One of the most satisfying things about restoring an old house is the night and day transformation when you restore hardware. Years of paint and rust can make you think the hardware isn’t worth saving, but I assure you that saving old hardware is worth it!
Most hardware on homes built before the 1930s or thereabouts is usually high quality solid bronze or steel and can be restored to look incredible in just a few simple steps. Check out the quick 2 minute video below to see how easy it can be!
Before you swap out your old hardware for something new, take a look at what may be hiding underneath and consider restoring first.
Remove the Hardware
You’re not going to be able to restore any hardware unless you can get it off the window or door it’s been attached to for decades first. Be careful to not strip the screw heads when unscrewing them. Cutting the paint from around the screws and around the hardware can make it easier to remove.
Old screws can be real buggers sometimes, so if you find yourself struggling try the 4 Guaranteed Tricks to Remove Stubborn Screws outlined in this post.
Once you’ve got the hardware off it’s time to start restoring! Check out the video below and the rest of the steps afterward to get the specifics.
Remove the Paint
Use an old crock pot (like the awesome retro 1970s one I use in the video) that you don’t plan to cook with ever again. Fill it with water and just a bit of dish soap. Turn it on high and toss the hardware in for about 4 hours or until you see the paint bubbling up on the surface.
Put some gloves on and pull the hardware out one at a time and scrub them with a stiff bristle brush until you’ve removed all the paint. If the paint isn’t coming off with ease it may need another soaking for a couple more hours.
Cleaning and Polishing
There are two schools of thought and the video shows both options. Some people want to clean the hardware and maintain the patina. The best way to accomplish this is by hand polishing the hardware with 000 steel wool or 0000 steel wool until you get the desired appearance.
If you want to go back to the original shine of the bronze then a bronze wire wheel attached to a bench grinder makes short work of things. Crank it up and polish your hardware until you get a high shine. You can also use a cotton polishing disc with a rubbing compound for a very high shine if you desire something even more polished.
Once you have cleaned them up you may have found that you’ve removed too much of the patina on the metal and now they just look too shiny. Or possibly you have a few pieces that needed replacements that don’t look the right color.
If needed you can give them a quick soak in my hardware aging solution called The Patinator to give them that old look again. The solution can take new or old hardware and give it an aged look as dark as you may need.
Now that you’ve learned how to restore hardware the easy way you can make your neighbors jealous with all the shiny bling on your windows and doors!
It's no secret that I love wood. I love our wooden floorboards, I love our solid oak wardrobe, I even love my rustic pallet seating. Wood is the best material to work with, it's totally DIY-able (unlike stone or metal) it can be renovated and refurbished in the years to come, and if looked after properly - it can truly last a lifetime. Just look at our wooden joists and floorboards which are well over 100 years old!
So when it came to buying a kitchen worktop, wood was the obvious choice. If I had all the money in the world, yes I would definitely have loved to have gone for stone quartz. It's sleek, doesn't really require maintenance and I think it makes a kitchen look a little more luxurious. However we're on a budget, so that was well and truly out of the question. As was laminate, which I'm just not a fan of. It just had to be wood.
You may know that we actually purchased our kitchen from DIY-Kitchens, so you may be wondering why we didn't buy our worktops from them? Well truth be told, their variety of wooden worktops was really very slim and to be even more honest, their prices just weren't that competitive either. We used Worktop-Express in our old house to supply the upstands, so we have experience using them before and I knew they had a very large range of different woods and at good value too.
As well as their range of wood, I knew they also offer a bespoke cutting service. This means you can literally send them the diagrams of your kitchen with all the cut-outs required and they will cut everything to size, meaning the worktops can turn up and literally be placed straight into position, no stressing required. It meant we had options as to whether we wanted to DIY cut them ourselves or not. We actually ended up doing both, but I'll get onto that in a bit!
Choosing a Wood
Since deciding to go dark on our kitchen doors, I knew I needed to go light on the worktops. Oak is a lovely wood and something I always thought I would go for - but it has quite a country vibe to it in some ways, and against the dark doors I just wanted something a bit lighter in tone and a bit more modern. I ordered a range of samples from Worktop-Express and Ash stood out to me instantly. It was light and had a gorgeous grain - something I really appreictate in wood. It was also one of the more cheaper woods, unlike a couple of the samples which I didn't like enough to warrant the larger price tags.
Here's a quick look at the samples I ordered but decided against - From Top Left to Bottom Right we have: Beech, Rubberwood, Bamboo, Maple and finally Ash.
Here's a close up of Ash, it's far more lighter that it appears in the top photo. I absolutely love the grain of this wood!
DIY Cutting a Wood Worktop
To save money, we're cutting the worktops along the left-hand side of the kitchen (the cooker side!) ourselves. The reason for just doing this side and not the other one, is because these cuts are all relatively simple - by which I mean they're all straight cuts which can be done with tools we already own. The other side of the kitchen requires a Belfast sink cut-out which needs a special tool we don't own - but I'll explain that later.
We actually cut the wooden worktops in our old house ourselves and there were no disasters, so we knew this was a DIY we were more than capable of. We purchased a 4m length of worktop and using our laser distance measurer we were able to take exact measurements to cut the worktop into the sizes we needed (one either side of the cooker). If you don't have a laser measure, I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you get one - you just cannot get a more exact measurement than using a laser measure. It will change your life. Almost. Basically, you hold the laser flat against the edge of the end cabinet (or in our case, cooker) and point the laser at a piece of wood held on the other end (or in our case, the tall end panel) and it will calculate the distance in-between, to the mm.
Now do bear in mind, that if the worktop is at the end of a run, (which I mean, the last cabinet) you'll potentially want to add on an overhang to match any overhang you have at the front. For this piece of worktop, we're sandwiching it between an end panel and the cooker, so we didn't need an overhang. However, for the worktop on the other side of the cooker, we added 25mm to the measurement to account for the overhang at the end. I hope that makes sense?
To cut the worktop, Grant used a Plunge Saw which works on a track so you know you're getting a straight cut every single time. You literally can't go wrong. Unless of course, you measure it wrong. Hence the laser measure - seriously, go get one!
