Personal stuff

House Renovations Finished!

Early 2019 we started on a long journey of house renovations, after living in our house in Peterborough for some 25+ years, it was time for a full update. The house was built about 1908, an end of terrace two up two down with two stepped additions – a local classic design with the bathroom at the end of the house on the ground floor.

The initial plan was to replace the bathroom and kitchen, and also totally upgrade the very old heating system as we might as well burn gas outside as much good as the old boiler was doing.

But after chatting with my mate Gareth – he suggested that with our budget he could take-on the entire house, which was exciting and scary!

In the end we also got the loft sorted, extra insulation and raised flooring (and everything stripped out including THREE old water tanks for the old system). We also got the small front garden ripped out and totally sorted with a new fence and gate, and gravel letting the rain through rather than the old crumbling concrete.

It’s technically not 100% completed -we are now over 50% through some lime repointing of the outer walls – but again that was another extra we added to the mix, so I’m going to celebrate the completion of the project with a bottle of champagne that I promised myself out of the budget we gave ourselves – probably the only chance I’ll get to drink some of the best champers in the world 🙂

I tried (but failed) to remember to get before/during/after photos of the work – it was a huge undertaking. Many walls had plaster off and replaced, ceilings were stripped and in some cases re-boarded. Floors had the carpet removed and new laminate put down. The oak floor in the front room was sanded down and re-varnished. All walls/ceilings painted. New windows in some rooms… and every room had new blinds put up. So every inch of every room was re-done. Oh and we also had all new guttering/facias and the front of the house went from old tiles to bright white cladding.

It felt like a long slog – we were packing and moving room to room through the year. But it was well worth it!

In pretty much the order of the work…

Guttering/Cladding and new Lintel for Bedroom 1

While the guttering and cladding of the front of the house was happening, it was discovered that the reason for the plaster cracking in the bedroom was the bricks dropping over the window, due to no lintel being in place. The original small window must have been replaced many years ago (before our time), and they’d gone too close to the corner of the house really, and had just put a long bit of wood over the window – not enough support! Work had to stop, and builders had to make safe, adding two HEAVY concrete lintels into the two brick courses of the wall. They also added some cement to the terrible brickwork at the front of the house. It looked very dodgy and felt it at the time. The bedroom outer wall was stripped of all plaster and re-boarded afterwards. We left the painting and radiator off knowing the renovations would start straight afterward (ish).

The tiles stripped off the front of the house, the old window still in place (was fitted terribly it turned out! New lintels just put in place.
We had to sleep in the front room while the emergency building work took place – jacks holding the wall/roof up – new lintels just been concreted in place.
Plasterboard work in place and drying post new lintel. New window to come!
New window, new guttering, and the cladding all in place. Dead smart!

SMALL CRAFT ROOM (bedroom 3)

Once the guttering people and emergency building work was finished, Gareth could make a start on the internal work.

The small craft room (bedroom 3) PRE WORK. Terrible woodchip wall paper, thinnest carpet ever showing the shape of the floorboards below.

The small craft room like several rooms had really bad and sandy plaster, which had blown due to water outside from dodgy guttering. The window frame was rotting – not a room in good nick.

Yep once the new Ikea Kalax storage was taken out, it certainly was a sad state.
A bit of damaged plaster slowing things down – damn that dodgy guttering!
Walls repaired and skimmed, ceiling sanded down and skimmed smooth too.
The work well underway now – lovely smooth walls with the first of the many cracking colour choices Nicola made. Old window still in at this time (they came later).
The first room completed – with new window hidden by the new blinds. Nicola’s sewing (machine) room and craft storage!

Larger Craft Room (bedroom 2)

The larger craft room (really the 2nd bedroom, which we’ve used as a library/storage room for years) again had problems with plaster on one wall. Another really really rotten window frame… terrible old carpet.. some signs of damp after the guttering issues.

‘Before’ shot – with stuff being stored while the smaller craft room was being worked on. More terrible painted over woodchip paper. Old rubbish door. Terrible thin carpet.
Walls needed a LOT of patching up – some plaster fell off when paper was removed.
The large craft room nearly done – door and new radiator to go!
Finished room. with new doors, new floor, new rug and chair for Nicola to sew on.
The very last bit of work – due to Covid and shutdown the final window only 8 months later! It’s really helped improve the light in the craft room though!

Bedroom round 2!

We left the new plasterboard wall unpainted with no radiator until Gareth could work on the room. The ceiling turned out to be a real pain in this room – it was the original lath and plaster job, and wasn’t wanting to stay put.

