Want It Done By Christmas?

Bathroom Moodboard by designbykaty.com

On a recent site visit to a prospective client, who wanted a quote for their kitchen and bathroom installation, my husband who runs Random Task Plumbing asked what they were having and did they have any plans he could see. The client didn’t know what they wanted, other than for all the works to be completed by mid December, in time for Christmas. Bearing in mind that the client hadn’t yet exchanged contracts on the property and presently lived in another part of the country.

Firstly, a detailed quote is impossible to give if you only have a rough idea of what you want, or don’t know what you want at all. Also any tradesperson worth their salt, will have at least a 2 to 3 month lead time, especially leading up to Christmas. Whilst basic help and advice can be given to guide clients regarding types of showers suitable for their water systems and the feasibility  to move the loo to a different location (soil stacks are often forgotten by clients) and draw a scaled plan, most small tradespeople don’t have the time to offer a detailed design consultancy. The fixtures, fittings and finishings have to be chosen by you, the client. After all it’s your bathroom, kitchen etc. and it’s imperative that you love the finished results, it’s your home.

Bathroom Moodboard by designbykaty.com
Detailed Bathroom Moodboard by Designsbykaty.com

So before calling a tradespersons to quote, take time over your plans, keep revisiting them and show them to other people. Think about how you will use the space and how you want it to make you feel. If this is difficult for you, then an Interior Design consultancy is invaluable. For as little as £95.00 a design consultancy could save you a lot of time and possibly money too. Good interior design is about planning, not just about carefully coordinated fabric and paint swatches. This consultancy maybe all you need to set you off to implement yourself. If you require more help tailored to your specific needs, these can be accommodated too, regardless of budget. Of course everyone has budget.

First floor plans of a four bedroom house
You don’t need such detailed drawings unless major renovations are planned.

Interior Designers use local trade, craftspeople and suppliers and only recommend those whose work and people they trust. When deciding, look at reviews, ask to see previous completed work. Personality compatibility also is valuable – can you work with them?

I understand that you want everything ‘done’ and perfect for Christmas, but be realistic with your time scales. Even when you’ve decided on your plans, fixtures, fittings etc. There are supplier lead times to consider too. The last thing you want is a half-finished job over the festive season, especially if planning to have guests.

assembled cupboard carcass's
Kitchen install in progress not what you want at Christmas
After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.
After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall

Once you have detailed plans, you can then invite local tradespeople to quote and provide approximate dates of availability. They will all be able to quote ‘from the same song sheet’, which makes price comparisons clearer. However, remember that cheaper isn’t always better, you often get what you pay for. Allow for a lead time on quotes being received too.

Tiling in progress in shower en-suite shower area
A half finished guest en-suite – not what you want when having guests
Completed Guest En- Suite
Completed Guest En- Suite

Plan the work in stages – what can be implemented and finished by your self-imposed Christmas deadline? Is this in the correct order of your work schedule? If so, fine. If not, then it’s far more beneficial to be patient and schedule the works for early in the New Year, thus eleviating the extra stress of Christmas and giving your home the consideration it deserves.

There’s  always next Christmas!

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House Before and After Pictures

Front porch of renovated 1930's house

I have now compiled ‘before and after’ pictures, with the occasional ‘during’ photo (remember it always gets worse before it gets better) which I hope you’ll enjoy and give you momentum to commence or  finish your projects.

The renovation and restoration of a 1930’s house is finished! Are you ever finished in a home? Probably not.

Front Elevation

Before – Sad and neglected                                        After – Restored and extended

Hall

Before - The original 1930s' entrance hall prior to renovations.
Before – The original front entrance hall prior to renovations.
Original 1930's entrance hall
Before – The original hall was dark and poky.
Acro props before steel beam is installed
During an internal hall wall removal.

 

After - The finished entrance hall in a 1930's house
After – The completed entrance hall

Sitting Room

Before - The sitting room with the original 1930's brick fireplace.
Before – The sitting room with the original 1930s’ brick fireplace.
After - The original 1930's brick fireplace cleaned up
After – The original 1930’s brick fireplace was retained, so too were the original Crittal French doors.
Before Original 1930's sitting room complete with Crittal French doors and brick fireplace
Before – A 1930’s sitting room with original Crittal French doors and brick fireplace.

Kitchen

Before - The original 1930's dining room
Before – The original 1930’s dining room
During - The wall dividing the kitchen and dining room has been removed.
The dividing wall between the kitchen and dining room has been removed, to be re-positioned.
After - the completed new kitchen
After – The completed kitchen
After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.
After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall. Original servants bell box is re-hung – shame no staff though!
Open plan kitchen/diner/day room with bi-fold doors onto garden.
View into dining/ day room area from kitchen
Before- original 1930s' dining room
Before- the original dining room prior extension and renovation work – damp wall is now where clock is hung.

