The trials and tribulations of tiling

This week sees the joy of tiling the ensuite and WIR. We’re going for a 600×600 concrete-look floor tile with enough warmth in it to match the feature grey Spanish wall tiles (rustic subway design, as shown below). The feature tiles will go on the vanity wall, with the 300×600 glossy white tiles fitted in a brick pattern over the remaining. We’re tiling all the way up to 2400mm, and VJs on the top. Our tiler, Roj, is a man clearly fond of a good meal. He works to a gentle pace, although I must say he’s picked up since the contractor has appeared on site! He has been laying the floor tiles this week, and he’s nearly finished in the ensuite and will move onto the WIR in no time. I bet. BTW, we’re not having marble on the vanity: we’re going with a blackbutt wood. It’s a beautiful wood predominant in pinks and browns, and we’re having a top-sitting basin. Should look good with the slightly old-style chrome tap fittings we’ve chosen.

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The lads are about in force again today as they are now doing the East Wing (which I think they had completely forgotten about). On Sunday afternoon DH and I cleared out the room and now it’s ready for them to rip the guts out and start work. It’s a simple job in there: they’re putting in some French doors (which will eventually open onto the verandah but for now open onto a small enclosed vestibule), replacing some louvre windows at the front with casement windows, and replacing one bank of louvre windows on the east side with wall. I said to DH, it’s never going to be used as a verandah so why should it be lit like one? It’s too hot and bright in there most of the year. The room will be insulated, relined, and have new powerpoints and a light. A simple job and one they should have done in a couple of days depending on the availability of the windows.

Speedy Gonzales!

In academia everything seems to move super slowly. This becomes the normal. By contrast, the building works here seem to be going at a lightning rate. Yesterday the plumber was in roughing in all the pipes, and today the electricians are roughing in all the lines. Some things we’ve waited years to fix are being done today, including the light fitting in the dining room and replacing a switch that wouldn’t allow our kitchen light to be switched off. It’s only 9.00am. We’ve already been invoiced for a progress payment, but when I saw what has been done this week I’m not surprised!

It’s good to be on site here making sure dumb things don’t happen. Like where the outlets by the bed go. We’ve had the bed jammed into the corner to allow easier access for the guys to get their stuff through, so the electrician assumed that’s where we’d have the outlets. Der. No. Ask. Luckily I caught them in time to fix THAT potential problem, and the switches were moved over slightly. This sort of stuff is not terribly important because we won’t see the outlets anyway, but I don’t want to be fighting with the stuff under the bed to plug my phone in.

Another thing is people assume where lights go etc. For a short arsed person like me who wants lights on either side of the vanity mirror, the globes need to be basically in the middle of my head, not above. So I had to be quite strict on the placement – not ABOVE the mirror, BESIDE the mirror. Women know this. Men don’t. As I said, I don’t care about hubby: he doesn’t wear makeup. Besides, he’s not that tall that the lights are going to give him a sallow up-glow.

Also, because we can’t afford to put lights in the WIR sections (have a look at any decent renovation show and they are all lit from within, I kid you not, this is a thing), we’re having 3 LED down lights in the little room, to correspond to each section. This will ensure we can actually see everything. The guy seems to think this will make the room very bright. Says I, YES. Mostly they won’t be needed, but at night when we are changing to go out to yet another bloody function I need to be able to see my clothes. So I’d rather more than less lights please. Besides, I’m blind.

Nearly there with the drawings

The architect came round last week and our plans are nearly finalised. In fact, we’re pretty happy with the front of the house and only a little uncertain about the rear extension, which I discovered was smaller dimensions than I had anticipated.

The extra size I’ve asked the architect to do shouldn’t add too much to the total cost, given that most of it will be exterior deck.

In the meantime, though, we’ve come up with a great solution for the home studio. Here’s a photo of the plans:

Studio penultimate drawing

 

The internal width of the room is 3.6 metres (huzzah!) and the length will be about 6.2 metres, although this seems longer than I expected, but the architect’s drawings indicate a total of 7.7 metres external length including 1.2 metres for the bathroom, so I guess this must be about right. There are windows at the front and side. It will be light and airy all day.

