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.

Secondary Glazing

IMG_7881Yesterday the six huge windows on the stairs were fitted with secondary glazing. The three on the first flight of stairs.


And the second.


Secondary glazing improves the thermal insulation performance of your original windows whilst not detracting from their appearance. This is useful in period homes where you don’t want to replace perfectly good and extremely characterful windows with brand new double-glazing.

Secondary glazing is also an excellent sound proofer. Noise from outside, particularly traffic noise has been greatly reduced. Apparently the bigger the gap between the two panes of glass the greater the noise reduction, so these are actually better at noise insulation than double-glazing.

There were old secondary glazing panels here when we moved in but they were poorly fitted, had large timber frames and the glass was not the required safety-glass.


I chose aluminium framed secondary glazing with hinges and clips. This will allow access for cleaning and also possibly future repairs to the fragile Edwardian leadlight glass.

IMG_7879They also have a seal to prevent any draughts.

As soon as they were fitted we noticed how much warmer the house felt on the stairs and landings and even the rooms off the halls. I have turned the heating thermostat down a little and it’s still toasty warm. We will be very glad of this during January.

Glazing and Painting

Yesterday work continued after my jaunt with Frogdancer to Lincoln, Ely, Cambridge, Kenilworth and Stratford-upon-Avon.

IMG_4593T the decorator began coating the toilet and utility doors.

IMG_4585Did some “glossing up” in the the coat room.

IMG_4584Continued under the stairs in the walk-in pantry.

IMG_4574A leadlight specialist also came to repair all the cracked glass in the leadlight windows. Some ‘before’ shots.








He had dropped by the day before to remove this whole panel as it needed complete re-leading.






IMG_4591Now I just have to work out a way to clean these windows as many of them are so high up!

Stage 2, Day 27


IMG_2351Today two carpenters, D and S, were on site working from 6am. On the external elevation of the conversion they fixed battens and boards to the block-work, fitted the window, and constructed the Tudor-effect frame. They have even filled the screw holes with dowel to give the appearance of pegs that would have been hammered into traditional mortise and tenon joints in medieval and Tudor architecture. They accomplished a lot, though I’m not sure the neighbours appreciated the power saw in the back garden at 6:30.

IMG_1484In my original, highly-detailed and accurate ‘plans’ you can see I envisaged a second horizontal timber above the window. In the end the proportions of the wall meant that this would have been an excessive detail so we dispensed with it. The omission of the extra horizontal highlights the vertical timbers and the triangular shape.

IMG_2350I then began seeing the same shape all over the house. Paneling on the stairs in the entrance hall.

IMG_2349Triangles in the dormer windows. T the decorator was also here again today. The top floor bathroom got its first coat. We are going with all white in this room.

IMG_2344It goes better with the travertine tiles than the magnolia wall colour did.

IMG_2347T also made a start on the not-creepy, but very triangular, top floor cupboard. There was a lot of old wallpaper to scrape off the original walls. Looking bigger and brighter already.

IMG_2364The stained glass leadlight window in the toilet looks great.

IMG_2362It will have a very deep sill – it almost looks medieval in its depth, like a mullioned window in a castle.

IMG_2367Thankfully the Edwardian glass appears to be obscure enough in terms of the privacy needs of this room.

IMG_2365Except for this central lozenge with its literally rose-coloured glass. Note the air bubbles in the hand-blown pane.

IMG_2363The carpenters also began to fit the architraves. They will be back later in the week.

IMG_2352It’s finally starting to warm up after a very cool start to June. The triffid plant is gradually taking over the back garden as it does each summer. It will grow white trumpet shaped flowers and then die off again in the winter, giving the hedgehog a nice little arbour to hibernate under. I just Googled it and it’s called Bindweed and is a pest plant.

IMG_2360Against all odds, something actually looks pretty in our wild, overgrown garden. A stray branch of a rose bush, engulfed by ivy and blackberries, reaches out eight feet above ground level to produce this! A dozen roses.

IMG_2357They smell divine, look beautiful but aren’t great for the bees as they are inaccessible for nectar and pollen. My eventual plan with the garden is to plant as many bee-friendly flowers as possible. This will do for now though!



Stage 2, Day 26


IMG_2323Think pink!


Today T the decorator was here.


He painted the walls in the utilty and toilet. The colour is Farrow and Ball’s Calamine, a pale pink, though the camera doesn’t do it justice. It’s the colour of calamine lotion, and Oil of Olay.


