Hooray – more digging…!

March 7, 2010

This weekend we thought we should make the most of the sunny weather by getting out in the garden and pushing on with one or two of the many jobs on the list.

We started off by clearing ivy from the roof and side of the garage, in order that we can replace the asbestos cement-board roof with corrugated metal roofing sheets which we bought a few weeks back.  We’d hacked most of the ivy back a while ago, but there was still a fair bit coming over from our neighbour’s garden, so we attacked that this time round.  Years and years of leaf-fall combined with neglect, had led to a build-up of silt on the roof, which had to be scraped out of all the grooves in the roofing sheets.  A bit mucky, but lovely rotted stuff – went straight in the compost bin!  As the garage is set into a slope, there is a narrow gap down each side which is very difficult to access, and this is where a lot of the ivy is getting over onto the wall of the garage, and climbing up over the roof.  Now that we’ve hacked back as much as we can, and we can see the ground, we intend to give the ground a decent soaking with weed-killer, to hopefully prevent more ivy from growing up.  This will probably be a twice-a-year job, as our neighbour is unlikely to keep her boundary tidy, unfortunately.

We’ve set aside a day next weekend to remove the existing roofing sheets and take them to the tip.  The concrete beams which support the roof appear to be sound, so hopefully we will be able to lay the new roof directly onto those.

Recently David noticed some mould on the wall in the corner of our bedroom, adjacent to an outside rainwater downpipe.  The downpipe is square, and leads into a smaller-diameter round plastic pipe set into the ground.  Unsurprisingly, when it rains, lots of water misses the round pipe entirely, meaning that water collects on the ground below the downpipe, and seems to have been drenching the wall.  We got out the shovels and started investigating what was going on underground.  Firstly, the round pipe was encased in concrete, so we had to dig that out in order to be able to replace it with a square-to-round connector.  The round plastic pipe led into a round clay pipe underground, the first section of which was sound.  We kept digging, following the pipe along, and found that the second section we came to was completely broken up.  The third section, however, appeared sound, and when we poured some water into it from a watering can, the water disappeared happily enough – presumably along the underground pipes and into a soakaway somewhere, or perhaps the mains sewer out on the road.

Right, we thought, all we need is a short section of plastic 2″ pipe, that we can slot into the sound clay pipe, and a square-to-round connector to join the new plastic pipe up with the downpipe.  Easy-peasy.  So off we headed to Homebase.  Well firstly, being Homebase and therefore generally a bit useless (although invaluable to us as they’re just around the corner and we don’t own a car!), they didn’t have any underground piping.  Neither did they have any square-to-round connectors.  Being Sunday afternoon, and not having a car, there was no way we could get to a builders’ merchants or similar, but we decided that we couldn’t leave the situation as it was (not now that we knew it was happening!)  Therefore we would have to go for a bit of a bodge-job.

We bought a length of 2″ downpipe, that we figured we could recycle when we sort out some guttering for the shed.  We also bought a 2″ shoe.   We made a lovely square-to-round “connector” using a plastic bottle, and this fed into the shoe, which connected onto the new 2″ pipe, which would feed into the clay pipe.  Simples.

However, something didn’t seem quite right with the clay pipe – we poked a stick down it, and it would only go down about a metre, before hitting something solid and muddy…time to do some more digging.  So we lifted some slabs which form the path at the front of the house, and dug up the next section of pipe.  But where the next section should have been, there just appeared to be a big lump of stone…alarm bells started ringing!  David lifted this huge flat-ish lump of stone, and underneath appeared to be…a soakaway!  I say a “soakaway” – in fact, it was the worst excuse for a soakaway I’ve ever seen.  For a start it was tiny – approximately 1′ square (bearing in mind it was supposed to be draining half of our entire roof!)  It was also completely silted up – right up to the top.  AND it was only about 1m away from the house!!!  Current design guidance states that a soakaway should be at least 5m from any building, and even in the past the rule of thumb was a minimum of 2m, as the water can potentially cause damage to foundations.  Eeek.

We did the best we could, for the time being – dug out the soakaway a bit, and ran the full length of our new pipe into it.  Hopefully that will cope with any rain that falls this week, and we’ll crack on with digging some new drainage next weekend….can’t wait.

