Thursday 30 April 2015

The Man Shed of Destiny draws crowds

One of the very first things we wanted to do before starting any real work on the main house was to create a space where we could scream at each other relax and escape everything. Somewhere clean and tidy with comfy chairs, the telly, maybe even a bed-with-all-necessary-council-permissions-and-approvals.

The natural choice would be a caravan in the back garden-type area and we looked at quite a few a couple of months ago, only to discover that our criteria for relaxation somewhat outweighed our realistic budget. And even if we could stretch to a 20-footer with a bar and putting green on the roof it would be a right mess around to sell it later on and we'd probably make a loss.
So we decided pretty early doors that we would get something that, once it had served its original zen purpose, we could re-purpose for something we'd need. A log cabin or summerhouse would be nice, but would it be anything other than an occasional-use thing afterwards?
Stuff dem base-laying skillz.
I can haz dangly string.
With that in mind we decided on a shed in the front garden. Yes, a shed. A ginormous 20ft x 10ft workshop shed, mind, but still a shed. There were a few main considerations for this:
1. It's classed as a temporary structure and therefore avoids planning permission
2. Cost. Our Billy-Oh 5000 set us back around £1,600 whereas a good log cabin could land in the region of £16,000 or more
3. Once we can relax somewhere in The Lodge itself we will use it for its original purpose as a workshop where I plan to learn me some new woodworking skillz, while it doubles-up as a...
4. MAN SHED!!!1!

So cutting a long story short we enlisted the help of our mates Andy and SamTheDog, who is a dog, and we flattened the former chicken enclosure in the front garden with a JCB borrowed from our neighbour, painstakingly leveled a 22ft x 11ft base using earth, bricks and swear words, laid a giant weed-proof geotextile membrane, laid and leveled 36 toughened plastic grid-tiles, filled them with half a ton of gravel which was then leveled, positioned sleepers on the base (leveled, of course), then started laying out and fixing the floor. We then leveled it.

Real men
While all of this was happening over the course of a few days, we learnt something very important. It is this: when people tell you that life in The Sticks is different, believe them. Particularly the bit about random strangers just popping in to say hello for no other reason than they wanted to. Try that on an estate in Grimsby and you'd be flattened.

And so we had visitors. Some were friends who were just dropping by, but most people were complete strangers who were just interested in what was going on. Some may call it 'nosey', yes, but not us. We spoke to a couple of neighbours from something like a mile away, one or two horse riders, some general randoms and the police. Twice. The 5-0 came over for a chat twice. That's my gambling den idea out the bloody window for a while.
The first time that Ade the PCSO swung by was a bit of a surprise. I was, prophetically, finishing a bag of bacon Frazzles and Dawn was in the courtyard hanging out her bras to dry on the line. It was classy stuff.
A marked police car pulled up to the back gate and a moment later my own underwear needed drying. Our fire a few days earlier hadn't been that bad, had it?
But, no. Ade just wanted to chew the cud, as they seem to do out in t'countryside. We chatted about the house, our plans for it and what we thought of the area. It all ended with a cheery warning about rural crime and what to watch out for, and he was off in a giant plume of dust. Only to return a couple of days later in a glorified golf cart, while I had gone the whole hog and was gnawing on a bacon sarnie and Dawn was sprawled out delicately on the shed roof like a cranefly.

Basically, showing off

The Filth.
This time he brought his colleague (Sian?) and appeared to want nothing more than to show off his JCB-donated 4x4 ride - part of the Rural Crime Unit, which I duly laughed at. I asked if they got embarrassed when people ran past, if they collected rubbish bags in the back and why there wasn't a front registration plate, as per the legal requirement for such a motorised road-going vehicle, especially when there was a dedicated space for such a crucial item in the fight for law and order on the bumper. Then they were off in a small puff of dust, presumably down to the driving range to practice before lunch.

