Day 022a…

Another image just crept into the (1 photo a day) blog… The inside of a Victorian clay brick, taken from the structural wall of the end wall of our Victorian house.


The drill holes punched through the brick gives a sense of intrusion through time.


Painted stairs…

So, on coat of undercost/primer on all the steps and one coat of satin gloss on every other step tread.

It took so long for the paint to dry that we’re resorting to a quick drying type, which we’ll hopefully use tonight then leave to dry over night.

I painted only every other step so we could get up and down the stairs while they were drying and they’re starting to look good. We’ll paint them all white then have a think about the colours for the risers. This will be hard to mix in a smooth transition, so we might just do a random mix, using a single blended colour.


Render work – day 6, 7, 8 & 9…

So the insulated render and guttering to the side rear of the house are now finished. The landing area is plastered, a new loft hatch has been installed and the loft window removed and bricked up.

Days 6, 7 and 8 went very quaickly, with some quick progress. After literally 6 months of planning, research, form filling, grant applications, phone calls, planning permission debates (x6), delays (3 months) for cold weather, scaffolding erecting and finally deliveries of materials to site; it is finished.

The scaffolding is still up, and we expect this to be taken down soon and there is still a slight query about if we actually paid for new guttering to the front as well.

Days 6 and 7 were taken up with the actual application of the render, which they simply sprayed on using a large machine which pumped the render from a large plastic barrel. Claire was at home taking pictures and when I saw them I was impressed. We had wondered why they were shifting the packs of render to the front pavement!

So, the first layer was applied on day 6 and the next day the second layer was applied. They left the final layer as a very rough finish and I got home slightly shocked at the finish! Day 8 they came back to finish it off and used a number of heavy/rough sanders to smooth away the rough areas.

Finally, day 9 (yesterday) a guy was around to fix the guttering to the rear areas, on top of new fascia boards. He also filled in a missing brick from the front corner and replaced the old gate back onto the wall, as well as clearing the site.


FIT record broken…!

Ok, yesterday was the best day so far for electricity produced by the solar panels. There was a total of 4.8 units, which is 4.8 KWh, which is 4800 Wh. Each KWh is basically 1000W per hour, or put another way, it is enough to power a 1KW appliance for 1 hour.

So, if your kettle uses 3KW of electric (which is standard), yesterday the panels would have produced enough electric to keep the kettle boiling continuously for more than 1.5 hours! Awesome technology.

I’m just getting very excited because we had the panels installed at the end of December, so have only seen the output during the two worst months for sunlight! March is the start of the upturn, where the output doubles, compared to the previous 2 months!

Today is also looking like a clear and bright day, so maybe another record. The other new technology we have just had ‘installed’ is the insulated exterior render, to the side and rear of the house. Before the render was applied, the internal temperature was roughly 10 degrees C. more than outside. For the last few days, the difference has been 15 degrees C! The last couple of days, the outside temperature at 8 in the morning has been Zero degrees C. and inside it’s been roughly 15 degrees C. It’s a big improvement but we’ll still need the fire on in cold weather, but not as much and for shorter periods.

So, the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) will be giving us 41.1p per KWh, which will rise to 43.3p per KWh as of 1st April. This means we get 41.3 pence for every unit we produce.

‘In 2008, a detailed analysis by the European Commission concluded that “well-adapted feed-in tariff regimes are generally the most efficient and effective support schemes for promoting renewable electricity”.[9] This conclusion has been supported by a number of recent analyses, including by the International Energy Agency,[10][11] the European Federation for Renewable Energy,[12] as well as by Deutsche Bank.[13]

‘Some have argued that feed-in tariffs can be used to accelerate the pace at which renewable energy technologies become cost-competitive with electricity provided from the grid. The rapid deployment of renewable energy under feed-in tariffs seen in countries like Germany, Denmark and Spain has undoubtedly contributed to reducing technology costs, and hence, in accelerating this trend. For instance, wind and solar technology costs have decreased dramatically since the 1960s and 1970s , as the technologies have become more widespread, manufacturing processes have improved, innovations have been incorporated, and gains have been harnessed from economies of scale.’ (Wikipedia)

Government have brought forward their review of the FIT scheme to 2011! Not a big surprise considering how many large companies were setting up massive 50KW arrays and getting the FIT rates! But, this may hit the residential market if the FIT rate goes down too much. It was always likely to come down but the window of opportunity is closing with a very restricted time frame.


