The ups and downs of renovating a house

…or two

Archive for the month “October, 2008”

It’s the little things

Every day in renovation does not bring huge changes.  The beginning was big as everything was ripped out it was beyond exciting…it looked…big.  But right now it’s all in the interim bit…not so much huge things happening that we can see.  So you have to notice smaller projects that are going on.  Two were kinda cool last night…

All the piping from the mains water were lead.  Which is not so good (from what I’ve been told).  So all that piping is being ripped up and replaced by plastic.  So I guess it’s all begun…

This is our bath tap.  On the left is the water control, right the tap, middle bit stops the water coming out.  It’s much more modern than I would have picked out…but Roy was in charge of the bathroom (I got everything else, so it’s kinda fair).  But looking at it, and knowing the other hardwear that’s going to be part of our shower, I think it’ll be quite nice.  So we’ll have the taps coming out of the wall on the side of the bath and the shower on another wall…it’s going to be a thermostatic shower which is similar to many that you find in gyms in London (from what I’ve noticed):


The actual shower head is attached to a flexible metal tube which comes out of the bottom.  The strength of water is controlled by the left valve and the heat by the right (you can see a red button that you need to push in when you want it scalding hot…I won’t be using that).


And the work continues…

Nothing too exciting, but work continues and problems are being found…

If you compare these two pics (from different vantage points), you can see that the wall between the old kitchen and the new section has gone…pic one still has quite a lot of brick along the connecting wall, whereas in pic two, it’s basically gone.  And the ceiling heights will be levelled off a bit more so that there isn’t such a HUGE discrepancy.  They were going to put in a ceiling anyway to check the insulation and then put in lots of spotlights.

The insulation is pretty crappy looking, so glad they will be replacing it…and another find…the floor boards in that area (which used to house a shower room) were completely rotted out…full of mould.  Don’t have a great pic of it, but here you can see most of the boards have been stripped out and you can see the black mould on some of them:


Most of the wallpaper has been stripped from every room.  And most had at least three layers of the stuff…yes, instead of stripping and putting it down new, they just layered on top of each other.  We are having all the walls stripped, then plastered and then painted.  It’ll look so much nicer!


So as they stip the flooring of the bathroom to put down new piping, get in materials to make new flooring, and do all that sort of work, we are making choices about colours to use all over.  And I think we’ve figured it out!  Unfortunately, the Crown website isn’t great to show off colours…but here is one example~


I think we’re using something similar to the second from left green for the kitchen (it’s much nicer than you can see there)..a really rich but not too dark sage green (mellow sage?)…which will be complimented by a lighter sage green (almost sage?) in the dining area & living room.

We’ve gone with a golden orange-yellow (Tibetan Gold) in the study, a very very light yellow (whisper of sunlight) in the hallways.  A really yummy green called mojito in the master bedroom.  And the second bedroom will be a lovely light yellow, sunrise.

Of course, these colours could all change, but I think we’re quite happy with them.  I’m amazed that we won’t have any blues as DH loves them, but he’s also a fan of greens like me.

Dryer? No dryer?

Our contractor asked us on Saturday whether or not we would prefer to have a tumble dryer or not (and a comment came through asking the same thing).  It would have to be stacked on top of the washer, and I’d have to give up my pull out larder…which looks something like this:

Roy and I have decided to go with the pull-out larder instead of the dryer…a thought which would never have crossed my mind 2 years ago, or even perhaps last month.  But I’m becoming much more eco conscious…thrifty…and prefer to have the space used for storing food to cook with, then using it to have a tumble dryer.  The energy consumption of a dryer here isn’t worth it to me.

I know, so not American in thought.  But I don’t mind putting my clothing on a drying rack or hanging it outside when it’s sunny.  I’m sure there will be times when I’m kicking myself for doing this, but as we have enough space for a drying rack to hide, it just makes more sense.

The Bathroom

After reading about another IN’s bathroom, I decided to show off what we’ve picked (kinda) for our bathroom…

This is the combo we’ll have for the toilet & sink, though the cabinets will be all white, which seemed to fit more with our bathroom.

I can’t find a pic of the tiles we’ve chosen, but they will be white with a light grey streak going through them.  The tiles are very glossy and will be used both on the flooring and walls. 

We’ll also have underfloor heating put in, so we won’t need a radiator…but we will be getting a heated towel rack like this one:

A door and some other stuff

This is an example of the door we will have off of the dining area coming out into the back garden (back yard).  It’s good as the doors can be opened wide outward so for parties or comfy days, people can come in and out easily.  In addition, the little window in the top left of the pic can be opened to let in just a touch of fresh air without having to open up the doors. 

Normally I wouldn’t replace the external door as it’s fine enough looking…but it’s broken…it still locks but the bottom doesn’t fit correctly and I can see it as an energy loser.

We’ve also chosen a few of the appliances (or at least have a few options)…

Baumatic cooker with gas oven & grill

Roy really wants a gas oven and grill, and this is probably the best one I could find.  We’ll see though…

Bosch washing machine.   We may not get this exact one, but we’ll definitely get a Bosch as they get great reviews.

Bosch dishwasher   This will be integrated within the lower cabinets.  The other possibility is the Miele.

