Restoring an old cottage...

Tag: restoration (Page 1 of 2)

The Most Glorigeous Bathroom in the World

Welp, it’s pretty much finished: behold the fruits of about two years’ labouring. We LOVE IT. The shower is amazing, like standing under warm rain. The cubicle is huge; you could have a party in there with at least five people comfortably.

Here’s what we’ve done since we finished and fitted the oak door…

  1. Fitted an octopus hook just outside the shower cubicle to hang towels so they’re easy to grab without dripping all over the floor.
  2. Fitted a drunk octopus hook on the back of the door for dressing gowns.
  3. Fitted the towel rack above the radiator (just got to learn how to fold towels all fancy like a posh hotel or an Instagram influencer).
  4. Made little shelves from scraps of oak and fitted them inside the boiler cupboard. On the right is all the cleaning products, away from any electrics. On the left is a shelf full of loo rolls, which we buy in bulk from Who Gives a Crap because they’re super-ethical and they wrap their loo rolls in funky paper. Just inside, below any switches, is a shelf for the electric toothbrushes.
  5. Re-spoke-shaved and sanded the door because it swelled and started sticking.
  6. Took the shower controls apart to find out why we couldn’t change the temperature and realised we’d been flannels, and fixed it so we can now have showers of variable temperatures.
  7. Got my Vogue mirror reframed and hung it.
  8. Wallpapered the toilet alcove wall in the most incredible Oceania wallpaper from Mind The Gap. We only used a tiny bit so watch out for us papering more of the walls in this elsewhere in the house…
  9. Bought our Big Boi plant from my friend Steph’s shop Löv-Leaf and he looks amazing.

We do still have a few things to do:

  1. Make a mirror out of bits of oak to go behind the sinks.
  2. Make towel rails out of scraps of copper pipe, to fix to the sides of the sink unit, so we don’t drip all the way over the floor to the towel rack.
  3. Add a little trim to the cupboard corner.
  4. Touch up a little paintwork here and there.
  5. Add architrave to the doorframe to tidy it up.
  6. Find some amazing artwork for one of the walls. I have my eye on a piece in a local art shop.
  7. Find a chair to put clothes on and so the cats can sit and watch us have a bath like the little weirdos they are.

But it’s pretty much finished. We’re delighted, and super proud of ourselves, and we love it in there.

Next project: turning the Rayburn Room into a cosy games room. One day it’ll be a library, but first we have to do the building work when we extend and build a new kitchen. Which will hopefully be next year!

We Made A Door!

This post is all about making oak doors.

But before we dive into that, we wanted to share the finished shower cubicle — because we finally grouted the tiling and silicone sealed all around and it looks flipping lush.

Oh — and Joe used leftover oak skirting boards to finish the ends of the stud walls, and they look beautiful too.

Ta da!

Okay, onto doors.

Now, the bathroom is along a tiny corridor because the fireplace and chimney take up a lot of space between the two parts of the house. We decided to put the door at the bathroom end, because there was already a doorway there.

A long time ago now, Ken built us a new doorframe and we asked him to keep it wonky, like everything else. With hindsight, this may not have been the most sensible request — although it does look charming.

We asked the guy who made our staircase and all our windows (and he’s making new front doors for us) for a quote for the bathroom door — just a simple oak plank door, nothing fancy, and the quote came back at £653 + VAT.


Not saying it wasn’t worth it — Kelvin does beautiful work — but it was much more than we wanted to pay for a single interior door, so we looked around at pre-made doors. None of them really looked up to the standard we wanted.

“Well, it’s a simple oak door,” we said. “How complicated can it be?”

Turns out, not complicated — but extremely fiddly. We can see why doors are expensive things because it’s not so much the making of them, but the fitting of them.