You want to make sure you're using a fine blade and always test on off-cut or sample piece first to ensure the cut isn't going to be rough. We've cut the worktop whilst it's on the ground, but it's being propped up with the use of some spare insulation boards we had leftover from a previous job. This ensures the blade of the saw won't cut into the floor, obviously. And here's the first piece in place! A perfect snug, mm perfect fit! Although we have left a mm gap, to account for wood expansion around the cooker.
The worktop for the other side of the cooker was a little more complex as we had to do one straight cut to get it to size and then another to take the corner off where the worktop will sit around the supporting pillar. We created a cardboard template to make sure the cut was correct and we cut this using a Jigsaw. I say we, Grant was the guy who did all the cutting here, although I was fully responsible for all the measuring. A jigsaw will leave a much rougher cut, but as this is cut will be against the wall - it will be hidden by the upstand.
Easy as 1,2,3!
Bespoke Cutting Service
For the other side of the kitchen (the sink side), we used Worktop-Express's bespoke cutting service. A belfast sink cut out is quite complicated - you need a router, a template and a bit of skill. We don't have any of those and our first ever attempt at using a router definitely was not going to be on a £300+ bit of worktop. Hell no! We also wanted to have draining grooves added to the worktop, which would have been an additional template to buy as well - so, all in all, it worked out much cheaper to get Worktop-Express to do it than buying all the things we needed. Plus, there's no worry about it going wrong!
In order to use the bespoke cutting service, you need to be able to draw up a template. If you've had your kitchen designed for you, you may already have these measurements but if you've designed it yourself, you may not. Depending on the layout of your kitchen and what cuts you're after, this can either be really simple or really complex. However in both cases, it is achieveable - you'll just want to check your measurements about 1000 times before submitting the order - because if you get it wrong and it doesn't fit, well you'll have to pay for a whole new worktop.
Templating A Bespoke Cut Worktop for a Belfast SinkIn our case, we only had a relatively small section of worktop to template, however the process is going to be the same regardless. The first thing you need to establish is the overall length of worktop, which we achieved with the Laser Measure, taking the measurements from one end of the cabinets to the other and then added an additional 5cm. This is cover the overhang there will be on either side (25mm). Draw this up and make sure you label it well.
Next up, we had to position the cut out for the Belfast sink. You'll need to take into consideration any overhang of worktop around the sink as well - which I strongly recommend to ensure any water from the worktop drains into the sink and not onto the edge of it - which could cause you all kind of rot issues. The overhang we've gone for here is 1.5cm. Again, you'll want to measure distance from the edge of the inside of the sink, to the end of the cabinet. Then add on the overhangs. Is this making sense yet?
Repeat this for the other side and again for the back - remembering this time, you'll need to account for any overhang of the worktop at the front as well. You'll see I've circled the important numbers!
If you're looking for a hole for the tap, you'll need to know the diameter of that hole - but luckily you don't need to take measurements for its position, as you can select "align with sink" when you input the diagram online and that will do the job for you. You will however need to specify how far from the back edge of the worktop you'd like it to be. Ours is 10cm down. And finally, if you're looking for drainage grooves too - good news is, these can also be automatically aligned! All you need to specify is their length, which we've gone for 45cm, apparently the recommended amount.
Once you've got all the cuts drawn up, I would then recommend cutting some large sheets of card to size to make a 'mock up' worktop. You'll be able to see exactly how it'll look and check everything's right before submitting the order. You can find giant pieces of card at most supermarkets if you ask nicely. They actually come on most pallets and are sent to be recycled daily, so you can always ask customer services to keep some behind from that day, and collect the next day. It may seem like a strange request, but from someone who works in retail, I can tell you it's actually not that unusual and is a great way to get free card.
So I'm afraid if you have any other cuts I haven't mentioned, I can't help with how to measure those - but generally speaking the process should be pretty much the same. Once you've got it all drawn up you're ready to use the online bespoke tool to input your measurements! Once the order has gone through, you'll then be sent a final drawn-up diagram to reconfirm before the worktop is cut. At this stage you can still make alterations or request any extras.
One thing I added as an extra, which wasn't available from the order page was a drip groove. This is basically a groove on the underside of the worktop, which sits around the perimeter of the sink. It means any water that splashes up whilst the sink is in use, or when the draining grooves are being used, will therefore drip off the worktop once it's run down to the groove. If you don't have them, that water will just run along the underside of the worktop and could just 'sit there' - which is ultimately bad for the worktop. A drip groove, as the name suggests, makes sure that water actually drips off. So our drip groove is 5mm wide, cut in 5mm away from the edge of the sink cut out, and not forgetting to leave a gap from the front of the worktop, otherwise the cut will be shown. Basically, like this.
I actually think this should be something you can select on their online tool, because from everything I researched online - every single carpenter out there recommended putting a drip groove in. It only added £20 extra to the order, so I think - well worth it!
Here's the final diagram they sent for us to confirm. I love that you also get to keep all the off-cuts as well, as I definitely have some DIYs planned for ours.
We had all our fingers and toes crossed for the worktop to fit when it arrived and it did! Perfect to the mm, thank the lord! Although we weren't quite jumping for joy too soon, as annoyingly the drainage grooves had been cut too short. Which yep, meant begrudgingly having to send it back to be re-cut. Customer service was a little slow on this and it seems you can only contact them through email (I did try to phone, but no one ever called me back and I phoned no less than three times!) It did get sorted in the end through email, but it meant going back and forth through emails responses and in my opinion would have been much faster over the phone. Basically, I was being super impatient and just wanted the damn worktop in the kitchen! However once it was recollected, it was back to us within days! So I was pretty pleased about that ;) Here's Grant celebrating the last length of our kitchen renovation!
Getting the tap on was a little awkward as we had to prop the worktop up and work in a tiiiiiiiny space to get it all connected up. With a normal sink, you can get access underneath the sink right to the worktop - but that's not the case with a Belfast sink. Anyway I'm not sure how else you're meant to do it - but this was our solution.
