DIY Quick Fireplace Makeover

This is a really quick way to update a fireplace without having to rip out an existing one.   This fireplace surround will eventually be replaced, but until then it is a fast makeover to make it less hideous!  Some tiles and paint can transform it into a much better looking feature.  I wanted to brighten it up and use some sort of patterned rustic moroccan style tiles in the inside area of the fireplace.

HOW TO DO IT:

This is the starting point; a pine surround with bricks inside and an insert real flame gas fire.  The house is in a city with smoke control laws, so it is a practical feature and seemed silly to rip it out.

STEP BY STEP GUIDE:

Start by painting out the orange pine with a primer and then eggshell paint.  I used a water-based version by Dulux in white which dries fast and is re-coatable in 2 hours. It took 3-4 coats to get rid of the orange wood.

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Next, measure the area you want to tile.  The side areas of brick were really slim, so I needed to find tiles that were quite small as cutting up large scale patterned ones would have jarred on the eye.  I hunted high and low, but all the tiles I found were large scale patterns and I was beginning to give up when I wandered into a high street tile shop and found these 10x10cm tiles.

They come in a faded grey and green and are from a selection of about 7 patterns which mix well together. I went for these two colours mixed up.  Even better, I managed to grab the sample tiles for just 50p each instead of having to buy them in the large amount they usually are sold in for £50.  I only needed about 26 tiles, so it cost just £13.  I LOVE a bargain!

I worked out a basic pattern, and started to cement the full sized centre tiles on first with tile adhesive.  Once I needed to start cutting tiles I measured the size I would need and used a water-jet tile cutter.  You can hire these if you don’t have your own.  They are really easy to use, although quite noisy.  Luckily I could cut tiles in half and use them down the sides and across the top and they fitted perfectly.

 

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This tile cuter is easy to use and fast

Use tile spacers if working on a vertical wall.  Here are the tiles going up..

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Once the whole area is tiled, leave it overnight to set hard.  Then grout the tiles.  I used a ready-mixed grout in white, and a grout spreader to fill it into the spaces in the main area.  In tight corner areas I just pushed it into the gaps with my fingers.  To get a neat finish you can use a plastic grout finishing tool, or just your forefinger to smooth the grout so it has a fine finish.   Finally use a cloth to polish off any grout left on the tiles before it totally sets.

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Tiles before they are grouted

THE END RESULT…

 

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Cleaning Up After Renovations

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Too much mess after renovation? Easy six tricks to clean

House renovation is always a good thing. After everything is done you can’t wait to enjoy the new look of your home. However, the builders dust is something a lot of people struggle with for at least a few weeks after the remodeling of their homes. If you want to take the matter in your own hands, you might want to follow these six easy tricks to clean after a renovation.  These pointers came from Zowie at Charlton Cleaners, and actually will make life much easier, especially washing walls down which people forget to do and then they paint straight onto dirt which can mix into the paint (oops, guilty…)

Cover or Move Away Items

This step is very important to make the cleaning much easier and faster. Before the renovation itself move away as many furniture and items as you can. If there are things you cannot move, cover them well. Putting plastic covers on the floor can also help to decrease the levels of dust spreading around your home.

Clean the Walls First

The first thing you should clean are the walls, this way all the dirt and dust will fall on the floor and you can take care of it later. Starting from the ceiling and walls is the most logical and easy way to make the cleaning as fast as possible. To get rid of the dust on the walls you can use a clean cloth, dampened with water and wipe them carefully with it. If your walls are freshly painted you need to be very careful with this step.

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Renovating a House – Part 2

Long time since the last post, but I have been working so hard that I just did not have time to write anything.  My hands look like a 90 year olds – all wrinkled and chapped from grafting, but the house is moving along now.

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Since the last post lots has happened at the house.  The electricians have finished their main bulk of work.  They lifted pretty much every floor board in the house, chased cables into walls, drilled through external walls and upgraded the system.  I now have lots of down-lighters, plus where I needed them, extraction for the bathroom and so on.  A new consumer unit comes this week, to generally pump up the power in the house and make it compliant with regulations.

