The Money Pit
OK, I'll admit that my house is not as bad as the one pictured (although I do have to say the amount of land you get with that one seems pretty nice!) ... however on some days it definitely feels like it is. As a fairly new homeowner in the UK (my previous purchases were in Canada) I was first struck by the whole ridiculousness of the Property chain and the process for purchasing homes (that however, is a topic for another day).
Being the proud owner of a home however is always a good feeling... the problems are when the house doesn't feel the same way! Unfortunately as we've come to quickly discover, this property needs an awful lot of work - which is fine if you can plan and save for it and do it gradually ... the problem is the unplanned/emergency work.
So far, this has included a leak in the bathroom above the kitchen - this required ripping out the roof of the kitchen and basically replumbing the whole thing! Total cost (to date) has been £2500. Now I know this doesn't sound too horrible and I personally know of other - worse - stories out there ... the problem for me is that this happened literally 1month (to the day) after moving in and 4 days before Christmas!
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It is important when looking for a contractor for home repairs to make sure they are reputable. There are telling signs when they are not. It is important when looking for a contractor for home...
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Many people get nervous about learning how to repair plaster. One of the most unsightly things that can happen in a historic home is the cracking of the original plaster. It is a repair that most people can do with some patience.
OK, being a reasonable handyman - I haven't built a bookcase from scratch but have assembled lots of IKEA furniture :) - I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty to solve a problem. When our leak was first discovered however, turning of the water itself proved to be an almost insurmountable task!
The stop tap underneath the sink was completely rusted shut and its location would have necessitated me ripping out the counter to get a better grip to get at it with the tools I had available. I tried to discover the external shut off valve for the house also, but being as it was 10pm at night in the middle of December, this was also a task that was beyond me! Having to call an emergency plumber (£100/hr) was unfortunately my only option.
Upon his arrival (2hrs later with much bucket filling in between), he didn't even bother with the internal water supply simply going out to the street with a really long screwdriver. Going to the local water supply on the sidewalk, he pried up the plate - reached in and turned off the water!! Hurrah - if only I'd known where it was and how to do it.
Now that new water was not coming in, we still had to get rid of the existing water in our pipes - homes in the UK are different to North America here too as they actually have a huge tank of water situated in their loft (basically the attic) that is tied into the boiler ... again a topic for another day as that's probably the next scheduled project!
Once the leak was stopped, the plumber kindly volunteered to come out the next day to repair the actual issue (at non-emergency rates of only £50/hr ... I definitely chose the wrong field!). So bright and early the following day, our friendly neighbourhood plumber came by and starting with the bathroom he ripped out the side of the bath to find the problem.
He was greeted with a huge pool of water under the bathtub as our "water pump" had been placed there vs. the airing closet ... this pump had sprung a leak and was the cause of our issue - phew, not the pipes at fault afterall! Unfortunately due to its location, he could not get at it to resolve the issue through the tub wall.
So, trooping downstairs ... he ... ripped ... out the ceiling on our kitchen! Along with the ceiling came copious amounts of water but he was now able to access the pump and repair the issue. Great ... except we now have a gaping hole in the roof of our kitchen!
OK, so the leak has finally been stopped, but the damage has been done also. Due to the way the plumber removed the ceiling, we really had no option but to contact a local builder to get a quote to repair the damage - I've mentioned my handyman skills I think?
Two lovely "gentlemen" came and gave us hugely varying quotes to do the work ... negotiating is also not one of my strong points but eventually we settled on one company to do the work which has only just been completed.
Now - as a non-expert - I can safely state, that this is definitely the classification of "unskilled labor" and probably something I can do going forward assuming that similar issues occur in the future. They did a reasonably good job - especially around the edges where the ceiling connects to the wall as their "skimming" is really good, however the actual putting up of the panels themselves is probably something I could have done given the right tools.
Well, we now have a ceiling again - its taken 3 weeks at a very busy time of the year - and the house is starting to look like a home again.
What would I do different? - I think now that I know where the water stop on the street is thats a good piece of information and I am gradually acquiring more and more tools of my own so that I do not have to depend upon other people for basic home repairs. Its not so much the quality of the work - as I think you SHOULD pay for skills that you do no have - but rather the simpler tasks that I should be able to do myself.
Some planned projects - in the coming months and years I expect we will be doing quite a bit with this house, some simple things like windows and doors where I will be paying (quite a bit) others and some not so simple things - changing the boiler where I willl also be paying quite a bit! I only hope that we do not have too many more emergencies as aside from an emergency fund, there is very little you can do!