Archive for the ‘Small Spaces’ Category


It’s been three months since I last posted (apologies to my readers) but much has happened with the cottage!

We knew it would be a steep hill to climb but we’d no idea just quite how high!

As we started to peal the layers back and reveal the heart of the house it rapidly became clear we would have to make good the interior fabric of the building which meant removing pretty much most of the interior of the house and starting from scratch. It’s the only way I could be confident the house would be safe.

First job, we had to remove the fake cupboards and nasty melamine wardrobes which seemed to be everywhere so we could reveal the beautiful beams which are synonymous with buildings of the period.

 

 

The back and left side walls were hidden behind nasty melamine cupboards … now we can see them in all their glory.

Next the carpets all came out as they all had that musty smell followed rapidly by the bathroom suite. The floor was clearly sagging under the weight and I was convinced it would collapse and that wasn’t a risk I was prepared to take.

How to renovate a period cottage

The bathroom was where we made our first significant find … but more on that later.

First, I need to explain the basic structural makeup of the cottage.

The original part of the house is the oldest and was built around 1650. In the 70’s a rear extension was added across the back of all the cottages in our  row, which added a kitchen and a second bedroom. It’s clearly visible when you stand at the rear of the cottage and it’s the rear of the cottage I made my second discovery … unchartered loft space!

Anyone that has or is living in a small space will understand the significance of a loft … Storage!

So, first jobs was to cut a hatch in the ceiling in the back bedroom to gain access.

Have to say I was more than a little excited to see what was in the loft. But rather than any priceless paintings I did find what was the original roof at the rear of the house basically still intact. The tiles had been removed but the roof joists, what appeared to be roofing felt and timber batons, were all still in place. I can only think cost to remove was an issue or possibly the conservation officer insisted the original roof should stay.

Anyway, back to the bathroom. On closer inspection, the walls were all hardboard on a softwood frame which didn’t make for a great surface and looked terrible. So, we decided to strip them all out and replace with plasterboard.

 

Period cottage renovation

The cottage had pretty much been left for the last 3o years untouched …

It’s at this point we made our first nasty discovery!

How to renovate a period cottage

Grim discovery number 1 … 😦

 

One of the original rear support beams had rotted right through due I suspect to rain running down the original roof at the back of the house. ☹  We were going to have to do something about that and pretty fast given it was being held up by a few pieces of old 4″ by 2″!  Next time I’ll share with you how we went about fixing it which was easier that I first thought.

Having had one nasty surprise I thought it wise to strip the rest of the walls in case there were other nasty surprises lurking! .. and unfortunately I was to be proven right. This was just the start!

Next time we’ll share how we found out the floors were rotten … and how we discovered we had a man hole cover in the middle of the kichen!

Best wishes

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


Firstly apologies for not posting for a while. We lost our lovely dog Elsa to old age and just haven’t felt like doing much to be honest. Didn’t expect it to hit us quite as hard as as it has.

Elsa The Rottweiler

Rest in peace, my dear old friend.

Had a week off work last week which meant we were able to finish our latest building project, converting the original workshop into a home office. Last job was to bring the carpet guys in I have to say its looking great. So pleased we made the decision to create a separate office away from the house.

shed-conversion-4

The build was fairly straight forward and took around 15 days in total to complete. The old structure was fairly solid, but we did need to beef up the walls with extra studs to support the addition of the windows and moving the entrance.

shed-conversion-1

The cost of materials approximately £600 as we had to buy 6mm laminated glass for the new windows and glass panels for the door.

shed-conversion-2
The plasterer was £350 and the carpet came in at £360 including fitting. The total cost of the conversion approximately £1,500. More than we wanted to spend to be honest but we’ve managed to create a nice space that’s comfortable and secure and will make a great office to launch our new business .. more on that next time.

shed-conversion-3

If you’d like to know more about the conversion please feel free to drop us a note and we’ll be happy to share the details.We hope to post some plans as we’ve had so many requests. It’s just finding the time with so much going on.

Phew its soooo hot today … The temperature reached a crazy 29 degrees this afternoon and they say it’s going to head past 30 degrees tomorrow! Mad times indeed.

BTW … Cut our first cucumber today. 🙂  Delicious!

Hope you manage to stay cool in your garden this week wherever you are.

Best wishes,

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

Read Full Post »


How to Convert a Shed to a Home Office

Ever longed to work from home and thought you might convert your trusty shed into an office?