Living Room

Rear Footings 3rd feb 2015
Before – Laying the foundations
Painted Stove and Fireplace
During – Marking the wall for the multi-fuel stove
Trescotte Sitting Room Afer 073
After – The finished sitting room

Family Bathroom

Before- A tired and dated bedroom                         After – A family bathroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom during construction
The first fix electrics in the master bedroom
After - Large master bedroom with Heals four poster bed
After – The finished master bedroom
master bedroom with four poster bed from Heals
After – The large master bedroom complete with a four-poster bed from Heals.

The Loo

Before with original cistern          After – Re-sited and restored cistern

Guest Bedroom

Originally a landing with airing cupboard, bathroom with separate loo. Now a guest bedroom, painted in ‘Setting Plaster’ Farrow and Ball http://www.farrow-ball.com/setting%20plaster/colours/farrow-ball/fcp-product/100231

Rear Elevation

Before – An overgrown garden                           Waiting to mature!

However carefully one plans either a renovation or restoration project, it rarely comes in on budget – it’s usually over budget. This is not just because of unforeseen problems like discovering structural problems once the work has commenced, it can due to adding a few extra plug sockets here and there (it all adds up) or choosing high specification kitchen, bathrooms and fittings. Usually it’s because we’ve under estimated the basic build/renovation costs – raw materials labour plus VAT.  Comparing your projected budget spread sheet to the actual costs spreadsheet, helps analyse where you under budgeted or over spent.

Did we go over budget? Yes, we knew we’d go over budget when we decided to install the Sonas system. However, the original quote was less than the final invoice due to the time-lapse between the first fix and completion – the labour and equipment had increased in price. The quote was valid for 30 days only, lesson learned.  The building material costs were higher too, despite having a breakdown of these costs from the supplier which our budget spreadsheet was based upon. Generally, the majority of people under-estimate their expenditure.

With the uncertainty of property the market, and the impact Brexit may have, many home owners are opting to improve their current home instead of moving. Having had nearly forty years experience in renovating properties, although home values may dip from time to time, they always go up, and on the whole a good investment.

If you think I can be of benefit to you and your project, whether big or small just contact me.

Floor tiles on cloakroom floor     http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/patisserie/sucre-1 and entrance floor  http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/casino-floor/mode/grid

Artwork by Kim Major George  http://www.majorgeorge.co.uk/

 

 

How to Update a Lamp Base with Gilding

Silver gilded lamp base

Silver gilded lamp base

Sometimes when we newly decorate a room, some of our existing furniture, furnishings and accessories we want to re-use don’t quite fit in with the new scheme and décor. Gilding is an alternative to painting or purchasing new items. It works well on mirror and picture frames, candlesticks and furniture.With larger items like furniture, work on one manageable area at a time.

Although an acceptable finish, these lamp bases did not blend in with their intended new position .

Here is a quick step by step guide should you want to give it a go yourself.

Materials

Gilding paper

Gold Size

Annie Sloan dark wax

White spirit

Tools

Small paint brush

Small firm bristled brush ( artists)

Lint free cloth

Instructions

  1. With the small paint brush, ‘paint’ the gold size over the lamp base ( if doing more than one item, do one at a time otherwise the ‘size’ will dry too much, as it acts like glue) to the areas you want gilding. The size will appear white, and when ready to use will appear clear.
Gold size brushed onto lamp base
Gold size brushed onto lamp base
  1. Taking one sheet of gilding paper at a time, silver or gold side down onto the surface and dab and brush gently onto the backing paper. The gilding will stick to the size.
Brushing gilding onto lamp base
Gently brush the gilding onto the size
  1. Gently lift the paper, and move onto the next area which needs gilding. Don’t worry if the silver or gold tears or breaks as this will give a slightly distressed and worn appearance, adding interest. Continue until all the gilding has been applied to the areas you want to gild. Leave to dry.
  1. If gilding more than one item, repeat the above process.
  2. If you want a bright shiny finish to the lamp bases, ( or item being gilded) apply clear wax to seal it.
  3. If an ‘aged’ or ‘antiqued’ finish is required mix a little Annie Sloan dark wax with a small amount of white spirit in a plastic bowl to form a soft malleable wax which can be brushed easily with a small paint brush, and apply over the lamp base.
  1. After a couple of minutes, with a small lint free cloth gently wipe off the excess wax solution. The dark wax should be in any grooves or details and a toned down silver or gold with an ‘aged’ patina on the smoother surfaces.
  1. Leave to dry and fit with shades.

Shade from IKEA  http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/search/?k=OLLSTA%20shade%20grey

If you intend to use an IKEA lampshade, and a non IKEA lamp base, ensure that the lampshde comes with a metal adaptor ring. The ring sits on top of the lamp base with the shade on top, and prevents the shade being wobbly.

Gilded detail to draw edges
Gilding on draw edges to add interest. Www.sminteriors.co.uk

Bespoke vintage gilded furniture from Piece Unique http://pieceunique.co.uk/PUGallery.asp

Sideboard completely gilded
A gilded sideboard by Piece Unique

https://www.anniesloan.com/annie-sloan-products/annie-sloan-waxes-and-finishes/metal-leaf-booklets-transfer.html

Gilding papers by Annie Sloan
Gilding papers by Annie Sloan

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House – Don’t You Just Love Technology?

