Category: Home

Making a house a home – creating a life away from the urban by moving into the rural.

Dead Wood

Next to our house is large Oak (I think?) tree which has, over last three years, slowly died.

It’s not on our property, but had grown over the house. We had some high winds earlier this year which resulted in a decent percentage of the small branches falling on to our roof and garden. No damage, but it was clear the tree was becoming more brittle and heading towards dangerous territory.

The owners recently organised to have it cut down. This was a sad moment, however I asked for a slice of wood from the tree. Our house sign rotted away a while ago and I had my eye on the wood from this tree. I’m hoping to use this slice to make a new sign at some point as a nice little tribute to the beast that has stood guard over our property for decades.

All I need to do now is figure out how to properly do this, or find someone to do it for me!

The neighbour will be using the wood in their log burner but has offered some to us, too. Doesn’t look like we’re going to be cold next winter, or perhaps the winter after depending on how long it needs to dry for.

One silver lining: it’s now feasible for us to get solar panels!

A leak here and a leak there

We’re slowly eradicating our mould problems and it seems the universe has taken offense.

First off, our shower is leaking. The leaky pipes are within the wall and just happen to be directly above a power outlet located on the other side. The paint has bubbled up on this wall as the moisture slowly found its way out and down toward the source of electricity. We’re no longer able to shower or we risk the wall getting more damaged and the potential for a fire to start. We noticed the paint bubbling, popped the side of the bath off (our shower is above the bath tub) and realised the concrete floor was soaked, the underside of the bath and the wood that helps support it were literally caked in mould. The water has also soaked into the concrete and found its way under the wall into the kitchen. This appears to have been happening for a while now as the kitchen units along that wall are also caked in mould across the back. We will likely need to replace the units in the kitchen, which isn’t too much of an issue as we needed a new kitchen anyway, as well as dismantle half the bathroom to fix the source of the problem, which is also not too much of an issue as we also needed a new bathroom. Maybe £10k to do them both to a decent standard.

To add insult to injury, the cess pit decided to spring a leak. The container itself is, thankfully, fine. There’s a broken inlet pipe somewhere, letting rainwater in. We don’t have an issue with sewage leaking out but every time it rains the cess pit fills up pretty quickly. We could likely dig up the pipes and try to fix it but we need to replace the cess pit for a water treatment plant anyway. This is not a cheap thing to do – we’re looking at a starting figure of about £8k, though this will likely increase due to some issues with the water run-off and our lack of land.

They say it comes in three’s. They’re wrong.

My car engine light came on. Hopefully this is just the sensor – clearing it hasn’t worked so the next step is to replace the sensor itself. I’m not sure what the sensor is called but it checks the engine vibration and if it detects something amiss, alerts the driver. If the sensor is not faulty it’s potentially a new engine, which with my old-ass car likely means a new car.

A day after the engine warning light came on, my windscreen cracked. Luckily my insurance covers the cost of repair minus £125, which I have to pay. Not too bad.

Though a few days after, my partner and the baby were in a car crash. Both are fine! However the car is likely a write-off. The other party admitted fault right away and their insurance will pay out the value of the car, but until that happens we’re without a second car, which makes it difficult for me to fix mine. Not impossible, just difficult.

I guess it comes in six’s? Maybe two sets of three.

I’m excited to get these problems sorted. Though they’ve all come at once, besides the written off car they’re all things we planned on doing anyway. They’re the last renovation things we need to do before we can start on the detailing – primarily, sorting out the network (allowing me to finally post something technical on here again)

The fact that these things are now active problems means we’re more focused on fixing them. We could have paid to update our bathroom at any point but have been putting it off. Now, though, we’re looking at getting it done sooner. The downside is that we don’t have the money to do it all in one go so we do need to pick our battles in the right order (the cess pit first!)


We’ve had mould problems ever since moving in to this property. We found it under coving, under the old carpet, behind wallpaper and in the kitchen cupboards.

We’ve slowly been eradicating it – we had most of the issues resolved (except for in the kitchen, but more on that in the next post…) by the time we had finished decorating. However, it kept coming back in our bedroom and in the bathroom along the edges of the ceiling/walls. We had put this down to humidity. At night we breathe whilst sleeping, and in the bathroom… well, that one is obvious. I was getting frustrated with the constant mould recently and called up a specialist company.

They refused to take my money.

