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!
If you've been following our Conservatory Renovation, you'll have seen this room transform from an indoor shed (not literally) to a relaxing, warmer (non-leaky!) space. I've built some DIY seating, I've painted the floor in a jazzy geometric pattern but it's still looking a little empty shall we say. I have lots of plans for this room (and never enough time) which will essentially turn it into a full indoor garden room. I'm talking plants galore, vintage garden plant pots, gardening tools and basically it will become an indoor forest of awesomeness. So when WallBoss.co.uk got in touch to ask if I wanted to review one of their wall stickers, I knew exactly the one I wanted and I needed it in this room.
Wallboss.co.uk is a website that sells a whole bunch of different wall stickers, basically for every kind of room in the house. Wall stickers are a great way to add some fun to a wall in an affordable and easy to-do way. If you can't already tell from the top photo and title of this post - the one I've gone for is a chalkboard calendar wall sticker. I thought the jazzy quirky conservatory was the perfect place to have a 'family' calendar (admittedly it's just me and Grant, but y'know!) as well as a great way to plan gardening too - which is something I want to get more into, and of course this fits right into my garden-themed room. It's a win win.
I've never used a wall sticker before so I pretty excited to see how it would work and how easy it would be to use. The sticker came rolled up in a tube and with some super simple installation instructions which seemed pretty much DIY fool-proof.
I planned where I wanted the sticker to go using some Tesa Tape (a kind of masking tape) so I could prop it up into position and see how it would look before I went ahead and actually stuck it down. Our conservatory is still very much a working progress (the doors to the left will be replaced) so please ignore all those unfinished bits!
I then used a spirit level to make sure the calendar was straight (is there anything worse than wonky bodge job?!) and then use the same tape to put a length straight down the middle vertically, as the instructions asked.
There's 3 layers to the wall sticker - the front see-through paper, the actual sticker and the backing. I peeled back the backing along one side of the tape, cut it off using some scissors and then smoothed the sticker onto the wall using my hands.
Yep, it's really that simple. I then went and did the same thing to the other half of the sticker, finishing off with using a flat edge (a bit of card will do) to make sure it was all pressed down properly to the wall with no bubbles.
And the final step? Just remove the front sheet of paper slowly and carefully.
And literally, that's it. It probably took me less than five minutes to do and required no prep work and virtually no tools. Well I did say it was DIY fool proof, didn't I?! The only bit you have to be careful of - is removing the front paper slowly, otherwise you can lift off the sticker. However I will say, it seems the sticker can be removed without removing the paint - which is something I was slightly worried about if I were to ever change my mind on it. But nope - it doesn't appear to ruin the actual wall beneath.
You can use either real chalk or chalkboard pens on the sticker - which I really like, cause I'm not a huge fan of actual chalky chalk. Kinda gets everywhere and leaves you with feeling like you need to wash your hands after every use. Chalk pens are so much easier to clean off too and of course, I like the fact you can buy endless colours as well. I use Chalkola pens on mine and can definitely recommend them.
I think the sticker it fab - the only thing to bare in mind is that you do need to commit to it and its location once it's stuck down. There's quite a few different 'parts' to this particular wall sticker that would be make it pretty difficult to relocate later. However, I personally wont want to be doing that and I'm really pleased with it in here. Just something worth thinking about before you go sticking it anywhere.
So here's a quick little before and after of this spot in the conservatory. You can see how it's totally changed an empty wall into something fun, useable and practical too. It looks modern and I think, fits really well. I think it'd also be great for an office or even a kids room to get them involved with planning things to do too.
This particular wall sticker currently retails at £29.99 which you can find here. But Wallboss.co.uk have a whole range of different wall stickers - from birds and trees for nurseries to Banksy graffiti style ones to worded slogans and even custom design ones. There's basically something for every room, so if you're interested in a fuss-free way to add some character (or practicality!) to a wall, then do go check them out!
Have you used wall stickers before? What did you think to them?
*I received the wall sticker in this post to feature in a review. Thank you for supporting the brands who support this blog!
