November 22, 2006

Windows, heating and insulation

We need a new heating system! There is an oil heating of about 1988 in the house at the moment and our first bigger investment will be to modernize the heating system. We definitely won't go on heating with fossil fuels - too expensive and, more important, not ecological at all. Moreover, personally I don't feel safe with all that oil in the cellar of a - partly - wooden house...

At first we wanted to go for a pellet heating system because it is based on renewable resources. Well, and I simply liked the thought of heating with wood, sounds somewhat "natural" (I admit, I'm an "eco-kid" of the eighties, socialised with Greenpeace and WWF, whale-saving and demonstrating against nuclear power stations...).
But we realized pretty soon that this solution is far too expensive for us. The investment costs are really high and the wood pellets themselves become more and more expensive, too. Therefore we decided to go for gas (central, not in tanks). Later on we might combine it with solar cells, but this is a bit difficult, as the cells mustn't be visible from the street (listed building).

Next point to it: INSULATION... Take a look at our windows (again, not a good picture, sorry...)!



You could just aswell try to heat the street outside, the wind whistles through the chinks and gaps just about any song you like... Now, of course we want to keep these old windows and frames, anyway we're not allowed (and never would!!!) to put in new windows of another kind (again: listed building).

Our windows - this just as an interesting and uttterly off-topic detail - must open towards the street instead of towards the room (in modern houses). This makes window-cleaning quite an adventure :-)

But back to topic: we thought of adding "inner windows" in order to improve the insulation. But they mustn't be too sealed either, this would influence the climate in the house which we want to avoid. And we're talking of 22 (!!) windows, each one with a very individual size - that would mean 22 one-off productions... We also thought of insulating the inner walls - but my father-in-law, an engineer, convinced us that it would be a nonsense from the point of view of construction physics.
Any other ideas?

October 26, 2006

Floor plans

I promised to post floor plans - here they are:

I'll write about our plans for the single rooms over the next few weeks - we will move in only by February 15th, still a long time to go until we can really start on the renovation.








It is rather difficult to draw those plans properly because there are not just two floors as the plans might suggest. There are actually a lot more of them, because there are steps everywhere in the house - two lead to the kitchen, five to the office, another four to the bathroom - very charming!! Must be a paradise for playing hide-and-seek...
Some rooms are not very high, up to 1,70 m (approx. 5,6 ft. I think) only. No problem for me really, as I'm anyway nothing but "a walking metre" (well, 1,64 to be correct). But my dear husband keeps on banging his head against the beams...

October 12, 2006

Water alarm?

No posts for almost a week - I was caught by the first cold of this season...
As far as the house is concerned, everything is going well. We had an appointment with our banker the other day and - to make it short - they'll give us the money! We are now thinking about the different possibilites of financing. We are not sure whether it's better to chose a conservative financing with little risk or one with more risk but the possibility to reduce our debts earlier. Suddenly a lot of decisions to take...

But here's another (more) interesting story:


Our house is situated in "Wasserstrasse" - means Water Street in english. Sounds like any houseowner's nightmare, doesn't it? And in fact there really is a creek flowing underneath the pavement. BUT - and that's the interesting thing about it - it's absolutely necessary that it continues flowing, as the following example may show:
In the Seventies, the city council decided to regulate the creek. Within the next couple of years, the old timberframe buildings began to move and slump. Fortunately, this was quite an obvious development and the people in charge led the creek back in its natural channel. Almost immediately, the houses moved back into their original positions. Amazing, isn't it!?!

Means of course, that the cellars of these houses are always a little dampish, but as I said before: perfect wine cellars. The cellar in our house is, as the carpenter told us, even older than the rest of the house, probably 15th or 16th century. Really great!! Here's a (not really good...) picture of it:

October 05, 2006

Hopping mad

I'm always writing about "our house", but officially, it's not ours yet. We agreed with the owner about the price and when we can move in. You would think those are the most important points.
But it's really getting complicated now!! German bureaucracy!!! Or have you ever heard of Grundbuchauszug (abstract of title), Flurkarte (land register map), Baulastenverzeichnis (register of building charges)? Of Katasteramt (land registry office), Bauamt (building authority), Amtsgericht (district court)?
Well, I have never ever had anything to do with those - and it turns out to be a real bureaucratic nightmare. You spend hours and hours making (useless) phonecalls, trying to find out who can hand you out all of those documents - and especially, when those people are working. E.g. tomorrow, they are open from 9 a.m to 11 a.m and you have to appear personally. Lovely - and how should I manage to get there in time, when I'm working from 8.30 a.m. to 17.00 p.m.?? *grrrrrrrrrrrr*
Sorry for bothering you with this stuff, but I'm a tiny little bit annoyed at the moment. And my dear husband preferred to go on a business trip right now. Good timing!! Telling me: "Oh darling, could you please organize all those documents? You're so good at it!" :-)

I post some more pictures of our lovely home just to make sure it's worth running to any department at any time:

Annexes and courtyard:


























Garden:












"Our" street:

October 04, 2006

Good news!

Now, that's what I call good news: our house is probably not going to tumble down within the next hundred years... Well, that's quite enough of a perspective for me really...

We made a "tour-de-maison" with a carpenter, specialized on restoring old timber frame buildings. The most important information: the substance and materials of the house are in a good condition. Probably no bad surprises waiting...

The carpenter - quite a fascinating guy - told us a lot of interesting things about the house. Well, he actually "read" the house. After one glance he knew, that the roof truss doesn't date from 1620, but from about 1750. A real youngster, don't you agree!?!

Guessing from the construction of the attic, we now know that our house belonged to a hops-growing farmer (drying hops on the attic). There are even left a couple of 200-year-old hops sticks. Amazing!!

The cellar of the house has a wonderful arch vault and will make up a great wine cellar...

From the outside, one of the main beams is covered up with wooden planks. The carpenter is convinced, that an inscription or at least some ornaments are hidden behind the planks. I definitely want to reveal the secret next spring! Although I'll maybe have to "struggle" with the local responsible for the protection of historical monuments about this plan...

October 03, 2006

May I present:

This is our future home - or should I say our little witch's hut?

It's a timber frame building, dating from 1620 (edit: we found out later, that the house is even a bit older and probably dating from 1590). You find this lovely house in a small German town in Lower Saxony. This town counts about 3000 inhabitants and 400 (!) timber frame buildings.

We had been looking for an old house as our future home for quite some time. But either the buildings were in a shabby condition or much too expensive. Found this one more or less by coincidence - or was it fate? Anyway, good old internet told us about this house, we went to take a look at it and knew, no felt instantly: that's it!

As you can imagine, there are lots of things to check before buying a 400-year-old house and there will always be a lot to do and mend in and around the house - and that is exactly what my husband and I are going to tell you about in this blog.

Have fun reading about our adventures and feel free to write (ingenious...) comments!