The room stripped of furniture ready to start work. Our original bright colour scheme looking very worn now. The crappy sandy plaster didn’t help!
So yeah one square of plaster really was dodgy and came off rather too easily!
Walls all sorted and plaster dry.
Now this is more like it. 3 walls are painted in the very strong red/purple black. New fancy JL light-shade. Still no heating system yet.
We replaced the bedroom furniture too (gave away to neighbours), and built lots of Ikea stuff. Nicola’s cross-stitching decorates the walls.
New blinds fitted inside the blackout curtains. New radiator now in place too!

Landing and Stairs

A boring area, but a huge amount of wall to be sanded down and painted (it was covered in horrible thick artex). The stairs are open wood slats. It was a bit slippery and dangerous if we are honest. Gareth painted them white and added grippy fabric mats. The old wood handrail was also replaced with a chrome one. It was all painted much lighter too, with a new window and blind. We lost time here due to the fact there’s loads of wall area and it was rubbish to get too – very high on one side.

Those stairs are far safer now!

Dining room (Games room)

Once down the open plan stairs, the dining room (which we use now as a work-from-home office and games room) was next. Carpet up and laminate down, walls fixed up, everything painted.

The original paint scheme was very bright. Our cat Yuen getting in the picture. Plaster/wall damage to the right of the window evident. Old kitchen through the arch.
Carpet up,walls with initial paint coats on. The heating people had come and fitted new radiators too.
Most work done. New flooring in. Plaster near arch waiting for kitchen work to be completed.

The middle room then waited for the kitchen to be done before it could be completed (the arch gets remodelled!).

Front room

The living room already had a fantastic solid oak floor, but I’d stained it dark 15+ years ago, and it was looking worn out. It needed a sand down, the walls repainting, doors replacing, woodwork and ceiling repainted. New radiator too of course. There is also a very small ‘airlock’ area between the front door and the inner door. It actually had never had flooring, so also needed some tiles.

Stripped and ready for Gareth to sort out. The cat enjoying the space. The new radiator was installed by now (left in its wrapper).
Stage 1 – strip and fix up the walls
Walls painted. Woodwork and doors prepped. Floor now showing it’s true colour after being sanded down (the bag exploded filling the room with wood dust and covering everything including Gareth!).
My treat to myself – new top end TV and sound bar/sub – plus a new lighter TV stand (TV is fitted to the wall).
Completed, with Nicola’s sewing area and new blinds.
Xmas in the completed room
The ‘airlock’ tiled and painted – Gareth really didn’t leave anything as was!


And now after all of that, we actually started one of the two rooms we originally planned to update as part of this work! The bathroom REALLY needed doing. Part of a false wall was removed, as the old hot water tank wasn’t needed, so the room size went up. Out went the bath, in came a shower, as big as they did em. Wall-mounted storage gave us much needed storage space. New windows replaced two wood-framed ones that were ready to fall out. Gareth had to build a fake back wall due to the slope of the brickwork. Loads of plasterwork replaced – including a new lower ceiling enabling us to have spotlights and overhead light/extractor fan. The work was done around the toilet/bath/sink – so we could use it until the very last moment.

The bathroom of doom. In our interesting custom paint job. Wood-chip paper, and carpet. In a bathroom. Horrible. Damp caused tons of problems.
Half of the fake wall taken out and the old hot water tank cupboard cleaned out. New pipework over the door on display.
The framework going in to build the ‘fake’ back wall. Also the new ceiling in place with lights fitted.
Work was also interrupted due to a cracked couple of tiles letting water in – so they were replaced by Gareth too. Attention to detail – he even made them ‘dirty’ to blend in a bit!
The new boiler now housed in a new boxed in bit, and that new pipework being boxed in over the door.
New ceiling in place light lights and extractor fan / light.
The paint colour going on, and the top half of the fake wall in place using the special plasterboard.
The bath is out – it had trapped moist air behind so the plaster all went. What a mess! Plaster was replaced with the more expensive and HEAVY anti-moisture plasterboard.
Bath and sink out, more of the fake back wall built, and tiles going on. Down to just the toilet at this point!
Our old cat inspecting Gareth’s work. He supervised the whole time!
All done! New windows and blinds in place too. Vinyl flooring which goes well with the laminate in the rest of the house. The flooring will extend into the Kitchen.

The Kitchen – this is it!

The windows all went in after the kitchen – but the kitchen going in was a massive moment, when it really felt like the end was close. We knew what we wanted from Wren, and Gareth went along and pretended he was me (as they don’t deal with trade). Lots of text messages were swapped that day. I wanted a top end fridge, and a range cooker. I’ve always wanted a rangemaster cooker! Sad ain’t I?

