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!

Shiny!

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:

ENGLAND

FOR THE

CUP

EN

ENGLAND 4

W GERMANY 2

1966

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

Plastering a Popcorn Ceiling

With the exception of the livingroom and the hallway, all our rooms have plain, smooth plaster for the ceiling.

The hallway has a textured wallpaper which, now we’ve painted it, doesn’t look too bad. It works well enough for us to keep it for a while at least.

The livingroom, however, is a different story.

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The Fireplace: Part 4

The fireplace is now dry, and we’ve had the chimney cleaned.

As the fireplace was drying it produced some cool patterns. You can see where the plaster is thickest by how it dried.

This pic was taken before the plastering work was complete
Drying
Almost dry

As for getting the chimney swept, it was over very quickly. I expected it to take several hours but it ended up being done within one hour. Messy, dirty work though. Lots of old, black soot and other detrius came tumbling out.

Now that the dirty work is complete we just need to get on with painting and get the stove installed. Not long now!

Sealing a door

So we’ve got a leak.

Occasionally we’ll notice that the floor by the front door is wet. We are currently living on a concrete floor at the moment as we decorate and prepare to install new flooring. Yes, it is cold. Anyway, it’s good that we’ve been hesitant with finding the right kind of laminate/LVT. If we’d rushed into fitting a floor we would have likely needed to rip some of it up to deal with this issue. The only problem is that I can’t identify where the water is coming from.

Originally I was suspicious that the leak was coming from the door itself, running down the front and getting in under the seal between the door and the frame within which the door sits. I have checked the seal and although it isn’t in the best condition it does seem like it would do the job.

We have a somewhat protected porch area where the door is set in slightly, and up a step. Unfortunately the guttering isn’t fitted properly so water does drip out from between two sections, then hits the floor which results in the water splashing up against the walls and the door itself.

Green = Corner section       Red = Leaky bit

I managed to pull the straight section to the right of the green box in the above image across just enough to clip into the corner section (green box in above image) and seal it with some Roof & Gutter Sealant (red box.) It looked like it was going to hold, so I had hoped this would stop the splashing, which would in turn stop or at the very least lessen the leak.

Whilst this has indeed fixed the gutter leak and improved the situation significantly, we’re still finding water coming in when the wind blows it in just the right (wrong?) direction.

So, what next? Well, the step up to our front door was clearly laid by an imbecile. It slopes towards the door, meaning whenever it rains we get a puddle of water sat literally on our door step. Ideally you want the water to flow away from your property, not toward it.

This concerned me, so now I am worrying that the water is coming in under the actual frame of the door (rather than under the door but above the frame) and have sealed up the entire front, plus some of the brickwork that looked a bit suspicious.

You can see the grey sealant along the wall and across the bottom of the door frame.

I sealed this a little while ago but only just took the pic. If it weren’t for the horrible weather it’d be much cleaner out there, promise!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that stopped anything, so I changed tack. I placed a large sheet of paper up against the base of the door frame and the wall, but under the door itself and not on the floor, to try and isolate exactly where the water is coming in.

After the next batch of rainfall I could see the concrete under the door was wet, but the paper was dry. Looks to me like it’s coming in from under the doorframe itself. This is an issue for sure as I have sealed the entire of the externally facing door frame at this point. There must be a crack somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t find it.

I may need to get an expert in to have a look. I hate problems I can’t fix. This is one of those unknown unknown times – I don’t really know what to look for, or where to look. If we get someone experienced in I’ll watch them figure it out and potentially fix the problem in moments. Once I’ve seen it done, I’m pretty sure I’d be able to replicate the fault finding process for this particular issue. Bit too late by then, though, eh?

The Fireplace: Part 3

The plastering work is complete!

I never realised plaster could be so smooth

We’ve got some kind of cement mix on the inside to protect against the immense amount of heat that the wood burning stove will release, with plaster around the chimney breast itself.

From the image it looks very rough, but the plaster is super smooth. It feels like glass. I was concerned about paint adhering to such a smooth surface but I have been reassured that with a 50/50 paint/water mix cloud-sprayed on, or a couple of layers of PVA/water, the paint will stick to it fine.

The next step for the chimeny is to get our chimney swept – we need to get this done before we do any further decorating really as it’s probably going to be incredibly messy.

Also, I spoke to the plasterer about our popcorn ceiling and he has offered to skim it for us. Painting it will be absolute hell if we don’t get rid of it so he’s done some of the prep work already and will return in a couple of weeks to finish the job. Good stuff!

The Fireplace: Part 2

I have another new toy.

Destroyer of worlds, boxed. Other brands are available.

Previously, we had our fireplace opened up with the goal of getting a wood burning stove installed.

We need to get the chimney breast plastered, which we can do now, but if we want to A) save the coving, and B) save the plasterer some time and effort, we will need to remove the old material that has been plastered all over it.

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Makita Drill

Give a kid a hammer, and the world turns into a nail. Give me a drill, and suddenly everything needs a hole drilled into it…

After much deliberation (over a period of about 6 months) and the assistance of a generous gift card from a birthday I am finally the owner of a real powertool!

I’ve got a corded drill already, but having to move around with it whilst doing the refurbishment of the house (climbing ladders and going room to room) just isn’t practical. So I purchased a Makita 18V cordless drill to make my life easier.

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