Kitchen update – the units are finally here!

Last week saw us take a massive step forwards. The kitchen units have been delivered at last! We had our fantastic joiner Mickey in to tackle all the big stuff, and the in-laws also dropped in to share their expertise.

Kitchen units

Our beautiful kitchen – here at last!

Yes – that is a SINK you see underneath the window!

We’ve learnt loads this week. Our initial attempts at wallpapering weren’t quite up to scratch, and there were a couple of areas that needed to be fixed by a professional.

Wallpapering

A perfectionist at work!

As well as being shown the error of our ways with the wallpapering, we’ve also had a crash course in silicone.

Silicone around window

It’s all about the finishing touches…

One of our favourite parts of the kitchen (apart from the dishwasher of course!) is the tall unit. We gained a lovely double size gas oven when we moved in, but it felt a bit big for the nights when we just want to throw in a pizza. So the tall unit that holds a single oven is ideal. And the fact that it holds 10 wine bottles? Even better!

Putting up a tall unit

How many people does it take to fix a cabinet to the wall?

It also allowed the man of the house to show off his electrical wiring qualifications. And once he started, he couldn’t stop!

Electrical work

Lighting the walk-in larder

One of the biggest techniques that we wanted to learn was how to tile. Although we’re only tiling 3 square metres in the kitchen, we have lots of other rooms that will require tiling, and it’s something that we really want to be able to do ourselves. We had loads of ideas for the tiles we want. We started off looking at subway tiles, then saw some gorgeous (but horrendously expensive) lantern shaped mosaics. As well costing more than my first car, it was decided that all these fancy tile shapes weren’t advisable for a rookie. So in the end, we decided on Provenza Craquele from Topps Tiles, which are a nice and simple 10cm square. But the clincher was the fact that our local store conveniently had 3 square metres excess stock, so they gave us a 10% discount and we didn’t have to wait for them to be ordered in – perfect!

Tiling

Tiling like a Boss!

Tiling

More luck than judgement, no cutting needed round the corners 🙂

Tiling

Nearly finished…

We may not be 100% there, but we’re absolutely thrilled with the progress that we’ve made, and the new skills that we’ve learnt. It’s absolutely wonderful to be free of takeaways, and even more lovely to not have to wash our dishes in the bath!

Finished kitchen

Finally looking like a kitchen – and well worth the effort

A long overdue kitchen update

As we hinted at in the previous post, work on the kitchen has been continuing, albeit at a much slower pace than we’d originally hoped. But it has been moving forward, and the room is looking better by the day. For starters, we are now finally free of damp! The bare bricks were treated and re-rendered.

Rendered wall

Finally damp free

And far more exciting than a wall – the floor is finally finished!

Finished floor

A level floor at last!

It took a really long time, and it feels like we’ll never be free of all the dust, but we’re so pleased with the result. With the floor down we had a bit of a lull before taking delivery of the kitchen, so we finally summoned the courage to try wallpapering for the first time. To make it easy for ourselves, we decided to just paper the uneven walls with 1400 lining paper, and then paint over it. This meant that we didn’t have any pesky pattern repeats to worry about, and the thicker paper is apparently easier to work with. Since the ceilings are quite high in the house, we decided to start off underneath the window, so we weren’t working with a really long length of paper. Finally, after a LOT of preparation, we put up our first strip of wallpaper.

Wall with one strip of wallpaper

Our first strip of wallpaper!