If the answer is yes then you’re in very good company as at the last count over 3 million of us had the same idea and are now enjoying the benefits of working from home.

Did you know Roger Waters created the early demo tracks for the album  Dark Side of the Moon in his garden shed outside his Islington home! … and not a lot of people know that. 🙂

Of course working from home is not for everyone but if you are able to maybe spend a day or two working from the comfort and familiarity of the home the benefits to your health are significant.

Well, this year we’ve decided its time to get off the fence and we’re going for it!  I can’t tell you just how excited I am about what we have planned for the new office … so much so I just had to share it with you.

What are the options for a home office?
  • Invest in a ready made structure. (Expensive)
  • Spare room in the house. (Never quite the same as having your own kingdom)
  • Renovate an existing building. (Cheaper option … And you get to do some diy!)
We’ve opted for option 3 as we already have a sizeable timber structure which we built back in 2008 as a general store for our self build. Its large enough and pretty solid. With a little tweaking to the design it will make a great little office.

Rather than simply writing about the whys and wherefores of working from home we thought this project offered a great opportunity to look back at how the construction has stood up to the test of time and if there is anything we would have done differently so anyone building their own shed or outbuilding in the future could benefit from the insight.

Its a solid enough building made from quality pressure treated timber and has stood up well to everything we’ve chucked at it over the last few years.

If you’ve read our original series of posts on the build you’ll be familiar with the construction. Timber frame made almost entirely from pressure treated softwood. We based it on a workshop Tommy Walsh built on TV a few years ago.

The interior walls are clad with OSB board which is ok but I prefer a clean uninterrupted surface so have decided to line with plasterboard and get a plasterer to plaster the walls. Only you know how much insulation you’ve stuffed in the walls or how well the building was constructed … but the finish on the walls will be seen by everyone so it needs to be right hence employing a plasterer.

Plasterboard on OSB

The workshop was clad in OSB … simply screw 12mm plasterboard to the walls to make a perfect surface to plaster.

If there is one thing we’ve learned after many years of DIY is know your limits.

Don’t be afraid to get the professionals in when you know its beyond you.

We’re going to need power and heat if its to function as a warm cosy space.

We already have an approved electricity supply which used to service the workshop. I’ve had it safety checked by Tom (my son the electrician at ENL Electrical Services Ltd) and we have plenty of power for a computer, printer, kettle and few other home comforts.

I’d like to power it with Solar but budget is tight so for now I’m going to have to stick with the grid.

Four inches of insulation in the walls and ceilings should keep it nice and snug!

Insulate your shed

For the cold days heating will come from a modest electric wall heater.

We’ve moved the entrance to south facing to capture the morning sun.

Home Office

The side facing the lawn will now have two glass panels which has meant a bit of a restructuring but as the stud walls were fixed using screws so simple enough to sort.

How to Convert a Shed to a Home Office

If you’re one of the 50,000 or so readers that read our series on How to build your own workshop we’ve noticed a couple of things we’d change about the original build.

Keeping The Roof Water Tight
When we took a closer look at the roof we noticed it had been leaking which was as a result of the roofing felt starting to perish. On closer examination I had to replace a couple of sheets of plywood where the damp had penetrated the layers of ply. Definitely worth checking once a year.

But hey it didn’t take a lot of effort to fix. Simply removed the screws swapped the ply for new replaced with new felt.

One of our readers sent in a great tip for anyone thinking of felting a roof.

Paint the roof timbers with bitumen before laying the roofing felt. That way if the roof leaks it won’t damage the wood. Excellent idea!

Flooring
The floor is a basic slab of concrete which would be fine for the new office but I’m worried about the floor being cold so I’ve decided to lay some standard chip board floor on a layer of thin super efficient insulation. It means I’ll lose 15-20 millimetres of off the floor to ceiling but still leaves minimum 2.2 ceiling height which is recommended.

Doors and windows
John made the doors on the original workshop which were fine for a workshop but will not work for the new shoffice. So we’ve invested in a ready made frame and a hemlock door which will be fitted with all the usual security considerations. As you can see the door has been moved which to be honest has greatly improved the overall aspect of the building. The original window will stay where it is and a couple of extra laminated glass panels have been added to take advantage of the view across the garden and to the fields beyond.

