Thursday, 27 June 2013


We have been M.I.A. for a couple of a few things have been going on...!

We have both quit smoking, which for the first few days, makes you want to bury your head under your duvet and never come out, unless it is to stuff chocolate down your gullet.  On the plus side, we are now 12 days clean, and only about 1/2 a stone heavier each....Hooray!  We have not spent about £150 already, so we will be £4k better off in a years time.  Now, it's time to get rid of the extra chocolate / dominoes pizza weight we have both gained...!

We have been getting on with the DIY.  We only stopped squatting in the bedroom as our one usable room a couple of weeks ago, now as we are gluttons for punishment, we have now moved downstairs with all of our belongings and the dog.  Our living / dining room is now our only usable room in the entire house, this leaves us free to get the upstairs gutted!  We are trying to finish off all the stripping out of the old plaster, and we are almost finished, just the landing and hallway to go, as we have made a decision to get all of the filthy work done prior to getting the new bathroom fitted which is scheduled to commence next week. 

We attended our first antiques fair Monday just gone, we managed to pick up a few bargains for the house (more on that to follow), it was great fun, but the hours spent on my feet, and the work we have done over the last week and a bit have really taken its toll, I am now bid ridden...I literally can't move...and the husband, who is awesome btw, has even had to help me put on socks, and this time as if being a 32 year old octogenarian wasn't bad enough, he has even had to help get me to the bathroom.  What you don't know, and the story will come soon I promise, is that I managed to slip a disc in my lumbar way back in early March, and have been struggling ever since...thought I was almost better, but seems not!  

We have started a proper budget, and we aim to stick to it this time...We have always had a monthly budget spreadsheet, but it was difficult to stick to, as we were not great at updating it as and when we were spending money, plus the cigarettes always meant we would over spend, so now we have upgraded to a budgeting app, that we can share across several devices and smart phones, so we can update as soon as we spend the cash, getting an up to the minute report on how our spending is tracking against our budgeted outgoings.  The app is called HomeBudget, we picked up the review here at Our Freaking Budget, a great blog for those who are trying to be more money savvy, and less credit crazy...we are in the second camp, and we know it's wrong, but instant gratification is sometimes just to good to pass up.  Anyhoo, the app is an attempt to reign us in, so wish us luck, we have no excuses now, it's easy to use and update every time a penny or a pound leaves our control!  Plus if we had started last month, perhaps the trip to the new TK Maxx store next to our second home (a.k.a. B&Q) wouldn't have resulted in us spending moolah on yet more house accessories to cram into our bedsit, which add to the hazards we have to navigate or risk losing a toe, kneecap or finger!

And that is what has been going on with us, the highs, the lows, and the bargain hunting...You?  

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Bye Bye Damp Patches!

As we shared with you here the importance of making sure your house is dry, warm and toasty, we had to put our preaching into practice back at the tail end of last year and get the damp proof course in the property renewed.  Makes for an exciting blog topic right, well not really, but I'll do my best!

The damp proofing was last done just under 25 years ago, which should have been amazeballs as it should have been covered under the warranty of the company who carried out the work, where repair and renovations due to material faults in installation or materials used are covered free of charge.  But alas, not not for us, as even though the company was still trading after all this time (somewhat rare in today's economic climate), and we had the warranty documentation, also rare between people buying and selling and coming and going, still no dice!

Why?  Well, some genius home owner(s) past, had, of course invalidated the magical warranty by doing lots of less than intelligent things as follows:
  • Used the incorrect plaster on the walls
  • Left a leaking down pipe for like ever
  • Put so much concrete around the building that was way too high that even a car park would be jealous
  • Not re-pointed the damaged brickwork
  • ....I could go on, but I'm boring myself half to death!
We did our due diligence and got a couple of quotes from companies we knew in the area, the previous owners even left us some quotes from their investigations (of course they never pulled the trigger), we did leave out at least one company who a friends parents had not been very happy with, and the quotes were pretty pricey let me tell you!  The company we went with is called Craft Preservation, who did the work 25 years ago...we gave them a second bite of the apple, as they couldn't be blamed for the warranty issue, and they were happy to let us do some of the work to keep our costs down.  All in all, we were very happy with the service and workmanship.  

The original quote came in at £3150 including tax for the entire footprint of the house, but after having a chat with them, we changed the scope of work as it is a major undertaking, everything has to be removed up to a height of 1.2 metres so it can dry out and they have easy access to inject the walls with the special goo, and we certainly could not cope without a kitchen until sometime in 2014.  Our revised quote for the main living areas, where we signed up to do the grunt work, which involved stripping out the plaster from the inside of the house, lifting the floor around the walls, digging a trench around the entire property, and removing our own rubbish, got it down to £1440.00 including tax.  RESULT!!  Obviously we are not done yet as we need to pay for the kitchen extension to be done at some stage, which we estimate to come in at around £800.

The first order of business was to dig the trench leaving a lovely drainage channel, and considering the entire building has thick concrete the entire way around, this was back breaking work, LITERALLY, so many weekends since the end of 2012 plus some vacay time was spent sledge hammering, digging, and bagging up over two tonnes of rubble!