Creating a Window Sill
Because of our wonky walls, we actually had quite a large gap between the back of the worktop and the wall at one end of the kitchen. Having done the measurements for the worktop, we knew this was going to be an issue and we thought long and hard about how to resolve it before placing the order. Eventually we decided to create a window sill from some leftover upstand to hide most of the gap and with the part we couldn't hide with the sill, we screwed a very small section of extra worktop onto the back. Yes it's a little makeshift, but it saved us a fortune doing it this way, rather than ordering an extra wide piece of worktop. Plus, now it's all together - you literally can't tell! I think the window sill sitting on-top of the worktop actually looks quite smart too.
Oiling the Worktops
The bespoke cut worktop comes pre-oiled, but the other worktops don't, so before we could screw them into position, we needed to oil them. We used Rustins Danish Oil on recommendation by Worktop-Express and oiled all four sides of the worktop with two coats using a lint-free cloth to rub it in, making sure to only use a light application each time.
The oil definitely darkened the wood slightly, but it really brought out the grain and gave a beautiful shine to the worktop. Having used the worktops for a while now, I think the oil is really quite good and it lasts a fair amount of time (with the exception of around the sink, which does need a fair amount of upkeep!) so I definitely do recommend it.
Along with our worktop order, we also purchased some matching Ash upstands. I prefer the look of upstands rather than tiles personally, and because upstands are thicker they're also great for covering up any gaps at the back of the worktop between the wall. If you have any large gaps, you may find tiles are just too thin!
We cut the upstands to size using a mitre saw and I then oiled three sides of the up stand (leaving the back un-oiled), prior to fitting. I was worried if I oiled the back, it wouldn't stick the wall properly, hence why I left that side. To fit the upstands, I simply used adhesive with clamps attached to the worktops to hold them into position. This is particularly necessary if you don't have straight walls or the wood has a slight bow to it.
I actually used Screwfix No-Nonsense adhesive for the first upstand I did and it popped straight off the wall a few days later - the horror! So I researched again and switched to a different adhesive, this one by Gripfill which is much stronger and much more potent smelling too. The second time around, I leaved the clamps on for more than 72hours (and no less!) to ensure it was really properly dry before removing them. Since using that, we've had no problems with them and they've been firmly attached for a few months now!
Applying Sealant & CaulkThe last thing to do was caulk any gaps at the top of the up-stands and use a clear sealant between the upstand and the worktop, so that no spillages can run underneath. I also used a flexible nozzle and put some sealant in-between the sink and the worktop too. This just provides a proper seal, so should there be any water splashing - it won't get through there either.
A Few Months On...And that's it! I absolutely love the Ash worktops and I'm so glad with my wood choice. With wooden worktops you do need to be careful not to burn them and also not to leave any spillages that could potentially warp or stain the surface. So far we've thankfully had neither (touch wood!) and I find the worktops generally quite easy to maintain. I try to re-oil around the sink monthly, otherwise I think the rest of the worktops will just be a 6-month or yearly affair.
I will say that the draining grooves aren't actually very good - by which I mean, they don't really drain. The water just kind of sits in the grooves and it doesn't run out properly, so I actually end up having to manually force the water down and into the sink. I don't know whether they just weren't cut properly when we sent the worktop back, but I'm definitely not overly impressed by them and I now use a draining mat instead. Obviously standing water on wood worktops is never a good thing, so if they're not draining correctly then they're likely to warp or even split over time. I'm still glad I went for them, as I do like the look of them - but yes, they're kinda pointless!
Cost-wise, these worktops were still fairly pricey, but a heck less than the cost of stone. We saved a bit of cash by keeping the edge of worktops square (as opposed to being rounded which added additional costs) and of course we saved money by DIY fitting the whole lot too.
So here's some shots of the worktops all nice and finished, in their full beauty!
So I hope this helps anyone thinking about going for wooden worktops and whether you should DIY or not. I would definitely recommend Worktop-Express and especially their bespoke cutting service too. I can't tell you how relieving it was not having to stress out over cutting the Belfast sink - I mean, that's not a DIY you want to get wrong, I can assure you.
I'd love to know what you think - is DIY worktop fitting something you'd consider?
(rounded to the nearest pound)
New Tools Purchased:
Danish Oil £25
Old brick buildings across the country have a tendency to get painted over the years by owners looking to “improve” their look. Whether its just a chimney or the whole building that’s been painted, a lot of us want to go back to that original brick look.
So how do you strip paint from century old brick? Well, the first thought a lot of folks have is sandblasting old brick. There are countless videos and well meaning bloggers who will tell you that sandblasting is the answer, but what they won’t show you is what happens after sandblasted brick is exposed to the elements for a few months.
In this post I’ll show you the dangers of sandblasting old brick and how that can take what would have been a relatively low maintenance brick building and turn it into a crumbling maintenance disaster.
How Old Bricks Were Made
In their simplest form brick are just clumps of clay mixed with varying degrees of shale and sand. Until the mid 1800s, most bricks were formed by hand and set out in a brick yard or in tunnels to dry for a couple weeks until they were ready for the kiln.
The kiln was often built using just these “green” bricks as the walls so as to act as their own kiln. The bricks were cooked at a lower initial temperature slowly to remove any remaining water and then once they were dry enough, the fires were stoked to bring the temps up to around 1800°F before letting them slowly cool down.
Once the bricks had cooled enough, the kiln was disassembled and the bricks were sorted. If only raw bricks were used to build the kiln, the bricks from the outermost walls were kept to be burned again in the next kiln. Some bricks that were closest to the fire received a glaze from the sand that fell into the fires and became vaporized and deposited on the bricks. These less attractive bricks were used in the interior courses of the walls. Bricks that became severely over-burned and cracked or warped were called clinkers and were used less for structural purposes and more for decorative uses like gardens.
This early process of making bricks resulted in much softer and less consistent bricks than what we have today. Today, the bricks are fired evenly and under controlled high temperatures where every brick gets the same amount of heat resulting in much harder bricks.
What Sandblasting Does to Old Brick
Imagine that bricks (especially old bricks) are a loaf of bread, after all they were baked much the same way! Just like how a loaf of bread develops a crust as it is baked in the oven, bricks also develop a protective skin on them from the firing process. That skin keeps them protected from the elements and just like bread, without a crust, they won’t last long without it.
