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  • FIRST POST
    • Amarna
    • By Amarna 12th Oct 18, 9:11 PM
    • 9Posts
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    Amarna
    Anyone here ever owned a really old cottage?
    • #1
    • 12th Oct 18, 9:11 PM
    Anyone here ever owned a really old cottage? 12th Oct 18 at 9:11 PM
    I've just bought my first property which is 19th century cottage. As a first time buyer it was maybe a bit brave or stupid of me (!) but I wasn't naive, I realised there would be quirks and constant upkeep on a property of such an age.
    What I wasn't prepared for was the paranoia (perhaps as a ftb) of everything needing work or going wrong. Random cracks appearing everywhere, doors fitting one day and not the next, patches of damp etc. I seem to be finding lots of little things that need repair, that I never noticed on the two viewings I had. Ive had three surveys done (One buildings survey prior to buying, one for the damp and wood and another by a family friend) and everyone has a different opinion on the severity and the options to repair! It's driving me mad.
    What I'm asking really is, what is it like to live in such an old property? Are the above things part of the course? Are there any money saving hacks I should know about when it comes to maintenance?
    Thanks!
Page 1
    • AnotherJoe
    • By AnotherJoe 12th Oct 18, 9:21 PM
    • 11,889 Posts
    • 13,855 Thanks
    AnotherJoe
    • #2
    • 12th Oct 18, 9:21 PM
    • #2
    • 12th Oct 18, 9:21 PM
    My first house was built in 1890. My next one was a new build as a direc reaction to the sort of issues you are talking about, bits and pieces constantly needing fixing. . It wasn't a "cottage" (which can mean many things) it was a terrace.
    However the new build wasn't all plain sailing either.
    Please dont criticise my spelling. It's excellent. Its my typing that's bad.
    • Cakeguts
    • By Cakeguts 12th Oct 18, 9:47 PM
    • 5,345 Posts
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    Cakeguts
    • #3
    • 12th Oct 18, 9:47 PM
    • #3
    • 12th Oct 18, 9:47 PM
    19th century isn't "really old." There are lot of much older properties still around. Just be happy that it isn't "really old" and listed in which case all the little things that keep needing doing will cost twice as much.
    • Amarna
    • By Amarna 12th Oct 18, 9:54 PM
    • 9 Posts
    • 3 Thanks
    Amarna
    • #4
    • 12th Oct 18, 9:54 PM
    • #4
    • 12th Oct 18, 9:54 PM
    I think 1830s is pretty old! It isn't listed but it is in a conservation area, which has shown some things, such as roofing for example, to be more expensive as it has to remain in keeping etc.
    • G_M
    • By G_M 12th Oct 18, 10:04 PM
    • 46,224 Posts
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    G_M
    • #5
    • 12th Oct 18, 10:04 PM
    • #5
    • 12th Oct 18, 10:04 PM
    The paranoia is normal. Especially for a FTB.

    Old properties do have quirks and issues, and telling the significant from the insignificant is a nightmare at first.

    My home is an 1851 ex village school (residential since around 1900 and extended several times).

    One issue is the porch. A major crack appears between the porch and the main house every summer, and closes up every winter. I now understand that the porch's foundations are very shallow and as the ground dries the porch moves more than the house.

    This summer, I've had more cracks than ever before, which freaked me out for a bit, but I know the ground will re-settle over the winter and the cracks close up. Whether I choose to re-plaster over the cracks is a decision I'll make sometime, but I no longer panic the way you probably would!
    • DaftyDuck
    • By DaftyDuck 12th Oct 18, 10:07 PM
    • 4,337 Posts
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    DaftyDuck
    • #6
    • 12th Oct 18, 10:07 PM
    • #6
    • 12th Oct 18, 10:07 PM
    Oldest I've owned was mostly thirteenth century. It was falling down after the first five hundred years, and is (very, very, very slowly) still falling down.