Sonas System image via Pinterest

 

Sonas System image via Pinterest
Sonos System

It was suggested, prior to the first fix electrics to install a Sonos music system.  After much thought and discussion about going over our original budget, we decided it would be a good idea. TV and internet ports were also installed in some bedrooms as well as the living areas, the idea being that family members could use the internet independently to stream films, games etc.  Our electrician laid all the cables and the builders left gaps in the ceiling ready for the speakers. The mass of wires leading back to a cupboard where the system will be controlled from. The installers of the Sonos System wanted the house to be virtually dust free before fitting.

Ceiling Speaker
An unobtrusive ceiling speaker

Sounds good, and so far so good, until we came to install a phone line and broadband. An internet search of post code speeds and providers showed lots of options and costs too, including BT Infinity, Sky Fibre Unlimited, EE and TalkTalk. BT Infinity showed the estimated speed at 22.8 – 38Mb. As a current BT customer I organised the contract and booked in an installation date. However, when reading through the info received BT had estimated the broadband speed at 1Mb – 4Mb. This is a huge difference, especially when streaming films, downloading computer games and music. I questioned BT about the speed, and they explained that half the village did indeed have fibre optic cable, but my house is in the half that doesn’t; and they had no plans in the foreseeable future to install the other half. So we have all the technology wired in, but inadequate broad band service to actually run it all at the same time.

Broad Band Speeds for your area can be found in the internet
Broad Band speeds for our post code found on the Internet

A neighbour came by just by chance with some information about a company who provide a better broadband speed of up to 40Mb. He had just set up an account and had the system installed, due to his frustration with BT. This sounded promising.

The system works via EE’s 4G mobile network. The company will install an external antenna which connects to a 4G modem and allows for both wired and WIFI access through EE. It is also possible to move your current landline number to an internet based phone system, removing the need for a BT landline. The cost of this phone system is £2.50 a month line rental and 1.2p per minute for calls. A typical cost for the installation is £799.00, plus system interface and configuration charges plus plugs, plus plus….. But then we may save on call charges etc.

Two contracts are offered, either a 30 day rolling contract offering 15GB for £20.00 or 25GB for £30.00 per month. Or 24 month contract at £28.00 a month for 25 GB or 50GB at £55.00. Checking our current average monthly data usage (currently unlimited) this was insufficient for our needs. The maximum for a consumer available is 50GB a month, but we can add more at £15.00 for 10GB. The company didn’t specify whether that was £15.00 for each additional 10GB on top, but guessing it is. This makes a huge difference to the cost. If your usage comes within 50GB, then it’s sounds like a great system in rural and not so rural areas. Anywhere in fact BT haven’t bothered to install sufficient fibre optic cable, despite the Government promises!

So where does that leave us? Well, with BT, as there appears to be little else we can do.  Unfortunately, BT failed to turn up at the appointed time and date. Neither did they call or text to say they weren’t coming. For a communications company their communication skills are shocking. So back to the buffering and waiting for things to down load. Don’t you just love technology?

Selecting tiles for kitchen
‘Mood Board’ of tiles and work top

The work top in the kitchen has been installed by a local stone supplier, who have a huge range and choice of materials and colours to choose from. They also template and fit the work tops. I was lucky enough to find an off cut of Silestone which was suitable, and therefore a little cheaper. Silestone is a composite stone, offering hardwearing capabilities, and is less expensive than granite. Again shop around as prices vary enormously between suppliers. I have chosen to tile the splash back rather than have an upstand, to make the space more cohesive. I didn’t want an upstand with a tiled or glass backing behind the hob, which would break up the run above the work top.

 

 

Renovation Restoration a 1930’s House – Come On Baby Light My Fire

image
Image from Bloglovin

 

Several months of trying to get the multi-fuel installers back to the house to complete the outside flue resulted in two ‘no shows’. They twice failed to turn up without contacting us; and once turned, up and then left after ten minutes explaining that they couldn’t do the job as our tower was not tall enough. I did wonder why they hadn’t bought their own tower or ladder with them to enable them to do the job.  I eventually managed to speak to them, and they explained that it would be best if we found someone else to finish the job. I had been dumped!

This posed two options, we either find another approved installer so we can get our HETAS certificate, which may be difficult because they hadn’t installed the first part of the multi-fuel stove, and may not want to certify someone else’s work.  Also they would be wary of us, as they would wonder why the installer had refused to return to finish the job. This I couldn’t explain. The other option would be to have the flue installed without a certificate and ask Building Control to come and inspect it and hopefully issue the certificate. However, if it failed the Building Control inspection which company would we return to rectify installation problems? We also had to get our flue returned from the original installers which was purchased by us months ago. Luckily, we found a great company who were prepared to complete the installation of the outside flue, (reclaimed from the original company) and issue a certificate. Interestingly they only needed a ladder to finish the job!

image
The outside flue, now completed

 

The utility and boot room floors have now been laid with tiles resembling wooden floor boards. These are very popular at the moment and the choice of colours, textures and meterage costs are numerous. We purchased our tiles from a local tile merchant Acorn Tiles. They take time in planning the layout prior to laying, but makes the actual laying a lot easier, especially if using fast set adhesive. I have used grey grout to blend with the tiles. Fired Earth  http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/newlyn/mode/grid  also have a selection, and are surprisingly close in price of Topps Tiles, which one would imagine being cheaper.