The process was really fun though and we’re super proud of ourselves. Here’s how we did it:

  1. Went to Ludlow Salvage and bought £200 of 25mm thick oak boards, and chopped them up so they were a little longer than we needed them to be.
  1. Bought some plastic clamps and borrowed a router from Joe’s mate who is a chippy and set everything up on the table in the garden.
  2. Cut the planks to roughly the correct height (at the highest corner — remember the wonky doorframe?) and thoroughly sanded and spokeshaved and chamfered the edges.
  3. We used the borrowed tool to create tongue and grooves the length of the planks, which was nerveracking but SO much fun, then whooped with delight as it all fitted together beautifully. We laid pennies along the tongue and groove gaps as an expansion gap, and clamped it all to the table.
  1. Cut the spare planks into three ledges to tie the door together and support. Some people recommend gluing it all together; we decided not to do that because it can explode with movement and that sounded like more drama than we fancied. So we went old school and screwed it all together.
  2. We drilled holes so we could sink the screws, then cut little cores from spare oak to fit into the holes and hide the screws. We stuck them in with wood glue, lined up the grain, then sanded them smooth. Looks pretty good!
  1. When the planks were fastened together and everything was sturdy, we took the door upstairs, stood it as close to the doorframe as possible, then drew around the doorframe onto the oak to create a template to get the shape as close as possible.
  1. Then came the endless and verrrrrry careful cutting, shaving, sanding, fitting, cutting, shaving, sanding, fitting, repeat ad nauseum. Finally got it into roughly the right shape and size.
  1. We treated it for woodworm (more on woodworm later) and then oiled it with Osmo and left it for a couple of weeks to go on holiday, perform on trapeze, and generally be busy.
  2. We bought some hinges from From The Anvil, who make gorgeous ironmongery, and a latch which Vicky hated so it’s going back and we’ll get a different one that meets her exating requirements. It was at this point we discovered the merits of vertical doorframes, because although the door fit perfectly, it wouldn’t open wide enough to let us in, because it was opening downhill and the bottom was getting stuck on the floor.
  1. Cue much swearing and faffing and pondering. In the end, we decided to chisel out a space in the doorframe and countersink the top hinge, and pack out the bottom hinge, thus making a vertical door in a wonky frame. We also took a couple more millimetres off the bottom corner of the door. It now fits perfectly. Behold!

We are so delighted with it — it looks AMAZING and we’re really proud of ourselves. We’ll definitely be making the rest of the internal doors ourselves, partly because we want to spend the money elsewhere, and partly because we really enjoyed the process.

There are few things quite as satisfying as making something useful with your own hands.

Mental health tip: go make something with your hands. Paint or write or draw or carve or make a table or a door or something. It’s magical.

The Endless Tiling

“Let’s create a niche in the shower!” they said.

Narrator: they should not have created a niche.

The tiling of the shower cubicle is, finally, nearing an end. Except we’ve run out of grout with the final few tiles and corner crack to go. Which really is a suitable thing to happen given how inept we’ve been with the whole thing so far.

It started with the niche.

We didn’t want those wire baskety things in our shower because Vicky is a snob and thinks they’re skanky.

So a niche it was.

Then Vicky found The Most Expensive Shelf in the World, so now we have a very complicated niche and a cool shelf. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Back to the beginning.

The Tiles

After at least 14 different tile samples, we finally decided on these:

These are much more gorgeous in real life.

They come in random packs and deciding where to place them became a fun game. We bought a load and then they sat there in the bathroom for literally weeks as we procrastinated on actually sticking them to the wall.


Because we were scared. Joe has never tiled before, and Vicky hasn’t tiled in about 15 years. And never textured tiles.

So our friend Jodie came round with her tile cutting machine and pointing finger, and made us begin. (Thank you Jodes!)

Jodie, wearing paint-covered grey clothes, kneels on our grey slate shower tray holding a tile, and Joe slathers tiles in adhesive from a bucket.
We get by with a little help from our buddy Jodes

I actually love tiling. It’s super zen squishing them into place. The cutting was no problem either because I didn’t do it, Joe did. And he did an amazing job, whilst hating every moment of it because he can deal with loud noises and my brain can’t.

We got so excited about the tiling activities that we just tiled right up to the niche without stopping to consider whether we should.

We made a grave error.

