Friday, 27 September 2013

Meet Norman!

He lives in the Dyson!

Cutting my hair out of the spinny vacuum brush thingy is the husband's favourite household task...I know he loves it so I never do it...why argue and deny the love of my life this experience!  His second favourite task is removing Norman's brother Neville from the plug hole.  He's there now waiting for you...And your welcome!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Nobody Likes a Damp Patch: Drain Maintenance

This was done way back at the start of year, when it was still freezing.  We had had the damp  proof course completed already, the trench was dug and the floor and walls were stripped allowing them to dry out.  But the war on water ingress was not over, and actually, if you own a house, it's never over!  Remember here when I told you all what to look out for?  Constant vigilance is what is needed!

We desperately needed to tackle the blocked drain and the broken down pipe at the front of the house...if we hadn't we would have wasted all that money getting in the professionals to inject the walls, for water to still get over the damp solution.  As DIY goes, this is a cheap as chips quick fix, where it really isn't if you need to call in the professionals.  I reckon, getting someone in to unblock a non poo drain and fix a new down pipe would cost you around £400.

We Needed the Following
Drainpipe, 2.5m £7.99
Elbow Joint £0.98
Pipe Socket £2.29
Hopper £13.49
Roof & Gutter Sealant £4.98
Pipe Clips £1.19 each, we needed two so £2.38
Drain Rods £Free borrowed from our neighbour, to buy they are about £20

Plus some normal DIY / Garden kit: Rubber Gloves, Tape Measure, Hosepipe, Hacksaw, Cartridge / Caulk Gun, Drill, Masonry Bit, Prise Bar, Rawl Plugs, & Screws

Total: £32.11

Now we were doing a temporary patch up job to see us through, eventually, we will dig up the entire drain run and re-set it into the mains, so we would need more pipes and something like this to bury.

So, on to the the task in hand, it was dead easy, here's what we did!

Step One
He removed the old damaged down pipe and the hopper...I have kept the hopper as it's the original cast iron one, it may be reborn as a planter, we'll see!

Step Two
He shoved his entire arm in the pipe to dig out the big bits of rubbish, crisp bags, gravel, soil, silt roots etc.  Then he got the rods shoved down there for good measure.

Step Three
Then he flashed his arse crack at all and sundry, and then complained when I took a picture for the internet.

Say yes to crack!

Step Four
He shoved the hose down the pipe and turned it on full pelt...This was my part, I was the official tap turner on and off'er.

Step Five
Then my part again, to inspect the flow of water, lucky me.  Once we prised off the manhole cover, I got to stand over the very deep drain to keep a look out for water passing through from the down pipe...luckily there were no solids as sewage runs along the bottom of the drain.

Step Six
We repeated step two, three, four, and five until we did see water flowing.  Holler like a loon when the water eventually starts coming through...that part was me!

Step Seven
Then the husband attached the new hopper to the wall, then measured the down pipe, cut, and glued with the sealant in the joins, attached the elbow to get the water into the pipe in the ground leading to the drain, he sealed that as well...finally he kept everything in place with the clips.  

Tah-Dah, all in all, it really was a fun way to spend a morning....

Monday, 23 September 2013

Gang Plank Style!

Post my return in early June from a work trip to India, this gang plank was the route to the only bathroom in the was put in especially for my return as I was crippled, prior to this Matthew just had to hop from joist to joist like a gibbon!

Shiver me timbers!
This is what happens when you live in a renovation project, there are sacrifices that nobody tells you about, and you only realise after it's to late, and you are committed to years of no holidays, or fancy meals out, like you were used to in your previous existence in your lovely affordable old flat.  The house you have bought eats money, and then comes back for seconds, and then dessert.  

Your life becomes a perpetual camping trip come assault course, where no matter how hard you try you can never find any socks, or anything else you need for that matter.  Was this really what you signed up for?  

You now wonder all the time why you have done this to yourself, why you have been swayed by the plethora of house porn in the likes of Houzz, and Young House Love, and why you idolise Kirsty Allsopp for making renovation look so civilised and fun, and that it can be done with 20p, a glue gun, and some staples...You realise now for realsies you wildly misjudged the situation, not like here, where you suspected as much, said the same same things but with a sense of fun and adventure...your husband becomes a pent up ball of stress and anger, and your oven door may or may not be in a gazillion pieces as it may have bore the brunt of the festering frustration, and it's an unspoken truth that this house was my idea and therefore this nightmare is all my fault...Nobody says that part out loud, but it simmers under the surface.  

