Windows and Doors Galore

The next stage I want to update you on is probably the most exciting for me as I really feel that the windows and doors of a property complete the whole look of the house. In our home there was an array of different styles and types of windows, ranging from wooden single glazed to new(ish) double glazed, a box window and a random fixed skylight in a flat roof. There were six doors to the property, including the front door, a back door, a set of patio doors, French doors, a window/single French door and an old window/door combination that required you to step over a window sill into the garden 😂 I thought the amount of doors was excessive but could see so much potential for them all.

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We started researching window companies on the internet and of course the usual large companies came up first, but we also wanted to try a local company that we IMG_0671could trust. My husband decided to write a Facebook post asking for recommendations and we got so many responses, many of which were for the same company. I arranged for four companies to come and give us quotes over two days. We went round each room and they measured the windows as I discussed what I wanted in each room.

Most windows and doors were simple requests:
– Three panelled windows in most rooms where the outer windows were bottom openers.
– All single windows as bottom openers.
– Anthracite grey colour on the outside of all windows and doors.
– Anthracite grey colour on all windows and doors on the inside in the family room, dining area, kitchen and utility.
– White on the inside of all other windows and doors.
– Bifold doors in the family room

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– Changing the window/single French door in the dining area to a single fixed pane of glass.

But the snug lounge box window was an unusual request:
– I wanted something as close to an oriel window as possible. A seamless glass box that would be a real feature. I asked each company if I could have one fixed pane of glass floor to ceiling at the front with two side glass panels that open.


– We asked for the quote in both uPVC and aluminium.

As stated in a previous blog post, I knew after the first day which company we were going to go with. There were a few reasons for this; the owner of the company himself came to the house not a salesperson. He started out in the industry as a window fitter so knew exactly what he was talking about. He was also the only one out of the four that considered my request for the box window and said would come up with an idea for me. They were also the most recommended to us 👍🏼 and I just had a really good feeling about them.

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There were a total of 17 windows and 3 doors that we decided we wanted to change.
One company couldn’t give us a quote as they didn’t have the resources to do what we wanted for the box window, another company kept delaying giving us a price, again, based on the box window and the remaining companies gave us quotes that were very similar. The company we decided to go with was Goldseal.

The full aluminium quote was more or less double the quote for the uPVC which I had a feeling it would have been before we got it. Goldseal were fantastic in not pushing us into the higher price option and even sent us pictures of each style so we could compare. Personally I wanted all aluminium as I thought they looked sleeker and more appealing but as they are metal they are obviously good conductors of heat. Due to the sheer amount of windows and doors in the property, this meant a lot of our heating would be lost just through the windows. After much consideration I decided to compromise and opted for mostly uPVC but kept the bi-folds, single pane in the dining area and the box window as aluminium.

Oriel box window
Source: qualitasconstruction via Pinterest

I did also contact a company that I found through Pinterest to get a quote for an oriel window. As you can see, an oriel window is a seamless glass box that is sealed in the corners by silicone rather than metal or plastic. To me they look like 1/2 a fish tank stuck on the side of your house and I loved them. I emailed them the measurements of the window and got a very quick response. A rough quote of £13,000 was given for just the window with an extra £6,000/£7,000 top up for the structural steel supporting it.

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Source: Real homes magazine via Pinterest

So altogether around £20,000 for one window. 😱 To be fair the gentleman I was in contact with was very helpful and admitted they were crazily expensive due to fact you end up with a product that it essentially floating with no visible framework. If your interested in a window like this then contact IQ Glass UK or Contemporary Glazing or go and have a look at their amazing show room. I, on the other hand, had to lower my expectations and waited to see what Goldseal came up with.

IMG_0144Once we’d agreed a price and paid our deposit, a window surveyor came to the house to take more accurate measurements and discuss the details. After these were taken, it was 9 weeks until the work started and took a total of 7 full days to complete. Both sets of parents were on hand to answer any questions the fitters had and it just so happened that my husband was also back in the UK on business so could see progress each night also.

They fitted all the upstairs uPVC windows first and then the downstairs.

Next the aluminium bi-folding doors went in the family room, along with the single pane in the dining area. I feel like both of these additions have really transformed the family room and I can’t wait to decorate and start using this room.

They started the box window; the single pane of glass at the front weighed 350kg and needed 8 guys to move it. IMG_0115 The side openers weren’t ready yet so they were fitted a couple of days later. I originally wanted tilt and turn for these but was told that the manufacturers couldn’t get the mechanism small enough to fit in the narrow size. So a bi-fold mechanism was installed that meant they open fully from top to bottom, like a door. The frame is aluminium and anthracite on both sides. I am absolutely in love with my box window as it’s unique and such a feature to our snug lounge.

