You probably know fiberglass insulation well. It’s been a staple of residential insulation for decades in the United States. You know, the pink stuff! The insulation that makes you itchy when you install it. Wait, they removed the itchy making stuff from it now, didn’t they?
Fiberglass, while it’s very simple to install, has some definite shortcomings in the insulation game that might make you want to give mineral wool a look. The most common name you can find mineral wool going by in the states is Rockwool (formerly Roxul).
Of all the different types of insulation, mineral wool and fiberglass are probably the most similar since they both come in batts that are trimmed to fit inside stud bays, but that is really where the similarities end. They are completely different materials, and after a little studying and some real world experience, I have come to be quite fond of mineral wool and I’ll tell you why below.
What is Mineral Wool?
Mineral wool is a stone-based mineral fiber insulation comprised of Basalt rock and recycled steel slag. It costs about about 25% to 45% more than fiberglass, but I feel its benefits more than justify the additional costs.
The manufacturing process involves taking molten rock and spinning it while blasting it with cool air. It’s actually surprisingly similar to making cotton candy except instead of melted sugar you’re using melted rocks.
This makeup gives mineral wool some of its fantastic benefits that we’ll talk about below. Check out the video below if you’re a dork like me and want to see how things are made.
Benefits of Mineral Wool
They are plentiful and wide ranging, which is why I have become a fan of this stuff. Not all of these benefits may matter to you, but definitely keep them in mind when and if you’re looking at how to insulate and old house.
1. Fire Resistant
Unlike fiberglass which melts around 1,200°F, mineral wool has an extremely high melting point and can withstand fires up to 2,000°F making it one of the safest forms of insulation when it comes to house fires. It will not melt or off-gases any dangerous fumes in case of fire and functions as a fireblock, which delays the spread of the fire buying you valuable time to escape.
2. Water/Mold Repellent
Mineral wool is manufactured with a small amount of oil in the mix which helps give it a hydrophobic property. This characteristic keeps mineral wool performing effectively and does not lower it’s R-value when exposed to water.
Any water that does end up on mineral wool rides down the surface rather than absorbing into the body of the insulation. This awesome feature and the fact that it is comprised of rock makes it virtually impossible for mold to grow on or in mineral wool.
Compare that to fiberglass, which readily absorbs and holds water which greatly decreases it’s effectiveness and lowers its R-value when wet.
3. Higher R-value
R-value is a big deal in insulation, so lets see how they stack up. Fiberglass has an R-value of between 2.2 to 2.7 compared to mineral wool weighing in at 3.0 to 3.3. So that means, for standard 2×4 wall mineral wool comes in R-15 batts, while fiberglass comes in R-11 or R-13. For 2×6 walls, mineral wool comes in R-23. Fiberglass? R-19 with special order of up to R-21
Another bonus is that mineral wool is available in batts that fit 2×8 framed walls at R-30. Fiberglass? Not available in that size.
The biggest advantage is the consistent R-value of mineral wool as opposed to fiberglass that comes with poor installation. Fiberglass is easy to accidentally compress which greatly diminishes its R-value. With mineral wool that isn’t an issue since it is already compressed.
4. Easier to Install
Installation of mineral wool is different from fiberglass entirely in that it comes in thick batts almost like a huge loaf of bread that must be cut by what unsurprisingly looks like a bread knife. Unlike fiberglass, you don’t have to compress it and then cut it with a razor knife before stapling a kraft paper face onto the stud.
There is no paper facing because mineral wool does not come with a vapor barrier- you have to install your own vapor barrier if it is necessary in your situation. In my opinion, this usually results in a better installation because the vapor barrier is one solid piece, rather than a bunch of joints that have a greater likelihood of not being properly sealed.
For mineral wool, you cut the piece to size but leave it a little tight so that it compression fits into place in the stud bay. You can install straps for installation on a ceiling to make sure it stays in place. A tight installation is best and I find that this is easier for most of us to accomplish than trying to ascertain if a piece of fiberglass is too fluffy or too compressed to perform properly.
5. More Versatile
Mineral wool is not just for inside the house either. There are versions that can be installed on the exterior of a building in place of rigid foam. Installation on the exterior is an excellent use of mineral wool because of its hydrophobic properties.
Combine that with its versatility of coming in configurations for 2×4, 2×6, and 2×8 walls, and you have an easy option for builders and remodelers to turn to. Especially for those of us in old homes where stud size is not always a standard dimension.
With its dense composition, mineral wool is also easier to ensure proper installation around cutouts like electrical boxes and plumbing lines. I find that fiberglass is usually just compressed in these sections, whereas mineral cannot be compressed to fit around them. It forces the installer to do it correctly or not at all.
It’s always a good idea to keep up with new products on the market that may work well for us old house owners. Mineral wool is something that should definitely be on your radar if it’s not already. While it’s not a new invention, simply a newer product, mineral wool has a place in insulating your old home and might be just what the winter ordered.