Following their main fix, the plasterer has been back to make good the walls and ceilings where the electricians had been hacking away.  Finally I could get on with decorating, I was hovering about waiting for them all to finish a lot and just made a lot of cups of tea.  We also had a heatwave in the middle of the work, so it got quite steamy especially when hanging off ladders using wallpaper strippers.  At one point it was 29 degrees and I was staring into a steam machine, it was like my very own mini swedish sauna.

Here is the kitchen roof before and after – from wrinkled, uninsulated dark ceiling to new insulation, plaster, roof lights, down-lighters, (oh and the hidden beams which cost a bomb!).

THE KITCHEN

I had a dream, just like Martin Luther King, but mine was more geared towards a shaker bespoke handmade kitchen with industrial leanings.  The kitchen roof saga has delayed this dream, mainly due to my very expensive new beams hidden beneath the plasterboard and the extra time and labour needed.  So the new kitchen can wait, but this was what was left and it offends my design sensibilities!

It is VERY orange.  So I got out my trusty paint pots and started to amend the offending pine with black, grey and white.  Farrow and Ball Lamp Black for the doors, new ironmongery and some industrial steel stainless shelving are creating a transformation that I can live with until we replace it totally next year.  Phew…

The walls are all dark grey, it is called ‘Grey Shingle’ by Valspar.  I removed the cheesy glass doors on two wall units and lined the back of the cupboard in trompe l’oeil wallpaper of metro tiles, then painted any orange wood bits left with white satinwood.  The shelves will be lined in trompe l’oeil marbled paper.

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Been a bit busy… renovating a new house Part 1

So it seems forever since I last posted.  In fact it is 2 months, which seems shocking….  However, I have had good reason and am in the middle of doing up a new house, working as usual, decluttering, downsizing, my daughters are both in the middle of exams so need chivvying… and generally life is hectic!

The current house we live in was photographed for a magazine coming out towards Christmas, and it is only as I was having to check copy etc that I realised how behind I have become with blogging.  So I am now going to concentrate and lead you through the (stressful) world of renovating a house while living a good hour away and with all of the above going on at the same time.

I finally got the house I am renovating vacated by the tenants (who were model renters by the way and if they are reading this, thank you to them!).   So it is only this week that I could charge in with various helpers and trades and start the work.  I have a 6-8 week window, and this is the current list that needs doing in that time.  It might not seem long, but believe me organising the trades to sit seamlessly and in the right order is not always a smooth task…

  • Replace all Windows with new sash ones
  • Move all radiators and replace with nicer ones in better places
  • Run new cabling, replace the electrical consumer unit and install downlighters and extra plugs in several rooms
  • Strip off hideous lumpy embossed wallpapers
  • Strip off badly applied lining paper
  • Strip off the nightmare that is the dreaded wood chip, and is probably holding up 100 year old plasterwork that will blow the minute I remove it and mean that I probably have to re-plaster acres of walls.
  • Remove garden facing and replace.
  • Remove decrepit shed and replace with a new, dry, insulated one.
  • Clear garden.
  • Remove kitchen roof interior entirely, and replace with a new one with 2 roof lights to bring much needed light into the room.  Include new insulation and plaster.
  • Strip and plaster skim ceilings which have revolting swirly artex patterns
  • Redecorate entirely
  • Stain wooden floors, new carpets to bedroom, and new bathroom floor.

This list was planned to the last detail so that as floorboards went up, each trade could do their bit.  But things always go a bit pear-shaped, and an electrician blew me out at the last minute.  I had planned to get all of that work done when the floorboards were up for the radiator man’s work, killing two birds with one stone.  I even had an excel spreadsheet ready.  But that has all gone to pot a bit now…

Even sadder of me, I made up templates of all my furniture in newspaper, correct to the last millimetre!  This meant I could play with where things would/could fit.  This actually has been really useful, although I got strange looks from the family as I made up the templates. Continue reading

Before & After: The house renovation is complete.

Finally, it is done….

For those who have noticed a somewhat silent blog recently, I do have a very valid reason as I have been slogging away 7 days a week over the last couple of months to get this house completed.  My life has been consumed by this project, but I now it is done I think I have enjoyed it…(?!)

