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Tips for renovating a council house?

  • 10-05-2021 7:07pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 3,371 ✭✭✭ peckerhead


    Hi all,

    I've recently bought (at auction) a mid-terrace 3-bed in Co. Clare, at a knockdown price for the location, but the place is in need of near-complete renovation and I've f*** all experience of these things so I'm posting here in the hope that some of you might have a few pointers for me. I'll be meeting a couple of local builders over the coming week or two and would be grateful even to know what kind of questions to be asking them.

    The house is a bog standard cavity block council build, c. mid-1960s, and has stood empty for about a year (still waiting to get electricity reconnected). Before bidding on it at auction I was able to get a look around inside with two friends (engineers, one of them a structural engineer) who said there was nothing major to worry about (checked out attic, chimney, roof etc.). As you can see from the attached photos, however, it's in an appalling state internally: click here. We're not talking redecoration so much as a complete refurb, from ceilings to floors, and a complete new kitchen and bathroom. Also a fair bit to be done outside - guttering/facia/downpipes need replacing, back yard needs walling in & gates, etc., etc. A "blank canvas", if you will.

    On the plus side -
    • the uPVC external doors and windows are all pretty sound, they must have been replaced in the last 15/20 years maybe,
    • the Stanley range in the kitchen (back boiler heats the rads) looks to be in working order/recently used. There's also a boarded up open fireplace in the front room where I might put in a stove. There's no option for gas, yet.
    Obviously, whatever I do I'll be upgrading the insulation as much as possible — attic, walls, everywhere I can — and fitting a sliding porch. Beyond that, I'll be making choices based on budget and priorities (I still have to furnish the place). I'm figuring on about €15K between the kitchen and bathroom; beyond that I have no real idea what to expect to spend to get the place some way habitable. Friends are telling me €15-20K will go a long way, but I'd be interested for any views/experience you lot might have to offer. Also any tips about what kind of work to do first, so as not to waste time/effort/money by going about things in a stupid order (which is probably what I would do).

    Basically, help a pen-pusher out here, and gimme your wisdom... TIA! :D

    Edit: for clarification — this isn't for renting; I'm moving into this place a.s.a.p. and will be living here at least until retirement, 10 years from now. Hopefully, anyway! :pac:


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,115 ✭✭✭ black & white


    A lot would depend on whether you are buying it to live in, sell on or rent out. If it's to rent out, I'd be looking for second hand kitchens online which will save you a couple of grand, same with bathroom where I'd be going to local supplier and see what tiles etc are end of line.. Sell on, get everything clean, white and shiny and if it's for yourself then whatever you prefer.


  • Registered Users Posts: 72,845 ✭✭✭✭ Atlantic Dawn


    I'd consider at this stage if money allows look to maybe extend the kitchen out so it meets the merges with the existing porch at the rear, you could then have a nice living room area in the middle of the house where kitchen currently is.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,115 ✭✭✭ black & white


    Looking at the photos, it might need a full rewire and, if it was mine I'd sink the heating pipes into the wall/floor. You'd need a plasterer to reskim after all that.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,970 ✭✭✭ DaCor


    Can't view anything in dropbox as I'm on a work pc so if I'm way off on any of this please excuse me. Also, my approach to insulating and heating is with heat pumps in mind due to their insane efficiency. You don't mention if you need to live in it while work is being done or if you are under any time/finance crunch to get the work done faster.

    You have the right idea re: insulation. Council houses were built with the attitude that it was up to the occupier to keep it warm. With it being cavity block, pumped insulation seems to be the right fit for the front and back. With this though, you could leave it for a while as it is done from outside the house so you could prioritise a habitable home over an insulated home for a while and come back and do it in a year or two. Take care with the attic insulation because depending on how its been done re: your neighbours, it could be a real pain to insulate well but do it right and it'll pay for itself.

    If there is nothing structural that needs fixing, then your 15-20k will go a lot further, however the more work you can complete yourself, the further it will go obviously.

    If you have flexibility in terms of timelines, if I was you I would start tipping away at it and learn through the likes of youtube etc for a lot of it. The only things I wouldn't go near myself would be any electrics or plumbing but everything else is fair game.

    The PVC windows/door that are 20 years old, I'd leave them in place, but when you have money in say 10 years, swap them out, especially if you have north facing windows, swap out for triple glazed windows.


  • Registered Users Posts: 124 ✭✭ Hontou


    I am presently preparing an ex rental house for sale that is in roughly the same condition. Mine is older, built in the early 50's. It needs rewiring, some new radiators, new bathrooms and kitchen, new floors and some plaster work. Like you, I don't have the time or skill for DIY so got various quotes for this work. About €40,000 is needed to do this work with today's crazy construction prices.

    So, I am just doing the following: getting the minor plastering done; have bought a few second hand kitchen cabinets; getting the inside painted (walls, ceilings and woodwork); new carpets and lino for the kitchen and bathrooms. I have done some minor tiling myself. This will cost around €5000.

