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Old house, listed building, heating costs and insulation.....help me decide whether to buy

(17 Posts)
disguisedeb Sat 08-Oct-11 15:39:49

Have fallen in love with 200 year old Rectory which is also Grade II Listed. Current vicar is moving out due to the cost of heating over winter for the 2 of them.We haven't had a survey yet as it's not officially on the market, but we can see it needs a new oil boiler, windows need work ( 12 pane sash windows), 1 part of roof may also need attention, some dodgy feeling floorboards in places, needs new chimney liner etc... Need help/advice from anyone who lives in an old house re heating costs and what you have done to try and reduce them, also other ongoing maintenance.

I love it more than dh, he's getting worried about it being a money pit forever.I want to put in an offer as soon as it's official subject to our meeting with the conservation officer about what can/can't be done to the house and also subject to survey.

thanks...

teta Sat 08-Oct-11 17:57:39

We have a rectory type house that is 110 years old.Our heating bills have been in excess of 2500 annually for the last two years[gas].Our electricity bills seem to have really shot up too.We have replaced the boiler and put insulated plasterboard in the parts of the house that have been renovated.Because of our roof shape we can't insulate the attic.The local cavity-wall insulation company refused to do our walls as we have such narrow mortar gaps between the bricks thay said it would just look unsightly and would lower the house value.We also have several airbricks in every room which means a howling gale comes through the floor in winter.We've resorted to covering the floorboards up with engineered wood flooring in some rooms as carpet would be impractical in a house with 4 dc's and a dog.I do love my house and wouldn't want to live anywhere else but there is always something that needs doing.

gastonscave Sat 08-Oct-11 18:12:33

We have an older property. Aga in the kitchen which heats the water and wood burner in the living room. No heating upstairs so it gets very cold in the winter but you do get use to it.

We are planning on putting in a wood burner in the wash house and putting in radiators upstairs but never seem to get around to it. The aga is gasfired and we pay around £65 a month, but it's on permanently all year round and we are never without hot water which I wouldn't change. Husband is a tree surgeon so we don't have to pay for logs for the burner so if we put in another burner, it would just be the initial cost for the raditiors. The house can get very cold in the winter it all depends how much you feel the cold to how you'll manage. I do think it's worth it to live here grin

ElderberrySyrup Sat 08-Oct-11 19:56:49

You need to be able to afford a regular budget for maintenance and have a cushion for urgent big jobs that you weren't expecting (to give you an example - one of our gutters suddenly fell down, and we discovered the bargeboarding to which it was attached was rotten, and when the builders were up there replacing them they discovered some cracks in the mortar around the chimney, so that was a few grand we hadn't budgeted for). That kind of thing will happen and you want your reaction to be 'ouch!' rather than 'oh help, how are we going to afford this?'

If the house is big, do some sums on how much all the jobs will scale up.

You will probably end up not heating parts of it in the winter.

I would do this if I could afford it. We currently live in an old but small house and I have seen bigger ones that our budget would just about stretch to buying, but only by stretching us to our financial limit, and there is no way I would buy an old house that will need work without having some room for manoeuvre.

TarquinGyrfalcon Sat 08-Oct-11 20:04:58

We live in an old house and it is a constant money pit.
Heating bills are high (mixture of oil fired central heating/AGA/woodburner and open fire) and since we moved in we have had to do a lot of maintainance work - partial new roof, new guttering, new chimney.

However, I love this house and we bought it with our eyes wide open and budgeted so we knew we had enough to improve the property

disguisedeb Sat 08-Oct-11 21:08:47

Thanks everyone, it's a 5 bed, 3 rec room house and their costs last year including oil, electric, coal and logs was about £3000.

JohnnyRod Sat 08-Oct-11 23:49:31

As said above, go in with your eyes so open it hurts. We bought a 200 year old grade 2 farmhouse last year. It's lovely but was a fortune to heat. We have a new boiler (gas, but was a mare to find the right location and ended up venting up the chimney), but only a few weeks back. The winter heating bills with the old one were criminal, 20 units a day at worst. You can insulate the loft of course but the walls you can't, and the windows will have to remain. You can get secondary glazing but we haven't crossed that bridge yet. As a short-term you can use the shrink film type. To be honest it sound like you have a LOT of repairs coming up. Also talk to the conservation officer, they personally are going to dictate your fate. Ours is very good but they aren't always. Bear in mind if you want to make a change and they insist on an application, you need detailed before and after drawings, samples of materials etc. It can be difficult but it depends on so many things. A bit like kids. Don't pay over the odds.

smartyparts Sun 09-Oct-11 11:06:14

We live in a 400 year old house and have oil fired central heating and a wood/coal burner in inglenook in sitting room. We have secondary double glazing on most windows, but definite cold spots! Heating costs are quite high, but not horrendously so.

queensusan Sun 09-Oct-11 14:12:16

I think others have covered the heating costs quite well - we were spending up to £100 a week on oil alone last winter (heating, cooking and hot water). Add wood and electricity and the £2-3K others have quoted sounds quite reasonable.

