Further Lounge Redecoration

IMG_7124Today T was here doing some more decorating.

IMG_7126He put the second coat of emulsion on the walls and redid the gloss on the picture rail and skirting boards.

IMG_7129Then this afternoon P dropped by to give the timber fire surround and mantelpiece its first coat of varnish.

IMG_7128It will get a second coat late next week as the varnish is “cissing”, which means in places it is pooling and separating because of the old layers of polish. It still looks good though and will perfect after the next coat.

In other news, I woke up at midnight last night to discover the central heating was still on despite the fact that it is set to go off around 9pm. All the controls were off but the heating pump and boiler were still happily churning away belting out heat and the radiators were vesuvial. Even when I physically turned the boiler off the heat pump was still going. I did a web search that suggested I find the switch to turn the heat pump off too. I was back in bed around 1:30am after doing further research on the problem and sending an email to P the plumber. My research suggested a faulty valve. At 6am I got up and turned the boiler on, just for the hot water, and the heating started up yet again, depite it being turned off. P the plumber dropped around late that morning (it’s great to have reliable trades) and diagnosed the faulty valve on the pump system. We had kept some of the older parts of the system (installed in 2009) when we renovated last year, including the boiler. P has to get the valve and will be back early next week to swap it over. We can still use the heating and hot water but I have to turn the boiler on and off manually over the weekend. We might opt to use the top floor shower, which is electric and independent of the hot water system until it is fixed. It was for occasions such as these that we thought it best to keep an electric shower on the top floor. Eventually we will have to invest in a new boiler but we will wait as long as we need to while this one still works.

Build Day #46


Today P the plumber continued his work on the hot water service and pipes. To Chad and Debby – you were right – the small tanks are expansion tanks, one for the hot water and the other for the heating system.

IMG_2833S, one of JB’s ‘lads’, or general labourers, continued preparing the en suite walls for plastering. The plasterers are coming tomorrow morning (Saturday)  to plaster the en suite and Mark’s study ceiling.

IMG_2835Looking very aqua at the moment.

IMG_2780A, the quarry tile restoration man came today to seal the floor but the tiles are still damp. They will need more time to dry out. We will go ahead with the carpentry work and the kitchen installation and he will return in two weeks’ time. In the meantime, we must protect the floor as it is unsealed.

In addition to the plasterers, the roofers will be here tomorrow working on the top floor front dormer lead work. On a weekend! Sorry Mark.

I will be painting. This weekend I hope to sand, prep and mist coat the breakfast room, first top coat the walls in the kitchen, and maybe top coat the ceiling in the breakfast room. I also have a couple of tester pots of different yellows for the breakfast room I’d like to try as well. Then I may nap.


Build Days #43 and #44

Yesterday was fairly quiet. JB and a couple of his labourers arrived but couldn’t complete their job for the day as their circular saw blade had been blunted by the plumber.

IMG_2798As the quarry tiles dried there was some efflorescence of mineral salts, which is perfectly normal, apparently. They will be ‘dry scrubbed’ before they are sealed.

IMG_2810The boiler got its new home today in the airing cupboard. Looking smart. Much better that its old location.

IMG_2811The new hot water tank will go in tomorrow. It’s enormous.

IMG_2812I think these are part of the hot water system too…

IMG_2797I forgot to show you my first painted ceiling! It’s the one in the kitchen. I am very pleased with it – nice coverage.

IMG_2820I have been testing a few more colours for the dining room. I am still eyeing the red but I definitely don’t like the others.

IMG_2819P the painter started to burn off the old paint on the front door.

IMG_2813Historically blue, green and purple seem to be the predominant colours, though it probably would have been varnished originally.

IMG_2783In the understairs cupboard this magazine showed up – it may have been wedged behind the old electricity board. It is a copy of The Listener from June 22nd 1989. At first I though to myself, oh, that’s fairly recent. I then did the calculations and realised 1989 was 25 years ago! But I remember 1989 like it was yesterday! Uh oh. Must be getting old.

IMG_2800As everyone had gone home today by 3pm I decided to have another go on the scaffold. I stepped out through the bedroom window on the first floor. Here you can see the fascias and end-jacks have been stripped and painted black.

IMG_2799Most of the windows have been stripped, sanded, filled and undercoated.

IMG_2801Here is a close-up of the decorative cast iron hopper.

IMG_2803It’s not blocked here but the downpipe is full of debris about halfway down.

I then lost my nerve on the scaffold and went back inside. It’s something about being able to see down through the boards. I’ll go further next time.





Build Day #3

Day three was very busy.

IMG_1771The plumbers were here and they set up the temporary water supply for the top floor. Here you can see it snaking from downstairs, through the future en suite and the up to the next floor. They also plumbed in our washing machine, which is now squished into our already tiny bathroom. The tumble dryer is now on the landing. At least it means we have totally uninterrupted laundry capabilities – much to Mark’s delight.

IMG_1739The plumbers also cut off the gas and the rest of the water, removed the boiler and began to demolish the bathroom and toilet.

IMG_1742Goodbye toilet!

IMG_1743Goodbye bathroom!

IMG_1734Our skip arrived today as well.

IMG_1744It wasn’t long before it was half full. Look, everything including the kitchen sink!