The niche itself was no problem, we built it out of Wedi boards which are magical. But tiling the niche? That required more thought than we gave it, and more planning, and more general common sense, which is in embarrassingly short supply anywhere within three metres of Vicky.

So we tiled up to the edge of the niche, and then thought about the corner trim.

Public Service Announcement: this is the wrong order to do that in. Do not do this. Get your trim first, then do the tiling, so it all fits.

What followed was a nonsense of epic and needlessly expensive proportions.

The Niche Trim Shenanigans

Because the tiles are thick and have unglazed edges, we needed to hide the edges. So normal tile trim wouldn’t work. We wanted anthracite grey tile trim to go with the grout, the shower tray, and the general ambiance.

But because we needed a really big wide trim to hide all our mistakes, all we could find was school-changing-room steel, which looked, frankly, gash.

What we needed was T-trim because it’s the only thing wide enough to cover the edges.

So the search began, and eventually we found some floor edging trim that actually looked great. And it was an acceptable colour. But we didn’t buy enough of it because… well. I think I’ve explained why.

So we did three-quarters of the niche trim, and then it sat there for another week.

Niche with missing trim from the top.

Eventually, another shipment arrived — this time far more than we needed, and we finished.

And so our niche looked like this:

Ungrouted niche looks pretty swish with its ludicriously expensive trim.
Not worth the faff.

It does look pretty swish but was it worth the trouble? Absolutely not.

The Most Expensive Shelf in the World

While searching for tile trim, I got distracted by other cool stuff, some of which was this funky steel shelf that gets grouted into the wall between the tiles:

The world’s most expensive shower shelf in the corner casts cool shadows onto the turquoise tiles below.
Does look cool tho

And yes that is how much it cost.

It’s super-thin, powder-coated texture with funky slots for drainage, and it just looks aces. Really easy to fit. I want another one now to put high up and put a plant on. Joe says no but I’ll just order one at some point and then fit it and he probs won’t notice.


We finally did get around to the grouting, after procrastinating on that by going to London to see our friend Edd and Cirque du Soleil for the weekend, but we almost finished it today.

Except for the bit at the top and the corner, because we bloody ran out of grout. Joe says they were 150g short of 5kg, so I’m wondering if I can complain about it and get some free grout. I’ll report back if I remember to do that.

Joe wears an orange fleece, back to the camera, and kneels in the shower cubicle grouting the turquoise textured tiles.
Looks aces!

Still to do…

So yeah, we’re almost done in the shower cubicle. Still no idea what we’re doing about the shower screen, but we’ve decided it needs to be floor to ceiling to prevent Joe from bouncing water off his head into the rest of the bathroom, and it needs to be a fixed pane and a sliding door because we’re worried about water sloshing everywhere.

We haven’t siliconed around the ceiling or around the shower tray yet either. And we haven’t fitted the shower rail riser yet, or finished plumbing in the secondary shower head, or fitted the shower control plate. But we are nearly there, and it’s gonna look amazing.

The Holy Bathtub of Dreams

Vicky has always wanted a beautiful, freestanding bath, and so we embarked on a quest to find the perfect tub.

We quickly discounted copper because we don’t have a spare bazillion pounds, and we weren’t sure about a claw-foot bath because of the gubbins underneath. Then, we discovered Lusso Stone and their stone resin bathtubs at much more reasonable (but definitely not cheap) prices.

A mix of old lime and rustic oak and sleek modern furniture would look great, we thought, so we chose a bathtub that looks a little bit like an egg.

It’s the Lusso Oasis Mini made in white stone resin, matt smooth finish, and the ends are slightly higher than the middles.

It’s 1,550mm long (rather than 1,790mm) because I’m short and feel like I’m going to drown if my feet can’t rest on one end while my head is on the other.

Then we chose two matching Soho countertop basins in the same material to go onto the upcycled sideboard we found in a local junk shop. More on that shortly.

Both the bathtub and the basins have white click-clack push wastes, so no dangly plugs.

Lusso kindly threw in the waste traps for free too.

They look amazing.

