Build Day #19

IMG_2263Today was a bit of a slow day. The scaffolders were expected but they are now not coming until tomorrow. We got some new ceilings in the kitchen.

IMG_2264I think I failed to show you a picture of the completed bricking up of the servant’s toilet door which happened a few days back. The original door is propped up against it and I’m thinking of using it as the future side gate.

IMG_2265The frame for the walls continued to be constructed.

IMG_2266We are also future-proofing the build. You might recall that we are leaving the conversion of the coal store into a utility room and downstairs toilet until Stage 2 of the build. We decided that it was best to cut the doorway through into the coal store now and add the lintel while we were at this point in order to make it much easier to extend into there in the future. It will be plastered up behind the wall and ready to go when we finally get to Stage 2. We’re so clever.

IMG_2267A never before seen view into the coal store, the home of the hibernating butterflies and the hidden bottle of sodium amytal truth serum.


Build Day #18

IMG_2243We have attained full sight-line! Just look at that vista!

IMG_1145A reminder of how it used to be.

IMG_2254The removal of the rest of the servant’s toilet wall has opened up the view of the future French doors and the garden.

IMG_2252It’s all thanks to this – a new steel beam supporting the floor above.

IMG_2247The view from the garden.

IMG_2251How it looks as you walk in. This room, the future breakfast room – former kitchen/scullery/pantry and servant’s toilet – is much bigger than we had imagined.

IMG_2245The electricians continued their work and also the alarm installer completed his first fix. Secret location of alarm control panel.

IMG_2244The white wire dangling from the wall is for the new alarm’s bell box.

Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 10.55.38iPhoto does this face recognition thing so that you can name people in the photo. There was no-one upstairs when I took this…

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 17.24.46I did a super zoom in and there is still nothing. I wonder if the angle and proportions of the window bars triggered an auto-recognition… If you squint it sort of looks like a Moai face. Mark doesn’t want me to talk about it. I don’t believe in ghosts and nothing has ever happened here to make me feel uneasy. I once said something similar to a ghost-believer about another building and she replied “Well, maybe they like you”.

IMG_2238More deliveries of building materials.

IMG_2246Our new ceilings have arrived!

Build Days #16 & #17

IMG_2231The electricians continued the wiring. Here you can see the bedside table solution taking shape – wall lamps with switches beside the bed.

IMG_2197Skip three was taken away.

IMG_2215We had some deliveries.

IMG_2220This is the insulated board that will line the walls in the future breakfast room.

IMG_2223They will be slotted into this frame.


IMG_2222The servants’ toilet floor got its second layer of cement.

IMG_2221As did the step down to the new future French doors.

IMG_2218Speaking of steps, the one outside the bricked up tradesman’s entrance is on the move.

IMG_2232Yet more wallpaper samples.

IMG_2225We also knocked through the blocked up fireplace in the dining room revealing this! Now to work out what to do with it. The brickwork was never intended to be seen so I am thinking that we should plaster it but keep the arch shape. Eventually we can reinstate the chimney and put some sort of wood burner in there.

IMG_2217It turns out that this board was blocking the fireplace. It had been screwed to the wall and then plastered over. Do you recognise the wallpaper?

IMG_2209Rosie continues her love affair with her preferred carpet sample. She grooms it obsessively.

IMG_2214And then uses it as a pillow.

IMG_2200This morning Oliver and Ruby decided to go on an adventure – in the roof… As their blue food barrel in the spooky eaves cupboard is empty, one of them (my guess is Ruby) had managed to push it out the way and climb through the hole that the barrel had been blocking. I hadn’t been too worried about the hole as I thought it was far too small for a cat to fit through but I had blocked it with the barrel just in case.