    If I spend €40,000 on it then the house will have cost me more than it is worth on the open market. It is in a rural area with a ceiling price of around €120,000. (I paid €90,000 for it 4 years ago).

    As another poster said, just clean it up, second hand kitchen, paint the inside and put a neutral floor throughout. Although you got it cheap, don't end up spending more than the house is worth.

    Your house looks very good from the outside and seems to be lovely and bright with good room proportions, especially the kitchen. Good luck with it.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,371 ✭✭✭ peckerhead


    Thanks lads, I wasn't expecting so many replies so quickly, and this is all very helpful! (Hontou, thanks especially for those figures)

    Have edited my OP to clarify that this isn't to rent out - it's gonna be home for the foreseeable future. So I'd like to look to the long term, and "do things properly". While the thought of a kitchen extension is one that occurred to me, I don't really need the extra space right now (I live on my own) - but what I was thinking about, if it's viable, is knocking a double doorway through the (load-bearing) wall between front room and kitchen and, since there's no downstairs loo, using that scullery/utility room extension to make a walk-in shower/wet room and wc (it's already plumbed). The space under the stairs could then be used for some sort of fitted storage solution. This seems easier/cheaper than plumbing in an understairs loo?

    What I'd like to do is make sure I insulate the bejaysus out of the place, starting from the roof down. There are firewalls between all the attics and there doesn't seem to be any sign of water ingress (other than a tiny bit around the base of the chimney where some flashing needs replacing). Apart from reinsulating and boarding out the floor space, I was going to put up that reflective foil lining — would you reckon the gain in heat retention from that would be as good as/better than going the foam insulation route? And then pumped insulation in the front and back walls?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,115 ✭✭✭ black & white


    If you're going to insulate then speak to a couple of experts, you need to have a balance of what you spend vs what the savings would be, also have a look at the grants available for upgrading the insulation ; https://www.seai.ie/grants/home-energy-grants/insulation-grants/


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,926 ✭✭✭✭ Calahonda52


    peckerhead wrote: »
    Thanks lads, I wasn't expecting so many replies so quickly, and this is all very helpful! (Hontou, thanks especially for those figures)

    Have edited my OP to clarify that this isn't to rent out - it's gonna be home for the foreseeable future. So I'd like to look to the long term, and "do things properly". While the thought of a kitchen extension is one that occurred to me, I don't really need the extra space right now (I live on my own) - but what I was thinking about, if it's viable, is knocking a double doorway through the (load-bearing) wall between front room and kitchen and, since there's no downstairs loo, using that scullery/utility room extension to make a walk-in shower/wet room and wc (it's already plumbed). The space under the stairs could then be used for some sort of fitted storage solution. This seems easier/cheaper than plumbing in an understairs loo?

    What I'd like to do is make sure I insulate the bejaysus out of the place, starting from the roof down. There are firewalls between all the attics and there doesn't seem to be any sign of water ingress (other than a tiny bit around the base of the chimney where some flashing needs replacing). Apart from reinsulating and boarding out the floor space, I was going to put up that reflective foil lining — would you reckon the gain in heat retention from that would be as good as/better than going the foam insulation route? And then pumped insulation in the front and back walls?

    You cant pump cavity block walls, in your opening post
    spray on foam is problematic at best.
    That tin foil is rubbish in this application

    how many of the floors are concrete ?


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,371 ✭✭✭ peckerhead


    You cant pump cavity block walls...
    Lol, this is exactly the kind of "expertise defecit" I was warning ye about... :p What are my options, then for the front and rear walls? I've seen a neighbour line his extension walls with thick (like 3-4cm thick) boards/rigid sheets of insulating foam, is something like that my best bet?
    spray on foam is problematic at best.
    That tin foil is rubbish in this application
    So, again, what's my best bet for the attic? (subject to/bearing in mind the need for ventilation). Just put down plenty of rockwool and board it over? (on which point, has anyone any experience of using these?)
    how many of the floors are concrete ?
    I think just the kitchen - looks like asbestos under the flooring in the front room? (so don't want to be cutting into that, I guess?).

    Again, many thanks for the pointers.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,970 ✭✭✭ DaCor


    Yeah, like the previous poster said, there's grants that could save you a bit, so make sure to dig into that. You will also have the option of stacking grants to gain you more and they don't all require you to do all the work all at once. As I said, I couldn't view your pics, but have you had a BER done? If not get one done before you start anything as this will figure into the grant applications as far as I know. There are also renovation grants available I think, but those may just be the SEAI grants that I'm thinking of.

    Ok, so you are 10 years from retirement, that changes things slightly.

    Something to give serious consideration to, as well as the insulation, is how you are going to heat the place long term. Think 10, 20, 30 years down the line (I'm assuming you are as fit as an ox). Peat/turf is almost removed from the equation, smoky coal is not long for this world, smokeless coal/oil will end up with carbon tax being loaded on to it to encourage people to switch and gas is ok now, but in another 10-20 years it will likely the devil they want to get rid of.