Getting the thing upstairs was quite an adventure involving a group of our friends and a lot of swearing and giggling. The bath sat in our living room for a couple of months until we’d finished putting the floor and plumbing in, then we couldn’t put it off any longer.

So Joe, Josh, Dan, Jade, and I manhandled it into the hallway, up the stairs, and into the Wonky Room.

Spot the helper elf
Many people and a bathtub in a very small space. PIVOOOOOOTTTT!

The only casualties were Josh’s trousers, which split up the back, and a tiny chip out of the bath plinth — at the back, luckily, and which I glued back in anyway so it’s invisible.


A few days later, Joe and I shuffled it into the bathroom and popped it onto pieces of timber and towels so we could get underneath and fix all the waste plumbing together.


This was a massive pain because we couldn’t get the waste to stop leaking.

After a lot of messing around and trial and error and an enormous amount of silicone sealant and plumber’s mate, we finally fixed the leak — and settled the bath onto the floor. Where it looks stunning.

Isn’t it glorious

What was urgent was Vicky having a bath before Christmas.

The only thing left to do is pop it back up on a timber again so we can stick some silicone sealant on the base, to stop it moving around when it’s empty. But that’s not urgent.What was urgent was Vicky having a bath before Christmas.

Which she did.

Behold the Christmas Eve bath. Hurrrah!

Obligatory legs in bath pic


Approximately 387 years after starting this bathroom project, the Stone Room now has a proper floor!

We laid marine ply over the joists as a subfloor, and then had a good old think about what to put on top. It being a bathroom, it’s gonna get wet (or at least damp) so we needed something that could cope with that.

Bamboo was an option, so was oak or another timber, and we considered tiles or laminate or lino.

We don’t like laminate or lino, and decided against tiles because we didn’t want them to crack as the house moves.

In the end, we chose engineered oak: about 5mm of solid oak on top of ply. It stands up well to temperature and moisture fluctuations, and looks exactly the same as solid oak. We bought random lengths in rustic grade, with tongue and groove, from Good Bros Timber near Leominster.

Lovely piles of floor all sorted neatly. Guess how many times we moved it all around…

The bathroom isn’t quite square, despite our best efforts (nothing in this house is square), so we weren’t sure where to start laying it, and dithered for a while until Vicky made the unilateral decision: we’re starting in the tunnel just outside the room. So we threw a few boards down to do some measuring and make sure that, as far as possible, we’d start with a full board along the wall.

Careful measurements and a giant finger

Cutting the boards to fit the tunnel was pretty fiddly, and we added some battens so we could create a neat step later on.

But we did it, it’s neat and tidy, and then we were motoring.


We used secret screws — countersunk screws screwed in at an angle into the tongue, to hold the boards down and prevent creaking. And we used odd offcuts of floorboard as knockers, to keep the tongue and groove tight and minimise gaps.

Helpful labelling.

We did our best to leave an expansion gap of around 10mm all around the edges of the room, but some of them were a bit tight. Hopefully it’ll be fine.

There were some fiddly bits — we had to cut holes for the radiator plumbing, the bathtub waste pipe, and the sink plumbing and waste pipes. We’ll do the bath tap holes from below later.

We cut holes using a hole saw or a spade bit set, depending on the size we needed, which does a really neat job. And thankfully our measuring was accurate and everything fits. Hurrah!

Precision engineering, that.

It took us about three days to lay the main floor, on and off. Then another half day to add the trim around the edge to hide the expansion gaps.

We made our own tool to cut the beading at angles, rather than buy one — but quickly realised our home-made tool was a bit crap. So it was off to B&Q again to buy a proper one, which worked much better.

Covering the gaps with a proper tool.

This was a right pain, because we don’t have skirting boards, just lime plaster. And lime plaster does not like having stuff knocked into it. We found some oak beading from B&Q which is actually really nice, and did our best to mitre it neatly — although, as already mentioned, nothing in this house is square. We were a bit miffed with the small gaps but honestly the next time we walked in, we didn’t even register it. We’ve bought some Osmo paste to create a resin to fill them in. If we remember.