You can't insulate walls or double glaze windows. You may even find restrictions on what you can do to the roof. We can see the outside through some of the gaps in our walls although we're working on that!

Buying a house like that really is a "project". It is amazing to own a piece of history - not really own but take care of it for the next generations. I love the fact that everyone knows our house when I describe where it is. Also, in our village most people are known by the houses they live in or by the names of the previous owners long gone - eg. we are still in "sue and john's old cottage".

However.... be very careful if one of you is unsure. You both have to go in with eyes open or it will become a source of conflict very quickly, especially if you are stretching financially to afford it. Also, while it is very important to be on good terms with your conservation officer, don't expect them to be able to offer much advice before you buy. They can only really respond to actual proposals and I doubt they will be able to do much at this stage other than advise about process.

Also, bear in mind that you may need to call on specialists for repairs and maintenance eg. a plasterer that specialises in lime plaster is harder to find and more expensive than your everyday tradesman.

queensusan Sun 09-Oct-11 14:15:48

I would also recommend you pay for a detailed survey by someone specialising in old buildings before you buy. They will be able to identify potentially major issues such as rotten beams and give you an idea of the cost of repairs.

ElderberrySyrup Sun 09-Oct-11 15:39:12

My parents, who live in a 2* listed Georgian house, were telling me this morning that they are planning on getting secondary glazing - you can have it in listed buildings (depending on the appropriate consents of course), because it is easily reversible. It's not impossible to get solar panels on listed buildings, too; if it is big there might be a lot of roof space.

However the best advice I heard re buying listed buildings is that you should only buy it if you would be ok to keep it as it is, because there is no guarantee you will get permission even for the most apparently reasonable things, even if the conservation officer you talk to before buying it is encouraging.

There is a book which came out in the last couple of years about energy saving for historic buildings, am racking my brains to remember the publisher (SPAB? English Heritage?)

ElderberrySyrup Sun 09-Oct-11 15:47:07

found it!

If you google the subject there are quite a few reports online which could be helpful too.

queensusan Sun 09-Oct-11 19:28:56

you should only buy it if you would be ok to keep it as it is

That is brilliant advice Elderberry - I must remember it. We moved in with grand plans and even secured planning permission and listed building consent, but both are about to lapse because quite frankly it is enough of a job to keep on top of maintenance. Our financial situation also changed so the really grand plans went out of the window.

GrendelsMum Sun 09-Oct-11 21:50:22

just to say this is all so, so true. I could have written almost every word of these above posts.

I love my house, but owning it is equivalent to a major hobby in terms of the amount of time, money and effort that it takes up in our lives. It would be a disaster if DH wasn't entirely on board with it.

GrendelsMum Sun 09-Oct-11 21:58:31

However, you asked for actual insulation tips. we did the following
- draft proofed all doors and windows
- blocked up open chimneys
- installed wood burning stoves
- put in secondary glazing
- have insulated ceilings and walls as possible, ongoing project as other major repairs are done
- put heavy interlined door curtains on the doors
- put heavy wool curtains on windows
- put in much more sophisticated controller for central heating, so that all rooms are individually controlled and the heat is kept appropriate at all times of day and night. That made an incredible difference.
- got used to sitting with a blanket over us on the sofa
- started saving to replace the windows with double glazed versions in the future, as we reckon in ten years time or so itll be possible to do replacements the conservation officers will accept

You should know that your conservation officer can't be definitive about options at this point, as you don't have the info to really inform them about what you want to do and why. for example, We have permission to remove a ceiling in one room and create a vaulted ceiling. The CO initially said that wasn't appropriate,but I could show her my historical research to show that it was correct for that one particular room.

disguisedeb Sun 09-Oct-11 22:45:14

Thanks for all your replies and Grendelsmum, some good tips there. What sort of insulation have you used on ceilings and walls, and what type of secondary glazing?

GrendelsMum Sun 09-Oct-11 22:59:08

The ceiling and wall insulation may not be any relevance to you, as I'm imagining your house is from the early 1800s and so probably brick. Ours is timber framed, and as we re render the outside and re plaster the inside, we have the option to fill the frame up with wool insulation. Weve only done one room so far, but it does make a difference. We have Crittall secondary glazing. THeres one wall which is modern brick, and I'm thinking about insulating that on the inside with Celotex, if we can get our carpenter to adjust the window frame appropriately.

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