Trench!  Exciting right?
The last bit we had to do was a total bugger so we headed on down to HSS Hire and picked up a drill thingy, which Matthew promptly got stuck in the ground, luckily they gave us two picks, as the spare was needed to get the other one out...Phew!

Trench, check, now the inside.  First order of business was to strip out the fixtures and fittings. The fireplace is a reproduction, and we plan to re-use it in the 1st floor master bedroom.  We had ripped up all the laminate, removed the skirting at various stages, plus knocked down the wall. 
Yum, spiders webs!
Next, the walls, which was the worst job we have ever had to do!  It's filthy work, and the dust is horrendous!  The 112 year old plaster is easy to remove but it turns to powder as soon as you touch it....Gross!

Certainly a flattering shot if ever I came across one!

Flattering shot number 2!

We soon figured that, 1.2 metres was a pipe dream, the plaster was blown on every wall, so it all had to come off in the end. much did this little lot cost vs. the original estimate, and was it worth DIYing some of the work?

Cost of Work
Craft Preservation £1440
Rental of jackhammer thingy £60.64
Rubble sacks £45
Rubbish Removal 2 tonnes, £165
Additional Plastering est. £200
Total £1910.64

Estimated Future Costs
Kitchen Damp Proofing £800
Total £800

Total Cost £2710.64

Original Quote - Total Cost = 
Saving £439.36

Ah, not a great amount saved, but we would have pinched a few extra pounds by DIYing the rubbish and shifting it to the tip ourselves, but we were time poor so we called in a very helpful chap named Sean (All Rubbish 2 Go) who quoted us £185, but agreed to knock off £20 if we helped load up the van...result!

So, was it worth it?  I'm going to go out on a limb, and say in this case, no the saving was not worth it at all!  Here's why...a week before I flew out to India in March, after all this work was done...I stopped being able to walk...I was pretty much stuck, and could only walk for short periods at a forward to a hospital visit in India, and a slipped disc diagnosis - deep joy!!...!

Injury Costs
Physiotherapy in India £98
Consultant, MRI & X-ray in India £250 (ok, so we don't include this as my lovely employer covered it)
Health Insurance Excess £100
Labour costs as I have been unable to pull my weight.....approx £500
Total £698

Saving £439.36 less £698 = £EPIC FAIL

Wow, that sucks big time....!  DIY usually stands for Do It Yourself, this time is more like Don't bother with It Yourself! 

Any times you wish you had left it well alone?  Share the wealth!!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Box of Ticky Tacky?

So, it's a song called 'Little Boxes' written in 1962 by Malvina Reynolds, as a commentary on the changing socio-ecnomic climate of the times, middle class conformity, and all that good stuff...Did you know I was a deep thinker?  Nope, I'm totally not, I looked it up on Wikipedia!

You'll probably know it if you heard it, it's been covered a lot over the years, and been in adverts too, this song totally fits our house, our suburban adventure, our kind-of middle class, 30 something existence, working for the 'man', trying to be was destiny...sort of! 

Here's why...Our village it at the top of a great big hill, but that totally counts, right?  'Ticky Tacky' means cheap and substandard, yep, our house is totally that, but we are working hard to rectify this one...Check, our house looks almost exactly like the others on our road.  Ah! Here's where we fall down a little, all the houses are brick coloured or beigey / whitey, we could totally rock it out in bold purple if we fancied it though!

Here's where the rebels inside us come out, as the remainder is what we are trying like buggers not to not conform to, we never want to be dull and like everyone else, even if our house is from the outside.  As an aside, I did go to Uni, but to balance that, the husband thinks golf is the work of the devil!

"Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.
And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky 
And they all look just the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same".
Source here

And on that note, I will depart, as I have given you a little glimpse into my very bizarre brain, and I'd like us to remain friends even if you think I'm a weirdo...

Friday, 7 June 2013

What's Black, Yellow, Evil......

And DEAD....?

The wasp's nest under my bedroom floorboards once the Electrician sprays them with some hastily obtained WASP NEST KILLING FOAM! 

I am petrified of them so have basically thrust the spray at him, told him to have at it, while I hid!!

How can I sleep in there tonight?  He assured me the spray had worked really quickly and they were dying.


There are no pictures of them or it, pictures would mean getting in the room where they are which was not going to happen!  I got this though, best I could do!  Just ignore the scabby wrist, they'll be Indian mosquito bites...I really don't have much luck with insects.

They're under there!
So new plan for this weekend, find and fill the hole the buggers crawled into.  And as far as house maintenance jobs go, £4.99 if it works, is way better than calling in a professional for such a small nest!

It's Getting Hot in Here!

Yes! A nod to a Nelly song, getting good at this song / blog title business...

We are still in the process of getting the big jobs done, and it's getting really old, really fast!  I want to paint walls pretty colours and start accessorising, and doing DIY crafts that cost a couple of quid and look awesome, but alas, still not there yet! 

