There are a lot of options for decking today. It’s not like the old days where you had to simply choose between different species of wood. Today, there are still all of the wood options of yesterday, but now there are scores of different composite decking options.
If you been a reader of my blog for any amount of time, you’re probably thinking “Oh now, here he goes again bemoaning another modern product.” Well, I want to tell you that that is not the case. I don’t have problems with new products, only subpar ones.
Sadly, most composite decking falls into that category. It has been improving slowly over the years with the introduction of capped products and other upgrades, but still, the reports from consumers and contractors are not promising. Take a look at some of the websites where homeowners have posted their reviews, and you’ll read 1 and 2 star reviews all day long.
The Problems With Composite Decking
There are a multitude of problems with composite decking that show up all too often to be just a stray issue for a hard to please homeowner. The accounts of issues are repeated with a frightening regularity and sameness throughout the threads of complaints. Below are some of the issues that crop up most often.
Especially prevalent on older and uncapped composited decking, mold shows up quickly and is more difficult to eradicate than you’d expect. The mold seems to grow heavily not just on the surface, but inside the rough texture of uncapped decking. It seems to come on strong and takes constant effort to keep the decking clear of it, especially for a self-proclaimed “no maintenance” product.
Everybody knows color fades in the sun, but composite decking companies seem to be oblivious to what their products are really capable of. Some composite decking has faded so quickly in just a couple of seasons that replacements boards stand out like a sore thumb. Just like the mold, this issue is unpredictable and hard to understand which decking will have problems and which will not.
Warping & Shrinking
It’s not wood, so it shouldn’t be expanding and moving the same, right? Right! It actually moves more AND more unexpectedly than wood decks. Some composite decking won’t move a bit and others have been found to shrink, swell, warp, twist, bow, and any other word you want to use in amounts unheard of, even with wood. Again, it seems completely random when this happens, but it happens often enough that you should know about it.
This one has been the issue that I encounter most- composite decking boards that feel like a trampoline when you walk on them. They have gotten so spongey that they sag from one board to the next making your decking like a mini rollercoaster. I notice this issue showing up after a decade or more of use, but it certainly shows up and when it does it usually makes the deck unusable. Check out the video below to see how springy these boards can really get!
What To Do?
For now, I’d say the best way to avoid problems with composite decking are to avoid it altogether and stick with wood. You may be one of the lucky ones who installs composite decking and gets away with it, or you may end up constantly on the phone trying to persuade them into the honoring their warranty, which is extremely hard to do.
Sure, wood has issues of its own, but it’s nothing that will take me by surprise. And if it needs a replacement piece, it’s as easy as swinging by the local lumber yard rather than trying to track down a model that has been discontinued 2 years ago from a supplier halfway across the country. As for me, I’m sticking with wood. How about you?
Composite decking has come a long way since it first came out, but it’s not there yet. Someday, the industry may be able to create a consistent long-lasting product that lives up to the claims, but right now, they can’t seem to make it work. When they can make a product that is consistently better than wood, then I’ll be in line for it, but until then I’m sticking with a reliable option like wood. How about you?
I never really knew how serious the discussion about which screw to use could be until I posted a picture of a restored sash lock on social media the other day. I was particularly proud of this meticulously restored piece of Victorian amazingness, but the reaction was anything but what I expected.
There were plenty of positive comments, but most were tempered with reactions that ranged from disappointment to outright anger that I would install this meticulously restored hardware with new Phillips head screws rather than the original flat head screws that came with it.
What strange nerve had I hit that would cause normally supportive preservationists to go off the rails like this? Why would the type of screw matter so much? I had never seen anyone complain that I nailed my trim up with a brad nailer rather than using hand cut nails so why the fuss over screws? That got me thinking about why I did what I did and why this offended people so much, and I came up with a few thoughts I felt needed to get out there for other preservationists to think about.
What’s Worth Keeping?
I understand those who want to go back to what was originally there and I think it’s a legitimate argument. In most ways, I agree with it and practice that as a preservation contractor, but not always. I won’t return a house my company is working on to an original substandard condition if the original builder cut corners and I doubt anyone else would either.
I got into restoring old buildings because I recognized the wealth of premium materials and better made products that they’re made of. When those awesome materials or methods are encountered, I always endeavor to restore or replicate was previously done.
On the other side of the coin, there are a lot of items I don’t keep and rarely will I find a person who disagrees on these items. Below are just a few examples:
Yes, some these are dangerous and should be removed, but others are personal preference, aren’t they? Calcimine paint, kraft paper, and fuse boxes aren’t dangerous, they’re just substandard products and we have better performing items that should replace these items, just like the dangerous ones like asbestos, knob and tube, and lead paint.
Restoration in the 21st Century
There are other changes in how I work with old houses today compared with how the old timers, who did such a stunning job on these buildings, worked. I doubt anyone other than the most die hard purist would fault me for any of these, but correct me if I’m wrong.
I do these things because we have invented better and more efficient methods of construction over the centuries. I don’t pick everything that is modern, though. I am unshakably loyal to the best methods available. Some of those methods may be from 2018 and others may be from 1740 or 1923- it doesn’t matter to me.
Also, if any of you think your great-grandaddy would still hand nail a house together if he had access to a framing nailer, you’re crazy. He’d have an arsenal of the most effective tools available to him and that’s what I have too.
Phillips or Flat?
So, here we are again. Should we use Phillips or flat head screws? What’s my take? If you are a purist and can’t stand the appearance of Phillips screws anywhere in your old house, then by all means go back to the venerable flat head. I get it. If it’s an aesthetic thing for you, then go for it.