So I'm kickstarting 2018 by finishing some of those DIY jobs that are half-done - you know, when you start something all excitedly and then run out of steam and it just gets left. For an eternity. Yeah those kind of DIYs.
We started renovating the Conservatory waaaaay back in 2016 - we gave it a new roof, sorted the plumbing, added electric, we even plastered and insulated the external walls. It then took me a WHOLE YEAR to do the DIY Patterned floor (although in my defence it had become a room used for storage whilst we did the kitchen) and now another 6 months on from that, we're finishing the rest of the room off.
So that means no more raw plaster-coloured walls and it also means actually giving this room a purpose rather than just being four walls and not a lot else. I wrote about our plans for this room waaaay back here and whilst those plans have changed a little, I'm still planning on using it as a indoor/outdoor garden room filled with plants as a kind of summer snug, somewhere to chill out with a good book and garden view. Well once all that rubbish has been cleared at least!
The first job to finish in here is obviously painting that plastered wall and so it was the perfect opportunity to try and test out Valspar's colour-matching service, which I have been intrigued about for quite some time. If you don't know what this is - well in a nutshell, the Valspar paint range is so infinite that they can literally create any colour possible. Thanks to super awesome clever technology they can scan any colour and recreate it, as an exact match. So if you need to touch up some kitchen doors but don't have the paint for it - well, you can bring the door in and they can create the exact paint for it - genius! Or maybe you've seen an amazing colour in a magazine you want to recreate - now you can. No need to buy a bazillion testers or stand about comparing swatches to find the nearest match. Just a quick scan and it's all done for you.
The Valspar colour matching also works for creating colours from other brands too. You all know how much I love the colour range F&B paint offers but absolutely hate the price tag - well with Valspar you can get that colour for a considerably lower price. It's perfect for those of us on a budget and means we're no longer priced-out from having those colours.
I was really fortunate enough to be gifted some paint vouchers from the team at Valspar in order to put their paint to the test and so I finally had the perfect opportunity to try out their colour-matching service. How matching, was colour-matching? And does it really work? Well, I was about to find out.
First things first though - freshly plastered walls always need mist-coating even if they've been left to dry out for more than a year. I use a 50/50 mix of basic white emulsion (the cheapest one you can find works just fine!) and water. Once that's dry I then go back over with a 70/30 mix of Emulsion to water. And once that is dry - you can then go over with the actual coloured paint. If you forget to mist-coat new plaster then any paint (Valspar or other paint range) won't adhere properly and you risk it peeling right off.
So what actual colour emulsion have I gone for, you're wondering? Well, you'll be surprised to know that it is in fact NOT on the grey spectrum as I had always imagined, but PINK. Yep you read that right, we're going pink in the conservatory!
As much as I love grey (obviously!) it's slightly taking over our house. We have a grey kitchen, grey wall in the dining room, grey in the spare bedroom - hell, even our panelling in the bathroom is a blue-grey. It's everywhere! I absolutely love pops of colour, so I wanted to go for something with more colour, something different, something that compliments grey and would also make my plans for a ton of greenery in here pop against it. So I went for pink. A trendy, cool, grown-up kinda pink, one that doesn't look like it belongs next to a crib in a baby's room.
My initial thoughts upon opening the tub were very much "oh shit, have I made the wrong call here?" but once it started to go on the wall, I could totally see the exact sophisticated pink I had been after. The pink I colour-matched to is called 'Calamine' in the F&B range. It's not a baby pink or a sugary sweet pink, but one with a hint of grey. It's calming, cool toned and the exact grown-up version of pink I had been imagining. It also has quite an undertone of grey in it, which I think is probably what the reason this particular pink called to me so much.
Having never used any Valspar paint before, the thing that surprised me the most was how far one coat of paint went in regards to coverage. I was not expecting it to be so richly pigmented and if I had been a little more careful with application I truly think one coat would have been enough to do the whole wall. I've never used any other paint like it.
It's quite a bit thicker than actual F&B paint and from a 2.5L tub, I barely used a quarter of it for painting this wall. And as I say, I think I could have used even less if I had applied a little more carefully. I also went over the skirting board with it to give the whole wall seamless floor-to-ceiling drop backdrop of colour.
And you can already see just how great this colour looks against the floor! It compliments it so well, which I think has a lot to do with the grey undertones in the pink. If anything the pink wall makes the floor even more of a feature, which I freaking love and it totally deserves after the hours it took me to paint ;)
So the REAL question, is how matching was it with the actual F&B colour? Well, here's a little comparison and of course you can mind your own mind up for yourselves but I'm 100% certain it's pretty much as exact as you can get.
Needless to say I am really really impressed! If you have the fear of going colour-matching in case it's wrong - then don't be! I've been sharing the conservatory decorating over on Instagram (go follow me here!!) and had to many messages from fellow Instagrammers who said how much they love the Valspar colour-matching too and how much it's saved them not getting "the real deal" so to speak.