Former gamekeeper George fondly remembers
shooting his own house. In the face.
And then there was George. George, who is obviously cracking on a bit although I didn't ask his age, lived at The Lodge as gamekeeper for 25 years between 1981 and 2006. With his wife-to-be, Val, on his heels he wandered around the exterior of the house and the gardens, showing us where he kept his aviary and his Koi Carp and recounting a story from when he managed to shoot the front of the house when his sparrowhawk target made its escape.
He chatted for a while, promising to return one day with a painting of the property that someone gave him many years ago. Lovely chap.

Anyway, while all of this social lark was going on and Andy was working on the shed alone, we managed to take our eye off the ball to the point where the shed wasn't level any more. Now I'm not laying blame at anyone's door, but Andy was working on the shed alone. For quite some time. In fact it wasn't until the giant workshop was almost up that we realised it was shaped like a horse's saddle, by which time it was too late and the doors didn't fit. Out came the sander, the electric plane and the circular saw and hey presto! The doors now almost fit.
Just today we laid an 18mm plyboard floor over the top of the 'premium T&G' that was sagging alarmingly in places, threw some curtains up and we aim to open the Zen Zone for business tomorrow, all being well and barring visitors.

My undiagnosed OCD is screaming at me to centralise the door. But it's like that for a reason, I'm told. By Dawn.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Buying property from The Crown Estate

Technically-speaking, our new house was previously owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II through The Crown Estate.
I don't think she would have been a frequent visitor, but if you're reading this, Your Majesty, you're welcome to pop over any time you fancy. Just give us a few hours' notice so we can have a panic and stick the kettle on. Bring biscuits and The Royal Hard Hat.

Property being sold by The Crown Estate is comparatively uncommon, and before we started searching for a new house it wasn't a concept we were particularly aware of. Nor, as it turned out, were we clued-up on the issues we'd have to face in buying a property from Lizzie. Google didn't really offer any real-life experiences from ordinary bods like us either, so we were pretty much on our own.

Buy One's house or bally well naff orf
The first thing to realise is that The Crown Estate - which is the UK's largest land owner with more than £8bn in assets - has a duty to raise as much money from its sales as possible.
As a result and, crucially, because the building in question isn't being sold by an actual, living, breathing, individual, there is no mercy*. It's purely a business transaction (in our experience, of course).

During our first dalliance with The Crown, when we made an offer of something like 4.5% under the asking price, we thought we might have to wait a week or so for the offer to go from the regular estate agent at this end, to The Crown via its agent Knight Frank, then to a slightly balding middle-aged paunchy man in a polka dot tie who makes a decision... then back to us.
That was so naive that it's not even funny.
In the end it took north of three whole weeks for an answer. That was three weeks of trying unsuccessfully not to get excited, three weeks of trying not to think of the extension we'd build, three weeks of mainlining Restoration Man on TV and three weeks of not looking at other houses.

Then the estate agent called to say she'd heard that The Crown would have an answer for us the coming Monday - just a few days away.
But the phone rang on Saturday. After months on the market with no nibbles, someone else had only gone and put in an asking price offer.
"What is your best and final offer?" came the question.
Animated swearing ensued. Even SausageTheCat (our cat) ran away.
We ended up offering 3.2% more than the asking price - which was over our maximum limit but still the best we could do - then settled in for the wait. Again. You know when people say buying a new home is a stressful experience? Yes. That. In spades.

A week later we were knocked back. At the exact moment that we pulled in to the car park for Grand Designs Live at Birmingham NEC, the call came. Animated swearing ensued. We even invented some new words. It's fair to say that we felt somewhat hard-done-by.

Now to be fair to The Crown Estate, some months later when the sale of The Lodge was on the brink of falling through (we still don't know why) the message got to us pretty quickly and before it went back on the market.
We immediately offered the asking price again and within a day or two, during which time it was advertised online for some reason, it was turned down - The Crown wanted our previous best and final offer, but in return they wouldn't put it back on the open market. At least Spotty Tie Man had been nudged in to action.
The offer was accepted (joy of joys!) and The Lodge was ours.