One of the most hideous features of our living (aside from that floral carpet!) was the 70s style gas fireplace. It just kills the period features in the room. The cornicing, the panelling around the window; all those gorgeous original features, dominated by one giant ugly fireplace. Luckily, we had the gas to it disconnected back when we did some work in the kitchen a couple of years back (always thinking ahead!) and so now we're renovating the living room, it was finally time for this old thing to get gone. Finally! Thank the lord!
You'll remember we removed a similar old back boiler fireplace from the dining room a couple of years back, so we now have some experience when it comes to removing these things. By experience what I really mean is, forceful man power. Turns out these things aren't often held in by much and it took a mere 30 seconds to literally wrench the whole thing off the wall. Probably the quickest transformation you ever did see! It was there and then, it was gone.
(Word of caution when you open up old fireplaces - always be aware of the possibility of finding any asbestos board or insulation that could be hidden behind old fireplaces. I've written a whole post about asbestos, which you can read right here. But when it comes to uncovering anything pre 90s it's something you should always be aware of potentially coming across.)
Looking better already I'd say! But of course, we weren't stopping there. We planned on opening up the whole thing in the hope of *one day* (I'm talking years away here!) having a log burner in there. When it comes to opening up an old chimney - you never really know what to expect. There should be a supporting arch to hold the brickwork up above (fingers crossed!), but more often than not, these have usually been removed and replaced for concrete lintels. You may even find neither an arch or a lintel, which is also quite common (this is what we had in the dining room!) due to more lax building regulations in the past. You may find the chimney has been completely blocked off, or you may even find original features in there - like parts of an old fireplace. Basically - it's super exciting because you never know what you might find. The thing I was hoping for the most - was an arch.
A week or so later, we started chopping off the plaster to inspect the brickwork beneath and start opening it all back up. I say *we*, but actually Grant did all the work whilst I took a rest for the day and basically took all the photos ;) He used our trusty SDS drill with a chisel attachment which makes the job a thousand times quicker and easier..
We wanted to preserve as much of the original plaster as possible, so we only planned to go as high as we needed to - which would be as high as we could see either an arch, or a lintel. If you have an arch (in good condition) you don't need a lintel. If there's no arch, you'll need a lintel, even if there's one missing! You can check out our chimney opening in the dining room to see how we DIY fitted a concrete lintel there.
Grant chopped off the plaster fairly high and there was no arch or lintel in sight, so I convinced him to climb into the opening to have a look from the inside (after all, we didn't want to chop off all the plaster unnecessarily if there wasn't one). Thankfully, a couple of rows of bricks higher and there was one!
It was everything I had hope to find in the dining room a few years back, that had been destroyed. It was high and beautifully formed, in good condition and I was hella excited about it!
We then had to go about removing the bricks beneath the arch - which needs to be done really really carefully to ensure you don't go destroying the arch. We recommend doing it by hand rather than power tools and just take care to carefully chisel out the mortar, rather than go bashing your way in. The arch after all, is supporting all the bricks above so it needs to be solid and free from movement. So you don't want to be causing any movement with lots of heavy bashing. Take your time and just go about it with some care.
Slowly but surely, starting right underneath the arch we could see it all open up. And it is beaaaautiful!
When Grant got to the 'mini opening' (the bit that had the metal sheet over it) we discovered a rather unusual lintel.... A metal pipe. Yep, a pipe to support those bricks above it. Well I did tell you builders were more lax back in the day didn't I?!
And just like that, we now have one giant arched chimney opening in our living room. Isn't it glorious?! It's made the room feel so much bigger now there isn't a giant gas fireplace sticking out from it. It adds depth to the room, has given the chimney breast a focal point rather than just being a giant box in the room and the sooted up bricks show off the age and character of this building. Needless to say, I love it!
The plan is to keep the brickwork inside the chimney exposed although it will need to be cleaned up a little so the soot isn't constantly staining everything or falling off. But generally speaking, I like it rustic just as it is, imperfect mortar and all. We'll patch-plaster around the opening where we've chopped off too much plaster and we'll also fit a new hearth (plans for that will be revealed soon!) so that it will be log-burner ready for the much distant future.