I have learnt many new things; how to fit door architraves and skirting, mix plaster, fix windows, mitre corners properly and much more.  I think I have used about 125 litres of white emulsion, and got a sort of snow-blindness by the end of it.  My hands are like a workman’s, and I am exhausted and have spent hours in builders yards and sourcing things online to get the best prices  But it has been worth it, and I am on budget which is a miracle…

In the middle of the job my builders’ firm went bust, which could have been a total disaster and left me up the creek without a paddle so to speak, but we managed to muddle through and finish the renovation.  My builders honoured the contract and worked extra hours unpaid to finish the job, so someone up there was watching out for me I think!  It meant a 3 week delay on the build, and that I had to learn lots of new skills pronto, but circumstances meant that I just had to forge on.

Here come the before, mid-point and after pictures…..

The facade of the house…. from grubby magnolia to zingy blue… I got over vertigo on that scaffolding after a couple of days, and it was a lovely view…

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The garden…. from rubbish dump to a much more elegant space…

The once small and festering loo… now a wall has been moved to create a spacious shower room…

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A large curved shower

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Simple clean lines

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House Renovation Diary Part 3

The renovation continues.  We are more than half way now, with a final push this next month to get it all done. The garden is landscaped and fenced, the kitchen is being fitted, the shower room is half in and tiled, and the bathroom awaits its turn this week.  My hands look appalling, all nails broken, with sugar soap having seeped into my gloves so they have puckered alarmingly.  I am getting through mountains of hand cream to try and repair the damage.

Main receptions and bedrooms are now mainly painted on newly plastered walls and ceilings, I am waiting to do most woodwork like skirting and architraves until the builders are out as the dust is chaotic. New doors are primed, painted and hung.  The main stairwell which winds up through the house has been lined and painted.  We only have two more walls to be plastered in a hallway and a bathroom.  The final job will be laying the flooring throughout.  It has been a 7 day a week job for me, and I am shattered, but I can see the end now.

So, here are some things I have learnt over the past couple of weeks:

  • Plaster can take a long time to dry when you want it to.
  • Plasterers are the MESSIEST people, although the walls and ceilings they work on are smooth perfection, the rest of the room, (especially the floors), look like a plaster bomb has gone off.  I have spent many hours scraping dried hunks off floorboards, windows, skirting and doors.  After some chatting up, I persuaded the plasterers to clean up as they went, but only after we were 6 rooms into the project…
  • When re-plastering walls, you might as well replace all skirting and architrave as the plasterers are also vandals who yank the existing ones off, cracking them in the process.  I have extra hours to do now repairing the damage.
  • New plaster also drinks paint, even with mist coats.  My initial estimate of 30 litres for the whole building is now at 90.  Luckily I have discovered Leyland’s acrylic based emulsion which is a one coat wonder, or I could be into the hundreds in terms of litres.
  • Always make friends with the Builders Yard staff.  I have managed to snitch a couple of free deliveries already, and they are experts at getting me in more paint from the manufacturers pronto when I clear their stock!
  • Chose water based satinwood for spindles and architraves, and oil based satinwood for doors and skirting.  The latter take the hardest knocks so need the 16 hour dry time, whilst the former can take the 4 hour version and get re-coated faster.
  • Builders thrive on a lot of tea, Krispy Creme Donuts and praise.  Apart from one errant Electrician who has vanished on a stag week to Bulgaria, mine are all pretty much present and correct.  We did have a few days to wait on wet plaster, but otherwise they have been pretty good so far.  The electrician returns this week, hopefully not with shaking hands from too much partying as he finishes the 2nd fix.
  • Always make sure you lock your ladders, I have had a couple of spectacular tumbles so far.  The worst day however was when my mum appeared to help paint and slid to the floor as the steps buckled under her.  The guilt was unbelievable, but she was OK if not a bit shaken.
  • Following on from that, invest in a small platform.  Much more comfy than balancing on a step ladder.
  • Invest in a strong metal extending pole for rollers.  Some of the ceilings in this house are 12 foot and the stairwells up to 20 feet, and the pole makes painting a breeze.

Here are some more in progress pictures, remember the crappy garden full of brambles, mattresses and rubbish?

Before:

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And now:

 

We found a patio area and an old lined formal pond under the mess, as well as a lot of bicycle parts!  So we re-used the pond as a formal bed planted with box which will grow into a cute hedge with a Bay tree in the middle, and relaid new stones in the patio area surrounded with Cotswold chippings.  New lawn and a variety of ornamental grasses in the rear beds finished it off.  The garden was also fenced for privacy.  I will add lots of pots of flowering plants when the house is marketed, plus more seating in the front patio area.

