Some potential renovation projects

One of my worst faults is that I have a constantly roving eye for a house in need of a bit of TLC.  Here are a few that have caught my attention recently, though they’re all either sold or probably will be before long!

The Old Schoolhouse, Halkirk

Lovely traditional house in Halkirk, packed with period features – just look at this staircase!

Formerly inhabited by a heavy smoker, this would need stripping right back.

It’s got damp issues and I’d want to get a loo/shower room in downstairs somewhere (possibly by taking a bit off the dining room), but this house has amazing bones and has an enormous back garden that could potentially provide a plot to build another house on.  Was on at offers over £115,000, went to fixed price £103,000 and is currently under offer.

St Andrews Church, Thurso

Pete tells me I am not allowed to buy this until I am making more money than God.

The roof is shot and has been for years and a lot of the glass is broken.  But what’s left is beautiful.

And yet again, a wonderful staircase.

I think it would make a fantastic space to show off the area’s artists and craftspeople – turn the downstairs into cubicled work areas for creatives, turn the upstairs into a gallery/showroom to sell their wares. Downsides are the lack of parking and the fact that just sorting out the roof is going to run into six figures.  Also B-listed.  Currently under offer for the third or fourth time at £50,000.

Adastra, Wick

This is a former drill hall, used by the Territorial Army from 1890 to 2018.  Gorgeous proportions.

Lovely old stone floor and upstairs, the drill hall and those amazing windows.

It has three entrances at the front and looks from the floorplan like it would split vertically into three houses fairly easily.  The problem is that they’d be pretty big family-sized homes and there’s no garden.  Currently on at a fixed price of £120,000, down from its initial asking price of offers over £150,000.

I have a load more I’m keeping my eye on, but that’s probably enough for this evening, I’ll save the rest for another day.

Project 2 – Coldbackie – FINISHED!

Oh my goodness, it’s been a year and eight months – where did that go?  To cut a very long story short, we planned to open Tor Aluinn to guests in May this year, got scuppered finishing it off by Covid and finally welcomed our first visitors at the end of August.

As a small memory refresher, this is what it looked like when we bought it:  http://househoarder.com/project-2-has-lift-off/

And this is how all those rooms look now.

Living Room

The window seat ended up not getting put back in because it turned out the three-seater sofa fitted so perfectly it could have been made-to-measure, so we just ordered another one.  We didn’t go for a woodburner in the end, they make a lot of mess and there wasn’t really anywhere to store logs, so we left it empty (I’m looking for a vintage fire screen to go in front of it, like the one in Ethel’s House’s bedroom) and picked a wall colour that would make the fireplace disappear a bit – this is Sulking Room Pink, originally this room was going to be dark red.  I’m still not 100% convinced I’ve got the colour right, because there’s so much blue in the rest of the house, but as soon as I change it the fireplace is going to start hitting you between the eyes again.

Downstairs bathroom

We ended up not doing too much in here.  Kris the plumber took one look at the floor and the wetwall and advised (a) it was about £2,000-worth of work and (b) it had been done extremely well.  So we took the shower seat and surround out, got some contrasting wetwall to make a feature of the shower and cover up the screw holes, replaced the loo and Kris had a rummage through his shed and found the shower screen.  The storage unit was bought second hand from someone at Mick’s work.  We did put a big chrome heated towel rail in here as well, which is to the right of the loo, and then the little white towel stand was £20 from Argos and is surprisingly sturdy.

Kitchen/diner

This is where we knocked the study/bedroom 5 into the dining room.  The old Aga was on the blue wall.  And yes, I know the blue kitchen is fashionable and might well date badly, but I love it.  David built the shelves on the island from some offcuts of worktop, so they match perfectly and are really sturdy.  The island isn’t actually fixed to the floor, it can be moved about if we ever need to access the electrics underneath it (the fridge is built into it on the other side).  The blue velvet curtains are the ones we bought with the house 🙂

Utility room

After a bit of a mismeasure with the units (they forgot to take into account the concrete skirting) we had to ditch the separate tumble dryer and get a combination one – and then had a mad panic when I thought I’d better test it the week before the first guests arrived and found it didn’t work!  We ended up frantically swapping it out for a new one the day before the guests were due and the one in the picture is now in my house after a warranty repair.  Glad I found a spot for my impulse bench seat buy and the seat holds all the dog-drying towels, dog poo bags and dog treats.