But that was then, in the time that resulted in emergency surgery and months in bed with no sign of recovery, where he had to do it alone.  And this is now...I'm involved again, we are a team and it has started to come together, you can muster enough joie de vivre to rock out a post paying homage to Psy, and you know the fun bits are just around the corner!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Floor Planner is the Shizz!

I spent almost all of last Sunday playing with Floor Planner.  Verdict?  It's amazeballs!  

It all started when we got some sketches through from our architect, he provided three to review along with some choice house porn so we could provide feedback on what we did and didn't like (more on my proclivities here).  Hubby and I decided we liked a bit of all three, but as we in the preliminary stages, and the work is well over a year away (cross fingers) he is not due to come visit us for a little while.  So I thought my best bet was to attempt a drawing, after all pictures speak louder than words.  I got a ruler and started a rough sketch with a stolen Ikea pencil, then I wasted another twenty minutes tromping around the house looking for a black pen so it would show up better on a dice, red was all I could find...This was what I ended up with...

Crap!  The hubby is correct, I do indeed have
spacial awareness issues

I totally realised it was way too short, fat and odd looking to actually be a representation of our house, but I sent it in any case along with an apology and some pithy critique of the house porn.  I pottered about a bit helping Matthew with some concreting (well I watched and prodded things with a stick), and then I went and bought some tiles, and then I got to thinking about the drawings I had seen on some rather talented people's blogs.  I had dismissed them in the past as it looked complicated, computery and needed a person with an awesome attention span (the opposite of me on both counts) but now my need was great due the embarrassment of the above so off I went with the instructional video, half watching, half faffing about with other things (there's that attention span thing again).  

Mmmmm, could I do this?  Apparently no I couldn't, so I watched the video again, this time paying attention, it's only six minutes after all.  And then I could, as ten minutes later I had rooms.  Then I sized the rooms, added a to scale sofa complete with an almost to scale Chihuahua (lol!), any smaller and it just looked like a stain on the couch, and then I fiddled some more and it went weird, but then I fixed it, and then it was midnight and I had been at it for hours.

Check these house is in my computer, and did I mention you can do 3D renderings, I did and I saw mini me and the husband through the windows...Freaky!

Floor Planner
Current Ground Floor: What it will look like when the bedroom is not in the dining room, and when the custom built ins we ordered are not 18 miles away in a workshop as said bed is in the way of them being fitted.  Oh, and I almost forgot, regretfully, Floor Planner do not offer the option to add the slugs and woodlice in the bathroom to make it extra authentic.  

Floor Plan First Floor

First Floor: Realistic, except the bath is in the small bedroom where the bed should be, full of stuff, the sink is in the master upside down, and the upstairs contents is of course downstairs.

Ground Floor: Then I did one for the architect showing how we want it to be, better all around don't you think!

Floor Plan Attic / Loft with Dorma

Loft Room:  Then I got carried away, as we are making a bedroom a bathroom, we always planned a new ensuite master, spiders and squirrels live we need to serve them notice in about 5 years time.

So that's that, how did you spend your Sunday?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

It's Electrifying!

As mentioned last week, we have hit quite a few house renovation milestones recently, a biggy being the completion of the rewire of the main part of the house, along with everything else it was delayed due to my surgery.  

The post title is a little homage to my husbands nephew who is in Grease at the end of the month with the Reading Operatic Society, so hopefully we can make one of the performances to support him, and you know I love a song title pun...Plus I have chills, which are indeed multiplying; now the weather has turned we really must get some radiators plumbed in...anyway, I digress.    

When we moved in, the house was a total death trap, there were old circuits from the 60s, no earth, plugs and lights on the same circuit, exposed wiring outside in all elements, and no RCD protection....You know just how much trouble you are in when your sparky tells you categorically to turn off the sockets before you leave the house...and to remove the socket splitter immediately, so you miss recording your fave programmes on the TiVo as the house will burn down...eek!

It was a long old process as we were living in the house while it was being done, and it could only be livened up once the plastering was completed.  All in all, it took over 6 months start to finish, little bits here and there to fit in with other trades, my op recuperation and the electricians availability, too long really but never mind we got there in the end.  We saved a few pennies by channelling in some of the new boxes and new wiring positions, but it still was quite a few beans to get up to modern standards. 

The first job we had done in February was a new RCD fuse box, this ensures we were not electrocuted if we touched anything, because you weren't sure before if you would live or die drying your hair, out with old 4 gang Bakelite box and in with a 16 gang modern box...