So, from 1970s fireplace back to Victorian style in all in a matter of hours. I know which one I prefer! How about you?
Subway tile is one of the staples of kitchens and bathrooms in historic homes. The clean simplicity of 3″ x 6″ ceramic rectangles harken back to the early 20th-century like nothing else. It has been around comfortably over a hundred years since it began covering the walls of the brand new New York City subway system in 1904 and while it has had varying degrees of popularity, it has always been a heavy hitter in the design world.
During the sanitary craze early in the 20th-century, subway tile was the perfect fit because it was easy to keep clean and its sparkling white appearance convinced people it was always clean. New York city choose the standard brick laid white subway tiles because they implied this same clean feeling and they brightened the poorly lit early subway stations.
It was a match made in heaven and people took notice. It wasn’t long before subway tile started showing up in all kinds of catalogues for homeowners. Once the craze hit, subway tile was cemented into the public’s mind as the premiere choice for a clean and upscale bathroom or kitchen.
How To Install Subway Tile
Installing subway tile in a new house is not terribly difficult with the right tools, but installing it in a historic house where nothing is plumb or level can be treacherous. Getting the layout right and accommodating for a room that is out of square is imperative and requires careful planning before you start. Speaking of getting started, I’ve included a list of the tools you’ll need before you get started.
I’ve put together the video below to walk you through the basics of subway tile installation as well as to show you some of the tricks I use to accommodate the challenges that come up with tiling an old house. Anyone can put up tile on a perfectly square wall with nothing in their way. This video will show you what to do when it’s not quite as simple as HGTV makes it look. And let’s be honest, it never is as easy they say!
It’s a pretty basic thing, but getting the right saw blade for the job is an important part of getting the job done right. The wrong blade can tear up your material or make the job so much harder. Choosing the right saw blade really is pivotal to doing quality work, and that’s what the saw blade guide is all about.
There are so many blades today and so many options like tooth count, diamond tipped, carbide or steel, tooth design, etc. It can be daunting! Most folks don’t need all these variety of blades, and this guide will help you find the right mix of saw blades you’ll need for your project. In the end, I’ll help you find the best all around arsenal of saw blades that have great versatility for multiple projects so you aren’t changing blades every 15 minutes.
While there are specialized tools for cutting nearly every material, you can usually simply switch the blade on your saw to cut wood, masonry, or metal without any modifications to the saw. We’ll talk about each material and the saw blades required, and then I’ll give you some suggestions for a good all around arsenal of saw blades that will allow you to do most jobs without another trip to the hardware store.
Wood Saw Blades
Most of us are cutting wood, and because of that, there are a ton of options for wood blades. These can work on mitre saws, circular saws, table saws, and others. There are three general setups for wood cutting blades; cross cut, ripping, and combination. The category they fall into is all about the tooth design.
Unless you are doing a lot of very specific work, I find that choosing a combination blade is almost always the best choice. Most of us do a combination of tasks with our saws and unless you can dedicate a particular tool to only one operation, stay with the combination blades.
The more teeth your blade has, the finer the finish you will have. Blades with fewer teeth create more tear out and splinters. So, why would you want to use a blade with fewer teeth? Because the more teeth your blade has, the slower your cut rate is and the more friction and heat you generate.
If you are cutting 2×4’s for framing, speed is more important and you don’t care about a fine finish, but trimming high-end veneer is almost impossible to do without a fine-finish blade. Here’s a quick and dirty list of different tooth counts and their typical use:
Masonry & Tile Saw Blades
Masonry and tile saw blades are not at all like wood. Most have completely smooth edges with no teeth and the options are far fewer in design. They vary from short-lived and inexpensive blades (called cutoff or abrasive wheels) to long life diamond tipped blades. Here are the three main types of masonry and tile saw blades:
Cutoff wheels are made of an abrasive composite that eats itself as you cut, so they are inexpensive and run out very quickly. Segmented and continuous rim blades are typically diamond tipped and can be used to cut wet or dry. Cutting wet extends their life greatly because it keeps the blade cooler.