Hall and landing

Blue, blue and more blue – I didn’t exactly keep to my neutral plan.  Chris the electrician was convinced the feature light was going to be too big for the space, but it works just fine, although changing the bulb in it is a two-person job and you have to lean out rather perilously over the stairwell.  We put an LED bulb in it though, so hopefully it’ll last the advertised 15 years.  The cupboard downstairs has the vacuum cleaner and lots of spares (glasses, bulbs, handwash, loo roll etc. etc.) and the upstairs one is the linen store and has two full spare sets of sheets and towels.

Master bedroom

I LOVE this room.  I know that Hague Blue makes me a walking middle-class cliche and I really don’t care.  Mick had serious doubts about the peacock until he actually hung it on the wall and then he had to admit that it fits in nicely.  The shop actually had two, the other one faced the other way, and I was so tempted to get them both and hang them in the dining room instead, but Mick veto’d that in favour of a really big wooden clock he’d fallen in love with (not shown in the kitchen picture because it hadn’t arrived).  The window seat cushions were made by Just Wright Crafts, who did all the lampshades and cushions for Ethel’s House.  We also cut a hole in the wall in here and put in a little en suite shower room.  If I could change anything about the way we did this house, it would be to put another 10cm onto the en suite, but hey ho.  We went for new doors upstairs in the end, rather than reusing the ones removed from downstairs, as David said too much needed cutting off them and they’d have looked wrong.

Upstairs bathroom

Bit of a difference from the old bedroom.  Because we put the en suite in we decided not to put another shower in here, just the hand-held shower attachment on the taps and a screen to stop the splashes.  The old window seat is the perfect height for a glass of wine and a book.  Kris and David made the boxout to hide the pipes and the bath surround from wet wall.  Again, the radiator was swapped out for a big chrome towel rail.

Front bedroom

This ended up having to be the twin after I couldn’t make the space work for it in the back bedroom.  A shame to lose the fireplace, but we did really need the space.  The bells are all still on the walls, but sadly the wiring couldn’t be revived.  The cupboard in here has had a rail fitted and is acting as a wardrobe, which saved a few hundred.

Back bedroom

The wallpaper in here was such a sod to get off that Magnus ended up papering over the whole thing with lining paper and painting that rather than scraping.  We had to move the bell push, it’s just been glued back on.

Garden/outside

The old asbestos garage, half-built over the boundary, got removed by specialists, and we created a gravel parking area at the front.  The garden was hacked back, a really big tree too near the house was taken down completely, and Pete and Mick spent four very hard days levelling the broken flagstones and laying new patio stones around the back of the utility room where the garage used to be.  There’s now a rustic wooden table and benches in the rectangle area where the wall is and the double sink is at the back door as a planter, with mint and chives in it.  Fencing David (he has the same name as David the joiner) came and replaced the remains of the old metal wire fence with a beautiful wooden one with handmade gates at either side of the house, which Magnus then stained with creosote – we have not yet had a dog escape!

And that’s it, job done!  Is there another project?  Well, yes, there is, but more about that another day.

Let the demolitions begin

Apologies for the gap in posting, I’ve been getting husband back on his feet, dealing with lambs, making hay, keeping Ethel’s clean and tidy with back-to-back guests and, finally, getting a bit of work done on the Coldbackie house!

The new windows went in last month and look great.

The Aga was sold to a couple just up the road from where we live, who are off-grid and are going to convert it back to solid fuel.  Their son came up to help them take it out and it left the house in three pieces, but it’s made the room look a lot bigger.

I got stripping in the front bedroom – love it when the wallpaper just peels off in easy strips 🙂  I need to measure up that fireplace – I’m hoping the Victorian-style metal insert that we took out of the bedroom at Ethel’s will fit in there, allowing it still to be a feature, but getting back the floor space that the tiled hearth takes up.

And I couldn’t resist a little peel back of the wallpaper on the landing.  My bedroom was that colour yellow when I was tiny!

Then it was time to get demolition-happy in what will be the kitchen-diner.  It’s going to be a lovely big room when we’re all the way through.

