New Years Resolution…

Anyone doing a house renovation will have experienced those little niggling jobs, those little jobs that you just keep putting off.

For every room that you declare as ‘finished’ there is always something that is not quite perfect, not quite complete. But in your mind you have already skipped happily onto the next project, relieved to have ticked another room off your list.

Housenumber59 had a few such jobs.

Bathroom

David, very skilfully, made two cupboards in the bathroom, one to house the boiler and another to keep all our bathroom stuff in – towels, spare toothpaste etc.

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In order to make the doors for the bathroom cupboards David wanted a router, an expensive tool that we could not justifying buying. So the cupboards stayed doorless for a while, until I had enough and paid a carpenter to make them for us. Then they remained unpainted, for a really long time.

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We could not end 2014 with the bathroom still not officially finished. So one weekend, I got the paintbrushes out. There is something psychologically difficult about having to do work on a room you have already declared complete – something about taking a step back. But once I got started it was fine. Almost therapeutic.

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We decided to only have doors on the boiler cupboard and not on the bathroom cupboard. We pretty much dip in and out of it whenever we are in the bathroom and the doors just would have been open all the time. Although having everything on show does mean we have to keep it tidy!

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Bedrooms

We also had quite a bit of ‘touching up’ to do in both bedrooms. Again a job we had been putting off for ages, but we wanted to start the year by ticking them off our to-do list.

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Before

When the old windows leaked it was typical that it was the guest bedroom, which we had just painted, that suffered the most. Since replacing the windows we no longer have any leaks but were left with water stains on the wall. In order to paint over the water stains we first had to use a special blocking primer and then paint over that with Polished Pebble.

In the master bedroom we had a few water stains on the ceiling from where the roof leaked (said though gritted teeth). Again we used the blocking primer first, followed by Brilliant White emulsion.

The final job was to fill and paint a small patch under the bay window in the master bedroom. When we had the windows replaced the fitters did such an amazing job of protecting the rooms we had already decorated. Fortunately this was the only casualty and it was nothing a bit of polyfilla and paint could not fix.

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After

It was great to get these little niggling jobs complete and off our to-do list.

*Smug sigh of relief*

C x

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Kitchen diner – painting and the wooden floor…

In the space of a couple of weeks, the kitchen diner has gone from a dusty building sight to a decorated room.

We decided to paint the walls and ceiling before we installed the kitchen. I am not sure if this is the best way round to do it, but we figured if worse comes to worse we can always touch up (repaint) the walls after the kitchen is fitted.

We wanted a light, neutral colour and definitely no yellow. 10 tester pots later we went for ‘Star Crossed’, a Dulux trade paint. For the ceiling and cornice we went for classic Brilliant White. I must say I love Dulux paint, it goes on so well and gives a really good finish.

Like always when I paint a room, it takes me a while to decide if I like the colour or not. ‘Star Crossed’ is soft grey, in certain lights it has a very slight hint of mauve which I was not sure about at first, but once the wooden floor was installed it all seemed to work together quite nicely.

I had a clear picture in mind of the type of floor I would like for the kitchen diner and luckily, like most things, David was on the same page. We wanted a natural looking oak floor that has wide boards and long lengths. I was adamant that the boards should not be shiny, turns out the look I was after was an ‘oiled’ rather than ‘lacquered’ oak.

We went for an engineered oak, rather than solid wood. As we have a concrete floor, rather than a suspended floor, engineered oak is much better suited and less likely to warp. But we did go for the thickest engineered board we could afford to help give that solid, warm feeling.

We looked at so many places to buy the floor from, but in the end we went to a local, independent store. We probably could have got it cheaper online but we liked the fact that we knew exactly what we were buying and felt that supporting our local trades was important.

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David pondered whether to install the floor himself. It is not that difficult, just like a giant jigsaw puzzle, but the temptation to get a professional in was too great. It was not that expensive, although after paying the builders I think our definition of expensive has been somewhat warped, the guy did a great job and only took him two days.

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We are thrilled that it is all starting to come together. The only thing left to do now is choose and fit the kitchen!

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C x

Kitchen diner – the cornice…

Next on our list of things to do was to choose the cornice and the ceiling rose for the single pendant above the dining area.

The kitchen diner was just a blank box and we want to put some Victorian charm back in. Restoring original features has always been an important part of this project and I really want the kitchen diner to have a balance of new and old. Therefore we chose quite a traditional cornice to offset the contemporary bi-folding doors.

We went straight to our pals Earl and Elvis, who made and installed the cornice in the master and spare bed rooms. Earl has a great eye for what cornice and ceiling rose works best in the space, and I love that he uses the same, traditional methods that would have been used when housenumber59 was first built.

Elvis, who installs the cornice, is such a perfectionist and it is so refreshing to see someone who takes such pride in their work.

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We are thrilled with the outcome – it has added a real twinkle of something special to the room.

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Unfortunately we had a slight disagreement with Earl over price – cornicing maybe his forte, but maths is not. Hopefully we have not scuppered our relationship as we have a few more jobs for them yet!

