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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Entries in Extension (16)


Theme for 2017 - Organise

I'm writing this post sitting in a (new to us) love seat that my husband's friend donated to us on New Year's Eve, as you do, in our newly wallpapered living room, with our Christmas tree lights twinkling away because it's not Twelfth Night yet so I'm stubbornly clinging onto it, dropping pine needles and all. I'm also slurping on a prosecco cos my husband just passed it to me; there goes my vague plan to do dry January. Oh and I have a four month old puppy on my knee, three daughters sleeping away upstairs, and the Instagram Rug of Dreams on the floor in front of me. So all is good.

Our giant tree beast plus rug on Christmas Eve.

I like to pick a theme for the coming year. Last year's theme was 'Expand'. More on that later. Andre voted for this year's theme to be 'Relaaaaax'. Sorry to manage your expectations, darling, but there isn't going to be much relaxation going on round here, at least not until we install the kitchen and I no longer have to run down to the cellar every time we need an extra prosecco glass, which happens a lot cos we drink a lot of prosecco (dry January was never realistically going to be a thing, was it).

So, this year's theme will be 'Organise'.

We've expanded the family and now need to juggle three daughters and three dogs. And after living in our house for nearly five years we've finally built our long-anticipated extension and can now put in place some permanent solutions to deal with the chaos of busy family life with two full-time working parents.

I think it's important to understand what each of us needs to feel a sense of inner peace. Apart from the obvious things, for me it's having an alphabetised spice rack (or possibly by cooking genre? Decisions, decisions), a clear dining table with no random crap littered all over it, and not having to run upstairs at the last minute to grab a cardigan/pair of socks/dog when you're trying to head out the door for the event that you're inevitably late for. I'm sure there are some people who are happy with a mountain of shoes at the front door but I am not one of those people.

So, the plan is to implement systems (betraying my day job here) that allow our family life to run smoothly with the minimum of fuss. No lost book bags, no texting the parent hosting the party that the kids are due to attend that afternoon to ask where the venue is cos we've lost the invite, no having to sacrifice my 30 minute daily exercise slot cos I haven't found the time, no piles of junk lying around cos we don't have anywhere to store that massive stash of Ikea paper napkins and tea lights.

No, in our house the teaspoons and the sugar will be stored next to the kettle and the coffee machine in the new kitchen that we'll install for the purpose. We won't run out of dog food and have to feed them pasta (apparently this is normal for Italian dogs?!) cos we will have an Amazon repeat order set up for it. We won't have to spend a romantic evening a deux wading around in the cellar baling out a foot of swamp water cos we'll have a calendar alert set up to check the drains every month. We will never again have to go upstairs to get a pair of socks for Natalia after heading out the front door to leave for school at 08:53 and realising she is barefoot because WE WILL FREAKING WELL STORE SPARE SOCKS IN THE NEW BOOT ROOM (because obviously this is some kind of revelatory solution). Note - I originally typed this as Space Socks which would be even awesome than Natalia's Paw Patrol and Spiderman numbers.  

Anyway, quick recap of Expand 2016.

From this:

To this:

Gibson Architects and Tipi Construction South Manchester - by Simply the Nest, a UK renovation blog

The house was gorgeous before but we like it even better now. it's not just the blending of modern and Victorian that we like so much, but the internal remodelling that has given us a Party House.

From two daughters to three:

From two dogs to three:

And in terms of expanding my own abilities? I can now say that I am A Runner. Coming from someone who hadn't run so much as 50m since I was forced to jog round a much-hated cross-country course at school, this feels like a huge deal for me. The first time I ran in April 2016, I managed about 1.5km before I had to stop and have a lie down. I now run 10-15k a week - a 5k during the week, and 5-10k on weekends. I'm not always very fast, but I absolutely love it, and as Andre will gladly confirm, get pretty cranky without it. Running releases endorphins and is scientifically proven to clear your head. As this article says: "it's hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time".  

