I just re-read the post I wrote about how great Martlet’s Builders were at the end of our last job.

It does make me wonder why we didn’t go with them this time round….

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Kitchen and lighting looking good but progress slow

by Chris Newson on August 30, 2013

Back to blogging again now I have a new phone. Yay! (An HTC One if you like your tech….really great….but muffled voice on the phone currently…handy!)

We are loving our fancy pants lighting by Stuart Moth of Moth Lighting. 🙂

Overall the work is largely looking great too, however I’m not feeling terribly chuffed about the fact that we are now at the end of the summer holidays and the whole project should have been finished long before they started. Probably best to vent that in the pub though! (If you’re buying then please shout)

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Yes the coloured lights are OTT but we couldn’t resist the tech and they can be white lights on most occasions!

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Ta tah! so we have a new bathroom!

by Chris Newson on June 26, 2013

really pleased with our new bathroom. it is definitely indulgent, and we feel slightly guilty about it,  but hey!

Can’t wait for that first bath!

Thanks to Majestic bathrooms in Portslade where all the kit came from. lots of Pura stuff in particular.

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Our en suite bathroom is making headway

by Chris Newson on June 17, 2013

we have gone for largely Pura fittings all from Majestic bathrooms in Portslade – an eccentric warren of bathroom displays run by guys with a massive knowledge for all things bathroom related.

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Don’t even ask about the weird cat flap next to the loo. it shall soon be gone! 🙂

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The mighty bifold doors are in

by Chris Newson on June 17, 2013

yeehaaaa! 4 x 3m high schuco aluminium doors at your service.

the right opens out. the rest fold left. when viewed from the inside that is.

happy days 🙂

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Poly pipe underfloor heating ready to be covered up

by Chris Newson on June 10, 2013

7.5 tonnes of screed is arriving this morning to cover the underfloor heating.

so by thus evening we should have a sealed room with a floor and everything 🙂

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So after trying to roll out the Osmo system which had worked well on the stairs into our cellar and having a major patchy mess on our hands, our builders Minton Young introduced us to a range of products by Morrells.

We went first for their light teak stain (they have a big range of colours),  and then their Induro floor oil which needs 2 coats with a light sand between.

Here is how it looks. . we love it so far. Which is lucky as we now have it on all halls and landings, and in our living room and old dining room.

I’ll let you know how it wears in.

I will also do another full post on, in my view, the perfect process of preparing and finishing a floor like this. because it is a right pain to do correctly and we have tried a few different ways now. And had some disasters en route!

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and for mixing with the sawdust from the finest and final sand to fill in the really small gaps. .

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and to glue in the antique wood fillets between the floor boards…

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I must be getting delirious but I really like these patch repair bits.  Not sure I’ll be allowed to keep them exposed though. ..I can feel the look of scorn from my wife already!

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Yay! Windows and doors start to go in

by Chris Newson on June 6, 2013

after spending hours looking through a lovely architecture book that I was given for Christmas,  we decided to go for white aluminium window frames to keep them light touch and keep focus on the opening not the frame.

We wanted shuco bifold doors as friends of ours have used them following extensive research. They are very well made (a german company), really solid, great looking thin frames, with a really solid smooth mechanism. They aren’t too bad on price either. We then just asked the supplier to match the windows as closely as possible.

We got all the doorsand windows from Express Doors.

Here’s how they are looking as they arrive and go in. ..

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so here is how we are looking inside and out

by Chris Newson on May 10, 2013

exciting to see beautifully painted walls after all these years of crumbling plaster walls and ceilings!

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and the outside is getting close now!

Here’s the view from our new en suite bathroom

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and first glimpses of how the view will be when doing the washing up 🙂

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walk in wardrobe

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en suite from the bedroom

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our bedroom all freshly plastered after being insulated

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Gradually we are getting there

by Chris Newson on May 8, 2013

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so the main supporting beam is in :)

by Chris Newson on May 2, 2013

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wow. this is looking pretty cool

by Chris Newson on April 30, 2013

amazing to see how it looks with wall number 1 out completely. 

the big steel goes in tomorrow. then down with the side wall!

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and some side windows appearing now too 🙂

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So that’s how they keep the house up then!

by Chris Newson on April 29, 2013

so today the big knock through has happened and our house is now held up by a few acro props.

I find myself not wanting to walk too near the back of the house all of a sudden!