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House Renovation Diary Part 2

For the last few weeks I have not had a minute spare to post anything, and have been trying to juggle the renovation, still do another existing part-time job, carry out my school Governor role, look after my kids and still run the family home.  I kid you not, this is multi-tasking to another level.  Luckily, we women have brains that can compartmentalize and manage these feats, otherwise I should be a gibbering wreck being carted off to an institution for intense therapy!

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My view for the next few weeks

PROGRESS

So, since the last post the house renovations has been cracking onwards.  All of the walls have been stripped bare, discovering along the way that the original builders glued woodchip wallpaper straight onto bare plasterboard in some areas, which is impossible to remove without damage. At least 3 walls had this finish so we had to budget for more extensive works to them to get them sorted out.  Who invented that paper and why?

I had to source a building team pretty quickly, and was amazed at some of the outrageous quotes that came in from various trades.  Differences for wiring quotes, as an example, were from £2,800 to £10,000 for the house.  The phrase ‘are you having a laugh?’ came to mind (and more explicit ones that I will not share)..  However, perseverance and a lot of cash deals sorted out a great team.  I then contracted the builders to come in and do the following lengthy list:

Plasterboard where necessary all ceilings and aforementioned walls, re-plaster all rooms  in the house, re-wire and chase in all new electrics, re-plumb, move two walls, install new central heating and radiators, hang & fit all new doors,fit two bathrooms and one kitchen… the list goes on and on.  I also have a gardener stripping out the hideous junkyard that was the garden, with new lawn, planting and fencing coming next week.  My main job is decorating both internally and externally, chosing the kitchen, bathrooms and flooring.  I have been sourcing new joinery and hardware for all the doors in the house, and am become a wizard with my tape measure and minute measurements!  I am also on first name terms now with trade suppliers at the Builders yards in the city.

I asked my building team to start from the top down so I can at least prep the new plaster with mist coats whilst the messy work is being done.  We are at the stage of first fix electrics being finished, and 50% of the house is plastered.  Most floorboards are up and the debris is incredible.  It’s a dust bomb basically, it even gets in my teabags somehow.

Stripping a room, can someone explain the painting method on the door to me please?

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So here are some photos of the works so far.  A small loo has the wall smashed down in preparation for extending it into a shower room.

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House Renovation Diary Part 1

Biting the bullet…

I have been away from the blog of late, and here is the main reason why.  I have gone into partnership with a property developer as the designer and project manager, and we have the following property to turn.  It is a 3 story Victorian house in central Bristol which we purchased at auction.  That in itself was really exciting, I have never been to property auction before, and my business partner had the most rigid arm when it came to our lot!  It seems crazy to buy a house in less than 5 minutes, but it is a lot easier than going the usual protracted route.  Here is the street it is in.

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So, the house.  For years it was owned by the Local Authority, and they are now selling them off.  So it has been structurally looked after, but the interiors are somewhat horrible.  In fact they are really dire.  The only original feature left is a lovely winding staircase.  Everything else has been ripped out over the years, so a lot will need replacing.

The house has 2-3 reception rooms or 3-4 bedrooms depending on how it is configured.  There is also a large kitchen-diner and 2 bathrooms.  It also has a garden, which is a good size are rare for a city center house.

Prepare yourself, this is what it looks like now:

Wallpaper over wallpaper, electrics in conduit on the outside of the walls. layers of cheap flooring.  I am seeing a lot of skips outside to take the debris as we strip it out.  The kitchen and bathrooms are particularly choice!

 

We take possession in early April, and then it will become a whirlwind of activity as we strip. purge, re-wire, re-plumb, move walls and fit new bathrooms and a kitchen.  The garden also needs landscaping, fencing and clearing, at the moment it is a breeding ground for brambles, debris and rotten mattresses.

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I will continue the story as it slowly evolves.  We are looking at a 3-4 month turnaround.  For now, I am trying to juggle other work with planning this renovation, so my other blog posts may fall by the wayside a bit.  Wish me luck!

Has anyone else out there taken on something that looked this bad to start with?