Saturday, 28 November 2009

Laying Insulation: Unpleasant Occupation.

I've made boxes out of old plasterboard to cover and protect the downlighters for the bedrooms below and put down the first bag of new insulation over the top of the old. That makes it about 300mm thick. I would rather have been Henry the Eighth's Royal Stool Inspector than have this as a regular job.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Off the Floor

Yesterday I built more staging out of salvaged wood to get things off the floor so that we can put down more insulation, and took a ton of empty boxes to the recycling centre....

....and this morning I made a narrow insulated walkway to the southern end of the house. I thought I'd be up in the loft for a couple of days, but its looking like more than a week...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


There's no point spending a fortune on insulating walls if the loft isn't done properly, which you'll be amazed to learn, it isn't. That's partly because of all the rubbish we've chucked up there which is compressing much of the insulation, and partly because there wasn't enough insulation in the first place.

What to do? Build staging and get all the boxes and stuff off the floor so that we can put down more insulation. You can't have too much insulation, you know. There you go, I said the other day there might be some more words of wisdom soon.

All of the materials used have been salvaged from other parts of the house and reused. Never chuck out old bits of wood!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Tank Battle

Had to knock off a few more courses of bricks off the chimney breast for the much larger tank to fit, and chop out one of the uprights holding the roof up. There was another nearby so the roof didn't fall down.

Here the strong wooden base is in position on the chimney breast leveled with some old slates.

A lot of huffing and puffing and rejigging all the plumbing we only did about a week ago, and the new tank is in position and filled with water.

Mystifyingly, this did not make any discernable difference to the pressure on the hot water system. The shower has improved though. The rest of the plumbing needs to be looked at carefully as something isn't right. Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Plan B

In fact this is probably Plan C or D. Remember a few days ago I mentioned we had inadequate pressure on our hot water system? (Check back to Tuesday 10 Nov). We tried moving the header tank in the attic to a loftier position. The effect was minimal.

This should make a difference. Upgrading from a 40 gallon tank to a 100 gallon tank.

It went through the loft hatch. I had a Plan B for that too, which involved making a big hole in the bedroom ceiling. I was pleased it went through the hatch. Just. Shame there was nobody about to either witness or record the miracle I performed in achieving this feat.

That was yesterday. Today I made a base for it to stand on atop the old chimney breast. Two old door jams salvaged from the studio renovation, and some chopped up shelves the school was chucking out. Reckon that saved me thirty quid, so never chuck away old bits of wood. More words of wisdom soon. Maybe.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Happy Very Belated Halloween

I just downloaded this pic from the camera. Arne grew the pumpkin from a seed, and carved it himself. A fabulous effort I'm sure you'll agree.

Monday, 16 November 2009

En-suite Progress

A couple of recent shots to start the day of the en-suite which has taken some steps forward.

I got this corner cabinet in Homebase for half price when I went in for some insulation which they didn't have. It's 45 degree angle means you can have lots of fun peering into all corners of the room simultaneously while sitting on the loo.

Got a shelf, towel rail and soap/cupholders up too.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Yesterday was a good day!

Nothing went wrong and we made lots of progress. Those kind of days don't come along every day you know! Richard is spreading his misery and germs elsewhere at the moment so a strange, eerie sense of joy and wellbeing swept though the house. Its as if this whole project has suddenly gone bipolar....

We started off with this box of multi-coloured spaghetti. Ratty turned up early before Arne had gone to school, and he just had time to give Ratty a hand and tell him what to do.

By the end of the day, it looked like this. All the new sockets and many of the lights are now live.

Meanwhile, I painted the ceiling in Arne's room, the leftover paint being enough to also paint half a wall.

After lunch, I set about some plastering. I fixed up this small hole in Arne's wall...

...but I was really chuffed with how this turned out. Lots of trial and error, but I got it looking smooth and flat with a nice sharp edge. I'll not be attempting any ceilings just yet though....

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


We found out a little more about who is likely to have written "Kerslake Oct 23 1940" on the wall. As I said, the Kerslakes are a big family around here, and there are still a couple of brothers around who are around 70+. It was probably their father, who was a painter and decorator. Pure history, man!

A Lofty Experience

We've been below the floors downstairs, and now were up in the rafters. We have a bit of a problem with inadequate pressure on our hot water system. That's why we have a pump to power the shower. One way to increase the pressure is to raise the header tank to as high as it will go so that the water has further to drop.

The tank was sat on the ceiling joists above Arne's room. When we put plasterboard up a couple of days ago, the boards were massively distorted under where the tank was. Behind the tank is the old chimney breast which was capped off sometime between the early sixties and the '80's.