The back splash has also been tiled with ‘subway’ or ‘metro’ tiles laid in brick style and grey grout used in between.

The wooden and glass partitions were fixed in place without the safety glass, and have been stained along with the wooden beading for fixing the glass for ease of application. The glass was then fixed in place, fixing holes filled and a light sanding all over. The partitions then had another coat of stain applied. Despite not being metal ‘Crittal’ style as originally planned, we got a great result at a fraction of the cost.

After much research we finally chose the engineered wood flooring. It’s a light oak veneer with a matt lacquered finish. The company, Posh Flooring  https://www.poshflooring.co.uk/engineered-wood-flooring/oak  were very helpful, efficient and offered advice on the underlay and installation. Delivery was two to three days and the wood had to be laid flat for at least a week prior to laying to acclimatise. Due to the amount needed, we ordered half what was  required and sufficient for two rooms for ease of laying and space. A vapour barrier is laid down first on the floor and then the wood laid on top. Some flooring systems are clicked together and others are glued. It is important to leave a 10mm gap around the edges of the room to allow for expansion. The wood will expand and contract, and if you don’t leave a gap the floor will buckle and in some cases need relaying. This gap will be hidden by skirting boards, or if a retro fit by wooden beading.

 

 

 

 

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (18) House & Garden

Colour Palate Mood Board

 

Colour Palate Mood Board
Colour Palate Mood Board

The first floor has now been finished, apart from the wardrobes waiting to be fitted, and carpets laid. Laying the carpets will be the final job, as most of the ground floor is laid with concrete, which creates copious amounts of dust, which is walked everywhere.

The main building contractors have finished their work, and moved onto other jobs. It was very quiet at the house most days, unless the electrician, tilers or plumbers arrived to work on smaller outstanding jobs.

My mother, sadly passed away in August. Although expected, it  is a very sad and difficult time, with lots to do and sort out. Hence, work on the house has been intermittent.

The garden continued to grow, the lawn and lots of weeds in the beds. We managed to keep the grass down, but the weeds not. We should have laid black plastic over the borders when freshly dug with the digger weeks ago, to keep the weeds at bay. This would’ve saved hours of back breaking digging later. Someone told me their story when faced with an over grown garden, they decided to save on the digging and sprayed the whole area with weed killer. They didn’t realize that weed killer also kills plants and takes a long time for the ground to recover. They now have to dig out the existing earth and replace with new top soil.

I had a master plan for the border planting, lots of clipped bay and box trees, lavender, alliums and white hydrangers. This idea changed dramatically when I saw the price of plants and shrubs at local Nurseries and garden centres. Having two large borders measuring 3 m x  6.5 m in the rear and a front boarder to fill, and the cost of purchasing the more mature specimens to add impact, was not an option. I did consider more turf and less border, however, this was too much of a compromise to the design. This problem could have been eleviated had the garden clearance people not been so earnest, and cut back mature specimens instead of removing them!

I chanced upon end of season plant sales in local DIY and garden centres, some of which were half price or less, so spent several days filling my car with bargain perennial plants and shrubs. I selected plants which were complimentary or toning in colour, and offered different textures ( a mood board for the garden) and bought several of the same plants to group together, again to add impact. I also chose according to the aspect the plant preferred, shady, full sun etc. but did not buy a soil sample testing kit to find out if the soil was acidic or alkali as advised by a nurseryman. I guessed it was more acidic due to the Azelia and Rhododendron which had once been prolific in the garden, but alas now gone. The images below, I have used as inspiration, unfortunately this is not what my present garden looks like- but am working on it.

The terrace is now full of plants waiting to be planted, but was faced with two big borders to clear of weeds first. It was a daunting prospect. We covered one border with black plastic, which we hoped would begin to kill some of the weeds, whilst  we worked on the other bed. New top soil had been put down, but underneath lurked bricks, stones and various builders rubbish and deep rooted weeds. It was back breaking work, and could only be done in stages. Well rotted compost should have been added and then dug well in, prior to planting, and Gardener’s World would’ve  been disappointed in us, but they have a team of strong people to do this for them! As a compromise I put compost at the roots of the plants whilst planting and watered in. In such a large garden, the plants look a little lost, with large gaps in between them. This is to allow for growing space. I have to be patient. Gardens mature and evolve over time. The electrician has laid armoured cable to lights which will high-light some of the retained mature trees and focal points in one bed (achieved by a large pot with a tall shrub for impact). These lights have yet to be connected, but will add another dimension to the garden.