I got down on my knees, peered though the hole calling their names. Finally I saw some little paws in the distance. Ruby managed to slip back through the little hole quite easily. Then Oliver tried. He stuck is head through but couldn’t work out that he needed to put his front legs through first. He then retreated back into the roof.  I went downstairs to get tools to break open the hole a bit more but when I returned Oliver was trying again.  First came one front leg and his head, then his second front leg. Oliver is a little husky and is quite rotund in the middle. Halfway out of the hole his tummy got stuck and I had visions of the fire brigade having to come and cut him out. He looked like a sausage being squeezed out of a sausage machine. He struggled a bit and I was worried he was panicking but then he managed to squeeze himself back through in one piece. They both look very proud of themselves and Ruby wanted to go back in immediately but I wasn’t having that. At the moment a large suitcase is blocking the hole and tomorrow I will try to cover it over permanently.


Build Day #15


IMG_2183Today the lintel was bricked and mortared in.

IMG_2190The outer bricking of the servants’ toilet began.

IMG_2174The bathroom was stripped out completely.

IMG_2196The basin in the bedroom was finally removed!

IMG_2172There was also lots of rewiring by the electricians, who continued the electrical ‘first fix’. The removal of old switches and trunking revealed yet more wallpaper samples. Here in the bedroom us a jaunty blue and white stripe.

IMG_2179Back bedroom – a peaches and cream stripe.

IMG_2180Rear landing.

IMG_2173In the toilet was this colourful long-stitch pattern in blue, red, yellow and green.

IMG_2195In the hall a dark teal and white pattern.

IMG_2171A green and red floral pattern in the future en suite. As these papers were immediately under the old wiring, it dates these patterns to those on the wall in 1960, if my calculations are correct.


Build Day #14: A Major Breakthrough

Please excuse the pun.

IMG_2088We literally had a major breakthrough today and it was the one I have been most looking forward to: the knocking through of the new doorway from the hall into the kitchen.  This is the one structural change which will really unify the servants’ part of the house with the family part, turning it into a modern home. Before this, the only way to the back part of the house was through the door under the stairs, past the tradesman’s entrance and through another door. First a few bricks were removed – see the light coming though?

IMG_2091The hole was enlarged and then the concrete lintel* inserted. More daylight and a hint of green!

IMG_2097For the first time ever you could see the back garden from the front door!

IMG_2101And from the other side – the front door and the street.


IMG_2141Here the doorway has been fully knocked through. It will look smaller when the door frame and door are in place.

IMG_2145When the builders left for the day, Rosie was the first to cross the new threshold.

IMG_2147Ruby was second.

IMG_2150As usual, Oliver was bringing up the rear. He was sidetracked by the Dalek machine.

IMG_2159Here is the view from kitchen into hallway. All the windows are boarded up at the moment, which is why it’s dark.

IMG_2096This is our new kitchen. As you can see the rest of the chimney breast came down today as well. IMG_2142The far doorway which is blocked up in this picture leads through to the breakfast room.

IMG_2163In the breakfast room the higher floor of the servants’ toilet was excavated. There is still more wall to come down when the next steel is put in place.

IMG_2105In other news, the water company came by and filled in the trench with gravel and sand.

IMG_2122Then a special compactor tamped it all down.

IMG_2121Rose and Ruby were very interested in the noisy goings on down below.


IMG_2136It then took another truck with a different crew to do the asphalting. I didn’t witness a single tea break!

IMG_2160All finished.

IMG_2099Today we also had an installation by the electricity supply company of a PME (Protective Multiple Earth) and a new cut-out and isolator. I say this as if I know what it means but really I have no idea except for the fact that it brings our electrics up to a modern, safe standard. You wouldn’t know it from all the tangled mess under the stairs. In a few weeks we also get new electricity and gas meters.

IMG_2166Ruby here continues the theme of the stress this build is having on the cats. They are very well protected up here in the second floor flat and, as they are indoor cats anyway, they are very happy just snoozing through the day and taking the occasional look out of the windows. I think it helps that I am here with them as well. They then have the run of the house in the evenings before bed time.