So here's a final quick look of the room with its new freshly painted pink wall. Of course I'll be doing a little more to this room still (pallet seating on the way!) but isn't it amazing how quickly paint can transform a room?
I'd love to know if you've tried Valspar's colour matching service out? And whether you were as impressed as me?
*I was gifted Valspar's paint to feature in this blog. All words, thoughts and opinions are my own and as always, I only recommend products I would genuinely buy myself. Thanks for supporting the brands who support this blog :)
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After giving our little inner porch a lick of paint on the walls and some new Karndean flooring, the front door was crying out for a little bit of loving too. I like to refer to this door as the "not forever door" as quite frankly I hate it and with enough wishful thinking, I'm pretty sure we'll be able to replace it one day. It's not the style of it I hate, but the weird bulging glass panels. They're just awful. This house needs an original victorian style door for sure, but until I win some millions - It's got to stay. So I'm on a mission to make the front door look a little nicer and a paint of coat was exactly what it needed!
As a quick-time makeover, I decided to use Chalk Paint for the job because quite frankly, it's the perfect paint for lazy DIYers! You don't need to sand anything back so it means you can achieve an instant transformation in basically, minutes. Chalk Paint may not be the most obvious choice when it comes to painting a door, but there's no reason not to use it! For a quick refresh, it's perfect.
I wanted to go for a pop of colour in here; something fun and vibrant - and after someone tagging me on an Instagram photo (I can't remember who you are - sorry!!) I thought mustardy yellow was the perfect colour. And even more perfect, because I already had a pot a paint ready to go (it was meant for another DIY project - but unfortunately that's had to wait!).
The colour I'm using is Arles, which was very kindly gifted to me by the team at Annie Sloan. It's only a tester pot and it didn't *quite* do the whole door, so I did have to buy another, but it was very darn close! The only prep-work I had to do was to add some masking tape and give the door a quick clean as I went.
The paint went on super easy and one coat gave really really good coverage, especially considering it was a horrendous dark brown before. I've used different branded paints on other woodwork throughout the house and often had to do between 3-4 coats, so I was really impressed that I only needed two in this paint to get a full coverage of the mustardy yellow. In terms of paint pot size, this was about a tester pot and a half. I did paint onto a bit of the glass panels as well, just to cover up existing paint on there until I have the time to get the scraper out and scrape it all off. It's not really that noticeable though and barely picks up on the photos.
I then buffed in some wax, just to make the paint a little more durable. And that was it! Within just several hours the door had a total transformation. I love the pop of colour in our hallway now against that bright white and I think it goes really well with the floor too.
Obviously this room needs a lot of work still (spy the peeling wallpaper anywhere?! And flaky paint skirting?!) but it looks a darn sight better for now. And even if we get another door in the future - I'm definitely going for a popping colour!
What do you think to my quick-transformation mustardy coloured door?
*Products in this post were gifted to me in return for a feature on Instagram. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog!
Luckily for us our house has most of its skirting and original architrave in tact and whilst it's not always in the best condition, I'm really keen to preserve those features. Sure they're massively overpainted, you can see where old sockets have been attached and generally speaking they just don't have that crisp fresh new look. BUT that suits me just fine. I love a house that sings its age - rustic floors, repaired skirting boards, overpainted architrave (within reason) - it's all about telling a story as to how the house has lived and been lived in. However, whilst we have most of the original skirting boards in tact, some have been removed and replaced with non-matching ones and this seriously bugged me.
With the floorboards sanded, tiling finished and kitchen installed, we figured it was about time we sorted out our skirting boards too. We've changed the layout of our downstairs quite a bit (three rooms into one!) so we obviously had areas where we were missing skirting boards as well. I was really keen to re-instate new skirting boards to the areas that needed them, but ones that matched the original ones so I didn't have to replace the whole lot. Here's a snap of the original boards, albeit it with them looking a little worse-for-wear..
Matching old skirting boards for new ones is actually easier said than done as most DIY stores offer a very limited amount of profiles and only in a couple of different size/heights. Skirting World however, as their name suggests is a whole world of skirting and they have pretty much every kind of profile out there, with a total of over 50 different styles! That's a whole lotta skirting. And each one is sold in 12 different heights and 3 different thicknesses too. Basically if there's anywhere that will have a matching skirting board for your old ones, it's going to be here. We already matched some architrave last year for the kitchen from them (which you can read about here) and it was the first time we'd used MDF for woodwork as well.
Since then, I've been an MDF convert and I mean totally converted. No more bowed wood, twisted wood, warped wood, horrible knots - just a perfect length of board, every single time. It makes fitting so much easier as well. You don't have to pre-select the "best" piece of timber, nor do you have to try and reshape the timber whilst fitting - you know, hammering a load of nails into twisted wood in the hope of un-twisting it, and then of course splitting said piece of wood. Nightmare. We've bought a fair few packs of pine skirting board in the past - both in this house and our previous house and I can honestly said I've never bought a pack where every single board was perfect. Well, MDF is always perfect. Is it worth the extra cash? In my opinion, 100 times yes.
