Pedal to the metal

As promised, a catch-up on what I’ve been up to.

RDI came and insulated the loft and moved the oil tank.

They also put the pipework in ready for the radiator to be moved once Pete and Al were free to sort the wall out.

Once the oil tank was out, Alan and his team could remove the garage.  As my neighbour walks his dog around the back, they made a temporary fence out of some of the old picket fence lying around.

Warren, who harled the chimneys down at Ethel’s, will be along at the beginning of November to harl the wall.

I started clearing the garden.  It’s mainly blackberries, blackcurrants and honeysuckle.  The idea is to keep enough hedge behind the oil tank to grow over it and hide it a bit, clear a space behind that to put a picnic table so you can see the view between the two houses, and then clear all the way around the fence line, so that the wall can be taken down onto my garden and a new fence erected.  My neighbour says I’m fine to take a digger around the back to put posts in as long as I don’t leave any stones that will clog up his mower.  It’s tough going!

Inside I’ve been peering under more bits of carpet and the more I see of the downstairs floor, the more I love it.

Howdens’ designer, Tom, and I have been back and forwarding by email.  We’ve got the kitchen and utility price down to £7,500 from £12,000, but Tom just wanted David to double-check his measurements and make sure the wall cabinet doors in the kitchen would open under the beams.  So on Wednesday afternoon I picked David and Magnus up from Bettyhill and we all went over together, Magnus to look at the external woodwork and inside walls for painting surfaces.

David noticed pretty quickly that two of the beams in the maid’s room had been boxed in before they’d been papered.  A quick prod with a hammer and crowbar later and we found a beautiful natural rough beam, which must have been hewn nearly 100 years ago.  A bit of bark fell off it.

David also took a look at the mystery brick wall and agreed that it almost certainly wasn’t load-bearing and I asked him to look at the joists in the bedroom we’re turning into a bathroom upstairs – the good news is that as long as I put a bath perpendicular to them (which I was planning to do anyway) and I don’t buy a cast iron one, they’ll take the weight.  Upstairs has had 18mm chipboard laid over the original floorboards, which is good news for putting Karndean down in the upstairs bathroom (less floor prep required) and as Jeff remembered, there’s a decent depth under there to get plumbing in.

Next week we start to get busy.  On Wednesday Green & Cameron arrive to rip out the grass at the front, replace it with gravel and drop the kerb to create the parking spaces.  On Friday RDI come back to move the radiator – Pete and Al haven’t had time to sort the wall, but I need the heating back on, so we’ve agreed they’ll put an isolation valve on each side and then Pete can take it back off when we need to get behind it.

Magnus and David both recommended an electrician – sadly Dougie is tied up on a massive job all winter and can’t help me this time – but warned me that he’s getting close to retirement and doesn’t always want to take on big jobs.  I was hopeful that since he lives fairly close to Coldbackie and could have a key and do it at his own pace, he might be persuaded and although he hasn’t said yes yet, he is at least coming to have a look at it towards the end of next week.  I also have a plumber interested, who’s going to stop by when he’s next out west.  He’s working with David on a bathroom near me soon, so hopefully he’ll drop in at the same time.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on room layouts.  All the bedrooms, the upstairs bathroom and the living room have been mapped at 1:10 scale in Excel (with the cells made into squares) and then I’ve created shapes to the correct dimensions for beds, bedside tables, sofas and so on.  I’ve also marked where the existing sockets are and where I want new ones.

Next week’s job is to think about colour schemes.  I found a copy of Farrow & Ball: How To Decorate* in the local library system, took it with me when I went away with my mum last week, and read the whole thing in two days.  It’s been so, so helpful.  I’ll leaf through it again next week as I’m starting to work out what colours I want.  The only thing I’m firm on at the moment is that I want a big dark wall to hang pictures on in the stairwell, but it really does feel like we’re about to start making some speedy progress.

 

Let the demolitions begin

Apologies for the gap in posting, I’ve been getting husband back on his feet, dealing with lambs, making hay, keeping Ethel’s clean and tidy with back-to-back guests and, finally, getting a bit of work done on the Coldbackie house!

The new windows went in last month and look great.

The Aga was sold to a couple just up the road from where we live, who are off-grid and are going to convert it back to solid fuel.  Their son came up to help them take it out and it left the house in three pieces, but it’s made the room look a lot bigger.

I got stripping in the front bedroom – love it when the wallpaper just peels off in easy strips 🙂  I need to measure up that fireplace – I’m hoping the Victorian-style metal insert that we took out of the bedroom at Ethel’s will fit in there, allowing it still to be a feature, but getting back the floor space that the tiled hearth takes up.

And I couldn’t resist a little peel back of the wallpaper on the landing.  My bedroom was that colour yellow when I was tiny!