    Older houses have passed the test of time. If you tend to their needs, which are not excessive, they will last hundreds of years. My current house needs plenty of remedial work on the sash windows, not surprising since they are mainly over a hundred years old. When done, they'll last another hundred of so. I doubt most uPVC ones will last half that time.
    • stuart45
    • By stuart45 12th Oct 18, 10:14 PM
    • 149 Posts
    • 86 Thanks
    stuart45
    • #7
    • 12th Oct 18, 10:14 PM
    • #7
    • 12th Oct 18, 10:14 PM
    I've got an old stone walled thatched cottage (was the wifes idea). You need to look at owning an old property as a hobby.
    One of the problems with a lot of old houses is that they have been rendered and repointed in a strong cement mortar instead of lime. Cracks in lime built properties will often self heal.
    Learning some basic DIY skills will help keep the costs down.
    • EachPenny
    • By EachPenny 12th Oct 18, 10:22 PM
    • 8,875 Posts
    • 24,337 Thanks
    EachPenny
    • #8
    • 12th Oct 18, 10:22 PM
    • #8
    • 12th Oct 18, 10:22 PM
    ... and everyone has a different opinion on the severity and the options to repair! It's driving me mad.
    What I'm asking really is, what is it like to live in such an old property? Are the above things part of the course? Are there any money saving hacks I should know about when it comes to maintenance?
    Thanks!
    Originally posted by Amarna
    I didn't own it, but grew up in and have done a lot of maintenance work in a really old cottage.

    The key thing with any building is keeping water out of the structure - whether it is rain coming through the roof or walls, or damp coming up through the ground. So long as you keep the elements out, not much else matters that much.

    The main thing to remember with older buildings is they were built before people became obsessive about movement. They weren't designed to move as such, but their construction used materials and techniques which resulted in what you might call a 'living' building - they rarely keep completely still for long.

    The problems people usually have is when you try to apply modern techniques and materials to the old structure. Modern cements and plasters aren't formulated for flexibility, so when the building moves a bit they quickly crack. Likewise, people expect modern doors and windows to be near air-tight which is generally done by making them to tight tolerances. A very slight amount of movement then results in the door or window jamming. If you cure this by planing a bit off (assuming it is wood) when the building moves the other way or things dry out in the Summer, you find you have big gaps. With an old building you need to make things in a way which accommodates movement, hiding or disguising it if necessary.

    So the important thing to do is to have empathy with and understanding of your building - try and work with it, rather than against it. That doesn't mean you have to completely avoid modern stuff, you just need to be aware (and make sure people who are doing work for you are aware) that things work differently for your building compared to a new build.

    The most important money saving hack is learn to live with things not being perfect (even on new houses they very rarely are) and learn the difference between cosmetic defects and things which are significant. If it is only cosmetic then you can ignore it, which saves lots of money.

    Your problem (if any) will come when you want to sell. When potential buyers will be looking at everything as a major fault. That means you will either need to put in a large investment (nearer the time) to make everything look perfect, or else be prepared to wait a bit longer than average for a buyer to come along who understands older buildings, and doesn't run a mile when they see a hairline crack in the plaster.

    Good luck, hope you really enjoy your new home.
    "In the future, everyone will be rich for 15 minutes"
    • DigForVictory
    • By DigForVictory 12th Oct 18, 10:24 PM
    • 8,455 Posts
    • 26,675 Thanks
    DigForVictory
    • #9
    • 12th Oct 18, 10:24 PM
    • #9
    • 12th Oct 18, 10:24 PM
    +1 for this ^

    You try getting planning for double-glazing...

    Seriously old buildings - learn to love the creaks, have a stack of buckets for drips & have a ruthless approach to "start with a length of gaffer". Oh & always know where the matches, candle & candlesticks are. (My place is largely stone, I can afford to be a *bit* more casual about fire.)

    Don't be afraid of your fuse box - if you have to spend a night with the downstairs lights all out as for some reason that circuit is causing the heating circuit to go, prioritise!

    If you know where the previous owners have moved to, ask if you can photocopy their phone book, so you know who they have used and who knows where assorted wires & pipes go. Failing that, take up dowsing, and/or get a really reliable cable detector.

    If you aren't already a member of the National Trust, or English Heritage, consider it - they have a lot of people keen on & knowledgeable about old houses & they may be able to steer you in useful directions. (I had no idea what Welsh Vernacular was for years. One very rainy afternoons conversation, four reference books and a lot of doodles in a patch of mud & I learned loads as well as being able to place the cottage in its historical context & place a shrewd bet as to what various corners were originally intended for, and how they got repurposed.)