The front border had to be attacked with a pick axe (not by me I hasten to add) because it was so dry and compacted. This needless to say was also full of bricks, blocks and stones needing to be removed. A retaining border was made from sleepers and bolted together. Some daffodil bulbs have been put in between the newly planted shrubs and plants.

Tiles have now been laid of the floor on the entrance hall with an area left for a sunken foot mat. The cloakroom floor has also been tiled, which enables us to finish installing the basin and loo. The original cast iron cistern has been stripped and spray painted and placed in situ. I think it looks great.

Sourcing suitable engineered wooden flooring has been difficult. Samples, which looked fine on web sites, when arrive, are either too dark or too shiny, so they can resemble laminate. Other considerations are the depth of the top wood veneer, and of course price. Large DIY stores had disappointingly little choice, and in some cases were more expensive than smaller specialist suppliers. We’re still searching.

Engineered wood flooring samples
Engineered wood flooring samples

We are still trying to confirm a date with the multi- fuel  burner installers to return to complete the outside flue. Because they were so busy, they installed the internal flue and stove some months ago so we could continue with building the hearth and internal works. It was agreed to contact them to complete the job when less busy. Clearly, they’re still busy, and despite numerous texts and messages are too busy to reply.

The partitions and doors have arrived, and the carpenter has fitted them. Although needing staining , then glass fitting, they look great.

The wooden partitions in the workshop
The partitions in the workshop

 

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (16) On The Tiles

1930's inspired bathroom from Fired Earth http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/cinema/suitability/wall-bathrooms/page/2/mode/grid
1930’s inspired bathroom from Fired Earth http://www.firedearth.com/tiles/range/cinema/suitability/wall-bathrooms/page/2/mode/grid

Some weeks, despite the flurry of activity progress appears to be slow. The preparation, planning and installation of the drainage system and bathrooms are all necessary, but not much visually to show for efforts made. It’s the big things which offer the impact and excitement. However, they’re all necessary in the bigger picture, and will save time in the long run.

The bathroom and en- suites have been plumbed in dry. This means without being connected to the water supply. Although the boiler/ plant room is now under construction we still only have the outside mains to work from. So we all have to continue to use the hired portaloo and get water from various hosepipes being used around the site. It can be time consuming trying to fill the kettle! These rooms have been tiled and all fitted with sanitary ware. I had wanted to have metro or subway tiles to full height in the family bathroom, with a black mosaic border. However, the time to plan, cut and lay these tiles brick style is considerably longer than other tiles, thus adding to the cost. (Laying porcelain tiles is more expensive than ceramic due to the extra time required for cutting and drilling). I achieved a similar look for less cost by buying larger rectangular tiles to be laid brick style. I used white grout, but grey would also work well.

Choosing tiles can be difficult with the vast choice available. Try and have an idea of the sort of colour and design you prefer, and of course budget, prior to visiting tile showrooms. Look for ideas in magazines, and think about how you would like the tiles laid, portrait, landscape or herringbone.  Porcelain  tiles are stronger, take longer to lay and are more expensive to buy, but better quality.  Ceramic tiles tend to be cheaper, and are easier to cut and lay. Marble and natural stone is a classic and popular choice, but expensive and can require sealing after laying. Large tile warehouses offering  discounts may not be offering the best deals, or value for money, so shop around. Specialist tile companies may offer better deals, discontinued or end of lines in sales, but do ensure you buy sufficient for your needs by adding 10% extra for cutting and possible wastage. There’s nothing worse than running out before finishing the job and having to hunt to find more tiles. Also ensure that the tiles are the same size and depth. Crazy as this sounds tiles are not always uniform, which can cause difficulty in laying. Choose a grout to enhance the tiles. There are many grout colours available, and having a colour other than white in a shower may save time in cleaning the pink discolouration which occurs from shampoo and body wash. If you have a stud wall, you maybe able to build in a recess to house toiletries, thus avoiding chrome storage, which are susceptible to rusting.

The flooring can be anything so long as it’s waterproof. Tiles are durable, but choose a non slip surface. Under floor heating laid prior to the tiles, either piped ( only in new laid screed floors) or an electric matting system, gives warmth. Electric matting is independently switched to provide heat even without the central heating on. You have to register your system with the manufacture after installation.

Vinyl is easy to lay and warm underfoot, without the need for extra heating. Amtico  http://www.amtico.com/ or Karndean   http://www.karndean.com/en-gb/floors are more expensive but equally durable. Waterproof laminates are another option, they are also available is a wide range of designs and colours.I opted for a good quality vinyl, which I ordered a few weeks before needing it. The plan being it would arrive when the bathroom installations were finished. I went to collect my order, but discovered the shop had only ordered one and not three. I had to reorder the other two again. The shop, although apologetic couldn’t explain what had happened. The flooring had been on sale when I originally ordered, but was no longer on sale. The shop were going to charge me full price, until I pointed out how unfair this would be. However, they refused to waiver the extra charge for my express delivery! I will go elsewhere for my carpets I think.