He also began stripping the lining paper from the ceiling in the guest room.

IMG_2328He got this far and then stopped as the rest of the paper is stuck fast. There’s no point trying to remove it if it’s stable as it will only damage the plaster underneath. In fact, this seems to be one of the best preserved original ceilings in the house.

IMG_2331It’s actually a striped yellow and white wallpaper stuck wrong-side up. It’s funny because I came very close to ordering blinds for the breakfast room the exact same colour and pattern.

IMG_2319The stained glass panel I bought on eBay has been sandwiched between double glazing and turned into a window for the toilet. I’m not entirely sure how obscure the window is in terms of privacy but I can always part-obscure it on the inside with the same film I used in the bathroom and en suite.

A 6am start tomorrow as the carpenters are arriving for their first of three twelve hour days. We plan to be finished by the end of next week!




Stage 2, Day 10

IMG_1588We have half a wall and a partial window opening!

IMG_1572The time capsule went into the wall cavity.


IMG_1592The back step – the pavers are just sitting on the brickwork at the moment to get an idea of how they will look.

IMG_1573The roofers came a day early – I guess there’s nothing as motivating as a bank holiday weekend. It saves us having them here on a Saturday too. The before shot.

IMG_1574And after. The new Velux skylight window in the utility room.

IMG_1582It lets in a lot of light and is great for ventilation too as it swings open on a central pivot.


IMG_1594How it looks from the garden. A window on that back wall would have taken away valuable space for cupboards in the utility room, and if we put a window on the wall around the corner to the right it would have overlooked the neighbour’s garden a bit too intrusively.

IMG_1580The view into the future WC.

IMG_1576Preparations have been made for the damp proofing injections in the lounge and at the front of the house. It was a shame that this surfaced now after we had already decorated but on the bright side we hadn’t laid any carpet. I am now thinking of taking the walls a shade lighter when we have this repair redecorated…but it may be that it will look different when we finally get floor coverings in there. I shouldn’t second guess myself prematurely.



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 Day #82


Today A the floor man returned and gave the quarry tiles a final clean. Lots of equipment.


Tomorrow he will install dehumidifiers to help the drying process and then next Monday the floor should be dry enough to seal.


Mirrored cabinets installed in the en suite.


Filling and sanding continued.

IMG_4067The broken pane of glass in the cloakroom was repaired. Now that the toilet has gone and the curtains have been removed, Ruby has discovered a new dual vantage point.

IMG_4061New glass pane also fitted in Mark’s study window.



Build Day #73

IMG_3654Today was a busy day that began with a big clean up.

IMG_3660This is going to be our ‘utility closet’ for the washing machine and dryer. Eventually we will build a full utility room in the coal store at the back of the house. Afterwards this space will be used for storage or perhaps as a walk-in pantry.

IMG_3663Carpentry work continued. This is the repaired/rebuilt casement for Mark’s study.

IMG_3655The French doors were put under the microscope today and found wanting. When the bottom panels were removed there was plenty of rot and evidence of old repairs. They had to be taken away to a joiner. We are not sure yet whether they can be repaired or if they will need to be remade.

IMG_3652The creaky broken step in the servants staircase has been repaired.

IMG_3651To access the step, A the carpenter needed to ‘break in’ through the under stairs cupboard. I’m tempted to put a time capsule in there before it is sealed up.

IMG_3657In the dining room the first of the ceiling roses has been fitted.

IMG_3653The doorway is being prepared for its oak threshold. The terrazzo has been cut and trimmed on one side and  the quarry tiles on the other, and then the gap has been filled with cement. There was a row of blue engineering bricks here that would have formed the foundations of the brick wall that we cut through to make the door.

IMG_3666Outside the gutters have been fitted to the dormer windows at the front and back of the house.


Build Day #72

IMG_3640Carpentry work continued today with Mark’s study window undergoing repairs.

IMG_3641We thought the centre casement would need to be remade but it is in good enough condition to be repaired.


It’s all boarded up until tomorrow.

IMG_3645Some doors were eased.

IMG_3636The electricians continued to fit lights and switches. This light by the front door was done the other day but I didn’t take a picture. I chose it because it has panes of glass that match the lead work in the windows.

IMG_3637In the porch has been fitted this genuine Arts and Crafts copper lantern that the boys rewired for me today.


I found it on eBay.

IMG_3646Entrance hall light.

IMG_3638One of the three lights in the back garden.