Renovating a House or Apartment

If you have, or are looking into buying, an older house or apartment in Hungary, and are thinking about renovation issues, this is the topic for you.

fluffy2560 :
anns :

...I am a great believer in keeping things like original flooring, shutters and doors but I realise I am old fashioned in that respect.

I agree but actually when you look at some places, you might as well rip it all out and replace it.  There's nowhere here which is really old like there is in the UK - like 500+ years old cottages  etc.  Most of it seems to be from the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire or the 1950s onwards.  Austro-Hungarian buildings were pretty shoddily made - all concrete, no damp proof courses, rubble walls, no lime plaster and all sorts of bodging.

True. One must really inspect any building completely and thoroughly. It is best to hire an expert to inspect the building. At least an architect, and if necessary a structural engineer (especially for very old houses). Get an expert you can trust. Sadly, not all experts in Hungary can be trusted. So it is a bit of a Catch 22...

fluffy2560 :

I think the way to go is to is to keep key select pieces to highlight history and dump the rest. Modern materials are far better at energy saving, keeping out damp, wind and rain.

Well, there I have to say "it depends". Our old windows were all crap. Single pane and leaked. Of course those were the first to go. But our roof rafters, all very old rough hewed wood joined with wood pegs were in great shape and probably more structurally sound and ridged than the sawn timbers I have seen here (which are shockingly often not kiln dried and still green and wet -- terrible).

fluffy2560 :

My own house dates from the 1970s.

IMHO, a period of very "dodgy" construction. Our 1980 extension on our 100+ year old stone house had aluminum wiring, and no ground wire. So there is a lot hidden problems "in the walls" that can be even a bigger problem.

fluffy2560 :

I've got a stone/tiled wood burning heater in my garden I thought we could rebuild but I realise it's a waste of time keeping it.  It's almost worthless as it's a really crappy colour.   We had a super modern one from before and we installed that instead.

If it was an iron stove with ceramic side inserts, actually those are very efficient. And if not left outside, those can be renovated for a fraction of the cost of a new similar stove. But if left outside, and unused, then they tend to get rusty fast, and thus ruined.

klsallee :
fluffy2560 :

....
I agree but actually when you look at some places, you might as well rip it all out and replace it.  There's nowhere here which is really old like there is in the UK - like 500+ years old cottages  etc.  Most of it seems to be from the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire or the 1950s onwards.  Austro-Hungarian buildings were pretty shoddily made - all concrete, no damp proof courses, rubble walls, no lime plaster and all sorts of bodging.

True. One must really inspect any building completely and thoroughly. It is best to hire an expert to inspect the building. At least an architect, and if necessary a structural engineer (especially for very old houses). Get an expert you can trust. Sadly, not all experts in Hungary can be trusted. So it is a bit of a Catch 22...

It is possible to get hold of surveyors.  We used them to check the design of our house but quite suspicious.  This was also a bodge and very strangely constructed they said but the builders rebuild it anyway.   Where I come from, usually surveyors are licensed and have to have liability insurance.  Here, no idea.

klsallee :
fluffy2560 :

I think the way to go is to is to keep key select pieces to highlight history and dump the rest. Modern materials are far better at energy saving, keeping out damp, wind and rain.

Well, there I have to say "it depends". Our old windows were all crap. Single pane and leaked. Of course those were the first to go. But our roof rafters, all very old rough hewed wood joined with wood pegs were in great shape and probably more structurally sound and ridged than the sawn timbers I have seen here (which are shockingly often not kiln dried and still green and wet -- terrible).

Oh, windows like that, dump 'em.  Might look good renovated but it's all money and it's not going to help in an extended winter.  We replaced all of ours (not least because all the openings changed).  The old ones were actually made of some kind of cheap cold aluminium metal from the 1970s!   Imagine the condensation.  What were they thinking?   