For me, the Phillips head screw is one of the biggest improvements in screw design over the last century. It was the first screw design that allowed the bit to self-center which made manufacturing processes exponentially more efficient. It allows me to install faster, strip less often, and allows more torque on installation than flat head screws.
So, I’m going to keep installing Phillips screws on my jobs. It may not be historically accurate if your house was built before the first Phillips screw rolled off the line in 1935, but I’m okay with that. For those of you that disagree, I’ll be sure to keep a box of flat heads in my truck just for your house.
How do you clean hazy glass? If you’ve got an old house I’m sure you’ve asked this question before. It’s amazing how nice clean, sparkly glass looks. After staring through grimy windows for years, when that old wavy glass is brought back to its original shine it totally transforms your window’s appearance and the feel of a room.
You might think a simple glass cleaner is the key- and while those can help, there are better ways to get a more beautiful shine with simple products like I’ll discuss below.
Don’t miss the quick video below showing you the techniques and results of cleaning. You can use these techniques both in place and if you have your glass out during the window restoration process. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more videos like this on a regular basis by clicking here.
Clean Hazy Glass in Place
Most folks need to clean their glass in place rather than having it out on the table like you do during window or door restoration, but the process is the same, except that its a little harder to reach. As long as you can safely access the outside of the window, then you can do this full “de-hazing” process. If you don’t have good access to the window, then a simple washing is really all you can expect unless you plan to pull the sash out to restore your windows.
Step 1 Rinse with Soap & Water
Rinse the glass with simple dish soap and water first. You can really drench it rather than just a light misting. This will start softening the built up grime and dirt.
Step 2 Razor Blade the Glass
Grab a flat razor blade or better yet a glass razor scraper and scrape across the surface of the glass. This will remove dirt, grime, paint over spray and a majority of the gross build up. Be careful not to gouge the putty or dig into and parts of the wood.
Step 3 Wipe Clean
Rinse with some clean water and wipe the glass clean and dry it with a clean rag to gather any of the left overs. If the glass looks fine, you can stop here, but if you still have a hazy appearance, then move onto step 4 below.
Step 4 Polish Glass
To get rid of stubborn haziness and built up mineral deposits, you need a glass polishing compound like CRL Sparkle which you can find in my store. We polish all of our glass because it really gives it a shine. Think of it kind of like getting your car’s headlights polished. It lightly abrades the surface polishing off imperfections and haze.
With a clean rag, apply the polish in a circular motion much like waxing a car. Really work it in hard and rub the surface good to remove the build up. Let it air dry until it develops a hazy, white appearance and then buff it off with a new clean rag. Once you have all the residue off, you should be left with a shiny new piece of glass!
Clean Hazy Glass in the Shop
If you happen to have the glass out of your sash during the restoration process, then that just makes the job so much easier. I prefer to find a tub of some sort to let the glass soak in the water and dish soap mixture for as long as you can. This really softens up the leftover glazing putty or paint and makes the cleaning process that much easier.
From there, the process is exactly the same as above. Be careful not to use some of the chemical glass cleaners because I have seen them cause issues with paint adhesion later when you go to glaze and paint your window. Ammonia is not a friend of new paint, so steer clear and stick with simple soap and water.
Painting is one of the most DIY friendly projects you can tackle and it can make a wall, a room, or an entire house look incredibly good if done well. If done poorly, you’re in for lots of trouble down the road. For my taste, there is nothing more attractive than a professionally painted room. The lines are clean and crisp, there are no drips, runs or glops, there are no holidays, no brush marks, or anything else that might distract from the finished product.
A professionally painted room is a beautiful sight to behold and with a few tips from this post, it is attainable by the average DIYer. If you follow the tips in this post, you’ll end up with a long lasting paint job that everyone will appreciate. I’ll teach you how to paint a room like a pro no matter where your skill level is. It may take a bit of practice for some of the tips and techniques here, but take it from a third generation painter, this way works!
This post will not focus on the specific techniques that will make you a better painter, but rather how to paint a room like a pro. The older to paint, what types of paints to use and how to transform a room into something spectacular using only paint. For the nitty gritty techniques, check out the posts below.
Prep Like a Pro
Spraying or brushing, which is best? Sure, you can spray a room like a lot of pros, but I’m going to show you how to paint a room with a simple brush and a roller. You still need to protect things like your floors to keep them clean, but the masking work is much less when you’re not spraying.
Where to Put Furniture?
If you can move the furniture out of the room completely, that certainly gives you room to work. If that’s not feasible, then moving everything to the center of the room and covering it with plastic is the way to go.
Canvas Not Plastic
Set up your drop cloths over the floors with plenty of overlap. They will move as you work and you don’t want gaps showing up letting paint get on your floors. Also, don’t use plastic drops. They make it slippery and don’t absorb little drips, which means there is a better chance you will track paint around the house when you leave the room. Go canvas or go home.
Switch Plates & Hardware
Do yourself a huge favor and save the time and intricacy that painting around switch plate covers and hardware requires. Remove everything you can and you’ll not only speed up your painting, but it will look miles better. Don’t forget any HVAC vent covers too.
Most professional painter’s don’t use the typical roller tray for their work. They use a 5 gallon bucket with a roller screen so they can pour up several gallons of paint into one batch. Pouring up into one batch keeps the colors and sheens consistent from one can to another, which can vary slightly. This gives you a better more consistent final product.
Do this for every type of paint you plan to use and feed smaller batches from the one main batch.
Step #1 Start at the Top
If you plan to paint a whole room, then the ceiling is the place to start. You always work your way down the walls because thanks to gravity any splatter inevitably falls down. The first thing to do is to grab a couple gallons of flat ceiling paint. Flat paint hides flaws better and you want a flawless ceiling, right? Get your favorite paint brush and a HANDy paint pail and quickly cut in the edges of the ceiling and around any obstructions. The edges don’t have to be perfect because you will be painting the walls next. If there is some overlap, don’t worry about it as long as the ceiling is covered.