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exciting times!  🙂

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End of the week update

by Chris Newson on April 26, 2013

So here’s how it’s all looking outside at the end of this week. all very exciting as it comes to shape!

inside lots of wallpaper stripping and plastering has been going on which makes everything look really nice and tidy 🙂

We are making headway but definitely need a good few weeks to get back on schedule. Here’s hoping!

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Insulating those thick victorian walls

by Chris Newson on April 19, 2013

As with all victorian houses,  keeping it warm is a bit of a battle.

In the last round of work we insulated the roof heavily.

In our bedroom we have now added insulation backed plasterboard to the main wall which takes the brunt of the weather and always feels like a cold-iator.

heres hoping we feel the difference!

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Loving our new olive tree!

by Chris Newson on April 19, 2013

A lovely new olive tree from arundel arboretum to hide the trampoline from the view we are soon to have.

35 to 40 years old apparently!  (a fine age if I may say so!)

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There is a lot of steel round here!

by Chris Newson on April 19, 2013

I really hadnt expected the steels to be this big. I’d love to know how much structural engineers over specify the size by!

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and some chunky brickwork for them to sit on!

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bring it on!

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Goodbye landing. Hello walk-in wardrobe

by Chris Newson on April 11, 2013

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Here comes the concrete!

by Chris Newson on March 28, 2013

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1 barrow down, 792 to go (or something equally painful!)

and in it goes…

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and we are done….

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The foundations are ready to pour!

by Chris Newson on March 28, 2013

ready for the big pour of concrete as today the foundations get poured!

This puppy will take half the load when the back of the house is removed

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and this pad will take the other half

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here are a couple more pictures that show what a big hole has been dug 🙂

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let the concreting commence!

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So again we are using our friendly super surveyors JJ Hatfield & Co – with David Witcombe again at the helm of our project.

This time JJH put the project out to quote by 4 companies, of whom they had worked with 3 before (including the firm who did our last building job so well), and 1 wildcard we introduced.

Although we were delighted with the previous builders we used, on balance this time we decided to go with the ones we introduced – Minton Young

I met them initially through a commercial office project that I put out to quote, and was really impressed by Minton Young’s eye and interest in design.

We have a good feeling that the robust building and project management talents of JJ Hatfield and the creative design & building talents of Brighton builder’s Minton Young, could be a knock out combination.

Minton Young have also introduced us to Stuart Moth of Moth Lighting – who has given us some awesome ideas for lighting in the new extension. More on that later! 🙂

We are certainly excited, and ready for an exciting 14 weeks ahead with Ross Murley and Simon Young at the helm.

I’ll keep you posted on how it all unfolds 🙂

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So the demolition begins!

by Chris Newson on March 22, 2013

so the starting gun has fired, the lean to and the garage have gone!

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Back in action…

by Chris Newson on August 22, 2012

So we are geared up and ready to go with the next phase….major kitchen extension and en suite bathroom addition….

Stand by for the blog to come back to life 🙂

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The perfect antique pine wood floor restoration

by Chris Newson on August 17, 2010

** STOP PRESS**

WE HAVE JUST ROLLED THIS OUT ACROSS OTHER COMPLETE ROOMS AND IT HAS REALLY NOT WORKED.

THE STAIN IS NOT TAKING EVENLY AT ALL AND THE FLOOR LOOKS LIKE A PATCHY MESS.

DO NOT USE THIS SYSTEM WITH OSMO STAINS.

I STILL STAND BY THE OSMO PRODUCT IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO STAIN YOUR FLOORBOARDS.

THE GOOD NEWS IS WE HAVE NOW FOUND ANOTHER SYSTEM WHICH I WILL EXPAND ON IN A SEPARATE POST SHORTLY.

I’ve spent a long time researching this one, and we’ve tried a number of different approaches ourselves. I am now happy to share what I believe to be the perfect way to get the best out of your lovely old pine wooden floors.

The process splits down into 4 main stages and there are a good number of different ways of doing each one of them. I’m not going to discuss the pros and cons of each approach as it would take forever, and there are plenty of other disparate resources online which do that if you want to compare.

I will say however that this way is definitely the best 😉

1) Sanding
Follow the preparation and sanding instructions on Professionalfloorsanding.com.

This is not a job that should be done by a novice. I wouldn’t try it myself (again), and I would be very sure that any tradesman I chose to do it had done it many times before, and was a patient and detailed person who will definitely follow the instructions to the letter. Get this bit wrong and it’ll look horrid forever. Be afraid, be really afraid.