But three point two percent. All because of someone who couldn't buy the house in the first place. It's difficult not to be a little bit narked at that, although the therapy is helping a little. The sum it represents would have been a significant portion of the extension too, so that's that on the back burner for a year or two at least.

So that's money and patience dealt with.

On to the property itself.
Had The Lodge been a grand Grade 2* Listed stately home run as a high-earning business, chances are it would be in pretty decent nick and had a bit of cash thrown at it. Maintenance schedules would be tight, the floors would be polished and the gardeners would be clean-shaven.

But it's not.
Having served its life (we think) as a rented dwelling for normal agricultural workers of the day and their families, it hasn't been loved in around a century and a half. It has had some maintenance here and there, sure: a chimney has been rebuilt at some stage; the windows have been replaced with ugly uPVC casements; it's got oil-fired central heating and fibreglass loft insulation... but the only money being waved in its general direction has been for essential stuff only, and even that hasn't really been done properly. Having been a gamekeeper's lodge for however long means that although it has served as a home it has also been a working building at the same time. A tool, if you like.

The result is a tired, damp and dirty building that has plenty of original features and has lots of potential but needs a massive kick up the backside to bring out the character that is just below the surface.
The bonus of this is that The Lodge's problems are mostly cosmetic because the building hasn't been subject to the extravagant, unsuitable fantasies of previous misguided owners and bodgery is an exception rather than a rule.

Finally, something else we weren't prepared for was that dealing with The Crown Estate is a right royal pain in the arse. Pun intended.

It all comes back to the fact that no single individual seller with a vested interest is involved, so there's nobody willing to pull out the stops to speed things up and/or help the buyer (us) out.
Prime example - shortly after our offer was accepted we submitted a list of questions to The Crown via our solicitor: Who is responsible for the eastern wall of the house which also forms a section of the entire boundary wall? Who maintains the dirt road to the west that is also used by our neighbour and estate staff with heavy machinery? Where have the main gates and The Lodge's side gate gone since we first saw the property? Who has access to the land? What's the capital of Peru? Does the Queen ever use rude words?

In total there were about 10 questions we wanted the answers to and, true to form, we had to wait around a fortnight for any kind of response... which was somewhat limited to say the least.

The Queen, yesterday, in her own garden
A couple of questions were answered almost to our satisfaction using as few words as possible, but most were either skillfully skirted around or ignored completelyAs our solicitor put it: "They're being as vague and unhelpful as possible and it's basically sold as seen."

We found the same thing when it came to leasing the front garden area too. Spotty Tie Man was just dealing with the house sale, so we had to contact someone else direct and try to get some sense out of him.
In a nutshell, we needed to find out exactly how much annual rent The Crown wanted while at the same time trying to persuade the powers that be to sell (or even gift) the land to us, especially considering that we'd already paid the equivalent of 25 years' rent by paying a sizeable sum over the asking price. It's quite an important issue, at least to me, and even though they're not obliged to offer anything other than what was agreed, I hoped they might be open to offering a bit of a sweetener - or at least dialogue.
And the answer? "The land does not form part of the sale". That was it. No discussion, no negotiation, no avenues to pursue.

As an aside, after speaking to numerous people at The Lodge - neighbours, passers-by, a former occupant - not one has managed to find a good word to say about The Crown Estate. I might call their PR people and casually mention the front garden...

I suppose I had better round this post up now.
If I was going to offer advice to someone looking to buy from The Crown, it would be to expect a brick wall at every turn and be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait. You're not dealing with a person - you're dealing with a business that has you over a barrel. You either buy the property or you don't.

Your Queen doesn't really care either way.