Oh and I also developed superhero skills. Want to see a picture of me in a Spiderman costume? Well, if you insist...

Back to organisation - first on the list is finishing the Boot Room to store all our coats, shoes, umbrellas, scooters, summer gear, wet weather gear, FREAKING SPARE PAIRS OF SOCKS and so on. Then we're tackling the big kitchen renovation. The floor tiles are being delivered in a few weeks and then we will be on it like a car bonnet. I've managed to get my New Year theme post up on the first of January for a change so we're off to a flying start.

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Building Work FAQ: True or False

We'd never had building work done before, being DIY champs, so we had no idea what to expect. To assist others about to embark upon the same journey, I've prepared a handy FAQ covering all the essentials of the experience.

1. You will finally figure out the lyrics to Rianna 'Work' after hearing it a mere 1572 times a week blasting from the builder radio.

FALSE. It doesn't matter how many times I've listened to that song, all I hear is work work work work work and the rest doesn't make any sense. You will also become deeply familiar with Sia 'Cheap Thrills', Lukas Graham '7 Years' and Justin Bieber 'Sorry', which does not improve upon multiple hearings.

2. Oh no, they won't damage that part of the garden.

FALSE. The entire garden will be destroyed, front and back. When we were planning the work, Tom the builder asked if there was anything in the front garden I wanted to keep. The cherry tree, I said. It was a wedding anniversary present. Tom scratched his head and said he thought they should be able to manage that. I thought he was being sarcastic - how could the cherry tree, set well away from the main driveway and entry path, possibly get damaged? When I saw the chipboard barrier that Tom built around it, I thought it seemed overkill but I appreciated his efforts. Then the skip arrived and nearly crushed the cherry tree with one fell blow, the driveway seemingly became a second storage facility for Bentley's the building merchant, and several lorry loads of rubble were literally upended from the truck onto the driveway itself. Not in sacks - just poured onto the driveway like a river. We even had a truck take a great chunk out of the path by driving across it accidentally cos the driver didn't quite get the right angle. Basically the entire driveway becomes fair game for the builders, so don't bother doing anything to your front garden if you anticipate getting building work done at any stage in the future. 

3. Oh, they'll be able to dig around the wisteria so we should be able to keep it.

FALSE. The wisteria will fall prey to the jaws of the digger on day one. Yes, possibly they could dig around it but careful building work costs more money as it takes longer.

4. They will have lots of other jobs on at the same time and will keep disappearing for days on end.

FALSE. If you have top-notch builders like ours, they'll crack on and get the job done, including all the snagging. No random disappearances to repeatedly attend the funerals of departed relatives here, thanks very much. Top tip - start your project in January. The previous project will have been 'done in time for Christmas' and with any luck you'll get a team of well-rested builders who have finished their last project, had a nice rest over Christmas, and are raring to go. I will add at this point that when you do major building work you are effectively inviting a group of strange men to move in with you (they are inevitably men unless you hire my lovely friend Sian) so it would be wise to choose builders you like on a personal level, as well as ones you can trust not to accidentally knock your house down.

5. The dust will get everywhere.

TRUE. Yes, yes it will. The builders did a brilliant job of controlling it as best they could, building giant floor to ceiling chipboard partitions with filler round the edges across all the openings, and rushing round with a vacuum cleaner when a brick accidentally came loose and a load of dust came through, but we still found a delicate layer of dust in our wardrobes. Having said that, this could well be because there is literally no point doing any housework while you have the builders in as it would be akin to applying lipstick to a pig, so quite feasibly the dust-in-wardrobe scenario was caused by our slatternly ways rather than the building work itself.

6. If you knock through from one room to the other you need to clear both rooms.

FALSE. We knocked through to the living room and I assumed we'd need to move all the furniture out so the bricks could fly. What actually happened is the builders screwed a 2x2 wooden frame on the living room wall a couple of inches wider and taller than the size of the planned opening, and then screwed a piece of chipboard to the frame and filled around the edges. They then carefully dismantled the wall from the other side (where the main building site was).