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IMG_0984Finally the Rock door was installed, along with the side porch window. I love the style that we chose and am very happy with the final result. As the top of the door was slightly too narrow to fit another pane of glass in, we decided to have it boarded and rendered instead. The original door did have a key lock that also needed a key to open it up from the inside, instead we had it changed to a thumb lock which is a lot easier. We just have to remember to not lock ourselves out now 😱

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Unfortunately we did notice that there were four small ‘flaws’ in the box window glass that distorted the image behind it, we raised it to the company and they came round to the house with a buffering machine to try to smooth it out. Unfortunately it did not work and another piece of glass was ordered. There were also a few other odd jobs that needed finishing with the other windows around the house but they were completed at an agreed time.

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Overall, we are very happy with our windows and doors and are looking forward to getting in the house to make use of them properly.

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Plumbing – Phase One

I’ve not done a post in a while as there was not really anything that I could report on, but our plumbers have just finished the first stage of their project so maybe it’s time to update you guys 😊

We knew from the very first day that we looked round this property that the heating system definitely needed updating. As you can see, the boiler was so old school that we couldn’t quite believe that it was still working 😂 The ‘radiator systems’ were these fantastic low level heaters that had the thickest of steel pipes running from them and all around the house. The downstairs bathroom was an eye sore with pipes running here, there and everywhere! There was a tiny water storage heater in the cupboard of the upstairs bathroom that, we were told, wouldn’t even fill a bath! So, as you can imagine, it was the first thing we looked into.

We have a friend who worked for a boiler company that came to look at the house in the first week we got it. He advised us that for the size of the house that a commercial size combi boiler would do a sufficient job. We obviously had no idea which would be best and heard that combi’s were the option to go for at the moment.

We also had another company come round to give us their advise too. This company had installed my parents boiler and my dad had recommended them due to their efficiency of coming round and getting the job done. This guy gave us a whole new perceptive to look at. He asked us if we were thinking of extending, which we were in the future, and adding in another bathroom. “What if you had the washing on and two of you needed a shower at the same time?” 🤔 this made me think……. Due to the size of the property and the potential of having a family of 4 living there one day, he proposed that the combi along with our water pressure would not be sufficient to allow multiple usage at the same time. The alternative was a water storage heater coupled with a system boiler that would provide us with enough pressure to run several appliances at once and have showers. I preferred this option as I do love my showers.

Obviously every property is different so a combi might be perfectly capable for your property.

Once we had decided to go with that system and got the quotes, we decided to press forward and get the full system replaced with the local heating company APG

Old heating system The guys started by removing all the old radiators and visible pipework, which am sure was no easy job due to the size and weight of the old ones. They ripped out the old boiler and replaced it with our new 210L water storage system. New wate tank
We discussed the location for the new boiler and thought that being hidden behind a cupboard in the utility would be the best option. The system boiler we went for is a 35Kilowatt Worcester Bosch (35CDi) system boiler.

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To keep in with the theme we had for the house style, we decided to pick the Designer radiator white
radiators ourselves for the majority of the main rooms downstairs. We requested the BTU calculations (heat requirements) Designer radiator for the rooms we selected, which then allowed us to go online and choose the ones we wanted. After some research we found that bestheating.com had some great weekly offers on and meant that we could get some of the designer radiators that we wanted at reasonable prices. They delivered direct to the house within a few days which was great. Definitely worth a look! For the rest of the house, APG replaced the radiators with new, standard double, white ones.

For the entrance hall, we are looking to have an industrial style including a new industrial/rustic looking staircase. To go with this theme I did some research into refurbished reclaimed radiators and found that a local company on Instagram, ‘Ribble Radiators‘. Based on the BTU calculations and the style we liked, they went away and came up with a quote and some ideas for what we wanted. I fell in love with the 3 column Victorian style and had it painted in black Matt. It wasn’t cheap, but will be a great feature in the entrance hall, what do you think?

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We decided to take the new radiators off and drain down the system until we are in the position to re-plaster the walls and then we can re-fit and fire the system up again. Hopefully this will be the end of the summer 2017!

APG did a great job installing the new boiler system and pipework, I think it turned out to be a much bigger job than they first envisaged! But Paul, Dave and the team worked well to get everything sorted. I would highly recommend APG as a company to get a quote from if your interested in re-plumbing your whole house or just after a new boiler.