C x

Kitchen diner – the builders, a few lessons learnt…

With the builders all done and dusted David and I had time to reflect on the whole process, what went well and what we might have done differently.

Here are our few lessons learnt:

1. Do your research.

Do not choose a builder because they are cheap or can start straight away. Do not choose a builder because a friend of a friend, of a friend recommended them, although recommendations are a good place to start. Do your research, make sure you get a minimum of three quotes and choose your builder because you feel comfortable with them. You are trusting them with your home and your money, so take the time to choose wisely. You can read more about how we chose our builders here.

2. Get a detailed schedule of works with a clear breakdown of the costs.

This was one of the things that made our builders stand out from the rest when they originally quoted for the work. Their schedule of works was so detailed, every aspect of the job broken down into separate components. It was so clear and we knew exactly what we were getting. Having this document was invaluable and we used it as a tick list throughout the works.

Each component was separately priced so we knew exactly how the final costs were calculated and it was easy to adjust to fit our budget. We had a clear payment schedule and did not have to start paying until the works were fully underway. Most good builders do not ask for payment upfront, I would be very dubious of paying for any work that not been completed.

3. Have regular on sight meetings with your builders/project manager.

David and I both work full time and normally had left for work by the time the builders arrived in the morning, and got home after they had left in the evening. We were ships passing the night and by week two decisions started be made without us.

For example, we have plans for a high spec exactor fan but the builders installed low spec ducting. We quickly realised that we needed to have regular on sight meetings, even if it was just once a week to make sure we were being kept in the loop.

Annoyingly our project manager tried to convince us that the ducting they had installed was fine, luckily David had done his research and stuck to his guns. After replacing it three times they finally got it right, at no extra cost to us. Which leads me nicely to my next point…

4. Never assume.

Never assume that your builders know best and never assume that you are on the same page. Do your research so you can talk knowledgeably about what is going on and do not be afraid to question what they are doing.

We wrongly assumed they knew what ducting to use and maybe if we had been clearer in the first place it would have saved them having to redo it, twice.

5. Find out upfront if they going to subcontract any of the work.

Our builders subcontracted the plastering and unfortunately he did a poor job. When we hired our builders we did so because we liked them and thought they would do a good job, but we had never met the plasterer and had no idea if he was any good or not. In hindsight we should have requested that if they were going to subcontract the plastering anyway, they use our plasterer, as we know he would have done a good job.

In the grand scheme of things, it is not that bad, but it would have saved us a lot of sanding and filling!

6. Make sure you are in control of building control.

Although our builders did liaise with building control, we did not leave it entirely in their hands. We made sure that we were up to date on what was going on and that the necessary checks were being done. After all it was in our interest to make sure all the certificates were issued.

7. Relax!

Things will go wrong, there will be extra costs and it will take longer than you think. Your house will be messy, dusty, dirty and nothing short of chaotic but if you worry about every little thing you will go mad, so try to relax, go with the flow and know that it will all be all in the end.

On the whole we were very lucky with our builders, it is always a risk paying to have work done in your home and you do hear some terrible horror stories. So we are pretty pleased with the outcome and are looking forward to starting the next phase of the project.

C x

Kitchen diner – the builders week 8…

The last job on the builders list of things to do, was to patch up the pebble dashing on the outside of the house. The two main areas that needed doing were around the bi-folding doors, and where the old back door had been bricked in.

Unfortunately the builders decided to sub-contract this job to the same plasterer who did the kitchen diner. After pebble dashing the old back door, it was clear he was no better at pebble dashing than he was plastering. Our builders agreed that it was a poor effort and that they would remove it and start again.

This time they did it themselves and did a much better job. Why they didn’t just do it in the first place, I don’t know?

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We have just started to get quotes for painting the back of house. Hopefully once it is given a fresh lick of white paint it will all blend in nicely!

With the builders all finished, it was now over to us to complete our project.

Next on our list of things to do:

1. Choose and fit the cornice
2. Paint the walls and ceiling
3. Choose and fit the wooden floor

C x

Kitchen diner – the builders week 7…

I can hardly contain my delight. Child on Christmas morning, all my birthdays rolled into one, complete and utter excitement. We have bi-folding doors!

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Two years after moving into housenumber59, nearly to the day, the bi-folding doors were fitted.

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Two years of dreaming, planning and saving.

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Happy anniversary housenumber59…

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C x

Kitchen diner – the builders week 6…

This week the focus moved back to the garden. The retaining walls were rendered and the patio stones were laid.

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Finally, the whole patio was grouted and a step constructed, linking the patio and lawn.

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We have grand plans for the garden, but I’ll explain more about that another time…

Whilst the builders worked outside we thought it was a good time to get our lovely window company back to finish off the windows in the kitchen diner.

When they fitted all the windows back in April, we agreed that they would just fit the windows in the kitchen diner, then once all the building work was finished, they would come back to fit the architrave.

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It was great to get this finished – it felt like ticking a big thing off our to-do list.

C x