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Just moved into older house, thoughts on repairs/decorating please?

(4 Posts)
happynappies Wed 31-Oct-12 13:55:26

We've never lived in an older property before, just moved in to a c1905 house, and gradually getting used to the wonky floorboards and so forth! We live on a main road, and I don't know if its because of that, or because the previous owners had some building work done a couple of years ago, or whether there is some other reason, but the internal walls are really dirty - a kind of greyish smut that is particularly noticeable where pictures were previously hanging. I've tried to clean it off with Cif with some degree of success - but can't do the entire house. Any thoughts what it might be, and how best to deal with it (apart from re-decorate throughout?!).

Also, there is a bit of a history of subsidence - massively stressful survey/structural engineer report etc while we were buying, but finally reassured that the cause had been repaired, and no movement for a few years... but lots of doorways are sloping and floorboards are kind of loose. Is it worth repairing floorboards and joists and things like that, or do you just kind of get used to the 'character' of the house? And, if we do decorate, is it better to wallpaper? I notice that all of the rooms here are papered, would it be a nightmare with cracks/uneven surfaces etc if we stripped the walls? Is it ok to paint over the wallpaper, and if so, what if there is a border half way up the wall, will that look really daft painted over? So many questions!! Some of the rooms are quite murky and lit only with wall lights (no central ceiling light). Is it a relatively inexpensive job to get more lights fitted do you know?

Any thoughts on getting to grips with my new abode very gratefully received. Its been a bit of a whirlwind, as I had a baby three weeks ago and moved in two weeks ago, but am determined to settle in and make it like home!

fatnfrumpy Wed 31-Oct-12 16:07:55

congratulations on your baby.
How stressful moving and giving birth within weeks of each other!
I don't know what the grot is on the walls! could it be soot from an open fire?
The beauty of the victorian house is the quirky floorboards and wonky walls, just embrace them for what they are worth!
You are lucky indeed if you have original floorboards though I would not recommend sanding them with a young baby living in the house!
As for cracks in the walls etc, the wallpaper will be hiding a multitude of sins. There may even be several layers of paper as in years gone by householders papered over wallpaper.
If you have woodchip then paint over it but don't bother trying to get rid of it. It is awful to remove and time consuming, just enjoy your baby for now.
If money was no object, you didn't have a new baby and you were not living there then I would suggest hiring a steamer and having the place rewired for better lighting and replastering.
However as that is not feasable just now try painting the wallpaper although borders /patterns etc will need several coats.

Shalloween Wed 31-Oct-12 16:14:47

Do you have a real fire in the house as that might be causing the dirty walls? If not it could be years of road dirt have built up. Tips here for cleaning walls

Repair wonky boards and doorways if you want them to look straight, or if they're a nuisance to use - but otherwise you do get to love the quirks. My house was built in the 1700s and some of the rooms are up and down like the sea - I love it, it feel alive.

Whether you wallpaper or paint the walls depends on you, but if you're not prepared to do a lot of work to make the walls smooth (or pay for someone to skim them over) you will have to put up with a more uneven finish and paint will probably show that up more. Stripy wallpaper will look like hell if your walls aren't straight. If you paint over a border you will always see it. Painting over it might be a good quick solution until you decorate the whole room properly though. Bit of a warning, stripping wall paper in old houses often reveals a whole host of problems and, in a house that's had subsidence you'll probably find big cracks and large areas of plaster come off with the wallpaper. I've had ceilings come down as they were only held up by the paper. Original ceilings in a 1900s house are almost certainly plaster and lathe and will make a tremendous mess if they come down. Likewise, fitting ceiling lights into old plaster and lathe ceilings could be problematic too. Table lamps and standard lamps might be worth exploring.

I've made it sound awful, but it isn't. Loads of info on the net and, when I started I got lots of books on renovating old houses from the library. I'm on my 7th period house now so it's not as scary as I've made it seem.

Good luck in your new home!

happynappies Fri 02-Nov-12 14:35:29

Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions. No real fires, so really not sure what all the dirt is on the walls. Thanks for the link re cleaning them, I'll look into that, and I'll certainly look into the info on the net and books - are there any in particular you would recommend Shalloween? 7th period house? Perhaps you could be my mentor!? Thankyou fatnfrumpy for your good wishes re baby - seems so surreal at the moment! We'll definitely take our time - don't have much option at the moment, I've got four all under the age of 6 included our newborn, so can't get that much done, just glad to be in and keen to get researching and planning, if nothing else!

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