    As for doors fitting, regard then as a seasonal guide. Daylight in on all 4 sides? It's summer. Wedged tight unless you apply pretty much a flying tackle? It's winter, & try a door less in the line of windblown rain. Our front door is largely decorative in winter & the lads converse through the letterbox as a grownup sprints round the back & side of the house to sign for things. (*Always* improperly clad - our posties should be poker players! Alltime winner so date was bikini [I was bleaching the grout in the shower], waterproof [with bust zip so held together in one hand] & wellies, on a rainy November morning.) Invest in long trenchcoat that engulfs you & always have a pair of size 15 wellies near the door, so you can answer said door covered & reasonably waterproofed.

    I'll hope you have a working fireplace? Learn to love the burn. It makes the whistling draughts so much less irritating. You develop a whole new appreciation for wing-backed chairs, too....

    Migods yes on the difference between cosmetic & critical.

    Honest, an old place has Character. Noone says it is Good character, but just think - if you stub your toes, how much *more* pain it will inflict on the burglar.
    Last edited by DigForVictory; 12-10-2018 at 10:27 PM.
    • TamsinC
    • By TamsinC 12th Oct 18, 10:41 PM
    • 536 Posts
    • 646 Thanks
    TamsinC
    Now living in our newly acquired mid seventeenth century cottage. Second one I've lived in of this age. I LOVE it.

    Join this forum loads of advice https://www.periodproperty.co.uk
    • EachPenny
    • By EachPenny 12th Oct 18, 10:51 PM
    • 8,875 Posts
    • 24,337 Thanks
    EachPenny
    One issue is the porch. A major crack appears between the porch and the main house every summer, and closes up every winter. I now understand that the porch's foundations are very shallow and as the ground dries the porch moves more than the house.

    This summer, I've had more cracks than ever before, which freaked me out for a bit, but I know the ground will re-settle over the winter and the cracks close up. Whether I choose to re-plaster over the cracks is a decision I'll make sometime, but I no longer panic the way you probably would!
    Originally posted by G_M
    You'll only stop the cracks by making the porch foundations equal to the house foundations and ensuring the walls of the porch are properly tied in to the house walls. Not usually an economic solution.

    Replastering over the cracks will only give the house a blank canvas to work on... a bit like the council applying a coat of white paint over a popular wall for graffiti.

    If the cracks are limited to the area where the porch and house meet, and the day arrives where they cause you so much distress you feel the urge to do something, then the best bet is to have them covered with a piece of wood attached firmly to one wall (probably the house) and not attached to the other. The wall can then move and crack in privacy, and you can be blissfully unaware of what it is getting up to this week.

    ETA: this is a good illustration of the 'cosmetic vs significant' for the OP. If the crack opens and closes with the seasons you can relax. It will go on doing that indefinitely. But if the crack gets a little bigger every year then you need to think about getting round to starting to worry... eventually.
    Last edited by EachPenny; 12-10-2018 at 10:56 PM.
    "In the future, everyone will be rich for 15 minutes"
    • FreeBear
    • By FreeBear 13th Oct 18, 12:04 AM
    • 2,147 Posts
    • 2,991 Thanks
    FreeBear
    Ive had three surveys done ... one for the damp and wood

    Are there any money saving hacks I should know about when it comes to maintenance?
    Originally posted by Amarna
    The "damp & timber" survey - Was it one of these "free" jobbies from a damp proofing company ?
    If so, use it to light the fire.

    As for advice - Get yourself a tub or two of lime putty and keep it somewhere frost free. The stuff has oodles of uses around the (old) house. Mix some with finely ground chalk or limestone, and you have a cheap plaster & filler. Mix it with sharp sand, and you have a mortar to repoint the stonework with (don't use it below the DPC though). Finally, mix it with plain water to the consistency of cream, and you have whitewash that is a darn site cheaper than anything from F&B.
    Her courage will change the world.