I did Osmo the oak beading though and it matches the floor now, and looks lush.

Looks pretty good yeah?

Then we No More Nails-ed it to the wall, with the odd little tack into the floor to hold it still. It looks ace.

Let There Be Lights!

Next up was the lights, which was also a bit of a faff.

Modern spotlights have quite narrow bezels, which was a bit of a problem. Not the plasterers’ fault — just awkward.

We’d left the lights dangling rather than cut through the plaster afterwards, but with hindsight perhaps it would have been better to cut through. We were worried about damaging the plaster and cracking it.

However, when we came to fit the spotlights, the bezels weren’t quite big enough in some cases to cover the holes.

So we went on a search to find larger spotlights or bezels we could retrofit — in the end, Screwfix came through and we’re pleased with the result.

The spotlights look great and didn’t cost us too much in money, just a bit of faffering in time.

Smart spotlights, grumpy Joe

Then we fitted the wall lights, and Vicky decided she didn’t like them in the bathroom after all. They’re lovely (they should be, they were very expensive) but very big.

They’re IP rated so they’ll make great outdoor lights for the new front porch, so not wasted.

But it did mean finding a second set of lights for the bathroom wall.

Etsy came through with a simple wire cage and fancy lightbulb — they’re not the most expensively made things in the world, but they’re sturdy enough and look great.

Brassy cage-style light fitting with squirrel cage bulb against white wall.
These glow beautifully. Terrible for makeup. Great for cosy baths.

The light switches, on the other hand, were expensive and feel like they’re made of cheese. So we’ll see how long they last!

Again, though, they look fab, and we’re super happy so far.

Bathroom Walls & Windowsills

A few weeks ago, we had the plasterers in to lime plaster the bathroom walls. They also offered to fit our oak windowsills as part of the service, so we agreed.

Wish we hadn’t, mind…

The plasterers did a beautiful job of the plastering, and we’re really pleased.

We wanted curved window returns, and smooth as possible everywhere else (given that it’s lime and a very old house, we weren’t expecting or wanting perfectly modern smooth).

Isn’t it beautiful?

Beautiful plastering gloriousness

The windowsills, though, were another matter.

Honestly, I don’t know what goes through people’s heads sometimes — what they think is acceptable, and what they think their clients will think is acceptable.

We bought a great big chunk of green oak from Ludlow Salvage, which is gorgeous, and our plan was to cut it to size and fit it in the windows.

So we explained what we wanted to the plasterers, had a chat, and they said no problem. Off they went.

I checked in every now and then cos I work in the garden, but didn’t want to be an annoying hovering client.

Should’ve hovered.

Because instead of doing what we would have done — scribed the edges of the unplastered window returns to get a snug fit before the plastering was done — the workdude guessed.

We assume he guessed, anyway, because the fit wasn’t anything like snug on one window, and he just flat out cut out a big square chunk for the other window.

And the plasterers didn’t plaster over them to cover the gaps.


And on the other one, they filled the hole with plaster. Good lord.


Massive eye roll all round.

Sloppy AF.

Lime plastering is enormously expensive, so we did not find this amusing, especially given we absolutely could have done a better, neater job of this ourselves.

After much arguing and withholding of balances, they eventually came around and did an appalling job of “fixing” it.

They tried to argue that the wood was “inadequate”, whatever the hell that meant. At this point, I got Joe to do the talking because the usual Men Talking Down To Women bullshit happened and honestly it’s exhausting and I had a lot of sharp objects to hand, so I couldn’t be bothered.

Whereupon we did some more arguing and withholding of balances, and generally grumbled about standards and wasted time.

And eventually they did an acceptable fix. It’s not ideal, and we’re still pretty annoyed, but at this point it was dimishing returns.

I know most people won’t notice, but I do, and it’s like a gnat bite. Unimportant but irritating.

Still, it looks flipping gorgeous now because we sanded the sills until all the watermarks and saw marks were gone, and gave it several coats of Osmo oil, and now they glow in the sunlight.