7. You will have a hole in your house for several weeks.

TRUE. You almost certainly will. I'd fondly imagined that the entire new structure would be built and made watertight before the connecting wall was knocked through, and maybe that's how it would work for a different project, but with ours, the order went something like this: foundations, new walls, support old building, remove walls and windows from old building, *aagh huge hole in back of house*, insert steels, build new roof, install bifolds, windows and roof lantern and finally *aah nice and cosy again*.

8. You will have a stream of people turning up at your door from morning until night.

TRUE. Between contractors arriving on site, deliveries from the local builder's merchant being dumped on your driveway, scaffolders turning up at 7am ("oh sorry love, is it too early for you?") and even Amazon deliveries arriving for the builders (fair enough, I get ASOS parcels delivered to my workplace so why not) that doorbell rang constantly, much to the utter delight of our Jack Russells. Additionally, all contractors, builders and delivery people will become very accustomed to seeing you in your pyjamas.

9. You will need to hand over the keys to your house.

FALSE. This can be avoided by having a baby the day the builders arrive, therefore necessitating someone being on the premises at all times with said baby. Alternatively, just get some keys cut. You know, whatever's easier.

10. It will all be worth it in the end.

TRUE. Full stop.

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Simply The Nest Victorian House Renovation #8 - Render, Roof Lantern and Bifolds

Three of the elements of the build that I was most looking forward to seeing in real life were the bifolds, the roof lantern, and the render. The architectural intention of the extension was to combine old and new in a way that both complemented and energised the original building. So white rendered walls on a reclaimed brick plinth - Mediterranean meets Manchester, if you like, and described poetically by Dan the architect as "a white arm cradling the old building" - and a new set of glass openings including bifold doors, a roof lantern, a glass back door, and a giant kitchen window, all made from anthracite aluminium.

We chose the XPView doors from Express Bifolds in anthracite with a metallic finish (thank you again Sian for your assistance with this). They are sturdy, smooth, slightly sparkly, and both the customer service and installation were impeccable. The lead time for delivery was also very short - no more than 2-3 weeks. Thoroughly recommended. 

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog 

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Ah, the roof lantern. Tom the builder magicked up a company to create this - it arrived as a flat pack and the builders installed it themselves. I love how it makes you look up at the original chimneys, which otherwise you'd probably never even think to crane your neck and cast your eye over. Old meets new and it's beautiful. 

After the doors and windows went in, the renderers got to work. I am completely in love with how this has turned out. 

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

Review of Express Bifolds by Simply The Nestm, a UK renovation blog

I was less keen on the process of selecting the render at our local building merchant...

Me: Hi, my contractor sent me to look at samples of K-Rend and Weber. 

Bentley's man: We don't have any samples of K-Rend. 

Me: Apparently you said my contractor couldn't take them away and that I would have to come here to look at them. 

Bentley's man, after scratching his head: Here's the book with the K-Rend in it, love. 

Me: What about the Weber samples?

Bentley's man: Weber is the same as K-Rend. 

Me: Well, my contractor asked me to look at both. Is it the same product with two different trading names?

Bentley's man: They're the same thing, love. 

Me, after consulting my text messages: My contractor asked me to speak with Jason. 

Bentley's man: Implacable stare. 

Me: Are you Jason?

Bentley's man: No, love. 

Me: Is Jason here?

Bentley's man, after more head scratching: Yes, he's in the back. 

Me, after a pause, during which it became clear that Jason was not going to materialise: Would you mind getting him, please?

Jason appears. 

Me: I'm here to look at K-Rend and Weber samples. 

Jason: Certainly madame, I see you already have the K-Rend book so I'll just go and get the Weber one for you. 

Me: &*%$£%!!!

Still to come - the deck, the plastering, and the final internal openings and glass. Then we will be finished and can move onto kitchens, tiles, wallpaper and paint, how exciting!

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