This is a fantastic size for a home studio/office/guest room. As you can see here, there is a landing at the bottom left of the drawing. You take one step down from the main house onto the landing and the powder room (with shower) is right there. It’s private yet importantly still accessible from both the main house and the studio, as it will be the main bathroom for visitors and party guests.

I’ve asked the architect to hide the toilet cistern in the wall, as there will be enough room to do this, and we can probably do the same with the vanity taps too, and possibly even a mirror cabinet. The shower recess will definitely have one of those handy recesses to hold shampoo etc.

We’ve even started to think about wall bed units for the studio. The left hand side is free wall space. I’m currently intending our sofa bed sit along that wall, but I’m tempted, dangerously so, for a wall bed unit that puts the bed out of sight until guests stay over.

Some of the ones I just investigated online are only as narrow as 30-40cm thick, which is almost as narrow as regular bookcases. Most of them come with surrounding bookcases to make it look a bit more built in, and plenty of people put paintings on the cupboard door to hide it even more.

There’s enough room to do this, but we won’t be buying them any time soon – we’ve still got to pay down the last credit card and set of school fees! Ooh, but I’m tempted…

 

The architect is coming! The architect is coming!

This is it. Today is the day when I get to see all the plans finally laid out on paper. I’ll let you know how I get on.

When I spoke to my mum who’s a long-time renovator and savvy house planner we agreed the costs will be about 30% over what the bank has lent us to do minor renovations. To build the studio and renovate the front of the house, I think will cost about $120,000. She agrees. We were only extended about $80,000, which has to include architect’s fees. I can probably scrape together some more money but it’s fighting for supremacy with overseas travel plans, one remaining credit card bill (DH loves me but forgets that I have to pay the bill from his gifts to me) and the last remaining school fee mega hit (huzzah, and fees are halved after July).

So near and yet, so far. I guess the alternative would be to do the West Wing first, plus update the house front (giving us our 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms), then go to the bank and ask for more to complete the remainder.

This is probably the BEST and most cost-effective solution but it still doesn’t get us the extra studio space. Yet. However, when I did some sums on what we could feasibly borrow if our house was worth $900,000, we would have nearly enough for the whole remaining shebang. It depends, of course, on the builder’s costings. Our guy is not cheap, but he is thorough, and as far as I know provides an accurate cost appraisal. And if we don’t change too many things on the run our costs should remain consistent. Problem is, as soon as you add 10% overruns, 10% GST, architect and contractor’s fees, plus council fees, it cuts everything up. So the initial $80,000 becomes about $55,000. Not a lot of money left for building stuff.

But it MIGHT be enough to fix up the West Wing, do the electrics and plumbing, add 2 new bathrooms and renovate the facade, buy a new stove and fridge, plus change a wall in the main house and add built in bookcases. Ah, compromises. At least we still have walls and a mostly working roof.

(Small Edit: I’ve not put a careful figure on our renovations but I believe it’s in the vicinity of about $3000 per square metre. I think this is too much, and when I put $2000 per square metre against the renovations it all becomes much more reasonable, also given that our house is a simple wooden cottage it’s not too expensive to change it.)

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Sourcing the architect

Studio oil painting Toni BI always knew it would come to this. In the end, given my preference for using Dylan McPherson’s company to build our home, we’re going with an architect who has worked with him before and who trusts Dylan’s excellent product. This architect was coincidentally a sound engineer in a former life so knows and gets musicians and understands my need for a sound proofed room that still resonates on the inside.

He’s not afraid to put together some new ideas for us too, seeing as I want a complete renovation plan prior to building the first stage. There is (as he put it) so much potential for our house, and if we plan carefully we should have a wonderful end result.

His fees are reasonable and he works by the hour. This is good for us as once those plans are in place he can step back and our designer Lisa can step in as liaison between the relevant parties.

This whole process is very crazy but not as far as I can tell unusual. And renovating our home is STILL preferable financially to buying elsewhere. Sigh.