* Concrete lintel. I am reminded of the scene from Fawlty Towers where the hapless builder Mr O’Reilly has knocked through the door into the hotel’s kitchen. When Mr Stubbs – Sybil’s preferred builder – inspects the work, he asks Basil “Did you use an RSJ? You know, an iron girder? Or did you use a concrete lintel?” Basil replies “No, a wooden one”. Stubb’s looks alarmed and exclaims “But that’s a supporting wall!” – leading to the comic finale. I am very happy that our builder is a Stubbs rather than an O’Reilly.

Renovations in the Movies #1: Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House

There are times during this renovation process when particular films I have seen about home renovation come to mind. One of my favourites is the 1948 Cary Grant film Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House. Here is the trailer.

New York ad man Jim Blandings (Grant) and his wife Muriel (Myrna Loy) are tired of living in their cramped New York apartment. They decide to move to the country and have Jim commute to the city for work. A Connecticut real estate agent manages to offload the “Old Hackett Place” to them. They plan to renovate (or, in American vernacular, “fix it up”) but it soon becomes apparent that the entire building is on the verge of collapse. They are forced to demolish and re-build. During the build Mr Blandings’ job, marriage and sanity are all tested.

Here Mrs Blandings discusses colours with the decorator (the audio is a little low so you might need to turn it up):

If you search on YouTube you can find the entire film for viewing. I initially saw this film in 2003 when we were building our first house back in Melbourne, Australia. We too had decided that we would move out of the centre of the city in order to afford our own home.

8349483813_2e16942ea2_zThe house going up.

8370790122_e1ea2efcf0_zHow it looked when we sold it. The summer drought had not been kind to the lawn: there were water restrictions so we weren’t allowed to water it.Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 08.46.47A Google Street view shot from today. The garden we planted is maturing nicely. It was our dream home for a while but then our commutes got worse and worse. Luckily a couple of years later Mark got a promotion and we were able to move back into town much closer to our workplaces. Like many people we had to make some sort of compromise in order to get on the ‘property ladder’.



Found Objects #7

IMG_1786Various found objects that I haven’t posted about until now. This is a pre-1971 Leicester bus ticket that I found rolled up in a corner of the master bedroom wardrobe. It cost three pennies, otherwise known as threepence or a threepenny bit – or – as it was pronounced in this part of England – thruppence/thrupney bit.

IMG_0737This one is a bit later perhaps, or maybe a return trip (it looks like both the Out and In are marked). It cost five pence and I found it in the fireplace in the back bedroom (during the fireplace reveal here).

IMG_0735On the back: Go by bus.

IMG_1982Screwed up the rubble from the demolition of the servant’s toilet was this letter. It may have come from the ceiling ie. was under the floorboards of the room above. It is a note dated the fifth of June 1970 from C Lloyd, the Head of Dulwich College (a London boys’ school), to George Fraser thanking him for his reference for a man named David Seed. I assume it was a reference for a teaching position and that Mr Seed was a student of Mr Fraser’s. My research tells me that David Seed is now a Professor of English at the University of Liverpool, which was the university where Mark worked before we came to Leicester!

IMG_1787Finally, a collection of coins from the bedroom wardrobe, most of the from the floor having slid under the skirting board. This image is full size so you can click on it to see better. On the top is a 1962 Irish coin; the second row has two thrupney bits dated 1941 and 1943. Row three: 20 centimes from France, 1964; a UK 1955 shilling; a half penny from between 1971 and 1981; a 1997 ten pence. Row four: seven 1 penny coins from various years, the brightest one being the newest from the year 2000. One or two more coins were sucked up by the vacuum cleaner when I was cleaning the wardrobe out…

IMG_1789The reverse ‘head’ sides of the coins.


Build Day #13

IMG_2011Today the water company came to replace their part of the lead service pipe. The workmen started with a tea break. Then they began to cut through the footpath with a large circular saw. That coiled blue plastic pipe is our new connection from the house to the street.