* Like lovely Mrs Thompson on leafy Park Crescent who cares about selling her 1960s semi so much that she shovels out the budgie cage and vacuums the dog before you turn up for your viewing. She wants you to buy it so she might even consider knocking a few grand off the asking price or throwing in some white goods. The Crown as an entity, on the other hand, isn't really fussed what you do so it has all the time in the world to wait for you to sell a kidney on eBay.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

The house buying process

The buying process progressed surprisingly quickly for us, if you ignore the four months when we thought we’d lost out on the purchase entirely…

The overall timeline has gone as follows:
  • July 2014: Apply for Mortgage in Principle. Accepted.
  • 19th August 2014: Put current property on the market.
  • 29th (ish) August 2014: After a small flurry of offers, and one aborted accepted offer, accept an offer from a cash buyer. (We got our first offer within 24 hours, which was reassuring.)
  • August 2014: Instruct conveyancing solicitor – for both selling our current property, and buying (once we’d found somewhere).
  • 20th August 2014: Muz found The Lodge for sale online. Evening drive by to have a look at it.
  • 23rd August 2014: First viewing of The Lodge (open day). Hate it.
  • Next couple of weeks: Muz keeps thinking about The Lodge. Decide we should go back again.
  • 13th (ish) September 2014: Second viewing of The Lodge (solo viewing). Love it.
  • 14th (ish) September 2014: Put in offer. As the Lodge is being sold by The Crown Estates, settle in to wait for response.
  • 2nd October 2014 (Thursday): Get told we’ll have a reply to our offer on Monday.
  • 4th October 2014 (Saturday): Somebody else puts an asking price offer in. We put in our best and final offer and settle in to wait again.
  • 10th October 2014 (Following Friday): Go to Grand Designs Live. Get to the car park. Get a call to say our offer had been rejected in favour of the other, higher, offer. Walk round Grand Designs Live feeling dejected.
  • January 2015: Aborted purchase of a water mill. Deemed structurally unsound.
  • 9th February 2015: Call from estate agent to advise purchase of the Lodge by the people who outbid us is looking likely to fall through – are we still interested?
  • 10th February 2015: Call from estate agent to confirm the sale has fallen through. We renew our offer.
  • 11th February 2015: Our offer is accepted.
  • 18th February 2015: Apply for mortgage.
  • 18th February 2015: Mortgage providers call, run through some questions, they offer mortgage in principle, fee paid to reserve rate.
  • 20th February 2015: Period house survey.
  • 22nd February 2015: Removed underlay, sprayed mould.
  • 23rd February 2015: Post payslips, bank statements, certified passport copy, proof of address, off to mortgage provider. Cross fingers.
  • 1st March 2015: Brushed down salts on fireplace, scraped off bits of flaky Artex on ceiling.
  • 2nd March 2015: Mortgage provider call, more details given.
  • 2nd March 2015: Text from mortgage provider, mortgage agreed subject to valuation!
  • 3rd March 2015: Text from valuation company, valuation arranged for 5th March.
  • 5th March 2015:  Valuation survey. Cross fingers.
  • 11th March 2015: Mortgage company call to say valuation was fine – mortgage approved.
  • 14th/15th March 2015: Stripped wallpaper from living room and the chimney breast of Bedroom 3. Cleaned kitchen. Arranged storage (150 sqft).
  • 16th March 2015: First load into storage.
  • March 2015: Details received from solicitor re questions asked of seller.
  • 18th March 2015: Pop into solicitors to sign purchase paperwork.
  • 20th March 2015: Pick up hire van. Take load of furniture to storage.
  • 21st March 2015: Take second van load to storage (garage 'furniture'). Return van.
  • 24th March 2015: Local Survey results finally arrive with our solicitor. No problems!
  • 24th March 2015: Letter sent by solicitor to in-laws to ask to confirm monetary gift in writing (condition of the mortgage).
  • 25th March 2015: Letter sent from in-laws to confirm.
  • 25th March 2015: House Insurance arranged (buildings insurance is a condition of the mortgage).
  • 28th March 2015: Go to the 'Homebuilding and Renovating Show' at the NEC!
  • 1st April 2015: Mortgage lender confirms to solicitor that all conditions are met.
  • 2nd April 2015: Solicitor proposes completion date of 17th April to our buyer and The Lodge seller. Our estate agent calls to say our buyer is happy and is telling her solicitors.
  • 7th April 2015: After the longest bank holiday weekend in our entire lives, during which a lot of gardening, packing and storage runs took place, seller confirms the 17th is acceptable to them as a completion date. Solicitor requests mortgage funds from our lender (our lender of choice happens to take 7 working days to release the money, hence the delay to the completion date...).
  • 9th April 2015: Stamp duty and remaining legal fees paid to our solicitor.
  • 10th April 2015: Book van for move day.
  • 13th April 2015: Pop into solicitors and sign old house transfer form.
  • 15th April 2015: Solicitor executes exchange of contracts.
  • 16th April 2015: Pick up van at 5pm. Load garden and most of the garage - take to The Lodge.
  • 17th April 2015: Completion! Load remaining possessions into van, cursory final clean,  get into van, drop off old house keys to estate agent, pick up The Lodge keys from estate agent. Move!
And so the project began...