So a major job now done and things are starting to come together… next job… full re-wire!! 😬

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Ring – the wifi enabled, video doorbell (supported by crimestoppers)

If you want to see who’s at your door and even talk to them from inside the house without opening the door or from the other side of the world, then this is the doorbell for you!

We live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and we knew that as soon as we started looking at houses back in the UK, that the location of the property and security was very important. Luckily the house we chose is in a very safe area, we are at the end of a Cul-de-sac and our neighbours can see the front of our drive way from inside their homes. They are also very friendly neighbours who know our situation and are willing to watch out for the property. Both our parents also live very near by and are round at the house nearly every day. But still, there is always something in the back of your mind when living abroad.

The first time we came across Ring is when my husbands colleague posted a video on his ‘page’ of a woman looking through the windows of his home in the UK, she had gone into his drive and was peering into the house. The colleague spoke through the doorbell “Can I help you?” The woman jumped and replied “I’m just looking for my cat.” She quickly bent down and started to beckon an invisible cat using cat noises, she then swiftly moved out of his drive and ran away. This video opened our eyes to what other people think they can get away with when they think no one is around.

So we purchased the doorbell online and organised wifi for the property. It is worth noting that you need a minimum of 1mb upload speed to be able to access a continuous live feed. We originally had a lower internet package and the video streaming was jumpy, but as soon as our new internet speed kicked in, the live video was continuous and perfect quality.

We decided to hook up the doorbell in the same location as the old one so that we could link to the power connections. The Ring doorbell does work off battery power as well but our preferred option was for continuous power. After we’d downloaded the ring APP we linked the doorbell to our phones and were able to see the front of our house from where ever we were. If the doorbell detects motion then you get a pop up on your phone informing you, if you swipe instantly then you can watch a live video of the motion and speak if you wish to. If you miss the live motion then the doorbell stores the video into your archive and you can watch it later on. Alternatively, if someone rings your doorbell, again, you are informed by a pop up and you can see the live video and speak to the person.

There are plenty of settings that you can update from your phone such as motion sensor settings, notification settings, etc.

Because of this doorbell we have been able to speak to delivery people and advise them to leave our new radiators at the side of the house, we can keep track on all comings and goings at the house with all the work going on which is great. Also it is amusing to see people struggle trying to get the door unlocked and listen to the profanities 😂
Our parents are very concerned that the neighbours think they are strange, as they are constantly talking to a doorbell.

We absolutely love this doorbell and would strongly recommend it to anyone who asks. Not only does it give you piece of mind that there is always an eye on the place but it is also practical as well. We picked ours up through Amazon UK online, RRP £159 but sometimes you can catch it in the sale or you can find more information here.

They may not seem cheap, however it is one of the best investments we have made so far and if it helps prevent someone entering your house and taking anything that is more than the cost of this then I would say it’s definitely worth it. I noticed that they have a number of different security items that all link to the APP, which is useful for more than one entry/exit. They also sell a doorbell chime for inside the house, so when we are back home and someone rings the bell we will be able to hear it around the house as well as getting a phone pop up. We will definitely be looking some of the other security cameras as well.. Never forget – big brother is always watching 😜

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The first two weeks – part two

I had already arranged appointments for four different window companies to provide us with a quote for a complete house re-fit of windows and doors. Before the third one came, I already knew who I wanted to choose (blog post to describe why to come later) We have a total of 16 ‘normal’ windows, 1 huge box window, 1 unusual window that we want to make into bi-folding doors, 1 patio door that we want to make into a window and a total of 3 doors to the property. So as you can imagine, we had some unique requests that some of the companies were unable to help us with.

The next things on the list were the plumbing and electrics. We got in touch with a local plumbing company that my parents had used previously and other family friends had recommended. They came to the house, took measurements of each room and talked about what we wanted. The boiler was so old that it was actually unrated in terms of efficiency and the heating systems in the lounges were old-school low level heating, which neither of us had seen before. The current pipes were ridiculously wide and chunky so we were hoping that they were copper so we could have been quids in 🤑 unfortunately they weren’t. The plumber discussed all the options with us and in particular what we wanted to do with regards to the boiler. Another friend had told us that a commercial combi boiler would be best suited for the size of the house plus potential future extensions, however the plumber also advised us to think about a hot water cylinder system. The reason for this was to think about the future, when we were all going to be taking showers and how many bathrooms we were planning on having (the plan is to extend with another bedroom and ensuite so another shower is inevitable). The plumber tested our current water pressure, which was ok for now but for the potential size of the house, having the washing machine on at the same time as having a shower would drastically change the water pressure. This is something I did not want so decided on a hot water cylinder system.