Next job was running all the wires for all of the new circuits, this is disruptive as every room is affected, it was here we realised the entire house was going to need to be plastered, we thought we could get away with the downstairs, but nope not this money pit.  As soon as the SDS drill or chisel touched the plaster to channel a neat groove, the whole wall basically fell off in a huge chunk.

Living with wires (they were dead) hanging out everywhere was a pain in the bum, and it was here we had to wave goodbye to the only original feature left in the house...the hallway wasn't in great shape, and the corbels and arch had gone long ago, like this here but not so grand to make way for the steel to support the arch between the living and dining rooms...perhaps we'll put them back someday.

Paper shades when we first moved in,
made it a bit more homely

We did the usual and got a couple of quotes, one from a big firm, and one from the electrician our neighbours had used as they were happy with the guy...the guy trading on his own came out cheaper by well over £2000, and that was with a hefty 25% discount from the big firm as my dad works for the one man band had come with a recommendation, we skipped getting more quotes and took the seemed like a no brainer.

Now the guy we went with did an average job overall, but there were some snags.  Firstly he was a very messy worker, which in our house that was a bomb site, may seem irrelevant, but it annoyed me A LOT, this might be the "losing control" part...he left bits of snipped wire all over the place, which of course I had to wrestle out of the mutt's mouth, cable clips with nails, same!  Also, he was guilty of quite a common tradesman foible...not getting the dirty work all done in one room all at once, as he went off to another job, we thought he was done, so we cleaned our only liveable room after his visit, changed the bedding and dusted and vacuumed for hours, he came back and made more mess the next day, and walked all over the clean bedding with filthy boots...I made Matthew be there for his next visit.  Now I am not unreasonable, you can stand on my bed, but at least take your shoes off.  Anyway there were a few other things too, some stuff Matthew had to straighten and attach properly, and so on, and a wonky fitting cut into our in our brand new bathroom ceiling **smacks forehead**.  

Some of it I know I am being a crazed perfectionist.  Overall though, it still was bloody great value for money, and now we are safe as houses with a certificate to prove it.  I did become more vocal towards the end, but; and this is probably a mistake, I did not have it all out at the time of each incident, well we live and learn. 

Cost of Work

New RCD Box Supply & Fitting £420
Remainder of Re-wire £2011.51, paid in instalments as the work was completed

Living Room Light Fittings £250
Bathroom Spotlights £170
Bathroom Sconces £24 for two...Bargain from Ikea
Outside Storm Porch Light £32
Heat & Smoke Detectors £60 approx.
Fancypants Switch Boxes £323.14
Other sundries, basic ceiling roses, white switches and switch boxes £50 approx.

Total so far: £3290.65

Now, this value will increase a little as we are still missing some fancy switch boxes for some sockets, plus we have 4 light fittings to get at some stage for the hallway and landing, and one for the guest bed / office room, we already have one from our old place for the master bedroom.  Plus the kitchen and the back of the property needs to be fully re-designed and fitted out too, but thats for next year when we tackle that beast...Hahaha, almost forgot, the bathroom lighting was spliced into the only one lighting circuit, which had to be disconnected for safety, so we have a battery operated LED wardrobe light for now...that was another £10.  Holy's the other bits and bobs where this bad boy starts to mount up.  Crazy!

Now, I am keeping quiet about the light fittings, we got some great bargains, so you will see them when we start to reveal decorated rooms, so check back soon!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Guilty Pleasure, Vintage Treasure!

Disclaimer:  You will notice my pictures are poo, that's because I want the nice pictures to be shown when we have finished rooms, with my bits and bobs in situ looking all awesome...for now I'm keeping it real, this is how they look right now, covered in plaster dust!

I have lots to tell you about where we are today in the house of horrors, things are progressing quite nicely, but it is depressing contemplating how much money we have spent simply making good, so, I am taking a break for a lighter more enjoyable subject.  

It's SHOPPING, with a bit of free booty thrown in!!!!

I have scored some great loot for the house, that I have been squirrelling away for when we had a house that was less Mr Trebus, bless his soul, and more Elle Decoration (well one can dream).

We caught the vintage / antiquing bug back on the August bank holiday 2012, way before we moved into the house, we had our offer accepted, and the solicitors were doing their thing.  We were visiting my Grandparents in the North East of England, and took a lovely day trip to Barnard Castle, which is full of lovely antique shops, we had been before, but had always been too scared to buy anything.  We came home with a very rusty bread bin which I loved (my Grandma thought I was mental), and Matthew picked out an old altimeter from a plane.  The bread bin is below, but the altimeter is somewhere in the loft, but it will make its way into the house sooner or later.