So we think the proper course of action should be to continue the trench into the front garden, as far away from the house as possible, then dig a new soakaway pit.  We need to do some research, but are planning to buy a proprietary plastic or concrete soakaway of the appropriate size, and lay a new run of plastic piping from the down pipe into the soakaway.  Just as well we haven’t landscaped our front garden yet!

On a happier note, here’s some pictures of our lovely new railings – made by Beth’s clever Dad!

Cool huh?!


Hello strangers – we’re back!

February 28, 2010

Wow, can’t believe over 6 months has passed since we last added anything to the blog – that’s rubbish, sorry!  Really impressed/surprised/honoured that we’ve continued to have readers despite no new posts though, I guess that’s due to our free advertising on MSE…!

Right well where do we start…

Firstly, the house of doom is no longer a house of sin – we got married back in August  :o)

Needless to say, not a lot of work on the house got done for most of July or August, due to wedding/honeymoon distractions…  Nor September, for that matter, as it’s really hard to get that work ethic back after a break!

In October we used the last of the ok weather to do some work in the garden.  We have a large tree in the bottom corner which has always been completely smothered with ivy, so we decided to give it a chance and cut all that back.  Some of the ivy “trunks” were about 5″ in diameter, so it’s amazing the tree was still alive.  Turns out it’s a laburnum, and very pretty it is too.  Bonus is we get a bit of extra morning light into the garden.

We tidied up the front garden a bit, cutting back shrubs and planted some flowers in the flower bed that Sophie and Tom kindly dug for us when they were house-sitting whilst we were away  :o)  The bulbs that we planted are just started to come through, so hopefully we’ll add another photo soon showing those in full bloom.  The photo will also show our very recent and exciting addition to the garden – our brand new shiny railings and gate!  Beth’s dad has created an absolute masterpiece, so watch this space for that.

Out the back, we were able to add some lovely things that we were given as wedding presents, including lots of plants, a chiminea, a bench, and a picnic table.  Where the old shed had been, we chucked down some weed-suppressant membrane and some gravel, along with some pots etc, to create a sunny little oasis for us to sit in and think about all the other jobs we have left to do!  We plan for the area to eventually be timber decking, but this will do for now.

In the run-up to Christmas, with the prospect of house guests arriving, we were spurred on to get our backsides in gear and do a bit more work on the house.  We finished off various loose ends that had been lingering, such as painting behind the radiators in the lounge and hallway, sanding and painting the bathroom door, painting the loft hatch, putting actual door handles (as opposed to screws!) on various doors, and painting the two new doors that had been in place for – oh – about a year…!  And David did a master-craftsman’s job of putting up some lovely additional shelves in the lounge.

The past couple of months have been very cold and wet weather-wise, so we haven’t been out so much.  We did spend a weekend chopping and hacking a bit more (our jungle needs a lot of that – it’s never-ending!), so we have another couple of loads of green waste to take to the tip.  NB – I will just add at this point that all the green waste is blitzed up and recycled into compost, so it’s not going to landfill.

We also started the big job of levelling out the patch of ground that we want to grow vegetables on, which involved building a tiny retaining wall (only two bricks high) out of old bricks that we had lying around in the garden, and then shifting barrow-fulls of soil from the heap we had accumulated from when we dug out the steps down by the new back gate.  We’ve still got to do a bit more shovelling and levelling, plus dig over all the weeds/grass, then we plan to lay some weed-suppressant membrane, cover it with bark chips, and build raised beds from timber (which we bought back in November, thinking all this would have been done ages ago, ha ha).  Any volunteers to help very welcome!

Right, well, my hands ache from typing, and I think that  pretty much wraps up the bits we’ve done anyway.  Hopefully we’ll have lots more to add over the coming weeks and months, as it gets warmer out and we’re encouraged outside a bit more!

David’s new get-away…

July 6, 2009

With the fence complete, it’s time to put up the new shed at last!  It’s sited very close to the fence on two sides, so we painted those two sides before we started putting the shed together, as it would be impossible afterwards.  You can’t see the colour on any of the below photos as we haven’t finished painting it yet, so you’ll have to be patient and wait for that (it’s a very nice colour though!)


Once we got the floor down (which took a bit of thought as it all had to be level, on a sloping base!), the wall panels went up really quickly – great! we thought…

However, for those of you thinking about buying a shed from the internet – our 10′ x 7′ shed arrived on one pallet…and pallets aren’t very big!  As a result our shed comprised about a million tiny pieces of wood, which all had to be screwed, nailed, hammered and battered into position with the help of some pigeon-English instructions and a few very unhelpful grainy photos.