The next thing we discussed with the plumber was the potential for underfloor heating in the family room, he brought a contact with him that specialised in this area to discuss the options. We took up the floor boards in the family room to reveal a 50cm deep space underneath with irregular spaced joists. The best option would be to use a wet system that would include a layer of insulation, pipework and then concrete screed. Due to the size of the room (35sq m) and the nature of the joist layout meant that there would be a significant cost for both the materials and the labour to fit. We were quoted £3,500 just for the materials and with the complexity of the fitting, the overall cost was becoming prohibitive. Adding to this, we would be limited with the flooring options available to us as we were not keen to have stone/tiles in the family room. In the end we decided that underfloor heating was a no go 😩

We are lucky that we have a good friend that has given us advice on electrics and advised us to start from fresh and re-wire the whole property, something that we had planned on doing anyway. He came to the house and talked through the options with us. It is worth noting that if you are budgeting for electrics, the piece of advice our friend gave us is to budget £45 per simple light fitting and £65 per metallic fitting. This is a good rough guide that covers a full rewire. He also asked whether we were keeping the kitchen (we weren’t, but it wasn’t priority). He said the best thing to do would be to to remove the current kitchen and get a plan for our new kitchen so he could calculate the power requirement for when we do organise the new kitchen. We then went round each room and planned the number of plug sockets, light switches, light fittings and locations of everything we wanted. My husband was under the impression ‘the more the merrier’ but we soon realised that our budget was way off and we had to compromise (the challenge of having such a big house!)

From the advice given, the next thing we organised was a plan for the kitchen. We arranged for three completely different companies to come round and measure up and produce a plan for us. I knew exactly what I wanted in my head, which made it easier for the design. The following week, we made the journeys to the kitchen companies and saw our plans. We were surprised that all the quotes came in at around the same price. We have plenty of time to decide who we will go with as there is no way we can afford the new kitchen until at least the beginning of next year. But at least we have starting planning.

The final thing we decided to look into was the fireplace in the family room. When we viewed the house, the fireplace was just one of the things that got me very excited about the property. It is built internally using the same stone that is also on the outside of the house. I wanted to keep as much of this stone as possible but just modernise it and have a wood burning fire. We visited a local fireplace company and a specialist came to the house to discuss our plan. I will write a separate blog post on the transformation of the fireplace, so please stay tuned for that.

All in all it was a productive 2 weeks and I was extremely excited about all our ideas. All we needed now was money 😁

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The first two weeks – Part one

It just so happened to work out perfectly! We arrived back in the UK on a Thursday, exchange happened that day (after a rushed trip to the solicitors and the bank straight from the airport!) and then completion and keys on the Friday lunchtime. Lucky or what? 😁 My husband has never ‘carried me over the threshold’ as they say, even though we own two other properties, these were bought in our own names before we married. So this house was the first we’d bought together since being married, so of course I made him carry me through the front door. Let’s just say either I’m heavier than what I thought or he’s not very strong. 😳 We took lots of photographs of each room and had a beer to celebrate. As we went through each room I got more and more overwhelmed at how much actually needed doing, my brain was going into over drive.

IMG_0019We returned to the house later with our little boy and both sets of parents, along with champagne and glasses. We sat on the floor, drinking and watched our toddler explore every inch of the property and I finally relaxed knowing we had done the right thing. It was as if he knew this was going to be his new home. Conversation was in full swing by now with what ideas we had for each room, everyone was excited for us.

Before completion occurred, I had absolutely no intention of doing any DIY during the two weeks we were back. It was just supposed to be people visiting and getting quotes for electrics, plumbing and windows. However, Saturday started with us pulling up the carpets in the family room and dining area to reveal some gorgeous floor boards and a chess board stage.

We were also very intrigued to find out was was underneath the wooden slated ceiling in the family room. We found out that there was no insulation between the ceiling and floor boards above (something else we needed to do) but we did find an empty, vintage packet of senior service cigarettes (possible from the 60’s?!)

The next day we decided to pull down the studded wall that separated the kitchen and dining area to open it up into an L-shape kitchen/diner and family room. My husband and dad carefully removed the door and lights then secured the electrics. They pushed and pulled the wall for about 10 minutes and eventually it came down in one piece. Straight away the whole room felt so much better, more spacious and the light flooded into the kitchen. I was so excited to think about its potential.

IMG_0010Whilst all this was going on, my toddler had decided that peeling the wallpaper off in the snug lounge was fun. Except when he’d finished (after 15 minutes or so) it was up to me and my mum to finish stripping the rest of the room. Luckily the paper came off easily and with the steamer we had done the whole room in one day.