See the little piece in the left hand corner they cut and glued in? YES SO CAN I EVERY DAY

Sloppy workmanship aside, we’re deeply happy with this room so far!

We’ve painted the walls and ceiling in Flutterby chalk paint by Earthborn, and it looks gorgeous.

Advanced Shower Tray Engineering

We’ve done some painting! Which feels a lot like Making Progress.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves because we’ve done lots more than that.

We’ve finished the structure of the shower cubicle!

The Shower

For the ceiling, we decided to use waterproof panels in white, because they’re really easy to fit and keep clean, and easy to cut to size. We chose Multipanel.

We cut it to size, squirted high-grab adhesive on the back, and pressed them into place:

Ceiling panel with zig zags of adhesive ready to go up.
Adding adhesive to the panel

We put pressure on with a complicated arrangement of leftover cork panels to avoid damaging the panels and long battens of wood and leftover floorboards to help hold it all in place while it dried. Worked a treat.

Stud wall visible beneath ceiling panel, held up with cork and pieces of wood to brace.
Not how the pros would do it, but it worked pretty well

Once the ceiling was up, it was time to fit the waterproof Wedi panels to the stud wall frame. We chose Wedi boards because we wanted something that’d be super waterproof and easy to tile onto.

We cut the boards to size, and fitted them butted up against each other, with Wedi sealant between the joins to ensure no leaks.

The boards fix to the stud wall with screws and washers, which we then painted over with liquid membrane to prevent any water seeping through, and also painted over all the joins. We’ve got tons of the stuff, so we also painted the entire subfloor with waterproof membrane too, because why not?

You can see we’ve also fitted the shower head into the ceiling, as well as the extractor fan and spotlight. We cut round holes into the board for the shower valves to poke through as snugly as possible, and are pretty pleased with ourselves at how neat they are.

Grey Wedi boards lining a shower cubicle. All joints, screws, and floor painted with pale blue-green liquid membrane.
Sealed and fitted Wedi boards

Using the Wedi boards, we cut smaller pieces to create a wall niche in the shower for bottles and stuff (see above). It’s really nice to work with.

The Poo Pipe

When we were away in Canada, our neighbour Graham (who is a builder) put a whacking great hole in the side of our house and poked a poo pipe through it, then ran it down the outside wall and into the main sewage pipe. He also dug a trench and put in a new manhole cover for us.

I don’t think he enjoyed that very much, but we are paying him so that takes the edge off. It’s why we didn’t want to do it ourselves…

So, we now have the toilet waste plumbed in, which was a big job we were a little anxious about.

Speaking of big jobs we were anxious about, we’ve also fitted the shower tray.

The Shower Tray

The shower tray weighs approximately 5,273 tonnes and is made of stone resin. The instructions say to lift it up and gently drop it into place.


Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) we’ve built the shower area so precisely that there was definitely no room to “gently drop it into place” so we had to be creative.

We mixed up sand and cement in a 5:1 mix and added water until it was the consistency of mashed potato.

(Vicky’s aside: this gave me immense anxiety because one person’s perfect mashed potato is another’s sloppy disgusting mess. Is it fluffy? Is it smooth and creamy? WHO KNOWS? In the end we decided on our perfect mash and it seems to have worked out fine.)

Whiskey—our little grey cat—thinks every receptacle of water is hers. Here, she’s leaning right over the edge of a bucket to drink water out of it.
Whiskey supervised the whole process which is why it worked so well

Then we spread the base onto the subfloor, which we had painted with the same waterproof stuff we used on the Wedi boards. Rather marvellously, we managed to get the cement pretty much bob on level, so we felt smug about that.

Joe uses a spirit level to check how level the cement base is.
Looking level!

Next, we took some leftover 15mm plumbing pipe to use for runners. Imagine how they built Stonehenge with log rollers? Well, that was our idea for sliding the shower tray into place. There’s no way we could lower it in from above—it’s enclosed on three sides, with not enough room even to slide a piece of paper between the end walls and the tray.