Segmented blades have small cuts (gullets) in the edge, allowing faster cutting of material but this results in a final product that is not as smooth as the slower cutting continuous rim blades, which are typically used for fine tile work or stone countertop fabrication.
Depending on the type of metal you are cutting, these saw blades are a combination of the wood saw blades with teeth and the cutoff wheels used on masonry. Though they may look the same, metal blades are much more expensive than their wood cutting cousins. There are two main types metal blades:
Just like masonry cutoff wheels, for cutting thick metals there is nothing cheaper than a cutoff wheel designed for metal. For serious metal cutting the carbide tooth steel blades can last a long time and cut just about any type of metal.
The tooth count on metal blades starts higher than it does for wood, with the fastest cutting blades being closer to 38-teeth, and the finer blades being only in the 60 to 80-teeth range. For metal blades, you want a lower tooth count, for thicker materials and a higher tooth count for thin metal sheets or fine work to avoid tear out and denting of the material. Your feed rate will also be significantly slower with metal than with wood.
What Blades Should I Get?
So, you’ve read my saw blade guide and you’re looking for the best mix of blades for your work. That depends on what kind of work you’re doing, largely. I’ll give you what I have on my tools, which works pretty well for the general renovations and old house restoration that I do every day.
You will notice my preference for Diablo blades below and that is mainly because in my experience, they have a longer life, and are readily available and create less kick-back due to their friction reducing coating. Everybody’s got their favorite, and these just happen to be mine.
I keep a 7 1/4″ 24-tooth Diablo Blade on my circular saw all day long most every day. It is long lasting and since my circ saw is used for rough cuts like for sheathing, framing, and basic repairs, the rough cut doesn’t bother me and helps me get through the work quickly.
I also keep a couple 7″ Dewalt metal cutoff wheels handy in case I should need to cut through some metal, which comes up occasionally. Since cutoff wheels are brittle, I keep them safely in a case so they don’t end up crumbled at the bottom of the tool box.
I keep my mitre saw ready to go with a 12″ 60-tooth Diablo Combination Blade since I use this mostly for trim and finish work. I could upgrade to a 80-tooth without much change and it might be a consideration, but I still do a decent amount of cutting of siding and occasional framing lumber, so 60-tooth has been the sweet spot for me.
Like most people, I have a 10 blade on my table saw, and it is used almost exclusively for ripping lumber or sheet goods. I have found that a 10″ 50-tooth Diablo Combination Blade works well to get through the material quickly and still keep my finish sanding to a minimum. There should always be some sanding after milling, so why spend the extra money and time for a super high tooth count blade to get an immaculate finish when you are going to sand it away anyway?
That’s it. I don’t keep any crazy unique saw blades- just these basic few cover most of my needs with an occasional specialty blade to supplement my work. I hope this has helped you find the right stuff to get the job done! Bookmark this page and feel free to come back to it as a new project comes up so you can find the right blade for the job. Good luck and happy cutting!
I wrote a post a while back about how to make your home smarter which included all the stuff we have within our home, as well as some stuff we don't have. Smart lighting was on there, something we didn't have and something I've never been *too* sure about. As much as I love the idea of it; it's pretty expensive to buy and is it really worth the money or is it just *another* gimmick? Well having now finally tried it out, I'm sharing my thoughts...
What Is Smart Lighting?
I'm fairly sure everyone knows what Smart Lighting is by now - but in case you don't (where have you been?!) - it's basically a special kind of light bulb that not only allows you to control it remotely but it also gives you more control over the type of light it emits. So there's no need for dimming switches or deciding between "cool" or "warm" light bulbs - you can have both and oh so much more, and you can also get bulbs that emit colours too. And of course if you have one of these fancy Home Hubs (Alexa or Google Home etc) you can usually control them through voice commend too.
Every Smart Light Bulb on the market is a little bit different - but the one I've been sent to review for the blog is a pair of bulbs from Wiz.World (you can find them on Amazon here) which I've been trying out over the last month. The thing that makes THESE bulbs unique is that you don't need an additional hub in order to connect them to your wireless network. It's all done in the light bulb itself.