2) Filling those pesky gaps
Use antique pine slivers made from old floorboards to fill the gaps. These guys at The Old Pine Company sell lovely ones.

This approach to gap filling will look gorgeous and last longer than any other.

3) Staining
Use Osmo Wood Wax Finish Transparent – we used 2 coats of the Cognac colour, for a beautiful rich dark oak colour on our original pine floorboards.

Well actually, we’ve only perfected the stairs to the cellar at the moment…in our living room we used the Osmo Polyx Oil without a stain and regretted it, and in the bathroom we used the Osmo Wood Protector as an undercoat, and the Osmo Polyx Oil on top, which made the floor a bit darker, but orangey, which we also regretted.

Perfection will now be rolled out across the whole house once we’ve saved some more pennies up!

By the way, the Victorians stained their pine floors as pine was a cheap wood that should either be painted or stained, so your restoration conscience should be completely clear when staining your floors.

People also say that it will look stained, but it won’t if you follow the sanding guidelines above and use the Osmo stains.

4) Finishing
Use 2 coats of Osmo Polyx Oil Original in Satin Finish.

It’s some kind of crazy combination of sunflower oil, soybean oil, thistle oil, Carnauba wax, Candelilla wax, paraffin and all sorts of other splendid things.

It will look more alive and be easier to repair than varnish, and its super-easy to maintain unlike waxes.

So if you follow this mechanism you’ll soon have a super lovely restored floor that you’ll love forever. All in all – I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

If you’re not yet convinced, then either try a patch somewhere using tester pots, or spend a few hours Googling until you’ve seen enough supporting evidence to feel ready to make the leap, or both of course.

Hopefully though this post will help someone reach the same conclusions we did with a bit less research, and trial and error than we managed.

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Great builders in Sussex – Martlet’s

by Chris Newson on August 15, 2010

So anyone who has followed this blog over the last year or two, or known us for the previous decade, will know we have had our fair share of builder nightmares.

We all know the score…It all starts off well, and then gradually standards slip as they lose interest, or some catastrophe conspires to destroy relationships to the point where you never want them to darken your doorstep again.

I’ve always fantasized about the Holy Grail of a great bunch of builders who you can really trust, that have great craftsman, and a committed team who care about your house as much as you do.

Well of course we thought we’d never find them…. but… as we have been through this job over the last few months we’ve had a creeping feeling that we might just have done so.

I have resisted this blog post until the end, to avoid tempting fate, but we’ve crossed the finishing line (bar a bit of snagging that can wait until after the school holidays) and I really think we have found them.

Andrew Bone, who owns Martlet’s is a great man to have in charge, and has put together a great team. He also has a really caring approach to the building, and as importantly to the family living inside it.

We started with Big Dave as our foreman – who was a legend for the ‘real man phase’ of the project. When earth needs a-lugging, and walls need a-building then it’s Dave who you want as your foreman – conducting the team with a firm hand, and caring about every small detail as if it were his own house.

Dave was a star, and when he went on holiday we did wonder if things might go off the boil, but elegantly Andrew swapped in a new foreman even better suited to the fine detail phase of the project – enter Colin.

Colin proved to be a total workaholic – here typically until 6 or 7pm, and towards the end 9pm and all weekend wasn’t uncommon. So much so, we kind of miss him now he’s gone. (Beers and movie night soon Colin!).

Again Colin wasn’t going to miss any little detail. Things that I would never have even noticed, he would spend ages getting ‘just so’.

He worried about things a lot, which resulted in a lot of thinking and planning, and a great job done. (Another reason for me to believe my ‘only the paranoid thrive’ theory has got legs, but that’s not for this blog.).

The quality of all the work was outstanding. Literally with everything they have done, we have been very pleased, from new walls to repaired sash windows and staircases, plasterwork, cast iron guttering, lead work, slate roofing, new dormers, painting…the whole lot has been done to the highest of standards. (I’ll get some photos up shortly to show you what I mean.)

So all in all I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Martlet’s to anyone – and in fact they have already started on our neighbours’ house as a result.

I would definitely recommend you get Dave or Colin as your foreman (I’m not sure who else Martlet’s use, but a great foreman as well as a great boss is definitely key), and having seen both these 2 in action – they are indeed great.

By heaping praise on Martlet’s I wouldn’t want to detract at all from the great contribution to running the project smoothly that JJ Hatfield & Co have made. They are of course the super surveyors who have designed, project managed, specced out, and guided all the work on the house on our behalf

Thank you David, and thank you Cath. Once again – a great job done, and again I could not recommend JJ Hatfield’s highly enough to anyone taking on a major building project.