Then it was time to get demolition-happy in what will be the kitchen-diner.  It’s going to be a lovely big room when we’re all the way through.

And just to show what a difference aspect makes to warmth of light – both the room I’m standing in and the room I’m knocking through to are painted the same colour, but one has a north-facing window and the other south-facing.

New beams being exposed.  This is going to need treating for woodworm.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was to find a brick wall here.  Everyone, even the surveyors, thought this was stud.  We worked out, with some help from Ralph next door, that this is where the original house’s staircase would have been and the Hoggs would have put this wall up to create the maid’s room.  Therefore it’s likely not to be load-bearing, which is backed up by not all the beams resting on it, but I’m going to get Pete to come and check it out before I take a sledgehammer to it.

RDI were starting this week, putting in insulation, moving the oil tank and moving the radiator in the maid’s room, so I thought I’d better have a look at the wall the radiator was going to be moved to (the Aga wall), just in case there was a fabulous stone fireplace hiding behind it.  Sadly all that was left was a lintel, the rest appears to have been bodged about with in the 1930s.

I wasn’t expecting that wall to be tanked.  As we were planning to make the wall on the left of the picture above a bare stone feature wall and there was a bit of damp in the top corner, I thought I’d peel that back as well.  Turns out it’s also tanked, so game over for bare stone (why would you tank an internal wall??), but I think I’ve found the cause of the moisture – old plaster had flaked off in chunks and wedged itself between the wall and the plasterboard, bridging the air gap and allowing moisture to cross through into the plasterboard.  All this will come off, the wall will get cleaned up, picked and pointed as necessary, and then have new studwork and plasterboard.  On the plus side, it means the radiator can now go on this wall, which is a much easier move in terms of pipework.

Our final job at the weekend was to cut back the area where the oil tank’s going to go.  Lots of blackberry and blackcurrant bushes in with the honeysuckle, so I think I’m going to make it an edible garden.  I think I’ve found a border at the back of the living room which would make a perfect herb garden, but I need to go back and rip out a load of weeds and grass and see what’s actually under there.  We’ve found quite a nice old concrete edging to the lawn under the grass as well.

Project 2 has lift-off

Completion had to be delayed for a few days after the final set of searches found a Notice of Grant Conditions attached to the house, but Elaine checked them out and they’re nothing to worry about, so we were able to pick up the six sets of keys to the house last Tuesday.  Mick is currently in plaster after rupturing his Achilles tendon last month, so not a lot we could get our teeth into straight off, but we went over there straight away anyway, just to go and sit inside it and feel happy for a bit 🙂  Room by room walkthrough below.

Living room

The window seat will be retained (or at least reinstated after the bay window is replasterboarded, as there’s been a leak at some point in the past).  I’ll put a coffee table there and two small armchairs to make a separate seating area from the rest of the room.  Then there’ll be a sofa side-on to the fireplace with its back to the window.  This will be part of the TV area grouping at the other end of the room.

TV will go to the right of the fireplace (the satellite dish has to be on the back of the house.  I was going to put a corner unit in that right-hand corner, but the radiator is in the way, so there’ll be a big sofa along that right-hand wall to make an open 90-degree corner with the fireplace sofa.

As the fireplace is such a huge focal point (we’ll take out that electric fire and replace it with a woodburner), I don’t feel I need to do a wallpaper feature wall in this room.  The original picture rail is still up, so we’ll paint the room white above that and put a colour on the walls below – I’ve found some lovely tan leather armchairs and leather/fabric mix sofas with pillow backs, which are autumnal reds and greens, so I need to work out a colour that will blend in with that.  The carpet is an Axminster, in Dounreay pattern(!) and there are some lovely floorboards underneath, but they’re straight onto joists with no insulation and there are gaps in them where Jeff broke through the floor installing the radiators, so we’ll put carpet in here – we’re going to have a neutral carpet throughout the house in all bar a few rooms.

Love this art deco-style door handle.

Bathroom

It’s a standard Care & Repair bathroom, similar to the one at Ethel’s.  This was originally two rooms and we did think about reinstating the wall, but have decided one lovely large bathroom is better than two small separate rooms.  The sink will move over to the right, a bath will go under that window where the sink is (I need to measure out, but I’m hoping to get a double-ended slipper bath in there) and the shower will be a large quadrant shower in the left back corner.  The floor in here will likely be a Karndean lino in a chessboard-style tile effect.

Kitchen/diner

This is the current dining room.  Much as everyone says, ‘Oooh, Aga!!’ it’s going to have to go, because it drinks oil like a demon, overpowers the room both physically and heat-wise, and is going to get in the way of where the dining table’s going to go.  The wall to the left, just out of shot (you can see the paper peeling off where I ripped a damp bit away) is an external wall but now has the current kitchen built onto it, so Pete reckons we may be able to strip that back to be a beautiful bare stone wall without much heat loss.