I have to say these are THE most luxurious packaged lightbulbs I have ever seen. It felt like I was opening up a new iPad or something; it felt like a cool technological gadget. The kind of thing you put on a Christmas wish list (speaking of which - I reckon with a box like that, they'd be pretty gift-able too?!).
So the bulbs I'm trying out are B22 bulbs (the kind for bayonet fittings) but they do also sell screw-fitting bulbs and even spotlight bulbs as well amongst a few others. These are also the coloured versions of the bulbs and I have the two-pack set which very handily also comes with a little remote. This set retail for £69.95 at the time of writing this blog post.
You can see how they visibly look different to standard bulbs. They're a little chunkier and of course they have no filament, being LEDs.
How Do They Work?
Simple really; they just connect to your wireless network. So as long as you have a router or the like (doesn't everyone?!), you can have these smart light bulbs. Unlike other brands, you don't need an additional 'hub' in order for the lights to work which makes these a whole lot simpler to set up; it's all built-in right inside the bulbs. Genius! In fact, it even claims to have a 30-second installation set-up, which to be honest, I thought was going to be a tad exaggerated - but actually other than taking 15 seconds to type the Wi-Fi password into the app, there was literally nothing else to do other than turn the lights on and off five times. It's technophobe-fool-proof. Literally.
I've been trialling these lights in both the dining room and the home office, because I wanted to get an idea of how they're meant to be used around different rooms in the house. When you download the app, you can add each light bulb to its own room and you can also identify each bulb within the room with a different icon that correlates to that light fitting. From hanging bulbs to pendants to table lamps, there's enough icons to clearly identify each light fitting. You can even identify one table lamp for another. For the sake of this blog post, I'm photographing the office light fitting only - purely because it's much prettier and shows off the effect of the bulb much better. And I'm sure you'll agree!
Yep it's a giant ball of fluff on my ceiling and I love it. For anyone interested, it's a Amazon bargain find of just £33 which you can find right here. Being white, it also means it's the perfect shade for showing off the light bulbs infinite range of colours. And speaking of which - there's 16 million of them to choose from! Maybe you want a light pink hue to fill the room..
Or even a darker hot pink..
OR a cool blue..
OK, I'm sure you get the gist by now. Literally, I kid you not when I say the options are endless though. With 16 million colours available, it's doubtful you'll ever use them all. But, you could, in theory. Coloured lights may not necessarily be for everyone - but if you have young kids, it's a great way to add a bit of sensory stimulation to their rooms. And it's also a fun way for older kids to change the entire feel of their room at the drop of a hat. They can hit up FLAME RED as they pretend to be Fireman Sam (Or is he so 90s now?) or even COOL BLUE as they pretend to be at swimming in an ocean. You get my drift. I think it'd also be wicked for parties, adult ones as well as kid ones. Or it'd even be fab in a cool man-cave or cinema room. I also know lots of people who love the odd spot of colourful LED strip lighting throughout the home too - so I'm certain they'd love this in a table lamp!
Aside from having a bit of fun with the colours, it's also said that the colour of light can affect our moods. If you're feeling anxious, a calming mint green light is meant to be best. If you need cheering up, for yellow. For each colour you pick, you can also alter how dim/bright you want it to be too. It can be as gentle or as vibrant as you want.
But if colour isn't your thing, then perhaps 64,000 shades of white will make up for it instead? I know what you're thinking "HOW?!" I thought that too. Turns out there's orange white, yellow white, blue light, bright white, dim white, barely there white, bright as the freaking sun white. More whites than I ever deemed possible!
As much as I love the coloured aspect of the bulbs, I think the different white lights excite me even more. You can even simulate 'daylight'; which, being a blogger and needing to take a lot of photographs - is blooming' amazing! No need to plan my photos around daylight hours, I can now get a good shot whatever the weather. I also work night-shifts as my *day job* so it's also a great way to simulate daylight hours during the nighttime, so not to mess with your internal body clock so to speak.
