3 years of home ownership

Grimbil as a new home owner, 3 years ago

January marks our 3-year anniversary of owning Old Glory. We’ve come a long way. We’ve knocked down every wall except the external walls, and even some of those went under the hammer. So let’s look at our original plan when we bought the house versus what we’ve actually done:

  • Extension out the back (off the living room)  Done!
  • Knock down all the internal walls on the ground floor to make an open plan kitchen / dining room/ living room Done!
  • New kitchen Done!
  • New bathroom, including knocking down the wall between the water closet and the bath Done!
  • Knock down the wall between the two tiny bedrooms to make one nice bedroom Done!
  • Facelift for the closets Done!
  • Makeover the foyer, getting rid of the ugly glass between it and the living room, and converting the outside storage area to a closet for the foyer.  Done!
  • Move all the meters outside — we were able to move the gas meter outside but not the electric
  • Move the boiler to the kitchen — it’s in the foyer, but it works well there
  • New floors (with underfloor heating!) Done!
  • New paint in all the rooms, maybe exposed brick on the wall with the stairs.  — no exposed brick, but the new paint is Done!
  • Facelift for the incredibly cheap looking staircase Done!
  • Facelift for the facade — we got rid of the plastic below the kitchen windows, but we still want to render and paint the brick
  • New fences in the back garden (both for cosmetic and dog-proofing reasons) Done!
  • Replacing the crazy paving in the back garden with grass Done!
  • Landscape the front garden — that’s  the last big project for 2013
  • Move the loft/attic access to somewhere safer than the top of the stairs (wtf were they thinking?) — We didn’t move it far but do have a much safer hatch and ladder that are easy to access
  • Rewire the electrics Done!
  • Cat5 cable everywhere! And a networking closet somewhere Done! And with even better Cat 6 cable
  • Do something about the water quality in the bathroom (green stains in the sink? ew) — Not neccessary
  • Additional insulation in the loft and the walls — we still plan to add insulation in the loft, but not in the walls
  • Solar power — maybe after the insulation
  • Convert the loft to either a master suite or a man-cave (this one isn’t a definite yet) — this one is definitely not happening. We need the loft for storage more than we need more bedrooms.

Not bad!


The plan for the bathroom

Our renovations will be starting on Monday, March 5th. Only a little over a week away!

As part of the redo, the current bathroom will be ripped out and we’ll be starting from scratch for a completely new look. We’ve been mulling over designs and fixtures and tiles and I think we’re in pretty good shape.

Just to remind you, this is what our current bathroom looks like:


Here is what we have figured out so far:

    • The sink, which we have already bought. I love the rectangular basin (which you can’t really see in the pic) and the big drawers. Yay for storage!
    • Gray tile for the walls and floor.
    • A blue/ green accent tile for the wall with the sink.
    • White fixtures, which will hopefully pop nicely against the gray.
    • 150 x 90 cm walk-in shower with a rain shower head coming out of the ceiling.
    • Niche with shelves on the short end of the shower lined with the blue/green accent tile. Kinda like this one:
Remodel San Francisco contemporary bathroom
    • Shelves over the toilet for extra storage, in a dark wood to match the sink. Like these, but minus the lights
Sophisticated Contemporary contemporary kitchen
  • Heated towel rack and underfloor. I’m sick of having a bathroom with no heating.

We are still shopping for the rest of the fixtures, but I think we nearly have the tiles sorted. We are thinking the 60 x30 cm tile on the right for the floors and walls.  Yes, it’s dark, but our fixtures will be white and we have a big window in the bathroom to help lighten up the space.


And one of these options as the accent tile.  The gray in both pictures is a sample of the gray tile above.

Option 1


Option 2

Phase 2: the upstairs

As I mentioned earlier, we are getting ready to embark on the next major phase of renovations: the upstairs. Here is the current layout:

Yep, that’s three bedrooms and a bathroom in about 400 square feet of space. There are garages in Texas that are bigger than our upstairs.  For those that are confused by why our upstairs is labelled “First Floor” on the map, it’s a European thing. The downstairs is considered the ground floor.

Here is our future layout:

Basically we want to knock down all the interior walls and start from scratch to create two bedrooms that are actually a liveable size (and with a niiice big closet in one), and combine the toilet and bathrooms into one room that you can actually turn around in. The other big change is the staircase. By having the top three stairs wind, we get more space for the bathroom. So far the only deviation from the plan is that we want to switch the toilet and the sink.

We’re still finalizing the budget with our builder, but hopefully the build will be finished by my birthday. So now our free time is spent looking at tiles and toilets. The curtains are on hold til after the build; the last thing we want is to hang the curtains and then have to pack them up again.