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We had had the keys for approximately 44hours and had already done so much. Stay tuned for part 2!

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Expat Mortgage – The Process.

An expatriate mortgage can be hard to come by especially living in Saudi Arabia. Most mortgage providers do not provide a mortgage to expats living in Saudi Arabia, therefore we were given advice from friends who had been through the process, that we may need to use a specialist international mortgage broker. They can advise which companies provide expat mortgages to people living in your country, but in our instance, we were provided with poor information stating that there was only one provider that could help us. Once we fell in love with our future home we eventually managed to make contact with the expat mortgage provider and sent them our details. Unfortunately we got little response from them but as we were in no rush we decided to look elsewhere.

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Someone else told us to try our luck with HSBC as my husband has a SABB account (KSA version of HSBC) and they would understand the situation we are in. When we were back in the UK we made an initial appointment with our local branch mortgage advisor to discuss our situation.

As we already owned a property each we had to look into re-mortgaging these properties from residential to buy-to-let mortgages, to allow us to take out a new residential mortgage for our dream home. We were in a position to put down a 20% deposit but this, in addition to the two re-mortgages, all against one income, was going to be a challenge. With all the feedback we had been given about the challenges of getting a mortgage as an expat, we had some reservations about our success, however we were given a mortgage in principle in branch that day 🎉 A useful tip when going for these initial meetings is take as much information as you can. My husband took a spreadsheet with him that described our whole financial situation for the next three years, evidence of his salary, details of rented properties, etc, which gave confidence that we understood and were in control of our finances. If anyone is thinking about applying for an expat mortgage then I strongly recommend going into your local branch mortgage advisor asking if they can help you and explain your situation, they do not always advertise all of their products on the internet.

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Although saying this, we know that this hasn’t worked for some of our friends here and they have had to try different banks. It helps if you get paid in ££’s!

The rest of the process was fairly straight forward, we had to fill in plenty of forms and provide lots of evidence regarding where the savings had come from. One key thing to do is ensure the lender is clear with who your solicitor is. It is good to choose a solicitor that can act on behalf of both you and the lender to avoid any duplicated costs. Also, I suggest you ask around for recommendations and get some feedback from the estate agents as there is a good chance they will have dealt with them before. We faced some real challenges with the one we selected, they were very poor at communications, which, when 3,500 miles away, made life very difficult. The one thing to remember is that you will have to be present in the UK to sign the paperwork (everyone who will be named on the mortgage). We ended up having to be in the UK for 2 weeks to allow time for the bank to send the application off to the underwriter as the mortgage couldn’t be approved in branch. This did however give us the opportunity to have another look around the house.

The only things left to complete were all the last bits of paperwork with the solicitors and then the transfer of the funds over to allow contracts to exchange.
It was now just a waiting game to hope that everything fell into place in time for us heading back to the UK….

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Why blogging?

Welcome to RenovationRelocation and thank you for visiting. This first short blog post is just to explain a little bit more about me, why we bought this house and why I started blogging.

Me? // I’m a wife, stay at home mum to a monkey toddler and an ex teacher who moved 3200 miles to be with my husband.

Source: Papsdorf Photography

We have been living in Riyadh together since 2012 and had our little boy here. I have my ups and downs about living here, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes beautiful and we have been able to travel the world from here. Other times I get really frustrated with not being able to drive, shops always closing for prayer and having to wear an abaya every time we go off compound. I have met some amazing people out here, friends for life, but also watched whilst these good friends all moved back to their homes around the world. I was jealous and I needed a plan for our relocation!

Source: Papsdorf photography

Why the house? // We spent Summer 2016 back in the UK at my mum and dads, hearing about all my friends plans on moving back, buying new houses or even building their own. I decided to download the Right-move APP and have a look. This house was the first one I saw but it was out of our price range so we looked on. We headed back to the UK for a trip at the end of September and decided to view a couple of properties, including this one. We were both silent while looking around as we had both discussed that it wasn’t really an option. We got back in the car and looked at each other and at the same time we said “What do you think? I Love it.” We had both fallen in love with it and could see our future there.

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After receiving our mortgage offer (my next blog will describe how we did this being expats) we then started the negotiations. Lots of paperwork later, the completion date was upon us.

So eventually… why blogging? // We started planning the house renovation the week after we first viewed it, knowing that heating/electrics would be first. We also knew that the windows and doors would need doing not long after. My husband posted on his FB page asking for recommendations of local window companies, he had so many responses from so many people that it got me thinking…If I start a blog about our renovation project then I could get advice, tips and recommendations from others that have more experience than we do. So here we are 👍🏼

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