Cladding the exterior
We’re replacing the feather board as it’s not as good as it was and has warped in places. Im pretty sure this is down to the the fixing. I read somewhere at the time you should nail feather board an inch from the thin end of the board. Well that’s crap idea in my opinion. Always nail through the thickest part of the board and ensure at least an inch of overlap over the next board. If you can afford it use cedar boards as they will weather to a beautiful silver colour and they will last a lot longer.

Feather edge cladding

The old feather edge has started to warp … just make sure you fix it through the thickest part of the board.

So to summarise here are the key learnings from the original build:

1. Pay a little extra and use treated (tantalised) timber and the structure will last a lot longer.

2. Ensure feather board is fixed firmly and treat once a year with a good quality wood preservative.

3. Inspect the roofing felt at least once a year.

4. Concrete floors are fine but add a layer of chipboard or something similar to improve insulation.

5. Don’t scrimp on insulation as it really does make a difference on those cold winter days.

We’re planning on finishing the bulk of the construction work this weekend so will post an update next week … so if you’d like a gentle reminder when the next instalment is posted simply register for our newsletter here and we’ll drop you a note.

Thanks!

Best wishes

rural-gardeners

 

 

… still living the dream.

Read Full Post »


The New Potting Shed Area

Phew! … At last we finished the new outbuilding, well almost. It was all going so well until Saturday afternoon when things definitely didn’t go to plan!

For those that follow the blog you’ll know way back in March we decided to build new timber frame working space that would double up as a workshop and potting shed for the new nursery business.

The plan was to complete the build in time for the growing season, but I had no idea it was going to take so long. With John working in London 5 days a week we only had weekends which is fine except as amateurs it takes us much longer as we’re learning.

We build all our outdoor structure using a frame of 4″ x 2″ treated softwood (from local builders merchants) which is clad on the inside with OSB sheet and on the outside with 6″ treated feather board. Insulation is glass fibre blanket as we had a couple of rolls left over from the house build (nasty nasty stuff  …the sooner it’s banned altogether the better).

Learn How To Build A Workshop

We bought a fairly cheap standard door made from pine which should last a good few years. It’s actually under the roof space and protected from the rain so providing we look after it it should last for years.

Timber-ledged-and-brace

My worst fears realised … 

The very last task on the build was to fit all the glass. So with the weather set fair for the weekend we planned to finish the project.

We were advised to use laminated glass for the larger pieces at the front as the height is pretty much floor to ceiling and it wouldn’t be safe to use regular glass. Everything was going so well, the weather was good, in fact it was like mid summer on Saturday afternoon.

I fitted the first sheet no problem. I used putty and chamfered wooden bead that I’d prepared in the workshop to save some cost. The next 30 seconds will live me forever.

I can’t even remember what I was doing but somehow I managed to catch one of the other two remaining pieces. In what felt like slow motion as one pane fell face down on the solid concrete floor catching the other remaining piece on the way down. CRASH!!!

Both pieces hit the floor with the most painful crashing sound. 😦 My worst nightmare had been realised. Two sheets of laminated glass at a £110 each lay on the floor smashed.

A few choice words later I quickly realised there was nothing I could do. The damage was done, I’d learned a very expensive lesson. I wiped away a tiny tear and got on with clearing up the resulting mess. At least I now know the guy at the glaziers was right … laminated glass does only crack, I can vouch for that!

Learn How To Build A Workshop

At first all I could think about was how costly a mistake this was but later in the day I realised how fortunate I was not to be anywhere near the glass at the time as I feel sure I would have tried to catch it from falling which doesn’t bear thinking about.

If you ever have to fit glass into a building or perhaps you’re fixing a broken pane in your house my advice … store the glass well away from the area you’re working. Had I done so then I’d be celebrating closure on a new project. Instead now I have two pieces of OSB sheeting where there should be 2 panes of beautiful laminated glass.

We plan to post a special feature on constructing your own out buildings which will have all the details of the materials and construction methods used and some great tips we’ve learnt along the way.

In the mean time any questions do let us know and feel free to leave us a comment.

Weekends seem so short don’t they.

Here’s to the next one!

Best wishes,

 

John And Tania The Rural Gardeners

 

 

Read Full Post »


One of the first projects we have to undertake before the build can progress is to build a new workshop. Basically we need a workshop for tools and accessories and additional storage for the various materials we’re going to need over the coming weeks and months for the new build.

