Happy New Year!
It’s been manic but brilliant over the festive period at A Yorkshire Home. We’ve had all the family over and generally our two years of hard work haven’t been reversed by kids going bananas and destroying the house- resounding success.
Christmas Dinner for 15, done!
Last year was a mad dash to actually move in, at this point last year we were wearing 17 layers to stuff insulation into walls and still freezing our respectives off until May. It took a mammoth effort from our family, friends, tradesmen and us to get to where we are now, alongside a hefty credit card bill and bank loan.
When I look at the house now, I can’t really connect all the dots to see how we got from a crumbling ice box to a home that family continually reminded us is bloody boiling.
It’s far from done though. It’s all about the snags. I remember when my family moved into a new build (shudder) and there was a hot line you could call up if you found any snags. As my parents are both Deaf, I spent a lot of time as an 11 year old calling up Ben Bailey Homes to tell them that our gutter wasn’t working properly, or that the security light at the back of the house was wonky, or that they’d missed a bit of sealant on the kitchen window. They’d promptly send round a handyman to fix it. Oh how I wish I had that hotline, had that handyman who’d just come over and fix all the snags that crop up with a new house. Because with a new house there are many, many snags and as we’ve basically built a house within a crumbing structure, we have a ton of snags. Many of them could have been avoided with effective planning but hindsight sucks.
Here are our top 5 snags, problems we’re resolving to fix asap:
1. The Showers
They’re plumbed in wrong. Yep. One of the main reasons I’ve held off on a big bathroom reveal is that we probably need to rip the tiles off the wall to both showers. Unbelievably the hot is plumbed into the cold and vice versa and the pump is having none of it. It means you can either have a boiling hot or freezing cold shower and there’s no middle ground.
This is obviously going to be a big and painful job. Our beautifully tiled bathrooms are going to have a big chunk taken out of them, we’ll have to replumb, put waterproof plasterboard back on and a waterproof membrane added, then they’ll have to be retiled.
Shower ready to be ripped out. Woe.
Lesson learned: plumbers mess up even the most basic job too. Don’t tile your bathroom until you’ve checked the hot and cold work, and that they mix properly.
2. The Underfloor Heating
You’d think we’d have noticed a bit sooner that the thermostats that control each room are controlling the wrong rooms. Brilliant. Manifolds need rewiring and we need a whole new thermostat for one room because it isn’t working. Thankfully, there’s nothing wrong with the pressure or the pipes under the tons of concrete. That wouldn’t be a snag. It would be the actual end of the world. This job is a fairly small snag but an annoying one as wiring it right in the first place would have done the trick.
Lesson learned: Electricians get things wrong, Underfloor Heating technicians happen to decide to change the plan for where the thermostats go without telling you. Grill them and test that things heat up when they’re supposed to.
Check the flipping manifold.
3. The Bathroom Lighting
Our ensuite shower had a sensor in it to detect when to turn the lights on (swish, I know!). I say had, because Paul nearly electrocuted himself (there were sparks and it tripped the whole house off) when he had to rip out the sensor as the weather decided to set off the lights. So with a strong gust of wind or two, the lights were flickering on and off. Not ideal when you currently don’t have a door separating the bathroom from your bedroom and the 90mph winds are on the go outside.
Lesson learned: don’t buy into new fandangled technology that is too sensitive for its own good.
4. Plug Sockets
In the wrong places, so many of them. Total mess-up on our part. Can’t even begin to explain how many need moving and how obvious the mistakes are.
Lesson learned: don’t be a dufus
5. Filling and Painting
Basically every wall needs repainting, because we painted everything before we moved anything in, obvs, and now every wall has been bashed by a piece of flat-pack furniture so has holes and chipped paintwork on it. Some walls have glue on them from the wooden floor, some walls we just couldn’t be arsed to sort out properly in the first place because we were exhausted after 3 weeks of painting so gave up. Back on it.
Lesson learned: Houses suck. Snags happen. You won’t only have to paint it once and bask in the Scandi-like glory of brilliant white paint. Especially if you invite small children over for Christmas.
So this year will be the year of the snags, alongside the creation of Pinterest-worthy home too with gorgeous soft furnishings, accent colours (yup, I said it) and perhaps a garden that is no longer a dumping ground…I can dream!
