Thursday, 14 June 2012

Making a grand entrance...

When we moved in there was a very old and useless softwood front door. Complete with peeling painted glazing! And a single yale lock that was not secure. 

It was so flimsy it blew open in the first week because I had forgotten to put the dead bolt on!

Check out the groovy side panel - totally retro, and totally 60s, but totally not what we had in mind.

The trouble was we couldn't get it replaced straight away because F&M Windows - our chosen company - were fully booked for a couple of months. Great for them. A challenge for us.

After a few days we realised that using the back door was the safest and easiest option.

Patiently we waited - it actually worked in our favour because it would have been tricky to have all the tradesmen here at the same time - and it was so worth the wait.

We went for a composite door over UPVC despite it being more costly. It looks great and we are so pleased we plumped for the pricier option. It looks far superior.


Saturday, 19 May 2012

Carpet oh-so-Right...

As soon as all the major works of the heating system were complete - all the floorboards had to be pulled up for the new copper pipework - we could get the carpets ripped out and new lovely ones fitted.

This is what we had when we moved in. Ugly, dated, worn and filthy.

And this is what was living underneath. I assume it was once underlay, but after all these years it was just piles of dirt and dust.

After a lot of hoovering - the Dyson has not been the same since - and making the floorboards good, we were ready for Murks to fit the new carpets.

And this is how pretty they look. But most of all, they smell gorgeous and feel so soft under foot.

Aaah. Carpet Right indeed.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

The heat is off...

I think I may have mentioned that the central heating and hot water system in this 60s house was pretty ancient. Not necessarily the original, but I would guess as old as me or T!

The boiler had an efficiency/environmental rating of G, the worst possible rating. We kept thinking about how much it would cost to run for just one year; I thought we would be likely to see a return on our investment in a short space of time, purely in the lower running costs of a new super efficient A-rated boiler.

What with the asbestos flue and asbestos cupboard door, we had quite a cupboard of horrors.

The thermostat didn't work - it was either HOT or COLD with nothing in between. And the radiators were the biggest things I have ever seen. Another photographic opportunity missed was the radiators in situ. It was a sight to behold. But you can just about make out the dining room behemoth below.

I did take a photograph of all of them on the driveway waiting to be collected by the disposal team. They didn't make it in time, though, as T sold (!) the old boiler to a man up the road, who eventually came back and took all the radiators too. Another man had taken the radiator valves in the interim. Amazing how one man's trash really is another's treasure. It was good to know that they will be used somehow and not just chucked in landfill.

Thankfully moving into the house in September meant that we would be ok for a while, without too much need to use the radiators. But we still needed hot water, so we had to use the decrepit boiler for a while until British Gas were scheduled to replace the entire system. Warts and All.


Can you just make out the shabby carpets in the bedrooms? Oh my. More on those later.

The hot water cylinder. Somewhat surprising how the engineers don't leave those copper bad boys on your driveway to be haggled over. Hmmm.

But they did leave all this. Asbestos is a really scary word these days. But the engineers assured me that it was low grade and didn't pose a threat to us for the time it was in the house. Good to know.

So there you have it. All the bad stuff ripped out, and a complete new system installed. One happy family. Just in time for the weather to turn cold. Lovely.

I found B-Gas extremely efficient and helpful. I would certainly recommend them. Of course we could have paid a lower amount for this work if we had chosen an independent tradesman. And for most things I would always try to use local and independent tradesmen where possible. However, with such a large job as this, we felt using a large company would give us some comeback should anything go wrong. I guess we paid the extra money for the peace of mind.

For us, it was worth every penny.

Very happy indeed. Not to mention, warm as toast.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


So here it is. The bathroom. Done. Save for a new light pull. Enjoy the finished product.

Ah. Gleaming taps. I still find myself buffing them in between cleans. They are just so pretty. Swoon.

Victoria Plumb, in case you are interested.

The shower - Screwfix. We needed a 'replacement' shower because of how the pipes and electric cables came into the bathroom from the ceiling. It's all a learning curve. We originally purchased a shower from a generic retailer only to find that it wasn't possible to fit it with our pipes as they were. We had the option then of major plumbing and electrical changes which would have taken a) more time and b) lots more money OR we could pop on over to Screwfix and purchase this snazzy little 'replacement' shower and have it fitted the very next day. A real no-brainer.

