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Someone slap some sense into me please

(16 Posts)
emwithme Fri 10-Jul-15 15:39:58

OK - so we bought a stone built, Victorian house (500m from the beach in a SW seaside town) in March; it needed total renovation (woodworm, wet rot, damp etc as well as 1970s decoration), including the knocking down of a wooden lean-to (attached to the single-storey original kitchen/scullery) and the building of a "proper" extension for a nice (or even naice ) kitchen-diner and utility room, and rejigging the downstairs loo to make a shower room (using a bit of the current breakfast room).

Builders have been in for six weeks or so, stripped the place back to the stone/brick, removed all ceilings, praised the weather for helping things dry out. Things were going well - we found a window hmm but other than that, most things were as expected. This week they started digging the footings for the new extension.

FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK.

My house is built on fucking sand. Seriously. They've gone down three metres under where the lean-to was (and a little further, as we're doing the extension to the max of the permitted development sizing) and it's turtles sand all the way down.

The current kitchen is sitting on sand with no foundations (even though it's original), the breakfast room (which has a bedroom above it) does have 4 foot of foundations but the joists are (a) too small and (b) rotten and (c) all balancing on a pile of NINE BRICKS in the middle of the room.

We're going to have to knock the "kitchen" down and drill into the house with bars (or something - had to get DH out of work this lunchtime so he could speak techy building words with them) and then rebuild the lot on a boat-load of concrete (or something)

I could sob my absolute socks off. We had second thoughts when the survey came back with damp/wet rot/woodworm but renegotiated price to take account of some of the works, having had a specialist damp/timber survey (not from one of those companies who does the work, from someone who just surveys places) so we thought we knew what we were facing. I am just alternating between sad and angry and I don't know what to do.

Normally I would dive headfirst into a vat of chocolate and gin but I started fucking Slimming World a couple of weeks ago and I CAN'T...

Northernlurker Fri 10-Jul-15 15:59:00

You can have the gin and chocolate. This is an emergency.

Ok so this isn't good but it is fixable (at a cost). How much of that cost can you afford? You can't go back. What's done is done. So it's about how you go forward. If that means re-planning your extension, building the shell but leaving finishing some of the interior until you've more cash, or whatever it CAN be done.

wowfudge Fri 10-Jul-15 16:03:21

Okay - so there's a plan to fix it. What's your issue? Disruption, money or something else?

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Fri 10-Jul-15 16:07:55

Have a cup of tea and some deep breaths. What do you love about the house? The location sounds lovely.
Also, try not to kick yourself too much - it sounds like you were prudent but unlucky. If you hadn't done it you might have spent your life wishing you had.
These things are fixable.

QuiteLikely5 Fri 10-Jul-15 16:10:21

Outrageous.

Does your mortgage provider know your house has no foundations?

Don't let this rest.

SwedishEdith Fri 10-Jul-15 16:16:54

Lots of older houses don't have deep or any foundations so that's not too unusual. But, it would have been nice if someone could have pointed that out to you in the survey. But, yes, it's all fixable. Pilings and concrete etc . Just get drunk for now and worry tomorrow.

Northernlurker Fri 10-Jul-15 16:27:13

Nobody knows what foundations they have unless they watch the house being built. With older houses this does happen. As the kitchen lean to is original there''s no reason to suppose the vendors knew either. If they'd already built on you might have stood a chance of suggesting they knew and didn't disclose it.

fhdl34 Fri 10-Jul-15 16:35:24

This happened to us, we didn't find out till the ripped the kitchen out to fit the new one. We had to have the entire dining room and kitchen dug out, new kitchen was already delivered, not to mention extra cost. It was a fucking nightmare but so common with Victorian houses.

patchesofhappiness Fri 10-Jul-15 16:52:40

Bless you, how horribly frustrating for you, and this sounds horribly expensive...

We had a similar sort of thing, with our late Victorian terraced house. We had planning permission to build a third bedroom on top of the kitchen, but it turned out that the kitchen was sitting on 6 inches of concrete which was just plonked on top of mud and old half bricks. We had to have the whole back half of the house demolished (in winter, with a five year old and a crawling baby living in the house) and rebuilt on proper foundations. There were all sorts of interesting things just chucked into the old "foundations", such as old glass bottles and a late Victorian boot.

