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Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010, 11:27 am
A standing renovation

Hello world. I haven't written here since April, apart from a one-liner on my birthday to announce the death of our cat. It's been that sort of a summer. I can't remember a tougher, more challenging year, with a crazy mixture of masses of work, and often nowhere to do it from: after leaving Kidlington in June, we lived in a mobile home park for four months, in an obscure location with no mobile signal. Why would we do that? To renovate a home in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. H has worked there for six years, L goes to nursery there already, and why we didn't do it sooner, I don't know. Or maybe I do: the only place we could find back in Jan/Feb was a 1970s bungalow (not quite the ancient cottage of our desires) which had been dwelt in by an elderly bachelor who had done nothing at all to it since, and was probably living in some squalor given how much of the place his family had ripped out. So we've spent those four months torching our savings and inviting all ilks of stress and workmen to help us sort it out. I did as much as I could myself - notably laying the wood flooring in the living room, fitting some of the kitchen and laying all of the underfloor heating, and ripping out the old 1970s storage heaters - but lack of experience and time prevented me from doing more. We've opened various bits of it up, and split one bedroom into two, and so on. New flooring, plasterwork, decoration etc throughout, plus rewiring and new plumbing, and new double-glazed doors and windows.

We wanted the renovation to have some decent green credentials if possible. The property is not on gas, and we (well, I) spent ages and ages agonising about what sort of heating/hot water system to have. We came wafer-thin close to getting an air source heat pump, but I've heard so many accounts of them not working very well that in the end we didn't - and we now have a fantastic (but veeery expensive) wood pellet stove with back boiler. Bertha, as she is named, looks like this, sitting on her trendy glass hearth:

She works in conjunction with her partner, Cyril, who dominates the airing cupboard (he's about 2m tall) and looks like this:

Cyril is not a normal hot water cylinder, but in fact a thermal store, which gives us mains pressure hot water among other things. Bertha and Cyril don't quite talk to each other properly yet (she ignores his commands) and a marriage guidance counsellor from Oxford Renewables, who installed them, is coming tomorrow. But it all works, and all we need to do now is insulate the loft properly. We'd hoped to convert the loft but alas have no money left - ditto solar thermal for hot water, can't afford it and the 10-year-plus payback time makes it a dubious investment. Anyway, if you ever want someone to bore you about eco-renovation, heating systems etc, I'm your man now.

A small example of before and after in the house is exemplified by the kitchen. Before: just a scabby sink, with a concrete floor with tiles containing asbestos on it. After: Ikea's finest (and some homely mess):

Plenty more to do - in the long run, we want to do something with the loft still, plus convert a 19th century (or older) outbuilding into my office - but we now have a nice home to live in which is effectively brand new.

Sorry, long ramble, but needed to purge a very very hard and stressful summer and look forward to new adventures. We've just had a fantastic holiday in north Wales, which marked a turning point, I think. And I can finally see the end of a really tough work period.

How are you?

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 11:59 am (UTC)

Your new kitchen looks lovely - even the sun seems to be shinier.

More before / after photos please!

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 12:04 pm (UTC)

Thank 'ee! I will sort out some more while the sun is shining...

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 12:41 pm (UTC)

Wow, I'm loving the wood-burner! What an awesome feature. I'm now starting to fully appreciate the amount of stress that renovating a place will cause - we started stripping walls this weekend and it's going to be a long road to looking presentable again. We're also having central heating installed next week, which I think is going to be something of an upheaval. So WELL DONE on getting there!

Sorry to hear about the cat tho :(

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 12:47 pm (UTC)

Having a kitchen fitted almost killed me, so god knows how people cope with full renovations.

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC)

That all looks magnificent. Well done and congratulations. We still hope to make it over before Christmas; but don't give Bertha an extra-special stoking on the off chance, will you?

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:16 pm (UTC)

Hee! Very welcome to pop over. Bertha is very friendly, as long as I remember to feed her. She does make quite a noise mind - on and off muttering and occasional roaring. Just like me, really.

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:21 pm (UTC)

Hey, good to hear from you! And congratulations on the house - it sounds great.

I've had a really tough year too, but now settled in London, juggling freelancing and study. Oof.

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)

Hi! Yes, sorry I never got the chance to say Auf Wiedersehn and wish you well. I wish you well! Hasta luego! Keep in touch.

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)

Is this a Spartacus thing? Only my saw is blunt.

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 01:53 pm (UTC)

Call me Iron Hat.

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 02:42 pm (UTC)

Wow, the house looks totally awesome! I hope you feel it was worth all the stress (it certainly looks it). And good luck with the new adventures! (BTW, in case you missed the news, we are embarking on one little adventure of our own... ;-)

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)

Cheers! And yes, only spotted your news today, but very excited for you - big hug.

Wed, Nov. 3rd, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)

Congratulations! Having never really renovated much of anything, I can only sympathise with all the hardships, but very good news to know you're now a bit more settled. We must find a weekend for a day trip!

Thu, Nov. 4th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)

Congrats on swish new house and funky wood burner! How am I? Well, I've just had three of our main funding streams cut, one of them entirely, so I'm pretty pissed off. How are you?

Thu, Nov. 4th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)

Um, am really sorry to hear that. Hope things don't turn out too disastrously.

Thu, Nov. 4th, 2010 01:10 pm (UTC)

Look forward to seeing the place. I really must pick your brain on laying underfloor heating.

Thu, Nov. 4th, 2010 04:05 pm (UTC)

Gladly. Our system is easy because it doesn't need a concrete screed on top, fact fans.

Thu, Nov. 4th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)

congrats! we must come over some time

Fri, Nov. 5th, 2010 10:13 am (UTC)

Looks great - well done. We are still unpacking and haven't decorated the hall yet, but are starting to make our place feel like home too.