Next, put your roller on a extendable handle and start dipping into that 5 gallon bucket, screening off the excess paint on the roller screen, and roll out the ceiling in overlapping ‘W’ shaped patterns until you have good coverage. Keep a wet edge and don’t bounce from one area to another. Work from one side of the ceiling to the other and lightly go back over any marks you notice from the roller before they dry.
Your roller shouldn’t be too dry or dripping with paint. Make sure you have an even amount of paint all over the roller to avoid roller marks.
Step #2 One Wall at a Time
Once the ceiling is done, it’s time for the walls, but you want to take it one wall at a time. For your wall paint, you’re probably using an eggshell sheen or something close to make it easy to clean, but not too shiny. Stay away from anything shinier than satin as well as flat paint for the walls because flat paint is very difficult to clean dirt and finger prints off of.
Once you’ve poured up your wall paint, grab that Handy Paint Pail again and start cutting in around any windows, doors, outlets, and cutting a straight line against the ceiling and baseboard. You can use blue tape if you need, but most of my readers are surprised how straight of a line they can paint with a good 2″ angled sash brush. <–This one is my favorite!
Important! Only cut in one wall at a time! If you cut in the whole room, you can cause something painters call “flashing” which is when the cut in paint looks like a different sheen than the rolled paint. You want to cut in one wall and then immediately roll it. Don’t cut in a wall and then take a lunch break or move onto another wall. Cut in wall #1 and roll wall #1, then move onto wall #2.
Cutting in against trim with your wall paint doesn’t have to be perfect either. You’ll come back with trim paint and finish the line smoothly. The important thing you want to do is make sure you bring the wall paint just a little bit onto the trim. That way your trim paint can create the smooth line and you don’t have any gaps between the new wall paint and new trim paint that reveals old paint.
Step #3 Painting Trim Like a Pro
The post I mentioned at the beginning (6 Secrets to Silky Smooth Paint) can help you immensely with the important tips to getting a smooth, brush mark free finish on your trim, so definitely read that first.
Glossy trim paint may not allow your paint to grab onto it, resulting in peeling or easy scraping later. Old oil-based trim paint may create a challenge as well. Wipe your trim down well with TSP and then prime with an oil-based (or latex if you prefer) primer prior to painting it.
Once all the walls are finished, it’s time to cut in your trim with that same 2″ angled sash brush. I know a lot of people prefer blue tape, but I personally believe it is a waste of time, money, and mess. You can paint a straight line with just a little practice and it will save you the trouble of tape. If you want to put some tape on the edges around your wood, floors, or carpets, that is certainly worth the extra protection, though.
Use a good semi gloss or at least satin sheen enamel paint for your trim paint because you want something easy to clean and more resilient that will stand up to the increased traffic trim gets. Brush it on smooth and catch the drips and runs earlier rather than later.
Drying & Priming
You’re all done! Does it need another coat? Take a good look and see if you need to do another coat. If see holidays (places where the paint has little skips or misses) or the old color is bleeding through, then a second coat may be at hand. Make sure you observe the proper drying time between coats for the paint you are using. For most water-based paints, that is usually 4 hours.
Unless your walls are very dirty or you are doing a drastic color change you should be fine without priming. It doesn’t matter if you buy a paint+primer or just regular paint, priming walls is usually not needed. Trim on the other hand is another story like I mentioned above.
Tips & Tricks
Once everything is painted and you’re happy with the results, you can clean up you brushes and rollers, put the paint away and label it clearly so you can find it for touch up later. Any spilled oil-based paint can be cleaned off with mineral spirits and any latex with water and a little scrubbing.
Give your paint at least a couple of days before hanging anything heavy on the walls or attaching tension fit blind or shades. After about 30 days, everything should be completely cured and can be treated normally, but in those first 30 days, avoid scrubbing things to clean them or any other tough love for painted surfaces.
Bathrooms and kitchens are different beasts because they have so much moisture in them. You want to paint kitchen and bathroom walls with a satin sheen paint because anything flatter than that will not hold up. Also, in kitchens, make sure to clean up any grease or dirt with TSP before painting to ensure good adhesion.
One last tip: if you are painting for a couple days or taking an extended break in the day, you can wrap your brush or roller tightly in a plastic bag and stick it in the fridge for a few hours to avoid having to wash it over and over.
I hope this has helped! It’s all about the order of operations for painting an interior room. Start at the top and work your way down and you’ll be able to paint a room like a pro too!
This time last year, I did quite a full 'front of house makeover'. I painted the door and I got up on a very high ladder and painted around the windows too. The house went from hugely discoloured red to clean white with a punchy dark blue door. But one thing I failed to update was the house sign. And over the last few frosty months - it took a bit of beating and completely fell apart. We needed a new one ASAP.
See what I mean?! So when Village Green Signs got in touch and asked if I wanted one of their signs, not only was the timing perfect, but it was also exactly the kind of thing I had been imagining for the front of our house too. Their signs are traditional-styled and look just like the old cast iron ones; but made from a far more durable resin material. Each sign is bespoke made in a traditional handcrafted kinda way; from being hand cast to hand painted and hand finished. It means each one is unique and it's the traditional kind of craftsmanship I absolutely love. It's perfect for a period house and is a new-take on the old original. Not to mention, absolutely beautiful and hella detailed!