We are not in this to refurbish the house to show-home standard. We want a house to live in. To love in. To grow in. And grow with. We love it this way, and you know what? It's a pretty rocking shower every morning. Who needs a power shower? Besides, that would not be environmentally friendly.

Oh, and don't you love the tiles? And the tiling. Much applause to T and his brother A for a brilliant tiling job. Saved us lots of money and I am thrilled with the final result. We had a professional tiler at a previous house, and I genuinely don't think you can tell a difference - perhaps the only exception being the amount of time it takes an amateur to finish the job. But, honestly, that is a small price to pay. DIY at it's best.

The one thing we did need was some additional storage. I am happy to have the day-to-day things out and easily accessible, but extras - face cloths, spare products, moisturisers, bubble baths etc - all need a place to live without cluttering up the surfaces.

This Bathstore vanity unit has proved itself to look great and function very well indeed. Very happy.

Do you love the Olive Press paint? Gorgeous.

White on green. Calm. Restful. Perfect.

We have had this mirror for ages now - one of many IKEA products that reside in our home. I am sure I will talk more about IKEA in the future. I have a huge soft spot for their design and functionality. This mirror acts as a contrast to the straight edges throughout this bathroom.

The bath panel. Oh, what fun we had with this. Did I mention it was bespoke? Yes (see previous posting). Made from plywood, because MDF has a tendency to warp and bubble in wet conditions. Trouble with plywood is the grain. When painted, the grain shows up and doesn't look all that pretty. Long story short - we (eventually!) used a product called Smooth-Over which gives a smooth finish on which to paint. We like it.

And the floor. I am a big fan of real tiles. In our house we bought up north, we had the most gorgeous tiles on the floor in our bathroom. I would have had them again in a heartbeat. But, in terms of a family bathroom with a toddler, hard tiles are really not all that practical or safe. So we opted for vinyl flooring in a tiled effect. It's not going to win any style awards, but actually it looks quite nice. And it is much warmer under foot than real tiles. I am surprised by how much I do like it.

So there you have it. The sunlight pours into our new bathroom and it feels so good to finally show it off.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Carpentry in the bathroom

I know. I am a tease. The bathroom is done. But before I steam in with the 'after' photographs, I want to talk a little about the carpentry.

Dave is a legend. He worked so hard for us, and produced outstanding results. And charged us such a paltry amount it was laughable. Of course I did ply him with copious amounts of tea, mince pies and homemade ginger cake - but still, Dave is a legend.

When T removed the tiles from the wall, he discovered that the boxing around the soil pipe had pretty much rotten away. Hardly surprising given the seals around the bath letting water into goodness knows where.

Carpenter required. Enter family friend Dave. All new framework for the soil pipe and plasterboard boxing in. Ready to be tiled onto. Perfect.

On top of that, we needed a supporting leg at each end of the new bath, and a bespoke wooden bath panel -we never get on with the acrylic bath panels that come with the tub, they always crack and scratch and look awful, so it made sense to have something custom-made that would also link neatly with our newly-purchased vanity sink unit.

But the pictures of the panel will have to wait until next time as they also show off a bit too much of the new sanitary-ware and taps, which should really be part of the big, 'Everything's done so look at me!' reveal...

Wednesday, 29 February 2012


Gone. That tatty, awful bathroom - gone.

Here are a few more photographs to remind ourselves just how tragic it was.

Funnily enough, sometimes when I look at photos of the toilet, it doesn't appear quite as bad as I remember it. But then I didn't take a snapshot of down the toilet bowl.

I scrubbed and scrubbed this bath, but it just would not come clean. Years of neglect sometimes just can't be erased. Without a sledgehammer.

For a while we contemplated keeping the shower. We must have been barking mad. It worked, and that was the reason for not replacing it. Mother-in-law bought us one as a house-warming gift, so that put paid to the terrible idea of keeping it. When the plumbers removed it, it was days away from death anyway.

The old bar heater. Beautiful. Or not.

You can just see my toes peeping out here on the foulest carpet ever stepped on. See the discolouration near the toilet bowl and the skirting. Shall we not imagine what that could be?

Ah. Gone. Gone. Gone. The dirt. The carpet. All of it. Gone.

