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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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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.

Click here to leave a comment, if you like.

Saturday
Mar262016

Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #5 - External Wall Demolition

It's astonishing how quickly building work progresses. One minute the back of the house is still standing, and the next, voila! The corner of your daughter's bedroom appears to be hanging in mid air.

Here's the view from the new extension looking towards where the bay window used to be. You can see the shape of it in the steel in the ceiling.

Tom the builder assured me that the steel and the three props were sufficient to support the house above, but nonetheless they welded the main supporting pillar into place by the end of the day.

The pillar is located where the left-hand corner of the bay window used to be. In the not too distant future, it will be built into our new kitchen peninsula. In the picture above, the gap between the pillar and the wall on the left is what *used* to be the wall between the chimney breast and the left-hand corner of the bay window in the picture below. 

Our two monkeys enjoyed the obstacle course the builders obligingly left in place over the weekend.

Final before and during - here's a picture I took of the bay window a couple of weeks ago:

And here's the view from more or less the same spot:

There's a lot less wall, that's for sure!

The builders are currently busy installing the roof. The bifold doors, windows and roof lantern go in next week, and then they move inside and start knocking the internal walls down. Bring on the dust!

Click here to leave a comment, if you like. You can also see all posts about the progress of our extension here.  

Thursday
Mar102016

Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #4 - Propping, Steel and Demolition

If you thought I was excited by seeing the walls and openings go up, you should have seen my gleeful dance upon climbing up the ladder into the playroom last night and seeing A GIANT HOLE IN THE BACK OF THE HOUSE WHERE THE BAY WINDOW USED TO BE. Boom!

But first, the house had to be propped up. The builders did this by installing a number of temporary steel poles that braced against the ceiling in the playroom, the cellar below, and the hallway. Next, they bricked up a couple of parts of the house that will no longer have openings. In the photo below, you can see the steel bracing pole on the right, the bricked up window towards the middle, and the stained glass window on the left that the builders removed. It's beautiful, but we needed the wall space in this part of the room more than we needed the window. Fortunately the builders were able to remove it intact with a bit of loving care, which means we can use it somewhere else in the house.

The back door was taken out - and then swiftly rebuilt with engineered brick. It now includes a new porthole-type window that is at child height on the garden side of the wall and adult height on this side, thanks to the split-level floor. There will be two large panes of glass on the adjacent walls to let the light in - we added this little window just for fun.

Next, the builders knocked meticulous holes in various parts of the wall to allow the steel to be threaded through and cemented into place. The picture below was taken while standing in the new extension.

In the photo below you can see where the wall has been removed to allow for the steel, along with the steel props and a new concrete padstone.

Yay, brickdust. We ended up a layer coating the entire house - the builders were only supposed to be working on the exterior walls but a brick from inside became slightly loose, resulting in plumes of red dust spiralling up the stair well.

The steel was supposed to go in last week but it completely randomly snowed heavily for the day in Manchester, and dancing round on icy scaffolding wielding immensely heavy pieces of steel didn't seem like an outstanding plan, so the work was delayed until this week.

The steel in place supporting the bay window above (Eva's bedroom window).

The view of the steel from inside the playroom.

And finally - the bay window comes out. I think my insistence on keeping the bricks was a slight downer for the builders, meaning they had to take the walls down carefully instead of having at them with gusto, but we've now got a large pile of our own beautiful reclaimed bricks that can be used for various projects in the garden, so I'll live with their disappointment :-)  

I fear the carpet will never be the same again. Note to self - do not let Natalia in here; she'll be straight up that platform.

Idiot posing in a purloined hard hat.

You can read the whole story of our extension from inspiration and planning to the current building work here

Click here to leave a comment, if you like.