After this some manual excavation commenced. Then it was elevenses.

IMG_2019This was followed by the digger. Then they had lunch. There was also lots of standing and looking into the trench.

IMG_2025 It’s difficult to see but in the clay is the iron mains water pipe with the lead service pipe connected. It turns out that we had two leaks – one where the pipe attached to the mains and another on our property – hence that ‘ground water’ I showed you yesterday.

IMG_2042A van with a loud speaker then went up and down the street warning residents that the water was going to be turned off. They then drained  the pipe and our new plastic pipe was attached to the mains.

IMG_2024On the house side the blue pipe goes into this brown insulated junction box called an Insuduct and then into the house. It saves having to dig under the house and up through the terrazzo floor.


IMG_2044All connected.

IMG_2050The hole is still there as it is the job of a separate team of workmen to fill it back in again.


IMG_2046We now have lead free water! This is the end of the Edwardian lead pipe that was attached to the mains.

IMG_2047Rosie inspecting the pipe. At the end of each day Oliver, Ruby, Rose and I go downstairs and inspect the work. There is lots of sniffing about (by the cats).

IMG_2069Oliver has discovered that the new electric wires swing about when you bat them.

IMG_2056I’m glad they’re not live.

IMG_2073Ruby getting a good view of the street.

IMG_2027The chimney breast in the future kitchen started to come down today.

IMG_2028You can see the angled brick that started the archway over the original fireplace. I need to check with the builders whether the arch was still there under all the plasterwork as it would have been nice to see it before it was removed. Probably a good thing I didn’t though as I would have been torn about whether or not to keep it.

IMG_2075As you can see by Miss Rose’s pose, the cats are very stressed about the building work.

Build Day #12

IMG_1986Today we said goodbye to skip number two.

IMG_1996The servant’s toilet door was blocked up.

IMG_1991A structural steel was placed into the brickwork to hold up the chimney above the future breakfast room.

IMG_1990More of the walls around the toilet were removed. Unfortunately this revealed that the floor level inside the toilet is higher than the other floor. Not sure what will happen with that but I assume it will be dug out. It means that more quarry tiles will have to be relaid than I thought.

IMG_1988The breakfast room is taking shape. Note the old wooden toilet roll holder still on that back wall.

IMG_1992See the blue bucket? The section of wall directly behind it (about three bricks wide) is still to be removed, which will open up the room to the light of the new rear doorway to the garden.


Build Day #11

IMG_1960A quick ‘before’ shot as the scaffold goes up next week.

IMG_1963The trench awaits the arrival of the special insulated duct for the water pipes. At the bottom the high ground water is just visible.

IMG_1959I wondered why the skip was so full of bricks.

IMG_1965Then I discovered why: the servant’s toilet is no more. You can see right through into the pantry!

IMG_1971The view from inside the old kitchen. There is still more demolition to do so this space will be a really good size when it’s all done. I had a brief panic about whether we made the right choice turning this into the breakfast room rather than the kitchen but Mark and I rationalised the decision. It will mean that there is a living space leading directly to the garden. Also the kitchen, where I have planned for it to go, will be in a more central part of the house rather than right at the back, which I think will be more convenient and sociable for the person cooking. It also returns the kitchen to its original Edwardian location.

IMG_1972The chimney above is being held up by the remnant of the wall and also the large metal brace pole. I’ll have to remind JB that we haven’t yet agreed on a price for this structural work – I hope for his sake he doesn’t have to rebuild the wall!

IMG_1981I have held on to the cast iron brackets that were holding up the cistern in the servant’s toilet. Those clearly have the letter ‘S’ on them – does it stand for Servant? Surely not.

IMG_1964Also the bricking up of the door was completed today. A very neat job.

I have a feeling that tomorrow will see the knocking through of the new internal doorway from the hall into the kitchen! Prepare for dust!