Vintage Bread Bin, Vintage Kitchenalia

My Grandma also gave us a mid-century G-Plan coffee table, which our decor scheme will be based on as I love it so much, three vases; two wooden and one pink, some Christmas mugs and a bloody heavy mirror that she no longer needed.  

Vintage G-Plan Coffee Table, Mid Century Modern Coffee Table,
Coffee table, brother in law & house prior
to starting work
Photo bomb!

My Grandma is awesome by the way, she has made a living from antiques and vintage since before I was born, way before vintage was cool.  She still dabbles today, and has a slight addiction to the most amazing antique china.

So, bug officially caught, we went to our very first antiques fayre on June 24th, if you remember it was the straw that broke the camel's my back, as I was in surgery five days later.  It was held at Newbury racecourse, the details are here, and now that I am less crippled, I hope to go to the next one in October.  I have a mission to accomplish, to get the 'one' that got away...there were these amazeballs old oyster baskets, the hubby was being a spoil sport and not seeing the awesomeness of them...they could be sprayed yellow, or navy, or red, or left au naturelle, they could hold towels in the bathroom, logs on the fireplace, etc., etc., like these here!  Long story short, I am never listening to him again, ever (and he has never accompanied me on a hunting mission since)!

I scored the two larger mirrors for £40 instead of £50 as I bought two, and an additional mirror and an Eames / Eames-esque?!?! mid-century magazine rack for £30, instead of £40...If you get things together you can usually do a deal if you're are a little cheeky while still being gracious and polite. 

Vintage Eames, Eames Style Magazine Rack, Eames Style Magazine Rack Mid Century Atomic Magazine Rack
I swear this was not staged, I have a major house
porn addiction
Vintage Mirrors, 60s 70s Vintage Mirrors, Mid Century Mirrors
Mirror, mirror..errr, on the floor!
And that's that, more finds to follow...Make sure you check back soon to see where these pieces find themselves.  Any scores you have made recently free or otherwise?

Friday, 13 September 2013

Plastered, Part Two

So as we left it last time in blogsville, the downstairs was done, and it quickly became our new abode sometime in early June, we moved so we could get ready stripping out the upstairs, lots more plaster dust and mess ensued and it was hideous, the worst job of the whole project so far is the mess and dust from the stripping out 110+ year old horsehair plaster.  Yuck!   

First order of business was sorting out the upstairs bathroom, the ceiling was completely removed as it needed to be insulated, then boarded out, this work commenced while I was in India and Matthew and the dog were still living upstairs.

I wish my husband was this wait
he is!
All removed
The job was finished while I was laid up in bed being generally crippled...Matthew was not too keen on the Celotex as it gave him dermatitis on his hands and it was really messy to saw into shape.

Next, upon investigation, the stud wall between the small bedroom and the landing which was modern plasterboard, which had not been skimmed, or attached correctly, then to add insult to injury they had wall papered straight over the paper covered gypsum, so there was no way of removing the paper ready for plastering so it all had to be removed from both sides...we took the opportunity to remove the lathe that had been hidden by the modern boards, straighten a wonky door liner, and pack in some noggins in the frame as it was all a bit wobbly, finally we attached some switch boxes to both sides ready to be wired in, blogger fail though as forgot to capture this part on camera.  The plasterers then boarded over in record time, and as the wall is now skinnier without the lath, we have gained a tiny bit of space on the landing and in the bedroom, almost an inch either side!  
Ready for the skim of plaster!
Regarding the costings, I already accounted for £200 here when I covered the damp proofing, but they stack up as follows:

Cost of Work

3 x New Lintels £624 
Supplies, plaster board & labour for downstairs £597
Plastering Living / Dining Room (less £200), £720
Insulation and wood for battening out bathroom £155.89
Bathroom plastering £650
Bedrooms boarding out and plastering £1500
Hallway plastering £700
Rubbish removal, approx 3 skips £500

Total: £5446.89

Holy **!@$%&**&^£$!!!  All that money to basically just get a house with walls and ceilings, seems insane!

Here are some of the process and some of the finished walls, they are as smooth as a babies bottom, and now just need some paint....soooooo excited I can hardly wait to move back upstairs and have a bedroom like a normal person.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


No, not like that right now, although this renovation and all of its issues has required the hubby and I to consume mucho amounts of vino to remain sane.

What I am taking about is that we have hit quite a few milestones recently, one of which is the completion of the full re-plaster of the main part of the house.  The kitchen area and existing bathroom off the back of the house is another project for another year.  Unsurprisingly, along with everything else it has all been delayed due to my back surgery.  