So to get you all caught up with what's been going down in the Money Pit (that's our new pet name for this crazy house), we had a new boiler fitted in February, not the sexiest of topics, so I'll keep it short, and yes, February is one of the coldest months of the year, and yes indeed Matthew did freeze his butt off! 

Boilers are super expensive, in our last property, the new boiler cost £3500 and that was in a one bedroom flat!  We opted for a combi, and installed a laundry nook where the tank and immersion used to be!  Not getting a combi seems insane to us, as the tank etc. is such a waste of precious space!

The boiler we chucked was only about 14 months old, but alas we had to spend the cash now and get rid of it before we tackled the myriad of rooms needing renovation!  It seems wasteful, but what was there was really cheap, with a very low output.  All the fab bathroom, kitchen, and loft conversion plans we have, the current boiler just was not going to cut the mustard.  The immersion heater is right where the new stairway will be going, to the attic master suite, and the cold water tank would not have made a very nice feature in the middle of said master suite, so we got the job jobbed pronto!

We went with a guy we know very well, John G, who fitted our last kitchen, and he is always round here teaching us new skills, doing odd jobs, he charges an awesome day rate, and is generally awesome!  And he has a Corgi registered mate who owed him a favour, a magic combination for a super duper new high output boiler for a great price, fitted correctly, with all the legal stuff you need for new boilers!

Cost Breakdown 
Boiler £2570 all in
Rubbish Removal £0 (thanks scrap men who come round door to door) 

Now that's one sexy new boiler!
What a bargain!  Now you all don't have a John G to get you out of a bind, so do your research, there are lots of cowboys out there, I would say get at least 4 quotes and personal recommendations from mates and family before you spend a monster chunk of change! 

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Take a Peek into Our Daily Lives...

Just to change it up a bit, thought I would share some random conversations that have occurred in the last 10 minutes, post the husband rocking up from work, while waiting for the wood burning man to come measure up for the third time (the wood burning saga will be revealed at some stage).  I'm sharing this just so you can get a flavour of what makes us, well us!

Me: We need a nail gun
Matthew: (Blank Stare)
Me: Well not right now, it's for the crown moulding
Matthew: You know what would be easier?  If we didn't put up crown moulding
Me: I know what's easier, when I divorce you and marry someone that will put up crown moulding

....30 seconds later while staring at last years calendar, as we forgot to get a new one this year...

Matthew: It's X and Y's birthday, oh and we have missed your Gradmaaaaaaa (abrupt silence)
Me: You mean my dead Grandma?
Matthew: Yes

Later still...

Matthew: Babe!  Can you come help me?
Me: What's up!
Matthew: The dogs a bit poorly!
Me: Oh, she has been eating grass all day like a goat!
Matthew: Get her wipes
Me: Just stick her bum under the tap...Er! move my toothbrush first though!
Matthew: (To the Dog)  Poor puppy, lets wash your bum bum...go on then have a run about...not on the clean bedding!

And there you have insight into our totally random, rock and roll, awesome lives!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Doggie Proofing!

In more current news, we officially moved out of our bedroom on Sunday 2nd after living in there since the end of January, so as you can imagine we are stoked...How we got there and what took so long is going to take some telling!  Lots of cash, chaos and mess to follow!

So the first thing we did in our new house (by we, I mean Matthew as I flew to India ten days after completing the purchase for an entire month) when we moved in was Chihuahua proof the garden.  With mature privet hedges on the property boundary there were lots of gaps at the base of the hedge which our tiny 1.5 kilo Chihuahua could escape through, and going potty in all weathers while she was on the leash was a major chore.   

When we looked at what we needed, we toyed with the idea of having a small fence the entire length of the garden, we initially costed this up to get in a contractor, and then to DIY it, and quickly sacked both ideas as it would have cost a fortune as our garden has a boundary over 240 ft long.

So we desperately needed a cheaper option so we bought a load of cheap rolls of plastic green garden mesh about 1.5ft in height, some zip ties, and a staple gun.  The plan was to fix this to the hedge using the zip ties and hope over time it blended in, so prior to starting, the hedge was given a severe short back and sides.  Then we (yep, still only Matthew) proceeded to dog proof the the entire boundary of the garden in the November wind, rain and freezing temperatures, shredding the skin off the back of his fingers trying to hook the zip ties back through the mesh....hehehehe, meanwhile I was sitting by a pool in 30 degree heat!   

Mesh x14 packs @ £175
Staple Gun £10
Zip Ties x 2 packs @ £8
Metal stakes in two sizes £5
Scrap bits of MDF from previous owners computer table £Free!
Total £198

Dilapidated Gate with Anti Chi Chi
We later added some extra defences including leftover
mesh and a random lump of granite!
No way through here.....
...or here, damn the human!
Mesh & cable tie madness, post a bit of re-growth! 
Now Summer is here, the mesh looks much better
hidden by the weeds! (note the stylish alfresco furniture)
And the moral of the story is, even though we could have shopped around for the mesh and got it much cheaper than we did from a big box DIY shop, the fact that we can now simply open the back door and fling out the Chihuahua in all weathers is PRICELESS!

So, ever settled for a less than attractive alternative and hoped for the best to save costs? 
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