Renovating the ‘Middle Third’ of our House

We think about our house in thirds. This is quite literally because downstairs was originally made up of three equal sized rooms (two reception rooms and the kitchen) with no hallways or other rooms (apart from the utility room which is just built into the corner of the kitchen). The end third (one of the living rooms) was the part of the building that we knocked down and started from scratch and turned into our living room downstairs, and master bedroom with en-suite and walk in wardrobe.

Although I’ve not shared the reveal of the en-suite yet, it is finished, and so we’re turning our attention to the next section of the house. We don’t have to physically build anything this time, but there is so much to do, including a lot of structural work.

Our plan is to massively change the layout of the house and improve how it functions for us. (There’s a floor plan at the bottom of the post!)  The next stage involves making the following changes:

  1. Finish fitting a front door

We’ve already physically fitted the door and done a lot of work to landscape the front of the house, but we are planning an oak porch around it to finish it. This will include a slate sloped roof above the door. At the moment we can’t complete this because we have a window in the way…

2. Move two windows

The upstairs window (circled on the above picture) needs to move so there’s room for the porch, and then the window underneath it also moves up. In theory we could leave the one underneath but our plan is to eventually have the windows at the front of the house lined up – there will be two sets of two (same width as each other and on top of each other) on each side of the door. The way we want it to look eventually (compared to how it started) is below:

3. Create a Hallway

The room behind our front door will become our ‘snug’. This is a large room but we’re going to partition off the front section to create a hallway. This will be the room you walk into through the front door. When we did all the work with the extension we made sure that the door to the living room (the extension) was moved to the front of the house so it naturally falls into the hallway.

4. Move the door to the kitchen

Our kitchen is on the left of the house (as you’re looking at the above photo) and the door between it and the rest of the house is right in the middle of the wall that runs from the front elevation to the back. (You can also see it on the photo below). We need to move this to the front of the house (just to the right of the pointed window in the above picture) so that it also leads to the hallway (this will also give us more usable space in the kitchen when we eventually remodel that too!).

5. Move our stairs

Our stairs currently sit at the back of the house. This means that if we leave them where they are we’d have to traipse through the entire house to get upstairs. It’s not currently the biggest issue right now, but when our snug is finished we’d like to be able to keep it clean and so it just makes sense to have the stairs out of this room. It will also open up a lot of space at the back of the room too as having the stairs where they are makes this area really unpractical (as you’ll see from the positioning of the armchair!).

They will also move into the hallway at the front of the house. This will mean when you walk through our front door you’ll see doors to the living room, snug and kitchen as well as the stairs to upstairs. This just feels more logical to us.

It’s a lot of effort though and will involve us installing a fairly complicated frame work of steel beams to keep everything from collapsing.

6. Create a Landing 

The space outside our bedroom which will become the landing

 The corridor outside our bedroom was originally the smallest bedroom. It was a very long room (around 5m) but really thin (1.5m) which made it quite an impractical bedroom. It happens to be the space directly above the hallway though which means it’ll now house the stairs and will become our new landing. This seems a much better use of space (it would have had to be a very over sized corridor otherwise) as it’ll free up the space where our current stairs are to…

7. Make an Office

Currently our plans are to make an office from the space that will become free when the stairs move. They share a wall with the room we used as our bedroom before we moved into the extension and we plan to borrow a little bit of this room to create a small space that I can use as an office.

8. Move yet another window

This is a very old photo of the house (the patio and the patio doors have long gone) but the small circled window is the window above our current stairs. When we turn this into the office the window will be right at the bottom of the wall (literally ankle height!) so we need to move this up a bit:

9. And brick up another window

For some reason, the window that is at the back of the snug had two small windows either side of it. The one in the above photo was literally a window into our living room so we bricked that up a couple of years ago but there’s still one left that we need to remove and brick up too.