The side plant room went up very quickly, once the foundation depths had been agreed. The plans stated a depth of  2.8 meters, but we couldn’t get a digger in the space to dig out the required depth. It would take a long time to manually dig a trench this deep. The engineer had stated these depths due to next doors fir tree. After emails, calculations and liaising with Building Control it was agreed to lay a concrete slab and then beam and block the floor. The  roof was felt and battened to make water tight, and the new back door installed. Our roofer then went on holiday, so we were unable to finish the roof at this point. This did not hinder progress though, we could now install the mega flow and boiler and connect to the heating and domestic plumbing. Now having plumbed in dry, it’s very stressful when the water is connected, as a leak could occur anywhere in the house. A lot of people were running all over the house looking for potential problems. There was one small leak, which was rectified quickly. We now have working inside taps and flushing toilets – luxury.

The roof on the garage has been built and the porch erected, both being felt and battened in readiness for the roofers return. This means, in theory that all the rooves can be completed in a few days.

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (13) Unforeseen Challenges

Front elevation with tiled roof
Front elevation with tiled roof

However well thought out and planned, unforeseen problems can arise during the execution of the works. It wasn’t until we reached roof level, when we had found a carpenter, accepted his quote, booked him in and about to order the joists, that the builders noticed a discrepancy with the architects drawings, that didn’t make sense. They looked at the engineers drawings and calculations and although different to the architects, didn’t work either. The roof structure was quite complicated, breaking into the existing, building around the existing chimney stack and creating gully’s.During a site meeting the builder suggested removing the chimney stack. This would save time and money and make the roof construction easier. The original brick tied fireplace in the small sitting room would probably rarely be lit, if ever, be used as an open fire. We could also remove the chimney breast wall in the bedroom above making it bigger and a less awkward shape.

The chimney breast was removed from the bedroom, which solved twp problems at once.
The chimney breast was removed from the bedroom, which solved twp problems at once.

The builder and carpenter worked out the calculations accordingly. Interesting though, you pay architects and engineers a lot of money for their services, and the experienced builders and trades notice the errors and sort out the problems.

The master bedroom is having a vaulted ceiling, so two steel beams had to be hoisted and maneuvered by a crane over the house into place. It was exciting to watch. I have to say how clever builders and trades people are, they think ahead. Piles of raw materials stacked ready to be made into a home.

The rear external wall from the existing house into the extension (master bedroom)  has been knocked through. However, the floor levels are slightly different. This could not be foreseen as the floor in the exisitng bedroom slopes very slightly. It is not enough to form a step, it’s more of a ‘trip’. Ideas and suggestions have been discussed, from laying more chipboard flooring on the extension floor, to lifting the original bedroom floor which slightly at one end. A decision hasn’t been decided, but needs to be made soon.

The roofers have arrived and we now have a roof! We were lucky with the weather whilst the work was in progress. The roof tiles we salvaged from the garage have been re- used at the front, which seamlessly matches the existing. Reclaimed tiles have been used elsewhere to blend in too. Whilst the roofers were tiling the roof, the rear garden was leveled , a crushed concrete base at the bottom of the garden for a patio area and path was laid half way down the garden.  Indian Sandstone slabs have been laid on top of the crushed concrete. This has been done now as the rear garden is accessible with a digger, prior to the small side mud and plant room being built at the side of the house. Raised vegetable beds constructed from wooden sleepers have been laid and filled with top soil.  Turf has been laid from the bottom of the garden, three quarters of the way to the house. No point in doing any more until the rear work on the house has been completed – it would get ruined. I always think that the transformation of a garden when the turf has been laid is like laying a new carpet in a freshly finished room, it completes it.

We are not in the ‘dry’ yet though, due to the windows. This has been quite a marathon. Architects drawings and sizes were sent to different companies for quotes. Some companies could supply the windows but the roof lanterns and sloping glass would have to be sourced from a different company. Some companies were helpful asking questions we hadn’t considered about ‘openings’ to meet building fire regulations and handle choices. Some companies just returned a quote without asking these important points or offering ideas, a little indifferent. The quotes varied too by several thousand pounds. However, the cost of our preferred  aluminium windows is prohibitively expensive.  One company came to measure the finished apertures, and then asked me which window cills I wanted, tile creasing’s or oak, (£106.00 per metre plus vat for oak). We assumed, as no one had mentioned it before that the cills would be aluminium. This was an extra cost on top of the window quote, and to be honest why have maintenance free windows with wooden cills which require maintenance? Tiles would be more durable, but the materials and labour costs still have to be added to the overall budget for the windows. Spending such a large proportion of the budget on the windows is not an option. The bi-fold doors, roof lantern and sloping roof will be aluminium for strength, but the windows will be UVPC. All windows and doors will be a dark grey RAL ( a universal colour chart chart in the industry) 7016. The window style will be as near as possible to the original Crittal window style to keep the character of the house. We have instructed a local family run company who manufacture and install the windows themselves. This way we have more flexibility in the required design.