So thankfully Skirting World did indeed have a matching skirting profile, at the right height and the right thickness too. Hurrah! We have the mini torus skirting, 170mm height and 15mm thick. If they don't already have a match for your skirting, then they can also make bespoke profiles to create an exact match as well - amazing! Here's a comparison of the old skirting agains the new skirting - I'm sure you'll be able to tell which is which - but it's pretty damn close match.
And here's a quick look at the not-so original mismatching skirting board we're placing as well. We actually think this length of skirting may actually be original, but the decorative top part has been sliced off - the horror!
In order to carefully remove old skirting boards without damaging the walls, you need to take your time and very carefully pry the boards off the wall. This means getting a crow bar (we tend to use a flat head screwdriver to start with!) into the top of the board and very gently wiggling it to loosen the board from the wall. You want to work your way along the board doing this, in order to loosen each nail. If you go all in and try to remove the board from the first point you get your crow bar in, then you'll either bring half the plaster down with the board, or you'll snap the board in two - not ideal if you intend on reusing it!
Old victorian skirting boards are attached to the wall with big old nails into wooden slats which are sandwiched between brickwork. As a top tip for removing old victorian skirting boards and attaching new ones - I recommend is leaving the wooden slats in the walls. These will actually be highly useful for re-attaching new boards. If you're unable to remove the nails without wrenching the wood out the wall, you can quite easily break the exposed part of nails off, leaving the rest of it in the wood. These kind of nails are very easy to break, just give it a gentle up and down wiggle with some pliers and they'll snap right off.
To fit our new skirting, we're both gluing and nailing it into place. The glue will hold it in place, but the nails will ensure a nice tight fit against the wall - which especially can't be achieved with glue if you have any slight curvature in your walls. Old walls are very rarely perfectly straight, so nails are usually always a must - and if you've left the little wooden slats in the walls, you can use these to re-nail into.
We left little marks on the wall to show where the slats of wood are - so when it came to nailing the new piece of skirting we were able to correctly position these nails. If you've left the old nail in the wood and just snapped the top off, then do be sure to take measurements of its exact position so you wont be hitting the new nail onto it.
These MDF boards are already primed white, but I've given them a couple of coats of white eggshell over the top as well and then caulked any gap between the board and wall. And here it is, looking perfectly matched in the room against our old skirting boards. Obviously it's much crisper in its cut but as the old/new boards aren't side-by-side it's really not that noticeably different. Basically in blends in pretty well - just what I wanted! I'm sure you can tell which is old/new here - but you do have to actually really look to notice the difference from a distance.
We also replaced all the skirting in the kitchen area, which was also mismatched (and massively rotten!) this time just using glue since we've re-plastered the wall and luckily it's quite straight anyway.
Our tiles aren't perfectly level so there is a bit of a gap underneath the skirting - but it's really not noticeable due to the chair being in front of it. If you can't quite get a perfectly crisp join at the corners - I recommend adding some caulk here too. It'll give you that perfect crisp edge and once painted, you'd never know!
We also added some new skirting to the chimney breast - which you may remember was covered in 70s brickwork originally, so sadly missing its skirting. This time we've scribed it around the hearth and painted it dark to match the wall.
So I think these boards are a pretty amazing match and I've even bought some more lengths for the conservatory as well. I'm a huge fan of keeping the originals if you can - but if you need to replace any, then I definitely recommend checking out Skirting World for their massive variety of boards and of course, they can even do or bespoke designed ones too. I would absolutely always recommend MDF boards over pine too - I'm seriously never going back.
In terms of costings, I was pretty surprised at how much they cost. I always thought MDF wasn't worth buying as it's vastly more expensive, but a full length of 3m board cost £13 in the size we needed, which I personally thought wasn't too bad. Smaller heights are much cheaper, but of course if you need a lot then that does very quickly add up - another reason why we like to keep the originals. But it's definitely well worth the money for its quality and if you're as picky as I am about matching old boards to new ones.
I'd love to know your thoughts on keeping old rugged skirting boards and whether you've ever had to match new for old too?
*I was gifted one length of skirting board in return for a blog post. However I loved it so much, I went back and ordered more with my own cash. Thank you for supporting the brands who support this blog!
A lot of people extol the powers of spray foam these days. When it comes to big gains in R-value and air sealing, there is really nothing else that stands a chance. But insulation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It must not only be effective at stopping heat transfer in a lab but must also work as an integral piece of the house as a whole.
There are more than just two categories of houses 1) Insulated and 2) Un-insulated. An insulated house can also be either poorly or properly insulated. A properly insulated house cuts energy bills significantly and makes for very comfy occupants whether it is winter or summer. Whereas a poorly insulated house can quickly turn into a nightmare with problems on multiple fronts that can run the gamut from annoying to catastrophic.
Spray foam insulation when used properly can be very effective, but when used poorly can be one of the most devastation products for a historic building.
What’s Wrong With Spray Foam?