Initially we looked at buying an off the shelf shed/garage but for the size we wanted the best price we could find was just under £2,000! and that’s without foundations or any insulation, essentially just your basic shed in fact.

Tommy Walsh built his own workshop out of timber frame so we thought we might go for a similar build. The cost of all the materials came in at just under £1,400 and this included 150mill of insulation, a solid floor a pitched roof and in all likeliness would be made from longer lasting materials.

John is looking to post some plans in the future for anyone thinking of building their own workshop. If you’d like details please drop your email details to ruralgardeners@gmail.com and we’ll let you know just as soon as they are available.

workshop2

Foundations
The first part of the project are the foundations on which we could build the main the timber frame construction. Start by building a frame from 6″ x 1″ shutter boards. Your builders merchant can help you with that one. When working out your sizes add an extra six inches to the actual size to be on the safe side as you don’t want your building sitting exactly on the edge of the base or it may crack the edge of the base over time. I use 2″x2″ post at each corner and half way along to fix the boards to.

Into the frame I break up about 4 inches of hardcore then on top of this I add approx 2″ layer of sharp sand. Helps to stop the hardcore from piercing the damp course. Next a  layer of thick plastic sheeting to stop moisture coming up through the floor, often referred to as a damp course membrane.

Onto this I laid about 3 inches of concrete mixed at a ratio of 3 parts ballast, 1 part sharp sand and 1 part cement. When you have the cement in spade it flat and tamp (basically flattening and removing the air) until it’s nice and level. I find the easiest way is to take a long length of four by two timber long enough to stretch across the width of the base. Then I drag the timber across the foundation frame in a backwards and forward sawing motion. Eventually the concrete will find a level. If you have holes or pockets throw some more concrete mix in and tamp again. Keep checking until you have a smooth surface. Put the work in now and it will pay dividends later when you start the timber frame.

workshop1

I chose to build the foundation walls using concrete blocks, which provide a level base for the timber frame to fixed to.  As soon as the blocks had gone off nice and hard I laid a 4 x 2 timber plate all the way around the perimeter and fixed using heavy duty screws and plugs.

Sole Plate

This pic is from a later project where I used bricks instead of concrete blocks but it shows the sole plate quite nicely.

Timber frame construction

Each section of the workshop was constructed using 4″ x 2″ pressure treated timbers and fixed to the timber plate using 3.5 inch screws. I’ve found the easiest way to construct the frame is to lay each section (wall) out on the lawn and build it first. Cut everything square and to size and you won’t go far wrong.

When you have each of the walls built fix them to the sole plate with a couple of screws while you check everything is nice and level in the corners. Quick tip … make sure you have a long spirit level as your standard DIY spirit level won’t cut it I’m afraid. Employ the help of a friend or family member to hold the corners together while you drill screw and fix. I used 3″ decking screws which worked just fine but depending on the situation you might want to use bolts.

workshop3

Roof
Next came the roof which was also constructed from 4″ x 2″ pressure treated timber, which is actually much easier than you think. Tommy Walsh built a full size template from a sheet of OSB plywood which if this is your first build is probably worth doing. Rather than go into too much detail here take a look at a later build here where I explain in a little more detail how to construct the roof.

potting-shed-16

workshop4

Next job is to clad the roof. I used 18 mill plywood as it covers really well and doesn’t take too long to put it down. You’ll need an extra pair of hands as the sheets are heavy. Alternatively you could cut them down to a smaller size I guess. Onto this I add a layer of roofing underlay finishing off with a good quality grade roofing felt.

You don’t need to use the underlay but it does add that little bit of extra integrity to the roof. Notice we left about a 10″overhang at the end of the ridge beam. This is to ensure the rainwater is kept away from the structure as much as is reasonable.

Interior
The inside is clad with OSB board which is much cheaper than plywood and works fine and as it’s inside the building I wasn’t worrying too much about the finish. I know I wanted wood on the inside as I wanted to hang my tools anywhere without having to worry about finding the studs.

wshop

wshop2

I think you’ll agree it’s starting to come together quite nicely!

In part 2 we’ll look at adding some insulation and finishing off the build.

Best wishes,

John & Tania

Part 2 – How to Build a Workshop

PS: If you found this useful please click the Like button and feel free to pass on to anyone you think might be interested. The more the merrier!

Read Full Post »