When we’ve saved up the pennies for the next phase of the work we will certainly go to Martlet’s for it. (As long as they keep their prices keen of course!), and of course we’ll use JJH too.

Life’s too short to keep trying new builders when you’re a fussy git like me, and having found the dream team of JJ Hafield’s project managing and Martlet’s building, there really is no more need to keep on searching.

If you are contemplating building in Sussex use them both. Definitely. And feel free to email me, and come and have a look at what they’ve done here if you need convincing any further.

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Digging the wine cellar

by Chris Newson on May 9, 2010

There are many bits of doing up this house that make me feel too lucky…guilty lucky…our new wine cellar is definitely top of the list.

Under our dining room, for reasons best known to the victorian builders, we had a half dug out room, and couldn’t resist the temptation of turning into a wine cellar.

So having knocked through into it, it transpires that it’s perhaps only a quarter dug already – not a half. Oops. Well we’ve started, so we’ll finish.

So a bit of underpinning later, we now have a reinforced concrete floor and breeze block walls, forming a room about 2.5m square.

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We’ve been recommended Wineware – a wine racking company in Rustington, West Sussex, so I dropped them a line to see what they could help us come up with.

Chris, at Wineware, has been incredibly helpful (and patient!) as we worked up what i’m hoping will be a really useful space in which we can develop a new hobby. Yes – we know very little about wine at the moment – other than we like it a lot – so this is very much the beginning of a new journey. I can’t wait!

So we’ve gone with a mix of Magnum bottle racks, double depth criss cross racks (to maximise the amount of bottles we can get in), and case racks (which i’m told are a very handy way to keep the Bordeaux). We’ve also got some worksurface with space underneath and above so we can stack up cases of beer, mixers etc… and have somewhere to lean and pontificate.

We’ve also gone for a Wine Corner C18 IN air conditioning unit, and 10cm of Celotex insulation in the roof to keep the room at the right temperature and humidity.

With a last minute steer from David H – we’ve also kept a good chunk of space free for stacking up cases of stuff that’s going to be in store for the fairly long term. His words of wisdom are echoing round my ears still – maybe if I write them down, I’ll remember to take heed… “50% of all wine put in cellars ends up being thrown away as people buy too much that just doesn’t keep – so be patient, and take it slowly”. We’re going to do our damnedest not to make that mistake.

All that’s left now is for the racks and air conditioning to be installed and for the drinking to commence. I’m really excited about it all…Bring on that first weekend in the Loire valley – yes David I’m going to take you up on the offer – it sounds like an awesome way to spend a couple of days and begin this exciting new journey. Happy days 🙂

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Replacing concrete tiles with slate

by Chris Newson on May 9, 2010

So at some point about 30 years ago, someone decided that putting concrete tiles on a roof that was built for slates was a good plan. I guess the theory was that they would last longer. Unfortunately they didn’t consider the massive weight difference, and therefore Victorian rooves all over the country are gradually spreading under the strain.

We lived in fear of what we might find once the tiles came off… but actually it would seem we got away with it. That is officially a first for us!

So, the rafters are all in pretty good shape but we want to get slate back on there anyway, to help bring our baby back to its former glory.

Welsh, Spanish or Chinese slate seem to be the options, and Hatfield & Co have had some bad experience of Chinese and Spanish slate (lots of breakage as they were put on), so we were gently steared towards Welsh slates, and as luck would have it they were the ones that looked the nicest of the samples we had to choose from – so Welsh it is.

It feels good to go Welsh in any case… as apparently that’s where it all would have come from in the Victorian times, as the great new railways shipped it all East.

We also get a small dose of eco & patriotic warmth that wouldn’t have been quite the same had it been shipped in from China.

I can’t wait to see how it looks in situ 🙂

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Insulating the roof

by Chris Newson on May 9, 2010

So as our heating bills are somewhere between outrageous and astronomic, and due to the sieve-like quality of our roof we are whipping the tiles off, we thought it might be a good moment to insulate the life out of our roof.

So here’s the formula:

1) 30cm of fibreglass insulation on the floor of the loft
2) Solid Celotex cut between the rafters
3) Triso Super 10 (19 layers of silver foil, reflective film, wadding and other such clever stuff all in 30mm) over the rafters

Then a breathable membrane, battens and slate go over the top.

