Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Furnishing on a Budget

Yes.  So we spent a whole bunch of money getting a new room.  We set aside what I thought was a very generous amount for furnishing and landscaping.  But it turns out the landscaping is going to take the entire amount, and then some, so we are left with hardly anything to furnish the room.
There were a few things that I really wanted for the room:

1.  Corner (L shaped) sofa, long enough for two people to lay
2.  Wall mounted TV (size not very important, we are pretty pathetic when it comes to nice TV's)
3.  Storage for toys
4.  Extra seating
5.  Table(s)
6.  Rugs for two 'zones' for the sofa/TV area and one for the toy storage and extra seats

1.  The biggest factor, I felt, was the sofa.  For six weeks, Niall and I scoured the local haunts (mostly gumtree) for something that would work but wouldn't break the bank.  We set a budget of £200, which was too low, but what we felt we could afford.  I spent time at Ikea, looking at all the sofas, figuring out which could be switched, covers that could be used, etc.

Finally, when we were in Amsterdam, a sofa appeared.  I texted at the airport and picked it up that afternoon, not long after we got home.  It was over budget, but I haggled and we got it for just slightly over budget.  I had to move around some pieces and unpick and resew the cover, but we got a Karlstad sofa.  It's now discontinued in the UK, but it is in very good condition.

Total cost:  £223.50

2.  The TV we got by bartering.  We traded a pull-out sofa bed (that we're going to replace with a two seater Chesterfield in the front room.)  It was a pain drilling the holes for the wall mounted plate (plasterboard, battens, old exterior wall=150mm holes) but we got it mounted!  (Thanks, Niall)

Total cost:  Free!

3.  Storage for toys was provided thanks to Ikea.  We actually bought something new.  Not second hand, not bargain corner.  Kallax was £75 plus the boxes, so it fit the budget.

Total cost:  £100

4.  Extra Seating:  We pulled in the rocking chair, which had been up in the office, downstairs.  Originally, we got a Parker Knowles chair from a neighbor's skip (dumpster.)  I stripped it, recovered it, we got a carpenter to make the rockers, and ta da!  We also put the 'throne' in here.

Total cost:  Free!

5.  Shelf/Thin Console Table

The extension is long but narrow.  (Just under 3 meters/ about 9 1/2 feet)  There isn't a room for a coffee table to the side of one part of the sofa.  But I know my husband and his love of tea.  And tea cups were sure to be perched on the sofa ledge, left on the floor, or put on the window sill.  So we needed something.

The builders left behind some wood, which I cut to size, sanded and oiled (boiled linseed.)  Then we bought some cheap table legs from Ikea.

And Niall has a place for his tea cups.

Total cost:  £15

6.  Rugs

I see so many rugs that I love.  But they're all in the US.  After serious (weeks long) internet and in store snooping, I've basically decided there aren't patterned rugs that both Niall and I like that are also in the UK (and don't cost four figures.)  The next idea was plain rugs.  I pulled down an Ikea rug we have from upstairs, but Niall gave it a pass.  

So I went to a local carpet store and they had a very nice piece of carpet that was an offcut and worked perfectly.  I cut one piece for the couch area and another for the chairs and boom.  We've used carpet offcuts before, and if there's problems with fraying then a bit of glue along the edges does the trick.

Total cost:  £50  

The landscaping should start sometime next month.  And we'll work on getting some more things on the walls and window coverings!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Oh, adding a whole new room meant so many electronics!  But once they were placed in the room, it meant we really started using the extension.

Except there were so many wires and cables!  (Do you see them hanging down from the TV?)  I knew what needed to be done.  (Drill holes, run the cables behind the plasterboard/dry wall.)  But I was really nervous, and I don't know why.  It took me me a few weeks to get everything together and get the gumption to do it.  And today was the day.

I moved the furniture.

And I had to get the courage to do it, but I finally drilled into the wall near the TV mount with the biggest tip spade drill bit we have.    And then I drilled another one near the outlet.  (I knew where the electrics ran and avoided them!)  I straightened a wire hanger and ran it between the holes.  Then I taped all the cables to the wire hanger and threaded the cables it between the holes.

The result was not very pretty.  And very dusty.

But I'd bought two of these, so it looks much cleaner now.  Also, one is hidden behind the TV and other behind the couch, so you can't see it anyway.

And now?  No more cables running up to the TV.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

When It Rains

As life happens, while the renovation was under way, a few minor issues popped up in the existing house.  They probably would have happened anyway, but there's nothing like building work to bring out the lurking problems!