So this is the design I have chosen - an oval shaped sign with pink roses and a simple gold '27'. I felt the roses were quite fitting for our *way OTT* pink-roses-everywhere kinda garden. And it's also a little nod to the previous owner, who planted all those roses and lived here for 60 odd years. Not to mention of course, I thought pink would look FAB next to our dark door.
You can see just how much detail has gone into the making and painting of this sign; the leaves are made with several different greens and you can even spot some hints of yellow too. And the roses (which can't be an easy thing to paint!) are blended to perfection. It's really quite something special - and I highly recommend you take a look at some of their other designs with are even more detailed and intricate. We're talking detailed animal fur and even fabulous water scenes - some seriously stunning and skilled designs!
Pretty right? I mean, I wouldn't mind standing out at a front door waiting for it to be answered whilst staring at this. It's the kind of sign that makes a real impact and I suppose in a way, also set the standard of expectations for the interior of the house. Something I'm not sure we're *quite* living up to just yet! But give it time ;)
I love this sign so much and really wanted to share some photos of the actual production of the signs too - which I personally find really fascinating (side note - I used to love watching those 'how it's made' TV shows! Anyone else remember those?!) and shows exactly how much work, time and care goes into each sign.
The first step is to make individual templates which will be used to make a mould. As each sign is bespoke, it means a new template must be made each time. The selected motif/design and lettering/numbers are positioned onto sign of choice, and its then sprayed to ensure they wont get stuck in the mould.
Individual moulds are made from HIPS material, which is starts out as a large sheet and is set around the template.
Once the individual bespoke moulds have been made, the resin can then be poured into them and this is left to set for a couple of hours.
Each sign is then sanded and sprayed for a perfect finish before painting can begin..
And finally each sign is hand painted by in-house artists before being sealed for weatherproofing and shipped out for delivery.
From start to finish, each stage is done by hand, tailor-made to each order. It's a true work of art, which Village Green Signs have perfected since 1989! And they now have over 800+ designs with several shapes and sizes of signs available for each one. Whether you're looking for animals, flowers, trees, cars, dragons or even bagpuss (yep, the cat!) - there's literally something for everyone and every house. And they also do special commissions too if you're looking for something really unique! I have to say - it took me quite a while to finally pick a design, since there really are so many incredible options to choose from and I very nearly almost went for one with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel on, at one point!
So, if you want to treat yourself, a friend or family member (or perhaps just give the house a good treat!) to one of these gorgeous house signs, then please do check out Village Green and their wondrous selection of designs. I promise, you will not be disappointed!!
*I was gifted a house plaque to feature in this post. Thanks for supporting the brands who support this blog!
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you get ready to start renovating an old house. The questions will swirl around your head like tweety birds after a cartoon concussion about where to start and how much it will cost. You need to learn to triage an old house or the patient may die.
I don’t want to dissuade you from buying and restoring an old house, quite to the contrary. I think restoring an old house is one of the most satisfying things you can do! But I want you to have a realistic understanding of what to expect and what it might cost so that your dream renovation doesn’t become a nightmare. In this post, I’ll lay out some of the pitfalls and a general order of operations for your project as well as some budgeting advice.
If you want to dive deeper and make sure you have all your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed, then take a look at my book Living in the Past and accompanying e-booklet Historic Restoration Plan. They have a level of detail and assistance that you can’t get in a single blog post that can be extremely helpful for your plans.
This is always the biggest concern right? There is no renovation without a budget and the bigger the budget the better the results, right? Usually, but not always. You wanna spend wisely and certainly avoid doing double work.
No two projects are the same and no two budgets are the same, so there is no way I can give you specifics, but there are some important things you need to know before budgeting.
First, with an old house you need to have a healthy contingency fund. What is “healthy”? For me that usually means holding no less than 20% of your proposed budget in extra cash so that you don’t get snagged by unexpected issues.
Make no mistake, it’s an old house and there will be change orders and unexpected costs that you will have to absorb. If you don’t have the extra money, then your project can easily get derailed. The bottom line is that nobody knows what’s hiding in those walls, and you don’t know what you don’t know. So, be prepared and it will take the stress off. In the end, it actually saves money!
The House Sandwich
I coined this phrase a few years ago, and while it hasn’t exactly swept the nation yet, I feel it’s very appropriate for how you renovate and old house. Follow this process and you will spend less money and not have to repeat any costly work. You may need to mix things up a bit due to your circumstances, but this will almost always be the most efficient way to restore an old house even if it’s isn’t always the most practical, especially if you are living in the house during your renovation.
You start with the roof and the foundation first…always. That’s the bread of your sandwich. Once you have kept the water from pouring in through the roof and have resolved any structural deficiencies to the foundation, you are ready to move onto the meat of the sandwich.
You got everything stable and stopped water coming in the roof, so now it’s time to keep it from coming in the walls and openings. Siding or stucco repair goes here, doors and windows should be restored and weatherstripped. If you don’t have the money to go the full monty thats fine, but the focus here is, at minimum, making the house weathertight so the interior portions are protected.
Without cheese you don’t have much of a sandwich in my opinion and the cheese stands for the mechanicals. HVAC, Plumbing, electrical. The interior is protected now so you can safely have any mechanicals work done to the building in preparation for interior finishes. Plus, these trades usually make all kinds of messes and cut holes everywhere so I don’t want them coming in after I have just redone my walls or floors.
All the Fixin’s
Now is when you can do everything else. The electrician and plumber are done punching holes so it’s time to patch your plaster and repair your floors. Time for bathrooms and kitchens to take shape with all the intricate details you might want or can afford. Trim, moldings, cabinets etc. They all fit right here in the fixin’s part of your house sandwich.