We’re figuring that it’s best to do even more than modern building regs require, on the basis that we’ll get the money back in heating bills over the next few years. Fingers crossed!

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Cleaning up those victorian bricks

by Chris Newson on May 9, 2010

Well, this wasn’t something we’d planned to do… but having got the scaffolding up, it seems we would be foolish not to clean the bricks on the front of the house.

Restore from Wimbledon is the company of choice, and a soft scrubbing brush, hydrofluoric acid and a jet wash (with a bit of help from a grinder on some of the tricky bits) are the instruments they have selected.

It transpires that our bricks are actually a lovely creamy lemon colour beneath 125 years of grime, and that it takes about 5 coats of acid and a whole bunch of elbow grease to reveal their true splendour.

[Edit] With hindsight I would never let anyone use a grinder on any brick again. It’s too hard a tool. The bricks end up uneven and I am worried at what long term damage we may have done to them.

You should also be aware that keeping the water out whilst jet-washing involves a staple gun attacking your lovely window frames.

I have to say, I wouldn’t use Restore again. No restoration company should be recommending grinding bricks, and I would have appreciated being warned about the staple damage in advance.

I would definitely recommend cleaning the bricks, and the acid and jet wash worked brilliantly, but if I ever did it again, I’d seek out a different supplier, and watch them like a hawk.

If anyone does find a superb brick cleaning company, do let me know so I can spread the word.

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Stopping the leaks…

by Chris Newson on April 9, 2010

1 large tarpaulin over the dormer window and removing this crazy roof-light might help keep that water out.

Who actually thought that gaffer taping a roof-light together on a 4 storey building was a good idea??

Cowboys Ted!

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Bookmark this category

No messing about. We got leaks & we’ve got to fix them.

If we’re going to stop this place leaking like a sieve, then it’s time for a new roof & new dormers…. and hey we got the scaffolding up, so we have to sort out the render, chimney stacks, windows, guttering et al. whilst we’re at it. The money pit strikes again.

Time to change the plans again. The kitchen extension can wait. Let’s get cracking with the roof and the basement 🙂

Scaffolding up. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain for the next month *ahem*

I’m going to get blogging more now building is underway again…

Back soon…

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Did we actually buy a giant collander? Curse that rain!

by Chris Newson on February 28, 2010

OK – so having just found our third new leak this morning I feel compelled to moan. These old houses are gorgeous but crikey once they have gone to seed just trying to keep the weather out is a nightmare.

Our soon to be en suite bathroom had a small lake on the floor this morning where the bay window roof decided to give up the ghost under the duress of yet another night of constant rain. And of course it’s pouring through the floor and ceiling below – messing up our newly perfected dining room. Damn it.

We also have (lots of ) water running down the wall to the right of our front door (under the porchy bit, so it’s meant to be dry). That’s going to be a scaffolding job just to work out what’s going on.

The third leak is I suppose technically still the second, but hey it’s pouring through the floor and soaking all those boxes we never quite got round to unpacking in the cellar. Nice.

So 8 towels 2 buckets, a saucepan and a box of paper later we have done everything we can until Monday when I’ll be calling our surveyor’s and Project Manager – JJ Hatfield – to try and get the builders round quick smart.

We were warned by everyone that these houses are a constant project and eat money. Everyone was right.

Time for a drink now.

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Planning Permission……Approved!

by Chris Newson on November 7, 2009

It’s been too long since I blogged but I couldn’t miss this one….our planning permission for the next 2 phases of work….officially Phase 1 and 2 (you may remember Phase Zero was never meant to happen)…has been approved. Happy days.

If you want to know the details, here’s the planning documents and decision.

In short, we’re knocking down the garage, widening the drive, replacing the roof tiles with slate, redoing the dormers, and enlarging the kitchen and opening it up onto the garden…in 2 phases.

8 weeks of waiting, no objections from anyone and 1 small request for a change from the Conservation Officer, and now we’re full steam ahead for Phase 1 building works to start on the 1st February 2009. That’s the theory anyway.

The only change the Conservation Officer wanted related to the wall at the front of the house. We thought the swirly plasterwork circles in between the pillars had been added after the original railings had been removed, but the Conservation Officer reckons they are original.

We’ve had another look up and down the road and there is 1 other house with the same plasterwork, so he could well be right. Anyway it’s a minor change that we’re happy to go along with.