At the time it was a rather big occasion. The picture really doesn’t do justice to the atmosphere and celebration given to this tiny piece of wallpaper. Perhaps you had to be there. Anyway, once we got started, the rest of the wallpaper went up really quickly. And then we had to tackle the really difficult question – what colour to paint the walls? Wallpapered wallsWallpapered walls We’ve always been fans of quite light, neutral shades. But in this room, they all seemed too cold. The two front runners for a while were Mellow Mocha and Egyptian Cotton from Dulux, but they were coming out almost pale purple in the light, so we weren’t sure. But we don’t like things to be left undecided, so at one point we nearly gave in and just bought Egyptian Cotton, just to stop the indecision hanging over us. But at the till we couldn’t go through with it, and it was back to the drawing board. We started looking at the more period brands, hoping to find a shade that would suit the age of the property. We liked Farrow and Ball Hay, and found Imperial Gold by Crown to be a really close match. We had samples of both, but it seemed to be an over-correction of the blue-based tones, as they were both way too bright and overpowering. Sensing a Goldilocks situation, the man of the house was becoming increasingly frustrated by this point. It was last chance saloon, before succumbing to the dreaded Magnolia. And then Little Greene stepped up to save the day. We tried samples of Woodbine and Chamois. Whilst my personal preference was the more lemony Woodbine, the boss man liked Chamois. After all the stress to get this far, Chamois was declared the winner as an act of appeasement. But I have to say, now it’s up, it was the better choice.

Wallpapered and painted walls

Starting to look like a proper room at last 🙂

So we’re now just working on the last few bits, ready to take delivery of the kitchen. The end is in sight, I am tantalisingly close to having a kitchen sink!

A kitchen-shaped can of worms

Well work on the kitchen has been progressing at a very fast pace!

After making the decision to keep as much of the floor intact as possible, we’ve been working to get the old concrete floor level. We’ve hired a builder who quickly got to work, removing the oven and sink to re-lay the concrete.

Kitchen minus the sink

And the sink is no more

While the initial reaction has been guilt-free takeaways, the novelty’s quickly worn off. So we weren’t best pleased when we found out that the kitchen will be delayed by 4 weeks. But every cloud has a silver lining, and it has meant that we’re no longer rushing to get things finished. This extra bit of breathing room has allowed us to consider the kitchen layout in more depth. We were originally going to have the fridge in an awkward position between the pantry and the kitchen door. It is going to look much better tucked into the pantry, but the trade-off in practicality isn’t ideal. So we’ve decided to swap out one of our cupboard units and install an integrated under-counter fridge. We’ll still keep the fridge in the pantry, but all the every day things like milk and veg will be right in the middle of the kitchen, where they belong.

The delay has been a blessing in disguise for another, slightly more concerning reason. In the house that keeps on giving, we have discovered: More Damp. It turns out that the original back door was in the kitchen wall at the back of the house, and wasn’t bricked in particularly well. And at some point in time, the boiler was moved into the pantry and the hole left by the old one was just boarded up with wood. Basically the wall is like a colander! So all the plaster’s been stripped off the wall and the brick work has been treated with a waterproof barrier.

Damp treated wall

Things escalated quickly!

It’s been a few days of upheaval and it’s amazing how quickly the entire room can be completely transformed. Hopefully the next time we say that there’ll be a kitchen sink! But before we get there, we at least have adhesive on the concrete ready to lay the quarry tiles and the damp wall should be plastered by the end of the week.

Hopefully by the end of the weekend we will have a tiled floor and plastered (maybe even wallpapered?) walls. There are even whispers of the oven being back in place! But for now, the man at the local chip shop is our best friend.

More kitchen adventures

Well it’s been a very uncertain weekend. Having had two different guys come in and quote us two wildly different prices to do two completely different jobs on the floor, we were starting to feel confused. The decision to smash or not to smash has been the only topic of conversation all weekend. Finally we had to call in the big guns – parents.

Fortunately my dad has over 30 years experience in doing all manner of concrete-related jobs. Unfortunately he lives in France and is notoriously difficult to get hold of. Finally tonight we managed to arrange a session on Skype, and got some fantastic advice.

The query whether the concrete was sinking or not has been explained in one of my favourite ways: using a food analogy! Apparently the concrete screed acts like a slice of bread when it’s drying. If it’s allowed to dry unevenly, or too quickly, or is left too long before being tiled, it will start to curl up at the edges like a slice of bread left out in the air. So the bow in the middle of our concrete is not sinking in the middle, it’s actually curling up at the edges. Meaning that we don’t need to dig out the current concrete sub-floor – yay!

The timing of this information was a little too late though, as a few hours before speaking to my dad we knocked through the concrete to see how deep it went.

Kitchen floor

Patience is a virtue – we don’t have it!

