Learn­ing on the Job

Henry Hud­son and Holly John­son’s newly ren­o­vated Vic­to­rian house is a prime ex­am­ple of what can be achieved on a DIY ba­sis and on a tight bud­get

Homebuilding & Renovating - - Contents - Words Natasha Brins­mead Photography Jeremy Phillips

ON THE COVER A newly ren­o­vated Vic­to­rian house is a prime ex­am­ple of what can be achieved on a DIY ba­sis — and on a tight bud­get

Even as first-time buy­ers, Henry Hud­son and Holly John­son could see past the ne­glected state of the Vic­to­rian house that they have trans­formed into a fresh, bright home that em­braces the prop­erty’s orig­i­nal fea­tures.

“I ba­si­cally got dragged here against my will,” laughs Holly when asked how they first came across the Vic­to­rian house she and part­ner Henry now call home. “We were liv­ing in rented ac­com­mo­da­tion and at first we al­most to­tally dis­missed it due to the amount of work it needed — but once we prop­erly looked around it I liked it straight away.”

“I just saw all the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges and how much there was to do,” says Henry of the house, in Mel­bourne, Der­byshire. “Holly saw the value in all the orig­i­nal fea­tures.”

The prop­erty was just about hab­it­able when they moved in. That said, for the first month, Henry and Holly were able to re­main liv­ing in their rented home while a new cen­tral heat­ing sys­tem was in­stalled. They then set out on their ren­o­va­tion project on an al­most com­pletely DIY ba­sis.

“When we first moved in, the house was just a build­ing site,” says Holly. “There was not even a sink down­stairs and in­stead of a bath­room up­stairs there was just a weird lit­tle space with a basin, toi­let and bidet!”

A DIY Ren­o­va­tion

Henry and Holly knew from the out­set that they would carry out all the work on the house that they could them­selves, only hir­ing in trades­peo­ple where com­pletely nec­es­sary. “We used just four trades,” says Henry. “A plumber, one builder to re­move struc­tural walls, an elec­tri­cian and a plas­terer — the rest we did our­selves. We did also ask a lo­cal joiner to cre­ate repli­cas of some of the orig­i­nal skirt­ing boards that couldn’t be saved.”

Orig­i­nally a four bed­room house, Henry and Holly made the de­ci­sion to sac­ri­fice the fourth bed­room in or­der to cre­ate an up­stairs bath­room. “We stole some space from the ad­join­ing bed­room by mov­ing the wall be­tween the rooms slightly,” says Henry. “Al­though we only gained around 750mm in the new bath­room, it has made it more of a use­able space.”

The cou­ple also de­cided to un­der­take the rather size­able task of re­mov­ing the en­tire chim­ney stack that ran up from the liv­ing and din­ing rooms through the bed­room and into the loft — all in the name of cre­at­ing ad­di­tional space in the now-smaller third bed­room.

With lit­tle in the way of a mod­ern kitchen, Holly and Henry be­came used to pre­par­ing mi­crowave meals in the bed­rooms while they re­moved the wall that sep­a­rated the kitchen and din­ing room and went about cre­at­ing the fresh, clas­sic kitchen diner that has re­placed what was there.

“We had to dig out around 12 tonnes of soil from the kitchen by hand,” says Henry. “There had been black and red orig­i­nal quarry tiles laid di­rectly on earth so we needed to add in­su­la­tion and also a DPC [damp-proof course].”

In place of the old quarry tiled floor – which was saved and painstak­ingly re­laid in the new down­stairs WC by Henry – a tim­ber floor has been laid.

“The kitchen is a bit of a hy­brid,” con­tin­ues Henry. “We have com­bined free­stand­ing painted units from a kitchen com­pany with an is­land and larder unit which were made by a lo­cal joiner.”

“It did feel stress­ful just be­fore we fin­ished work on the kitchen,” ad­mits Holly. “We’d been liv­ing off mi­crowave meals for such a long time, it was hard to have vis­i­tors and it did be­come a lit­tle bit de­press­ing — we’d for­got­ten what a ‘nor­mal’ life was!”

Stick­ing to a Tight Bud­get

With a lim­ited bud­get of just £45,000, Henry and Holly were very me­thod­i­cal about the build, care­fully stick­ing to a de­tailed bud­get. “The only thing we hadn’t bud­geted for was the new DPC, so we did end up go­ing over by £1,500,” ad­mits Henry.

“It is so nice to find that you can do things you didn’t know or think you could”

Along with sav­ing on labour costs by do­ing what they could them­selves, the cou­ple also de­cided to keep the orig­i­nal win­dows. “They had been in­stalled in the early 1990s and al­though we might have liked to re­place them, they were double glazed and keep­ing them meant we could stick to our bud­get.”

The cou­ple also saved on plas­ter­ing costs by only hav­ing skim­ming work car­ried out where ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. “Most of the walls were lathe and plaster and some were badly dam­aged. We filled ar­eas where we could and only got the plas­terer in to skim the parts that were re­ally bad — we were try­ing to be as fru­gal as pos­si­ble but also wanted to keep some of the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter of the walls,” says Henry.

De­spite liv­ing among the chaos that comes with a ren­o­va­tion, Henry and Holly have only pos­i­tive things to say about their ex­pe­ri­ence. “It is so nice to find you can do things you didn’t know or think you could,” says Henry. “We’ve learnt so many skills we can take with us — in fact we are al­ready think­ing about our next project. Maybe a self-build next!”

Mov­ing the Bath­room A small fourth bed­room on the first floor has been re­placed with a mod­ern bath­room, tiled by Holly. To make the room a lit­tle larger, the wall sep­a­rat­ing it from bed­room two was moved. The chim­ney breast in this bed­room was then taken out in or­der to re­gain the lost space.

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