First Time Renovator: new windows and an unexpected drama

We had at least 8-weeks to wait for the decision on our planning permission – time to settle into the house and mull over the decor, make some decisions on the new windows, maybe buy some samples and start some Pinterest boards for inspiration… or so we thought! No one would have expected what came next.

Let me start at the beginning; we began by looking at window companies, since we knew the building officer wanted us to replace the double-glazed aluminium frames we currently had. The enforcement was only for the two front windows (facing onto the road and in the oldest part of the house) but I didn’t want a mismatch in the rest of the house so we looked into our options. I spoke to a local joiner who could hand-make the two wooden front windows but it was a 4-month wait for these. I also invited a couple of companies round to give us a quote, one local and one national.

Windows downstairs

We were glad to get rid of the hideous dark brown windows but it wasn’t a cost we had originally factored in

The window salesman from the national company lived up to every cliché. During a site visit the price of the windows dropped by half of the original price after he asked to use our landline (the village is in a signal blackout zone) to call his boss and get the price down – very strange! I was sceptical to say the least and it put me off immediately. The local company was the opposite and left us with our quote to think about it.

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The front two rooms; the master bedroom and front room, which was being used as a dining room when we moved in, would not be affected by any of the building work so we planned to get these two decorated and my dream log burner installed. However, one morning we woke up in a cloud of dust and quickly realised that our bedroom ceiling was collapsing! The rafters behind the dormer window had rotted with time (not surprising after 170 years really!) This wasn’t flagged up on our structural report because the previous owners had boarded the section that would have been visible in the loft.

damage to the ceiling

The damage to the ceiling was substantial. It had to be held up by a wooden beam so it didn’t collapse any further

It was cold in the room, not to mention dangerous so this had to take priority as the roof had actually started to fall in. As a temporary measure we covered the hole with some boards and slept downstairs in the front room.

Before the roof drama we had started our search for a builder. We had three quotes to go through; two local builders (the single-man-band-type) who had been recommended to us and a larger company who would project manage the build and provide all the tradesmen we would need, electricians, plumbers etc – this option had a premium. Our preferred builder was a local tradesman from the village who had experience with older houses (this was important to us as the materials needed to match the existing house).

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After some deliberation we decided we would use our preferred builder for the bedroom roof as a ‘test run’ before the bigger build. That way we could get to know him and see what his work was like before accepting his quote.

At this time there were lots of decisions to make, all of which seemed separate but actually they coincided with each other. While the builder was fixing the roof he would have to rebuild the dormer so we needed to make a choice on the windows sooner rather than later. The builder was able to source wooden windows through a trade manufacturer and this would save us money – it seemed like a no-brainer. He ordered two windows so the downstairs could be done at the same time and then we could revisit the quotes for the rest of the house later in the year during the main build.

before and after

The entire ceiling in the master bedroom had to be secured and a new frame had to be built to ensure it wouldn’t collapse again

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Windows outside

Although unfinished, we can already see the different the new windows will make to the exterior of the cottage

The bedroom roof took a few weeks to repair, the builder kept the slightly wonky curve of the dormer that was previously there so it would fit with the quirkiness of the rest of the house. The windows have transformed the front of the property and I can’t wait to get started on the rest. Now for decorating that bedroom and finding my log burner.

Read more First Time Renovator blogs in the series.

Featured image: The front of the house showing the existing brown windows and after, showing the new wooden frames. Sealing and repainting around the frames still needs to be done but what a transformation!

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