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Doing a renovation in north london


Keymon
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Hello,

Just managed to get a terrace house in North London, starting now the renovation. We knew and wanted to do a full renovation, but we are finding some ugly surprises (some damp issues, poorly done structural work in previous extensions, etc) . Looking for some help and advice here and there. :)

 

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Good morning and welcome. A lot of people on here will have seen most things / bodges before. Feel free to post the problems as you find them. Pictures always help. Good luck with the project.

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7 hours ago, Keymon said:

.... Looking for some help and advice here and there. :)

 

HI there! You're very welcome.

There's loads of innocent fun to be had reading about everyone's experience.

 

We even  have a BuildHub Bodger In Residence.

For fun try and work out who he is.

He's a very nice man, a very very nice man.  He has a problem with walk-on-glazing. 

 

 

(You have to be prepared to take some stick here.)

Ian

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Welcome

 

@Adsibob is the expert at London renovations, he has just about had everything go wrong.

Make sure you get on with neighbours, and builders stay solvent.  Not to mention getting wine fridges.

Edited by SteamyTea
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Thank you all! I will really appreciate your help. Actually it is challenging and very stressful time, but I really look forward looking the home finished :)

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On 21/06/2022 at 00:41, Keymon said:

Just managed to get a terrace house in North London, starting now the renovation. We knew and wanted to do a full renovation, but we are finding some ugly surprises (some damp issues, poorly done structural work in previous extensions, etc) . Looking for some help and advice here and there. :)

 

Welcome and congratulations. 

 

Begin with a Cat D9.

 

Caterpillar D9 - Wikipedia

 

Seriously try try try not to get sucked into fixing old stuff when it's so much cheaper to knock it to the ground and start over. 

 

The big trap here is putting a lot of money into trying to fix the unfixable and thus being so mentally committed to refloating the titanic that the rational and cheaper option to start from scratch becomes unthinkable. 

 

I have a mate who bought a old stone cottage, economically and diligently improved it and lived in it for a couple of years. Put 100s of hours and maybe €30k into making it liveable. However life changed and they needed more space, got permission to triple the house size via an extension. They're approaching a point where a year into the build all that remains of the old cottage is 4 uninsulated walls. As they've progressed they've literally taken out all the electricals and plumbing by hand, removed an internal wall of maybe 50 tons of stone by hand, taken off the slates and roof timbers by hand. Dug out all the existing floors by hand. 

 

They're approaching a point with many 100's of man hours spent to arrive at like I said 4 uninsulated stone walls. The rebuild cost of those walls had they knocked would have been €4k. It's still €4k but the thought of all the work "gone to waste" will mean that their mostly new house is forever compromised as they won't start from scratch. 

 

I did warn him. Driving my digger through it would have been the best thing I could have done to help out. 

 

 

   

 

 

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28 minutes ago, Iceverge said:

 

Welcome and congratulations.

Begin with a Cat D9.

Seriously try try try not to get sucked into fixing old stuff when it's so much cheaper to knock it to the ground and start over.

 


I doubt I can bring down a terrace house like this in London, but I came to the realization of the amount to work, and defects started to appear, I felt like do it. Or just re-sell it at lost!  But I guess we will try to make it work.

But I guess we can apply the rule of thumb for the different parts to do, like floor, roof, plumbing, even if it means a bigger investment.

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18 minutes ago, Keymon said:

I doubt I can bring down a terrace house like this in London

We bought a 1930s semi not far from you, but survey identified lots of damp and other problems before we bought so we knew we would have to gut the whole place before we bought it. By the time we were ready to apply for planning permission we knew we'd be:

  • gutting the whole house of all its wiring and plumbing
  • removing all indoor walls with the exception of one quarter of the house (consisting of one bedroom and one living room under it) that was staying the same
  • knocking most of the rear wall of the house down to make way for a ground and first floor extension
  • doing a loft conversion
  • removing the external pebbledash covering of the whole house

At the time, we thought it was a major job, but that the house had "good bones" and so we were just removing what was necessary and keeping certain crucial bits like the roof and the joists.

 

Planning more or less forced us to lower the height of the ground floor floor by about 40cm. This was not planned, as we assumed the corbels were the same level throughout the house, but ultimately that proved a bad assumption and we ended up needing underpinning. Quite a lot of underpinning.

 

Then during contracting, the builder persuaded me to retile the roof at the same time as doing the loft conversion. And when i started reading about the benefits of MVHR on this forum I realised we would need to replace most of our joists with posi joists. So the joists went as well.

 

Oh, and did I mention we were replacing every window in the house and the front and side doors?

 

One day I got "home" from work (we weren't actually living there through this rather severe bit of house surgery) to discover that the two rooms I thought weren't losing their walls, ended up losing one wall. This was actually necessary, so i retrospectively okayed it and then the builder asked me whether there was any point in keeping the other wall and so I gave the okay for him to get rid of that too.

 

In the end, in no way overstating the extent of the gutting, we ended up just keeping the side wall, the front wall, a quarter of the rear wall and about 10% of the roof rafters and two fireplaces (one of which had to be lowered by 40cm when the floor was lowered by 40cm). The whole ordeal took 18 months and cost me an absolute fortune. I had always thought you couldn't knock down a semi detached house, but shortly after we started our building works I saw that this is exactly what they did around the corner. 

 

I'm still not sure whether there would have been much saving in £ given the additional structural engineering and insurance required for the adjoining house, although I'm sure it would have been quicker and we would have ended up with a better insulated house. Having said that, our neighbours were impossible to deal with and if we had knocked down our property I think they would have killed us judging how angry they got with us when we were doing a bit of gutting. I imagine that with a terrace house, in theory you could knock it down but in practice the structural bracing and insurance costs would be double the cost of that required with a semi detached demolition and so would be prohibitively expensive. Our house is also very well insulated, having put about 50mm of EWI on the original walls, made the house very airtight and not cut corners on the insulation for the new bits.

 

Good luck.

 

 

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An alternative way to look as this is the rather unintuitive mindset of "what can we really not get rid of" rather than " how much stuff can we keep."

 

I watched an interview with Elon Musk about SpaceX. He said unless they were retrieving about 10% of the discarded stuff from the bin(metaphorical or real) you weren't throwing away enough stuff.  

 

Gordon Rambsy's kitchen nightmares follows a similar philosophy of being liberal with the felling axe.  

 

 

 

 

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There's a tricky balance (which I'm not sure we got right) if you plan to live in a property during major renovations. It's very easy to get drawn into work and expenditure to make short to medium term life comfortable that you may have to partly or wholly unpick later when you understand how the house works or see other opportunities. This starts from the beginning and includes any use of of architects and engineers where you think you know what you want and in reality you don't - so even the fee spending emphasis can go in the wrong direction. Perhaps there's never a perfect answer to this, but if I were to say one thing it would be to avoid burning boats in making parts of the house habitable for the short term.

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On 28/06/2022 at 07:50, Modernista said:

There's a tricky balance (which I'm not sure we got right) if you plan to live in a property during major renovations

Luckily we won't live there, but having to pay for the other accommodation is and additional burden :(

Anyway, I do see your point.

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On 28/06/2022 at 01:49, Adsibob said:

Good luck

hhe, reading your story is scary. Right now, after these first weeks, I got fairly clear what it needs to be done, and hopefully there are no more surprises. I am not sure about how much it will cost, got a rough idea, but lets see 😱🤞

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