Fallen Radiator

The radiator fell off the wall (again).  I drained and put it back once, and when it fell of a second time we called in a plumber to do it properly.

Dodgy Smoke Detectors

One morning (early) all the smoke detectors in the house started going off.  And they kept going.  I disconnected them.  I changed the batteries.  We had an electrician come look at them.  Supposedly it was fixed, but they kept all going off.  They're currently sitting disconnected (but with batteries), because when I plug them back in they keep going off.  This is one issue we don't yet have resolved, but have an electrician coming next week to run through the whole system.


Another morning (early), we heard a thump and then water started pouring through the ceiling.  The concealed cistern had come off the wall in the loft toilet and spilled to the floor below.  We turned off the electrics (water was pouring through a disconnected smoke alarm in the ceiling) and the water/stopcock.

We got a container to catch the water, the water eventually stopped and the damage was contained.  Thank goodness we were home!

I probably could have fixed it myself, but when it comes to plumbing we decided to get a professional in (at May Bank Holiday rates, natch.)  The cistern was reinstalled, supposedly more securely this time!  (Niall propped up the off cut of insulation as an added 'security' measure!)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Side Extension: Completion!

We had at least a month where the extension was on 'hold'.  Timber for the front was on special order.  The joiner's van broke down.  We went on holiday.  The interior was pretty much done, but no electrics and a few snagging pieces.

Finally!  The timber arrived.  I spent about ten hours over several days painting it.  The architect had specified Sikkens in a graphite grey to match the window.  I called the Akzo Nobel hotline and spent about 30 minutes finding out what products were the best for the Siberian Larch.  Each piece of timber needed to be primed (four sides) and then coated twice.  

There were a few false starts, but then the timber finally started getting attached!  They put up a net for insects, and we were in business.

The architect wasn't super happy with the placement, so the guys made the adjustments.

And then it was installed!

I primed the new pieces and painted everything with another coat or two, cut down that weird wire (left from the old garage) and we are done!

One of the neighbors told me our house looks like Center Parcs!  (A holiday resort with cottages, apparently with timber cladding.)  The neighbor is eight, so I think it's a compliment.

Inside things are pretty much done as well.  The skirting (baseboards) got installed.  We had a little hiccup with the stringer for the stairs.  Originally, it got installed with skirting, and I wasn't happy with the finish.

But it has been redone and I like the finish just fine now.  (I do need to do some more paint touch up.  I feel like I've been painting for a month!)

Ideally we'd have consistent flooring between the kitchen and the extension.  But we do not love the dark bamboo in the kitchen (it scratches so easily, and shows) so we'll just keep it like this for now.

One half of the extension has seating and toys.

And the other half has a sofa with the TV.  I still need to work on finishing touches, but the hard work is done!  The cat has adapted to the new space quite well.

I mailed the building certificate application yesterday (we finally got the second fix electrics) , so we'll see what building control says.

And just because I like numbers, here's the final costs.  All in (this does not include furnishings or the landscaping.  The garden work has been partially completed, we're trying to do some ourselves and a the professionals should come in June) the cost is just under £40K.  That means the build was £1,448 per square meter, which is what we'd been told from the beginning.  (£1,500 psm.)

 Build   £26,136
 Ground Works   £11,082
 Planning   £1,880
 TOTAL   £39,098

And the timeline:

September 2013:  Planning application submitted
November 2013:  Planning application approved
February 2015:  Building warrant application started
July 2015:  Building warrant application granted
July-Oct 2015:  Quotations, change details per budget, confirm builder
November 24-25 2015 :  Garage Demo
December  14-18 2015 :  Dig Foundations
December  23-24 2015:  Excavate Back Patio
January  8-22 2016 :  Foundations and Drains
Feb 29- March 30 2016 :  Framing, block work, roughcaste, interior
April 7-8 2016:  Skirting and gutters
May 4-5 2016:  Cladding, skirting, snagging
May 6:  Completion certificate form mailed!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

DIY Princess Throne

The extension is almost finished.  But a slight tangent.  Our youngest just turned four.  And for her birthday she asked for a throne.  In my mind, I thought something like this:

When I searched for what we could afford, I found a Disney plastic throne.  Which she would have loved.  But I just couldn't deal with it.  We have so much plastic already.

I hunted high and low for a chair that we could use to make some sort of throne-ish seat.  The specific requests from the kid were that is needed to be white, gold and have a cushion.  I looked all over gumtree, ebay, charity shops, second hand shops, normal stores, and came up empty handed.  Getting one chair, preferably a carver (with arms), for less than £30 was no easy task.  Niall went on the hunt with me and we finally found one!  Someone was sitting in it...but they let us buy out from under them.