I hate to pick on a product that someone has given up blood, sweat, tears to create, but when it is misused on historic buildings it is truly a problem for us all. Spray foam is a modern product that doesn’t seem to mix with the functional design of old buildings. That difference in function is what creates the problems.
Problem #1 Not Easily Reversible
From a historic preservation perspective, reversibility is imperative. If you irreversibly change a historic building then are you really preserving it? This is readily apparent concerning the exterior appearance of historic properties, but the same applies to other pieces like structure, water management, and air management.
If you spray foam insulation onto the backside of your siding and it later needs to be removed, the task is almost impossible not to mention incredibly expensive. In contrast, if you paint your house one color it’s very simple for the next owner to change the paint scheme. Foam cannot be removed without monumental effort and usually it does damage to the underlying structure when it is removed.
Problem #2 Water Management
Foam poses a big problem here because it both decreases air flow and can trap water which prevents wood from drying naturally. Wet wood leads to rot and rot is house cancer. Old houses were not built with the same technologies and techniques to prevent water and air intrusion as modern homes. If a little water got into the walls of an old house it could always evaporate quickly due to larger amounts of air flow.
Spray foam insulation decreases that air flow significantly, which in it of itself is a good thing because it makes our homes tighter, but unless a detailed analysis of the building envelope is done prior to adding spray foam problems can arise.
The presence of spray also makes diagnosis of a leak more difficult since the usually water spots or wet wood are concealed underneath the spray foam. The problem only becomes apparent when the wood reaches a point of failure and needs replacement. Instead of quick leak detection and small repairs, you are left with no indication of an issue until the problem is huge and costly.
Problem #3 Fire & Smoke Dangers
Is spray foam flammable? Not anymore than a lot of other building materials, but when it burns (depending on the content of the spray foam) it can release extremely dangerous chemicals. Granted, you have bigger issues to worry about like a burning house, but the most common cause of injury in house fires is due to smoke inhalation. Add spray foam to that fire and you only compound the potential health dangers to occupants.
Problem #4 Off Gassing
There have been multiple incidents where the spray foam caused serious illnesses in the building’s occupants. Some of it may have to do with un-diagnosed sensitivities to the foam and others are clear air quality issues. The source of them are not 100% clear. Was it improper application? Maybe incorrect mixing of the materials? The answers are still not fully known, but until this is fully cleared up it makes me nervous to have it in my own house.
Some occupants have reported a constant smell of dead fish and others report constant headaches and migraines that won’t go away unless they are away from the house for extended periods.
I seriously uuhhmmed and ahhhed about whether or not I wanted to do another costing post this year. Partly because I didn't keep a track of finances in the same way I did before (aka - it's all been a bit messy!) and partly because I feel like we've somehow overspent on the DIY considering we haven't done all that much. But non-the-less, I'm keeping the traditions and going to share our total costings. So here we go, calculators at the ready!
So as I've said before, I like to share the full reality of our renovations - how much it's costing us, as well as how much stress it causes or how much work it involves. A large part of renovating is spending money - so to me, it makes sense to share that too. And I also hope it helps others realise how far (or not so far!) your money can go in the world of doing up your home, DIY-style.
As for 2017... Well, here we go:
Total Spent on Materials: £1115
(includes items like plaster, plasterboard, screws, paints, timber, sanding sheets etc)
Total Spent on Tradesmen: £0
Total Spent on Fixtures, Fittings & Appliances: £4099
(includes kitchen units, worktops, handles and kitchen appliances)
Total Spent in the Garden: £228
(includes decking oil, screws and timber etc)
Total Spent on DIY Tools: £237
(includes saw, drill bits, distance measurer etc)
Total Renovation Cost for 2017: £5679
Other Furnishing Costs: £151
(includes table, rug, chairs etc)
Yiiiiiikes. That's still a preetty chunky price tag IMO. We managed to keep costs down by not having any tradespeople in at all (hurrah!) although the cost of an actual kitchen, worktops and new appliances really took the bulk of the cost. Kitchens are never cheap, so I guess it was kinda to be expected, although I still think we got a fairly good deal on the kitchen, especially considering the quality of it and having solid timber doors too.
We spent quite a bit on new appliances this year and whilst this wasn't "essential" our old appliances were well and truly out of date, used and abused. Our old fridge/freezer was quite small and the washing machine made all kinds of odd noises. We decided not to go down the secondhand route for either of those and we didn't go for the cheapest of the cheap either, but they were all non-integrated (minus the very cheap dishwasher) so we'll never have to leave them behind, should we ever move. Hopefully a worthwhile investment!
As for everything else - we didn't spend have any other dramatic buys, just a fiver here and there which soon adds up. The only major tool we bought this year was the Plunge Saw, which amounted to almost half the Tool spending. We used it on all the end panels, the worktops and have since used it a few times on other DIYs as well - definitely a good buy, that one!