Sandblasting old brick removes paint, yes, but it also removes the outer skin, leaving the brick exposed to the elements and susceptible to an early death. Here are some of the biggest problems sandblasting old brick causes.
Spalling occurs when the brick slowly self-destructs, turning into a powder and falling apart. Spalling can also occur from repointing with a mortar that is too hard which causes the face of the brick to break off exposing the softer interior. Sandblasting causes this en masse as ALL the sandblasted brick is now exposed and weakened. I’ve seen whole walls turned to powder within months of sandblasting depending on the climate.
It’s a big word and it’s as frightening to spell as it is to see. This is not a direct cause of sandblasting, but still an issue because it seems that a lot of people like to sandblast old brick and then apply a sealer to the face to prevent spalling or other damage to the weakened brick. That’s where the problem starts.
Old brick and lime mortar are very breathable building materials that are constantly taking in and expelling water through both sides of the wall. If you seal up one side of the wall, then you prevent that natural breathability from happening.
Moisture builds up within the brick on the underside of the sealer and minerals are deposited just below the surface of the sealer. Eventually this build up can cause the exterior 1/4″ or more of the brick to be forced off the wall and fall to the ground.
Not only does it damage the structural integrity of the brick, but the appearance of sandblasted brick is destroyed too. Any decorative tuckpointing or tooled mortar joints are blasted away along with the face of the bricks, leaving a uniformly rough scarified surface that doesn’t have the same attractive appearance as the original.
An Alternative to Sandblasting
So, what are you to do if you need to remove paint from old brick? Usually the best solution is chemical paint stripping. Using a product like PeelAway1, I have had great success removing decades of old paint from brick.
You brush the paste onto the brick, cover it in a special paper that comes with it, and come back the next day to peel the paper (along with most of the paint) off the wall.
I’ve written an earlier post about some testing I did with this product. It was tested on wood in the post, but works much the same on brick and other masonry.
I’m hoping that by now I have convinced you to skip sandblasting as a method of paint removal. It works well for stripping some metals and concrete, but other than that it usually creates more problems than it solves.
Protect that old brick and keep the sandblaster away.
I haven't shared any progress of the dining room for months now. Truth be told, we've done loads - but it's also been a room that's been piled high with storage for a very very long time. It's a constant battle; renovating, cleaning and finding homes for the bazillion bits of materials we have leftover. And this room, well - let's just say, it's suffered!
But anyway - today I'm sharing a little flooring update in here. Despite our kitchen and dining now being open plan, we decided to go for separate flooring in both these areas. Our kitchen has beautiful limestone tiles on the floor (full blog post on that here!) but in the dining room, we decided to keep the original floorboards exposed. This decision behind this was based partly on budget (we couldn't afford THAT much limestone!) and also partly because I couldn't really bare to cover up the victorian floorboards, particularly when they're in such great knick for a 100+ year old floor!
Over the last 18 months, this room has undergone some intense work. A lot of dust. A fair few falling bricks, many dirty boots, mucky paws, splashes of paint, filler, plaster, you name it. The floor, which was in good condition, turned into absolute filth! So it still needed a lot of TLC.
And by TLC I mean they needed one hell of a sand! I love floorboards that have a sense of age and character to them, so I was really keen not to sand them right back entirely. We even have some lovely little details on the floor that show where an old wall/door opening would have been and I absolutely love that! I really think it helps to tell a story about the house and how it was once used, and it also shows the years of use the floor has undergone. A perfectly sanded pristine new-looking floor just wasn't the feel I wanted for this room. After all, we've kept the wobbly ceilings and original lime-plasterered walls - so it just made sense to have a rustic aged floor too.
In order to actually keep the floorboards with this kind of character, a professional floor sanding machine is just too harsh for it. Those machines are really very rough on the floor and they literally strip the floor right back to clean brand new looking wood. Which is great if that's what you're after, but as I said, I wanted something a bit more rustic. So instead, I'll be sanding with a handheld sander! It takes much longer yes, BUT it saves you a ton of money and I personally prefer the look of floorboards when it's done this way. I've actually written a post before comparing the look of floorboards when using these two different methods, which you can read right here. But here's a quick look at our upstairs floor, which is a similar look to what we're hoping to achieve downstairs too...
As I said, we've done this in a couple of rooms already - but these were quite small in size, so I managed to get away just using a sanding attachment on a multi-tool. However this room is pretty big, so a small multi-tool sander just wasn't going to cut it, unless I wanted to lose weeks of my life that is. So instead I purchased a very cheap belt sander, which is basically a much smaller and less powerful equivalent to a professional floor sanding machine. It means you can still achieve that perfect clean wood look, if you want to, you'll just need to spend a bit more time sanding.
The sander I purchased was this one at just £35 (on offer at the time!) from Screwfix. It's a much much cheaper option to buy a belt sander than hire one - which would cost around £20 per day (jeeeeeez!). It's not the most powerful, or best one on the market - but it does do the job! I have to apologise now for the lack of progress photos - these are all from Grants phone and as I've mentioned previously, I've somehow managed to lose all my own photos from January-May - gah! ?
I always start off with a lower grit (which is coarser paper) and move through the boards quite quickly. The slower you go, the more you'll take off. I was keen to get a smooth enough finish, so we don't have to worry about getting splinters, but not so much that all the characterful dints and grooves had been removed. If that makes sense? Basically - I was happy to leave a bit of grub behind on the boards!
You want to make sure you're sanding along the grain and with the board. You'll probably find some areas require a bit more work than others and if you have slightly curved boards, you'll also find the edges won't sand very well. For this, I recommend going over with a smaller multi-tool attachment, or even a mouse sander, which is small enough to tilt slightly at an angle. You'll also require a smaller sander or multi-tool to get right into the edges of the boards against the skirting, as the belt sander is just too big to get that close. If you've removed the skirting boards of course, this won't be an issue. The smaller sanders are much less powerful, so be prepared to spend a little longer on areas when using these!
