Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Refitting the Bathroom 4. Shower

Another bathroom post, I hope you don't mind; our lives currently revolve around little else and so the blog will naturally do likewise for a while still.

Since I last posted the focus has been on tiling in the hope we'd have the main walls done before the sparky arrived to wire in our new shower on Tuesday morning. This was a close call that saw us grouting like mad on Monday evening, but we did get there.

Tiled and grouted walls

This shower is one of the rather exciting bits about our new setup, a gadget for the bathroom! In the old bathroom the shower was one of those "connected to the bath taps" jobs, except that the handle to switch from bath to shower had long since snapped off and a spanner lived on the bathroom windowsill for this purpose. Having seen so many of the bathtap/shower combos that have failed over time we decided to try something different.

Shower fittings on the wall all ready to go.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we tried to rearrange things, the bath and consequently the shower needed to go in the same location as before - with the shower head on a rather thin and flimsy stud wall. Worried about the weight of sitting a classic electric shower there we've opted for a digital shower instead. Any excuse!

The main body of our shower, tucked snuggly out of the way.

With a digital shower the bulk of the unit sits tidily away under the bath with just a small outlet for the shower head required in our stud - hopefully much less strain on the wall. The shower is controlled by a remote unit which, in the case of the one we've chosen, is wireless (you can also get digital showers where the remote is connected by a long length of wire). This means it can sit anywhere in the bathroom with no worries about water flow and pipework.

The wireless shower controller

Getting the shower wired into our mains has been the only job we've employed someone to do (well that and soldering up our pipework mishap), and yesterday Andy came and sorted it out for us. We used Andy to help us sort out the electrics when we first bought the house and he did all that was needed yesterday with minimal fuss which was great. All we need to do now is silicon around the edge of the bath and we can have a shower!
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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Refitting the Bathroom 3. We Will Rebuild!

One long weekend (and it felt very long!) and we've made some good progress on our bathroom project. Here's a quick whiz through of what we've achieved so far:

We finished gutting the place. The old suite was removed on Saturday and we stripped out the floor boards too. As I mentioned at the start, a rotting floor was one of the motivations for getting this project done - it was good to see it go.


We burst a pipe. Yes, you read that correctly! In getting the floor up we cut one of the pipes to the central heating system (the nearest pipe in the photo above) and so had the boiler off until the very kind plumber could come and solder it back together for us three days later. Oops! It turns out our pipes run so close to the floor boards that they touch which might explain why we get so many creaks and bangs as the heating warms up.

We laid new chip board, complete with drawings of where all the pipes are to stop some poor sod in the future making the same mistake. In the process we've also found that the joists are a medley of heights so there's no way the floor will ever be flat. Useful.

The toilet in a temporary setting while we sorted out the new floor boards

We replaced the toilet with its new "back to wall" counterpart. The cistern will be hidden inside one of the new cupboards once all is done.

We've tiled the wall behind where the bath is going. We figured this would be much easier without the bath in place. With a little more time we'd have tiled further but the deadline of going back to work was looming over us so...

First wall of new tiles all stuck in place
We fitted the new bath. By 10.30 the night before we went back to work we were both able to wash off all the plaster dust, tile adhesive and general dirt to become presentable again! We're feeling very grateful that we decided to use speedfit plumbing as Joe managed to get most of the fittings for the bath and shower together in about half an hour.

There's lots more to do yet, but it feels like we might be on the homeward stretch now - we're rebuilding rather than tearing down anyway. *Sigh of relief*
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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Refitting the Bathroom 2. Painting and Tiling

Last weekend we rather excitedly made a start to our bathroom project. We've had to work out a fairly careful schedule that meant it was basically a functional bathroom for the majority of the build, and with that in mind this week we have:

... emptied the room of all the fixtures and fittings including the heated towel rail we had fitted a couple of years back. This is about the only thing we're hoping to reuse at the end of the project.

... removed all the tiles. We did this one in stages so that the bath/shower area was protected for as long as possible. By the end of Friday though we'd stripped them all out. Unfortunately some of the plaster board couldn't stand the abuse of yet another round of tile removal (we think we might be the third or fourth to attempt this) and we'll need to re-plaster this area before we put in the new bath or start tiling.

... painted the walls. The areas that wanted painting are, unsurprisingly, not overly close to all the plumbing work so we got this done last Sunday. The walls are now "green blue" which is a minty green colour, and hopefully once we've fitted the cupboards and new tiles we should have a nice neat painted edge.

... painted the gloss work. For the same reasons as above we got this one done early, we just need to be careful maneuvering the baths in and out!

So at the end of the week our bathroom was still all in place (sink aside), but ready for a long weekend to break the back of the task. Hopefully by the time we're back at work on Wednesday we'll have the new toilet and bath all fitted and maybe some tiles up too. That's plan A anyway....

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Refitting the Bathroom 1. Getting Organised

When we bought our house there was one job that was most definitely on the hit list right from the start: completely redoing the bathroom. There are many reasons for doing this, not least that the bath has leaked so many times that we're not sure how stable the floor is anymore, The current shell suite has certainly seen better days, and has a nasty habit of encouraging water to pool rather than drain nicely. The current layout has no real storage and all sorts of box sections to hide pipes that feel fairly bodged together.

