As our property was originally two flats, the second floor was made up of two damp and dark bedrooms; a living room of sorts; and a kitchen with a bathroom and toilet shoe-horned into the same space. One of the most unpleasant jobs of the entire build was to remove a fridge that looked like it had been in-situ since the early eighties. Unfortunately so did the food that it contained. Until you’ve seen a five year old Finders Pancake moulded into a packet of vintage fish cakes you’ve never lived!
After many months of hard graft, early mornings and late nights we’ve finished the ground floor in the house. The other floors aren’t far behind and I’ll be telling you about those in upcoming blogs but we’re more than happy with what we’ve achieved so far. What was once a near derelict shell is now looking and feeling like a proper house. I’m not going to say home just yet as I think that will come later once we’ve moved in properly.
You can never have too many toilets! It’s an old adage that my grandmother used to say whenever we were staying on a campsite, hotel or simply visiting somewhere that requires public convenience. The roots of this probably come from the fact that she had to share one privy with half a dozen siblings plus her mum and dad when growing up as a child in Cornwall.
We have used a huge variety of different timber on the job so far. In fact from the instance that we stripped the property back to bare walls there seems to have been a never ending stream of wood flowing into the house.
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.
One of the first things that I noticed when we first viewed the house in its pre-purchase state was the generous size of the landing.
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.
Isover technical Helpline is 0115 945 1143. www.isover.co.uk
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.