And just to show what a difference aspect makes to warmth of light – both the room I’m standing in and the room I’m knocking through to are painted the same colour, but one has a north-facing window and the other south-facing.

New beams being exposed.  This is going to need treating for woodworm.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was to find a brick wall here.  Everyone, even the surveyors, thought this was stud.  We worked out, with some help from Ralph next door, that this is where the original house’s staircase would have been and the Hoggs would have put this wall up to create the maid’s room.  Therefore it’s likely not to be load-bearing, which is backed up by not all the beams resting on it, but I’m going to get Pete to come and check it out before I take a sledgehammer to it.

RDI were starting this week, putting in insulation, moving the oil tank and moving the radiator in the maid’s room, so I thought I’d better have a look at the wall the radiator was going to be moved to (the Aga wall), just in case there was a fabulous stone fireplace hiding behind it.  Sadly all that was left was a lintel, the rest appears to have been bodged about with in the 1930s.

I wasn’t expecting that wall to be tanked.  As we were planning to make the wall on the left of the picture above a bare stone feature wall and there was a bit of damp in the top corner, I thought I’d peel that back as well.  Turns out it’s also tanked, so game over for bare stone (why would you tank an internal wall??), but I think I’ve found the cause of the moisture – old plaster had flaked off in chunks and wedged itself between the wall and the plasterboard, bridging the air gap and allowing moisture to cross through into the plasterboard.  All this will come off, the wall will get cleaned up, picked and pointed as necessary, and then have new studwork and plasterboard.  On the plus side, it means the radiator can now go on this wall, which is a much easier move in terms of pipework.

Our final job at the weekend was to cut back the area where the oil tank’s going to go.  Lots of blackberry and blackcurrant bushes in with the honeysuckle, so I think I’m going to make it an edible garden.  I think I’ve found a border at the back of the living room which would make a perfect herb garden, but I need to go back and rip out a load of weeds and grass and see what’s actually under there.  We’ve found quite a nice old concrete edging to the lawn under the grass as well.

Project 2 has lift-off

Completion had to be delayed for a few days after the final set of searches found a Notice of Grant Conditions attached to the house, but Elaine checked them out and they’re nothing to worry about, so we were able to pick up the six sets of keys to the house last Tuesday.  Mick is currently in plaster after rupturing his Achilles tendon last month, so not a lot we could get our teeth into straight off, but we went over there straight away anyway, just to go and sit inside it and feel happy for a bit 🙂  Room by room walkthrough below.

Living room

The window seat will be retained (or at least reinstated after the bay window is replasterboarded, as there’s been a leak at some point in the past).  I’ll put a coffee table there and two small armchairs to make a separate seating area from the rest of the room.  Then there’ll be a sofa side-on to the fireplace with its back to the window.  This will be part of the TV area grouping at the other end of the room.

TV will go to the right of the fireplace (the satellite dish has to be on the back of the house.  I was going to put a corner unit in that right-hand corner, but the radiator is in the way, so there’ll be a big sofa along that right-hand wall to make an open 90-degree corner with the fireplace sofa.

As the fireplace is such a huge focal point (we’ll take out that electric fire and replace it with a woodburner), I don’t feel I need to do a wallpaper feature wall in this room.  The original picture rail is still up, so we’ll paint the room white above that and put a colour on the walls below – I’ve found some lovely tan leather armchairs and leather/fabric mix sofas with pillow backs, which are autumnal reds and greens, so I need to work out a colour that will blend in with that.  The carpet is an Axminster, in Dounreay pattern(!) and there are some lovely floorboards underneath, but they’re straight onto joists with no insulation and there are gaps in them where Jeff broke through the floor installing the radiators, so we’ll put carpet in here – we’re going to have a neutral carpet throughout the house in all bar a few rooms.

Love this art deco-style door handle.

Bathroom

It’s a standard Care & Repair bathroom, similar to the one at Ethel’s.  This was originally two rooms and we did think about reinstating the wall, but have decided one lovely large bathroom is better than two small separate rooms.  The sink will move over to the right, a bath will go under that window where the sink is (I need to measure out, but I’m hoping to get a double-ended slipper bath in there) and the shower will be a large quadrant shower in the left back corner.  The floor in here will likely be a Karndean lino in a chessboard-style tile effect.