Now for the small matter of getting all the detailed drawings done, building control approval, and a full schedule of works drawn up…not to mention going back out to tender to find a new builder….don’t ask….let’s just say we have still not found builder paradise yet…maybe I’ll explain more one day. For now though suffice is to say that:

1) we won’t be using GT Developments again
2) If I ever ran a building firm I would have my own retained, reliable and competent plumber
3) if you ever think about using Hodges & Marten as plumbing subcontractors then contact me for a reference first

That’s a story for another day though.

I would add though that JJ Hatfield’s project management has been excellent throughout and are as highly recommended now as they were at the start of the job. I am beginning to get the feeling that in the building world this is praise indeed.

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Victorian Cast Iron Radiators

by Chris Newson on July 25, 2009

Victorian Cast Iron Radiator - The Daisy, The Victorian

Oh Radiator of Beauty, I love you so.

We all remember leaning against chunky old school radiators on a cold day…perching on top of them until you could take the heat no more.

They really are things of great beauty. Why oh why did 150 years of progress end up with horrible white tinny things screwed to the wall?… and radiator covers…no thanks.

There are a lot of beautiful Victorian cast iron original radiators out there in reclamation yards. You need to make sure they have been well reconditioned.

However after a bit of digging we decided to go with newly made Carron cast iron radiators. Carron have been making the same radiators since Victorian times and are still going strong now. They had some great designs, we could choose any finish we liked, and best of all, my Dad could get them at trade prices. Happy days! ☺

Victorian Cast Iron Radiator - Carron, The Victorian

Victorian Cast Iron Radiator - Carron, The Victorian

I’d be lying if I said putting old Victorian cast iron radiators in was a cheap exercise, but they are beautiful and really do make the whole Victorian feel of the house come alive. If you’re working to a budget, then maybe try and squeeze one or two in where you’ll love them most. You won’t regret it!

P.S. For your info, we went for the Antiqued Finish (which is basically a distressed French Grey). It looks lovely on both The Daisy and The Victorian models which we went with. I think it would fit with pretty much any colour scheme.

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Yummy Victorian Light Switches

by Chris Newson on July 25, 2009

A lightswitch of joy!

A lightswitch of joy!

If you didn’t know that light switches could make you happy, then you have led a deprived life and need to get out more. Actually that’s me isn’t it. Hrmm, well, if you’re reading this, then there’s a fair chance that light switches can make you happy too, so I’ll go on…

Working out what light switches to put in a Victorian House is not the easiest of things to do, as the light switch only really came into existence in late Victorian times, so most of our houses would have been built without them, and pretty basic first generation light switches would have been dodgily retro-fitted by inexperienced electricians soon thereafter. Building control would have a fit.

This was one of the parts of the job where we tried to make a nod to Victorian ways without returning to exactly what they would have done.

After a bit of research, it soon became clear that the dolly switch (a stick with a little knobble on the end) would have been what would have been used for the switch itself. This would probably have been mounted on a dome sticking out from the wall. They would most likely have been made from UNLAQUERED brass (don’t get me started). Some of the domes would have been plain, some more ornate. They’d probably have been mounted on a block of wood.

Although I’m sure some people would be happy to go with something along these lines, it was a bit much for us, but after a bit of hunting around we managed to find some flat brass plates with a dolly switch on from Broughtons…and we love them!

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Curtain Poles for Bay Windows

by Chris Newson on July 25, 2009

So after many a soul destroying hour of searching for a simple curtain pole to go in the bay windows in our lounge and dining room, we have finally given up looking.

We do not want fancy finials (another new word we’ve learned – the bits that go right at the end of a curtain pole), or tracks, or any other fancy shenanigans.

We didn’t really mind whether we got wood or metal. Apparently the Victorians used either – obviously metal’s easier for a bay though. They did like them simple as well though apparently.

We knew we needed something with just 3 fixings to the wall. 1 at each end, and 1 in the middle – The only way of getting curtains off the windows and still able to close without using any fancy modern tracks.

Our friends, Pete and Mog recommended The Anvil Iron Works – local Brighton blacksmiths with an artistic bent – who made their rather nice bed for them. We went to see their work at a local Open House and decided to get them on the case.

Hey presto, we’ve got exactly what we wanted. They look great and sound awesome when you open/close them (you didn’t know that the sound of closing curtains could make you happy now did you!)…and they weren’t any more expensive than a lot of the hideous modern options either. Result. Good find Mog! 🙂

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Hampton Court Flower Show

by Chris Newson on July 9, 2009

Shepherd's Hut Garden
Shepherd’s Hut Garden

To get a bit of inspiration, on tuesday I headed to Hampton Court Flower show. I’d never been to a flower show before, so I was interested to know whether i’d enjoy it or not.