    Treasure the moments that you have. Savour them for as long as you can for they will never come back again.
    • SG27
    • By SG27 13th Oct 18, 5:28 AM
    • 2,538 Posts
    • 1,786 Thanks
    SG27
    Now living in our newly acquired mid seventeenth century cottage. Second one I've lived in of this age. I LOVE it.

    Join this forum loads of advice https://www.periodproperty.co.uk
    Originally posted by TamsinC
    How its going Tamsin? All good I hope!

    I second joining the forum there, I had some great help with a few things over the years in my 17th century listed cottage. A growing family forced us to leave otherwise we would still be there.
    • Amarna
    • By Amarna 13th Oct 18, 7:14 AM
    • 9 Posts
    • 3 Thanks
    Amarna
    Thanks everyone, some great advice and experiences here.
    Thanks Tamsin for the period property forum I will definitely take a look.
    Dig for Victory your door story made me LOL
    I think the previous owner did paint / plaster over the cracks to sell it, but now I've been here a while they are beginning to show. All by the doors and windows, ceilings and where the walls and ceilings meet. I think I have to get over the paranoia and just monitor them to see if they are serious or not. Most are just hairline cracks.
    The damp and wood survey was done by a company who tanked / injected damp proofing course under one of those 30 year guarantee schemes. It is still covered under the guarantee. I paid for them to come round but will get the money back if they do the work. I waited ages for a report, they still haven't sent one and say they want to send a senior surveyor round to have another look first. Anyone else had experience with companies like these?
    And anyone else's roof keep getting wasps nests?!?
    Thanks again
    • MoneyGeoff
    • By MoneyGeoff 13th Oct 18, 7:41 AM
    • 150 Posts
    • 110 Thanks
    MoneyGeoff
    Sorry to be pedantic but the phrase is "par for the course" not "part of the course"! It's a golf term.
    • Slithery
    • By Slithery 13th Oct 18, 8:53 AM
    • 1,072 Posts
    • 1,754 Thanks
    Slithery
    The damp and wood survey was done by a company who tanked / injected damp proofing course under one of those 30 year guarantee schemes. It is still covered under the guarantee. I paid for them to come round but will get the money back if they do the work.
    Originally posted by Amarna
    And what did you think that a firm that makes its money selling damp-proof treatments was going to say - that you didn't need any work doing.

    You should always use a proper surveyor that doesn't sell treatments, as the ones that do are well known for suggesting work that at best is a pointless waste of money and at worst can actually cause damp problems.
    • trailingspouse
    • By trailingspouse 13th Oct 18, 9:18 AM
    • 3,200 Posts
    • 5,137 Thanks
    trailingspouse
    My first ever house - 300 year old cottage in Devon.



    Since then I've owned a 300 year old house in Northumberland, and I'm currently in an Edwardian town house in Yorkshire.


    Well done for taking the plunge. The trick is to see all these cracks and suchlike as 'character'. There's a fine line between character and bad workmanship, but after a certain age it's definitely character...


    You get used to the sloping floors and the creaking floorboards, doors that don't quite fit (in one house we had a door that would randomly swing open for no apparent reason...) and a slight dampness about the place. And you balance that with the original features and the fact that you're not living in a box surrounded by loads of other people living in the same sort of box.


    I've lived in relatively new houses, but I've never felt an emotional attachment to them the way I have to the older houses I've owned.
    • PassingOutInTheParade
    • By PassingOutInTheParade 13th Oct 18, 9:23 AM
    • 89 Posts
    • 99 Thanks
    PassingOutInTheParade
    I lived in a 200 year old cottage for over 20 years.

    It was rented but I never had the need to ask my landlord for any repairs whatsoever regarding the structure or fittings. Apparently there hadn't even been anything done for the 6 years prior to me moving in.

    At the other end of the spectrum; a relative bought a new build which, after 6 months, developed a bowing exterior wall..........says a lot for modern workmanship.