This year we also used up all our renovation savings (the money we had put aside from the sale of our previous house), and the loan we took out almost 2 years ago is also now long gone. So from here on out, we'll be surviving on our monthly disposable income for renovating - which isn't a great deal in honesty, however we have now tackled both the kitchen and the bathroom, so hopefully costs should be massively cheaper!
Most Expensive Purchase of 2017:
£2521 Kitchen Units - kinda expensive but I know lots of people who have spent muuuuuuch more, so I feel kinda good about the amount we spent. It will have more use than a car after all!
£780 On Appliances - expensive for sure, but much required as well.
Most Bargain/Discounted Purchase:
£24 Hallway Table from eBay was absolute steal. The sellers brought it with them all the way from New Zealand so it's truly a one-of-a-kind table. It's made from solid wood, in immaculate condition and basically a total total bargain!
So that's this year costings round-up! I can already hear 2018 calling for my money dammit! Watch this space for more expensive (and not so expensive!) renovation updates :)
I can't quite believe it's 2018. I feel like I say this every year - but how does a whole year go by so fast?! With a new year, comes new goals - and every year I like to lay out a proper plan to what I'd like to achieve. It doesn't always go to plan, but y'know, my intentions are good. And you never know - maybe one year I'll accomplish a whole list!
So there's not much else to say other than, here's what I have planned for the next 12 months....
Total Renovation of the Living Room
This has been SUCH a long time coming project!! We've lived in this house over 3 years now, would you believe?! And our living room hasn't changed one bit - well, except half the carpet is missing. But other than that, it's exactly the same - curtains and all. We currently don't really use this room as it's so freaking cold; the window is draughty (you can literally see the curtains blowing with the wind) and of course we have no heating either. Not to mention it's just ugly and un-relaxing to be in. So the plan is to completely renovate this room - rip off the wallpaper, sort the ceiling, expose and renovate the gorgeous wood around the window (currently swamped by the curtains), fit an open fire, sand, paint and basically make it a living we want to actually be in. Here's a little sneak peak of its current state..
Build A New Dining Table
I've been saying I want to do this for ages, but with 1000 other projects to do, it keeps getting pushed further and further down the list. But this year, I'm tackling it. The existing table simply doesn't fit with the chairs - the legs of the chairs literally don't fit underneath and they all collide. I specifically bought the chairs for this room so we'll be swapping the table for a self-built one made from scaffold boards. I think it'll fit the space much better and hopefully fit the style of the room a little bit more too. A matching bench for the far side of the table (near the log burner) is also on the cards as well!
Decorate the Conservatory & Add Seating
Last year we plastered the conservatory and painted the floor - but we never got round to decorating it in any other way. I already have a paint colour for the wall selected, so hopefully we can get our arses in gear and have that ticked off fairly soon. I've also collected some materials to build an indoor pallet seat with built-in storage as well, so that'll be the next big thing for this room. Other than that, it need a few more plants (you can never have enough!) and maybe the odd cushion or three to make it feel a little more homely. The idea for this room is to bring the outdoors in - a kind of summer room filled with greenery and space to relax.
In the Garden
Last year we built some scaffold decking (DIY tutorial coming in the Spring!) but we never actually finished it completely. So that's a first to-do must! I'd then like to build a garden dining table, which I have a really good idea for (although I won't share just yet!) and I'd also like to sort out the non-existent paving around the pallet sofa/firepit area as well. This one has been on the list for the last couple of years, so who knows whether we'll actually get it ticked off this year! Sneak peak at the not-quite-finished decking:
Begin Basement Renovation
Finally, we'd like to begin the basement renovation. It's the next 'big room' on the renovation list and it needs fully gutting, new electrics, plumbing the whole lot. I have no intention of finishing the room this year, but I'd jolly well like to make a start on it. We shall see!
So that's this years short but sweet to-do list. I haven't quite managed to complete a whole list yet, but I'm certainly feeling good about this year. With the kitchen and bathroom out the way, things can only get easier right?!
What's on your 2018 to-do list?!
I've done one of these posts for the last few years - a 'looking back' on the year behind us and what we've achieved within the home and our renovations. This year we haven't tackled a great amount of stuff, but the things we have done has seriously improved the house and how we use it. Last year we didn't even have a kitchen and we were surviving solely with the outside garden tap at our only downstairs water source. I'm pleased to say things have changed greatly over the last 12 months and we've now officially ticked off the two major renovation jobs within the house. So - here's what we've achieved...
Finished the Kitchen
We actually did it! 18 months (and more) in the making and the kitchen is well and truly ticked off the list! Albeit with a few finishing bits here and there, but who's counting those really? We spent NYE 2016 plastering and by the end of January we had actual kitchen units on order. Although it wasn't until the end of summer that we had all the worktops in place (major budget issues!) and the DIY kitchen fitting was complete. Buttttt we got there eventually and we now have a kitchen! It looks so bloody different from where we were last year, it's actually unreal.