I also HIGHLY recommend buying a DIY-hoover that you can attach to the sander. Literally, it will change your life and you'll have absolutely no dust to clear up. No dusty walls, no dust ingrained into your sofa, no dust in pesky hard to clean cracks, yep - absolutely none! We've had ours for years now and I cannot recommend it enough. If you want to read a review about the one we have, you can check that out right here.
Once you've got most of the muck off, you can then go over with a finer grit sandpaper. This is pretty essential to remove any sanding marks the coarser one has left behind. If you don't remove these and stain the floor with a tint, these really do show up and really don't look great. In fact I would say, this part is the most important!
It took me about 2 days to do the whole room, so it was relatively quick considering this room is pretty big - but I have to admit; my knees and back were definitely aching by the second day! I recommend knee pads and lots of rest afterwards for sure. Hopefully you can see how a bit of muck and keeping those imperfections help to add character and that rustic-effect we're looking for.
After a few days of rest, I then had to decide what to use on the boards to protect them. I know some people are happy to leave the boards untreated, but when you have two dogs with mucky paws from the garden, I really don't think this is such a good idea. Treating the boards makes them water resistant, easier to clean, and less likely to be damaged or stained by liquids. Basically for a downstairs heavy-usage room, I personally think it's a must!
I've heard a lot about the brand Osmo, so I decided to give their products a whirl. They basically offer a unique product that combines Oil and Wax and it also allows the wood to 'breathe'. It most certainly is not the cheapest on the market, but with everything I've heard about it - I just had to give it a go! The reason I didn't use the same stuff I had used upstairs was because I wanted to keep these boards a bit lighter in colour.
Osmo have a whole load of tints and different finishes, but the one I went for is the Polyx Raw. This is basically meant to leave the floor looking untreated and it claims to be "almost transparent". If you're unsure on which tin to go for - I recommend getting some samples beforehand. I actually sampled their 'Clear' version which pretty much turned the floor orange - so I'm pretty glad I didn't just go straight in with a purchase of that!
The tin said you could simply apply by brush, so that's exactly what I did, making sure to really work it into the board and not over-apply - which is never a good thing when it comes to wax.
I have to be honest after the first coat, I was super disappointed. It seemed to have left a white milky film in patches over the board and it most definitely was not "transparent". I researched reviews online and found a few other people had had the same issues - it would seem this product isn't the best when it comes to dark floors or dark patches on the floor. Obviously I had left some darker areas where I hadn't fully sanded the floors to perfection and it was these areas that just didn't look great. It wasn't bad enough to show up on photo really and it definitely wasn't awful, but it just made me think the floor looked as if it needed mopping in places. You can very slightly see the white patches in this pic..
I left the floor unfinished for quite some time before deciding to go back over and give the floor a light sand (yes - I sanded it AGAIN ?) and try again - this time rubbing the oil into the floor, so I could apply even less product. And this actually seemed to work! I had to give the floor a couple more coats than the tin recommended, but there was definitely little to no white hue across the boards. Winning!
I will say this - it definitely is not transparent, as you can see! The boards were originally quite light and more yellow-y tones and now they are definitely a darker tinge and look more woody. It's not drastic or huge, but it just definitely isn't transparent. Although that being said - I do think the boards still look untreated. The oil is very matt, so it's not obvious at all that they have a coat over them, they just appear to be a slightly darker wood.
Overall, I am really pleased - you can still see those little imperfections that I loved and the boards as I say, don't look treated. We've also had a few spillages already and I can definitely say the oil wax actually works too. Which is really the most important thing! I would definitely use the oil again, but I'll be sticking to the rubbing technique personally! I should also mention that I barely used any of the 2.5L tin I purchased, so a little really does go a long way, which is REALLY GOOD considering how expensive it is. In hindsight, a smaller tin would have been plenty - but then again, I now have enough to do the whole house - literally! So here's a couple of before and afters to finish up...
I'd love to know what you think. Do you prefer a beaten-up looking floor, or something a bit more fresh and new?
New Tools Purchased:
Belt Sander £35
Sanding Sheets £36
Osmo Oil £73
People can’t get enough of shiplap and thanks to shows like Fixer Upper, the world is looking for new ways to incorporate the hottest trend since subway tile.
For us old house owners shiplap is just a part of life. Until a few years ago it wasn’t nearly as coveted as it is today so it was easy to take for granted that authentic wood wall everyone is clamoring for. Old house or new, I’ll show you some of the most creative and beautiful ways you can decorate with shiplap.
While there are ways to make faux shiplap walls with plywood or even foam, in the end it’s never worth it. If you don’t have access to true shiplap that’s okay. I’ve put together a tutorial on How To Make Your Own Shiplap to get you going. Ultimately you don’t need the true shiplap joint, but don’t skimp on materials, use real 1x nominal lumber and you’ll be so glad you did!
Bathroom walls take a beating and having a hard surface like shiplap can work great. Paint them a bright semi gloss white so they will stand up the moisture and you’ll have long lasting, resilient walls with a lot more visual interest than just boring drywall.
Bare It All
Original or reclaimed shiplap is usually beautiful old-growth wood, so why not give it a chance to shine in its own right without paint or coatings. Clean it up, sand down splinters and other rough spots and then give it a couple coats of tung oil or finishing wax and let the world see all that amazing character.
Mud rooms take a beating and they usually get passed over for nice design and decor. But add a little shiplap to the walls and ceiling of your mud room and you’ll turn a boring utility room into a place that makes you want to come inside.
Who says your shiplap has to be perfectly smooth and blemish free? Not me! Like the bare wood option mentioned above, some rooms could really benefit from a shabby chic look on the walls.If you’re concerned about peeling lead paint, read this first and then coat the shiplap in a sealer like a satin polyurethane or finishing wax.
Adding shiplap to just one wall or changing the color of one wall in a room full of shiplap makes a big statement and draws visitors eyes right to the unique wall. Find the wall you want to make a statement with and get to work.
Though shiplap was not traditionally installed vertically, sometimes it’s worth it to mix it up and use some of this reclaimed wood vertically on a wall or two, especially in small spaces like a bathroom.
With fall upon us and cooler weather imminent, it’s time to start thinking about storm windows. If you live in the northern part of the country storm windows are an important addition to any old house.