Kitchen/diner

This is the current dining room.  Much as everyone says, ‘Oooh, Aga!!’ it’s going to have to go, because it drinks oil like a demon, overpowers the room both physically and heat-wise, and is going to get in the way of where the dining table’s going to go.  The wall to the left, just out of shot (you can see the paper peeling off where I ripped a damp bit away) is an external wall but now has the current kitchen built onto it, so Pete reckons we may be able to strip that back to be a beautiful bare stone wall without much heat loss.

This is the maid’s room, attached to the dining room and shown as bedroom 5 on the floor plan.  We’re going to knock this out completely to make a big kitchen/diner.  The kitchen part of it will mostly be contained in here and flooring for the whole thing will be another Karndean stone-effect lino.

Utility room

Currently the kitchen, this will have a sink, washing machine, tumble dryer, ironing board and be somewhere for wet, muddy, sandy dogs to dry off 🙂  Karndean flooring again.

Hall and landing

The downstairs hall and corridor, leading to bathroom and kitchen/diner.  This will be carpeted and painted a neutral colour.

The stairwell, still with its original bannisters.  That electrical gear is going to need moving, I fear, because to read the meter you have to stand on the landing and peer at it.  (And that reminds me, SSE couldn’t find the house on the national database when I rang them last week, though they do currently supply it, so I have to ring them back tomorrow with the meter serial number!).  Again, this will be kept simple and neutral, though I want something quite statement lighting-wise – I’ve seen one that I love, but only on American websites, where it’s tagged as Analia vintage 3-light cluster pendant.  I’m hoping I can find something similar in the UK, or maybe something like a lantern light.

Upstairs landing – again, neutral throughout.

Master bedroom

This room is above the dining room.  That door opens into an empty cupboard where the hot water tank used to be, it’ll be knocked out to give a bit more space and a 5ft double bed will go up against that back wall.  Plenty of space in here for a wardrobe and drawers.  The little hatch on the left accesses the roof space above the utility room.  I haven’t even started to think about colours yet.  This room has a modern door on it, similar to the one on the cupboard.  Fortunately by knocking out the maid’s room downstairs, I’ll free up two original doors (there are two doors in the long corridor downstairs) which can be put into this room and what will become the upstairs bathroom, as it also has a modern door.

Upstairs bathroom

Currently a bedroom, this is going to be turned into an upstairs bathroom with a big shower, a loo and a sink.  There’s a handy cupboard to the right of the doorway, which will hold spare towels and bed linen.  Jeff, who installed the heating system here, says that from memory there’s a good foot of space under the floorboards before you get to the downstairs ceilings, so in theory, there’s enough room to take the pipes through that void and out the back to connect with the existing drainage and sewerage (this room is more or less above the bathroom, it’s just the corridor is on the other side upstairs), and it shouldn’t require a building warrant.  Although downstairs is currently an electric shower, I’m going to put one that runs off the combi boiler in downstairs and make this upstairs one electric – that way if there’s an issue with the boiler at any time, a hot shower will still be available.  Belt and braces!

Front bedroom

I need to think carefully about layout in this room.  It’s going to be another double, so do I block off that fireplace and put the headboard against that wall, put the headboard below the picture and leave the fireplace or put the headboard against the left-hand wall in the picture below?  I think I’m going to be in here with my newspaper furniture layouts again.

The door just visible on the left is yet another cupboard and although the roof valley comes down inside it, I think there’s enough space in there to put a rail in and make it a wardrobe, which frees up a bit of floor space.  I found the newspaper below in it, from July 1970, and just loved the second lead story on the front page.

Back bedroom

This will be the twin and will be tricky to fit a wardrobe into.  Where I’m standing has the roof valley coming down into the room, so I’m going to have to put the beds on the wall where the bell push is and the wardrobe against that bit of wall to the left, if it’ll allow the doors to open.  The little bit of wood on the left of the picture is the door frame.

Garden

Somewhat overgrown and vertical, but it looks like this bit used to be a flower border at one time.  I love the bluebells.

