IT’S GETTING THERE | THIS LITTLE HOUSE

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We’ve been working on the new house since November – staying with my parents while we get the big stuff done – and we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel…

While all the things we have been doing between the two of us could easily have been done super quick if we had the money to get a tonne of professionals in, we aren’t in a position to do that, we have to pick and choose what we can and can’t do ourselves, which is why everything is taking so long.

For instance, we had to remove the plaster of almost all the walls in the three upstairs bedrooms – it had all blown with damp as the house had been empty for quite a number of years. After spending a good few nights and weekends trying to strip the plaster myself I eventually did find a great guy who came out for a couple of weekends and got the job done in no time. Like a I said, a professional makes all the difference! But it was a hard slog.

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We then battened out the two outside walls in the front and back bedroom and dot and dabbed the internals walls. We also had to plasterboard the ceiling. That was a tough job. We tried to hire a piece of specialist equipment that would hoist the plasterboard into place, however the hire centre had none in stock, so an ingenious invention of two large t-shaped wooden contraptions by the hubby’s dad meant two people could hold the plasterboard in place while the other screwed it into the joists.

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We got a great guy called Jonathan in to do the plastering, he was super quick and the finish was excellent! We also got a professional electrician in to take of the front covers of the sockets and change the back-boxes to extra deep ones since we studded out the external walls. He also made sure all the wires etc inside the sockets were safe for the plasterer to work around and is coming back in the next couple of days to put the front covers back on.

Sanding the original wood floors upstairs was definitely a challenge. The previous owner had painted the edges of every room a dark brown/red colour which was a nightmare to get off. On top of that some floorboards were damaged. I am guessing that they must have been pulled up roughly at some stage to install the heating system in the house (the house was built in 1926, so the heating system must have come later), but since the previous owner had used carpet around the house, I guess they didn’t really mind if a few of the floorboards were a bit chipped.

We hired out a drum sander and an edging sander to get the job done. It took us about 4 days in total, and then we were left with some fiddly corners and stubborn patches which we tackled with our own mouse sander and a borrowed orbital.

The original hearth tiles in the two upstairs bedrooms were badly damaged by the fake hearth that had been installed on top of them, possibly during the 40’s or 50’s, so I decided that a re-tile job was needed. Because the hearth is only decorative we were okay to go ahead and re-tile it with whatever tiles we fancied. If your fireplace is to be functional then you would need to get tiles that are fire grade and comply with building regs regarding hearth size etc.

I used the Batik tile from Topps Tiles for both hearths. The front bedroom was done in red and the back in green.

It was my first attempt at tiling anything and I’ll be the first to admit that it certainly isn’t perfect, it’s not completely level, nor is it as neat as it would have been had a professional done it, but I gave it a good go and am pretty happy with the results.

A friend of the hubby’s came round to do the skirting for us – and what a fantastic job he did! It’s beautiful! We had debated over giving it a go ourselves, but when he mentioned that he could do it we gladly handed over the reins on that one. We now have perfectly matched corners on the moulded skirting and pretty bevelled edging round the fireplaces – something which was quite possibly beyond our YouTube honed skill-set.

We’ve stained and varnished the floors – we used a dark oak stain by a brand called Liberon. The only shop in Northern Ireland that stock the 5L containers of it are McKee and Birnie Limited in Belfast. Ray Grahams do the smaller 250ml cans and can order in the larger ones by request, but this can take some time. It’s a really easy product to use. We used the spirit wood dye version as this really penetrates down into the wood.

I watched A LOT of YouTube tutorials on how to apply wood dye and stain to floors. Most of them recommended using a cloth and doing the wipe on wipe off method. DO NOT SO THIS WITH LIBERON SPIRIT WOOD DYE. I cannot stress enough how much of a mistake it was to try this method. I couldn’t find any specific advice regarding the application of this exact product so went ahead with the advise for the majority of products I found online. It did not work. It ended up patchy and stuck to parts of the floor that were less than perfect making them super dark. It may not look too previlant in the photograph, but trust me, some patches were super dark.

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I knew we were going to have to give it a second coat and that we couldn’t use this method on the other rooms. We had tested this method on one of the damaged floorboards that we had replaced and it had worked fine. But on the real thing it was terrible. I had also tried just painting it on with a brush and leaving it – even though every tutorial and website was recommending that I “wipe off the excess”. But just brushing it on had worked too. I tried the other option for the second coat, just brushed it on and left it to sink it. This method worked great! It didn’t undo the damage the first coat had caused, but it did help. I continued with this method for the other rooms – and only needed one coat!

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We used Rustin’s Marine Grade Yacht Varnish on top of the stain to seal it all in. We gave it two coats of this stuff. We got it from a little hardware shop called County Hardware in the seaside village of Donaghadee. It’s almost impossible to find Marine grade yacht varnish in bigger stores like B&Q and Homebase. They tend to sell what they call ‘yacht varnish’, but it’s not REAL yacht varnish, the marine grade type for actual boats and yachts. WE used the Satin finish as I think the gloss would have looked too shiny… well obviously it would be shiny, it’s gloss… but I prefer things to look a bit worn and old.

I’ve also ‘mist-coated’ the bedrooms ready for painting. That’s the next task. I’ll have the brushes and rollers out again this weekend, then it will be on to sanding down the woodwork and priming it for painting too!

Here’s a little video of the bedroom progress I took just as we had finished sanding the floors and I was working on the hearth in the front bedroom…

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