I did. 🙂 A good day out with my mum and sister. It was really nice to see some amazing gardens and plants, as well as some fun/interesting garden furniture and bits and pieces for the home.

We had to dodge a few thunderstorms, but generally the weather didn’t cause us any problems. I felt distinctly middle-aged, but hey i’m getting used to that now.

Paul Dyer of WaterFeatures.co.uk had a stand there…we’ve decided to use him to put a stream into the garden next spring. (Slightly awkward use of the the Royal ‘we’ there – still trying to get the missus bought in!).

Dyer's Show Garden

Dyer's Show Garden

Check out his website WaterFeatures.co.uk to see an enthusiastic rant about how streams should be done!

You can see my photos of the show here, and using the wonders of social photo sharing you can see other peoples’ too in this Flickr Group.

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Planning the building work

by Chris Newson on June 25, 2009

OK, so there’s a million jobs to do which will cost a King’s ransom to get done. If we do them all at once we’ll be buried in builder’s dust for a year, bankrupt and probably divorced…a plan is required…

There’s the inevitable weighing up of things that really need doing…fixing that leaking roof for instance, and things that make you smile…reinstating cornices, decorating, that kind of thing. Heart vs head..that old struggle…head never seems to win with me…

So here was our initial conclusion:

Phase 1 (Spring 2009):

  • Kitchen Extension
  • Sort out leaky roof in dining room
  • Ground floor decorations
  • Replace rotten cellar window
  • Split cellar into rooms and dig wine cellar
  • Merge loo and bathroom on first floor

Phase 2 (Spring 2010/2011)

  • Replace concrete roof tiles with slate
  • New dormer windows
  • Decorate exterior of house
  • En suite bathroom
  • Decorate the rest of the inside of house

It begins to dawn on us that Phase 1 is going to get held up with changing our mind over the design of the kitchen extension, and getting planning permission. If we want to live in a house that doesn’t resemble a squat, then we’re going to need to break phase 1 up a bit….hark the sound of the heart beginning to edge a lead over the head!

So Phase Zero is born (January 2009), the kitchen extension and cellar can wait a year…

  • Ground floor decorations
  • Cellar window replaced
  • Dining room leaky roof fixed
  • Proper steps put in between kitchen and diner
  • Cast iron radiators to replace horrid white ones (how did that sneak in there!)

So everything was set for a January 2009 start, all decisions made, no need for further prevarication or change… when on New Year’s eve the cooker decided to blow up…damnation, Pandora opened her box once again…

De Dietrich Range - A thing of great beauty!

De Dietrich Range - A thing of great beauty!

There seemed no point in getting a temporary cooker, so we undertook a quick but extensive bout of research (and agonising) to decide what would fit in the future kitchen extension. It had to be Pyrolytic, it had to have 2 ovens, it had to be gas on top….well that limited us to a De Dietrich range as they are apparently the only people in the world who make such a thing.

Nice and easy you might think, but typically the beast, although a thing of beauty, was 20cm bigger than the chimney opening it had to fit into, so suddenly a bunch more building work was added to the job…oh yes and then there was the stripping of the bay windows and the replacement of the 2 fireplaces, and the sudden change of mind from doing a doing a temporary repair on the dining room roof to a full blown lead roof.

The lessons learned…give the plan time to mulch before locking it down, and keep flexible. Have a mechanism for revising the project plan once you’ve got going – in other words have a good Project Manager. No matter how much you plan not to, you will change your mind.

Enough for now. Until next time.

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Choosing a builder

by Chris Newson on June 17, 2009

Always a tricky one this…do you use those builders you’ve used for odd jobs over the years? do you go with the one recommended by a friend? do you use an architect? a project manager? do you even do some of the work yourself?

Super Surveyor Jim Hatfield

Super Surveyor Jim Hatfield

As chance would have it, my sister had some bad luck with a house a few years ago and met Super Surveyor Jim Hatfield. He does actually have his own super-suit.

Jim and his crew (JJ Hatfield & Co to be more polite – and one feels one should be polite around Hatfield’s) do surveying for legal cases and building surveys, and they also do architectural design and project management. Jim is a restoration nut – he even has is own steam engine – so he seemed like a good person to have around for a project like this.