Thank. Goodness.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Out with the old...

With enormous relief, ripping out the bathroom was first on our agenda. We did have to shower in there for a couple of weeks – but there was no way H was going to bathe in that tub, so a little baby IKEA bath served us very well in the interim.

First things first, we had to get our hands dirty – tearing out the filthy blue carpet. I still cannot get my head around carpets in the bathroom, especially up the side of the bath.

It was revolting pulling it up, the thought of all those years of baths and showers and toilet use on the carpet. Shudder. The dust and debris and smell were repellent.

Once we had cleared the space it was time to call in the big guns. Fred and John – our plumbers – took a sledge hammer to that cast iron bath tub. Apparently that is the best way to remove it, meaning less risk of damaging the walls by trying to manoeuvre the whole thing down the staircase.

Just a couple of days later the old and tatty had been decimated. And the way paved for the new and beautiful and clean.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Plan of action...

The trouble with moving from a perfectly ‘nice’ home, that we were comfortable in – although nothing in it was done by us and none of it was to our taste or specification, it was perfectly neutral and easy to live with – to a dump, is knowing where to start.

That’s where having a toddler in your project house really helps. It has helped to focus our minds on which tasks are top priority and in which order things need to be done.

Ultimately, two big jobs had to be done straight away. No messing.  

1. The bathroom was shudderingly hideous – there was black mould on the walls where the previous owner had installed a shower but only tiled halfway up the wall. The tiles were miraculously still stuck to the wall, but the grout was filthy and the tiles were mismatched and generally disgusting. The bath was the original tub from 1966. No matter how much I cleaned it (even after some professional cleaners, as requested by our solicitor as part of the purchase, allegedly already had) it was still black and revolting. There was no way H would bathe in that, and us grown-ups could only just about bear to stand and shower in it. Eurgh. The sanitaryware – also original from the look of it – was cracked and not pretty, unhygienic and smelly. The blue carpet (yes, that’s right – carpet in the bathroom!) was damp and mould-ridden and, to top it all off, our predecessors had decided it would be a nice touch to carpet all the way up the side of the bath! What on earth goes through a person’s mind to make that a sound decision? Excuse me while I vomit.

2. The central heating, hot water system and boiler – including removal of the old asbestos flue. A major, major job, but one that really needed doing. The boiler replacement was not up for debate. For peace of mind, safety and also the cost implications of running an ancient appliance meant that it had to go.
While British Gas were quoting for the boiler replacement we asked them to quote for a full system replacement including new radiators throughout. When the numbers came back it was clear that we would have been foolish to opt for just the boiler and then try to do radiators room by room, as and when. So we went for the whole shebang.

After those immediate essentials, the most important target was the softwood front door. It blew open in the wind if the dead bolt wasn’t on and its side panel came complete with flaking painted glass. Nearby there was also a rotten wooden window in the downstairs toilet.

Next on the agenda comes flooring (that beautiful bathroom carpet extended through the entire first floor), interior doors, electrics, lighting, fireplace, decoration in every room, fences/gates/garden.

A new kitchen is on the longer-term plan. For now it is liveable, so we will work and save hard for something wonderful, rather than putting in something quickly that will not stand the test of time.

We have to-do lists coming out of our ears. Lists for lists for lists. Which is heaven to the organiser in me. At times it does feel a bit daunting, but I can see the big picture, and it looks good J

After all of that, if we have enough energy in the tank and funds in the bank we will build a side extension. But that is a LONG way off, a view into the future when our toddler is at school and has possibly got a brother or sister.

On the plus side, we have not got to touch the windows (save for the afore-mentioned one), fascias or guttering – they were all installed fairly recently – which is a bit perplexing when you consider the state of everything else. Yet, in all honesty, if those things had been required, it may have been one bridge too far for the three of us.

Full steam ahead!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Moving day...

After what seemed like the longest conveyancing period in history (certainly in our house-buying history it was!) we finally made it to Moving Day.

A couple of hiccups along the way, like not exchanging contracts the first time we had all agreed to do so, the bottom of the chain not having their mortgage offer in place, then getting to 4pm on completion day and limping across the finish line. Oh my, we lived on the very edge of our nerves that day.