Thank god this is the ‘before’ image! The very old cheap kitchen units. The terrible artex on the walls. The old strip light. The archway was rounded at this point.
Lots of prep done here. Walls sanded down, some units off the wall already. The archway now squared off for a more modern look.
More plaster problems – again where there was water damage from old guttering.
At this point it was microwave food and take-away only!
Another new enforced ceiling means we could have more spotlights, nice!
Much more ready for delivery of the new kitchen now. Paint on the fixed walls.
It’s here! That’s a lot of stuff for a small kitchen!
It’s flying in now! Waiting on the delivery of the cooker! Hopefully it will fit!
Yep it fit!
It’s bloody finished! Flooring and tiling done.
Kitchen complete, with new blinds on window and door! Plus a cat tail.

Games room revisited

Once the kitchen was completed, the final bit of flooring and plaster could be finished in the middle room.

The finished room with full length new blinds and new sofa-bed. And a cat, again. More cross-stitches decorating the walls of course.

And the loft!

If you’re doing the house up, why not sort the loft too? I was dead surprised how ‘clean’ and non-scary the loft looked after they fitted the raised flooring and put a decent light in. I’m not good at heights so I still avoid going up there too much!

Loadsa space. Now filled with xmas decorations and stuff!

Front garden freshen up

Our front garden was a bit of a mess. We had grown some plants in a small raised bed, but people had used it to throw rubbish in so we kinda gave up. The floor covering was crumbling leaving bare concrete.

So we wanted a new solid fence, get the concrete up and replace with liner and gravel. Then we got planting and people actually comment on it now and we don’t get cans thrown in it. So it did work. Plus it feels ‘safer’ and we can let our house cat out in it – he’s too old to jump the fence these days.

Turn away gardeners – this is the before. Builders had dumped a ton of rubbish on the bed making it a mess too. The old hedge had died. The fence was on its last legs.
Work started!
Tidy! We were still waiting for the gate to be made.
Initial planting…
It’s since filled in nicely! Some new plants added too. Bees love it!

And now it’s the walls!

As I type this – the main wall has been repointed at the side of the house – and the rest should be completed this month (fingers crosssed).

Because it’s an old house, we can’t use standard cement. It’s too hard for the old bricks, plus it doesn’t let the walls breathe, which would cause damp. Instead it’s an old fashioned lime mix. The old lime was cut out creating the world’s biggest dust cloud – and then it’s a long slog of boring work. But it’s giving those walls a new lease of life.

Cutting out the old lime mortar is job one. Very DUSTY job!
Then the slower job of re-pointing with a lime mix.

UPDATE 15th Oct 2020

The repointing work is now totally finished, with Andy and John completing it lunchtime 14th Oct 2020. It took ages to get several layers of paint off from around the kitchen area – we couldn’t get it all off in a realistic timescale, so left the last layer as you see in the photos. It’s fine with us – it was all about getting most of it off, letting the bricks ‘breathe’ to stop damp. The worst mortar was also cut out, and replaced with lime.

The back area clear of rubbish, but still with the dodgy masonry paint on and re-pointing to do!
And after many days and bottles of paint stripper and heat gun and wire brush attachments for drills later – the green paint off – only to discover orange and white paint layers from probably over 30 years ago. Re-pointing done in the corner and up, under the top window, under the bathroom and kitchen windows.

So that really is everything we had on our list of work finished. We’re not 100% done though, as there’s a hole cut by our heating people to fill with concrete, and while at it, use some to create a very slight slope away from the house to stop rainwater sitting against the bottom bricks for any length of time. Oh and a dripping outdoor tap. But then that’s it!

Thanks to

So that’s about it. Obviously a massive thanks to Gareth for all his amazing work and advice. He took a medium-sized job and undertook a massive job for the same budget. It looks amazing too, real life-changing stuff. I think that’s his last job like this though – and he will be concentrating on making his vegan food business thrive: Resist! Vegan Kitchen.

Also thanks to Stu and Andy for the work on the front garden. And Andy and John for the re-pointing work!

The heating work was done by AR Plumbing and Heating. A small local(ish) company who really worked very hard in the warmest week in the UK EVER! They came initially to rip out some radiators and disconnect the boiler – but even took out the water tanks that same evening. Then they came back to install the new stuff – working around our builder friend Gareth. Highly recommended.

The loft work was done in half a day by Instaloft (they quoted fairly and discouraged extra work I didn’t really need) – so I do recommend em.

I promised myself this special treat before we started (well that and a big new TV fixed to the wall) – and very nice it was too. 2008 was very good year.

By Krispy Brown

Developer (Java / PHP / MS Business Central AL).
Beer brewer and drinker.
DIY Punk promoter.