I bashed off some more of the chimney breast and we sited the tank as high as it would go, and extended all the pipes as simply as we could. Unfortunately, and as I expected, it has only made a marginal difference to the hot water pressure. We will have to come up with a plan B, of which more later. But fortunately, the severe bow in Arne's ceiling has completely disappeared. That's what you get when you don't spread the load properly. Was NOTHING in this house ever done correctly in the first place?

Monday, 9 November 2009


Here's a fascinating little aside. I spent much of my weekend stripping the wallpaper and paint off the walls in Arne's room. Under the paper written on a layer of paint, I found this. The Dua family owned the house from about 1981-1999 I think, and many of them still live locally.

When I stripped all the paint away, I found this on another wall. "Kerslake Oct 23 1940." The Kerslakes are a big family around these here parts. If I manage to find out anything about who might have written this, I'll let you know!

More AJ's room

Back to Arne's room. The ceiling in here was 9mm plasterboard (should be 12mm). The joins were full of some sort of filler which hadn't been smoothed down (should have been taped prior to skimming with plaster). It hadn't been skimmed, but had been painted with textured paint which had almost completely failed to disguise the crimes just outlined.

What's this "Heath Robinson" style contraption?

A plaster board hoist! That's what!

Going up......

We're screwing new 12mm boards up over the old ceiling. We drew lines first where all the joists run, so we'd know where to put the screws. Rich looks like he's amazed they haven't fallen down. Or maybe he's just had an idea?

The whole ceiling is up. The holes are where the downlighters will go. Rich was meant to be skimming it today but he's not very well. Unusually, his ailment is not a hangover. Get well soon.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Plumbing catchup!

Since we had to take off many of the radiators in order to insulate the walls, it seemed completely nuts not to replace all but the only two newish radiators in the house. Most of them were very old, inefficient and in some cases ridiculously enormous. Several rooms were inadequately heated by small single panel radiators. The lounge had a double one 3m long which two of us could barely lift. The people who fitted this system wanted a warm lounge but weren't fussed about anywhere else.
So, replace them we did. Giant for compact, inadequate for appropriate, old for new. Want to see pictures of all the nice new shiny radiators? Thought not, boring as hell. Some rejigging of the pipework was necessary to fit the new ones, which were all different sizes to the old. One thing led to another, and much investigating was done to discover just how the system worked. Part of it was the crazy arrangement of pipes which you saw in the lounge a couple of days ago. This entire loop was removed and replaced with two neat pipes in the hall connecting upstairs with downstairs. Lots of pipes were buried under the floor. Originally they would have been under a suspended wooden floor but this was long gone and they had just had concrete poured over them.

Here's Rich digging some of them up just to try to find out how they are arranged under the concrete.

Part of phase 2 which will hopefully happen next year, will be to put a layer of insulation on top of the concrete floors downstairs and place a suspended timber floor on top of that. With that in mind, we decided to run all new pipes above the present floor downstairs. The only place this would have been a problem was running them past the front door which then wouldn't be able to open, so a temporary loop over it was envisioned.

However, when we pulled up the carpet, we found there was a channel of damp rotten wood through which the old pipes ran, so we could run our new ones the same way (having first removed the wood), creating for the first time an actual lowest point from which the whole system could be drained. This picture shows where Rich drilled through the wall and ran two 15mm pipes directly outside with valves to drain the system. Brilliant!

Meanwhile, other tasks included putting insulation on these pipes which supply the radiator in the kitchen. They had a very long run and lost much of their heat before they even reachd the radiator.

We also thought of a genius use of the pipes which crossed the floor upstairs and used to come through the lounge ceiling. We reconnected them to the upstairs loop, dropped them discreetly down at the back of the lounge, through the wall and used them to supply this new radiator in the kitchen. The kitchen was always inadequately heated as there was no room for a radiator big enough to heat the space, but now we have two.

And a little one in the laundry room where there used to be none! I did all the pipework and soldering myself on this and none of it leaked.

And through it all, I made frequent visits to the dump. We're on first name terms now, me and Stig (of the dump)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Nothing for 3 weeks, then two come along at once....

This is our bedroom. Looks like we won't be sleeping in it for a while...

Pipes in the lounge

The day we moved into this house 7 1/2 years ago, we were simply too excited to be bugged by anything. It wasn't until the next day that the true horribleness of these fitted shelves made of MDF hit home.

Ripping those babies out was one of the most fun things I've done in a long time. Can you guess what ornaments were on them before they went?

Once they were out, they revealed some quirky plumbing. the pipes came across under the floor upstairs, through the ceiling in this alcove, crossed over each other twice before disappearing under the concrete floor and recrossing the house back to the front again. They got ripped out too.

Did they really think painting them chamaelion style would stop anyone noticing?