The huge steel beam supporting the bi-fold doors and roof glass has been a sticking point. There are no details on the architects drawings showing how this should be finished to take the doors and glass. The architect, when asked for details explained that he had’t been asked for them, and would happily supply them for an extra fee! I have asked our structural engineer instead to provide the details. The builders can then do the necessary works for the window company to measure the apertures and make. As stated before, window companies will only start making the windows when the aperture is finished. This causes problems removing existing windows where the aperture is changing with security and the elements. Whilst the scaffolding is up and before the lower roof is built the soffits and fascias have been put on and the rendering applied. What a difference covering the block work makes. It is beginning to look like one house, at the back at least. Of course the biggest transformation will be when the windows go in.

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (11) – Compromises with Budget and Design

Compromised by the weather
Compromised by the weather

The Party Wall Award was signed and sealed on Friday 22nd January, which was a relief as the digger was due for delivery on the following Monday ready to dig the footings. The building inspector had been booked for late on Tuesday morning to inspect and hopefully pass the excavations, in time for the concrete to arrive and commence pouring from twelve noon onwards to fill the same. So thankfully our deadline and schedule went according to plan. It was very exciting to watch the footings being dug, a major landmark on the project, and to see what had just been until now on drawings. This week the beam and block floors on the extension and garage are being laid, ready for the next stage.

However, we are in need of a good carpenter to construct the roof beams. One recommended carpenter is too busy, and another has fallen out with our builder over a prior job for some reason, and refuses to work on the same site. Running any project requires diplomatic, political and communication skills! There is a shortage of skilled trades people, especially reliable ones who don’t disappear int the middle of your job to start another one, and leave you at a standstill. To have your workers on site everyday, solely working on your build is brilliant and the work moves consistently forward. The phrase ‘Hospital job’ is occasionally mentioned, whereby your work can be perceived as a ‘fill in’ when other jobs take priority. This can be costly, time consuming and frustrating. A written, signed agreement is recommended and perhaps a penalty clause added whereby the builder is fined if not finished at the pre agreed date.This is quite normal with the larger building companies. Smaller individual trades people will normally provide a written quote, with a fixed price but allow for ‘unknowns’ such as repairs to walls when tiles have been removed. There is no way of telling if the wall will come away with the tiles or not, therefore if full repair to the wall is required this will obviously be more expensive than if the wall is O.K. and the price is adjusted accordingly by prior agreement. I avoid ‘day rate’ pricing, unless how many days the job will take is given in writing.  Otherwise you have no control over the cost or time to complete the work.

Some quotes have been slow in being returned, and now have to be chased. It is best to allow for the ‘benefit of doubt’. Emails or post gone astray, which invariably happens, but once confirmed that all the necessary information has been received and given a few weeks to return the quote, I follow up with a phone call. I will not chase or contact again, as I feel that if I’m chasing them, when trying to give them work, what service will I receive once they have my work?

Choosing tiles from large DIY retailers has been difficult and disappointing, I had hoped for some possible sale bargains. End of line or to be discontinued tiles can be a good source of  savings. Just ensure you buy enough for the intended job, allowing 10% for breakages and wastage. Nothing is more irritating than running out, and desperately hunting, or unable to get any more. Insufficient quantities of tiles of choice were available, and the new lines for 2015 would not be on the shelves until sometime in February, so no joy as yet. Tile specialist shops are my next port of call. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t just buy the tile online without actually seeing and feeling it, as colour representations aren’t always accurate. You can often order tile samples, which helps with online purchasing.  The same goes for wallpaper too, and check the batch numbers. I have been luckier buying curtains in the January sales though. My husband thinks I’m nuts buying curtains before we have any actual building or windows. But if you have your window sizes and add 10cm cm below the cill and 10   cm above the window for the rail. Add at least 10cm to the width of each curtain to allow for the rod overhang at each end. This guide for a basic pair of curtains and if you know what colours’ and design you need for each room, then it saves time, and money when you are ready to hang them. If you are planning more elaborate or complicated window dressings, and are unsure at this stage what type of rail you will have, then it is best to wait until you have decided.

Curtain rail positions
If you are confident to buy curtains prior to the rooms completion, then do so. otherwise wait until you are sure where the rail or fixings will be hung, to avoid errors.

Ideally I wanted to have one wall (the wall behind the wood burning stove) in the sitting room built in bricks. The idea being it would create a slight industrial vibe, add texture and link the original brick fireplace in the existing sitting room. There are thousands of different bricks available, salvaged bricks from previous buildings are a great eco recycling option, but are  invariably more expensive due to the labour content of removing the old mortar stuck to the brick. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use the bricks from the demolished garage or side lean to, because the bricks had been rendered on the outside, and painted on the inside. We have used some of these as a hardcore base for the terrace to be built much later on. To match the brick as near as possible to the fireplace I took some photo’s to compare with the bricks on display at a builders merchant. I have narrowed it down to one brick, isn’t that amazing? Bricks are priced by the thousand. I need  a 1000 bricks, which included 5% wastage for one wall. The cost of the bricks is £895.00 per thousand. Plus the cost of labour and mortar, so for one wall it would cost £ 1200.00.  A price comparison to a block work wall, mortar, labour, plaster and plaster and paint finish would be approximately the same. If you feel that  a whole wall of bricks would be too over powering in the room, then try adapting your initial idea to suit. Perhaps just a brick chimney breast  would suffice. In my case it won’t as I will not have a chimney breast, just a flue pipe from the stove up the wall and outside. A wall paper imitating bricks could be a solution, or perhaps just a raised brick hearth would be a compromise. My original design thought was to have a raised hearth, sufficiently high enough to allow for wood to be stored below the hearth and the stove raised enough to actually see it across the room, without being hidden from view by a coffee table.  In which case bricks would not really work. A cast concrete, slate or granite plinth (hearth) placed on the same, would work. House renovation, I have found is often one of compromise, not only due to budgets and designs, but with partners too!