In other news the new art is now in the house and for Xmas my mum gave me a rather gorgeous oil painting by Toni Bucknell of a studio I have always liked. I was surprised when she asked what I wanted from her house, but it appears she’s divesting herself of some stuff. When I said I liked that picture she thought for a moment and then said: yes. None of the other siblings wanted it. It’s not worth much I think but I love it as a reminder of my childhood. So it’s in our kitchen, bright and cheerful and we’re nearly done with all my own paintings (done in high school!). The last remaining similarly cheerful print of a kitchen table is about to go to another happier place in the undercroft.

 

 

The plans, the plans!

Waiting, waiting. In the meantime, I’ve changed the appearance of the blog for funsies. I’ve come up with some lovely plans, courtesy of my designer, who has shown all sorts of good ideas. Not sure we can afford a single one, but here’s hoping.

Here are some plans I’ve recently played with. The first highlights upstairs and the second downstairs. DH and I desperately want a back deck and extension to our home as we currently have nothing there. I also want a separate studio (with toilet) for my students. The next thing is garage, extra bedroom and bathroom and laundry. And as I mentioned in a previous post, our garden is an interesting jungle design at present and I want to create a back yard oasis – but not until the builders have finished with it first. As our house sits on an 810sqm block, we really don’t have too many limits in the first 20 metres – it’s only the back half of the block that easements are our pest. Our designer talked about going downstairs which works for us, but as we also want to extend the back, it makes sense to me to discuss and plan the next phase before launching headlong into the first phase. But we also need to finalise plans for the front so that when we go to council it’s all there ready to go.

 

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Should we stay or should we go?

Oh my. A big decision indeed. DH and I are trying to decide whether to stay put at Chez Harry’s and fully renovate the old dear or whether to pull up stumps and move back a couple of streets to a quieter locale with a fully renovated house for a couple of $$ more. That would a couple of hundred THOUSAND more.

You see, it’s like this. We now have my adult daughter (formerly a he) living with us as she goes through her transition. She is unlikely to leave for a couple of years given her mental health issues and various needs. Cool. We also have 2 younger children who need their own spaces during the times they stay with us – they might also want to live with us in future while they are studying.  Also cool. Then, there might be grandchildren. And happy families visiting. I think we’ve got about 15 years where we will need to have a larger house for extended family, maybe longer.

The other thing is, our income has grown rather nicely in this time. So much so that we could actually afford to move back a few streets. We could also renovate. Given what we’ve seen around, the chance of doing either is pretty high. Unfortunately, we are on a busy street and the cost to renovate our home may not match the eventual value. Something about borrowing and liability and potential recouping of value etc etc. At one point I spoke to the bank and while they were happy to lend money for some small projects they weren’t quite as happy to extend a decent renovation budget to do all the things needed to bring the house up to date.

I’ve provided a pretty picture of our house plans for your edification with the West Wing showing sunroom, robe (Hah!) and bathroom and the front of the house showing the office and master bedroom. East Wing currently has a porch on it and the back of the house has the current toilet, bed 1, kitchen and dining rooms.

House plans 2014

Here’s the list, in no special order, of what we’d like to fix/add/update, in sections.

1. FRONT of house, and whole exterior

  • Add porch and stairs to front of house for central entry, shaped with original 20s features
  • Add open carport and electric garage door for under the house
  • Concrete the carport and entryways, create side path on low side
  • Replace louvre windows with laminated hopscotch windows, repair all wooden windows
  • Paint and fix exterior walls and replace window shades with new
  • Landscape garden to include hedge and new trees
  • Exterior lights on porch and round the side – timer activated

2. Office and misc rooms

  • Shell interior office and insulate all interior walls and ceilings; replaster and paint
  • New front door and entryway
  • Replace lights and powerpoints
  • Window shutter treatment

3. West Wing Sunroom

  • Shell and insulate all interior walls and ceilings; replaster and paint and insulate interior walls
  • Replace lights and powerpoints
  • Add permanent wall to create extra bedroom (or future study/ parental retreat/ walk-in-robe)
  • Replace aluminium windows with new wooden laminated windows
  • Exterior and interior window treatments – retractable awnings and interior shutters
  • Repaint
  • Carpet for sound insulation