With chair in hand, I bought an arsenal of gold leaf.  I primed the chair, and painted it all white.  I watched lots of youtube videos on how to gold leaf.  I'd heard it was better to paint the area to be gilded with gold paint, and I'm really glad I did.  The gold leaf was fun, but a complete mess.  Then used modge podge on top.  The result has been rather amateurish, but Elizabeth gave it her thumbs up.  Also, we agreed on a blue cushion for the seat.  I sewed in piping and a zipper.

And here's finished product.  

Her Royal Highness.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Side Extension: Flooring and Roughcaste

Hallelujah!  The extension is so close to being done. And here is the truth.  I am mentally worn out from this latest project, more so than I've been previously.  I think it's because I feel like we have had a lot less control on this project and because I haven't had a strong understanding of some of the technical details so have just had to trust the builders, architect, etc.  Also, the extension is pretty much an added luxury.  It's not like we're homeless or desperate for the extra room.

We would like the extension as a family room, which includes TV and internet.  The wi-fi doesn't extend into our kitchen (lathe and plaster + thick old walls=great barricade) and certainly won't extend into the new room.  So I drilled a hole in living room floorboards, bought way too many meters of ethernet and TV cable, crawled under the house, and pushed the wires through the (former) exterior wall.

One of the cost saving measure the builders proposed was the floor.  In the early days, we wanted underfloor heating, but it was way too much money.  Then we were going to have an insulated floor with a screed on top.  The builders suggested a concrete pad with the insulation underneath, which is what we did.  Then a board and batten floor on top.  Going this route meant we could run pipes and wires on top of the pad, that the floor would have a little give, and saved about £1000.

It also meant that we could run the internet and cable along the floor and up the wall.  The builders drilled a hole for me and we did a crazy bit of threading with a chopstick, wire hanger and some tape.  And now the cables are in place.

Here's the flooring frame.

And the floor base on top.

Also, we wanted a cat door but did not want it cut in the glass door.  We opted for a cat tunnel in the wall (maybe I'll do a post on it later), which the cat has been using and seems like a decent solution.

Oh, and a comment about the paint.  I ended up using 15 L to paint the walls and ceiling, but that was on fresh plaster that sucks up paint like a sponge.  We got 10 L of mistints from Dulux, their Diamond brand which is supposed to be hard wearing and scrubbable.  Then I paid for a 5L tint of the same color, which was about £65.  It's a lot more than the paint we could get off the shelf at B&Q but hopefully it will wear better!

The flooring was a saga that I'm trying to forget.  We finally decided on a solid oak, and it got delivered and acclimatised.  I will say that I love the look of darker woods, but our experience has been they scratch in a heartbeat and can't handle heels, let alone kids.  I tried to convince Niall to go with a rubber or some other synthetic that the kids could beat to a pulp, but he wanted wood.

Once we finally got the floor fitters round (also a saga, but it's done now) the building site suddenly became a playroom!  The girls have been playing in there ever since, treating it as a running track and stage.

There are still a few more things, like skirting (baseboards), second fix electrics, and the stairs, but it's  already a room that needs toys tidied so that means it's being used.

Here's the view out to the garden.  We opted for a matwell with coconut carpet because, honestly, there is going to be some serious mud and dirt tracked in.  (We're already glad we made that choice!)

The dwarf wall from the pitching looking out to the extension.  We need to do something with that shelf on top (it's only plasterboard on top of the brick wall, so it needs some sort of protection.)  We've got the leftover flooring up there now, as well as a bunch of electrical and DIY stuff still in use.    I'm tempted to put up barb wire just to make sure it doesn't become another dumping zone.

The front of the house is supposed to get wood cladding.  It's Siberian Larch that has to be special ordered and treated. (I already have the product, it took two weeks to get and was also a special order.)  The elevations have changed because the hardcore from the foundations are there, so I had to dig a trench out so it was clear where the actual levels will be.

And the rest of the extension got pebbledash.  It's kind of hard for me to write about it, because I don't love pebbledash.

I searched high and low for a good match, but it became apparent that there just wasn't a way to match the 90 years of weathering the existing exterior already has.

I loved how the render looked before the rock got thrown on it, with a smooth finish.  But Niall wanted pebbledash and it was what we had planned, so pebbledash it is! 

Apparently the pebbledash looks fine?

Now that we're pretty much out of money, we need to figure out how we're going to finish the garden.  But that's another post for another day.

In the meantime, we've got to put some furniture inside.  We got a corner sofa yesterday...