Property Maintenance (and some cats photos at the end)

IMG_9500A couple of weeks ago I looked up at the ceiling in the entrance hall and saw this. Guess what’s directly above? The en suite shower room. I had completed some overzealous cleaning of the shower a few days before and hoped that the stain was perhaps from something like a small gap in the floor tile grouting where I has spilled water. When I got my tape measure out though, the stain sat directly underneath the shower drain outlet above.

IMG_9501Upstairs I prodded the drain where it sits in the shower tray and there was water underneath the rim. When I unscrewed the drain section I could see that all the silicone inside it had expired and was wet and mouldy. At the same time I felt the drainpipe drop away from the shower base towards the ceiling below. Ooops. I called P the plumber and asked him about it. Without seeing it he said that he didn’t think the drain would be the culprit as they are basically fitted and then sealed and shouldn’t ever pose a problem. He suggested that perhaps some of the silicone around the base of the shower might be faulty.


It was true that there were a few places where the silicone had started to come away, so we decided that I would dry out the shower and strip away all the silicone and P would come by later in the week to seal it all up. I cut away all the silicone and then prepped the surface by cleaning it with white spirit.

IMG_9506As I pulled the drain section apart I also discovered the rubber drain seal was all mouldy. This confirmed my belief that the drain had been leaking, all that mould doesn’t form overnight. I gave it a good clean.

Luckily we had the shower in the top floor bathroom to use while we waited for P the plumber. After using it a couple of times though, I noticed water coming from under the base of that shower too! Again I prodded the drain and there was water under that rim as well. P the plumber was very busy and a few days had passed. I had some silicone in the house and I have siliconed a shower base before, it just looked a bit messy, so I thought I would give it a try. I started by siliconing around the rim of the the top floor shower drain. When next we used it there was no leak! Emboldened, I decided to tackle the en suite shower too. It was a bit more difficult as there was quite a large gap between the shower base and the tiled walls, but I managed it in the end. I also re-sealed the drain, screwing it all together and re-siliconing it, making sure that there was a light ring of silicone around the rim too. Two weeks later and we are still leak free!

IMG_9540Continuing our theme of water and property maintenance, last week we had some major storms. Whenever it rains heavily I like to check that all the drains and gutters are flowing freely. The cascade coming from the gutter at the back of the house told me we had some problems. The gutter on the roof below it was overflowing too.

The next day, when it was dry, I inspected the lower gutter and downpipe. The plastic leaf guards that we had fitted in the mouths of the downpipes last year were blocking too quickly and easily. I cleared out the one I could reach with my step ladder. When I tested the downpipe with the garden hose though, it was still overflowing. The problem was underground, so I pulled the downpipe out of ground to inspect the pipe. Sure enough it was blocked with a mixture of silt and tiny fragments of terracotta roof tiles – when the roof was being repaired last year the gutters weren’t protected, so all the debris had been washed down the pipes. Underground drain clearing can be expensive, we know that from our experiences with our last house. Luckily I remembered that we had a Wet-and-Dry Vax machine under the stairs that we used in our last house when the cellar flooded (what is it about our houses and water?), so I though it would be worth a try. I brought the Vax out into the back garden and shoved the hose down the drainpipe and switched it on. A combination of vacuuming and hosing with water brought up about a cubic foot of debris. When I tested it again, all was draining properly! No pictures to show you of that episode, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

I couldn’t reach the rest of the gutters and downpipes so I needed to call in a professional.


Today A, the window and gutter guy, came by. He inspected and cleared out the rest of the blocked gutters and removed the offending leaf guards. He could even reach the valley gutter between the two gable roofs of our house and the neighbours, which I had been worried about for some time. There was evidence of it having flooded some time in the past, as there had been blown plaster on the walls of the master bedroom before we renovated. It is far less likely to happen now as the giant silver birch has gone, and we maintain the house, but it still worried me, so I was glad that A was able to get up there with his ladder and clear it out. It was a long way up and looked precarious, but A’s other job is as a fireman, so he knew what he was doing. He even repaired some of the gable tiles and resealed where the downpipe goes through.


Another of the gutters to block easily was the one at the front of the house way up above the front door. Here you can see it flooding in last week’s storm (the picture was taken from the window of the top floor bathroom).

IMG_9663Along this line of gutter, A installed gutter-brushes (which are like long bottle-brushes) to prevent leaves settling in the future.

IMG_9662As A also does window cleaning with special equipment, he was able to reach the really high windows that our regular window cleaner can’t reach. It was the first time the leaded windows along the top flight of stairs have been cleaned, which is great. As you can see, those windows are at the level of other houses chimney pots.

IMG_9659Ruby was fascinated by all the goings on.

IMG_9651Rose seemed pretty relaxed.

IMG_9638And here is one of Oliver and Ruby from yesterday. As you can see, they are not allowed on the kitchen benches.

Stage 2, Day 19

IMG_1909Oliver, Ruby and Rose were prisoners today as there was just too much going on inside the main part of the house. It was for their own safety: there were open widows, several trades in and out, roof cavities exposed, so I managed to get them all in the bedroom. Oliver was under the bed hiding anyway, Rose asleep on the bed, but it was Ruby I had to lure in.

