Property Purchase Race – redeveloping my pension part three

The Mistress of the sledge hammer
The biggest challenge for me at the start of this project has been … Patience! Although I wear the title Project Manager, it is obvious that there are many areas over which I have no control.

1) You book (3) architects to meet at the property to talk about your plans and ideas. My expectations for this meeting are obviously different from theirs! Architects are busy people and you will probably have to wait 2 weeks for this meeting. Excited as you may be and desperate to crack on, this meeting will not include surveying/measuring the property but be a general discussions and note taking exercise only.

2) Architects work in different ways – some give a fixed price and some may want to charge for ‘hours’ worked. At this stage hours worked can only be an estimate. A good architect will not give you an instant price (no matter how you try to push for one!) at this first meeting. You will have to wait another 10 days to 2 weeks for quotes to come in.

3) Choosing an architect is not just about going for the cheapest quote – don’t be afraid to negotiate. You need to feel you can work with your chosen person, that they have respected your ideas and been prepared to give good feedback and suggestions of his/her own – and taken the time to explain terms you do not understand.

4) At this stage timescales are guides only. There is still another meeting to arrange before anyone starts to compile draft plans! The survey meeting. This is where your chosen architect will measure, take pictures, make copious notes and sketches. On a 3 bedroomed/2 reception property this ‘survey’ will take around 2 – 2.5 hours.

5) Another 2/3 weeks off waiting should see the draft plans drop in your mail box. So from start to finish this has taken eight and half weeks. In reality this is not a long time but if your build project is your only major ‘job’ then this is where patience is a must!

So what can you do during these eight weeks to keep the impetus going. With this particular build the property was going to need to be pared back to a shell and the first thing we did was remove any item that we might want to recyle. For example: several retro light fittings, several old room and cupboard doors to be stripped and reused, a relatively new looking shower unit (base/glass surround) and one Victorian style bathroom sink. The (4) 1920’s fireplaces were protected and left in situ at this time – decisions will need to be made as to whether to keep them or replace with reclaimed Victorian ones.

2 skips were ordered and filled. In went the old kitchen units, rotten cupboard frames, debris from 2 dropped ceilings (lathe & plaster), rotten floorboards from a downstairs room, wallpaper from 4 rooms we stripped back to the lime plaster and a couple of disintegrating carpets. It’s a shame that none of the retro wallpaper could be saved but sadly it was beyond rescue

Care needs to be taken when doing the above in any old property. Wearing a face mask and gloves is a sensible precaution. Builds that took place in the 1800’s to mid 1900’s may well contain, asbestos in old wall boardings, tiling, roofing or old electrical wiring. Asbestos was often used in areas that were required to be fire resistant or for thermal insulation (lagging on a tank). Arsenic in old coloured wallpaper or paint and in rare incidences old coloured (green) curtains, lead in old plumbing and paintwork, animal hair was often used to reinforce old lime based plaster and pre 1900 could contain low levels of anthrax.

There’s a certain satisfaction to be had wielding a sledge hammer and I had some enthusiastic helpers – Bagging and carrying rubble out to a skip, however, was not so well received! An unexpected bonus is that there is a very, very large pile of lathe in the lounge that should keep me supplied with kindling for all those open fires … if only someone else would take the time to snap it and bag it in a more uniform size.


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