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 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.

Hall, Stairs and Landings

Hall, stairs and landings are often overlooked and viewed as busy thoroughfares, as a means to get from one room to another or out of the house. These areas are often small, cramped or resemble little more than corridors. The hall is the first impression visitors receive when entering the home and an organized, welcoming space sets the tone for the rest of the home.

Storage – before you even consider wall colour, remember the hall needs to provide instant, accessible organized storage for the items you discard as soon as you walk in through the front door, coats, shoes, keys and umbrellas. The space available will obviously dictate your options of course. If there is room, a built in cloaks cupboard is ideal with a shoe rack. This will hide all the clobber. Failing that, a simple coat hook for everyday wear and visitors coats will suffice. Do not overload the rack as this looks untidy and obstructs the thoroughfare. A shoe rack can be placed below the coat rack, which  will contain shoes which have been kicked off and abandoned in the middle of the hall. A bench with storage  will also provide somewhere to sit down to pull on boots and provide much needed storage for hats and gloves etc. An umbrella stand is useful, and there are some lovely tall pots available which will do the job. A table for keys and mail, however small is useful, or perhaps a slimline shelf if space is at a premium. You may have room for a chest of drawers or armoire providing extra storage for over spill from bedrooms or linen storage. Built in slim line shelves for books or baskets filled with items needed from time to time.

Flooring – Hall floors need to be robust to cope with outdoor footwear. Whatever you choose make sure you have a good foot mat to take off the worst of dirt and grime. Hardwearing floor tiles are easy to clean in a pale neutral colour help the space feel bigger and if laying new, ask your tiler to drop the door mat into the tiles. This prevents the foot mat sliding around the hall. Carpet on stairs and landings is still a popular choice, avoiding the excess noise of feet clumping up and down the stairs. Choose a very hardwearing woven carpet preferably with a high wool content to cope with the heavy traffic, and in a colour to blend with the hall flooring. This gives an illusion of space and merges the spaces together for a cohesive look.

Lighting – This needs to be welcoming and not over powering. The lighting needs to be bright on the stairs for safety reasons, but not so bright it flattens any interesting shadows. Create atmosphere with table lamps, wall lights and add a large decorative pendant light.

Mirrors and lighting have been used to light and add interest to the stair well.
Mirrors and lighting have been used to light and add interest to the stair well.

Fabrics and Colour’s – Hall, stairs and landings need to link with other rooms harmoniously, so colour’s and patterns shouldn’t  be too bold. To disguise the ‘corridor’ effect try painting the doors the same colour as the walls. Use a good quality, spongeable, durable paint which will withstand the wear and tear. Add colour and interest with a runner or rug and a blind or curtains.

Accessories – Well chosen accessories make the functional space feel lived in. Pictures or a framed photograph gallery displayed together, or a clock. Use mirrors to reflect the light and create a feeling of space. Mirrors are also good for the last minute face and hair check before going out of the front door. A vase of flowers or a plant too add finishing touches.

Don’t Get Bogged Down

Before you even walk into a bathroom showroom, and walk out, what seems like hours later, laden with product brochures  feeling bogged down, and totally confused about the choices available to you, do your homework first.

1, Measure your rooms dimensions including ceiling height (so you know that the height of your chosen shower will actually fit). Measure the windows and doors.

2. Note where your existing plumbing pipes are, including the soil stack (for toilet waste). Pipes can often be re-routed if necessary, but best to check with a plumber. It would also help to know if you have high or low water pressure. Think how disappointed you would be having the ‘rain water’ deluge head fitted in your shower, to be greeted by a trickle of water.

3. Make a checklist of what you want. What do you want to do in your bathroom? Bath with a separate shower, or do you only have space for a shower bath? Do you want a statement or purely functional bath? Do you want to remove the bath and replace it with a large walk in shower? Do you have room for, or want twin basins?

4. Consider storage needs for bottles, make up, loo rolls and perhaps towels.A vanity unit with drawers fitted with separate compartments could be considered.

5. Lighting – A range of task lighting for applying make-up or shaving. Consider a wall hung vanity cabinet with a back lit mirror and a de-mister pad, with lights hung each side of the cabinet to avoid shadows from being cast onto your face. Recessed LED lights in ‘cubby holes’ ( built in recesses used for shampoo, conditioner and body wash products avoiding chrome fittings) and under units or shelves add ambiance whilst enjoying a relaxing soak.

6. Fittings – This can be a mine field.  What style do you want? Sleek and modern, classic, period. Do you want looks over functionality? Do you want mixer taps, bath fillers (bath fills with what looks like an overflow) plus diverter hand set, or standard ‘telephone’ taps. bath shower mixers or thermostatic shower mixers.Do you want chrome, gold, white or very decorative fittings? Do you have a preference towards a Caronite, steel, acrylic cast iron or other material for your bath? Cast iron is heavy, expensive and virtually everlasting. Caronite is durable, excellent wearing capabilities, mid range in price good quality and very popular. Steel is less expensive than Caronite, is hard wearing but can feel cold. Acrylic baths are cheap, light but are prone to movement. A Jacuzzi bath tends to be great to begin with, but tend to clog up with lime scale if fitted without a water softener.

7. Flooring – Do you want tiles, with underfloor heating, vinyl,or wood?

8. Heating – Do want a statement radiator, or heated towel rails? Do you want the heated towel rails to be dual fuel? (Duel fuel means having a separate electric switch fitted which can be used to warm and dry towels when the main heating is not switched on).

9. What do you want on your walls? Do you want it fully tiled, or only in wet areas? Do you want different tiles  in different areas? How do you want the tiles hung? Landscape, portrait or brick style?

10. Budget – What is your budget? You usually get what you pay for in terms of quality in the product.

Once you have narrowed down your wants, needs and desires, then go to a bathroom show room, knowing what it is you require from your bathroom.