Instead, they gave me some (free) tips which, in hindsight, are quite obvious if I had thought about it. I appreciate that they did this instead of charging for someone to come out and do the work for me!

First off, they told me that a high humidity does not result in mould. Instead, where condensation forms is where mould forms. Condensation appears where a surface is cold enough for the moisture in the air to turn into water when it comes into contact with that surface. If you can remove the moisture from the air (essentially impossible in a home) OR warm up those surfaces, condensation won’t form as easily, and therefore mould will have a harder time growing.

Heating a room does not achieve this on its own. As the mould was forming along the edges of where the ceiling/walls met (on externally facing walls, too!) the specialist company surmised that the insulation in the loft was not covering those areas. The heat was escaping through the plasterboard ceiling and not being held by insulation, cooling the area down. Water in the warm air would travel up, hit the ceiling barrier and condense there, dripping down the walls if enough formed.

Up to the loft I went to disover that this was indeed the case. In some areas (not coincidentally the same areas where we had the most issues with mould) up to two foot of ceiling was exposed. Luckily, there was a spare roll of insulation up there already. I used this to fill in the edges about a week ago and since then we’ve not had any more mould appear in those trouble spots. Early days of course, and we’re still getting mould around the windows, but I have some thermal insulating paint to test there.

Ideally we’d replace our windows but can’t really afford to do so at the moment – they’re old and the seal has broken on some of them, which we will get repaired.

Is it a bird? Yes

This poor lil’ tweeter flew into our kitchen window!


We have a cat so quickly plucked the little bird off the floor and put him up on a bird table. After a short rest it flew off, happy as can be.

As I was carrying it to the bird table it snuggled right into my hand and wouldn’t get off. Must have liked the warmth. Cute!

Switched ISP

I’ve changed ISP. We used to be with Zen who were, and remained, awesome. We have recently however changed to Andrews & Arnold.

Due to our location we’re unable to get FTTC, we’re stuck with ADSL. The main reason for the ISP switch initially was A&A could provide us the same service for nearly £10 cheaper. I’m a fan of the smaller organisations and use them over behemoths where possible. Unfortunately the bigger ISPs can go even cheaper than what we pay now but I’m happy to pay more to a smaller company.

Before switching I called up A&A with a few questions, and they answered everything – they know what they’re talking about. I work in IT (though not at an ISP or in networking) and could tell they knew their stuff, and I was only talking to their customer service team. They also sent me a new router (as I signed up for 12 months) which is nice – I had been running on a Draytek 2925n which, whilst generally fine, is a bit old now. No 5Ghz wifi was hampering us somewhat. The new router seems to be good, though I’ve not poked around too much in it just yet. We still don’t get a wireless signal in all corners of the house but I have plans to fix that… eventually.

One cool thing that A&A do is provide access to some quite detailed line status and configuration settings via their Control Pages. I like the openness and control they provide to customers. The static IPv4 address and IPv6 support should be an option from all ISPs by now but frustratingly isn’t. A&A have this as standard at no extra cost.

An upside to switching to A&A is that our average download speed has increased slightly. We used to see 2.5Mbps download with Zen but this has increased to about 2.9Mbps with A&A. We’re still occasionally buffering when streaming (though Netflix is often fine, we’ve had issues with some other online streaming services) though the frequency at which this occurs has reduced a bit.

Overall, happy so far. The line has gone down a few times, which we didn’t really experience with Zen (or notice? I can see when it goes down on their control pages, plus I get an email about it if it’s down for a little while, which is awesome)

I would recommend anyone looking for an ISP to avoid the larger companies and look at either Zen or A&A. You can’t go wrong with these.


So the cat got into a fight a couple of nights ago. We were merrily being couch potatos of an evening (as you do) when the cat appeared from the back garden. He sat in the doorway of the room we are temporarily using as our living room, looked at us for a moment with that expression of pity all cats are capable of, and started licking himself.

Nothing new there.

He didn’t stop, though. At some point we got up to check and noticed a trail of blood terminating at the cat and leading back to the bedroom. After checking him over (three claws have been damaged, one of which had been bleeding but had stopped by the time we realised something was up) we followed the drips of blood (splattered over our brand new floor, I must add) and it led us to the window the cat had clearly jumped in. There wasn’t anything alive (or dead, though looking for the corpse of something our cat had a fight with is giving the cat a bit too much credit) outside so we’ve no idea if this was the cat being a clutz or the cat being attacked, but our money is on the latter.

