I’m going to try and post more, shorter updates to keep on top of things.
Week three has started with a bit more wallpaper stripping, what else? I think we can all agree it’s a tedious and arduous job that doesn’t really require any more words. Here’s the recent progress.

Aside from the tedium of wallpaper the other major task is demolition. At the weekend I removed the breakfast bar and a couple of base units from the kitchen. This afternoon I took out the built-in shelving units.

I was intending to donate the units on the assumption that they were single pieces of furniture that could be reused, unfortunately this wasn’t the case. In fact they were multiple sections, screwed together very thoroughly and made to fit this space. The only way to take them out was to take them apart. Removing the upper one will be lots of fun…

The better news was that the lino was loose and hadn’t been glued down at all which will make laying a new material a lot easier.

I also made a start on removing the inset shelving. This was very old and had been modified, painted over and had been boxed in with assorted shims, facings and screws. It was a mess and took a bit of persuasion with the hammer to get it out. I can see multiple layers of tiles, hardboard, facing boards and other materials all quite carefully interlocked. This extends round to the sink are as well. It’ll all have to come out but I’m going to wait to consult a pro before I set about that job.

This week I’ve learned that it’s hard to stick to doing just one thing when everything needs done, however, to make effective progress, it’s better to pay attention to one area at a time so for now, downstairs is my main area of focus.

Wallpaper

Week two continued with more wallpaper stripping. The flock wallpaper comes off relatively easily, the surface layer mostly tears off without much effort and there’s just lining paper underneath, so repeated soaking makes that removable.

The built in cupboard is more of a problem. As well as a surface layer of wallpaper, this has many layers of paint and other materials.

I realised that some more substantial tools would be required so I made a trip to B&Q in Perth. I came away with a heat gun, a jigsaw (I reckon I’ll have to develop my wood working skills) and a workbench.

So far, the heat gun has not provided the super-effective removal process I was hoping for but this may be more due to the fact that I haven’t used one in about 25 years so need to develop my confidence and technique a bit.

The plan with this wall is to reline the cupboard with OSB board and demolish and replace the wooden shelving and fireplace.

Kitchen bits

Later in the week I was idly flicking through Gumtree (the upcycler’s best friend) when I came across a collection of Ikea Varde kitchen units located in Anstruther.

I’ve been thinking hard about what to do with the kitchen. It’s very small and U shaped. There’s no scope to expand the width though I can extend the length into the living area. A new, fitted kitchen was never going to be achievable on my limited budget and it didn’t feel like the right thing for me anyway. I’m going for a kind of eclectic/industrial look so free standing units seemed to be a better approach. Ikea’s Varde range are substantial, free standing units with a pro-kitchen look with hefty, butcher’s block surfaces and lots of stainless steel. They were made in the 90’s and early 2000’s but have since been discontinued. There’s a growing cult around these now and I’ve seen them on ebay for several hundred pounds per unit.

There was no doubt these were the right character for my kitchen so I immediately made an offer on them. The big issue was going to be logistics of getting them from Anstruther and into the house.

I rented the first available van which turned out to be a monster LWB Transit (2.5m tall, just under 6m in length!). I thought it was ludicrously oversized but it turned out be very useful indeed.

Having a van for 24 hours was going to be extremely useful in a variety of ways so, on Friday afternoon I set about removing the old kitchen breakfast bar and units so I could get the new unit in (nowhere else to store it) and get rid of some of the debris.

During this I discovered another hidden ‘feature’. An electric heater was situated under the old cooker-top right of pic 2. I had noticed a separate socket for it above the worktop but had assumed it was long removed. Lord knows how this was ever considered safe.

On Saturday morning we began the epic struggle of getting the main unit (hereafter The Beast) to the house. This involved taking the worktop off just to get it out the van. The Beast had to be shifted in small increments down the street. Two of us struggled with this for about 20 minutes before one of my new neighbours (whom I met that morning) took pity on us and offered to assist. The Beast was delivered to the house in a more or less straightforward fashion after that.

This is not the final location for The Beast but it gives some idea of the scale, it takes up an entire wall of the original kitchen.

More wallpaper

After further runs in the van to the dump and storage unit in Perth, it was time to turn my attention back to wallpaper. I mentioned in a previous post that I had resolved to get a steamer to assist with removing the wallpaper. I’ve done a fair bit of research online about the benefits and I’ve yet to find anything which conclusively says that a steamer is better than the manual approach. Luckily my fellow volunteer from Remake offered to lend me his to try out. Having tried it out on several different kinds of wallpaper I can report the following:

A steamer is heavy in the hand so can get a bit tiring to use over a large area.

It seems to be less effective where a fabric is involved – such as felty flock paper.

It is very effective on painted, textured paper. The latter comes off in large sections with very little effort. Good news for me as I have acres of this stuff to deal with.

My final conclusion is you need all the approaches to get wallpaper off particularly if you have a variety of types. Steaming works well on some kinds, others, perhaps those bonded with superglue, still require to be manually scored, soaked again and again and scraped repeatedly.

The second living room wall is now stripped. And the lurid orange colour is paint, so I have another layer to go if I want to see the original plaster!

Well the first week of ownership passed in a flash. In the spirit of keeping things up to date quickly, this is a quick overview of what happened.

Things I found out
The wiring is mostly ok, only a couple of dodgy lead cables and dubious earthing. My fear was that a complete rewire would be needed.
The floorboards upstairs are not great so no nice painted or stained boards. Downstairs has a chipboard subfloor so some kind of new floor covering will be required there.
The whole house is a wallpaper horror – it’s applied with enough glue to survive an explosion. Removing it will be arduous,.
The loft has an intriguingly Tudor feel.
The mad wet room not as bad as I first thought.
I have two original cast-iron fireplaces in the bedrooms. Unfortunately they are redundant due to chimneys having been removed and they take up a massive amount of wall space.

Picture of cast iron fireplace

Things I learned
Stripping wallpaper has a technique – mostly involving repeated soaking. Resolved to acquire a steamer.

100 yr old houses do not have hidden, immaculate floorboards or plaster walls. Both require fixing, patching, repairing and finally covering with something.

Things I did
Removed a lot of clutter.
Stripped one and a half walls of the living room. Made a start on the two bedrooms.

Had joiner and electrician on site for quotes
Assisted in chasing cables under floorboards all over the place. Had wiring and fuse box upgraded, new switches and sockets, smoke detectors installed.

Picture of living room on day one
Living room on day one…
Picture of living room after a few days
After a couple of days.
Picture of living room after a week
And after a week…
Second picture of living room after a week
Finally…

I’ve been looking for a new house since spring 2018. I went through many visions of what that would be: new or old, flat or house, buy outright/ or get a small mortgage? And where it would be: the kid goes to school in Crieff and I didn’t want to take her away from the friends and school she was happy with. This left me with a search radius of a few miles around Crieff including Comrie, Muthill, Auchterarder and Gilmerton. I eventually came across this 2 bed cottage in a small terrace in Crieff.

Exterior Pittenzie Place

I made an offer in mid February 2020, just as the stories of a virus starting to spread in China started to become news. The offer was accepted and I was hopeful about getting the keys within a few weeks. Of course external events took over and a national lockdown was declared on March 23rd 2020, effectively halting all house purchases across the UK.

So I waited, not entirely sure if or when the purchase would complete. Finally, in mid June, things began moving again. The purchase was completed without further issues and I got the keys on 30th June.

Time for some pics. These are the original pics from the estate agent’s web site.