Wood storm windows fit perfectly with double-hung windows and blend in seamlessly with the historic character of your old home. There are modern aluminum alternatives with operable elements like the triple track storms that are so common, but none of them look quite as charming as traditional wood storms.
Traditional wood storm windows were made with mortise and tenon joinery, but you can also make a simplified DIY storm window with pocket-hole joinery and basic woodworking tools that I’ll teach you to make today. Watch the video tutorial below and follow these simple steps and you’ll be saving in no time!
Here are the tools you’ll need:
Step 1 Determine the Thickness
Storms were meant to fit on the outside of a double-hung window and rest up against the blind stop in the screen/storm rebate. They are usually between 3/4” and 1 1/8” thick depending on the thickness of your window’s exterior trim. The 3/4” version is extremely simple to make since you can use standard 1x material to make your DIY storm window.
For rebates thicker than 3/4″ you have three options I’ve listed below. You’ll have to choose one of them. All of them work equally well, it’s just up to you which one you prefer.
Step 2 Measure the Opening
Measure the finished opening on the exterior trim of your window. You’ll need all the measurements below:
Keep in mind that on an old house just because the height on the left side of the window is 60″ doesn’t mean the height on the right side will be the same. Take a few measurements across the window to make sure you account for out of square windows on all our measurements.
After you have your measurements you’ll want to subtract 1/4″ from the outer dimensions to give the storm the necessary tolerances to fit. For example, if your window measures 32″ x 60″ you want to make your finished storm 31 3/4″ x 59 3/4″.
Step 3 Cut & Rip
To make things simple we’ll be using common 1x stock. Be sure to pick a rot-resistant wood that can stand up to your regional climate. You can use this post to help you pick a good species of wood.
To be efficient, I’ve narrowed the wood needed for each storm to be a single 1×4 and 1×6. The lengths you’ll need will depend on the size of your window, but the widths are the same no matter what the size of the windows.
Using our example window above of 32″ x 60″ here is your cut list below. I’ll explain the math in a moment.
The 1×4 will be your stiles (the vertical pieces of the frame) and the 1×6 will be your rails (the horizontal pieces of the frame.
Here’s how the math works so you can understand and make it work for your house. Your stiles are simply the total height of the window minus the 1/4″ space we need for fitting.
The rails are a little more difficult. You have to subtract the 1/4″ like with the stiles but you also have to subtract the width of the two stiles. So, here’s the math: 32″ – 1/4″ – 1 11/16″ – 1 11/16″ = 28 3/8″
That hurt my head, but that is the correct length of ALL 3 rails (top, meeting, and bottom). Got it? Good!
Step 4 Drill & Assemble
Lay out your frame and check your work. Measure and mark where your meeting rail should go and the you are ready to drill your pocket holes. For this I used a Kreg K4 pocket hole jig which was super simple. It even comes with a vacuum attachment keep the sawdust at bay (something I needed big time!)
Follow the setup instructions that come with the kit. Clamp and drill 2 pocket holes on each side of the top and bottom rails and one pocket hole on each side of the meeting rail.
Clamp the frame together and install your screws, glue in the dowels with a waterproof wood glue like Titebond III and let it dry for a couple hours. Once the glue has dried cut the dowels flush with a flush cut saw and sand everything level and smooth with 80-grit paper.
Step 5 Cut Rabbets
The next step is to cut the glass rabbets into your rails and stiles. These should be 1/4″ wide and 3/8″ deep rabbets. I used a Ridgid laminate router with a 1/4″ rabbeting bit. You can really make these rabbets larger if you prefer or are planning on a thicker pane of glass, but I’ve found that this size is more than sufficient for 1/8″ glass and doesn’t hog out as much wood as a larger rabbet. Make sure the bit has a bearing on the end or you’ll have to setup a guide for your router.
On the outside of the storm sash route the channel out of the top and bottom glass openings. You’ll be left with rounded corners which will require a chisel to square off.
Step 6 Cut and Fit Glass
Cut and test fit your choice of glass. There are a ton of options for glass and you can learn more about the different options in this post. My recommendations would be to use double strength glass (1/8″) or for southern climates double strength glass with Low-E coating.
Your glass needs to be about 1/16″ smaller than the storm frame so that it has room for expansion later. You don’t want the storm to swell and break the glass.
Use this video tutorial on How To: Cut Glass if you’re not sure how.
Step 7 Prime
Then put a coat of oil-based primer on all sides of the storm. Once dry sand it lightly with a sanding sponge and dust off the surface.
Step 8 Bed, Glaze & Paint
Put a thin bed of Sarco MultiGlaze putty in the glazing rabbet and press the glass into the putty so that you’re left with just a thin line of putty on the interior. Set the glass in place with glazing points. I prefer using the smaller No. 1 diamond points and a Glazing Point Driver because they hide the best, but you can also drive the larger No. 2 diamond points by hand with a hand point setter.
Add a beveled line of glazing putty on the face of the glass to finish it off. You can watch this video for the details of glazing a window if you need help. After a couple days the putty will be ready for painting your choice of color.
Step 9 Installation
Using a couple Stanley storm hangers install the storm in its opening and secure it with a hook and eye or two on the sill.
There you have it! An attractive, energy efficient storm to keep you warm and cozy this winter. Make a few a month and the energy savings will add up quick not to mention they protect the primary window from wear and tear.
The benefits of storms go on and on and now you can make your very own DIY storm window to keep the winter at bay!
It’s getting close to time to start putting up those Christmas decorations and what a better way to decorate an old house than with salvage! My shop has a lot of leftover parting beads from the thousands of windows we restore each year and rather than throw them away we decided to make something for our readers.
So, with a few minutes at the end of the day we thought we’d grab some old parting bead from windows dating anywhere from the 1870s to the 1940s and make a couple Christmas trees out of them. Each one is unique and has all the beautiful old patina you’d expect. They’ve been sealed with polyurethane to seal in any lead paint, but these are from old houses so don’t chew on the paint.
Hang them on the wall or put them on the mantle and you’ll have a great piece of historic decor perfect for your old house. There is a limited supply of these so if you want yours in time make sure you order before they are gone!
