Our first evening in the house. It was a sunny day, and the light was failing by the time we arrived at the door, a steaming bag of takeaway in my hands.
The six year old wanted to open the door - but tall as he is for his age, he struggled to fit the key in the door. Mehdi had to take over, squeezing himself into the tiny porch, the two boys pushing and shoving behind. I felt like we all fell inside the house once the big inner door opened. The house was as dark as ever we've seen it. Damp smelling, but surprisingly warm. A bad thing perhaps - for it may be surprisingly cold on the winter days not far off.
We dropped the food in the front reception room and set off exploring. I showed the six year old the secret compartment we'd found behind the mirror in the back reception room - a connecting window between the kitchen and dining room which is currently boarded and wallpapered over on the kitchen side.
We checked the kitchen - easily the most intimidating room. The former residents had taken the fridge and washing machine but left the gunged up old cooker. The kitchen feels like a firetrap and a health and safety nightmare.
We need to spend a lot of time, effort and money to strip this back to the bare brick. The plaster underneath the wallpaper is bulging out from the wall. Underneath the paper I pulled off - gently as I could - I don't want to destroy plaster that's reparable once dried out - slugs and hugs writhed. Fat grey slaters (woodlice) bumbled along - I doubt this plaster has seen light in 30 or 40 years.
I touched my finger to the surface and it went straight through to something that looks like mud. While I know that in Ireland people often used clay and dung as a filler over rubble or peat walls before applying a coating of lime, I've not heard of using mud or clay in city centre Edwardian houses. So we need to figure out what's going on there.
Upstairs the dry lining in the two smaller bedrooms is clearly hiding a multitude of sins but I'm ok with that for now. I don't have the brain power to process it. All the floors seem solid, and the original floorboards are in all the rooms.
The master bedroom held the glow of sunset as we entered. It's a big old glamorous room if it weren't damp and decaying. The bay window is leaking and the walls are crumbling. I'm still fluent in estate agent speak from the long and painful year we spent house-hunting, so I will describe this room as a 'blank canvas'.
The smaller south-facing bedroom next door is saddled with some shoddy built in wardrobes whose doors are hanging off their hinges. We need to strip this and the better made but too skinny presses from the master bedroom.
Upstairs the attic room retained the lovely atmosphere I remembered from viewing. It's got a great view over the Luas, which we all love as it reminds us of our last home in London.
The six year old claimed this room - though really he wants to live in the actual attic, which I've only see photos of. The attic is full of rubble and rotten insulation. Apparently there's woodworm too. We need to dry the house out before we can assess the extent of it.
It feels like a big house to us, after months of living in a two bed apartment on the quays. Yet the house has the tiniest bathroom imaginable - just a little triangular space that squeezes a small bath, tiny sink and loo in. The floor has been boarded up several times - I suspect the plumbing here has been and will continue to be a problem both here and in the kitchen where the pipes clearly run over.
Hunger drove us back downstairs, where we ate our takeaway on the carpet before setting up our new dehumidifier to run. We first realised the power of a dehumidifier when we lived in what the letting agent called the 'garden' flat in a lovely big Victorian house in Greenwich, London. Our flat did indeed have sole access to a gorgeous garden that sloped sharply down towards a railway line. But it was also built into the basement of the old house - and suffered from damp. We researched dehumidifiers and the landlord bought this Meaco, which was a Which? Best Buy. It was awesome - sucking 25 litres of water from the air on a daily basis, drying our laundry on wet days into the bargain. We've plugged in the Meaco and hope to see it help dry the house out to around 60% humidity - apparently drying out an old house too much is as bad as leaving it damp. We don't dare use the gas powered central heating until we get the boiler checked.
Things we did not bring ourselves to think about on this first visit - where we tried to enthuse the boys with excitement for swapping our lovely clean modern easy-to-maintain apartment for an Edwardian wreck - include:
- Leaking roof
- Blocked gutters
- Leaking bay window
- Disastrous kitchen ceiling.
After food, I pulled up some of the lino from the kitchen floor hoping to let the tiles breathe so the floor can dry out. The boys helped me stomp the old lino down into a manageable roll (first time their 'herd of baby elephants' act has come in useful) but I couldn't finish the job without tools. I was itching to clean and wash surfaces down. But all too soon it was half an hour past bedtime. And anyone who knows me since son number two was born knows that when my kids sleep, I sleep! So we secured the house and retreated back to our warm, bright apartment, with its kitchen and TWO bathrooms and lift and laminate floors...