10. Remove the chimney breast

This is not a small job. Essentially the chimney is in the wrong place (I’ll explain a bit further down…) so we need to take it down. This involves supporting it in the attic with some steel beams. To get these in place we will need to remove both the ceiling and the floor in the bedroom underneath, as well as clearing a lot of rubble from the chimney breast in both the bedroom and the snug below it and finally bricking up the scar left by the old chimney breast.

11. Build a new chimney breast and open up the fireplace.

(This room is a dumping ground so the only good photo I have is from the estate agents listing)

We need to install a flu and build a chimney breast around it. This then needs to connect back up with the existing one in the attic. The reason we’re doing all this work is when we create the hallway there will be a partition wall between it and the snug which will be directly under the beam in the above photo  (our front door is in the place of the window on the right). This would mean the current chimney would sit right up against this wall which we felt would look a bit odd. Instead we’re moving it by about 1.5m which means it will sit in the middle of the wall with an alcove either side.

Because this room and the living room (the one we’ve finished) share a wall, we are planning to open up the fireplace between these two rooms and install a double fronted log burner so that the one main fire will heat both of these rooms. In the living room we’ve already done the hard work and have just put a piece of plasterboard over the hole (we’ll remove this when we’re ready) but on the snug side we need to knock through the external wall (and support that obviously) before building up the chimney breast around it.

(The logs are where the double fronted fire will sit)

12. Remove and replace the beams in the Snug

We have two beams in the snug that hold up the ceiling. One is sat on the current chimney breast and the other on a column that sits in the middle of the room against the current staircase (you’ll see it in the picture of the stairs near the top of this post). Because of all the alterations we’re making these will both need to be replaced with new beams. Under current guidelines we need three beams to hold the weight safely so there will be a steel one hidden in the wall between the snug and hallway and two oak ones in the snug itself.

13. Patch up the bedroom

As I mentioned above we will be pulling the ceiling down and floor up in places in the bedroom so we’ll need to get this back together as quickly as possible because a hole in the floor is less than ideal in any ordinary situation, never mind when there are two small children living in the house.

As well as this Harris is currently sleeping in our room and I’m hoping that by the time he is two we’ll be able to let him have his own room so the sooner we can get this room back to normal the better!

14. Build some walls

We’ll need to build the hallway/snug wall, the bedroom/landing wall, the bedroom/office wall and the office/landing wall including making two door frames (for the snug and the office) so there is a fair amount of stud-work and framework we’ll need to build.

15. Rewire the old house

The extension has brand new wiring of course, and the old house is run through the new distribution board, but it still sits on it’s old circuit breaker and uses old wiring. We’ve found a few cases where the old wiring has given us some cause for concern so we really want to get the rewire done as quickly as possible. All the rooms in the old part of the house will be done during this rewire (the kitchen wiring will just be surface mounted until we remodel it properly).

16. Central heating

We have no central heating in the snug, the upstairs bedroom, the hallway area, the office area or the landing. There are pipes to some of it, but essentially we’ll need to re-plumb the majority of this space.

17. Insulate the external upstairs wall

The plan is to better insulate our upstairs rooms as the house can be cold (the lack of central heating in the middle of the house doesn’t help!) so we’ll do this at the same time.

18. Get plasterboard on the walls

Finally we’ll get plasterboard on the walls to hide all of the wires and pipes so that we’re ready for the plasterer.

If I haven’t confused you enough yet, here are the floor plans (the ‘befores’ are from when I bought the house, so don’t include the work we’ve already done to the extension):


So…there’s a lot to do. And you’ll notice that none of this involves any decorating! Because of the way our house is held together we can’t do everything in the order I’ve listed as some jobs get in the way of others. We’ve calculated that this is realistically around 60 days worth of work, and given that Lee essentially does it all himself whilst working full time we think a twelve month time frame is realistic (slightly optimistic) to manage to get through the work and try and retain a bit of home/work/family/DIY life balance.

It’ll hopefully mean that 2020 is the year for decorating lots of rooms, but 2019 is all about getting the basics right and finally getting the layout of the house to make a bit more sense.