This is the maid’s room, attached to the dining room and shown as bedroom 5 on the floor plan.  We’re going to knock this out completely to make a big kitchen/diner.  The kitchen part of it will mostly be contained in here and flooring for the whole thing will be another Karndean stone-effect lino.

Utility room

Currently the kitchen, this will have a sink, washing machine, tumble dryer, ironing board and be somewhere for wet, muddy, sandy dogs to dry off 🙂  Karndean flooring again.

Hall and landing

The downstairs hall and corridor, leading to bathroom and kitchen/diner.  This will be carpeted and painted a neutral colour.

The stairwell, still with its original bannisters.  That electrical gear is going to need moving, I fear, because to read the meter you have to stand on the landing and peer at it.  (And that reminds me, SSE couldn’t find the house on the national database when I rang them last week, though they do currently supply it, so I have to ring them back tomorrow with the meter serial number!).  Again, this will be kept simple and neutral, though I want something quite statement lighting-wise – I’ve seen one that I love, but only on American websites, where it’s tagged as Analia vintage 3-light cluster pendant.  I’m hoping I can find something similar in the UK, or maybe something like a lantern light.

Upstairs landing – again, neutral throughout.

Master bedroom

This room is above the dining room.  That door opens into an empty cupboard where the hot water tank used to be, it’ll be knocked out to give a bit more space and a 5ft double bed will go up against that back wall.  Plenty of space in here for a wardrobe and drawers.  The little hatch on the left accesses the roof space above the utility room.  I haven’t even started to think about colours yet.  This room has a modern door on it, similar to the one on the cupboard.  Fortunately by knocking out the maid’s room downstairs, I’ll free up two original doors (there are two doors in the long corridor downstairs) which can be put into this room and what will become the upstairs bathroom, as it also has a modern door.

Upstairs bathroom

Currently a bedroom, this is going to be turned into an upstairs bathroom with a big shower, a loo and a sink.  There’s a handy cupboard to the right of the doorway, which will hold spare towels and bed linen.  Jeff, who installed the heating system here, says that from memory there’s a good foot of space under the floorboards before you get to the downstairs ceilings, so in theory, there’s enough room to take the pipes through that void and out the back to connect with the existing drainage and sewerage (this room is more or less above the bathroom, it’s just the corridor is on the other side upstairs), and it shouldn’t require a building warrant.  Although downstairs is currently an electric shower, I’m going to put one that runs off the combi boiler in downstairs and make this upstairs one electric – that way if there’s an issue with the boiler at any time, a hot shower will still be available.  Belt and braces!

Front bedroom

I need to think carefully about layout in this room.  It’s going to be another double, so do I block off that fireplace and put the headboard against that wall, put the headboard below the picture and leave the fireplace or put the headboard against the left-hand wall in the picture below?  I think I’m going to be in here with my newspaper furniture layouts again.

The door just visible on the left is yet another cupboard and although the roof valley comes down inside it, I think there’s enough space in there to put a rail in and make it a wardrobe, which frees up a bit of floor space.  I found the newspaper below in it, from July 1970, and just loved the second lead story on the front page.

Back bedroom

This will be the twin and will be tricky to fit a wardrobe into.  Where I’m standing has the roof valley coming down into the room, so I’m going to have to put the beds on the wall where the bell push is and the wardrobe against that bit of wall to the left, if it’ll allow the doors to open.  The little bit of wood on the left of the picture is the door frame.

Garden

Somewhat overgrown and vertical, but it looks like this bit used to be a flower border at one time.  I love the bluebells.

The boundary is roughly where the tree is and that old house belongs to the neighbour, but there’s a wonderful honeysuckle growing all over the top of the garden, which I’m sure will smell glorious in a few weeks when it starts to flower.  Views up to the Watch Hill are nearly as spectacular as the views to the front, and we’ll build seating out here, so that people can bring food out of the utility room door and eat out here in summer (midges permitting).

I’ve already had ERG round to quote for windows.  Mick guessed £24k, I thought they’d start at £22k and we’d settle somewhere around £15k.  In the end, for 17 windows plus a Velux, they started at a few pounds under £20k and we got to £14,199, which I’m delighted with.  I did look at a company called Rationel as well, because they do hardwood windows and I have a real soft spot for proper wood windows in old houses, but it was going to be just that bit too expensive when I took into consideration everything else we need to do.  Next time they need replacing, when I’m not trying to get everything else done at the same time, I’ll have another look.  Their surveyor is coming to do a detailed measure-up tomorrow morning, then on Thursday morning someone’s coming to take a look at the asbestos garage and quote for dismantling and disposal, and Monday morning sees RDI Renewables visiting to let me know what they can do in terms of insulation.  It’s a little bit damp in there at the moment, and new windows plus some room-in-roof and attic insulation will make a big difference.