IMG_1908She was all ready to help P the plumber with the shower installation.


When P the plumber positioned the shower tray in the top floor bathroom it became clear just how small the shower I bought actually was. I hate being a client who changes their mind (especially this late) but this was a significant problem. It’s just the guest bathroom for us but it would also be a shower we might use if ever the boiler broke down. Also this is the only ‘family’ bathroom with a shower (the big shower is on our en suite and there is just a large bath in the other bathroom), so a new owner might have teenage or adult family members who would use this bathroom regularly. P and I got the internet and ordered another, bigger shower. I can sell this one on eBay.


The plastering in the utility and toilet were completed.


Such sharp lines.


The vaulted ceiling looks great – I am thinking that I might dispense with the door on that loft space as the ceiling has become such a feature in this room. I have a couple of wicker hampers from last Christmas that I could use up there to store things in – or I could buy some more from the here (thanks iODyne!) the right size for the space.

IMG_1939Blue sky through the skylight. Luckily it is starting to warm up now.

I have engaged P the decorator again and he will be starting next Friday. He and T will decorate the utility room and toilet, the bathroom, the guest bedroom and the back staircase. I ordered decorating supplies today.


In the utility and toilet I have decided to lighten the colour of the walls to Farrow and Ball’s Calamine, which we had in our dining room in our last house. It’s a very pale pink and it changes in different lights. This will go well with the utility room cabinetry and the black and white floor. I also decided to dispense with the wainscoting in these rooms – just too busy in terms of the small space and it would also mean too many colours.


For the back stairs and top floor bathroom I have got some standard Dulux Magnolia (pictured above). Many British people loathe Magnolia. I’m not entirely sure why but they can be quite vehement about it – perhaps because it was a colour big in 1990s and popular with landlords, so it either reminds people of rented or outdated properties. I don’t mind it though and it will probably be good to have some basic neutrals in the house.

house white

Call it Farrow and Ball’s House White and everyone loves it again…


The bathroom floor was stripped ready for the ply to be laid. Looking at the room empty it could easily be a single bedroom and I imagine that originally it was, probably for a child or even their Nurse.


The plasterer patched the walls where the removal of the old tiles damaged them.

IMG_1893And along the basin tile line.


The lounge repair had its skim coat.


The creepy top floor cupboard is having a makeover! It will be creepy no more.


Today it was over-boarded where the plaster was cracked or missing. It will be skimmed tomorrow.


In between the stripping and over-boarding, the old hole that Oliver and Ruby explored was reopened. I took the opportunity to have a look into the roof space of the back section of the house.


That hole is only cat-sized, so I had to lay down on the floor and peer through, taking photos with my phone. I tell you, when we’re finished I don’t think there’ll be an inch of this house that I don’t know.


I am glad to report that there were no wasps nests! That’s insulation in the bottom part of the picture.


There was, however, an old bird’s nest in one corner. The birds would have got in through some holes near the roof line that were repaired during the last stage of the renovation. No dead birds as far as I could see. The water stains on the rafters look old, and the roof has been repaired, so I hope they’re OK. No sign of mould or rot.

IMG_1954Creepy top floor cupboard door off its hinges – that could be original paint on the inside.

IMG_1955Rim latch and knob.


Stage 2, Day 7

IMG_1518In case John and Mindy are reading – your bulbs are coming up nicely! You will have to remind me about what they are again. IMG_1517This is a shot of the slabs that will form the back step. IMG_1519Work continued today with more lining and insulating of the coal store. There was also some further demolition as the old lath and plaster ceilings were torn down. The toilet is going to have cathedral height ceilings! DSC_0273When A and R were demolishing the celings they took some photos of the abandoned wasp nest. It’s like something out of Alien and it was huge! DSC_0276Quite fascinating, and disturbing at the same time. IMG_1533With the ceiling now removed you can get a good idea of the future height of this room too. IMG_1520There is a large space above the back section of the breakfast room too now, practically a mezzanine. I am wondering if it is worth lining this section to use for storage, either enclosing it with cupboard doors or leaving it open as a big exposed shelf. If we did this it would mean that the skylight might be able to be bigger or more centred in the roof space. IMG_1526A close-up of a roof tile. I knew that type of tile is referred to as a rosemary but I didn’t realise that it was literal. IMG_1522My concern is the structural integrity of this main beam holding up the roof hip. It was quite dark in there but I think I saw some tell-tale woodworm holes in the timber. I am also wondering if that white section at the base is some wet rot as there is evidence of a long term leak in this part of the roof. JB will take a look at it tomorrow but it won’t be the first time we’ve uncovered something like this. At least there’s no sign of a fruiting body…

Build Day #95

IMG_4209T the painter continued today, mainly working on coating the render and the bay window. Dare I say it – is the house started to gain a little ‘street appeal’?

IMG_4211The scaffolders dismanted the rest of the scaffold. On the far left at the top of the picture you finally get a decent view of the new dormer on the top floor. Must take a better picture tomorrow. The roofers repaired the tiles on the lower rear roof.

