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Thanks for visting Simply The Nest. I'm an English girl married to an Portuguese boy, and when I'm not working or taking care of our three adorable daughters, I blog about our house renovation, DIY projects, and family life in a Victorian Manchester nest.

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Thursday
Apr282016

Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #7 - Internal Remodelling

During the four years we've lived here, I've regularly shown family and friends old and new round the house and explained our plans - this wall will be knocked down, this will become glass, we're putting a window here, and extending the wall there. I would usually see a few glazed expressions while doing this, probably because surprisingly no one else found our renovation quite as fascinating as I do ;-) or maybe because I never did a very good job of explaining how things would look. Seeing the vision for our house come to life in reality has therefore been absolutely wonderful, and all my worries over the years about whether it would feel big enough, or light enough, or open enough, or too open, have been completely allayed because in fact it's perfect.

Warning - picture heavy post coming up, with a few bonus wide angle shots.

Here's the old playroom (taken when we'd just moved in):

The playroom just before the build started:

And now with all the plaster taken off and the right hand side of the wall knocked down.

The wall between the playroom and the living room, with the plaster taken off:

And with the wall knocked down (with chipboard separating it from the living room to keep the dust in).

Moving across to the other side of the house - here's the old kitchen. When we moved in, it was yellow and green.

We painted it blue and white after a few months.

And then a couple of weeks ago, it was ripped out. I declined to closely examine the detritus discovered lurking underneath the cabinets.

Here's the view from the old kitchen looking through the hatch into the old dining room:

With the units ripped out:

Here's a closer look at the old dining room from the same angle (as if you had climbed through the hatch and were standing with your back to it):

And here's how it looks now the wall separating them has come down. Also, giant unexpected fireplace! 

Which naturally called for a giant unexpected fireplace selfie.

Here's another corner of the old dining room (the giant fireplace is on the left):

And with the frame for the cloakroom/buggy store in place (which will be accessed from the hall). The original door to this room on the right has also been removed and the opening widened.

Turning round and looking back at the old kitchen - the old hatch has been knocked out below to create a new opening:

And a wide-angle view of the room.

This is one of my favourite shots. I've been explaining for years that we'd be taking this old kitchen wall down and linking up with the other side of the house to create a big c-shaped space, so when the builders finally knocked the wall down I was hopping up and down with excitement.

Before:

And how it looks now.

Let's walk through this new opening, across what used to be the playroom, into the new kitchen, and turn round to look where we just came from. A few progress shots for the record...

Bay window still in place. The brick wall with the drainpipe in the middle of the new breeze blocks and the bay window is the wall that was knocked down in the pictures above.

Bay window begone. Keep an eye on that wall on either side of the larger yellow prop below.

And the new opening to the old kitchen. That yellow and blue room has never looked better. Note you can still see the drainpipe to the left - this will be boarded in and sound-proofed.

The last knock-through - to the right of the opening to the old kitchen. This will have a panel of fire-glass to allow a clear line of sight all the way from the new kitchen to the new playroom on the other side of the house with the giant fireplace (that used to be the dining room). Confused? Yes, us too - every time one of us refers to the dining room, the other asks "new dining room or what used to be the dining room?". Ah, renovation problems ;-)

Wide-angle shot of the space. This is clearly how estate agents take pictures as it makes the room look bigger than it actually is in reality.

And finally - into every temporary cellar kitchen, a little dust must fall. Here's Josh putting his head through the hole in the plaster-and-lath ceiling after Ben (pictured grinning sheepishly) put his foot through the floor in the room above.

We actually captured the whole episode on video, and it went something like this:

Peaceful cellar kitchen... peaceful cellar kitchen... peaceful cellar kitchen...

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH deluge of 140 year old dust thundering down...

A voice from above: "&%*$". Followed by: "Joooooooosh!".

Naturally we thought it was hilarious and took a bunch of photographs and immediately put them on Facebook.

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Wednesday
Apr132016

Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #6 - Ceiling and Roof

We have a roof!

First the ceiling joists went in. Here's the view from outside looking up and in:

And from inside looking from what used to be the playroom towards the new kitchen:

A couple of posts ago, I said that I'd better not allow Natalia in here because she'd be straight up the steel platform.

She also enjoys walking along the brick wall that forms the boundary for the new deck and patio.

The opening for the roof lantern was created.

And the external roof was installed. We are having a fibreglass roof which has entailed various layers of insulation board, plywood, chipboard, and the fibreglass itself, which we have specificed to be RAL 7016 Anthracite Grey to match the roof lantern, bifolds and windows.

Andre went onto the roof to take these pictures.

A panoramic view:

The builders are currently in the process of installing lead trim. Then the coping stones will go on, and finally the roof lantern will be installed.