4. West Wing Robe and Bathroom area

  • Repurpose the robe area to be a general utility area possibly with upstairs laundry OR open study zone
  • Replaster and insulate the room
  • Replace lights and powerpoints
  • Add built in desk area and bookcases
  • Repaint
  • Renovate the bathroom

5. Pantry

  • Built in storage including utility area
  • Add lights
  • Repaint
  • Add door
  • OR! Turn it into a stairwell…

6. Lounge

  • Built in bookcases, lights, repaint

7. Master bedroom

  • Shutter treatment for all windows and french doors
  • Repaint
  • Rewire powerpoints

8. REAR of house: all

  • EXTENSION!!!
  • Extend whole back of house by 4 metres. Reshape rooms and reorient living/kitchen areas to Western view.
  • New kitchen with butler’s pantry
  • Add new bathroom
  • Add powder room
  • Extend bedroom with ensuite and WIR (creating new master bedroom at rear of house)
  • Add 4m DECK!

9. Garden

  • Hard landscaping for water runoff
  • Remove old tree stumps
  • Re-lawn
  • Landscape in easy-care tropical style
  • Pool???
  • Poolhouse???

10. DOWNSTAIRS

  • Add rooms including rumpus, office, extra bedroom, laundry, bathroom

You see? There’s a LOT to consider. If we don’t go downstairs or add a poolroom we could probably do most of this, but even with the simplest jobs we need to replace all the electrics and pipes, as they are all on the fritz.

So, I guesstimate the front sections additions, relining, painting and West Wing revamp to cost about $70000 (that’s $1500 per square metre) which could easily be accommodated by the bank. It’s the back section that becomes interesting. And expensive. But now’s the time to think about it, because our plumbing is failing, our kitchen appliances are all dying simultaneously, and we have nowhere nice to sit of an evening (ie family room/back deck). And our garden is a den of weeds.

 

Do we stay or do we go? I love Harry’s place. But it’s groaning and sighing and telling us it needs some TLC and a pot of money thrown at it.

 

 

 

 

Faffing about fences

About 18 months ago, my beloved 14 year old beast of a Beagle, Boots, died when he escaped onto our busy road. He was an escapologist, as are all beagles, with no road sense. It was bound to be bad. Anyway, he was going to die either by car or by slow, lingering death of old age. I buried him in the back yard.

After an approved period of mourning – about 6 months, I decided it was time to think about welcoming another fur baby into the house. We did our homework and in January of this year welcomed Poppy into our lives. Poppy is a Groodle. That is, she is a Golden Retriever/Poodle Cross. She is black.

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I’m madly in love with Poppy, and she loves me. It’s magic. Anyway, the reason Boots our beagle had died was some idiot left the gate open and he escaped. I was determined not to let that happen again. So we planned and built several new fences in preparation for Poppy. She’s a very expensive dog. Our fence building project was finished in February this year, although painting continues.

Our builder was Chris Biancotti, and while he wasn’t hugely cheap, he was very patient with the crazy lady who kept changing her mind and he did a wonderful job. I had seen a fence he constructed just down the road and I admired his handiwork.

We started our fence adventure one day when we idly decided to remove the chain mail fence from the front yard. It immediately looked a lot better. But then we were left with some unsightly, ugly trees and bushes that were not doing all that well. We got the tree loppers in and they pulled out the lot, including one Ivory Curl tree that was really very pretty and doing a good job of protecting the eastern side of the verandah from radiant light from the ugly white Colorbond fence. I was not amused. And my neighbour on the other side, Christine, I think was secretly rather appalled that we had torn down all the lovely trees in the yard. Never mind that the trees were nearly all weeds or serious pests!

IMG_0101It’s a desolate wasteland where beautiful greenery used to be!

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Then Chris began constructing the fences. We started with the side fence at the rear of the house. 20 metres of 6 foot high timber fence, and our neighbour was relatively happy with the result, tearing down all the ‘not quite working’ trellis from his yard and planning his back corner at last. It wasn’t too expensive, and we came to a good agreement about how the fence was to be constructed, and with what materials. Mind you, I had done my due diligence and we went for a cheap timber fence, and while our neighbour wasn’t too thrilled with the cost, I had done three quotes, and I was happy with the price. He was happy to pay the lowest of the three quotes: fine by me!