All images other than my own are from Pinterest.

Planning Ahead – Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House

Present front elevation of the house. This is about to change.
Present front elevation of the house. This is about to change.

We have now received planning approval for our extension. This is great news, but has not been without changes to the original plans. The Planning office objected to the position of the boundary wall in relation to our neigbours, and wanted it bought in by at least a metre. Our plans had been based on the existing boundary, where the garage now stands which has stood in this position since it was built in the 1930’s. This was no longer acceptable. Our architects amended the plans by moving the side elevation in by one metre, but elongated the rear dimensions, so as not to compromise on the design. This was accepted by the planners. Sometimes compromises have to be made. We are now just waiting for our architects to complete the Building Regulation drawings.

We received a letter from our neigbour, from whose boundary we had to build away from, expressing their concerns, and asking about the Party Wall Agreement. I have replied, stating that an Agreement will be drawn up, and that every effort will be made to avoid too much disruption to her whilst the work is being carried out. Good communication is essential concerning all parties to try and avoid conflicts.

Now we have actual scaled drawings, we have been able to plan the kitchen and bathroom layouts, as well as the electrical schematics to be put on the working drawings. Our landscaping plans have been roughly sketched out but not drawn to scale as yet. These drawings need to be done now to allow for the exterior lighting and power points to to be laid in the right positions at the right time during the work and not to be treated as an after thought, retro fitting can be expensive. Also positions of outside taps etc. need to be thought about and planned. These drawings will then be sent to contractors for quotes.

In the meantime the bathroom and kitchen have been stripped out ready for internal wall removal in the existing layout. Unfortunately one of the original basins I wanted to re use was cracked, so had to be skipped. All other salvageable items are now stored safely off site. We had hoped that these internal alterations would have been done by now to push the project on, but builders would prefer to carry out all the work in one go. Our scheduled start date on site is the first working day in the new year, so lots to plan now.

Whilst away on holiday lots of ideas have been gathered from the hotel we stayed in. Inspiration and ideas can be gleaned from everywhere to either copy or adapt to your needs accordingly. The hotel had been architecturally  designed to blend in with it’s location. The dining rooms, bedrooms, bars and lounge areas have been decorated in a French Colonial style, which suited the buildings, setting  and the islands history which was on a beach in Mauritius. There were lots of ideas, not only for the restoration of our 1930’s house, but also for other projects.

The  flooring in the main areas impressed me. It had been laid with a charcoal coloured polished concrete, and marked with lines to imitate over sized stone slabs or tiles. This choice of flooring is ideal for ‘hardworking areas’ in a home and relatively easy to achieve if laying a new solid screed floor. With under floor heating laid beneath the finished concrete layer to prevent it feeling cold in the winter. Concrete is an adaptable medium which can be coloured and patterned to imitate tiles and wood. The same concrete and finish can be laid on a terrace or patio thereby continuing the flow from the inside to out. If you have a large outside space, you could  add interest by creating zones for eating by putting a different pattern in the concrete or mixing with decking or slabs. There is a decking material made from bamboo and resin which is available in different colours’, and is a sustainable product which lasts longer and is fairly maintenance free, which is worth looking at if considering a decked area. I have found conflicting information regarding the costs per square meter of concrete floors. Some sites state that it is cheaper than tiling others say it’s more expensive, so shop around to find the best deals. For more information go to  http://www.madaboutthehouse.com/should-i-have-polished-concrete-floors/   So it is difficult to compare with the cost of laying porcelain tiles, which is the cost of the tiles plus labour of between £30 to £40 per square meter. Another material which is eco friendly can be found from http://www.concreateflooring.co.uk

Our hotel room had a small courtyard partially covered with a wooden pergoda with a glass roof and greenery. Something similar to this I feel needs to be erected at the rear of our 1930’s house from our dining room. This elevation faces due south and needs shade on hot summer days. It would also provide a structure for lighting for outside dining. A glass roof of course would be unsuitable due to the ‘greenhouse effect’. A solid roof would make the interior too dark. Greenery such as a wisteria or grape vine look lovely, but can take years to mature. Some pergolas have canvas covers which can be operated manually or automatically when cover is required. This option provides the flexibility needed for the English summer, especially if the canvas cover is water proof! http://www.shadefxcanopies.com/blog/

Some images are from Pinterest.