2 years of home ownership

January marked our second year of owning our own home.  Our first year was all about major change, whereas Year 2 was more about tweaking. Here are the highlights:

  • Had the back yard completely redone, including new fence and new deck
  • Grimbil took up wood working as a hobby and turned the old boiler closet into a linen closet. Result!
  • He also framed out the garage, so that he can build the wood shop of his dreams.
  • Kicked off the process of replacing the ratty old furniture by buying a snazzy new couch
  • Finally installed our pendant lights in the kitchen. That means the kitchen is done!

Year 3 will be another big year for change: we are finalizing plans to completely redo the upstairs. More to come!

Home Alone aka Grimbil’s DIY Weekend

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here….Binky normally handles this bit, but since she’s travelling for work and I’ve had a very productive weekend (these are not related), I thought I’d break my silence.

Behind our house there is a small parking area and several garages that are owned by the local council (government) to be rented out. Ever since visiting our friends Joe and Maricar’s home in San Francisco, I’ve been thinking about how nice it’d be to have a workshop and to pick up woodworking as a hobby. Fueled by our lovely neighbor Paulene’s information on how to rent one, several months ago I submitted an application to be added to the waiting list for one of the six garages behind our house.

Surprisingly, within a month of submitting my application, we got a letter stating there was one open and we could start renting it immediately. Even more amazing, it was the one directly behind our house! My workshop was destined to be….

Now, it ain’t much, only 8′ x 16′, but it’s big enough to keep the motorcycle locked up with room for storage and (hopefully) a small workshop. My plan is to frame the back of the garage, build a small workbench, then some cabinets for storage. There’s no power, but because it’s directly behind the house, I can easily run an extension cord from the garden for when I’m working. This reminds me, I need to learn a little electrical wiring…..

A pile of timber, the motorcycle, and a few boxes all easily fit in the 8' x 16' garage.

Now that I had the space for my workshop, I need tools to put in it. Christmas time came around and my father-in-law saw my need and helped me out. A few last second sniping bids on eBay and I was fully equipped with a circular saw, jig saw, power sander, router, and a few other odds and ends. Thanks Dad!

So onto the projects…I’ve got quite a list already:

  1. Build two sawhorses
  2. Frame the garage
  3. Build a workbench
  4. Shelves for the foyer
  5. Linen closet shelves
  6. Living room shelves (something modern looking)
  7. Repair the garden bench
  8. Replace the back / right side fence
  9. Wood deck extending from the house
  10. Planters for the garden

Better start small and work my way up, right? A couple of weeks ago I was able to build one sawhorse…a beast made out of 2x4s that may be a little big but should come in handy when building the fence this spring.

Er, it's a little large but extremely sturdy (that's what she said)

So Saturday morning finally came around and I had a been planning a big day for the past week. With Heather out of town, Otto stepped up to make sure I go up and going ASAP. Saturday is the same as any other day as far he’s concerned, so 7am he was ready to get cracking.

Otto takes his responsibilities very seriously.

Unfortunately, the British winter weather wasn’t cooperating and it rained the entire day, preventing me from working on the second sawhorse. Instead I turned my attention to the former water heater closet upstairs. It’s pretty beat up but could be turned into a very serviceable linen closet.

Looking slightly better

I took measurements so I’ll cut some shelves in the near future, paint them and this should be quite nice after another coat. Sunday rolled around and although it was sunny and beautiful outside, the pouring rain from Saturday caused my football match to be called off. I swear, the Brits cancel games way too easily. If it’s not rain, they’re complaining about the ground being frozen. Come on guys, I played high school soccer on grounds with worse weather and the Starkville Youth Soccer Organization fields were just jagged shards of cracked and broken mud that would shred your knees and legs. Tighten up!

But I digress….

Otto again woke me at 7 but was kind enough to give me another hour before forcing me out of bed. I was able to cut the 12 pieces of wood for the 2nd sawhorse before the rain hit….it’s amazing how nice the mornings can be in England up until about noon when it starts to rain again. A few hours later tho, the rain stopped and I was able to complete the sawhorse with minimal fuss.

Can you guess which sawhorse is smaller?
They're also stackable!
A soon-to-be-shelf demonstrates how level the two sawhorses are

I know it’s a little silly to be proud of such a simple project, but as a complete DIY novice, it was great for making sure I was comfortable with the circular saw and jigsaw. It was good for Otto, too. He got (somewhat) comfortable with the noise of the tools and enjoyed rolling in the sawdust after all the fun.

Otto didn't like the noise of the circular saw so slept as far from the saw as he could without losing sight of me outside.

Next up are the shelves!