After a day the claw on his front paw hadn’t properly healed. He kept licking it, too, so suspecting infection we rushed him off to the vet. They confirmed our suspicions and gave him a shot and a cone of shame.

Poor boy

Since getting the cone he has become exceedingly affectionate. It’s kinda nice, maybe we should keep it on him all the time… just kidding, of course. His front paw is healing up nicely, though he has figured out that he can stretch his leg out, wrap it around the base of the cone, then push forward onto the floor or bed (yes, with his face) trapping his paw under the cone allowing him to lick part of it. He doesn’t do it often, though.

When The Wind Blows

When deciding to buy and renovate an older, run-down house the one guaranteed thing you have to expect is unexpected things cropping up just when you don’t want them to.

A fence in our back garden has just blown over in the high winds we’ve been experiencing.

The neighbours shed (top left) is the only thing holding it up!

It went over this morning and from what I can tell the posts have rotted and snapped in the ground. Looks like they’ll need replacing. Not too much of an issue in the grand scheme of the universe of course.

We’ve managed to spread out the cost of various things we’ve been doing in the house so we’re not hit in the financial balls all in one go, the fireplace and flooring being the most recent examples. But, of course, chance and nature don’t operate on a schedule.

Technically, it’s not our fence, so we don’t have to pay for it to be replaced/repaired… However there were some fat trees pushing on it for many years which have absolutely contributed to the current situation. I need to speak to the neighbours but I’m thinking we’ll at least contribute to the repairs on a moral basis let alone the fact that it may be partially our fault. Well, the fault of the people who lived here before us. Neighbours gotta be neighbourly and work together ‘n’ all that.

It’s a shame this has happened now. We’ve just paid out for a new floor (not cheap) and have a baby on the way, so we (read, I) are sensitive to unexpected outgoings at the moment. But hey, this is what the emergency fund is for!

The money is only one of two issues. In order to repair this fence, either the neighbours need to move their two sheds (one of which is holding the fence up right now) or we need to remove our horrible disgusting… shed… thing which you can see it on the very left of this pic. This is something we want to do, but we’re actually using it to store a load of trash at the moment (old carpet, ancient chest-freezer, broken lawnmower, etc.)

We need to pay to get the trash and the shed removed as there are some very large bulky things in there and we don’t have the transportation for it. Needing to pay for this stuff to happen is why it hasn’t happened yet. Other things to sort out. We’ll get to it eventually. Or soon, if the fence repairs demand it…

Oh, to make matters slightly more frustrating, I’ve just noticed that the opposite fence by the patio is starting to fall too. Great.

Floorless Victory: Epilogue

The final room has had the flooring fitted and the beading is done!


One last thing to do is the skirting around the fireplace, but that room needs to be decorated anyway so there’s no immediate rush.

Floorless Victory

14.5 months. That’s how long we’ve been living in a building site.

Well, that’s not quite true as for the first few months we had carpet. I’m sure the carpet was nice back in the 90’s when it was first installed but by the time we came to live here it was worn and stained. It had the delicate aroma of dog piss and cigarettes eminating from within.

We ripped up this carpet fairly quickly to remove the smell and found rotten underlay underneath, which we also tore out. In one of the bedrooms, directly below where a bed used to live, the concrete was still wet with the aforementioned dog urine. Yeah, months after moving in, we still had liquid piss in the house from the previous owners pet (and we’re clinging to the belief that it was dog wee and not human.) I love dogs and dread to think what kind of environment it lived in for it to crawl under a bed and piss itself so much that it stayed wet for months afterward. We cleaned the hell out of that floor and had a dehumidifier in the room for a good few weeks to suck out any remaining moisture. Eventually, and thankfully, we got it dry and the smell dissipated.

Since the floor came up all those months ago we’ve been living on concrete. Not the polished stuff you find in modern fancy houses, we’re talking the giant slabs of rough cheap stuff the building actually sits on. It was freezing cold, uncomfortable to stand on and always dirty. The friction from walking on it would pull up tiny stones and dust. We rejoice, however, as of this weekend that is no longer the case. We’ve finally had our floor installed!