Check out the product page to get your today!
I’ve talked about the Different Types of Glass before and their relative energy efficiency but I wanted to dig into Low-E glass a little today so you can see if it is right for you. I get a lot of questions about making old windows energy efficient and when the temperatures start to dip the questions ratchet up.
Low-E stands for “low emissivity” and has become a standard material for windows and doors since it first arrived on the scene in earnest in the 1980s. Emissivity refers to the amount of heat that the glass is able to emit. So, a low emissivity glass will emit less heat than one with high emissivity. It works by blocking certain wavelengths of light but allowing others through. The sun’s light comes in a few forms and they each have a unique range of wavelengths.
Low-E glass attempts to block high amounts of UV and IR light while allowing as much Visible Light in as possible. I could get very science geeky here but Low-E glass is basically good at preventing heat from passing through it. In the summer it keeps the heat from getting in and in the winter it keeps the heat from getting out.
The Low-E coating is a micro-thin layer of reflective materials like tin or silver that is applied to the surface of the glass. So knowing which side is coated is imperative to good performance. In single-paned applications you always want the Low-E coating toward the interior of the building to protect it from hazing and premature wear.
In double-paned windows, the Low-E coating is typically applied to the sides of the glass that face each other in the air space so that it is protected from any exposure at all.
You may hear your glass supplier talk about soft-coat and hard-coat Low-E and be wondering which one you need. Soft-coat is usually more effective at blocking heat than hard-coat but it can only be used in double-paned applications. Hard-coat Low-E can be used in single-paned applications and is still very effective for all but the most southern climates. Even if you use a hard-coat Low-E in south Florida or Phoenix you will still enjoy the benefits of decreased heat transfer.
Is Low-E Glass Right For You?
Low-E has some definite benefits whether you live in a hot climate or a cold climate. It is used heavily in double-paned glass applications which if you’ve been a reader for long you know I am not a fan of due to their short lifespan and high failure rate. However, it can be used very effectively in single-paned form as well so that’s what I’ll be focusing on here today.
Low-E Storm Windows
I believe that in historic buildings there are two ways for Low-E glass to be used effectively. The most effective way to use Low-E glass in a historic window is by adding an exterior storm window with Low-E glass. You’ll need the hard-coat Low-E glass for this application and it can be very effective at upping the efficiency of your windows, often even beyond that of new replacement windows with double-paned Low-E!
You don’t necessarily need to build new storm windows. It is often just a matter of swapping out the existing glass with a Low-E substitute and for a very minor cost you have a big gain in efficiency. Easy improvement!
Low-E in Sash
If you don’t have storm windows or your windows won’t accommodate them like with historic steel windows then the next best option is to replace the glass in the windows themselves. I will preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of saving and preserving historic wavy glass. I don’t want it broken out or even swapped if possible, but if it’s a matter or trashing your windows or swapping the glass I see this option as a win because it saves historic windows.
You’ll want a hard-coat Low-E glass for this just like the storm windows and installing it is just a matter of digging out the old putty and glazing points and swapping the glass then re-glazing the window. Here’s a tutorial focused on replacing glass in steel windows.
The last option is probably the cheapest and easiest. Applying a tinted film to your window requires very little work and can be very effective (especially for the cost!). Finding a tint that blocks the heat and doesn’t block too much of the visible light is really the key. Gila makes a good and DIY friendly window film I have use before you can find here.
Make sure you apply your window film on the inside of the glass otherwise your tint will have a very short lifespan.
Remember, Low-E is not just for the summer, it is extremely effective at keeping heat in in the winter too so this is really an anytime of year project. Protect you furnishing from the fading effects of UV light and keep your house warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, just keep those original historic windows and do it the smart way!
If you’ve got cedar shakes or shingles on your old house you need to know how to care for them to make them last. Learning how to care for cedar shingles, whether they are installed as siding or roofing, is not particularly difficult.
Before you give in and paint your shingles, realize that cedar shingles can last decades with virtually no maintenance. But a little maintenance can keep them looking great and extend their life even further.
Step 1 Clean Shingles
Whether they’re on your roof or wall your shingles may develop mildew or algae and will most certainly weather to a silver/grey appearance after years of exposure. Cleaning away the age is the first step in caring for cedar shingles.
The Cedar Bureau recommends using a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water. Apply it with a pump sprayer let it sit for about 15 minutes before rinsing it off with with a garden hose. Be sure to keep the hose pointed downward to avoid forcing water up behind the shingles.
You should find that this removes the mildew and algae and returns the shingles to a nice tan color rather than the weathered grey they were. If you find that there is still some remaining dirt or growth that remains you can use a nylon bristle brush to scrub the surface.
You want to avoid pressure washing shingles at all costs. Pressure washing can remove wood fibers thinning the wood and shortening the life of the shingles. Not only that, but it forces water into the places where it doesn’t belong possibly causing rot and mold. Read 4 Reasons You Should Never Pressure Wash Your House.
Step 2 Refinish Shingles
After the wood has dried (normally 2–4 days), you can let the wood age naturally or apply an oil-based semitransparent stain. Staining the shingles on a regular basis will help them maintain their color and last longer. Oil-based stains are my preference for wood products in general because the oil penetrates deeper and rejuvenates the wood better compared to water-based stains.
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application, which usually includes recommendations for the proper wood moisture content and ambient temperature at the time of application. In general, finishes should not be applied to wood having a moisture content above 15%. You can use an inexpensive moisture meter to test the content.
The temperature during application and for 24 hours following application should be above 50° F, depending on the manufacturer. That applies not just to the air temperature but to the surface temperature of the shingles themselves.
Using a pump sprayer and a 4″ or 5″ paint brush you can cover a wide area by spraying and then back brushing the surface to work the stain into the wood. Give it at least 24 hrs drying time before further handling.
Step 3 Repeat
While shingles can be left bare to age gracefully, regular cleaning and refinishing is key to keeping wood shingles looking great and lasting for decades. Depending on the exposure and your climate a good cleaning every few years is usually called for since semitransparent stains require regular renewal.