The roof was a nightmare as none of the trusses seemed to want to be square, and bits didn’t quite fit properly…but in the end it started to take shape, as you can see by this rather unglamorous, posed, shot!


Unfortunately we haven’t taken any photos of it finished, with the doors and roof felt etc, as it was dark by the time we finished…!  Will update again soon.

May we introduce…The Garden of Doom…!

June 30, 2009

Now the house is pretty much done (apart from the very long to-do list of “bits and bobs”), and the summer has arrived, we’ve well and truly cracked on with the garden.  You probably will have got the general idea, from previous posts, that our garden is about as big a job as the house, so in the past couple of weeks we’ve got well stuck in – driven at least partly by the fact that it’s Beth’s hen do on the 11th and she’s supposed to be having people round for a BBQ…..six months ago when she was organising it, she assumed that the garden would basically be done by now…!  Hahahahahahahahaha.

One of the main jobs that needed doing was to fence off a useless portion of the driveway, to incorporate into the garden, enabling us to move the shed (well, position a new shed), and create a decking area/patio where the old shed was.  This makes the garden even bigger!  Last week we organised a very reliable man to come and do us a lovely new close-boarded fence (11 awkward metres for £600, if you’re interested), the only catch being that he couldn’t do it for several weeks.  Then we got a phone call at the end of the week saying that he’d be round on Monday, if that was ok with us…well, we couldn’t refuse, but unfortunately it meant an EXTREMELY busy weekend for us, preparing for his arrival.  We had to remove the old shed, remove a wall, cut a hole in another (retaining) wall for the new gate, break up another load of concrete, and dig out  about 3 cubic metres of soil from behind the retaining wall.

Luckily for us, Beth’s Dad and his friend Ade came round one evening during the week and knocked down the old shed – apparently it didn’t take much, if you’ve seen the photo in one of the first posts, you’ll see why!  We didn’t get a chance to take an up-to-date photo before that happened, but here’s a photo of our garden, looking towards the driveway and road, at the start of the weekend:


The pallet of wood in the foreground is the new shed, and the gap behind is where the old shed used to be.

Here’s a view from the other direction, looking into the garden from the road:


The men in action smashing things!  (Beth would like to point out that she did at least her fair share of the heavy work – and has the done-in back to prove it – but it so happens that she took all the photos so isn’t in any of them!)


We worked from 8am until 10pm on Saturday, with just a 2 hr break in the evening to watch the tennis.  Then we worked from 7.30am until 7pm on Sunday, without stopping.  Needless to say, we were both cream-crackered!

Here’s some photos showing our progress:


Fence panel and wall gone!  We were supposed to cut a neat 3′ gap in the wall, but it literally fell apart so we ended up just knocking it down altogether in the end.  You can just about see the beginnings of some steps and a path inside where the gate is going.  Behind the bit of chipboard, next to the steps, there’s a new low retaining wall, which forms the “terracing” to take the ground down to driveway level.


Wall gone!  That’s where the old back gate was, and where the new shed will sit, with the fence going alongside the pavement then turning back towards the garden roughly where the wheelie bins are…does that make sense?!


Skip nearly full!  Yes, we succumbed, and hired a skip – given the circumstances and the amount of rubble we had to get rid of, we realised we’d be going backwards and forwards to the tip for the next decade!  It cost £100 for a 4 yard skip, rubble only.  Incidentally, in the background, looking towards the “side garden” you can see that the ground is all levelled out, the mound of earth is gone, and most excitingly, the three huge tree stumps are gone – good work David and Marc!  🙂

So, here’s a photo from Monday night, showing Don the Fence Man’s progress:


Right-hand post is fixed to the existing wall post, as it’s directly above the water main.  The other 3 posts are all concreted in.  He stopped at that point as he needed to speak to us about what to do with the post/fence next to the garage.  The original plan had been to run the fence up along the top of the retaining wall, concreting the posts into the ground behind the retaining wall.  Unfortunately as the wall had fallen down, and the soil behind fallen with it, there was nowhere for the posts to go!  Lots of confusion with levels, lengths of boards and heights of gravel boards ensued, but he got it sorted in the end and was happy to continue on Tuesday (today) – here’s a photo from this evening:


Hopefully you now can see what we’re intending to do!  The new gate will go between the 2nd and 3rd posts in from the left hand side.  The decking will be where the new shed (still on the pallet) is currently sitting, and will be nicely hidden out of sight from the road.  What you can’t really see in any of these photos is that we’ve built a new, low retaining wall out of blocks up at the back of the garden, to form terracing and therefore level out the slope.  It handily also used up most of the soil that we dug out!