The first few boards are down
Ta-da! Oh adequte flooring, how I have missed you so…

We initially wanted to get LVT but ended up going with a good quality laminate instead due to the cost. A family friend installed it for us – doing the door frames and edges is something that I couldn’t do without a lot of trial & error and a lot of time. Plus repairing all the damage I would undoubtedly cause would cost a lot of money, so we decided to get professional help. We’ve still got one room to go, plus the beading around the edges (we didn’t fancy ripping out the skirting) but once those are done we’ll actually live in a house rather than a construction yard!

It’s odd living somewhere with a floor. It feels much cleaner, warmer and comfier. More like a home. I certainly appreciate it more now than I had done in the past.

Next few items on the list: finish painting the livingroom, repaint some walls, buy some furniture. Maybe then we can start unpacking some of the boxes we had when we first moved in!

Lofty Goals

Unfortunately we’re not lucky enough to be living somewhere clean and comfortable whilst we work on renovating the house, we have to live inside the house. Due to the amount of work needed, we have only unpacked the bare essentials. Most of our belongings are still in boxes (we’ve been here for over a year – just goes to show how much stuff you need) and none of our furniture has been rebuilt yet.

As we have been decorating, we have found ourselves frequently moving furniture and these boxes into different rooms depending on which one we’re working on and living out of at the time.

We’ve got to the point now where we only have one room to paint, and then we need to get flooring sorted. The flooring will be an issue for us as we will need to have most rooms empty for it to be laid quickly. To make this much easier for me (as my significant other is pregnant I can’t really ask her to help me move heavy furniture around when the flooring goes in) I decided to take advantage of our relatively large loft space.

The main struggle with the loft is lighting. Unfortunately we don’t have any sockets up there for power, so hauling an extension lead up there to power our only lamp was the (poor, awkward) solution to this issue. This is also why some of the pictures aren’t too great – single light source.

The floor of the loft is already boarded which means storing our boxes is nice and simple. It is by far our biggest space, but the main issue is access. We have a ladder with a loft hatch, but the opening is quite small. In order to get our stuff up there, we’re going to have to unpack it all, shift it awkwardly up the ladder, then repack it. Not too much of an issue, but it sure makes things that much more time consuming.

I’ve not really spent much time up the loft so before making a start on taking stuff up there I decided to take a good look around. I’m glad I did, as I found that not only was the floor covered in fairly fresh bat droppings, but we had a wasp (or hornet!) nest too.

Guano! Makes great fertiliser by the way.

The immediate concern was the wasp/hornet nest. I would normally assume it was a wasp nest by default, however during the summer we had a regular hornet visitor that would somehow find its way into our livingroom and chill out on the window. That said, you can hear an active nest from quite a distance and we had no idea that this one was here before this point, so I am assuming it has been dead for a while. Perhaps even before we moved in.

I very carefully edged close but still couldn’t hear anything, so ended up taking it down. You can leave them where they are as nests are not reused (as far as I know from research online) but we decided we may as well remove it.

As for the bat poop, this was easily vacuumed up. Bats in this country (UK) do not carry disease and are also protected, preventing their removal. I quite like the idea of having bats in the loft, though their poop is a bit annoying to deal with. It does make great fertiliser, though, so if we get any more we’ll collect it up and use it. Unfortunately we don’t have much growing at the moment so it just went into the bin. Moving forward we may need to figure out how to keep the bats isolated somewhat, or we will suffer from bat poop covered belongings, though from what I’ve read this can be really hard to do. We have loads of little openings to the outside world up there, sealing all but a couple could be tricky, and bats can fit through tiny gaps.

Whilst cleaning up the loft I came across this message on the side of the chimney stack, left by a mystery individual (possibly) over 60 years ago:

I’ve edited this to try and make the text more readable but didn’t want to mangle the image too much

It says:








Pretty cool. I’d like to say it was a prediction but chances are it was done after the event.

After cleaning everything up and changing the TV aerial we use (for some reason we have three aerials, with the livingroom on the smallest one. It’s now on the largest, highest one, resulting in perfect signal strength) I grabbed our extra wood logs for our new fireplace and a couple of items that needed storing, stuck it up there and had had enough. It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t store firewood in the house for too long, but I know we’ll work through this tiny pile pretty quickly.

One half of the loft. The writing from above is on the right side of that chimney stack

All I need to do now is get all our unpacked stuff up there. There’s a lot of it, but once it’s done we can get the floor installed