The boundary is roughly where the tree is and that old house belongs to the neighbour, but there’s a wonderful honeysuckle growing all over the top of the garden, which I’m sure will smell glorious in a few weeks when it starts to flower.  Views up to the Watch Hill are nearly as spectacular as the views to the front, and we’ll build seating out here, so that people can bring food out of the utility room door and eat out here in summer (midges permitting).

I’ve already had ERG round to quote for windows.  Mick guessed £24k, I thought they’d start at £22k and we’d settle somewhere around £15k.  In the end, for 17 windows plus a Velux, they started at a few pounds under £20k and we got to £14,199, which I’m delighted with.  I did look at a company called Rationel as well, because they do hardwood windows and I have a real soft spot for proper wood windows in old houses, but it was going to be just that bit too expensive when I took into consideration everything else we need to do.  Next time they need replacing, when I’m not trying to get everything else done at the same time, I’ll have another look.  Their surveyor is coming to do a detailed measure-up tomorrow morning, then on Thursday morning someone’s coming to take a look at the asbestos garage and quote for dismantling and disposal, and Monday morning sees RDI Renewables visiting to let me know what they can do in terms of insulation.  It’s a little bit damp in there at the moment, and new windows plus some room-in-roof and attic insulation will make a big difference.

A plague on both your houses!

I got a call from Dougie the electrician yesterday.  “Sorry I haven’t been up this week,” he said.  “I’ve managed to catch ringworm and I’m trying not to go near people as I’m very contagious.”  He’ll be back with us next week, but in the meantime he’s been talking me through filling out the online SSE form to get someone out to have a look at the house and tell me how much it’s going to cost to move the incoming power cable and the meter.  All submitted and they should get back to me in three working days, so fingers crossed it’s not going to be too expensive.  Dougie did get a fair bit done last week, we have another couple of holes in the house, one in the living room where the power cable will go out for a switch for the two floodlights that will illuminate the sheep fanks and one where the new mains power will come in.  The current one is only hanging on by the skin of its teeth!

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Actually, it’s no bad thing that he’s not here, because he really needs an accurate drawing of the kitchen units and it hasn’t been done yet.  Mick has a colleague at work who used to work for a kitchen company and still has the design software, so she’s very kindly doing it for us (I’ve asked him to find out what kind of cake she likes!).  David’s also been back working on his neighbour’s extension, so it’s just been Pete and his team working on the roof.

The sarking boards are all replaced where necessary and the slates are now going on.  James has set up a small slate-cutting workshop in the kitchen to hand-cut all the scalloped slates for the ridge row and the patterns.

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David realised he hadn’t asked us for enough wood, so the Rembrand lorry came trundling over with another 30 lengths and the guys now have a nice bench to sit and have lunch on.

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There are some replacement floorboards on the way from Allans of Gillock as well, but they’ve been a bit delayed due to the county show last weekend throwing out their delivery schedule.

Tomorrow I have to turn my attention to the fields again – we are forecast dry weather from tomorrow until Sunday afternoon, so John Angy and his tractor are coming up tomorrow afternoon to cut this little lot for me and hopefully we’ll get it turned on Friday and Saturday and baled on Sunday.  That’s the plan, anyway, let’s hope the weather gods are kind!  It also means I have until Sunday to clear enough space in the byres to store the baled hay with enough air around it for it not to combust and go up in flames.  I suspect I’m in for some hard physical labour for the rest of the week!

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Time to hit the accelerator

Last week it looked like not much happened.  In fact, an awful lot did, but as seems to be the theme with this project, it’s all background preparation that won’t be on display when the house is the finished.

Pete and his team moved onto the front of the roof and hit some issues.  Apparently most roofers will start with the back of the house, because it gives you a good idea of what to expect, there are generally fewer features to deal with, and it gives you a chance to get a feel for the roof and get into the swing of how it slates so when you come round to the front there should be no nasty surprises.  That’s how Pete’s always done it and it’s served him very well.  My roof, however, decided to be difficult.  So since Pete had very sweetly bought me my own hard hat (apparently I have to write BOSS on it in permanent marker!) I got my brave pants on (I don’t do heights) and went up for a look.

hard hat selfie

The roof, as is traditional round here, has cement skews (the vertical slabs you can see at each end of the roof on pictures of it).  Now, if you’re a sensible roofer, you slate under the skew a little bit so there’s no gap that water can get into.  Remember when we took off all the panelling in the bedrooms and found that the gable ends were running wet and thought it was the chimneys?  It wasn’t…

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Yes, those sarking boards are absolutely rotten.  To add to that, it seems that no-one had ever bothered to take the previous liners off – they had to remove eight layers of tar paper and some of the old asbestos cement tiles (which would have been the cause of the diamond pattern you can see in this layer).

