The most peculiar part of this self build journey so far has been how the overall progress of the project seems to go in fits and spurts. One day you’ll walk onsite and it feels like everything has changed, and then for a week or two it seems to remain frustratingly the same.
The original windows in our property weren’t actually that bad. The main problem was that they were wooden framed, single paned (where glass was still fitted) and in some cases very much in need of some loving care and attention. Read full article »
When we first decided to renovate the house we took the decision to use an architect to draw up plans that showed the property’s layout. We then used him to create drawings that could be used for building control for the loft conversion. What we didn’t do was get electrical and plumbing specifications to show the position of the consumer unit, boiler, switches, fittings, radiators and pipework.
There was a method in our madness here; in as much as we wanted to see what the property looked like completely stripped back to bare walls. It’s only then that you can walk through imaging how you might come out of a room and flick on a light. The same can be said with radiators and towel rails – once installed they take up a great slice of a wall which means nothing can, or shouldn’t anyway, go in front of them. So in an odd kind of way, with the house but an empty shell, we find ourselves already thinking about interior design!
We marked up our layout plans with approximate positions and armed with a spray can, an electrician and a plumber went from
room to room putting a yellow dab for a light switch and light fitting, and red lines for the point where pipework would connect to a radiator.
Then we left it to the professionals to lay their cables and clip in their copper and plastic pipes. It sounds all terribly amateurish and to be honest it was – we did however save a considerable amount of money on architects fees and by going through the procedure in a hands on ‘let’s imagine living here’ kind of way it began the process of turning this drafty renovation into a home.
Whether we curse everytime we leave a room as we scrabble around in the dark looking for a light switch, or grumble that there are too few plug sockets in the utility time will only tell. For now though, at least I’m beginning to picture (ever so slightly) living here.
One of the things that I was most concerned about when putting the house back together again was the issue of insulation. To a certain extent a lot of the choices were taken out my hands when I decided to strip everything back to bare bricks.
This is where Building Regulations go a little awry. After a conversation with Building Control I was told that I could either put back what I’d taken off I.E. Plaster board to brick. Or if I was going to insulate it, I’d have to satisfy their requirements and use certain types of products with certain properties.
So in a nutshell it’s either all or nothing. Where’s the sense in that? I understand that things need to be done properly but surely any extra insulation is better than putting on none at all? It’s a disincentive to improve what was originally there.
However what with rising fuel prices I decided that it had to be done properly. After having a conversation with the technical department at Isover I was given a series of recommendations. Not only on what products to use but how to actually put it up. They were very helpful.
On all the external walls we used 65mm Thermaline – which is basically a plaster board with insulation stuck onto it. It was secured to 3 by 2 battens that were in turn fixed to the brickwork.
I was also very mindful of the fact that our neighbours have three small children and their crying was audible through the party wall. We used Soundbar Plaster board on top of 3 x 2 battens with acoustic insulation between them. It was immediately effective! I also decided to put acoustic insulation between the joists on every floor as my kids have particularly heavy feet.
With the property insulated to an inch of its life I’m actually quite looking forward to the winter this year. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating as they say.
There’s something really quite special about standing in the skeletal shell of a house that is over 100 years old. Its extreme nakedness only exaggerates the feeling of how to put it all back together again. Not only restoring it to its former glory but considering how many environmental boxes need to be ticked along the way. In these days of rocketing fuel prices and ever stringent building controls, sustainability is a key factor in any rebuild.
Not really knowing where to turn I called my branch at Colwick, Nottingham to seek some advice. They directed me to Jewson’s Sustainable Building Guide and e-learning gateway on sustainability. What a find! It’s basically an online training service that focuses on renewable and sustainable products and because it’s accessed through the internet there’s no travelling involved. Even the learning is green.
There’s a vast array of modules, tips and advice on everything from windows to photovoltaic systems to wood protection. There’s a catalogue that covers every aspect of build such as foundations, floors and walls through to insulation, renewables and ventilation.
I spent half a full day immersed in its rich content and emerged with a clear idea of which direction I wanted to continue in. This was bolstered by help from my local branch who were able to make further recommendations on the types of products that I’d seen. It’s a fabulous resource that’s bursting with excellent information.
As I mentioned in my previous post we’re in and we’ve started work. What I didn’t mention before that as soon as we started ripping everything out we had to make our first major decision. To strip or not to strip? That is the question.