IMG_1741There were deliveries of bathroom supplies. More to come tomorrow.

IMG_1747The rickety wooden screen was demolished.

IMG_1751The structural engineer came to advise on the structural work. We need to work out a way to hold up the chimney at the back of the house once the servant’s toilet wall is removed. The entire chimney is propped up by the wall, these wooden beams and blocks of stone. The more major structural work will be in the kitchen.

IMG_1757The back wall was completely knocked through into the pantry.

IMG_1760It is the first time that the house has a view onto the back garden! It also reinforced how dismal the garden actually is at the moment. I like how the builders have set up an outdoor recreation space with their garden chairs. I forgot to take a close up of the bricks – they are stamped Whitwick Colliery, which was a colliery and brickworks to the northwest of Leicester.

IMG_1735At the same time new bricks were arriving!



The Weird, Weird, World of Boilers, Heating and Hot Water Systems in the UK

I am writing this post partly because a couple of readers (hi Michelle and Andrew!) have mentioned how strange the concept of UK boilers are, and partly to try and understand it myself.


Here is a picture of an Australian hot water cylinder (actually from the house we built in Melbourne) [Side note: Goodness that sky is bright!]. All houses need hot water and heating, right? OK. Back in Australia we would have a hot water cylinder, often attached to the outside wall of a house, that would be connected to the mains water. The water goes in and a gas flame heats the water for use in the bathrooms and kitchen. Sometimes there is an electric system that does a similar thing. You can’t have a system outside like this in the UK because of the likelihood of the pipes freezing and bursting in the winter.

As for heating, in Australia there were several different types. You might have a gas fire or wood fire in an individual room, or an electric radiator, or a ducted central heating system. Central heating systems in Australia are often gas heating. You have a heating unit somewhere in the house, usually in a cupboard or behind a wall. Here’s the thing, in Australia the central heating uses gas to heat up air and blow it out through ducts in the floor or ceiling. British people don’t think that’s ‘proper heating’.

8373561618_dd74d67954_oDear, sweet, departed Orlando heating himself over a Australian central heating duct blowing out warm air.


In the UK, central heating sends superheated water to radiators in different rooms that then radiate the heat. Sweet Miss Rose enjoying a UK radiator.

Essentially, in Australia you would have separate heating sources for the hot water and for the heating. In the UK you have one source of heat for both:

IMG_2698 - 2013-06-11 at 17-12-00The Boiler. This is great in some respects, though, as we found out in our last house, when the boiler breaks down you have neither hot water nor heating and it is very uncomfortable indeed.

Now it gets tricky as you can have different types of boiler systems… I ripped the diagrams off the internet, so apologies (and thanks) if they are yours.

conventThis is a conventional boiler setup like the one we have in this house. The boiler (depicted here as the orange rectangular shaped object) uses gas to make a flame. It draws in cold water and heats it up. Some of the hot water goes through pipes in the hot water cylinder (the dome shaped object) heating up the water in that cylinder for use in the house. When you turn the heating on, hot water is pumped through all of the radiators, warming up the house. In this system you also need header tanks – the cold water tanks depicted in the roof. Header tanks, still common in the UK, are a remnant of earlier times when mains water pressure was weak (in some places it still is), thus you needed gravity to create water pressure in your house (it is still known as a ‘vented gravity fed system’). One header tank feeds water into the hot water cylinder, while another feeds water into the boiler. I’m not sure why there needs to be two tanks, so don’t ask me. I do know that this system is best in larger homes where they may be several taps being used throughout the house. It does mean though, that eventually the hot water cylinder runs out of hot water and your shower can go cold. It also means that you have two huge water tanks in your house. Clearly in ours, given the state of the ceiling on the top floor, it has leaked or burst at some time.

IMG_2739 - 2013-06-11 at 17-21-27One of our header tanks, this one is in the creepy eaves cupboard. The other one is in the roof. It was those sheets of wood covering the (open) tank that had the woodworm in.

combiThe next system is known as a combination boiler system. Here you can see the boiler doubles as the water heater – I think the water is continually heated as it runs through the boiler so you never run out of hot water. There are no weird header tanks needed in this system and you don’t need a whole cupboard in the house (known as an airing cupboard) to hold a hot water cylinder. The problem with this system is that if two taps are used at the same time the water pressure drops and you can end up with a cold shower.

Are you still with me?

unventedhouseThis is known as a ‘mains fed unvented system’ and it is the system we are going with. You have a separate boiler and water tank but the water tank is connected directly to the mains and retains mains water pressure throughout the house, thus allowing many taps to run at the same time. I think it is also more efficient so you are less likely to run out of hot water. We had this system in Liverpool and we never ran out of hot water so we are happy we are getting it here. It also means we lose the header tanks!

IMG_2748 - 2013-06-11 at 17-23-27Luckily for us, and one of the reasons I knew we would still be able to live in the house during the renovations (when the boiler is ripped out and the heating and hot water are upgraded), is that the top floor has its own source of hot water – a small electric hot water heater, like the ones you often find in Australia in flats. This services the hot tap in the kitchenette and the hot tap in the bathroom sink. The shower doesn’t need this hot water as it is an electric shower – but I will save the weird, weird world of electric showers for another post!