You don’t want your coworker’s grubby hands all over your sandwich so you gotta put it in a ziplock bag right? When everything is done, it’s time to paint it inside and out. Protect that investment so it will last another hundred years. And continue to keep it painted over the coming decades.
The is just a simple breakdown of the details I go into further in my Historic Restoration Plan e-booklet. You get more details on all these items and a checklist for you that dives deep into each piece of the sandwich.
Don’t be afraid of those old houses- just make a plan and implement that plan and you’ll reach the finish line. And if things go south and your renovation turns into a nightmare, just remember, “when you’re going through hell, don’t stop!” Push through and you’ll come out the other end. Good luck!
If you are doing any wood restoration then using epoxy is a must, but a lot of people are intimidated when they hear the word “epoxy” like it is some dark art of magic wood repair that only professionals can use. I’m here to tell you it is not as complicated as it may sound.
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, I’ve put together some tips that can help you add it to your tool box or take your game to the next level. I grabbed one of my senior most repair craftsmen in the shop and we filmed the whole process we use to repair rotten window sash. So, you’ll see the order of operations as well as some top-notch tricks to get the perfect repair.
Check out the video below to see the whole process and then read some of the tips in this post for further detail.
Step 1 Dig Out Damage
Any loose wood that is falling apart should be removed and cleaned out prior to applying the epoxy. Use a chisel or knife and then make sure the area is dry before proceeding with repairs.
Step 2 Apply Liquid Consolidant
Once everything is dry, it’s time to mix up your epoxy consolidant. I’m using Abatron products because I think they are user friendly and very effective. LiquidWood is a two part mixture. Part A (resin) and Part B (hardener). These two should be mixed together thoroughly in a disposable container in equal parts.
Let them sit aside for a few minutes to setup. After about 15 minutes, apply the mixture liberally with a disposable chip brush. Once mixed, LiquidWood and WoodEpox both have a working life of about 20-40 minutes depending on weather conditions (shorter working life on hot days, longer on cold days).
Depending on the condition of the wood, it may drink in the consolidant so keep applying until it stops absorbing. Let it soak in for about 10-15 minutes before moving to the next step.
Have a container of acetone on hand which is the recommended cleaner and solvent for these products.
Step 3 Apply Epoxy Filler
Abatron’s epoxy filler is called WoodEpox and it also comes in two parts (a hardener and a filler) just like the LiquidWood. You’ll need equal parts of both and then blend them together until you have a uniform color. One is white and the other a tan color. If you see any streaks of color in your mixture, you need to keep mixing.
Once mixed, press the mixture firmly into place to fill the missing areas. Press it deeply into the gap to make sure you fill any air holes and have a solid repair. The other important thing to remember is overfill the repair so that when it is ready to sand, you have a smooth, well-blended repair.
Step 4 Sand, Prime & Paint
The epoxy will begin hardening immediately and depending on the size of your repair, it will be ready to sand in anywhere from a few hours to a day.
When it has hardened, sand the surface smooth and apply a coat of primer, then paint your preferred color. That’s it! Don’t use Bondo for wood repairs like outlined in this post. You want something designed for wood restoration and that is what epoxy is for!
You can pick up these products in my affiliate links below:
You guys know how much I love my wood burning stove in the dining room. It's aaaaaa-mazing. However, it was bloody darn expensive. We're talking four figures. There's the cost of the stove, the cost of the flue, the cost of all the little bits like a register plate and chimney cowel and then there's the cost of having it all fitted. Which is no easy DIY when it involves carrying a 9m length of steel flue all the way up some ladders and onto your roof. Even for us, that was a stretch too far. The whole thing, was expensive.
However, there is a much much cheaper easier alternative - a bioethanol fire. Say what now, I hear you ask? Bioethanol. It's a kind of liquid that burns a smokeless fire. You don't need a chimney. You don't need a flue. You don't need a hearth. In fact, you don't to pay for any kind of installation. And yet, you still get the beauty of a real fire, heat and it even looks like a real wood burner, don't you think?!
What Is Bioethanol?
OK let's start at the beginning. Ethanol is a bi-product made from the fermentation of sugars from plants. It's considered a renewable fuel and is carbon neutral. It's much more environmentally friendly than its similar fuel alternatives, which makes it the greener choice and it also burns cleanly. Ethanol is essentially a fluid and it comes in a bottle.
How Does It Work?
It's ever-so-complicated (not) - you pour the liquid into the 'firebox' inside the wood style burner. You leave it to soak up for a couple of minutes, then light a match and voila, fire.
Initially it burns a very low blue flame and then after a couple of minutes it gets a little stronger and gives out a much more orange flame, like any other real fire. There is honestly no smoke, no soot or ash; just fire. It means you don't have to clean the glass, you don't have ash falling out the door and you don't need a chimney or flue. But it is a real fire.
You can adjust the output of the flame and heat by adjusting how open the firebox is. If you want to 'switch it off' so to speak, you just close it up. You don't need to wait for it to burn through and you don't need to constantly 'add fuel' (like you would with logs) which means you can leave the room and come back an hour later to it still being lit. It's fuss-free, doesn't require constant watching and it's completely safe and meets all European Standards for Fireplaces.
So, I was sent this stove from ImaginFires to try out and review for the blog, which I've been doing for the last few weeks. If you're interested in bioethanol fires - I highly recommend checking them out as they sell all kinds of bioethanol fires, from freestanding fire baskets, to victorian style fireplaces to even wood-burning stove ones, like the one I'm reviewing.
