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.

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!



Build Day #2, Wallpaper Day #6


IMG_1725 Day 2 of the build was all about preparing for the bricklayers who are coming tomorrow. JB showed me a new tool that allows him to cut bricks out of a wall without breaking them. That’s what has been done here – bricks can be re-used and the blocking up of this window will  be very neat.

IMG_1733They did the same thing with the door.

IMG_1732The servants no longer have a door on their toilet.

IMG_1730It might make a nice shed door so I think I’ll hold on to it. It would be nice to reuse as much as possible from the house.

IMG_1724The pantry has been demolished.

IMG_1727The outline of the french doors has been cut into the outer wall of the pantry.

IMG_1715It was a very noisy and dusty affair that made the entire house vibrate.

IMG_1718It was a clear sunny day. That’s the brick dust you can see wafting over the neighbouring houses. Sorry neighbours! Later I had a disturbing thought. That was the dust created outside when they cut through a doorway – imagine the dust inside when they cut through the new internal kitchen door!

IMG_1719Meanwhile I finished stripping the wallpaper in the future en suite.

IMG_1721Once again, large sections of the moss green were so stubborn I had to leave them. I’m glad I finished this room as tomorrow and Friday all of the bathroom items are being delivered and this is where I am going to store them.

Tomorrow will be busy. There will be several major deliveries, the bricklayers will be arriving, the plumber will be decommissioning the boiler and shutting off much of the water in the house, the structural engineer will be here, the water company will be testing our water quality (lead pipes are going regardless) and I’m having a chat with the producer of a television series about home renovating…


April Update

As you know from earlier posts we have let our architect go. He had far grander designs than we did, and his head in the clouds (the politer of two terms I could have used) as far as trying to help us keep to a tight budget. Don’t get me wrong – for the amount we have to spend on these renovations we built an entire four bedroom home from the ground up ten years ago in Australia, so it’s not an insubstantial sum.


I also told you that I proceeded to radically rethink the plans in order to avoid large scale demolition and to make the best use of current space. In essence, our architect had us knocking down and then rebuilding this entire back section of the house, on exactly the same footprint but with the roof four brick courses higher to make the ceiling height the same in both parts (!). This was after we had already reined him in, as initial plans included a massive family room on the back as well, with a large bespoke roof lantern on the top, increasing the total ground floor footage by about a third. How he ever imagined we could afford to do that is beyond me. We had always insisted that our first priority was the renovation of the house as it currently stands – electrics, plumbing, windows, roof and guttering, removing lead pipework, stopping leaks, bathrooms, kitchen, decoration etc. I guess that doesn’t excite an architect. Or keep his monthly payments coming.

IMG_4770So now for a summary of the new plans. The original kitchen. This is the current breakfast room, which was once going to be a ‘snug’ (ie. cosy sitting room), then a breakfast room again.  Now it is going to become the kitchen, reinstating its original use! The door on the right is being blocked up and a new door formed to the left, behind that large sheet of particle board, leading to the entrance hallway and front door.

IMG_4771The boiler is going to be moved from its odd current position to the cupboard in the bathroom on the next floor. The small window on the left will be removed and blocked up. The entire chimney breast is coming down. This will then form part of our U-shaped kitchen.

IMG_4769This large window will be replaced by a new window with a higher sill, allowing for kitchen counter tops to also stretch along that wall. The door on the right and its architrave will be removed, leaving an open space to walk through into the next room. You can also see the original quarry tile floor. We will restore it rather than dig it up and replace it, saving an amount equivalent to buying a small car.

IMG_4772In the next room, originally the scullery and currently the unused kitchen, we are removing the old kitchen and knocking out that doorway and the wall to its left, making the room bigger and turning it into the breakfast room. The larder beyond will become part of this room and lead to the garden through double french doors.

IMG_4836Looking back in the other direction. That’s the door through to the new kitchen. The door to the outside is being blocked up. The window on the right is being upgraded. The walls, which are currently brick, need to be brought up to building regulations with a layer of insulated board. We also need to remove the highly flammable polystyrene tiles on the ceiling.


Phase two of the build will involve turning the coal store into a utility/laundry room, and that current little covered area will be built in and converted into a toilet. Phase two will happen a couple of years from now.

IMG_4840In the meantime this dead space will become our utility closet with washing machine and tumble dryer. The external door is going to be bricked up and we will re-use the door in the new  internal doorway we are creating between the entry hall and kitchen. The door on the right will also be blocked up (leading into the current breakfast room/future kitchen). It was JB the builder’s idea to turn this into a utility closet, as I had planned to put the boiler in there.

IMG_4808So what we will have then is a pair of french doors on the left hand side of this external wall (the current larder) leading into the garden.

IMG_4826As part of the enlargement of the future breakfast room, the servants’ toilet will be removed and the door bricked up. Note the original Edwardian timber toilet seat. The wall at the back and the right will be removed and this will become part of the breakfast room.

IMG_4831I will try to keep the rusted ‘S’ brackets and use them somewhere else, perhaps for a shelf.

IMG_4833This is the castellated timber ledge and brace door that will be going. It might make a nice garden gate.

IMG_4834Old rusty latch and bolt.IMG_4835

Vintage toilet roll holder.

Things are taking a little longer than anticipated with the builder as I am being super careful with the spec – we will sign the contracts this Thursday with the work scheduled to begin just after Easter, on April 22nd – just over seven months after we moved in! Hallelujah!