Even for normal day-workers and non-bloggers it's fab though. A brighter light in the morning gives you punch of waking up you need, a more relaxed calmer light in the evening is perfect to chill out under before bed. You can select the perfect working light for cooking in the kitchen, or the perfect 'calming' light for doing a spot of yoga. In a nutshell, you can literally always create the *perfect* lighting for a room depending on how you're using it that day. I think it'd be awesome for mood lighting during a dinner party!
Features Within The App
Along with the bulbs and remote, there's also a free downloadable app which has a few additional features which I thought was also worth a mention too.
Fade In, Fade Out - Need I say more? Love it!
Wake-Up/Bedtime Lights - This one is actually amazing! You can set the lights to slowly come on/off within a 30 minute period, depending on whether you're dozing off to sleep or waking up. It in effect, acts like a Lumie Bodyclock (or similar) without the extra cost. I love it!
Schedule Your Lights - Doesn't need me to say much more, does it? Perfect for holidays or arriving home in the dark and having to stumble your way across a shite-tip of a hall to find the light switch (if you follow me on Instagram, you'll know what I mean!).
Plant Growth - Once I saw this setting, I was pretty sure I'd seen it all. Yep there's a light to help your plants grow! It's insane. And it's brilliant. And perhaps I should have bought this much earlier and I could have saved a few plants!
Night Light - This one is basically like those plug-in night lights you can buy. It has a very gentle glow that means you don't have to stumble across a dark room to find the toilet, or subject your eyes to a hard blinding wake up call by turning the lights on. We've used this feature every single night in the dining room. So handy!
Themes - There's a whole range of different pre-set 'themes' depending on how/when you're using your lights. From the perfect light to watch TV with, to a 'Party' theme, a 'Romance' theme and even seasonal themes.
Adding 'Moments' - If you want to save a certain light setting and remember it as a particular event (say Valentines Day Meal) can save that 'moment' with a photo and re-create that exact light at a later date at the touch of a button. I think that's a really thoughtful addition which is great for special occasions.
Everything in the app is really easy to use and it's really well organised. I didn't have any problems with connectivity or any problems in general. It's simple and it works.
With the two-bulb set, you get the handy remote too, which allows you to pre-set your four favourite themes, instantly turn the bulb into a night light, as well as alter the brightness at the touch of a button. One remote can control every bulb separately - you just need to point it at the right one. Brilliant!
How Long Do They Last?
That depends on how often you use them. But these bulbs claim to have a lifespan of 25,000 hours which is equivalent to around 10 years if the bulbs are used for 6 hours every day. Which is better than any energy-saving light bulb I've ever used! And at £69.95 for the pair, I think that makes these a pretty decent investment!
So I think I've covered the main features and the only thing I haven't tried out myself is connecting it to a home hub, as we haven't got one of those. In the last month of testing these bulbs out, I haven't honestly used the colours that much. I think they're fab and whilst I'm quite partial to the hot-pink look in the office; most of the time we've used the bulbs in different white settings. I can totally imagine myself using colours for a party or special event, but for day-to-day use the colours aren't seeing much action from us. That being said, we did have a disco theme going whilst drinking prosecco a few weeks back. It's something that's nice to have from time to time, but not necessarily for everyday use. Unless you're totally into that!
For us, it's all about the white settings. Going from daylight to a working light to a dim evening light has really been amazing. I've found it easier to get to sleep after being underneath a dimmer relaxing light in the evening and I've also felt so much more awake in the mornings after using the daylight settings. I wish I had used this during the winter months as getting out of my bed in dark hours is something I quite often struggle with! We're currently renovating the lounge at the moment and planning our lighting for the room - and I will be definitely be purchasing a couple more white ones for table lamps in here.
So, would I recommend? Absolutely, yes! As long as having changeable lights is something you would use, then I think it's a serious worthwhile investment. It's certainly not necessarily for every single light fitting (I'm certain still a huge fan of the Edison bulbs!) but where it's useful - it's absolute brill. It's a bit of fun and at the same time, it's surprisingly useful in ways which you wouldn't expect, until you use one.
Do you have smart light bulbs? What do you think to them?
*The Smart Lighting featured in this blog was sent to me to review. Thank you for supporting the brands who support this blog! :)