Anyway, i’m jumping the gun, we actually got Jim involved to do our building survey – for which he wore the famed super-suit – 9 hours of crawling around in the rafters, and a whole bunch of report writing later, we benefited from 2 inches of pure weapons-grade building survey joy – identifying every single problem with our future baby. For the first time in my life I actually trusted a building survey. Needless to say we bought the house.

Now Jim was so familiar with the house, and having been so impressed with him, it seemed folly not to give Hatfield’s a crack at project managing the renovation.

OK, so you could easily think that it would cost a bit more because of their fees, but actually it meant we wouldn’t go over-budget, we wouldn’t get any surprises, we’d have someone totally on top of the builders and we wouldn’t need to engage an architect separately.

We figured that in the end the costs would work out about even and we would get a much higher quality, and less stressful, job done. Much more importantly, 6 months in I still believe all of this to be the case.

David Witcombe - Project Manager

David Witcombe - Project Manager

So having got Hatfield’s on board, they specified every tiny detail of the first phase of the job – down to how many times to stir the paint in the morning (leave nothing to chance!) – and then put the job out to 3 builders to quote on. 2 of the builders they had worked with before, and 1 wildcard.

The wildcard came in cheapest, but their references just didn’t make us feel good, so we ended up deciding on builders no.2…

Ladies and Gentleman I present to you…the builders all our hopes are pinned to…. GT Developments.

So Job Done (well for this blog post anyway). Builders for phase 1 selected. Building work to commence January 2009 and last 3 months. Project manager, surveyor and heir to the supersuit, David Witcombe, was assigned.

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And so it all began…

by Chris Newson on June 15, 2009

Crikey, so where to start…so much to say, but nobody even knows this blog exists yet…I guess I have to imagine lots of people excitedly hanging on my every word, and hope that one day somebody will come along and read it, and hopefully find it either interesting or useful – either would be nice 🙂

OK, so off we go…it all began when we got the keys at the beginning of September 2008…yes that’s right, just as the UK housing market peaked…but hey ho!

I should introduce you to our baby…she’s a big old Victorian House in Brighton…6 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a cellar with lots, and yes I really do mean lots, of work needed.

In the beginning...there was a lot to do...lots and lots..

In the beginning...there was a lot to do...lots and lots..

You can see from the outside that she needs some love. The previous owners had done a great job of converting the house back from bedsits to a family home. They also redid the plumbing and electrics – saving us two big expensive (and boring!) jobs, but then ran out of steam (or maybe it was money…judging by our depleting bank balance that was almost certainly it).

So what we start with is more than slightly rough round the edges, but at least it still has most of its original plaster cornices, roses, fireplaces, stripped pine doors, beautiful stained glass, sash windows, high skirting boards etc..and it really is a lovely layout, with great open halls and landings, high ceilings and a lovely established garden….. but…..and it’s a pretty big but to be honest…

Pretty much the condition of the whole house...ouch!...

Pretty much the condition of the whole house...ouch!...

As you can start to see from the picture in this post we’re going to have to get rid of those concrete roof tiles which are squashing our baby as each day ticks by, rip out the horrific dormer windows and the dodgy DIY velux (which our surveyor reckons was from an old camperan!), replace the nasty plastic guttering with cast iron ones, repair all the windows, clean off the bricks, overhaul the front garden, recondition the old victorian tile path, banish the concrete drive…and that’s just what you can see from the front of the house!

Once you get inside we’ve got to restore the cornices and rose in the living room – they were lost in a fire – Strip the artex off the walls, remove 120 years of paint from the cornices and ceiling roses, put a proper staircase in between the kitchen and the dining room, make the bathroom on the first floor habitable, move the airing

A fine example of a DIY dormer!

A fine example of a DIY dormer!

cupboard from the landing, put in a decent cooker and kitchen units….in fact we’re going to extend the kitchen – but more on that later.

In fact really the only way you can get a good idea of the scale of what we have to do is through photos – i’ll get snapping. But hopefully by now you have the gist. We have bought a lovely house, but it needs a hell of a lot doing to it.

As we go through the journey, it is my intention to update victorianjack.com with the story as it unfolds, and build it into a mine of useful resources for anyone else doing a similar job…we’ve already uncovered hundreds of really useful sites and books that I wish I’d come to know about without quite so much digging. So hopefully you’ll find the end product useful, and I hope it might even give someone some encouragement to take on a similar challenge. Enough for now though…in the words of the immortal Governator….”I’ll be back!”

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