Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Eyes on the Prize

Amidst the renovations and general chaos life rumbles on and we all settle further into our new roles and places, inching ever closer to autumn. The nights are drawing in visibly now, although it's still very mild. 

While Bella just sailed through the transition from primary to secondary school, I'm still getting to grips with it. Not a day goes by without some email from Parentmail telling me I have to do or sign or buy something. No matter that I spent an eye-watering amount of money on uniform back in August - there's still more. Black leggings and a plain black t-shirt are required for dance class apparently, and two different types of PE t-shirt along with sweatshirt and bottoms, and don't forget the scientific calculator, and while I'm at it would I like to put down a £100 non refundable deposit for a school trip to France next year too, while I'm at it? I need a PA just to manage school admin. It makes me nostalgic for primary school when all you needed was a Smiggle pencil case. Meanwhile, Bella and her precious new mobile phone have discovered youtube, Zoella, and cake decorating tutorials, which led to a Saturday afternoon during which both children showed me that they were far better at piping icing than I could ever hope to be, although I was permitted to do the washing up. The new phone and Facetime has also led to Bella picking up some old and dear friendships from Leeds which is absolutely lovely, with girls I knew since they were tiny. It's great hearing her giggle away while she talks to them. Technology, it has it's pros and cons. 

The house is an appalling muddle, with everything in completely the wrong place, and so I am constantly misplacing things like birthday cards I was supposed to post and my keys. The kitchen is the only undisrupted space, and I retreat there often. Soups and stews are starting to feature more now, and I am becoming great friends with my slow cooker. I also made a dress, completely taking over the whole kitchen for a day while I did it, and I will show you the results soon.

Work on the house has taken over any free time we have at the moment. We are doing everything ourselves and so it has to happen at weekends and during the evenings, which is slow going and tiring, but saving us a lot of money. We are, as ever, on a tight budget, but since I last posted about work on the house, we've been busy.

We pulled up that glossy dark laminate flooring in the hallway and found....more laminate. Only this was the really thin kind (the era of Changing Rooms, we thought) and glued to the original parquet floor.

Removing this laminate was one of the worst DIY jobs I have ever done in this house, it nearly broke me and my parents, who were helping me that weekend when John was at work. Each strip had to be softened with a heat gun then lifted with a scraper.

While the thick layer of glue left behind had to be softened again, scraped off, then scrubbed with wire wool and white spirit. It was the most unpleasant, toxic, sticky job ever. 

And the floor is still sticky, hence the attractive carpet stepping stones we are using until the new flooring is laid.

Other than that, we've been filling and levelling in the hallway, getting it ready for decorating. We still need to lay the floor, fit skirting, paint everywhere (walls, woodwork, ceiling, metalwork on the stairs), sand and varnish the wooden stair treads. Not much then.

Meanwhile, in the living room, we pulled up the laminate and found more of the same lovely parquet floor underneath.

Unfortunately, it only covered two thirds of the floor, the other third being concrete as it was a later addition. Also, quite a lot of the original floor is water damaged and with loose pieces of wood. 

Now, while restoring the original floors would, of course, have been wonderful, it would have meant digging out, lowering and levelling the concrete areas, then sourcing reclaimed parquet that matched ours, then paying a carpenter to lay the floor. Not something we had the budget or the stomach for, I'm afraid. 

Then we thought about engineered oak, for both the living room and the hallway, but at £2000 we quickly thought again and decided to go for this, which was less than half the price including underlay. 

Yes, it's laminate (which I feel has unfairly become a dirty word in floor coverings), and it's really nice. Thick and warm with bevelled edges and a matt, textured feel, it looks fantastic in the living room.

John and my brother in law Paul spent all weekend laying the living room floor themselves and I couldn't be more pleased. It lets so much more light into the darker corners, and the matt surface is infinitely more forgiving of dust and dog hair than the previous shiny flooring.

John has been busy fitting the skirting and this weekend we hope to decorate. I think we are just going to paint everything white. I like it that way, then all the wood and plants and little pops of colour can shine against it. It will be October, realistically, before we are anywhere near finished, perhaps by half term. But, eyes on the prize, I just need to keep thinking about how beautiful and airy it's going to look when it's finished, about how much more space we will have, how much more light bouncing around the house. I may need to buy some more houseplants!