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Moving house - easy peasy lemon squeezy

The last week has been mental. We could sleep for another week.

Last Monday brought further trips to storage, trips to the tip, trips to storage and trips to the tip. There were forays in to the loft, avalanches of boxes out of the loft, trips to the tip and rooms stuffed with boxes. It turned out that 15 years of Dawn storing anything that she wasn't sure what to do with in the (rather large) loft was a very, very bad idea. Half of the stuff we've eventually sent to storage or taken to The Lodge is still destined for the skip.

Boxes. Everywhere.
The days before and after last Monday all blur in to one, if I'm honest, but they involved at least two days shifting two of the most enormous monolithic garden ornaments the world has ever seen - a five-foot rough-hewn slate water feature weighing-in at half-ton that I neither like nor want, and the one-ton base of a rough-hewn stone table that I like but never sit at. The hefty table top and its five lardy stone stools were manhandled to The Lodge's garden in the days before we got the keys with the generous assistance of our friend Andy, his Landy, an engine hoist and a bouncy trailer.
Andy and Dawn slay giants.

Two days were spent burning to a crisp in the sunshine as I demolished what had been a chicken enclosure in The Lodge's front garden but was left to rot for many years afterwards. I ended up with a lovely pile of rotten firewood, big bundles of lethal chicken wire and a dozen sheets of long corrugated iron that I've put to one side for a future project.
This former chicken paradise, which is now overrun with stinging nettles and bricks, is earmarked for our 20ft x 10ft workshop and I wanted to get some of the knackering time-wasting work out of the way early.

I'm now going to introduce you to Trevor. 
Bokbokbok. The ex-chicken enclosure.

Trevor is Dawn's 73-year-old dad and Trevor is a machine. Terminator Trevor.
Despite having 30 years on me, this man can drive anyone to the point of exhaustion and still keep grafting after the ambulance has left. He had me in tears.
It started gently with a lads' day out at The Lodge before we got the keys, securing the garage doors so we could safely store bits and bobs when moving day finally came. It was a grand day, just the two of us in the sunshine and lots of boob jokes and farting. That's not true, but there were ham sandwiches and KitKats.
By the end of the third day together we had a Luton van and Terminator Trevor, undeterred by the previous two 13-hours days of lifting, carrying and throwing things around, had loaded almost the entire contents of the garage - aka The Loft Overflow - along with the contents of the garden, including two sleepers, eight half sleepers, piles of breezeblocks, left-over stone driveway blocks and blue bricks, a cast iron chimnea and God knows what else. When Dawn came home from work Terminator Trevor was sent home shortly before I asked if he was on speed, and we headed to The Lodge where we unloaded and went for a Maccy Dees.
Then came more loading and unloading, with Terminator Trevor charging valiantly forth - he's got a long caravan holiday coming up in a few days and he's ODing on Jobs To Be Done NOW. And, lo! Jobs were indeed done.

Somewhere in the melee of Jobs That We Did there were keys and exchanges and completions and stuff and me and Dawn moved in to our now-old neighbour's house - right next door to the house we'd just sold. Which was somewhat awkward. And we plan to stay a week at least.
Having been forced to store some things that we couldn't fit in to the Luton for its third trip in our neighbour's front garden, we found ourselves in the peculiar position where we were loading a van on the driveway there while, at the very same time, our buyer moved her things from a van in to our old house. Life just doesn't prepare you for situations like that. She even put an ornament on our old spare room windowsill that said 'HOME'.