    With that in mind, in your position, I would be seriously looking into an air source heat pump. They are pricey, but there are grants from SEAI for these too, but they pay for themselves if you have spec'ed out your home correctly.

    If I was in your shoes, I would be doing these things, but this is just me
    • Do whatever internal work you chose to layout the way you want e.g. knocking that wall, downstairs wetroom
    • Rip out the fireplace, chimney & sell the stanley
    • Insulate the bejesus out of it, but ensure you can control the ventilation
    • Air Source heatpump & correctly sized rad's. Note if you can stretch to it, I'd do underfloor heating downstairs
    • Heating controls for time, zones & temp
    • Painting & furnishings

    Thats a very high level summary but you get the idea

    I know this pushes your budget up, it basically doubles it, but you will get a lot back through grants and end up with a home you can heat easily, for very little, for a very long time

    In terms of grants, if you went with what I outlined you would qualify for 3 SEAI ones plus a bonus grant

    Insulation
    - 400 for the attic
    - 400 for the pumped wall

    Heat Pump
    - 3,500 for air to water

    Heating Controls
    - 700

    Bonus grant for completing 3 upgrades
    - 300

    So a total of 5,300 in grants

    Personally I'm hoping to purchase a place similar to yours shortly, and this is the route I'm planning on taking. I'm 19 years away from retirement.

    Whatever way you go, best of luck with it


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  • Registered Users Posts: 10,926 ✭✭✭✭ Calahonda52


    1: doing work because you get a grant is a fool's paradise as the price goes against you.
    2: If the HLI fails the SEAI thresholds, then the HP grant will not be given so its not a slam dunk.
    3: Cavity block walls cannot be pumped, or if you do engage in that foolishness, no grant.


    Is that a flat roofed extension out the back?
    can you secure the rear of the gaff if considering a HP?
    are the eaves concrete or timber or plastics?
    are they ventilated?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,071 ✭✭✭ PMBC


    Consider a screen outside front door if there is a small porch there. Also and maybe later a porch at back door. Every time you go to the waste bin or answer front door your heat escapes - not downplaying role of insulating upgrades.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,926 ✭✭✭✭ Calahonda52


    PMBC wrote: »
    Consider a screen outside front door if there is a small porch there. Also and maybe later a porch at back door. Every time you go to the waste bin or answer front door your heat escapes - not downplaying role of insulating upgrades.
    He is adding the front porch, I agree the back porch is a good idea:), given the fact it opens into kitchen


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,970 ✭✭✭ DaCor


    1: doing work because you get a grant is a fool's paradise as the price goes against you.

    A grant takes the pain out of the increased cost of the higher spec item. Savings are achieved over the lifetime with reduced running costs. Alternatively go for an auld oil boiler for a few hundred but pay the extra on the fuel over the lifetime
    3: Cavity block walls cannot be pumped, or if you do engage in that foolishness, no grant.

    My mistake, I read it as cavity walls, not cavity blocks


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,371 ✭✭✭ peckerhead


    Is that a flat roofed extension out the back?
    Yep, 'twinned' on the house next door. Roof seems to be OK (all that appalling black mould and stuff is just from condensation - the thing has no vent anywhere)

    can you secure the rear of the gaff if considering a HP?
    Yep, once I don't need easy access to the rear I'll be walling off that yard (with a double gate) and putting up a steel shed. I reckon security shouldn't be a big worry, because the rear laneway is a cul de sac and has lots of security lighting/cameras already there due to the guy two doors down having a huge standalone built shed/workshop in his rear yard.
    are the eaves concrete or timber or plastics?
    are they ventilated?

    They look like plastic/PVC, and in need of replacement (next door have replaced theirs), as do parts of the downpipes, and the drainage below is a bit of a mess, too. I'll be re-doing the upstairs bathroom completely (losing the bath and putting in a new shower) so will sort all that external stuff together, hopefully.

    Re the pros and cons of going for the grant(s) — I know people who've found that the amounts claimed/claimable were pretty much cancelled out by the price differential in the quotes they were getting (for the same work) from SEAI-approved companies/traders vs non-listed ones in their area. So I'll do comparisons and, if it pays me to go with an approved crowd for all the insulation/energy-efficiency works, then obviously I'll do that. Budget permitting.

    On which point — yesterday somebody mentioned to me a grant for which I can't find any info on the SEAI website; wondering if you might know anything about it, DaCor? Apparently a more substantial one than the sum of the elements you've summarised above (plus the 3+ measures bonus), one that can be sought in the case of a 'total refit', whatever that is. The person telling me about this was referring to maybe 15-20 years back (?) so it's entirely possible that it was once in existence but has been superceded, or that it only applies/applied to much older dwellings. Rural farmhouse/cottage type stuff.

    Anyway, thanks to all for the comments, and keep 'em coming!


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