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And then they got to the dormers.  Now, you’d think that it might be sensible to use the same width of skew on the top of the dormer as the sides, right?  Apparently not.

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This is causing Pete all types of headache, because that tiny little triangle of wood behind the vertical skew needs making watertight somehow.  It was previously slated, but the slates bulged out where they met the cement and it had just been packed with mortar to try and keep the rain out, which hadn’t worked (we did wonder why we pulled out a few old towels from behind the panelling in one of the bedrooms!).  He’s currently thinking he might just do some fancy leadwork there instead, but was considering his options over the weekend, so may have a clearer idea tomorrow.

As the sarking boards were tinder-dry, Pete asked me if I could take a wander down about 9pm and just check that the house wasn’t on fire, because they’d been using diamond-tipped blades on the skews (they wore out two doing the back of the house!) and although they’d soaked everything in water before starting, sparks had been flying and he wanted to make sure one hadn’t smouldered.  No smoke and no flames, but a rather beautiful evening.

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Over the weekend, Mick got up on the scaffolding and started cleaning the old paint off the dormers in preparation for painting them.

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He found a green layer, which might have been a primer or they might once have been green, which makes me happy, because I’ve gone for a green front door and will have green gates 🙂  Rain stopped play before he could do much on the second one, so here’s the comparison shot:

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Good view from up there, but no whales today, sadly.

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The really great news is that we have David the joiner tomorrow!  I’m not sure how many days we’ve got him for, but quite frankly I’ll take what he can give me and be grateful at the moment.  He asked us if we’d got timber already, which we hadn’t, but obviously getting it ourselves would save on his time and we have an account at the same place he would have got it from, so Mick was dispatched into town with the truck to buy what David needed.  Turns out you can’t get 24 lengths of 3×2 on top of a Mitsubishi L200… 12 left it bouncing in a rather spectacular manner, even on its toughened suspension, so Mick had two rather careful drives home and now as well as all the insulation and floor packed into the living room, we have 24 lengths of wood in the hall.

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The plan was that David would start upstairs with the front Velux for Pete, then do the framing for Dougie to run cables into.  Mick and I would fit insulation in the evenings, thus gradually emptying out the living room for David to work in.  Which would have worked beautifully if it wasn’t for the fact that Mick is away from Tuesday to Friday!  I think what we’ll do is just move the insulation panels into the rooms they’ll be installed in as David finishes each one, which will hopefully free up enough space for him to work round.

In theory, we should have five on site tomorrow – do you think we’ve catered enough??  It’s getting like the Great British Bake-Off in our kitchen at weekends!

baking - sausage rolls shortcake

A very big delivery

We’ve made some pretty good progress this week.  Dougie has now got about as far as he can with the electrics until the studwall goes in, but we now have all the cables coming down the walls to where the sockets and switches will be, and they’re all neatly bundled up where the fusebox will be moved to on the landing.

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As we had a bit of bad weather earlier in the week, I asked Pete and the guys to take the kitchen and bathroom ceilings down – Mick strained his back over the weekend so we weren’t able to do it ourselves and I didn’t want it to hold Dougie up.  They found the kitchen ceiling was painted, so at some point it must have just been open to the floorboards above.  I’m very wary about going upstairs now though, as I don’t want to fall through Dougie’s cable runs!

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We did have our first on-site accident though – a dropped crowbar whilst taking down the bathroom ceiling unfortunately bounced the wrong way off the stepladder and took out the sink.

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Never mind, it wasn’t a particularly pretty basin, I’m almost pleased to have a good excuse for replacing it!  The bathroom ceiling is nothing to write home about and will be covered up with plasterboard once Dougie has done his stuff.