Repaired Rotten JoistsOne of the second biggest DIYs this year was repairing the rotten joists of the dining room. It was a job and a half, involving supporting the floor, re-bricking parts of the wall and praying we'd done it all right. Full information on what we did and how here, but this was definitely a job we were both very proud to have done ourselves! It hasn't made any visual difference to the room, but we can now rest assured the floor wont fall in ;)
Renovated the Dining Room
The dining room has also been finished, HURRAH! Earlier this year we repaired the rotten joists, sanded floorboards, did yet more plastering, built a log stack, painted and finally it began looking like an actual room. We now have somewhere to sit, eat, and be warm. What joy! We'll be updating the table in the future, but it's looking so much better this year.
I haven't written about this on here *yet* because it's not quite finished. But we have in fact built some decking! It was on the to-do list for this year, so I'm pleased we finally got it done and here's a little sneak peak. Don't worry I'll do a full DIY post on how it's built this Spring ;)
Updated the Inner Hallway Porch
I was really lucky this year to be sent over a box of Karndean Loose Lay flooring to try out, so it was the perfect time and place, to do a little inner hallway porch update. We fitted the new floor (which I totally love!) and painted over the old ugly wallpaper. I even gave the door a little new paint job too (although I'll be writing about that one soon). It's definitely not 'renovated' but it's looking a bit better that's for sure!
Painted a Pattenered Floor
The conservatory wasn't on the original 'to do' list, but with windows from the kitchen looking into it - it was a room that was basically an ugly room that was kinda ruining the nicely finished kitchen. We cleared it out completely and began looking to do a budget makeover - starting with the floor. And what's more budget than paint? I created a whole DIY patterned floor, which I'm over-the-moon with and I think looks pretty darn good too!
So that's basically it for 2017! We didn't get that much done in the way of numbers, but finishing the kitchen was a pretty big job and definitely one I'm glad to see the back of too! We have way more planned for 2018 and I'll be sharing all that very soon, so watch this space.
What's your biggest home achievement of 2017?
While I may live and work in Florida, I’m not unaccustomed to living in the great white north. For years I lived in New York and Boston and suffered through my fair share of winters before heading south. Insulating an old house is very dependent on the climate. You can’t necessarily use the same materials and techniques to keep a house in Miami cool in the summer as you would to keep a Cape Cod cottage toasty all winter. They may both be beach houses, but that is where the similarities end.
I’ve written about Insulation For a Hot Climate previously, so I thought that January was the perfect time to write about Insulation for a Cold Climate. I know you northerners will be keen to discuss the topic right now as you freeze your baguettes off so I’m gonna drop some knowledge bombs on you to help keep you warm this winter.
Tip #1 Air Sealing is Key
Hot or cold climate, air sealing is the elephant in the room that is often overlooked. Yes, air sealing is not insulation but it is, in my opinion, MUCH more important. Old houses breathe and to an extent that is a good thing, but too much of anything is no good and most old houses could very easily have their envelope tightened up without problems developing.
Doors and Windows
These are easy solutions with the plethora of permanent and temporary weatherstripping options available. Check out these easy ways to tighten up your windows and doors and stop the cold drafts.
The next spot to think about when it comes to sealing drafts is your chimney. Is there a flue and does it close tightly enough to keep your warm air from flying out the roof? Make sure it’s opened for fires and closed as soon as the embers have died out. A lot of folks leave it open all night after a fire and that cold air pours right in.
Electrical and Plumbing Penetrations
Anywhere a pipe or wire goes in or out of your house and then makes another penetration through the wall that is a big place drafts come from. On the outside of the house caulk any of these penetrations. Consider adding something like these gasket covers to your outlets and light switches because they are essentially big holes cut into your walls.
The junction between your wall and floor is notoriously bad about creating drafts. On most old houses there have been enough coats of paint that this isn’t an issue but if you notice the joint between the baseboard and the plaster is not sealed, go ahead and caulk and paint it.
Tip #2 A Cold Roof is A Good Thing
When it comes to insulation for a cold climate a cold roof is a wonderful thing. You want the underside of your roof insulated well enough that you don’t get melting snow which leads to ice dams and other not so fun problems. Heat rises and without sufficient insulation under your roof, you will be loosing all that precious (and expensive) heat out of the top of the house.
In the northern parts of the country (zones 5-8) EnergyStar recommends insulating your attic to somewhere between R49-60. That’s a ton of insulation, but you need it in these cold climates. That means 14-18 inches of insulation if you are using traditional materials like fiberglass or blown-in cellulose which has an average R value of R3-3.5 per inch.
Tip #3 Crawlspaces are Cold Spaces
For hot climates, this isn’t much of an issue, but the crawlspace in a cold climate can be ridiculously cold, so insulating under your floors is super important here. Yes, it’s dirty and difficult to maneuver under your house, but a couple weekends of suffering will bring years of energy savings.
I prefer rock wool or fiberglass batts between the floor joists because there are usually so many wires and pipes that using something like rigid foam is almost impossible. The batts can be cut and worked around the penetrations under the house to allow easier installation.
