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…


Pantry organisation & Autumn art

So a while back we ripped out the old shelving in the pantry and gave it a spruce-up. Nothing major, but we made the shelves more practical by building tiers.


We have a lot of Kilner jars and I always get mixed up with plain/self raising/bread flour. These DIY decals from Painted Hive have been so useful in keeping things organised 🙂


We had the idea of having a chalkboard for writing reminders and lists but we never really use it. So I decided to try out one of the hundreds of things I pin but never get round to. This Autumn chalkboard design inspired by Yellow Bliss Road took a couple of attempts but came out a lot easier than I expected!


The Summer kitchen valance from our old house covers up part of the under counter storage and of course, what pantry would be complete without some random crochet bunting!


It’s nice for us to have these quick wins in the renovation, they are so much more interesting than the current work to keep the place warm – more on that later!

Preparing for Winter

This is a cold house. The South facing front garden is completely covered by 2 tall trees, leaving the two front reception rooms cold all year round. We have lovely wooden windows, but they aren’t that great for keeping the heat in.

So today we spent some time adding foam strips to the edges of the windows, ready for when the weather starts to get worse. We can already notice a difference with a reduction in outdoor noise. Although I might miss the sound of the owls at night now, it’s worth the sacrifice for warmer nights.

One of the biggest cold spots is a window on the landing. It’s like walking past a block of ice when we go past it. So to see what’s causing this, we have taken off the plastic surround. Here’s what we uncovered:


Not great. Daylight is clearly visible. There’s literally no evidence that anyone’s considered heat retention at all. They’ve just boxed it in to hide the mess and left it at that 😦


There’s actually a lump of tissue paper up at the top!


Perhaps the cowboy builder had a cold when they were installing it?!

I guess we were expecting to see something like this. But where do we go from here? We’re going to consult our trusty Haynes Victorian House manual to see the best solution. Expanding foam, sheep’s wool insulation, or something else?

Starting work on the stairs

Today I did some volunteering at a Community Centre in Lincoln. We spent the day weeding the garden and preparing some wood panelled walls ready to get a fresh coat of paint.

It made me realise that I shouldn’t be so afraid to tackle a job in the house that has always seemed too big to start: the staircase.

Our neighbour’s staircase is a lovely varnished wood. Ours – not so much…


I’m sure that some people like bold colours, but we’re really not into the whole red gloss thing.

Some parts of the banister are lovely, and it is definitely original, which is a big plus point.


However, where it has been painted, it has really been painted. They were nothing if not thorough!


How gloopy is that?!

So armed with my sander, I’ve had a little go at some of the flat panelling. So far it’s been slow progress.

Hopefully it will be dry this weekend so we can ventilate the hallway and hit it with the heat gun. Hopefully it will be weeks, rather than months before it’s done. But right now, it’s not looking too good 😦

Laundry room work so far

We’re nearly there!


After a sensible discussion we decided to keep the wood unpainted for now. There’s a lot of wood in the room already and we’re planning to have some terracotta quarry tiles on the floor, so we thought it would look better to keep things natural.


We also decided to do away with the grotty white worktop. My heart wanted real wood but Gav’s head won out with a reasoned case in favour of practicality. Given how clumsy I am, it does seem to more sensible to have a surface that can be wiped clean without the danger of staining. So I just covered the existing surface with Fablon. While I would still like a proper wood worktop, I am impressed with how quick, easy and cheap it was to achieve this effect. I need to buy another roll though, as there wasn’t enough to cover the little shelf at the back.


It will be the dog food room for a little while longer, while we figure out our plans for the cloakroom, but we’re 99% there on phase one, and we’re chuffed 🙂


More laundry room work

So the walls have been painted, just a few wee touch-ups following a fairly heavy-handed session with the decorator’s caulk, but we love the new laundry room so far.



Now for the shelving. We had originally thought of adding a couple of cheap kitchen wall units for storage, but the doors are pretty pricey and we’re saving up for the flooring. So we looked around the rest of the house to see if we could salvage anything that’s not being used.

True to form,  the previous owner had left this shelving in one of the bedrooms that will be perfect.


We picked up a thick piece of dowel for hanging up garments too. So the rest of the afternoon will be spent preparing and hanging the shelves. I’m still in two minds about whether to paint this up or leave the wood bare.

I guess I just need to sit down with a cup of tea and a scone and make a decision!

Singer sewing table makeover

We’re having a productive Bank Holiday weekend! Remember the Singer sewing table from this morning? Well Gav went right to work, taking off the old hinged worktop, which was sadly not the original.


We had a piece of worktop spare that was an offcut from the pantry. We used the same dark Jacobean oak stain to give it a nice finish.


Then we fitted a cheap shelf above, added some dado railing to the front and here it is!



It is the perfect use of the recess by the fireplace, and will allow us to stay on top of all our admin without needing to set aside an entire room for an office.

We’re really pleased with it, it’s the perfect finish to the “living” side of the kitchen.


We’re definitely nearly there now! We just need to save up for my Voyage fabric for blinds and cushions. But for now, we’re really enjoying spending our time in here.

Now, back to that second coat of paint in the laundry room…