We’ve lived in this house for almost nine years. We bought it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, that it was an old house with character in a lovely village, detached, plenty of rooms (albeit most of them – the five bedrooms – tiny) and it had a cracking Inglenook fireplace in the living room. Secondly – we were in a rush because the buyer of our old house was putting the squeeze on a bit, so we ignored the surveyor’s comments about the attempted cover-up of damp and bought the place anyway.
While I don’t exactly regret buying the house – it’s lovely, or could be lovely at least, despite its faults – I do regret not attempting to bat the vendor down on the price a bit. But this was our first time negotiating the purchase of a house, and I think we were a little naive – not to mention a bit desperate, given the hassle we were getting from the buyer of our old place, which we’d bought at cost from Dewi’s parents some four years previously. Still, you live and learn.
Over the past nine years the dampness and mould – in some rooms caused by actual damp, but in others only caused by condensation – have really got us down. Last weekend I had to chuck out two sacks of books and one sack of photos – all ruined by white fluffy mould growth and sheer wetness. The mould in our bedroom (partly caused by water ingress, partly by condensation) was so bad that we had to move all our clothes into another room, as they stank of mushrooms. You can imagine the fun I had washing the entire wardrobes of two adults’ clothes, then ironing the lot afterwards. Oh the joys.
The problem was, by the time things had got bad enough for us to realise there was a big problem, we had no money to fix it. I won’t go into detail but there was no spare money at all, so we had to put up with it. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that we couldn’t afford to put the central heating on for a couple of winters; if we’d used the central heating and opened windows, the black condensation mould could have been largely avoided. But we couldn’t afford the astronomical cost of bottled gas for central heating (just heating the water was expensive enough) so we coped by wearing extra clothes and huddling round the fireplace in the living room.
We’ve finally got out of that particular financial rut, though, and have just extended our mortgage to cover the costs of fixing a lot of the things that are wrong with the house. First off, we’re getting double glazing in pretty much every room that doesn’t already have it. A new boiler has just been ordered (the old one died a couple of weeks ago, and is leaking water all over the utility room floor; an expense we hadn’t budgeted for but there’s not a lot we can do about that). The new boiler will be more efficient and economical to run, and the double glazing will enable us to have windows open a crack for ventilation, but locked into position so our two indoor cats can’t get outside. So – hopefully, no future condensation problems.
There are three rooms (four if you include a little lobby area which we call ‘the library’ because it’s where our bookshelves are) that are badly affected by mould: our bedroom, my office, and Dewi’s studio. So these are the rooms that will be getting the most attention.
The water ingress in our bedroom (part of the room is below ground level) is going to be fixed by Dewi putting up tanking and dry lining, and some sort of resin on the floor. Then it will be decorated and recarpeted.
As well as being mouldy, my office has a leaky roof. It’s an ancient flat roof and water pours in on rainy days, making it an unsafe environment to work in (because the leak is just above my desk, meaning the laptop gets splashed). It also has a damp wall, which is damp because the render on the outside is hanging off. So, new roof, new render, dry line the external walls, remove a partition that created a little lobby between the office and the loo, and replace the external door in that lobby with a double glazed window. Add a door between the office and the living room, meaning the office/toilet area can be closed off at night so the cats can sleep there instead of on our bed. Add plenty of storage – both cupboards and shelves – and custom built ‘bunk bed’ shelves for the cats.
Dewi’s studio wasn’t in our original plan or budget, but the dampness in there is wrecking his musical instruments and computer equipment, so we’re adding double glazing and dry lining there, too.
The main hallway between the kitchen and bathroom/bedrooms (our house is a long, narrow bungalow) has a manky old external door in it, which is extremely draughty and won’t open – so we’re blocking in the lower half, and having a double glazed window in the top half. Then we’ll redecorate and put down laminate flooring to replace the manky old carpet.
The smallest bedroom – we use it as a dressing room now – isn’t mouldy or damp, but it could do with a lick of paint, so we’ll do that. We’ll be chucking out our rickety old furniture from this room – mis-matched wardrobes, shelves, baskets and the like – and turning part of the room into a kind of built-in wardrobe by fitting a hanging rail and shelf, and storing our clothes in lidded crates beneath. There will be curtains across this area to hide it all (doors are beyond our budget unfortunately), and eventually I’ll put a sofa bed in there to make it into a second guest bedroom. The laminate flooring from the hallway will extend into this room.
The spare bedroom, again, is not damp, but after the double glazing is put in it’ll need a lick of paint. The laminate flooring will extend into this room too.
The bathroom will have double glazing and an extractor fan, then I’ll do something with the mouldy ceiling.
The kitchen will have an extractor fan and double glazing, plus a new back door.
The little loo by my office is also affected by mould. We’re fitting a new suite and the room will be redecorated and refloored. The tiles are being hacked off and replaced with tongue and groove which we’ll paint white, and above that will be a really lovely wallpaper I’ve found online. Again, there will be double glazing.
In fact, the only room in the house that won’t be double glazed at this time is the ‘library’, because our budget won’t currently stretch to an extra window and a new external door. We’ll have to save up for those and do them another time.
This lot is going to take a long time. It’s quite daunting because we’re doing most of it ourselves, which means weekends and a couple of evenings a week. We’ve been at it nearly two weeks (we’ve started with my office, because that was in the direst need, what with the leaky roof and all) and although Dewi optimistically says it’ll all be done by the end of September, in reality I’ll be surprised if it’s finished much before Christmas.
As each room is finished, I’ll write a new post with before, during and after photos. Like I said though, it’s not going to be a quick job, so don’t hold your breath!