While you’re under there bring a caulk gun or some Great Stuff foam to spot treat and seal up those penetrations we talked about that are under the floor.
Tip #4 No Foam Zone
I know it’s tempting to use closed or open cell spray foam on your old house, and while it may be a good solution for a new building I don’t think it is a healthy solution for an old building. Old houses function different than their modern day counterparts and spray foam usually causes more trouble than it’s worth.
For spot treatment around plumbing and electrical penetrations it works well, but when you coat the entire wall, roof, or floor that’s when issues come up. Yes, I know it’s a powerhouse with major R-value (up to R7 per inch!) but it seals an old house so tightly that it can create massive moisture issues that were not accounted and planned for in the original design. Not to mention foam is not easily reversible if there is a problem in the future.
Tip #5 What to Do About Walls?
Soooooo many questions about this! Should I blow insulation into the walls of my old house? Doesn’t that cause rot and moisture issues? What can I do? This is as contentious a topic in old home restoration as there is, and I’d like to offer some guidance.
Insulating your exterior walls in a cold climate is very important and ultimately should be done, but it must be done wisely. Blowing insulation in a wall cavity willy nilly is a sure fire way to create rot and mold issues. Old houses often have no building wrap or the wrap is 100-year old felt or kraft paper that has begun to degrade.
This means water can easily and regularly get into the wall cavity. Without insulation, the water evaporates harmlessly, but once you add insulation (aka a sponge) into the wall the moisture can’t evaporate and it sits and begins rotting your house from the inside out potentially creating hazardous mold issues.
My opinion on this has changed over the years and right now here’s where I stand. If you want to insulate your exterior walls the only way I recommend you do it is by fully removing the siding and installing a building wrap and then a couple inches of rigid foam insulation and then a rain screen before reinstalling the old siding. This upgrades the exterior envelope in a way that it can function as a unit and be free of water issues.
I understand that this is a lot of work and expense, but if you want it done right this is the way to go. Do you need to do this? Absolutely not. Your old house will be fine without insulation in the exterior walls and you may actually save more money by upgrading the efficiency of your HVAC system then by going with this wall insulation system.
If you want the short cut of blowing insulation into the wall cavities, proceed at your own risk. I have seen people do just fine with this method, but be aware of the risks you are taking because too often I have seen the opposite results. Is it worth the potential damage and extra expense? I don’t think so, but you may think differently.
Where to Start
Insulation for a cold climate is an important topic you should definitely be thinking about more and more the further north you live. Start with the low-hanging fruit. The easiest for your abilities and wallet. Rope caulk your windows and caulk those penetrations. Weatherstrip your doors. Check your chimney. Those can all be done for cheap.
Once you’ve hit those easy items move your way through the bigger items like insulating your attic and crawlspace. Start looking at your HVAC system to see how well it is performing as well. And if you still haven’t reached your efficiency goals then keep going until you do. While you’re making your way through this list a nice warm blanket can do wonders to tide you over. Good luck and stay warm!
Merry Christmas! I hope you’re enjoying your time with family since that is exactly what I’m doing too! Every year I like to take a look back and take inventory of the content that I’ve put out on the blog. So, for my Christmas present to you I put together my 5 favorite posts of 2017 and a few other year end announcements.
One big event this year for The Craftsman Blog was my trip to the Haven Conference in Atlanta this July to meet other DIY bloggers. I was so inspired! And the biggest take away for me was that y’all wanted more video content.
So after that trip I committed to doing at least 2 new videos a month on YouTube and that’s exactly what I have done! If you haven’t subscribed to my channel on YouTube you can do so by clicking here. I put new videos out every other Sunday morning for you weekend warriors. I hope you’ll join me there!
Next year has some more exciting events coming like the launch of my first podcast! It will focus on the same great DIY preservation content that is here on the blog, but you’ll be able to take us along in the car or gym. We don’t have a launch date for that yet, but it will be announced in the early spring.
Finally, I want to leave you with a few of my favorite posts from 2017. Some were big hits and others were just my favorites. I hope you enjoy the posts below as much as I did and that you have a phenomenal 2018!
Storm windows can make your house extremely energy efficient not to mention protecting your windows from the weather. This video and post show you exactly how to make a very DIY friendly version of a historic wood storm window.
There are some things in architecture that drive me absolutely batty. McMansions are the number one offender with all kinds of fake accessories like faux shutters and more. Check out these 5 things and let me know if they drive you as nuts as they do me.
The short answer, yes! But the “how” and “why” is explained in this post so you can make the case in your neighborhood for saving windows. The truth is all here in black and white facts from studies on historic windows.
Again, the answer here is so important to saving old buildings from overzealous developers and the mis-information crowd. Facts are facts and the facts are all laid out clearly in the post as to how preservation and preservation districts affect property values.
I love me some old plaster and if you’re wondering why, then look no further. If I can’t convince you to save your old plaster with these reasons, then I don’t know what will.