Instead of rolling the tray along rolling pipes, we made little rails from the pipes, and then pushed the tray along them, into the cubicle, and then slide the pipes out afterwards to allow the tray to settle on the cement bed.

Using pipes to slide the shower tray into place onto the cement bed

Again, it was perfectly level all the way around, and there was much rejoicing.

If you want to see us in action, here’s a video:

Next time: the walls and windowsills…

The Stone Room Floor of Death + Woe

That floor we opened the last post with? Yep, time to go. It’s been grim. Really really grim.

We started downstairs in the Rayburn Room and ripped all the weird fake panel bits off the ceiling:

Ceiling panels

Ceiling panels were kind of structural…

Stripped off the fake panelling

Stripped off the fake panelling

Then we put on masks and gloves, took a brave pill, and Went Upstairs.

And discovered such delights as this section of floor which isn’t really attached on one side at all hahahaHAHAHA such fun!

Gap between floor joists lovely

This floor is actually held up here with hope

And this exciting bundle of bare wires that go who knows where and are stuffed into a broken junction box under the floor with highly flammable wood and dust and crap WOO!

An exciting collection of wires going who knows where

Fun with wires!

And this floor joist which is two scraps of wood held together by one old nail which I put my foot on AND NEARLY DIED SUCH LARKS!

Secure floor

Secure floor

We perfected our balancing techniques (and when I say we I mean Joe because I got proper vertigo up there looking through the floor at the room below it’s NOT RIGHT) and pushed out all the MDF ceiling panels. Which, we truly believe, were partly structural. Which is also terrifying.

In the end, though, we dragged out everything and ended up with this magnificent, cathedral-like space:

Truly cathedral-esque

Truly cathedral-esque

And this exciting door into nothingness:

White wooden door with black iron hinges opening onto nothing

It’s like a haunted horror house

So, yep.  Next thing was to fit the wall plates, which you can see my dad working on in the pic above, and then the floor joists, which we pretty much fitted in the same way as we fitted the ceiling joists above. More on that later…

The Floor + Ceiling of Almost-Certain Death

When you think about a floor, what do you picture?

Boards, maybe a carpet or rug… and beneath it, strong sturdy wooden joists built to last forever (more or less) and carry multitudes of footsteps..

That’s what we picture.

What we don’t picture is THIS:

The underside of the bathroom floor, scraps of timber joined with bolts

Fun with floors!

Note the poorly joined random scraps of wood.

This part was fun too—see the actual gap where the joist fails to connect with the beam?

Bits and pieces of timber joined to fill gaps when the staircase was removed

This is where an old staircase used to be

This is actually cool though because from the shape of it and the retro-bodging, we’re pretty sure there was a staircase in this corner of the room. We know this end of the house—the stone portion—used to be the village shop, and we think it may have been two separate dwellings at one point. So it makes sense that it’d have its own staircase.

Honestly I don’t know how we didn’t fall through that floor in the four years we used it as a bedroom.

But no more! Because we’re finally turning the Stone Room into a bathroom and the Rayburn Room into a library. Hurrah!

Before we go on, though, let us say this: although we’ve uncovered some fairly horrifying electrics and alarming structural stuff, we’re having a great time. Not just because this is genuinely fascinating and fun and we’re learning lots, and it’s extremely satisfying creating a home with our own hands…

But also because we’re getting a real insight in the history of the house and the resourceful and innovative (and delightfully eccentric) people who’ve lived here.

It’s a story of people who wanted to reuse as much as possible. Who perhaps didn’t have a huge amount of money, so did what they could with what they had. And who were absolutely unafraid of electricity.

We’re so grateful that we get to peek into some of this history, and catch a glimpse of the personalities who’ve lived here over the centuries. What a privilege to be the caretaker of a place like this 🙂

So. Here’s what we’ve done over the past few weeks, since the bats moved out (actually they never moved in again we don’t think, but we still held off work until the start of September)…

Stone Room Ceiling Horrors

We started by pulling down the ceiling in the upstairs Stone Room. My dad came to help and got thoroughly covered in dust, bat poo, and general awfulness from a roof space filled with 150 years of living. Oh, and we all enjoyed the exciting wiring, which makes absolutely no sense at all.