Because the house has been empty for such a long time with al fresco ventilation and an assortment of holes in the roof it had become very damp. Wall paper hung (the wrong way), black mould gathered around crumbling plaster and ceilings sagged in the most precarious manner.
After much deliberation and sucking of teeth we decided we would take everything back to bare walls and joists. 100 year old plaster has been hacked away, door frames have been ripped out and window sills removed.
It took about a week and the result has been a combination of dizzy excitement combined with unfathomable alarm. How much plasterboard needs to go back on? What about the insulation? Is it normal to be able to see the inside of the apex of your roof from your hallway?
These and many more questions will be answered in the upcoming weeks of the project. Watch this space. All will be revealed. Or covered up as the case may be!
Gary is surprised at how many Jewson people he has already spoken to without spending any money.
We’re advancing at a rate of knots on our Self Build journey. After much searching we bought the property and have started the somewhat scary yet strangely exhilarating process of knocking it to bits. Walls are out, chimneys are down, plaster is off, floorboards are gone and what once looked like a house has been stripped back to its Edwardian skeletal frame.
However, my initial anticipation is slowly being replaced by a feeling of confidence that we can get this done. And get it done on time and to budget. The Jewson Self Build Team have been magnificent. Like a well oiled machine they’ve rumbled into life with help, advice and access to our very own trade account.
In fact we must have been in touch with at least a dozen people from Jewson who have helped in playing a role in getting us to where we are now. We now have our very own Jewson branch where we can get technical advice on every aspect of the build; a set of CAD drawings showing us how our kitchens and bathrooms will look and access to all of the materials that we need to turn our dream into reality.
In fact the only thing that we haven’t done yet is to spend any money with Jewson. Now that’s what I call service.
We’ve at last got a space where our kitchen is going to be. The builders have stripped all the plaster of the walls, taken out a chimney breast and knocked a great big hole into the dining room. It’s already hard to imagine that there was once a mouldy bath in one corner and a rotten sink under the window in this room.
I met Glen and Nottingham Colwick branch manager, Sarah Miles at the house today. They came down to measure up the kitchen and take a look around. It was so nice to get a female viewpoint on what needs doing – looking beyond the dust and grime – and making really helpful suggestions.
They suggested moving the downstairs loo into what was going to be a cupboard at the front of the house. Glen recommended a corner toilet and basin. Gary was concerned about it being a tight squeeze but was quickly challenged with the question from the three of us.
“How much time were you planning on spending in there?”
He didn’t have an answer to that one especially as there will be two other toilets in the house. The main point is that it’s freed up a space off the kitchen for a utility room where the washing machine and tumble dryer will go. That means more room for cupboards and drawers in the kitchen. An excellent solution and one of which I’m very pleased.
Glen and Sarah went away with a pad full of measurements. My next step is to go to the local kitchens branch and sit down with Glen at his computer whilst he designs the kitchen. I’m very much looking forward to that.
So far all we’ve done is a spot of wallpaper stripping, knocking some cupboards out, clearing up all the mess and rubbish on the floors and getting rid of a fridge that I’m sure was a health hazard.
Good news is some workmen turned up today and really started to rip stuff out! They attacked the ceiling in the downstairs bathroom / kitchen, the plaster on the walls and ripped out the unusable bath and toilet and chucked them in the skip. So the inside of the house now looks and feels like it is beginning its transformation. Although, to be honest, it’s still hard to imagine the final vision. It’s such a long way off and there’s still so much to do!
We popped over to the Nottingham Colwick Jewson showroom and had a look at some of the kitchens and bathrooms in the flesh. I’ve been pouring over the catalogues but it’s more helpful to see stuff up close.
We met Glen Corden, who is going to measure up the kitchen and assist in planning it. He was very helpful, gave me lots of ideas and I feel more confident now as I have him to speak to about the design (and not just Gary!) I’m getting mostly excited about storage cupboards and which work surface to have.
I’ve also been marvelling at how much money you can spend on showers, taps and enclosures and wishing that we had unlimited funds for stunning suites and fittings. But we haven’t. So it has to be a compromise of price and a good looking finish. I think this is achievable with what I’ve seen.
I’m also having considerations of if we do rent the rent house in the future we need to choose a style that appeals to many people that will also be durable. And the cleaning implications of certain items, for example mosaic as opposed to bigger tiles. This does not occur to my other half in the slightest.
So now I’m really looking forward to meeting Glen at the house next week and designing the kitchen. Gary is focussed on rotten joists and rising damp – I’m more focussed on whether we get a Belfast sink or not.