The renovation’s back on!

 

OK, so it’s been a while. Things have taken a back seat in the house, as Gav has changed jobs and we decided not to commit to any major projects until we had a clear idea of what the new role would involve. So whilst we apologise for the radio silence, it was because we haven’t actually done anything to blog about!

But with Gav starting with his new company in a couple of weeks, we’ve been able to work out a realistic budget and develop a loose plan of what to do and when.

Having spent a year in the house, the most important thing we need to do is find a way to make it warmer. This winter the electric blanket’s barely been switched off, I’ve worn at least one pair of socks to bed every night, and scarves, hats and gloves have been a regular feature while we’ve been relaxing shivering in the lounge of an evening. We’ve tried a couple of quick fixes on the main culprits, such as thermal curtains over the front door, and sealing tape around the windows. The latter certainly made a difference, but there’s been a noticeable increase in condensation, so now we’ve got the added problem of mould to contend with. And it’s best if we just don’t mention the gas/electric bills at all.

We’ve considered a number of options and come up with a prioritised list of all the things we want to do to the house this year in order to prepare for next winter. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of wet/dry underfloor heating, and considered our options for wood burning stoves or fireplaces. But the more we discussed it, the more we realised that it would be far better to concentrate on retaining, rather than producing, heat.

Here’s our plan so far:

  1. Insulate all the external walls
  2. Install insulation into the bay windows
  3. Install insulation into the ceiling in the cellar
  4. Use maximum insulation when replacing flooring
  5. Add thermal lining to curtains

These are all things that will hopefully help us keep what little heat we’re producing right now. Some will be undoubtedly more effective than others, but the overall theme is to identify all the places where heat is escaping, and do what we can to stop it.

Of course, we will still need to produce heat to some extent. The existing central heating system is serviceable, but fairly dated and inefficient. As we’re going back to bare bricks, the radiators will already be off the walls. We’re also planning to install an en suite and upgrade the bathroom in the next few month, so it makes sense to upgrade to a combi boiler and get everything done at the same time. This will also enable us to remove the immersion tank from the main bathroom, which will give us some much-needed space.

In the lounge and dining room, we currently have mismatched, super-ugly, old gas fires. We’ve had a number of discussions on what to replace these with. One of the options was to knock through between the kitchen and lounge and install a double-sided wood burning stove. We decided against this as it will involve a lot of structural work and the costs could easily run away from us. We spent a lot of time looking at the options for normal single sided wood burning stoves. They seemed the be natural option as they are more efficient than open fireplaces. They would also allow us to put carpet into the lounge, as we’ll be able to keep the door closed and prevent sparks. They do typically look a lot more suited to a country-style cottage than a Victorian house though, so I scoured Pinterest to find some inspiration:

 

 

Whilst they look beautiful, I’m still not convinced that they would suit the look of the rooms as well as an open fireplace. So I’m torn between prioritising the temperature, efficiency and look of the rooms. I think at this point in time I’m going to hold off making a decision until we find out just how effective the other improvements turn out. I know it’s controversial, but I don’t see the value in going for a stove if an open fireplace will provide enough heat. If all our other efforts are successful, we could end up sat with the stove on and the windows open. Or, more likely, never using the thing. In which case, I might as well go for the pretty option…

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