So, that’s you all up to speed now!  More photos to follow – hopefully the fence will be finished tomorrow so we’ll try to update the blog again very soon.

A new door and a new number…

June 1, 2009

We must apologise yet again for the lax upkeep of this blog, we’ve both been so busy, what with holidays, gardening, new job, wedding preparations etc etc.  Plus the fact that the weather has been far too nice lately to sit indoors on the computer!

A couple of symbolic “topping out” type additions to the house since the last post.  Firstly – at last we have a house number, so now people have no excuse for not being able to find us!


Secondly, we have a lovely new front door!  We’re not really fans of PVCu, but seeing as the rest of the bungalow already had PVCu windows, it made sense to replace the existing (rubbish) door with something similar (but better!).  We both really dislike patterned “obscura” glass, so we went for Pilkington Optifloat Satin glass instead.  It looks really smart and modern, and does the job nicely – lets 85% of the natural light into the hallway, but obscures any view from outside almost totally.



Unfortunately it’s not all been sunshine and cupcakes.  Last weekend Beth noticed a funny mark on the carpet in the conservatory.  On closer inspection, it turned out that about one third of the carpet was damp – the washing machine had been leaking!!  It appeared that the connection between the washing machine hose and the copper cold water feed wasn’t done up tightly enough.  Whether it was loose to begin with, or if it had gradually worked its way loose, we don’t know, but what was evident was that it had been leaky for some time!  As you can see from the photo below, pulling up the carpet revealed a gruesome sight, as all the underlay was moudly an’ orrible!


It was so disgusting: we had to shovel the felt underlay out because it was disintegrating!  Luckily it was a lovely hot and windy weekend, so we kept the door and window open, and it’s pretty much dry already.  We’ve got some spare underlay leftover, and hopefully enough carpet to put down.  Every cloud does have a silver lining, as the leak meant that we had to clear everything out of the conservatory.  We’d been storing all our DIY bits and pieces, paint tins etc in there, and now we’ve found a new home for them, so we’ll have space in the conservatory to actually sit and enjoy the warmth!


In other news, we’ve conquered the main mountain of tree!  We took 2 van and trailer loads to the tip at the weekend, so that’s the first big pile finally gone.  There’s still a smaller, more recent pile to go, but hopefully that’s only a couple of van loads.  We can almost see grass!

All Done!

May 5, 2009

Well, pretty much.  The carpet is down in the third and final bedroom – woo hoo!  To say we’re relieved is an understatement!  It feels so fantastic to have done the majority of the DIY.  But fear not, avid readers, the blog will continue for some time yet – we’ve barely even begun the garden!  😉

Well here’s the room anyway, as you can see the neutral-coloured carpet and lilac walls help make the most of a lovely sunny little room.  We’ll be using this room as an office, and the computer desk will go where the carpet offcuts are at the moment.  At the other end of the room we’ve got a double futon, where Hannah sleeps (or at least tries – Chester does his best to wake her up!) when she comes to stay.


Here’s Hannah and Chester:


It was lovely to have our first house guests!  Thanks to David’s family for coming and testing our spare bedrooms!

We’re on the home stretch…!

April 27, 2009

Nearly there!  At the weekend we painted our last room – the third bedroom is tantilisingly close to being finished now, we’re just waiting for Arturo to come back on Friday to fit the carpet.  Can’t wait!

We’ve got the added impetus to get it done of David’s parents and sister coming down next weekend, and they’ve never been to our house before so we want everything to be ship-shape.

We are so tired!  Back to feeling as we did many moons ago, back when we were spending 12+ hours a day at the house working, before heading back to Mum’s for a hot shower to try and scrub off the accumulated layers of gloss paint, polyfilla, expanding foam and PVA glue…

Anyway, here’s a quick snap of where we are at the moment – look forward to showing you the finished article next week!