It was just a little nibble though, rather than a full-on Hulk moment, so it could have been a lot worse! Dad’s advice gave us 2 options. Firstly – lift all the quarry tiles, extend the concrete out to cover the entire room, level it off with one massive screed and then re-lay the original and reclaimed tiles on one solid surface.

Now this will of course give the floor the best finish. But we can’t quite bring ourselves to lift up the tiles that have remained in place for over 130 years. While we know the finish between the two areas won’t be flawless, we’ve made the decision to go with Option Two: Leave them in place and just work on getting the reclaimed tiles to match up as best we can. Hopefully the layout of the kitchen will place the island unit over the join, so any obvious seam will be hidden.

Kitchen floor tiles

Restoration of the tiles is going so well – we can’t lift them up now!

It’s taken a very long time to come to this decision, but we think it’s the right thing to do. The idea of keeping the original tiles untouched will be worth the compromise in the final finished look, and it’s a huge relief to know that the concrete isn’t sinking!

Uncovering original features

Seeking distraction from our roof woes we’ve made a start on the kitchen. When we viewed the house there were units at floor and eye level to the right of the oven. What we didn’t realise was that these were freestanding units which the previous owner took with her when she left. So we had a lot of floor space, with very little work surface. Some may see this as a problem, but we saw it as a perfect excuse to do some shopping!

View of kitchen

p.s. check out the cobwebs on the side of the oven!

We have always loved the freestanding oak kitchens that we discovered a few years ago in Simply Dutch in North Yorkshire. Not only are they amazing quality, they have the added bonus of needing minimal work to fit. Definitely a huge plus point at the moment!

Breakfast Bar Island

Shopping for breakfast bar island units

While waiting for the units to arrive, we started considering our options with the floor. One of the first things you notice when you walk in is how uneven it is. The existing floor was self-adhesive wood effect strips, which over the years had worn away where the floor was higher, and was starting to peel up in places. We pulled a couple of inches up and found that they had been stuck directly onto cork tiles.

Now I could spend the next few hours conveying in extensive detail just what we feel towards cork tiles, and more importantly, the vile rubber/latex/uber-glue substance that was used to stick these monstrosities onto our kitchen floor. However, in order to stay sane I shall keep to more positive things; namely, what we eventually found under the  the Evil Glue From Hell….

We have only gone and uncovered the original Victorian floor!

Black and red quarry tiles

A layer of sticky fake wood strips, a layer of cork tiles, a layer of Acme glue and finally Victorian quarry tiles

Sadly we only have about half the original floor, as the kitchen was extended at some point to include the scullery. While the original kitchen side of the room has the lovely red and black quarry tiles, the scullery floor was removed at some point and laid with concrete and some rather strange green quartz tiles. While they did look kind of nice, they were very badly damaged and when we realised they wouldn’t have been original, we decided to cut our losses and remove them.

Damaged green quartz tiles

Green quartz in the scullery, sadly beyond repair

Nonetheless, we’re chuffed with our find 🙂 And even better, our local reclamation yard had another 300 identical tiles which we quickly snapped up.

The main bulk of the work has been to get the tiles cleaned up as best as we can. The best technique so far has been to use white vinegar on top of the cement to start dissolving it. Then, using a chisel and a hammer, chip away as much of the cement as possible. A nylon scrubbing brush also helps agitate the edges of the cement, making it much easier to remove. There are normally some small areas that are a bit more difficult to remove, but a scraper seems to do the trick.

It’s slow progress, taking about an hour to clean up 10 tiles. But it’s worth it to see the end result:

Cleaned up quarry tiles

A weekend well spent!

But it’s not all good news. The concrete subfloor in the scullery half is very uneven and bowed in the middle. Our fridge legs are at the minimum setting on the back, maximum on the front and it’s still leaning forward! We’ve been unsure about how to handle it. Either we cover the concrete with self-levelling compound and tile onto that, or we dig out the concrete, lay a mesh screen and lay a new concrete screed. So do we take the quick fix and risk further movement on the dodgy concrete? Or do we reach for our trusty sledgehammers and SMASH?

View of the kitchen with scullery tiles removed

Ready for Phase 2