them!) and nearly mess up sorting out the electricity (didn’t think I had to take a meter reading because it was a PAYG key meter, rang them back to give them the reading, and then got cut off when they attempted to transfer me to the appointments system to get someone out to replace it with a credit meter), but on the plus side, I managed to speak to Pete the Roofer’s recommended electrician, who is very hard to get hold of because he’s so in demand, and he’s said he’ll give me a ring back to sort out a time to come and have a look, and the double-glazing and front door company are ringing back tomorrow to make an appointment.

We had another couple of hours stripping panelling this evening. Some pics from tonight.

We finally found some insulation!

156 armadale - bedroom one - 7

Hole in the wall – not brilliant, but when I put my hand in (yes, it’s that big!) there was no draft, no daylight and no damp.  Phew!

156 armadale - bedroom one - 8

The front wall of the house with the rafters sitting on it.

156 armadale - bedroom one - 9

Someone had carefully worked out the angles of the roof on the back of this bit of panelling

156 armadale - bedroom one - 10

Temporarily distracted by the last of the evening sun as it hits Strathy Point

156 armadale - bedroom one - 11

And the reason all that panelling has to come out – it’s very, very tasty apparently!

156 armadale - bedroom one - 12

Now that we’ve got going, I’ve started using my Instagram account properly, so if you want the pictures-only version of the blog, give me a follow 🙂

The starting point

“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”

I thought it was important to take photos and videos before we did anything, so when we get completely bogged down mid-project and feel like it’s never going to end, we can look back and see how far we’ve come.  Thanks to our broadband speed it has taken nearly five hours to upload an 11-minute video(!) so here are a couple of films showing you the outside and the inside and I’ll try and go through the photos tomorrow.

So with apologies for my Blair Witch-style filming and dodgy commentary (I’ll get better, I hope!), welcome to Ethel’s House!

Outside:

Inside:

Take your marks…

Don’t move, don’t breathe, don’t speak, but I think we’re nearly there.  We’re down to ONE outstanding query with the seller’s solicitor, which they’re looking into, and my solicitor has asked me to deposit funds with them so that they’re ready to transfer them once it’s been resolved satisfactorily.

Village marketwatch – next door has gone up for sale.  It’s a little bigger than Ethel’s House with better outbuildings, similar views and 29 acres, and it’s been valued on the home report at £235,000, which is very cheering.  They’ve done a fabulous job of decorating it inside though, I’m not sure I’ll quite achieve the same finish, but I’m going to try.

And going to be nosey at their home report has a downside, as I think I’ve found project number 2.  If it’s still up for sale by the time Ethel’s House is done, then I will definitely be going to have a look at it (though you can guess what sort of condition it’s in by the fact that it’s being advertised in the ‘land’ section and is on at offers over £45,000!!).

 

The first project – Ethel’s House

Missives aren’t concluded, but there’s now a formal written acceptance of my offer on my solicitor’s desk, so unless something goes horribly wrong, I’ve bought a house!  It’s not actually called Ethel’s House, it’s number 156, but like so many houses in this village, it’s generally known by the name of its longest resident in living memory, so Ethel’s House it is.  From the agent’s blurb:

This traditional 1 and ½ storey croft house which requires internal restoration is set in an area of true space and openness. The house was built in approximately 1920 and has panoramic sea views. On the ground floor is an entrance hallway, a living room, kitchen and bathroom and on the upper floor a landing and three bedrooms thus making it an ideal family home or fabulous holiday retreat. The house is mostly double glazed  and has the original v lining through the whole of the upstairs. There are stone built outbuildings which were formerly barns and stables also included in the sale and these offer various conversion options. There are areas of garden ground to the front, rear and side of the house. The house is heated with oil fired radiators and there is also an open fire in the living room.

The agents took the picture of it straight on and full frame (it’s on one of these rotating image things and even looking at the page source, I can’t track down the url for the original image, sadly), so it looks rather grey and sad.  I prefer this picture of it from the day the Google Street View car came past (yes, I can’t believe they made it this far north either!), because it shows a little of the amazing views the house has:

156 Armadale

What I’m buying, technically, is the croft tenancy with all its improvements, one of which is the house.  The field on the right belongs to someone else; the house comes with three fields behind it, one down on the point (not down the track in the picture, there’s another track about 15 yards to the right) and then another croft at the other end of the village, next door but one to my house (I live in the white one in the picture below):

166 Armadale

As you can see, there are the remains of an old house on it (there’s actually another one on the other side as well if you look really closely) and we’re hoping that one day we’ll be able to build our dream house here – a few years of planning and saving to do first though.  This field is 5 acres and runs all the way down to beach level.

So, step one in this project (once I get the keys, obviously): get Ethel’s House sorted out and ready to be lived in again.