Aside from being literally so easy to use (no kindling or faffing required!) - the main benefit in my eyes is the zero installation. Literally, you take it out the box, put it into position and can light it straight away. The fact that it can go absolutely anywhere is fab too. A corner in the kitchen, conservatory, bedroom - anywhere and on any floor type; you don't need a hearth, unlike an actual log burner. That means huge savings when compared to a real wood-burner, or even a gas or electric one. There's nothing more to spend, other than on the product itself - which by the way, at £399 for this particular model is rather affordable!
The fact you don't need a chimney also opens it up to being used in any house too, not just period ones. So if you have a new build without a chimney - no problem! And if you live in a smoke controlled area, that's also no problem - 'cos there ain't no smoke. It's much more environmentally friendly than typical wood-burning stoves too.
The fact that you get a real fire is amazing. It's not a simulation, it's completely real and has all the natural ambiance that we all love about fires. It's just as mesmerising to watch and feels just as romantic/cosy when lit. It's the real deal for a fraction of the price!
My only slight negative about it, is that burning bioethanol does a slightly more chemical-y kind of smell. It's not quite chemical, but you definitely don't get that wood roasting smell like you do with a real wood-burner and it's not quite odour-less. That being said, there are scented ethanol options which I'd like to try out. And there's also faux logs to can use to simulate the effect of logs burning - again, I'd be pretty keen to try that out as well!
How Much Heat Does It Produce?
In terms of heat output, this particular stove burns at 3KW, which is higher output than most electric radiators or heaters. In comparison to a real log-burner, a small one would typically have an output of 5KW - so it's really not too far away from that. Obviously how well it heats a room will depend on different factors (room size, insulation etc) but we've been trialling it around different rooms in the house over the last few weeks to see just how well it can heat up a room, without central heating (which we don't have!).
Our smallest bedroom was a great success and it literally made it nice and toasty within an hour of burning, even without central heating. Our giant kitchen-diner, not quite so much, although it's quite a sizeable room! And our medium-ish living room was a kind of middle-of-the-road meeting between the two. It definitely noticeably heated up the room, however due to our very draughty windows, I do think it had a bit of battle on some of the windier days. On non-windy days though, it was really fab! So my hope is once we've fixed the draught - it'll be almost as toasty as the spare bedroom all the time. Which would be amazing! Bioethanol fires definitely aren't designed to be a replacement for central heating - more of a top-up heat to a particular room.
What About Running Costs?
We've been using half a bottle of ethanol each time we've lit a fire and it's lasted around 3.5hours each time, burning with the firebox fully open. A bottle of ethanol costs £2.50 so for each burn we've used £1.25 of fuel. A half-opened firebox would obviously burn for longer but provide a lesser heat output. I think for 3.5hours of decent heat and the luxury of a real flame - £1.25 is pretty good going!
You can also get scented ethanol as I mentioned, which costs a little more - but provides a bit more of an aroma whilst it burns. There's a 'forest' scented one which I'm pretty keen to try out!
Would I recommend?!
I honestly think it's fab - a really great affordable alternative to a real wood burner and one that honestly looks the part too. We'll be putting this into our chimney opening once we've patched it all back up. But the great thing? We've already been using it, just positioned in different corners of the room.
This stove is the Malvern Black and currently retails at £399 but there also cheaper/more expensive models available depending on what kind of style you're into (including fire baskets and full fireplaces too!). Bearing in mind, you don't need to pay for a hearth, or installation of a flue - you're saving yourself around £1500 buying a bioethanol fuel burner over a real wood burner. If that's not one of the most compelling reasons to choose this over a real wood-burner - I don't know what is.
I love it and I've already recommended it to people personally. What do you think to it? Would you consider a bioethanol stove?
*I received the stove featured in this post, in return for a review. All words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands who support this blog!
You may think that historic preservation and the preservationists that adhere to its sometimes kitschy principles are stuck in the past, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: preservation is not about the past, it’s about the future.
Yes, those stodgy preservationists may be as annoying as mosquitos sometimes. Depending on where you live, they may tell you what colors you can paint your house. They may thwart your plans for that big addition to your old house. They may even stop a developer from starting on that cool new project the town has been talking about.
Even though they may do all that, I posit to you that they are not desperately stuck in the past backward thinking people afraid of change. When you look at it from their perspective, you might even say they are really futurists. Here’s why…
The Story of You
Our personal story is what makes us who we are. Think of everything you’ve gone through, both good and bad, throughout your life and how each of those experiences have made you who you are today. Each of those old boyfriends or girlfriends prepared you to find your spouse (yes, even the awful ones!)
The time you learned to ride a tricycle, then a bicycle, then a car! It’s all moving you forward along your life’s story. Each piece inextricably linked to the decisions you make today. Even why you look both ways before crossing the street is a part of that story.
Now, imagine you woke up tomorrow and all those stories were gone. 20 or 40 or 60 years memories just magically gone out of your head. Poof! When you sit down to breakfast that fateful morning, how could you choose what to eat? After all, you don’t remember what cereals taste like. Is Captain Crunch sweet or spicy? Do you even like spicy?
What about that neighbor who asks to borrow a tool? Are they trustworthy? You don’t know that they have borrowed countless tools and lost or broken them over the years, so you hand over your new lawn mower because that’s what nice neighbors do.
You see where this is going, right? A person with no memory is a tragedy waiting to happen. And the same goes for a town or a country without a memory.
“A city without old buildings is like a man without a memory.” – Graeme Shankland
The Story of Our Towns
The story of our cities and towns are under constant attack and always will be. In our relentless march toward the future, we are quick to destroy the past. Not because we despise it, but because we don’t recognize its value.
The old building of our generation may seem old and tired to us, but to the next generation, who wasn’t there when they were built, they are a time machine. A time machine that lets them glimpse into the past in way that no book could ever do. They are a physical presence of the past, sometimes long past, still standing in the present world.