Of course we then didn't have the money to build the third bedroom we wanted - and the disruption was horrendous - but at least the house is strong enough now to take the weight if I ever win the lottery!

I am thinking that your builders should have dug a test hole to see what the foundations were like before they started work. Mine did, and he is a ridiculously cheap part-timer who pretty much works on his own, certainly not a reputable building firm (although he does know what he's doing, and we had seen his work before we took him on).

Other than that, I have no advice or information, just want to say that I really feel for you, and think you definitely deserve the chocolate and the gin flowers

AliceInSandwichLand Fri 10-Jul-15 17:58:23

We also had a similar thing when building a conservatory onto a Victorian semi on sandy soil; the original foundations turned out to be 2 or 3 courses of bricks and nothing else. To comply with buildings regs, the new conservatory needed massive concrete foundations; we seriously worried that the house would fall off the conservatory and slide down the hill by itself, as the conservatory wasn't going to budge. When we sold the house about 10 years later, all had been fine for 10 years. If the house hasn't shifted for over 100 years, surely it must be more stable than it looks?

greencottage Fri 10-Jul-15 18:05:21

Did you have a survey? The surveyor will have professional indemnity insurance. If the report failed to note something as serious as this you may be able to sue and recoup your building costs that way.

Sunnyshores Fri 10-Jul-15 18:15:10

Im suprised the builder didnt dig a test hole to the side of the foundations first. We had to have this done as the very first step in building regs (although we wanted to build ontop of a single storey extension).

Get all attempts at blame/recompense done first - surveyor, builder. Then move on, knowing that you have to...

lalalonglegs Fri 10-Jul-15 18:31:42

I don't see how the surveyor could have known - they don't generally dig out the foundations when yhey survey a house confused. I agree the builder dhoulf havevdug a test pit but he will argue yhatyhe OP didn't specify tjst. And ultimately, it would still have meant she was living in a house with no foundations (a Victorian house that hasn't fallen over yet), so the problem would still be there waiting to bite them pn the bum. It's really, really bad luck but is solveable with time and money.

Good luck

emwithme Fri 10-Jul-15 20:32:25

They did dig a test hole.

Then a bigger test hole.

Then a GIANT test hole.

It's all sand. ALL OF IT. There appears to be more sand in my back garden than there is on the frigging beach...but it explains the damp in the cellar and the wobbly/uneven floors in the (current) kitchen and breakfast room.

It was only today (when DH and I were there) that they discovered the issues go further back than they thought (the breakfast room balancing on a pile of bricks etc).

I have had a Very Large rum and diet coke and am resigned to the fact that this house is a bloody money pit (I am Shelley Long, obvs) but when it is done it will be beautiful and wonderful and I still get tingles three paces into the hall. I refer to it as the "Forever House"; I seriously am planning to live there forever.

We are lucky in that DH's parents "released" his inheritance early so we could buy this place mortgage free and are using what we had saved (along with my redundancy money from last year) for a deposit for renovations. We were planning on using some of what we had left as a deposit on a BTL but that's probably out of the window for the next few years while we save again. We're also lucky that (a) we're still in our rented place while the renovations are happening so we don't have to live with the disruption (flowers to patches for having to do this with little ones in situ) and (b) we can probably afford it (but it will mean the upstairs extension/en-suite will have to be knocked on the head).

Sunnyshores Sat 11-Jul-15 08:20:57

Oh I see, I thought they'd started already and then discovered the problem. So, the builders arent to blame either and have been quite thorough. It does sound awful, but money aside, it will still be the wonderful home you fell in love with and you are lucky really to have found your forever home. Good luck with it all.

0x530x610x750x630x79 Sat 11-Jul-15 08:40:34

This also happened to us, were adding a first floor on top of an existing single story bit, not foundations whole house, builders had to underpin the single story bit first, no carpets here yet.

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