IMG_4214Discarded broken tiles.


They didn’t have quite enough reclaimed tiles to repair that broken corner tile so they will be back next week.


Build Day #94

IMG_4195Ruby watches the neighbour’s cat Albus.

IMG_4196Albus watches Ruby.

IMG_4205Most of the scaffold came down today! This means that the lower half of the house can now be painted.

IMG_4201Clear view down the side.

IMG_4203Looking up.

IMG_4200With the scaffold gone you can more easily compare the new UPVC kitchen window with the original timber bathroom window above – quite a good match visually.

IMG_4198The scaffold did quite a lot of damage to the lower rear roof. This will be repaired by the roofers tomorrow.


Build Days #92 and #93

IMG_4192On day #92 the repaired french doors were refitted. They just need a handle and latch now.

IMG_4194More downpipes. This one looks a little bendy as it passes this piece of timber.

IMG_4193The roofer was here replacing the last of the missing roof tiles on the main roof.

IMG_4189We started unpacking!

IMG_4190I also cleaned the fridge.

IMG_4191Things always look worse during the unpacking for a little while.

Today the scaffolders were meant to dismantle the scaffold but they are coming tomorrow instead. This meant that T the painter couldn’t get on with his work, so he will be back tomorrow.



Build Day #83

A, the floor man, dropped by today to set up the dehumidifiers in the kitchen and breakfast room to help dry the quarry tile floors out. I don’t have a picture but will post one next time.

IMG_4873The roofers were here. This shot is the view looking down onto the new lead roof on the front dormer window.

IMG_4845Some of the roof tiles were repaired as well. I asked my neighbour if I could stand in their back garden to get a good view of the roof. Our house looms over theirs, especially with the scaffold.

IMG_4876An Edwardian behemoth.

IMG_4860From the front you don’t really get a sense of how far the house goes back. My floor man had to come and find me on the top floor and exclaimed “You need an elevator – it’s like a hotel!”.

IMG_4859A good view in the sunshine of the new dormer.

Build Day #40

IMG_2720Day 40 was a complete shut-in day, which means the cats had to stay in one room with me. It was also one of the first days that work actually had to be done in the room with us. Having re-arranged the furniture for P the plumber to change the radiator, Ruby discovered she could get into the top shelf of the bookcase.

IMG_2723Water staining behind the old radiator. I managed to get a coat of paint over it before P hung the new radiator.

IMG_2725Rosie watching P do his work.

IMG_2728The plumber’s adhesive of choice.


IMG_2734New radiator.

IMG_2740New radiator in the future guest bedroom as well. Rosie with her favourite bell on a pom-pom

IMG_2731Ruby getting bored halfway through the day.

IMG_2716It was also time to say goodbye to the top floor bathroom dormer window.

IMG_2717It too has seen better days.

IMG_2736New frame going in.

IMG_2737Sad old window.

IMG_2739Temporary sheeting and boarding while the window is being made.

IMG_2741The bath is slowly taking a tour of the house. It began in the future en suite, then went into the master bedroom, was moved into the bathroom and now sits in Mark’s future study. It will be fitted eventually.

IMG_2745The recesses for the en suite shower being formed.

IMG_2742The cast iron radiator getting some undercoat.

IMG_2744£1000 worth of lead has been delivered for the dormer roof repairs. Each of those rolls takes two men to lift.



Build Day #29

I am a day behind in my reporting. Yesterday was day 29 of the build.

2014-06-03 09.38.33JB wanted me to get up on the roof so that he could explain what needs to be done. I went up two rickety, slippery ladders, in the rain, to the top level of the scaffold.

2014-06-03 09.40.43From there you could see the poor condition of many parts of the roof.

2014-06-03 09.37.46One unexpected thing was this flat lead roof over the bathroom. It needs to be stripped and re-formed. We will use felt rather than lead as this much lead would be extremely expensive.

2014-06-03 09.37.17The rear dormer needs to be replaced and the leadwork will need replacing around the cheeks, flashings and roof.

Damaged and slipped tiles will need to be replaced.

2014-06-03 09.37.21Apparently the main chimney looks OK.

2014-06-03 09.42.40The front dormer will need the same treatment at the rear one. Mark says this window looks like part of the set of Les Miserables. The window needs to be completely replaced.

2014-06-03 09.44.05The lead roof of the front bay also needs replacing.

2014-06-03 09.44.21The shared central valley gutter needs repairing. Also the down-pipe is full of debris, which is why, when it rains it makes a gurgling sound rather than a running water sound. I’m not sure what needs to happen with the gutters yet. At the end of the roof inspection I decided against risking the long rickety ladder to the ground and instead opted to climb back in through the first floor bedroom window.IMG_2552The fireplace in the dining room was skimmed and the inside rendered.

IMG_2551Some new radiators were delivered.

IMG_2550The cats enjoyed their end of day exploration.

IMG_2554In the en suite the first fix plumbing continued – here you can see heating pipes and pipes for one of the vanity units.

IMG_2553Here is some plumbing for a new toilet and the second vanity unit pipework.