    So, on the basis of that, I'd say these worryingly old cottages are nothing to worry about.
    • pramsay13
    • By pramsay13 13th Oct 18, 9:50 AM
    • 589 Posts
    • 1,022 Thanks
    pramsay13
    Our house was first built sometime between 1829 and 1850 as it appeared in the latter map but not the first.
    It was in the middle of a weavers row of cottages and at some point around 1900 a second storey was added in a totally different style from the ground floor.
    A two-storey rear extention was also added at some point and was never bonded to the original house.
    The houses to one side were all flattened so it is now an end terrace.
    Over the years there has been a bit of movement and settling.
    Nothing in the house is square or flat, we have a bookshelf in one room where one end is propped up around 40mm to keep it level.
    One bathroom is always freezing in the winter.
    We are constantly repairing and fixing but I am quite handy at DIY so this was always going to be part of it.
    The only major imrpovement works have been damp work and a new roof, both of which we knew would need done at some point after buying the house (we managed to wait around 12 years before we did the roof).
    We recently got a new house built in our land and everyone thought we would move into it but there is no way in the world I would live in a new property after living in an older one with way more character.
    • TamsinC
    • By TamsinC 13th Oct 18, 11:24 AM
    • 536 Posts
    • 646 Thanks
    TamsinC
    How its going Tamsin? All good I hope!

    I second joining the forum there, I had some great help with a few things over the years in my 17th century listed cottage. A growing family forced us to leave otherwise we would still be there.
    Originally posted by SG27
    Well, we are enjoying the house as only people who love old houses can. Issues are being thrown up left, right and centre but nothing we can't handle. The main problem is stopping my head spinning and working out what we want to throw money at and when.
    a) So chimney was condemned when we had it swept due to shoddy workmanship thirty years ago and a defective clay flue. SO knocking back to original fireplace wall and putting in a woodburner. So, that's one big job we thought we might do next year that might be brought forward as we fancy a fire sometime this year.
    b) The metal twelve foot gate is too heavy for the posts and they have cracked and are failing big time - so new wooden gate in two halves and posts - needed cos otherwise the dog takes herself off for a walk.
    c) I was wondering about double glazing but with advice from the forum have decided against it as the window are fine in themselves - though looking at 'nice' window furniture it will cost over five hundred pounds to replace the lot in the house. So one room a month.
    d) looking at a ground source heat pump but this requires .... e)
    e) lots of trees need felling as the previous owner let them get WAAAY out of control. About twenty very, very tall conifer/cedar/leyandii type trees that need a tree surgeon and another fifty or so hubby can manage himself
    f) discovered a third pond by nearly falling in it it was so covered with over grown bushes - do we want three ponds?
    g) extension? Small ish to extend the kitchen and provide a utility as if we go ground source the utility we have will be used for the ground source equipment - and a lot of our dining room furniture is stuff in a shed as there is no room in the house for it
    h) cleaning the beams in the kitchen - we've already done the living room and the wires now need putting back up and 'hiding' away behind some kind of something - it's that well founded an idea.
    i) getting rid of the santex on the external walls
    j) changing the piddling little ensuite in the master bedroom as you may as well use a chamber pot next to the bed for the amount of privacy it affords.
    k) 'maybe' level the floors upstairs - did look at exposing the old floorboards but maybe too much work.
    l) thinking about extractor fans - but two of the places they are needed may go if we build the extension and one won't need one once we rejig the room
    m) popping in a velux or two
    n) removing cement render from around the chimneys and popping on chimney hats
    o) if we go ground source popping in underfloor heating down stairs as it is more efficient - meaning lifting and relaying the Victorian pamment tiles that are already there - and of course who knows what horrors that may reveal.
    p) reinstating a wall that has been removed to create a third bedroom
    q) replace the tiled window sills inside with oak or slate

    and the list goes on . . . . and on . . . and on, and I'm sure I've forgotten some fairly major stuff - simple decorating isn't even on our radar yet. BUT . . WE STILL LOVE IT - there could be so much more to do but the basic building is sound and dry and warm enough even without any curtains cos the !!!!!!s took them all to their three bed small bungalow where they would never fit.

    OP; we knew almost ALL of this when we bought the house and still took it on - that's what living in an old property entails. It becomes part of the family and you help it to grow into the best it can be and stop it collapsing under the pressure of modern life. And this house doesn't actually need too much doing to it in many respects. It's perfectly liveable in and sailed through it's historical houses survey.

    How's your renovations coming on, SG?
    Last edited by TamsinC; 13-10-2018 at 11:36 AM.
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