We finally moved into a few weeks ago – hooray! While there are still quite a few jobs left to do, including at least two major ones – cladding the external wall of the new extension and putting something down over the plywood floor – it is fabulous to be finally in.

Superficially, the majority of the house hasn’t changed much – we have retained the original look, I hope, which was always the intention.

One day, when it is finally in a decent state, I will post some “before” and “after” photos, so that you can make up your own mind.

In the meantime, I found out yesterday that we have been accepted onto the Superhome network! Not all the details on the website are correct, but we are there, house #170.

I am not sure how accurate the calculations are but:

  • Before (unrenovated condition): 12.9 tonnes of CO2 per year
  • After (house as it is now): 5.1 tonnes of CO2 per year
  • Reduction: 7.8 tonnes, which is a reduction on the original of 60%

Lets hope that translates into an equivalent energy bill saving ….


Less than three weeks to go!

Sorry for the long silence but we have continued to make progress in renovating the house.

The house may not be finished for a while longer, but we are moving in in less than 3 weeks time. This decision has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that we have completely run out of money, or very nearly so.

These last few weeks have been nerve-racking in that we have had to make series of last minute decisions about the decor. The first floor is going to be plain plywood for quite some time, I suspect, but the ground floor is going to be a combination of cork tiles and turquoise parquet. Its all going to be very white, except for the turquoise bits of course.

I did quite a lot of research on cork tiling before buying – this is a useful guide if needed.

Not our house

Not our house

Turquoise parquet

Insulating RSJs and some vintage graffiti

A while back, I realised that the cast iron RSJ on the new kitchen extension would form a great (=terrible) cold bridge. In the end, the solution that we have come up with is to pack the cross section of the RSJ with 100 mm of Celotex, then overboard that with 35 mm of plasterboard, 25 mm of which is Extratherm insulation. That should do the job – although  we won’t know for certain until we get a thermal imaging camera on the exterior next winter.

The rest of the house is gradually getting its internal insulating blanket – the majority is going to have 100 mm Extratherm, except for the smaller back bedroom, which has been already been finished with approx. 75 mm (because the room is just a bit  smaller).

Part insulated RSJ

Part insulated RSJ

Much of the wallpaper has been stripped prior to adding the insulation, in one room revealing some 94 year old graffiti on the dining room wall: “WR Clarke May 1919”. As it happens, last night’s final episode of the BBC programme, The Village, was set in 1919. Not the easiest of years!



I digress. We have also paved around the edge of the house – brindle, with grey edging.

Brindle paving

Brindle paving

Finally, spring is well underway. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the garden was about 70% of the reason that we bought the house, with the magnolia being about 65 % of that. On Saturday, I got a cowslip at the local plant swap today, organised by ABC LETS, so my job yesterday was to find and eradicate all rogue Polyanthus and begin to replace with something a bit more natural ….



Windows, doors and walls

The windows arrived this week and they are now in. Oh my, they look beautiful …. except for generally agreeing, the comment from Alan the builder was that the only problem was that the finish on them is too perfect .

In the end, we went for “Ecocontract triple glazed timber sliding sash” windows from the Green Building Store, with a whole window U value of 1.0. Of course, we won’t really know how they perform until next winter, but at this point I don’t have any major worries, especially since they come with a 10 year guarantee.  I have nothing but praise for the Green Building Store – the store and the people that run it are endlessly helpful; I don’t think there is an equivalent in the whole of Britain.

Tall window or small toddler

Tall window or small toddler (how do we still have pink wallpaper?)

The windows were sealed with sand mastic – a traditional product that doesn’t set and so doesn’t shrink – but may be vulnerable to being pinched by the local birds?

Sand mastic

Sand mastic

new windows

Front bay window – the window on the right is an entirely new opening

The sliding folding doors also went in on Friday, designed and managed by Park Farm Design – it was all a bit “Grand Designs” at one point, because we had our very own German sounding person to install the doors, Sunflex SF75, also with a whole window U value of 1.0. I would also recommend Park Farm Design, both for their service and competitive pricing.

Sliding folding doors being installed

Sliding folding doors being installed

Photos of the finished doors to follow – once the copper cladding is on…

Now that the house is finally secure we can crack on with finishing the internal work.

PS I am consistently getting hits on this blog for persons that have searched for “insulating RSJ” – I will post a photo of our solution to the problem shortly.

We’re not moving in today!

Today is the day that we were supposed to move in to our house, but of course we have long known that the refurb is running behind schedule. The fault is largely ours, because we were late in ordering the windows and folding doors – currently expected to arrive mid-April.