In order to make plans for the future, you must first understand the past. You have to see the mistakes and successes of the past first before deciding on a track for the future. Without that perspective, you are doomed to repeat the same failures over and over.
Our historic buildings give us a sense of our place in time. They let us know that this town, this country, this planet is not ours, but rather it is on loan from our children. We see that there were people here before us and because of that, we can more easily grasp the idea that there will be people here after us.
The Future From The Past
All of the people from the past have gone now. We humans have a short time on this planet, and then at some point, we tell our last story, share our last piece of wisdom, and we are gone.
What can we leave behind? Hopefully, a legacy of teaching the next generation right from wrong among other lessons, but our physical presence is gone. Whereas with our historic buildings, we can still visit them and touch them and experience them with all our senses for centuries or in some cases millenia.
They help us put into context the stories we have heard and the lessons we have learned. They matter because they are the only physical pieces of the past that remain. They let us know, “Yes, it really was that way.” They give us a place to start, and tell us which direction the future is. They prepare us for tomorrow, give us motivation to be better than we were yesterday. They are the measuring stick of our successes and our failures and our compass in the woods.
Let’s keep them around as long as we can because “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” – Michael Crichton
The post Preservation is Not About the Past, It’s About the Future appeared first on The Craftsman Blog.
I've been busying myself over the last few weeks with our living room renovation - getting the walls prepped, the ceiling pepped, opening up the fireplace, sanding floorboards (post on that coming soon!) and finally - we're at the painting and decorating stage. I think this is probably the quickest makeover I've ever done - talk about girl on a mission!
So, this post is in collaboration with Little Greene, who have recently launched a new range of absolutely gorgeous wallpaper; Archive Trails II. I have been incredibly fortunate and as part of this collaboration, I was able to choose and feature one of those wallpapers in our living room. And I can't tell you how much I love Little Greene wallpapers, so I am thrilled to pieces to be working with them!
First things first though - here's a quick look at the living room pre-decorating. If you'd like to see a full room tour of the 'before' then please do check out this post. But it certainly looks a little different from how it did four weeks ago though, doesn't it?!
Decorating is my most favourite kind of DIY. I love painting - always have, always will. And it's this stage that totally transforms a room. Like totally. Paint is the best thing since sliced bread and can change the feel of a room in an instant. From giving a room a fun and young feel, to rich and regal - it can literally do it all. I gave this room a really quick white-wash a few weeks back, just to keep my sanity so I didn't have to stare at those horrible green patches for too long - But the actual paint I've decided to go for in this room, is a very light grey; a sophisticated, gentle grey. One that's warm in tone and feels really cosy in the room. It's the colour 'French Grey' by Little Greene in their Absolute Matt finish.
I've never used Little Greene's paint before, but I can now honestly say the coverage of it is exceptional. It's quite thick and a little really does go a long way. I only had a 2.5L tin to do three (large!) walls in this room, which I would usually have bought a 5L tub for. To say I was worried it wouldn't stretch is an understatement - but it did! After two walls, I still had just over half a tin left. And I think that's really good going!
I also really like the fact their paints are eco friendly. They're water based with almost no VOC content which makes them odourless and of course, they don't add to pollution in the atmosphere. They also have 40% more pigment than oridinary paints which provides a greater depth of colour, which you can pick up in different lights. And of course, lots of their paints (and wallpapers!) are based on historic colours and finds, which makes them perfect for period houses like ours.
I always do one full coat of paint and then patch up any imperfections in the wall. I know this might seem a little backwards but you can never really see every little minor imperfection on a wall until it's one flat colour - so the paint helps to show these up. I have however already repaired the majority of the bigger imperfections before painting (you can read about patching old walls here) but the imperfections the paint helps to show up are usually are little holes or little scuffs in the plaster. You might not be as fussy as I am, but I quite like to cover these up for a perfect finish.
When it came to the skirting and the cornicing, I decided to keep it simple and white. I used Zinsser BIN primer on both first and then used a white trade matt emulsion on the cornicing (the same as the ceiling). The skirting will have a white eggshell on it eventually, although I've currently left it primed for the time being.
To get a really crisp line between both the skirting and the cornicing, I've used Tesa Tape (which is a kind of masking tape) in their precision sensitive variety. I know lots of people have problems with masking tape pulling paint off the walls - but this one is very gentle and isn't very sticky (if you know what I mean!) and so far, I've had no problems with paint coming away from the wall. Would definitely recommend!
Once the walls had two coats of paint - I was then onto wallpapering. Luckily I've wallpapered a couple of times in the past, so I have a little bit of experience in doing it. It's definitely DIYable and with a little of patience, you can 100% get a professional finish for a fraction of the price.
The first thing to do when it comes to wallpapering - is to line the walls with lining paper. This is actually something I've never done before - probably because I've just been lazy and tried to cut down on the costings. However, lining paper is super cheap (literally its about £5 a roll) the adhesive is super cheap (we're talking £3 a bag) and there are so many benefits to use it, that you really should. Not only does it prep the walls so that all those imperfections wont show, but it also helps to prevent shrinkage when the wallpaper dries - which can quite often cause that split along the seam. The wallpaper I'm using is absolutely beautiful and I certainly didn't want to take any risks by not doing a proper job, so this time around I used lining paper for sure.
Lining paper comes in different grades - from 800 (the thinnest) to 2000 (much thicker!). Generally speaking, 1400 is the middle of the road and recommended for most walls. But if you have a new plaster, you could go for a thinner and if your walls are in bad condition a thicker one would be better. The lining paper I'm using if from Screwfix which you can find here.