When we get around to replacing the roof on the shed/outbuilding,  we'll remove the existing wood as we need to change the internal design.  It is possible to have all new pressure treated wood if it's specified.

klsallee :
fluffy2560 :

My own house dates from the 1970s.

IMHO, a period of very "dodgy" construction. Our 1980 extension on our 100+ year old stone house had aluminum wiring, and no ground wire. So there is a lot hidden problems "in the walls" that can be even a bigger problem.

Yes, totally.  It was a time of bodging and cheating under communism.  It's that self-build period.  We just scrapped the entire lot, brought it all back to brick, completely rewired.  We had to have all new electricity meters so all of the grounding was done by electricity company contractors.  I think it was actually compulsory.  Inside the house was our domain, but connection of the main incomer was entirely the power company.  They came with a cherry picker to connect it all to a pole outside and our electrician "supervised".

klsallee :
fluffy2560 :

I've got a stone/tiled wood burning heater in my garden I thought we could rebuild but I realise it's a waste of time keeping it.  It's almost worthless as it's a really crappy colour.   We had a super modern one from before and we installed that instead.

If it was an iron stove with ceramic side inserts, actually those are very efficient. And if not left outside, those can be renovated for a fraction of the cost of a new similar stove. But if left outside, and unused, then they tend to get rusty fast, and thus ruined.

No, it's just made out of firebricks with ceramic facings so just junk really.    There were metal bits but nothing particularly special. It could be rebuilt with a modern oven/burner inside it but one might as well just go to OBI or Bauhaus and buy a modern design already complete.  The tiles are a mustard colour popular in the 1970s.   Like bathroom suites - sort of yucky yellow.  Terrible design decision.

If the old one was cast iron, I'd have put it in my shed/outbuilding for safe keeping.  But the brick version would be immovable and fixed in position so that wouldn't work easily for me for maintenance.  But I am thinking of installing wood heating there so when we do the renovation, I'll install it.   I also plan to install water, WC and washbasin there too so there are facilities when working outside or in the cosy shed.

fluffy2560 :

Where I come from, usually surveyors are licensed and have to have liability insurance.  Here, no idea.

Where I come from, everyone needs to be licensed, bonded and insured. And if anything goes wrong, you can sue the crap of them.

As you know, here: It is tough luck town. Being licensed really does not mean much. And I have no idea if anyone needs to be bonded or insured. So they can still be incompetent, and in the end you probably suffer. Here the best hope is to personally know the expert so know their honesty, or get a few referrals from people you trust to even hope for... maybe.... a competent person.

fluffy2560 :

Oh, windows like that, dump 'em.  Might look good renovated but it's all money and it's not going to help in an extended winter.  We replaced all of ours (not least because all the openings changed).  The old ones were actually made of some kind of cheap cold aluminium metal from the 1970s!   Imagine the condensation.  What were they thinking?

The question assumes manufacturing during communism included "thinking"....  Central planning never really includes "thinking".... :D

fluffy2560 :

When we get around to replacing the roof on the shed/outbuilding,  we'll remove the existing wood as we need to change the internal design.  It is possible to have all new pressure treated wood if it's specified.

This is correct. One can get pressure treated lumber. But... old houses are often made with large beams and rafters. Pressure treated coming in those dimensions is rare in Hungary, or else very expensive.  But pressure treating lumber is only a protection for water and mold issues. Our rafters were rough hewn out of one tree each. All the full grain is there. A sawn timber can cross gain in complex ways, making it possibly structurally weaker and prone to nonlinear expansion, contraction and twisting issues. And quite frankly, I do not trust grades of sawn timber in Hungary at all. Had far to many problems over past 20 years. When it comes to sawn lumber, newer, here at least, is not always better.  Maybe some day manufactured beams will become available, at a reasonable price. Till then.....

Of course, if any of our rafters had needed to be replaced, I would have done so in a heartbeat. Happily they were all sound and solid.

fluffy2560 :

No, it's just made out of firebricks with ceramic facings so just junk really.

Ah... Then sounds like probable trash indeed.

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