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Today is Mick’s birthday and fittingly we had a very, very large delivery – all the Quinn Therm insulation and my flooring 🙂  It took up most of the Rembrand lorry on its weekly trip west!

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Amazingly we just about managed to squeeze it all into the living room.  In theory, once David and Dougie have gone through upstairs, we can fit the 100mm stuff into the rafters, which will free up enough space for them to work in the living room.  In theory…!

We’ve had a pretty good day for weather today, which means the roof has made great progress.

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Fingers crossed we can get hold of David for next week, otherwise we’re going to grind to a halt again, but for now we’re moving forwards at pace.

Let there be light!

David arrived on Thursday and had a quick site meeting with Pete and Dougie, the upshot of which is that he put the Velux windows in on the side of the house Pete is currently working on and will be back again at some point this week to put the studwork in for Dougie.  I went down on Thursday evening to have a look at the windows and was so pleased that I almost cried!  The amount of light coming into the top floor now is amazing.

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Dougie is still tunnelling, very neatly.

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And having had a look at our kitchen layout, he’s now more convinced than ever that venting the extractor fans from there and the bathroom through the roof is going to be too much distance for them to work effectively, so he’s having an exploratory dig through the wall to put them out of the back instead.

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I went to Rembrand at the weekend and ordered up the insulation, which came to an eye-watering £1,778.  I keep telling myself that it’s paid for itself once I’ve saved about 4,200 litres of heating oil…  Seriously, as I intend to own this house for a very long time, it’s a good investment.  While we were in there we saw they had an end of line special offer on 18mm engineered oak flooring, so today I’ve been measuring up the ground floor as it looked really nice and at £21.99 a square metre, worth grabbing if they have enough.  (A similar thickness bought online is around £29.99 a square metre.)  Measurements are as follows:

Kitchen – 3.36 x 4.00 into bay window = 13.44sqm
Living room – 3.90 x 4.00 into bay window = 15.6sqm
Hall – 3.20 x 1 plus 1 x 0.52 plus 1.09 x 0.9 = 4.7sqm
Total = 33.74sqm – so I’ll order 35sqm, which will be £769.65 (assuming the price they were showing included VAT…) and if I go and see them tomorrow, it can be delivered with all the insulation on Thursday.
The bathroom will need something different, as engineered wood usually isn’t suitable for use in it, but I measured it anyway – 1.7 x 2.15 to the shower tray = 3.655sqm.

Today we’ve been baking to feed the team next week.  I’ve made a lemon drizzle cake and Mick has gone all in on the sausage rolls after they got rave reviews last week – he’s done sausage, pate, cheese and onion, Mexican-spiced sausage, and wild boar and mushroom!  Also pictured are the custard biscuits I made last week, after I raided Mum’s recipe book while I was away.

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Starting to feel like we’re getting somewhere

I’m not quite sure how it’s got to be Thursday already, but this week has passed in a blur and Pete, James and Connor have got an awful lot done.

The kitchen has been plastered:

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coated with bitumen:
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and then the liner was put down and the concrete floor re-poured. Try getting through THAT, damp!!
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The same’s happened upstairs in bedroom one (minus the floor liner), as that gable end faces the sea and takes a battering:

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And they’ve also sorted out that wobbly stone under the window:

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and picked and pointed the gable end in bedroom two (I’ve decided to keep that fireplace as bare stone and not put the little surround back in, by the way):

156 armadale - bedroom two - 10

So the inside is more or less ready to hand over to Dougie and David, once the floor’s set in the kitchen – only we’re having trouble tracking down David!  The problem with using someone widely acknowledged to be one of the best joiners in the area is that he’s very in demand.  Pete could really have done with him here this week, but we think he’s been working down at Forsinard where there’s no mobile signal, as no-one’s been able to speak to him.  By ringing his home number at 9pm last night, Pete finally managed to speak to his other half, so fingers crossed he might be able to start with us next week, as Dougie will be back and ideally we want the studwork to go up for the wiring to be run down (and I need to know whether he’s using 3×2 or 2×2 so I know what thickness of insulation to order!)

Outside there’s progress as well.  The scaffolding is up on the back and the roof tiles are off:

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That membrane does make it rather blue inside!