Unlike wallpaper, lining paper is supposed to be hung vertically across the wall. However, this requires a lot more skill and despite my best efforts - I don't think it's something you can do single-handedly (Grant was at work!) especially if you're using just a ladder rather than a platform like me. Trying to hold up wallpaper, move a ladder, stop everything from creasing - lets just say it didn't work out. So after a bit of research, the internet told me vertical was OK as long as the finishing wallpaper on the top can overlap those joins. So that's what I did.
The process of wallpapering is really quite simple - the trickiest bit is achieving a perfect join and cutting the paper to perfection. I waited a couple of days to make sure the lining was fully dry and then began to hang the wallpaper I had chosen from Little Greene, which is called 'Wrest Trail' in the colour Lead. It's absolutely beautiful and I'm sure you'll agree.
The first thing to master is how to fold the wallpaper to allow the paste to soak in. You don't want to apply too much paste, but you also don't want to apply too little. Make sure it's even with good coverage and then use concertina fold method to fold the paper to allow it to soak. I recommend this video from B&Q for a good tutorial on doing this. But here's some photos to give you an idea of the method..
I left the paste to soak into the wallpaper for around 5 minutes, as the instructions recommended. Each wallpaper will be different so make sure to check your own first! I then moved the wallpaper to the wall and gently lowered it into position. You want to try not to just drop the wallpaper suddenly as it could cause a tear (a helping hand is always advisable if it's your first time!). If it's the first length of wallpaper you're hanging - you'll want to draw a spirit level line onto the wall and match it to this. Otherwise, you'll want to match it up to the pattern of the wallpaper next to it.
Starting at the top, I used a wallpapering brush initially to press the wallpaper down and then a hard smoothing tool to push out any air bubbles. If the pattern isn't matching perfectly, lift the wallpaper off the back and back down into position.
Working down the wallpaper from the top, continue this method making sure the wallpaper continues to match side by side to the one next to it. There shouldn't be any overlap and there shouldn't be any gap. Try not to overwork the wallpaper by pushing it with your hands too much as you could stretch the wallpaper. You want to just lift off the wall and back down to reposition. If you find any edges don't have enough wallpaper paste on them, lift off and apply a little more paste with a brush behind it.
It's really important to keep the front of the wallpaper adhesive free - so you'll need clean water and a sponge on hand to wipe down the edges as you go. If you don't do this, the adhesive will dry - and you'll most definitely be able to see it. I also wipe down the decorating table after each use as well.
Once the wallpaper has been smoothed out and cleaned off, you can use a roller to press down along the seam. You shouldn't be able to see the join after this - unless you have an incredibly picky eye and get up close and personal with it. But it should be almost invisible.
To cut the paper at the skirting board and ceiling, you'll need a very sharp knife and I actually recommend using a snap-off knife (like these) where you snap off the blade to reveal a fresh one every so often. We've used a metal cutting guide as a straight edge to ensure we don't go off cutting at any funny angles accidentally. Cutting wet wallpaper does take a bit of practise and I can only recommend taking your time to get it right. I actually left this bit to Grant for the most part as I knew it was something he would be better at doing.
When it comes to the corners, I cut the wallpaper roughly to size before applying the wallpaper paste, just so I didn't have to tackle with as much paper excess putting it up onto the wall. I then pushed the wallpaper into the corners with my fingers first and then used the same tools as before to smooth it out.
To cut long-ways, I used the same guide and method as I did with the ceiling and skirting board. The trickiest part is very top corner and bottom corner where you'll need to cut a diagonal line into the corner to be able to push the paper right into it. In my opinion, this is the hardest bit as you don't want to cut too much and you also don't want to cut too little and accidentally cause a tear. It's a bit of trial and error and will require a fair bit of patience and time to get right.
And that's it! It took us about a half a day to do, although we certainly weren't rushing with the job. Wallpapering is very much a practise makes perfect kind of DIY, so I do recommend allowing yourself plenty of time to do it. An hour before the school run, probably isn't recommended.
I still have some work to do on the chimney side of the room, hence why I haven't decorated there yet - But this side of the room is looking absolutely gorgeous! The wallpaper is truly beautiful, detailed and just stunning. It's based on original remnants discovered by English Heritage, but re-imagined, re-coloured and bought forward into the 21st century. It means the wallpaper has a slightly traditional feel with a modern kind of twist and I love that! It's the perfect for our Victorian house with its period features but at the same time, modernised. I also think it looks great with out sofa (a made.com delight) and our new vintage crate side tables, which were an eBay find of just £2.50 for each one!
I think it also works really well next to the French Grey paint - they're along a similar kind of tone but it also allows the wallpaper to stand out against it. The wallpaper also appears to have the same kind of rich pigment as the paints - you'll notice it appears slightly different in colour with different lights, which I love. All Little Greene wallpapers are also from certified forests and for each tree used to make wallpaper, four more are planted.
I had actually bought a second sofa which I hoped to feature in this post along the other wall - but to cut a long story short, it's stuck in a courier's broken down van. I know - just my kind of luck!! So whilst it's looking a little bare with furniture, it's still a massive massive (did I massive?!) transformation. It's literally added a whole punch of character into this room; something paint alone just can't do. The wallpaper catches my eye every time I walk past it - and it's beautiful detailing just pulls you in, to look at it further. It's honestly just beautiful.
I'll be sharing more updates over the next few weeks as we build two alcove units, fix up the chimney and hopefully (finger crossed!) that second sofa arrives! But it's looking pretty darn amazing so far, right?!
Let me know what you think. Do you love the wallpaper as much as me?!
*The wallpaper and paint featured in this post were sent to me as part of a collaboration with The Little Green Paint Company. All words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands who support this blog!