  1. Wow what a job. We laid (not me) laminate in our lounge etc and it is really good. Doesn't show the dirt and cleans easily!

  2. This sounds a lot more exhausting than moving house altogether! I don't think I would have the energy to do all this in evenings and on weekends; when I did my room swap (which only meant the emptying and redecorating of two rooms, nothing compared to what you are doing), I took a week off AND had help from friends and professionals!
    Your vegetable soup looks yummy; I am a big soup fan myself, and the evenings here are already cool enough to want something warm in my stomach.

  3. It's going to look amazing when it's finished and I know you'll just love it but I don't envy you the job of doing it. I was exhausted just reading what you've already done. What wonderful family you have to help and at least your kids are master cake decorators and can keep everyone's energy up by feeding them! xx Susan

  4. What a flooring epic! I agree with you about laminate flooring, people can take a very snobbish view of it but there's no need. Some of it looks and feels great and has lots of benefits over other options.

  5. Glad to hear Bella has settled into her new school so quickly and easily. Your flooring is looking great so far and will definitely be worth it. We stripped all the floorboards (and wallpaper!) in our house and although it was a massive undertaking I wake up every morning to all that light bouncing around. And I love your uncovered staircase!

  6. that must have been back breaking, its great when family can lend a hand. I know its a shame about the flooring , we had a similar issue with our cottage with the old stone flooring, but huge chunks where missing, would have cost a lot to match and buy, so fitted carpets were layed. We have now decided that in the next few years we'd like to move and this not being a forever home. I long for a flat, on the level garden with space for a studio and stevie's workshop. So we think our next home will be maybe a more modern build and we can add character to it. And with myself going for more full time positions we will have the money to make a lifestyle we really long for. Its really inspiring seeing your home renovations and style...I know with work its hard to trying to fit d.i.y around family and chores. x

  7. It is funny, because I vividly remember saying out loud whilst watching Changing Rooms, that some poor devil is going to have to deal with those stick on floors in the future... Such a shame about the parquet not being feasible, but it does look lovely. Bella's cakes are amazing!

  8. We had a version of the same show here, called Trading Spaces, and it was always the same. I remember everything being glued onto everything else. I also remember virtually everything being built of plywood; to me, that's a stopgap and temporary solution that might last a year, not stuff you want to replace all your decent furnishings with! Your new floors look great. It's a lot of work, but you're clearly very proud and happy with it, so good for you, it's going to be so beautiful when it's all done.

  9. You have been working hard, and it's going to be absolutely lovely, so hang on in there. Well done on getting up all that stuck on laminate, I can imagine what a sod of a job it was. CJ xx

  10. It will be lovely in the end. If you want a change from White try Dulux Rock Salt. It is light and bright but has the slightest tinge of grey. Love the picture of Bella with Ziggy on her bed x

  11. LOL at the Smiggle pencil case comment.............sooo true. Bet the final cost of a school trip to France is around £1400 for 4 days. Bite the bullet and start paying now to soften the blow. Love the picture of Bella reading with Ziggy at her feet.

  12. That is pretty neat icing on those cupcakes (we just call them buns still here in Yorkshire!). I cannot believe that you can sew and bake with all the upset in the house you deserve a medal.
    The parquet floor is lovely but I can see that it was not practical to be lowering floor levels just to keep it. The new laminate is very nice though - is it suitable for kitchens? We have to do something with our old wood floor but not all laminates are suitable for wet areas.
    Dying to see that dress. x

  13. Its going to be so beautiful when its done. And Im with you, laminate is a great, affordable, practical option. We have an oak laminate through our place and I love it.


  14. Heroic is the word that comes to mind! We had a similar epic with wood block flooring under carpets (luckily no 90s stick on laminate thank goodness) Unfortunately the living room wasn't re-usable due to different levels round the fireplace but the hall was. Hooray! Laminate has improved greatly since it first came out. Yours looks lovely.
    Secondary school is a money pit! I'm sure they feed the costs bit by bit and think you won't notice the grand total. Best to bank on a regular input if you can and if you don't need to spend it - that's a bonus.

  15. Oh my, so much work... but as you say, eyes on the prize! While you are busy with this considerable diy and upheaval, we still can't decide what colour to decorate our hall! Patch is pleading for any colour other than white or a sludgy colour. I fear he may be disappointed.


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