A recent conversation with the bifold guys and Tom the builder, neatly illustrating the experience of having a third child:

Bifold Man: How old is the baby?

Me, proudly: She's nine weeks.

Five minutes later...

Tom: We're eleven weeks into the build so we're two weeks' delayed.

Me: No, we're nine weeks in. I know this for a fact because Elodie was born on the day you started.

Tom: Err, I'm pretty sure we're on week eleven.

Pause while we count the weeks on our respective phones...

Me: Yep you're right, the baby's two weeks older than I thought she was.

Tom: I'm not going to ask you to make any more decisions about the house, I think it's best that I just make them all myself going forward.

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Monday
Apr042016

Installing StopGap To Prevent Draughts From Your Victorian Floorboards

This post is a product review.

Something every Victorian homeowner will have experienced is the sheer exhilaration of pulling up a piece of ancient carpet for the first time and discovering the original floorboards underneath. Something every Victorian homeowner will also have experienced once said floorboards have been sanded is the chilly sensation of the cold air from the cellar rushing up through the gaps between the floorboards, and the subsequent increase in the gas bill. 

The refinished floorboards in our bedroom.

It's for this reason that while we have refinished the floorboards in all the bedrooms, we haven't touched the ones on the ground floor so far, as we need to insulate the cellar ceiling first to prevent uncomfortable and expensive draughts. So far we have insulated one cellar ceiling with rigid pieces of Celotex, and have seen the room temperature in the living room above increase by 2-3 degrees compared to the same-sized play room at the back of the house, despite the latter being south-facing. However, while using Celotex works extremely well, it is an expensive investment and is also tricky to install.

Something that I hadn't really anticipated as a side-effect of our current building work is how cold (and dusty) the rooms above would be. I had fondly imagined that the new structure would be built in its entirety - walls, windows and ceiling - before the old part of the house was knocked through. Naturally this wasn't possible, because inserting the steel required to support the old house would have been impossible if the new part of the house had been finished, so we've been living with the house being open at the back for several weeks now.

Not only has this meant that cold air is now rushing up through the gaps between Eva's bedroom floorboards, but we're also getting clouds of brick dust coming through the gaps too.

Enter StopGap - a simple and very clever product made by a UK-based family-run business that I had considered for our ground floor but had eventually decided against in favour of installing Celetox insulation boards. StopGap kindly sent us a number of rolls that we could use on Eva's bedroom floorboards to prevent draughts coming up from the exposed room below, and also, I hoped, to prevent the dust coming through.

StopGap will seal 1-8mm gaps between plank floorboards (it doesn't work on tongue-and-groove), and is so easy to install that a child of five could do it.

Literally - here is a picture of my five year old installing StopGap.

Basically it's a roll of rubber-like tape that you push into the floorboard gaps with a credit card. It folds itself neatly into the gap, clings in place with no need for glue of any kind, and is completely invisible.

Here's our equipment. The roll of StopGap, scissors for cutting it to size, and a credit-card (actually this is a building access card but you get the idea, any credit card-sized piece of plastic will do), paperclip and hairpin for pushing it into the gaps. The credit card worked best so that's what I'd recommend to use.

The credit card in action (Andre had taken over by this stage as it seemed a little harsh to expect Eva to install StopGap in the *entirety* of her bedroom floor): 

And here's what it looks like once installed. You genuinely can't see it, even when you look closely.

It took us about an hour to do Eva's 6x4m bedroom, including moving the furniture out of the way. And the results? Her room is now noticeably warmer, and we no longer get dust coming through the floorboards. As an added bonus, she's no longer losing crayons, sequins, Squinkies, buttons, Important Pieces of Paper, jigsaw pieces, Lego pieces and so on through the gaps as they sit on top of the StopGap instead, so it's almost worth doing it for that reason alone.

For more how-tos and FAQs, you can look at the StopGap blog.

StopGap is not a particularly cheap product, with a roll retailing around £25 (discounts are available for bulk-purchasing), but it's a lot more cost-effective than using rigid insulation boards, and certainly significantly easier to install. As a comparison, insulating our cellar room with Celotex cost around £500 and took about 20 hours, while using StopGap to do a room of the same size took an hour and would have cost about £80. Naturally Celotex has higher thermal insulation values, but if you're looking for a quick and cost-effective fix that works well, then StopGap is what you need, especially if you're not intending to live in the property for long enough to recoup the cost of the Celotex through a reduction in your energy bills.

Thank you to StopGap for helping to keep the Simply The Nest family warm and dust-free since 2016. It's a fantastic product and I'd recommend it to anyone living in a period property.

Disclaimer: StopGap gave me a number of rolls for free in order that I could review them. All words, pictures and opinions are my own.

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