Tuesday, 20 May 2014

LIVING IN A 1930S HOUSE: PROS & CONS

Living in an old house is not for everyone. Being the perfectionist that I am, it has taken me a while to accept that my house will never be perfect. The rooms will never be totally straight, the floor will remain uneven (sometimes even sloping) and we continuously need to keep fixing things (roof, conservatory, windows etc) but still I feel it was the best decisions we ever made.

The first day we moved into the house the light in the dining room broke. It was literally like from the 80's movie "The Money Pit" (if you haven't seen it you should!) and it was ironic but I've lost count how many things we have had to repair since we moved in.

Here are a few repairs we've had to do:

- New combi boiler
- New electrics and kitchen has been rewired
- New flooring and underlay in order to fix an uneven floor (it is still not totally even)
- Damp issues (only penetrating damp due to cracks on the window frame)
- Squeaky flooring due to old floor boards (still not fixed in every room)
- Uneven roof
- Hairline cracks on the walls

Most things have been relatively easy (although not cheap) to fix but when you buy an old house (or any house) you are committed to maintaining it. We have a list of things we are still wanting to change but considering I used to dislike old houses I am actually loving the original features and the personality of our house.

Funnily enough as our list of repairs was growing, I decided to do some research and found the most amazing book that has been very helpful called The 1930s House Manual. The book explains a bit of the history but the main focus is to go through the most common problems in houses that were built in the 1930s and how to fix them. It is a fantastic book and every 1930s house owner should have one.

So, here's my own list of pros and cons for buying a 1930s house.

Pros

- You can renovate it to your own taste
- Bigger houses (new build houses tend to be smaller)
- Houses used to be built better and will last the test of time (better craftsmanship)
- More character and history
- Usually in a better location than new builds
- Larger gardens (there used to be more land available)
- If you are good at DIY you could sell it on and make profit

Cons

- Unless you are a builder/DIY person it can cost more than buying a new build
- If there is something wrong with the foundations it will cost A LOT to fix it
- Major renovations can actually affect the house structure  if not done properly
- Older houses don't tend to be open-plan (this was not the style at the time) so you will need to either extend or knock down a wall (again cost)
- Old houses tend to be surrounded by trees which look great but it also means that they could be a threat to the foundations
- The houses were built during a time when there were less building regulations which means there have been less (if any?!) compliance checks
- The houses might not be suitable for modern living (new boiler required, rewiring the house etc) so it can cost a lot to do the upgrades
- Requires more maintenance than a new build

Here are my favourite original/old features in our house that I feel gives it character. I cannot say if everything is original 1930s. Windows at least are somewhat new but doors, locks, staircase and fireplace are all original 1930s features.

Original fireplace that has been painted white.


















Original 1930s door and door handle.


Windows are new but the style is typical of the 1930s metal framed windows.


Exposed brick wall painted white (thinking of bringing this back to its original colour..)


The original arch in the hall.


Original staircase that used to be red.




Original front door (although I am not 100% sure..)


Front door lock.



















 Original 1930s detail.



Brick fence.









































































  • Things to look out for

- Visible cracks outside the house and does the house look straight (determining whether there has been movement and whether this is historical or current)
- Trees nearby
- How old the heating, wiring and plumbing are
- If the house has been previously extended and all the necessary documentation
- Cracks inside the house
- Damp (visible or funny smell)

If you truly want to buy an older property I would personally go for it if it's what you have your heart set on. The only thing that would put me off is if the house has been underpinned (meaning it was structurally unstable and the foundations were structurally strengthened due to this). An underpinned house can be totally safe to buy but I personally wouldn't want to take the risk and also getting insurance for the house would be a nightmare.

I realised that I have more cons than pros.. I guess that means in my head I know that getting a stress free new build would be an easier option but I have learnt to appreciate the history and personality of an older house which is why at the moment I could not imagine living anywhere else. Our house is like a baby that we look after (ok well almost a 100 year old baby) and I am excited to see how we can improve her and make her last for many more years to come. Will I ever live in a new build? Maybe. But I think, although I cannot see it now, I will miss the squeaky floors and the little slope in the dining room. After all, they are part of the history of this house and a reminder of everything it has been through.

PS. If anyone has further pros and cons that I forgot to mention, feel free to add them as comments :)
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8 comments

  1. One more pro on old houses is that things like bin collection, draining, sewage and area maintenance are covered by local councils which means you get it free if you pay your council tax. New builds are generally not covered by local councils so in addition to paying council tax you need to pay other fees to an external management companies to cover basic essentials. This charge can be large and will continue every year you live in the house even if you retire and pay off your mortgage.

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  2. That is a very good point! Thanks for adding the comment :)

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  3. That's an impressive list of benefits to buying a house from that time. I do agree that the space is a major consideration. I like the size of those houses too, especially when you want to have a space that kids can roam around in freely. Tiny homes also have their benefits- especially when it comes to paying attention to maintenance

    Wilfred Andrews @ LB Plumbing and Heating

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    1. Thank you for your comment Wilfred! That's very true about tiny homes. Bigger homes (and gardens) are definitely more work. :)

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  4. Oh, my! This is absolutely my current struggle. I love my new house, but it is a much older home, and I am a huge perfectionist with very minimal patience. You are right, there are a lot of needed repairs that come with an older house, but that gives you the change to personalize your new pad to your liking. I absolutely love the doors, windows and brick fence! I wouldn't touch those at all, it gives the house so much character!

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    1. Thanks for your comment Jacqueline! I know what you mean. It doesn't help that I'm a perfectionist too but I've learned to love some of those imperfections because I realise that it will never be perfect no matter how much work we put in. We have young children too so it means that dents and other minor 'damage' can happen so easily. I think I will keep the doors actually. I was going to get new ones but like you said, it gives the house character :)

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