And finally the fridge freezer.  We couldn’t decide if we really needed an ‘American Fridge Freezer’…and we decided against it.  The kitchen isn’t really big enough for it and we don’t need a fridge that huge.  So we went with the lovely Miele fridge freezer:

It’s kinda exciting to be figuring all this out.  And we’ve been told that the work ought to be done in about 5 more weeks…so that takes us to the end of November/beginning of December.  We’re figuring out colours and rugs and all that…it’s going well I guess!

Down comes the wall

As you can see by the floorplan, there is a wall on the right side of the family room and on the other side of that wall is a hall and shower room.  Well…the wall and shower room is no longer…

  And the doorway to what will be the pantry/laundry area has been made a lot larger, which will be great for both the look and access.  So now we can see where the kitchen will be, and how much space will be available (much more than it felt before).

The chimney breasts have been totally done and you can see how it’s all going work…it’s pretty amazing what they can do in houses!


And work has begun…

Yes, the bathtub and cooker are in my front drive.  Can’t wait for the skip to arrive.  Chav-tastic!

Carpet stripped off the staircase.

Not much done in the library/study…seems to be a staging room for other work.  Though they did strip the carpet.

The kitchen is gone.  Fully gone.

Wood flooring under the horrid vinyl.

One of the two chimney breasts/fireplaces that are being removed…the other one looks exactly the same.  We are keeping one of the fireplaces (in the study).

Bathroom is gone and stripped…just the toilet remaining.

Lots more stuff to get rid of.  Hallway carpet stipped…no more tiles in bathroom.

Downstairs toilet is gone…not bad for the first day’s work!

Just a quick update…

We have chosen a builder.  His shop is right about the corner from where our house is, so convenient.  He will be able to supply everything from kitchen & bathroom suites to the lights and paint.  This, along with a comparible quote to others, made him the right choice for us.  As we are both crazy busy at work right now, we just don’t have the time to source our own materials…and his prices sound reasonable. 

Next Saturday we’ll get to look at door samples for the two kitchens as well as two bathtubs.  One bath is steel and quite deep.  I’ve read some good things about steel baths, so I do want to check it out.  The other bath is not as deep and plastic, but would be a jacuzzi bath.  Oh, the decisions!

This weekend we went to B&Q (a DIY shop) and got tons of pots of paint to try out.  We’ve chosen a gold colour for our study – it’s lovely and rich and deep and will go with the dark wood in there.  We’re pretty certain we’ll do a slightly silvery white in the hallway.  Upstairs we liked a butterscotch colour for the second bedroom. But not sure yet what we’ll do in the kitchen, living room or master bedroom.  We’ll get some more paint samples and try again this weekend.

Possible kitchens

We’ve managed to figure out what kitchen style we want and have two in mind that we really like.  We’re going to have the contractors order the doors so we can see them and make a decision.  They are quite similar, so that’s why we really need to see them for quality and colour.


This is the Keswick Kitchen by K Kitchens.

This is the Shaker Winchester Oak by Colonial Kitchens.

Both of the doors are knotted oak.  And shaker in style.  So it’s just little things that will make the difference.  We want to choose by some time next week.  We’ll see!

Getting close to the decision

We’ve met with four contractors/builders.  As they usually say to get three builders in for a job for quotes, we feel quite good about having the four. 

One contractor we’re definitely NOT going with.  Two guys came in to view the property.  One of the first things they said was ‘Are you trying to sell or going to live here?’.  I do understand why you might ask that as the speed of the job might need to be faster in one or the other, and you might choose different fittings if you are selling it versus living in it…but the guy implied that the work he’d do would be better quality if it was to live in.  Which was not a good way to start.  Then a few more things were said that made me squirm…such as…

“Ya know, if you pay in cash we can do the price without VAT”.  I don’t know you.  It’s a big job that will cost a lot of money.  I’m NOT paying you in cash so you can screw over the government and probably me as there won’t be a paper trail of any sort. 

The website says that they want 30% up front – no way…that’s far too much.  They were late with their quote.  And well…they just make me feel like they are cowboy builders.

So that’s one down…three others.

Another group seemed quite good and asked much better questions.  They seemed to be spot on.  But then they didn’t seem to want to give us recommendations.  In fact the guy said, if you go with our quote, we’ll give you names of people to talk to.  No – we want to see them BEFORE we make up our mind.  And the quote seemed quite high.  We haven’t written him off, but we’re leaning ‘away’ from hiring these people.

So…down to two?

The third group do the work, but then you have to source your materials.  And this could be a good thing.  But it might also make the job last longer since we’d have to take the time to figure out where to get stuff from, make sure it gets to where it needs to get to, etc.  And we’re not sure we have that kind of time, particularly as we both work long hours and my Saturdays don’t tend to be free.  We like the work he’s done that we’ve seen and he comes across as very knowledgeable.  His quote is good and makes sense.  So we’ll see…I’ve already been to a kitchen shop to ask them to design and quote for a kitchen including all sorts of appliances (though we might buy them ourselves if we go this route).

The last group is someone who has a shop.  He does all sorts of work, including building whole buildings, but his specialty is focused on kitchens and bathrooms.  Which works for us.  He can source everything.  And his work is amazing.  But it looks as if he might be more expensive than the guy above.  But then again, if we source things ourselves, it might turn out to be almost as expensive and we’d be project managing.

So decisions, decisions.  We are getting final estimates by Friday.  And we’re talking about this all on Sunday.  And informing one of them that they are hired, while the rest that they are not.  It’s scary as it’s a lot of money and important to our every day living.  Crossing fingers that this works out!

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