Then came more unloading and more jobs, with able assistance - and often great leadership - from Terminator Trevor and Andy with the Landy.
In no particular order:
Trevor lets the young 'uns have a go
  • The removal and ritual burning of all of the manky, damp rubber underlay from throughout The Lodge. The very much mistaken idea was to obliterate mould, germs and other nasties rather than have it all hanging around before we're ready for a skip. To punish me for the billowing black clouds that are still giving orangutans a chesty cough in Borneo, karma sorted me out. I'll mention injuries in a moment.
  • A cat flap was installed in the back door inside the courtyard. We didn't put one in the gate in to the courtyard, however, because we want to give SausageTheCat a bit of a challenge.
  • The chicken enclosure area was dragged with a JCB digger, driven by yours truly (and a bit by Andy), creating a level-ish weed-free-for-now section of garden on which the workshop will go.
  • Two new soft-close toilet seats were fitted and the loos were bleached and scrubbed to within an inch of their lives. Old bum germs be gone.
  • We unearthed a well (full tale below).
  • A leaky radiator valve was changed in the kitchen.
  • Removal of concrete mortar pointing was started towards the back of the house. Done by hand, this will be a long and time-consuming job that may as well be done piece-meal until we can dedicate some time to it. It's a start.
  • Removal of the non-breathable paint from above the external window lintels was started. Again, done by hand. Chip, chip, chip, chip.
  • The side entrance door to the garage got a new lock fitted.
  • The damaged breather from the septic tank was rescued with chicken wire to prevent external crap from getting in.
  • Door handles were fitted throughout because much of the door furniture had mysteriously gone missing.
    Man tools are for men.
  • SausageTheCat started making trips with us to The Lodge to get him out of our old neighbour's house and start introducing him to his new home. He's found his place on the living room windowsill already but he doesn't like stinging nettles. He also doesn't like it when Andy's SamTheDog comes around. I'll mention injuries in a moment.
  • The kitchen cabinets were moved along one of the walls to accommodate our new induction Rangemaster when it comes in a couple of weeks. It's the one luxury we're affording ourselves now because we'll be able to incorporate it in to whatever our kitchen later becomes.
  • The water standpipe in the courtyard was moved.
  • Kitchen pipework was reconfigured for the repositioned sink.
  • The bottom of the back door was planed down to save it from sticking on the floor and having to be booted for a full minute before it would open.
  • All of the useless woodwork on the outside of The Lodge was removed, namely the rotten wooden planters along the side and the trellis work at the front which was supporting a ton of dead sticks that were invading the roof joists. Terminator Trevor wasn't happy about that because, apparently, they weren't dead after all and would come out nice in the summer. All they needed was a trim. Meh. But they looked dead in the meantime.
    Where the workshop will go
  • Some slates on the garage roof were replaced and some rotten beams in the outbuildings were repaired.
  • We took delivery of the workshop. We just need a few more things and we should be ready to go mid-week.
  • We made friends with the neighbours along the track (they've loaned us their digger!), chatted to some neighbours from a bit further afield and some random strangers and got to know our postie and bin men - important allies!
Finally, today we started levelling the tiles that'll form the base for the workshop. They're grids that hold decorative gravel which will double as drainage, on which will go sleepers and then the structure.

The eagle-eyed among you, dear readers, will notice that we found a well. We did.
Well I never, etc.
I unearthed the edge of a metal disc with the digger when my bucket caught on the rim, let go suddenly and catapulted me forwards in to the windscreen. I'll mention injuries in a moment. Careful digging a-la Time Team revealed a large and heavy wrought iron well cap, about 5ft in diameter, attached to which were the footings for the pump which is probably in the overgrown grounds somewhere nearby.
We dropped a stone through a small hole in the centre, heard it hit bits of metalwork on the way down, then... silence. Then a distant sploosh.
I found a heavy Varta Indestructible torch and all the rope, gaffa tape and zip ties I could get my hands on and started lowering it down. I ran out of rope. So I attached the plug end of a 20m extension lead and lowered that down too. It wanted to keep going. So I pulled the whole lot up and measured it - a whopping 250ft in total, with the final 50ft having been submersed in freezing cold water. Superb!
We're booking Andy for help with the workshop on Thursday and, being a search and rescue hero, he has lots of rope. Smiley face.