My dad in a mask up a ladder sorting errant wiring

My dad shortly after I yelled at him and Joe because they weren’t wearing masks

That ceiling structure, too, was made of spiderwebs and hope, but at least it didn’t have to actually hold anything up.

It came down pretty easily, which is when we spotted this:

View up into the eaves of the rubble wall, with loosely packed terrifying rocks

The Giant Death Rock of Damocles: yes, it’s that massive one right in the middle

This boulder is so big that we couldn’t lift it out. So we were somewhat alarmed when we touched it and it moved. And not just a fraction, but in a menacing way that suggested it had had enough of sitting in the roof space and was ready to come down and start a fight.

You’ll notice it’s positioned perfectly above the doorway and it absolutely would have crashed through the brittle plastic ceiling panel (not kidding it was plastic), onto the unfortunate person’s head, and thence through the floor to the Rayburn Room below. And probably from there into the molten centre of the Earth.

The first thing we did was mix up some lime mortar and cement it back into place, along with a few of its smaller but no less rowdy siblings.

So we’re no longer afraid of giant death from above, which is a relief.

Next up: clear debris from the tops of the walls and find stones suitable for drilling into and affixing a ring beam.

We levelled this around the room so it’s very horizontal. We’re pretty smug about this which is amusing because it’s now the only horizontal thing in the house.

Joe and my dad drilled 16 mm holes into the stone walls, and we inserted threaded steel rods. We hung off them to make sure they were strong enough. I think you could probably hang a car off them.

Joe angle grinds the bolts to a more sensible length. Many sparks.

Pretty fireworks so I immediately stopped proceedings to put up a firewall…

We are extremely ingenious and use a snow shovel to protect the flammable stuff from sparks

Very sophisticated firewall to prevent sparks from starting a fire that’d kill us all

In fact, we’re fairly sure that if the rest of the house falls down, that ceiling structure we’ve built will remain standing.

Next up: some scribing, maths, a little bit of swearing and sweating, and we drilled some holes into the ring beam to correspond with the wall bolts—and held our breath as we finagled it into place.

The ring beam placed above the bolts so we could scribe the distances and drill holes that actually fit

Much careful measuring and drilling of holes…

It fits! Hurrah!

Bolts in, and it’s time to do the other side.

Joe and I repeated the process on the opposite side of the room, et voilà! We have a ring beam.

Ring beam fixed to the stone wall with great big bolts

Woo hoo! The holes all matched!


Next job: cutting the cross joists to length and fitting them to the ring beam with brackets. This was a fiddly job made more fun by working at height on a wobbly floor covered with pieces of chipboard that may or may not collapse at any moment.

We used little pieces of wood to make hangers so we didn’t have to hold massive pieces of wood over our heads, then wedged the joists in tightly, then screwed the brackets into place—and tightened up all the ring beam bolts which had loosened as we expanded the house.

Little piece of wood fixed to the large joist to position it

Making our job easier with spare bits of oak

We’re pretty pleased with the result. The ceiling is probably strong enough to hold a bathtub. It’s what you might call overengineered, but that’s cool. It’s not going anywhere.

Joe hangs by his hands from two of the new ceiling joists

Joe proves that we are fine workpeople

(Aside: this moment started a competition which has not yet ended. Joe did one pull up, so I did three. Then Joe did three. So I did four. And so on. We’ll continue this until one of us is dead.)

Joists all fitted and looking solid

The joists are in!

Look at how wonky that roof is! Love it.

Then we fitted a loft hatch, because of course we did. Here it is, floating in a ceilingless ceiling:

The loft hatch ladder hangs down, forlorn and alone, in a ceilingless room

Loft hatch to nowhere

The ladder is very long and as yet uncut. Joe looks on, gurning.

Think there might be more ladder than room here

At some point, of course, we’ll put up a proper ceiling and cut the ladder down to size. But for now, we’re happy with our overhead installation art.


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