Friday, 20 February 2015

Survey day

Today we had the specialist period property survey on The Lodge, and because this was the point where The Mill fell apart (not literally, but almost – see the About page if you don’t know what we’re talking about) we were pretty nervy about it.

The estate agent selling the property told us that we weren’t allowed to be present when the survey was done, but because that was silly bollocks we skulked up the road and rocked up when he dropped the keys off for our surveyor and left.

We spent about five hours with Pete (check out - this man really knows his historic onions… and then some) and the upshot is that from our perspective the survey went really, really well.

Lime torched loft with damp-causing fibreglass insulation
Everything appears to be structurally sound and the entire building has been left pretty much untouched since it came into being in the 1800s – lots of lime plaster and mortar (including original penny-struck mortar); original quarry tile and elm flooring; lath and plaster ceilings; a “perfect” lime torched loft space; original (albeit hidden beneath many layers of gloss paint) doors… etc. There are a few relatively minor question marks about an historic crack in the west elevation, which seems to be the result of old movement and nothing more; the (possible) void below seven inches of solid concrete floor in the dining room; why there’s an RSJ (steel beam) in the dining room that has been disguised as a wooden beam and the dogleg in the living room which, along with the downstairs loo, was obviously a different room altogether some time ago. But overall it’s pretty promising.

Original elm floorboards in Bedroom 3
There’s a bit of doubleplusungood gypsum plaster here and there; a small amount of cement pointing outside; waterproof paint on the external window lintels; the odd wobbly roof tile; condensation-based surface damp on some of the internal walls; non-breathable rubber carpet underlay adding to the general dampness and the condensation forming on the fibreglass insulation in the loft is causing an ugly damp patch on the ceiling just outside the bathroom door, but it’s all cosmetic and fairly easy to resolve. In fact we’ve already cracked the uPVC windows open to get some airflow going (some of the vents had been Sellotaped-up!), so that’ll help with the surface condensation.

Then there’s an issue of rats chewing through some of the electrics beneath the floorboards, so that’ll have to be looked at sharpish.
Surface mould in Bedroom 1
One thing we’d already noticed, but was confirmed by Pete, is that the chimneys are in a bit of a state. Neither have been blessed with a flue during the last 130+ years, so the brickwork has absorbed all manner of poisonous crap and damaging salts, which are leaching out both internally and externally. The unfortunate solution is that they’ll have to be swept thoroughly and, once the wallpaper has been stripped off the chimney breasts, left to breathe and dry for an as-yet unknown amount of time. This will probably be measured in years, although once they are flued they can be used as normal. Meanwhile the stack closest to the road on the east side needs to be repaired and we need to source a second Victorian crown chimney pot from a reclamation yard to make up for the one that’s missing. The lead flashing also needs to be looked at around both stacks because there’s a small amount of internal water ingress.

And then came the small matter of working out the age of The Lodge. A little while ago we found it on the 1884 Ordinance Survey map (pigsties and all), but there might be more to it than that – looking at the brickwork on the east side where it forms part of a boundary wall relating to a much larger estate, it seems that it could have been a rebuild or add-on to an older property.
The Lodge itself is constructed using sandstone on its lower half on the north, south and west sides and brick on the upper half, but on the east wall the brick is in two halves – the lower half that marries-up with the stone is constructed with Georgian brickwork (1714 - 1830), while above those, and in line with the brick on the other three sides of the house, the bricks are Victorian-era (1837 - 1901). It’s a little difficult to explain having spent around four hours in the pub with Pete after the survey…
The east side is part of a much longer estate boundary wall

One possibility is that the bottom sandstone part was an original one-storey Georgian property, and the upper part of The Lodge as it stands today was a Victorian addition. Another is that the boundary wall was built in the Georgian era and then in the Victorian era the house was built making use of part of the existing wall. We plan to dig around in the local records office to see if they have any more information, and given the fact that the larger estate is steeped in history, we’re hoping to get lucky.

So what’s next?
Well, we heard yesterday that the seller wants to complete on March 17, which is no time at all, so it’s full steam ahead.
There are lists to be made, decisions to be taken, things to be organised and worrying to be done. Solicitors need to be contacted, mortgage surveys need to be arranged and virgins simply must be sacrificed without delay.

Hectic times await.

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