In the end, it’s up to you whether you’re happy with silver weathered shingles or you want to maintain the original color of your shingle siding or roof. Maintaining the color takes some work, but it will extend their life over shingles left alone. The question is, “how do you like your shingles?”
'Smart Homes' are constantly being talked about nowadays; with the advance of technology, people are beginning to find their homes and the tech within it somewhat outdated. From the start of Smart TVs to the Smartphones, the Smart Technology group has grown rapidly over the last few years and who knows where it's going to go next. Smart Homes technology isn't just gadget-y, it's often energy saving, and makes how we use technology more efficient, convenient and user-friendly. So if you're looking to make some simple tech updates to make your home more up to date, then here's 5 basic home upgrades that can make your home just a little more smarter.
What is a 'Smart Home'?
Smart Home Technology generally relates to anything in the home that can be controlled or accessed wirelessly away from the actual device, whether this is a smartphone, tablet, PC or even just via your voice. It's basically technology made for the future and making everything more convenient and easier to use.
1. Smart Heating
Starting with THE most obvious - yep everyone's opting for these nowadays, smart thermostats connected to your heating. This allows you to manage your heating, even when you're not at home. What's the point in that, you ask? Well if you finish up early at the office, you can switch the heating on early ready for your arrival home. If you have teens who are likely to increase the temperature on the thermostat whilst you're away, you can see this and control it. If you accidentally leave the heating on, well you can now switch it straight off from your phone. It's seriously great for energy saving and just the convenience of it! Many thermostats also monitor usage and even tell you to the penny, how much energy you're using. The most common Smart Thermostats out there at the moment for central heating systems are the Nest and the Hive, but there are many more on the market and I'm sure even more to come! If you're looking to compare different Smart-Home thermostats, PlumbNation offer an extensive range right here for pretty much all budgets.
What about Electric Heating?
Fear not, Smart Technology has now moved into the electric heating world too. These ecoSave Smart Wifi-Ready Electric Radiators from the Electric Heating Company allow you to control your heating, just as the Nest or the Hive. BUT, electric heating goes one up on these and allows you to control the heating by each individual radiator, which makes it even more efficient and energy saving! If you're planning an evening in front of the TV, you can heat up the living room without heating up the home office, the pantry or the conservatory. It's brilliant and I think, much more logical! You do need the additional gateway kit for the Wi-Fi part to work, but you can read all about that and my review of this radiator on the blog here.
2. Smart Security & Alarms
Another pretty popular choice is in the security and alarm group. Back in the day, when Alarm systems were first brought out, they were pretty awesome. But nowadays if you hear an alarm bellowing out at 4am, well you just ignore it don't you? Very few neighbours are dropping by the house checking everything's OK. It makes the old alarm systems totally outdated and completely pointless. But what if you could check the house and alarm yourself, even when miles from home? Genuis! With smart home security systems and the added aid of cameras, you can see what's happening inside (or outside!) the home when you're not there. Each alarm package is slightly different, but with the Yale Smart Home System, you'll get a phone notification of any suspicious activity and if you see an intruder on the camera system, you can raise the appropriate call yourself. And if nothing's going on, well at least there's no alarm going off for weeks on end unbeknown to yourself whilst on the yearly vacation. It's instant and real-time security!
As well as Alarms and CCTV, there are also Smart Fire Alarms as well (like this one), which work in the same kind of way. Smart home security is the best, most efficient kind of security you can have within the home.
3. Smart Lighting & Smart Sockets
Yep, you can now control your lighting and your sockets from your wirelessly as well, which is pretty bonkers! Left the lights on? You can turn them right off. Late home but want the house to appear occupied? You can turn them back on. So how does this work, you ask? You just need to buy Wi-Fi Ready bulbs and the hub which connects them all to your Wi-Fi network. There's many brands out there now and even IKEA have their own Wi-Fi range!
It's pretty much the same deal for sockets too, and this works via a plug adapter (like these!) which you simply plug the device into. So if you've forgotten to turn the washing machine on in a rush leaving for work, well now you can turn it on straight from your phone. You'll even never have to worry about whether you've left the straighteners on again! Brilliant!
4. Smart Home HubsThis is probably the most popular one for this year; Smart Home Hubs. These are basically a device that can control almost all of the above in one place, through voice alone. There's a few different models and brands out there, but the most common one on the market is probably the Amazon Echo. This is a standalone 'pod' which you can talk to and control different things within the home. If you want to switch on those lights - you can just ask the hub to do it for you. Need to turn the thermostat down? You don't even need to pick up your phone. Smart Home hubs are also great for use a speaker and you can even request a song of your choice, yep you guessed it - just through voice. You can ask the hub to send text messages, make calls, what the weather forecast is, the square route of 64, it can even write you a shopping list. It's pretty much your own personal assistant, controlled entirely wirelessly through voice. Madness!
5. Smart Pets
No, I don't mean Pets can now be controlled from your phone - but there are crazy awesome Pet devices out there that help you to keep a track of your pets even when you're not there. My favourite of the bunch is the Smart Cat-Flap (like this one) that only allows your cat into the home. Just by using your cats microchip ID, it keeps neighbours and stray cats out and whatsmore, the cat flap also alerts you as to when he/she goes out and when they return. If your working late, it takes the worry out of not being there to let them in and if your cat likes to go out at night - well they now can! You can monitor their in/out patterns and see any unusual changes and you can also introduce a curfew to lock the flap wirelessly if you need to keep the cat in/out.
Another fave is also the PetCube which allows you to watch, interact and even feed pets, wirelessly straight from your phone. Say what? The PetCube is basically a camera which keeps a watch over your pets and you can access wirelessly on the phone. But this goes one step further as you can talk to your pet with its built-in speaker and you can release treats from the camera (yep - really!). So even when you're not there for them, well you now can be!
So that's my five favourite Smart Home Tech gadgets out there right now. Who knows what will be next - Smart Ovens perhaps? I'd love to know what Smart Home gadgets you have within your home or any weird ones you think are also worth a mention!
*This Post Is In Collaboration with PlumbNation & The Electric Heating Company. Thank you for supporting the brands who support this blog!