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Then Chris got onto the side fences. I asked for and got gates that would always close, but the silly tree loppers (who came back) then wedged the gate open so wide that the spring Chris had installed to the gates loosened off. Chris also repaired the other neighbour’s side fence as there was a rather dangerous lean to it – not surprising, as there is so much water flowing through the back yard that it just rots the wood. Oh well. Reminder to repair them again in 10 years time, but this time with steel posts, not timber.

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Finally, Chris constructed the front fence. We spent many happy hours driving around neighborhoods taking pictures of fences. Here are some that appealed. Our house is on a busy road and I wanted airy privacy for the front yard, yet a look that ensured a welcoming entry for visitors. Being a 1920s construction, our house needed something that had a similar but simple style, in keeping with the house’s simple bones. These are the fences I looked to for inspiration.

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This last fence was extremely beautiful and we coveted it mightily, but when our builder popped round to have a chat to the owner about the cost, it was more than double our budget. Chris came up with a great solution. We decided to have a tiered fence, with sleepers at the bottom because it looks so sharp and neat. We finished off the sections with a simple bread loaf rail and posts that Chris honed to a simple point. Because of the 6 foot height of our fence we needed two rails, hence our preferred fence (see above) wasn’t doable for us as there are no rails behind the palings and the height of the fence is only about 1 metre.

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We created a slight angled inset at the gate to provide a more welcoming entry point, given that our street is busy and tall, straight fences can look awfully forbidding:

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We had some difficulty over the gate. Originally we ordered a gate from Woodworkers in Moorooka that was wider than this opening, but that was before we cleared up a minor misunderstanding about the inset sections. And we couldn’t decide whether to have a higher or lower gate. We chose the latter, mainly to increase that welcoming feeling I was talking about:

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From a distance it initially looked too low and a little narrow, and we were very disappointed:

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But over time and with a lick of undercoat the gate has blended into the fence line. We had two gates: one was for the garage section. Chris constructed a steel frame and attached a spring wheel to the base, to give it purchase when open:

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In a few years when we replace the garage door, we’ll make this gate automatic. Not right now, though, because that would mean rewiring the whole house. And goodness knows how much THAT will cost!

Finally, we had to choose the letterbox. We looked at various option including this ornate one:

IMG_1438But we finally chose this simple, stylish black mail box, from a locally owned store literally down the road:

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The first topcoat of the front fence is finished and it already looks a treat, but silly me thought that painting faux oil paint just before the dew point at dusk was a good idea, and the bloody paint dripped. It’s only the first top coat, though. Phew. I can sand and do another coat. We applied 2 coats of Dulux all-in-one oil primer/undercoat, then for the top coat we used Haymes paints in Dulux colours. We have to get more paint, but there’s LOTS more to do before the second top coat goes on.

And as I said to hubby just recently, the lovely lovely new fence looks like fresh bunting on a tired old used car saleyard, but once we paint the house exterior it will look wonderful! For the palings we chose the shade Surf Mist by Colorbond on the advice of our builder Chris, as our gutters are that colour, as is the Colorbond fence at the left. Surf Mist isn’t completely white, but is still bright and clean and hides road dust well. For the top rail and bottom sleepers we chose Wayward Grey by Dulux, because it’s sometimes black, sometimes grey, sometimes a little bit brown or purple or even burgundy. A great colour. We’ve not yet decided on the post colours, but we want a fawn/grey colour to give a bit more sophistication to the fence. In the meantime, though, they’ve been painted Surf Mist too.

I’m super happy with how the fence turned out, and very happy with our builder, Chris Biancotti.

I guess this means the house palings will be Surf Mist and the house trim Wayward Grey. Not sure about the windows at the moment though.