More details when they come in...


Dawn - 0
Trevor - 0
Andy - 0
Muz - 4

  • A slice down the pad of my left index finger when a flake of paint I that I decided to rub off the engine hoist turned out to be a razor-sharp piece of steel.
  • A scratch along the length of my left thumb, suffered when I tried to save SausageTheCat from SamTheDog.
  • Minor concussion and moderate whiplash (probably) when an incident with a wildly-flailing digger saw me catapult in to the inside of the windscreen.
  • Multiple burns up the side of my left forearm. This is what happens when you flick burning underlay upwards, trying to get it in the burny bin properly. The molten rubber underneath tends to melt and set fire to anything it touches. Sad face.

Saturday 18 April 2015

Getting rid of mould

Living in a house with mould is bad for your health. Living in a house with mould stains - where you’ve cleaned the mould, but it’s left really annoying black marks behind, is also irritating, not to mention embarrassing. The tenant(s) who lived in The Lodge before we did must have had cast iron lungs. And no shame.

Corners of the Lodge were covered with black mould (including a small amount of the really toxic variety) and stains, and I started wheezing on the survey day after spending more than an hour inside without a mask. 

So although stripping the wallpaper is high on the to-do list, killing the mould spores before we managed to shake them into the atmosphere was a number one priority, and one we wanted done sharpish. Plus, getting rid of evidence of mould before the mortgage valuation seemed like a sensible thing to do.

Enter my new favourite product: HG Mould Spray.

I'd found this after searching the internet for recommendations when a previous home had condensation problems, and from that search it appears I’m not alone in thinking it’s a bit awesome. 

The spray not only kills mould, it also obliterates the stains that mould so often irritatingly leaves behind, handy when a mortgage survey is due to take place! You can buy it online or from various DIY-type shops – we got ours from our local B&Q for a fiver.

To apply, I squirted a liberal dose on all the mouldy areas in the Lodge (there were a lot), threw open all the windows, and went outside to partake in some fresh air. 

After half an hour I headed back inside and wiped the walls down. I found that on purely painted surfaces every single trace of mould and stain completely disappeared. 

On the wallpapered surfaces some minor marks were left behind. I could have treated these a second time, but as we're removing the wallpaper, there wasn't much point - the mould itself is gone and I'm happy with that.

This recommendation comes with a warning though – this is one of those products where you should pay serious attention to the label. When it says don’t get it on metal, it means it – the first time I used it I was wearing a silver ring while spraying it, and the spray started eating it away. Wear old clothes too – I also managed to get a bleach mark on the top I was wearing. (I am known for being clumsy!)

I also strongly recommend wearing a mask and opening windows, it’s not exactly lung-friendly stuff.

Friday 17 April 2015

Keys! And a celebratory hygrometer reading...

We now officially own The Lodge!

After the period house survey took place and we were happy with what we were taking on, the final hurdle in our eyes was the mortgage valuation survey, which took place pretty quickly after the mortgage details were agreed and six agonising days later our mortgage lenders called to say that they were happy! 

The survey had highlighted only that there was ‘localised higher than desirable damp’, so recommended a damp and timber survey. And the lenders are happy to leave that up to us, provided we do it, and then address whatever issues are raised within six months. And they don’t need us to send the actual report in, though our period house surveyor has offered to do one for us, as he'd highlighted the problems to us in the first place.

Here's the initial hygrometer reading in The Lodge, coming in at a humid 75%, highlighting the immediate challenge we face.

For more on hygrometers and humidity, check out our earlier post here.