Grandma was brilliant at keeping H occupied throughout the day and making us all lunch and dinner and generally being on hand. It’s lovely to have family around – we are very lucky!

Our removal men arrived late, which at 8am in the morning meant I was already off on the wrong foot – but in all honesty, those fellas waited, waited and waited some more at the end of a long day, so if they had arrived on time who knows what their tempers would have been like at 4.45 when we finally arrived with the keys. There they were, camped out on our lawn, sitting on our deck chairs surrounded by boxes and sofas. If things hadn’t been so rushed I would have taken a snapshot. They had found that the garage was unlocked – a small bit of luck that their patience needed. They were able to offload lots of items into the garage, which did save a lot of time.
The sun was shining, but all my methodical planning (complete with labelled boxes and a fully typed inventory of everything we owned) went flying out of the window – never to return.

Another thing that went out the window: the intention of taking a thousand ‘before’ photographs of the empty house. Sadly there just wasn’t time. The movers had been waiting hours for us to arrive with keys, I don’t think they would have taken too kindly to me asking if they could wait 10 further minutes while I pootled around with my camera.

Previous moves – of which there have been a fair few over the years – raced through my mind, tranquil and organised for the most part. Memories of directing removal men to deposit labelled boxes into specific areas of the house while making cups of tea and peacefully unpacking were now consigned to history. Instead, this time it was frantic removal men depositing anywhere there was space – kitchen boxes in bedrooms, bathroom boxes in the garage, H’s cot being built in the living room by my husband. Grandma and H were cheerfully playing in the back garden, trying to avoid the two dead pigeons. I was searching for the carefully planned ‘day box’ with kettle and tea bags and spoons and milk. It was essentially a free for all and for someone like me, it is a wonder I didn’t have a nervous breakdown.

Tuffy arrived to wire in the cooker and offered to plumb in the washing machine. He is a legend. You will hear more about him on our journey.

The removal lorry was finally unloaded at 5.45 and we were able to lock up and head over to Grandma’s for dinner and a sit down – before heading back to put H to bed in her new home and start building our bed and cleaning the kitchen.

It’s a shame it was all so chaotic (I think I will come to use that word a lot) but they do say ‘start as you mean to go on’, and it has certainly been chaotic. But crucially, it has also been, and continues to be, a tremendous amount of fun.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The pressure of a name...

I can’t have a blog without a name.

After a few days of musing, I came up with The Barton Miller’s Tale and here is why…Our project is situated in Barton Mills, and apparently the villagers are affectionately known as ‘Barton Millers’ – that would work – but I wanted to make it personal to us and not just a generic nod to the locality.
Ping. Lightbulb moment.
My husband and I met during A-Level English, studying Geoffrey Chaucer’s – The Miller’s Tale. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Monday, 2 January 2012

And so it begins...

How on earth do you go about starting a blog? I have wanted to blog for such a long time, but never really felt I had a reason to take the plunge. Well, now that we (my husband, me and our 2-year-old daughter) have purchased a project house, it feels like the right thing to do. It will help with my New Year’s Resolution to take more progress photographs. Frustratingly, we have been forgetting to take as many ‘before’ snaps as we should – kicking ourselves when we stand back to admire the hard work on completion.

This blog really is just to serve as a record for us and our progress over the years, and as motivation to take on the projects that are sometimes easy to push to one side for another day. I am more than happy for people to read, add comments or advice and, perhaps, be inspired – but that isn’t really the intention. I can’t imagine anyone would be all that interested in us doing up our 1960s house, but anyone is welcome to come along for the ride.

Back in August 2011, we were very happy in our old home and had no intention of moving (mainly because we have a 2 year old and I am currently on a career-break to stay at home and have fun with her every day). Then we saw a house in the village of Barton Mills, a place in which we had always said we would like to live, one day. We walked, drove and cycled past the house at least 10 times before we even approached the agent. The location is exactly what we wanted for H, our daughter, to grow up in. ‘Have a look and get it out of our system’ is what we told ourselves, but the minute we walked in, both of us could immediately see past all the negatives – of which there were (and still are) many – and we had a vision. We got in the car after that initial viewing and just grinned at each other. We had always liked the idea of a project, and this would certainly be that. Could we do it with a 2 year old in tow? A second viewing cemented it. We wanted it. We got it. And so it begins…