I remember the first time we walked into the house. The most appropriate adjectives for it are as follows: damp, freezing, dated, dilapidated, battered, structurally unsound, with a pungent smell of wee. Despite all of that, the best way to describe it was (and still is!) The One. We knew that this mess could be transformed from freezing damp wreck to a place where we’d actually be warm but it would take a while. We said a year tops, it’s taken two (and it may be warm now but it’s a million miles from being done).
Paul covering his hand with his jumper, in June.
When I was asked how I’ve made my house cosy by Web Blinds, I guess my answer is different to most. For most people, making a house cosy involves throws of various knits, cushions, soft furnishings, rugs, curtains, all of those lovely things. We’re not quite at that stage yet, I’d love to say we’ve made a breakthrough on making the house warm with lovely soft things to snuggle up in the Autumn months in as Winter draws in. We’ve got a few of those bits and pieces (albeit they are mostly castoffs) but for us, warmth and cosiness is more fundamental than that. It’s in making the home actually warm.
When you buy an old property, there’s this notion that the thick walls will be brilliant insulators. They’re not, they’re just big slabs of stone that immediately let heat and sound through. It meant that we could hear our lovely next door neighbour Patricia, truly enjoying Coronation Street word for word. It meant that when you walked into the house, even in the coldest winter, it somehow seemed colder inside than out. The challenge of getting this freezing cold hole into a warm, lovely environment where we too, could watch Corrie with a glass of wine seemed genuinely impossible. Adding to that the fact that conventional heating and soft floors (i.e. carpets) were a total no-go because of Paul’s allergies, we knew we had a big job on our hands.
We went for underfloor heating to all 3 floors and both Ecotherm board and rock wool insulation in every single wall, which we painstakingly installed ourselves – it took 4 months, lots of arguments, and still, we were freezing.
Insulation in every wall – Evil Rockwool and Ecotherm Board.
When we finally moved in, the underfloor heating gently warmed the limestone floor to the ground floor and the wooden floors upstairs too – our house was finally warm and I stopped being a total cow (ok, that’s a lie but I am so grumpy when I’m cold, and don’t get me started on being hungry AND cold at the same time).
To make it cosy though, there was one vital finishing touch: our gorgeous woodburner. We decided to make a very big feature of it by placing it pride of place in the corner of the living room, with the flue flowing up through the house, creating a warm, industrial feature in the bathroom too.
Pride of place, isn’t it gorgeous?
We’re finally able to snuggle up, watch and listen to the fire crackle and while away the winter evenings and there’s nothing cosier than this. It beats stuffing insulation into walls on Boxing Day, that’s for sure. We love our cosy home (and honestly, with the amount of insulation in it, we don’t need the underfloor heating on upstairs – it’s so, so warm!)
Up until a month ago, I barely used eBay. Now, I am addicted. I’m literally on eBay as soon as I wake up in the morning and last thing before I fall asleep, endlessly trawling through local listings to pick up a bargain.
I’m addicted because of the eBay local app from MoneySavingExpert – the app allows you to search by local collection only, where there are fewer competing bids and therefore, in theory, you can pick up more bargains. I’ve also recently discovered Auction Stealer – a site which bids for you, 10 seconds before a listing ends. No more last minute adrenaline rush and busting your budget because someone outbid you. It’s bloody brilliant.
So at the weekend, we did about 300 miles in a van, going from place to place and back again to pick up a selection of goodies I snapped up on eBay. I tested Paul’s patience quite a lot by having a line-by-line itinerary of items to pick up by a specific deadline. We headed to Cheshire to pick up a sideboard and made our way back over through Leeds and the surrounding area to pick up a rocking chair (which we had to sling in a skip because it stank of wee – a downside to eBay, no smellovision – only cost a tenner though, that’s the risk you take with eBay!), 12 doors, door casings and door furniture, a king size bed, 2 freestanding lamps, 2 bedside lamps and a bacon sarnie or two.
Every item needs a bit of TLC. I started sanding the sideboard in the street on Sunday afternoon. The neighbours now have not only a. seen me and Paul naked due to a lack of window covering in the shower and bedrooms but also b. think I’m an inconsiderate cow for sanding using a very loud orbital sander, in the street, on their day of rest. Oops.
More pics of upcycled eBay finds coming soon but in the meantime, here’s a £65 Ercol table I picked up and sanded for 5 hours solid (and it’s still not quite there), with this butterfly and the dreadful garden weeds to keep me company.