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And after a long weekend down the road at our neighbour’s house after they were delivered to the wrong address on Friday, Travis Perkins came back on Wednesday and brought the roof slates up:

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And, of course, one of the most important bits – care and feeding of your roofing team!  It was cheese and chive flapjacks today:

baking - cheese and chive flapjacks

I also had a visit from ERG today to quote me for the windows and door.  Before they arrived, I looked out the paperwork from when ours were done three years ago and noted that 2 doors and 10 windows came to £8,800 – so considering that I was wanting 1 door and 5 windows, my estimate in the budget of £5,000 seemed about right.  Er, no, their prices have gone up a bit.  List price £8,300, 20% returning customer discount brought it down to £6,640.  I made the time-honoured tradesman ‘suck-through-your-teeth’ noise, he asked how much I was hoping to do it for and we ended up shaking hands at £5,812.  The surveyor should be coming round in the next two weeks to measure up more accurately and then it’s 6-8 weeks for manufacture and delivery, which will be about right for my schedule.  The front door will be dark green outside, white inside and part-glazed.  The windows will be white inside and out, with oak window sills and door and window furniture will be silver.  Once the exterior is painted just off-white, it should look pretty smart!

Tomorrow Callum is coming to sweep the three chimneys.  I’m not sure how many years it is since they were last done, but Derek the heating engineer made the same suck-through-your-teeth noise when he looked up the living room one as we were discussing the woodburner, so I think it’s going to get messy….

Hey big spender

I had to write the first big cheque last week (well, the first one since the one I wrote for buying the place, which was a whopper!), so I thought it was probably time to put my cards on the table and share my budget.

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There are really two parts to the budget: what’s needed to get it to the point where it could be sold or rented and what’s needed to furnish it to turn it into a holiday let.  Here are our figures.

Item Estimate
Roof & stonework £16,000.00
Electrics £4,655.00
Heating & burner install £7,000.00
Joinery £5,000.00
Kitchen units £3,000.00
Downstairs flooring £1,600.00
Carpets £750.00
Plasterboard & insulation £2,000.00
Skirting boards £200.00
Kitchen appliances £2,000.00
Switches, sockets, light fittings £500.00
Interior paint £500.00
Exterior paint £1,000.00
Shower tray & screen £700.00
Shower £400.00
Woodburner & kit £1,500.00
Windows and door £5,000.00
Door stripping £400.00
Miscellaneous tools £2,500.00
Bathroom tiles £250.00
Garden/fencing £2,000.00
Interest, council tax, electricity £3,500.00

Total: £60,455 *gulp* And we’re actually already £2,720 over the roof budget because of the extra work to the stone. On the plus side, the house and surrounding fields were valued at £77,500 on the home report (the rest of the value being assigned to the other croft) and should be worth in the region of £150-160,000 once we’re done, so we’re still just about in profit.

On the furnishings side..

Beds x 4 £750.00
Mattresses x 4 £1,300.00
Sofas x 2 £1,100.00
Kitchen table & chairs £800.00
Coffee table £200.00
TV unit £200.00
TV £300.00
Wardrobes x 3 £750.00
Drawers x 2 £500.00
Bedside tables x 4 £500.00
Pots, pans & crockery etc £600.00
Cushions, pictures etc. £500.00

Total:  £7,500.  I’ve priced up for mostly new, but am hoping I can save some money by buying good-quality second hand – browsing the local Facebook for sale group, I’ve already seen a really nice oak single bed frame that would be perfect for the small bedroom for £45.  A friend of mine recently furnished an entire rental property from the weekly furniture auctions at Dingwall and has a teenage niece who’s got the long summer holidays coming up who is very, very talented at smartening up bargain buys, so I’m hoping she might be employable for a few days!  The one thing I refuse to buy second-hand are mattresses.

We’ve also agreed a £5,000 contingency, bringing the overall grand total potential spend to an absolutely eye-watering £72,955.  We have enough cash, from savings and 0% offers, to get us to the house being more or less finished, but not the garden – so I need to crack on with the decrofting application for the house site to make sure that as soon as there’s a working kitchen and bathroom in place, I can get on with a mortgage application to release money to pay back the 0% deals as they expire and put the final touches to it so it can start earning its keep.