Let me start off by saying we really landed on our feet with our plasterer John, and his buddy  Steve...he was recommended to us via another of our trades.  He moved all his workload when I had my operation, took on more work as we became unable to do it, worked weekends to get it all done on time, the workmanship was excellent, so all in all awesome.  If you are local to me, then have a look here, he gets my vote definitely, check him out here.  

So totting up the making good and final works to get where we are today, we started in the living and dining room by having new lintels put in each of the chimneys and in the door over the kitchen, this was done way back in early May, this work was done by S.B. Renovations Ltd, based in Reading, I would definitely recommend them too, they were great, worked very tidily, dug out fireplace rubble which was work not quoted for, and took away all the rubble to use on other jobs, so we really couldn't ask for more.

The ceilings needed to boarded out too, most of which was done while I was in India, we had taken them down as we needed to wire up there, they were wood chip covered too (ick!!), and the light fittings were all cock eyed, so down they came, along with a 100+ years of crap, and dust...Awesome!

It turns out, wood chip hides a multitude of sins, and the joists in the ceiling were totally shot, so all had to be packed out to be levelled, before being boarded out, we lost some ceiling height, but it could not be helped...the living room became the money pit...hence why we stayed upstairs for so long.

Finally, the downstairs was all plastered, and once all the above was done, and the floor was mostly rebuilt (more on how to do that coming soon) this is when we stopped squatting in the master bedroom, and started squatting downstairs...and as the pictures I have shared already show, squatting is a polite way to phrase it.

After all of the time lapsed since May when this was done, the final phase got underway, which was the three bedrooms, and then the hallway and landing, this was done over two weeks and they finally finished Tuesday last week.  To get that far took an enormous amount of prep as we can cover this off next time...Laters!

Friday, 6 September 2013

What the.....!

At the start of May, before I dashed off to India again, we decided as the sun was shining, it was time to do some garden chores, the first since we dog proofed the garden way back last year.  We had a stationary laundry line which I hated, and as one of the first things we bought for the house when we moved in was a rotary dryer (we installed it totally wonky, but never mind, still does the job!), we decided to get rid of the two poles, along with a rotten raised bed made out of decking.  

What we thought was going to be a couple of hours work, soon turned into a such, we have left the other one for later.  It was about 4 ft deep and had so much concrete down there you would have thought they were hanging out elephants to dry.....

We'll get round the other one at some stage, but the inside of the house is a disaster zone, so that takes priority right now!  And the above concrete lump and pole is where we left it at the end of May....Oops!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

M.I.A Extended Edition...

So, since my last post explaining why I had been M.I.A. as we were giving up the evil weed (F.Y.I. still clean and it's been almost 3 months now) and busying with moving downstairs and prepping the upstairs for the plasterers and the new bathroom which was due to commence work on 1st July, I actually ended up in hospital having emergency back surgery.  

Long story short, both the plastering and the new bathroom had to be put on loads of thanks to both of the John G's for being so understanding and rearranging their work load for us. 

As I mentioned I went to an antiques fayre way back on the 24th June, (more on that to follow) but then I literally couldn't walk...I had been having physiotherapy for months and it was not really fixing me properly, so I had already arranged to visit a spinal consultant on the 26th June, as it was so severe and they were concerned about permanent damage they rushed me straight in on the 27th for a MRI, 28th for a follow up, and 29th June in for the operation, they chopped out a great big chunk of disc from L5 / S1 and sent me on my way the next day...Magic!  In case anyone is local to Reading, the Spire Hospit
al is fantastic, I literally couldn’t praise them enough, great nurses, great rooms, and great service.  Not sure how I would have fared in the old NHS...I never plan to find out.

On and off, I have been pretty much crippled ever since (and for much of it, off my face on pretty awesome pain killers) so have been at home on sick leave.  I should have been up and running a good few weeks ago, but I overdid it, and literally ended up bedridden for 4 weeks, luckily, it was only irritated and not a full relapse.  

Surgery wound just after

Surgery wound more recently

So, for the duration, no blogging for me, as I couldn’t sit in a typing position at all.  I thought I would see how it goes today as I am actually due back at work this coming Monday, I was really up and about over the last two weeks until I caught a bug and was sneezing my head off over the weekend which has irritated my back again, so am pretty uncomfortable again, but I am hoping I should with some rest and light duties, recover in time to get back to work.

Being at home for so long has been DULL with a capital D, without Netflix and the tiny mutt for company, I am really not sure how my mental health would be.

As for living arrangements, think Willy Wonka with the grandparents in the kitchen!!  That’s been us...along with the dog, and all our worldly possessions dust and chaos for the duration of my recuperation.  


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