In short we're stripping the whole lot out and starting again. We want something that feels fresh and clean, has plenty of storage and has a more modern feel to it. The room is just under a 2m square so there isn't much space to play with however we've got a plan that we think makes good use of the room:

So that's lots of new cupboards and a worktop that runs round the room
with a countertop sink, along with new toilet, bath and shower.
Oh and sorry the whole thing is so blindingly bright!

Its taken quite a bit of effort (and several years of stopping and starting) to get all our thoughts pinned down but we're finally there and at the end of last week we put in an order for most of the parts we're going to need. Joe's hoping to achieve most of it himself, with me as a sidekick (and a little bit of wiring from the electrician). Did I mention that this is the only bathroom - and only toilet - in the house so everything needs to stay fairly functional throughout the refit? Watch this space!
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Sunday, 8 February 2015

Hello Garden, it's been a while

Last year wasn't the best time for our garden. We gave it very little attention, all told. Our free weekends were mostly spent walking the hills around our Welsh home, and then we promptly upped and left for the whole Autumn. December seemed to run away with us, and now it's 2015 and it's a mess!

We've managed to put in a couple of Sunday afternoons work recently and already things are feeling better. We've been digging over what was left of our veggie patch, removing the remains of last years sunflowers, beans and spuds. Tidying up the edges and having empty beds full of freshly dug earth has made the world of difference to this area. The hens still have free reign in here too and and are enjoying digging over the freshly turned earth for us. Unfortunately we've also caught them helping themselves to the freshest tenderest parts of the purple sprouting which might be why we're not seeing any signs of shoots on that yet.

The fourth in our set of beds is still awash with little weeds and the dead remains of last years annuals - but the bulbs don't seem to care and are happily pushing through anyway.

Joe spliced in some new hazel sticks to the archway currently supporting our apple trees. Once they're big enough the two trees should be self supporting, but for now we needed to repair the damage done by high winds over the last few months, causing all of the top cross pieces to snap.

Talking of high winds, last winter we had many friends lose fence panels and kindly donate them to our wood burner cause (us included). Unfortunately they've spent the last year sitting on our patio waiting to be sorted but that's finally done and is no longer the eyesore it once was. We now have a good pile of wood ready for burning, a small pile that needs splitting into smaller pieces, and a bonfire pile of bits that are too thin to be worth the effort. We can now see most of the patio again! (Trust me in saying that this is an improvement - I don't have a "before" photo to demonstrate this).

Joe also set to our established fruit trees with some freshly sharpened secateurs, giving them a winter prune. The bird feeders have had a wash and are now back in position with fresh seed.

That sounds like a lot all listed out like that, but its only been a few hours work! Things are looking much tidier and while there are still quite a few jobs on the list it feels like we're now in a place to plan what we want to do with the space this year...

Feeling blown about...

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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

In My Kitchen: Trying Something New

Joe and I are definitely creatures of habit. We love to cook and experiment - Joe's entries for the Great Swift Bake Off could be taken as proof of that - but when it comes to our everyday dinner we end up eating the same things over and over again. They're good things, we're not denying that; actually, it depends on your definition of good. All are tasty, not all are healthy!

This year we've decided we're going to cook more new recipes (note that: we are going to cook more new recipes). In January we managed that three times, enjoying spanish meatballs, Thai prawn, ginger and spring onion stir-fry and spiced chicken, roasted pepper and hummus flatbread wraps.

The meatballs were a definite hit. I always like the thought of meatballs in a rich tomato sauce, but often find the result a bit dry and bland. The use of the olives in these, along with a packet of well seasoned crackers instead of breadcrumbs (though not M&S for us) meant that they were neither. Hopefully these might make a regular feature. Unfortunately we weren't quick enough with the photos for this one.

The stir-fry wasn't quite such a success, though was better on the second night when the marinade had time to sit for a while so that might be the answer.The prawns themselves had good punch of flavour which promised well. the rest just needs a little tweaking to help it along.

As always we employed our bread machine to take care of the mixing and kneading with the flatbreads needed for our final recipe. We left the dough to prove for a couple of hours as Rosie recommends before ignoring her instructions and rolling them out with a rolling pin! We also added a tin of chickpeas to the chicken and peppers to be roasted off in the oven which works well. The only thing that could have improved this recipe would have been fresh summer salad leaves - but that simply means we'll be giving it another go in a few months.

Linking in with In My Kitchen run by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Should keep me out of mischief...

I have great hopes that this will be the Year of the Jumper. Joe has a project plan up his sleeve which we'll hopefully let you know about in due course; meanwhile I've started on my third ever hand knit jumper (first and second) and I'm really happy with how its going.

There's the soft, purple, wool that's proving really nice to work with. This is Sirdar Snuggly DK and was a christmas present.

It's a pattern that requires some concentration but not too much. I've gone for Baby Cables and Little Ones Too for this project, and at the moment I'm working through the garter stitch yoke with the cables in various shapes and sizes. I'm hoping the endless rounds of stocking stitch that I know are coming up will provide great knitting for when I don't want to have to concentrate at all too.

Finally it's my first top down sweater meaning I can try it on and get excited about progress probably more often than is strictly necessary. Unfortunately I'm finding the size of the needle restricts trying it on properly without transferring it onto waste yarn, but that doesn't stop me trying!

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