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Once the second coat has been finished, we can plan and commence our front yard planting. I’m thinking a white or pink Frangipani should go in this corner, and the whole front to be lined either with golden cane palms, Giant Strelitzia or mock orange hedging bushes to provide a sound and sight barrier to the street. Then we’ll plan the remaining garden bed with some ginger and bromeliads, a little bit like this garden bed we saw at Buderim Ginger factory but without the monstera plants, which grow out of control in home gardens:

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But wait, I nearly forgot to show you the back fence! Our lovely neighbour, who I will call Sheila, has been renovating her house. She informed us she was taking down the lovely but dilapidated timber fence at the rear and building a retaining wall out of bessa brick (cinder blocks), against which her pool would sit. Well. I didn’t mind, but when I saw the height of the fence, I gulped:

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It’s about 1.8 metres high at one end, and at least 3.5 metres high at the other. I felt rather hemmed in at first, but Sheila kindly had the wall rendered and in a few months we’ll paint it a deep purply/black colour prior to planting out with tropical hedging plants such as Golden Cane and other palms. She also asked if she could remove the last remaining (ugly and stupid) tree – a pinus radiata – from our back fence line, because its needles would fall in her pool. No wokkas, quoth I, please, take the thing. She removed it.

Now our yard looks like this:

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It’s desolate and sad, and nothing like how it used to look:

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We still have problems with Chinese Elm popping up everywhere, but eventually it will give up and go away as long as we keep poisoning it!. Then, after all the renovations have been completed we will plan our lovely, tropical-style easy-care garden.

Flooring maketh the house

When we bought our Queenslander, I stated firmly that there were two things that were non-negotiable in the purchase of the house. Firstly, that the floors had to be sanded and polished prior to moving in, and secondly that there had to be a workable kitchen.

We were really dealing with the bare basics here! Of course, that list grew to include a new toilet area and fixing those stumps. All other aspects got to wait, including replacing the louvre windows with laminated hopscotch windows, putting in a clean new bathroom and storage for our pantry and clothes.

So this post is about the flooring we chose.

The first night in the house, 3 hours after we got the keys and the title, we grabbed our spade and some gloves and began to tear up the old lino flooring. Underneath the lino was a layer of masonry board tacked to the floorboards, so we pushed the spade under and gently wedged up the old flooring, revealing the 80 year old 150mm wide hoop pine boards underneath. On the verandahs there were two types of timber: rare ash in the north and east wing, and regular hardwood in the western wing. From this:

Flooring

To this:

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To this:

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Flooring underneath

We removed all the old flooring in about 4 hours. Exhausting work, but we had to get the stump guys in the next day, I had to paint some more rooms, and then we had to get the flooring done. There was little time.

We pulled out as many of the tacks as we could find, and then our sanders came in and finished off the job 2 weeks later. They were great. Speedy Floor Sanding: ask for Dave. Barely talked at all but they were quick and got the job done in no time. They did a nice job on staining the new boards to look like the old ones, and even though you can tell they are there, they don’t stand out at all.

We found a hilarious dude called Michael Ryan to do some small construction work, including replacing the rotten floorboards (some borer in about 20 sq metres throughout the house) with new hoop pine. A semi-retired Irishman, I could barely understand him at all and many a story telling regaling friends about our renovation experiences had me saying “shushshsushshushhsh to be sure to be sure”. A good builder with years of experience, his clear preference was to replace all the old stuff with new, including replacing our wonderful old 12-light French doors with new cedar ones. 12 light! I can’t find any French doors that are more than 10-light. I didn’t let him go near anything but the floorboards.

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He replaced the rotten and borer riddled ones with lovely new hoop pine, like this:

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And this:

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This little room had previously been a bathroom and the boards were badly rotten, with even some old termite rot appearing. DH had thought he would tackle the replacement boards himself, but there was too much to be done, including some structural work, so we wisely left it to the experts. I had hoped to replace old with old, but Michael our builder wasn’t fond of working with old wood. Sigh. Anyway, the finished product looked a treat once sanded:

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This is halfway through the sanding process.

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This is the nailing process. Fun.

And these photos show the finished product. The sanders did a really great job, keeping all of the wonderful kinks and marks of 80 years on the floor and giving the floorboards a new lease on life. We chose a satin finish as it looks better, to my mind: less new. It degrades faster than a gloss finish but I like it and will use it again.

Don’t you just love the different timbers? Below is the ash.

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