Its been so quiet of late that the our builder took a two week holiday in Spain.

At least we’ll be in by summer …..

So long solar, so long sedum

I am going to start by recommending J Tomlinson, a national firm with a base in Beeston, for their frank advice on the installation of a Solar Thermal hot water system for our home. Briefly, we have long known that the orientation of the roof means that it is not suitable for Solar PV, but many have recommended Solar Thermal for hot water – especially since the latter should soon attract a renewable heat incentive (RHI).

In the past few months, I have spoken to several alternative energy firms, all of whom scoped the property from Google Earth – and remained positive. A few have subsequently been around to survey the property, absolutely full of enthusiasm, but then not got back to me. I now know why! It turns out that the siting is such that Solar Thermal probably won’t pay back over the lifetime of the system, although only J Tomlinson have been straightforward enough to let me know.

Quoting their letter “After completing an assessment of orientation and hot water demand our designers calculations conclude that our standard range of systems would provide a limited supply of hot water and little pay back over the life of the system. As explained, we only propose an installation where we are confident the system will meet your expectations and provide a return on investment. This is not to suggest that other companies will be unable to meet your needs by using different product. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to assess your property for the installation of a Solar Thermal hot water system but on this occasion we are unable to recommend a suitable system.

Another blow is that for all sorts of reasons, the sedum roof (see previous post) is no longer happening. What a shame – the final nail was when we realised that the roof would be near invisible from the garden, in fact, near invisible from anywhere but the children’s bedrooms! There is a similarly daft story to tell of the attic dormer that has just gone in.

The sedum roof was always the vanity/eco-bling part of our project, more exciting than insulation (but less insulating), so its a shame its no longer on the cards. Maybe we will content ourselves with a green roof shed or garage at some point in the distant future …

Otherwise, work is progressing well, the insulation is beginning to go in, but there is no way we are going to complete by one month today, as originally intended. Although much of the work may be complete by then, we have only just ordered the doors and sliding folding doors, both of which have a lead in time of about 9 weeks.

Finally, I should have probably posted an image of the original SAP report for the house back in October. When we bought the house, it was in band G, the lowest of all energy efficiency categories. Unlike the figure, sorry, image, I sincerely hope that we are able to raise the house’s energy efficiency quite a bit above the “potential” band F.

SAP report

SAP report

View from the bridge

The builders broke through to the attic, so we can now see the neighbours’ back gardens. There are some very neat hedges.

View from the bridge

View from the bridge

Thanks to the dry rot, this also means that we are now in the unusual position of being able to see the attic roof from the ground floor kitchen. Three floors in one!

Three floors in one - shot taken from kitchen, looking up into back bedroom, then through that into the attic. Chimney ghost is still visible on the wall.

Shot taken from kitchen, looking up into back bedroom, then through that into the attic. Chimney ghost is still visible on the wall.

Its a bit of luxury, but should reap a warmth benefit and also mean that the roof won’t have to be touched for another 100 years – the builders are removing the tiles, underlaying and insulating underneath, then replacing them again. The lichens are still intact.

Relaying tiles

Re-laying tiles

In renovating the house, we are insulating at the same time as adding a kitchen extension and and attic bedroom. One significant flaw is that a steel RSJ is a perfect heat conductor – the one pictured below spans the width of the gap. We are obviously going to have to insulate either side and also in the cavity of the “H” cross section.

Kitchen extension - the heat conducting RSJ

Kitchen extension – although not visible at this distance, the heat conducting RSJ is supporting the breeze blocks above.

In looking for information on how to insulate protruding RSJs, I came across some inspiring blogs – Jack Kelly’s long and detailed description of insulating his living room is fantastic – made me realise that our house is actually in quite good condition. Another inspiration is the Victorian Solar House –  these guys installed 100 m2 of underfloor heating pipe under the roof tiles. They then constructed a 300 m2 thermal ground store under the house, to store the heat collected from the roof pipes. Gradually, the soil beneath the house will heat up, predicted to  reach 25-30 degrees after 2-3 years. A heat pump will use this heat store to distribute the heat around the house, achieving a COP of 12-15 (up to 5 is normal, I think). This is a fantastically ingenious design because it means that they will be able to use the summer sun to heat the house right through the winter – which I suppose is a thumb on the nose to those who criticise solar because it harvests energy when we least need it.

Finally, anyone considering taking on the Green Deal? Don’t!  Is there any any positive press on the Green Deal?