Kirsty and David Sanders had just spent an enjoyable 18 months renovating their Victorian terraced house in Richmond, Surrey when her father suddenly threw a spanner into the works.
“He’s in the property business,” says Kirsty. “He pointed out that our home would never look as good as it did then ever again, so why not capitalise on that by selling up and buying something bigger.”
It’s true that, while the property was big enough for the two of them, the loft conversion was a bit cramped. But, since the couple had only been married for three years at the time, they could have been forgiven for resting on their laurels.
However, when a bigger house with six bedrooms suddenly turned up for sale a few streets away – another Victorian terrace in a quieter residential setting near Kew Gardens – Kirsty thought there was no harm in taking a look. “It’s in a conservation area; very green,” she says.
“Of course, I loved it as soon as I stepped inside the place.” This property was more substantial than their former worker’s cottage and was square-fronted in red brick. “It dates from the 1890s and I loved the size of the entrance hall, the front door and the south-facing garden,” says Kirsty. “Even the loft conversion didn’t feel like a loft conversion. It was just a lovely, solid family home.”
Although the current owners had been living there for several years, Kirsty didn’t think enough had been made of the space – it needed refreshing and overhauling. It took nine months for the couple to buy it and move in, as two broken chains meant the sale of their own house fell through twice.
“Our offer had been accepted but we had to go back three times to the owners to convince them to hold on and sell to us,” Kirsty says. “We actually hand-wrote two letters pleading with them. For a good while it was very touch and go.”
Finally, the pair moved into their new home in July 2016. They began planning all of their improvements straightaway, using the construction company who had helped them with their previous project. Unfortunately, the firm did not maintain their original high standards.
“We didn’t have an architect because we already knew what we wanted,” says Kirsty. “So we were happy to use the builders’ architectural drawings team for this part of the process.”
The couple got planning permission to extend the back of the house by 2m, while also incorporating the 1.75m deep side return to create a much bigger kitchen/dining/living room. They also had consent to build a garden annexe, containing a gym, measuring some 4m by 6m.
“We intended to start work as soon as possible, but there was a delay as there was some wrangle between the company and a builder who had left,” Kirsty continues. “Unfortunately, we’d already paid him.” Eventually, this was resolved by changing the entire build team, but there was no progress for a number of weeks before the new workers finally arrived.
“It was very clear that the company was stretched across a number of jobs,” says Kirsty.
Construction began in October 2016 and was meant to take between four to five months but, unfortunately, took more like eight.
“I had elected to have knee surgery for the week after the work was scheduled to finish,” says Kirsty, “but when the date rolled around, they weren’t even halfway through. I was negotiating my way around a house with the floorboards up on crutches – it was dangerous.”
First, the foundations were dug to a depth of 1.2m. Extending the rear and incorporating the side return was all about bringing in as much light as possible. The couple didn’t want it to look like a conservatory, but a solid part of the house, so they gutted the whole property right back to the Victorian brick so they could rewire, replumb and replaster from scratch.
All new double-glazed fenestration was installed, much of which was paid for by the Heathrow Noise Compensation Scheme for the nearby airport. “I don’t think enough people know about this,” says Kirsty. “We fell under the Night Noise Insulation Scheme. It covered half the costs of all our bedroom windows and gave us free loft insulation and ventilation.”
As it happens, the roof glazing in the extension is much larger than the average Velux unit, but it was still covered, which was a pleasant bonus. The wall between the first floor box room and the bathroom next to it was demolished to create a bigger family bathroom.
The existing one was far too small for a house this size, even with the ensuite in the loft conversion. This meant extending the pipework, replastering and laying a tiled floor. There was enough space left to accommodate the new Viessmann condensing boiler in a cupboard next to it – the old one had been under the stairs – as well as a built-in wardrobe for another adjacent bedroom.
An ensuite for the master bedroom was created by borrowing 3m x 1.5m of the bedroom itself. On the ground floor, a cloakroom, laundry area and storage system were all installed under the stairs, and Quickstep laminated flooring was laid throughout. Finally, water-based underfloor heating was added in the kitchen and electric underfloor heating in the bathrooms.
The unattractive wrought iron fireplaces, with their old fashioned tiles, were swapped for ones with a simpler Victorian design and the property was then redecorated throughout.
“We lived through it all, just as we had during our previous project,” says Kirsty. “We moved from room to room and were never without services – except once or twice when the hot water was turned off. This wasn’t a problem, though, as we could shower at work.”
While the builders were demolishing the old kitchen and installing the new, larger one from Magnet, the couple survived by using a microwave and a small fridge, with David manning
the barbecue at weekends.
Looking back, Kirsty recalls it as a test of endurance. “It was uproar; the noise, the dust, the endless delays,” she says. “The construction workers went way over the length of time agreed because the team changed partway through.”
|WHAT WE LEARNED…
ALTHOUGH A FULL house renovation is a true test of endurance, keep your eye for detail. Measure twice, cut once.
Another point of contention with the builders was that they took on the job before they had actually finished another, meaning they couldn’t be onsite full time. Then, when they had finished the first one, they started another elsewhere – so again were not present all the time.
“Even today they still haven’t finished the snagging,” says Kirsty. “It was – and is – very frustrating.”
The Sanders tend to go for the more upmarket end of the high street for fittings. They kept things simple by purchasing everything for the same room from one shop. The couple opted for marble-effect granite from Max Granti & Marble Tops for the kitchen worktops, as the genuine material is difficult to maintain, and the bathrooms are from Bathstore.
Kirsty and David are thrilled with the results of their renovation.
“We love our home because we were able to create a space that truly reflects our tastes,” says Kirsty. “Whilst I prefer more traditional elements, my Australian husband likes modern, clean design. Having grown up in a very sunny outdoors environment, he enjoys how the use of glass at the back of the property helps us connect with nature without feeling the chill of the cold British winter.”