Render work – day 5…

Well, the boarding out for the render is now ‘finished’ but there are a couple of things i’m going to have to mention to them! One of these is the very apex point of the insulation, which is just sealed, without any kind of capping piece. The whole system relies on the sealant so this needs to be improved a bit. There is also a whole section to the side of the bathroom window where there is no flashing.

They also fixed on all the edging strips ready for the render and cleared up. We also talked to the guy who will be installing the new single piece insulated loft hatch. He had a look and said it would be no problem making it smaller than the existing 60 x 120 cm hatch, maybe to 60 x 80 cm. This will really improve the heat loss issue and stop the cold drafts coming down from the loft.


Render work – day 4…

More progress on the render.

The plumbers were also around today to extend the soil pipe and pipes from the bathroom. Nearly up to the top of the house with the boards and the loft window has been blocked up.


Render work – day 2…

The work on the insulated render continues, even if the builders left site (again) at 1 pm!

The builders have taken out part of the front gate frame, which was drawing water into the walls and set the render line a brick depth back from the facade.


Internal humidity level…

We’ve had a number of illnesses recently and it seems like from October till the end of January we were all constantly ill with various things. The two notable ones was the sickness bug which was going around at the time, which was putting many school classes down to half numbers in a lot of areas. The second was the recent flu epidemic, which according to some reports has been particularly bad this winter.

So, a couple of lingering illnesses and another general cold as well led us to trying to work out if there was something else affecting us, or making it easier to get ill. The two external factors which were stong contenders were to do with the house, which were the internal temperature and the internal humidity.

Given the winter this year was one of the coldest for 10 years or so, we thought a lower temperature could be affecting us. The problem wasn’t that it wasn’t warm enough (as we have radiators in the bedroom and a wood burner for the living area), but it was the variations. This was first thing in the morning before the stove had been fired up and the kitchen which was colder. So this could have been a factor, but with the right clothes, I personally didn’t find it a problem.

As I didn’t feel cold, we thought there could be something else. We’d known about humidity and moisture for a while and this was one of the reasons for organising the insulating render, to even out both temperature and humidity. But, we couldn’t confirm if it was too humid. Too much humidity can lead to all sorts of health problems, associated with an increase in dust mites, mold, mildew and fungus. particularly in our Victorian house, with its suspended floor over (essentially) soil, colder and damp air is a problem.

So, I bought a combined thermometer and hygrometer, for only £10. This told us that our living room averages between 65-67% humidity, without the stove on or windows open. The recommended range is something e=between 45-55%, so this was more than 10% above the good range.

So, I did a couple of experiemnts to see what bring this down. The first was to literally open all the upstairs and downstairs windows (on a mild day) and get some good ventilation through the house. The results were pretty convincing…

In the space of an hour, the humidity went down from 67% to 57%, but the temperature only went down by 1 degree C. So, for a reduction of 10% moisture, it only went down by 1 degree, plus it felt a lot fresher and cleaner.

I’ve also noticed that while we’ve had the front window on the latch with the stove on, the moisture content had been going slowly down, to roughly 59% without going to the extreme of opening all the windows etc. The temperature is also holding at 20 degrees (with stove on). It seems that with the stove on and at least some ventilation, the humidity stays around 58%. It’s also down to the external humidity levels and temperature but it’s an interesting series of tests.

We’ve also got an external thermometer so we can then compare the differences between internal and external, before and after the insulated render is installed. We’ve also got to fit the skirting boards around the living room and also get the loft hatch re-done – hopefully all these things will do the trick!


21st Century Taj Mahal…?

Q. What can you get for £630 Million these days?

A. A house in Mumbai, India!


Liverpool FC + house work + budgets…

From the point of view of people reading this blog, there’s been way too much on here recently about the (mighty) Reds and various house work + budgets! I suppose things go through phases and right now it’s all about getting the house work underway and Liverpool’s sale to new owners.

I’m going to get more stuff on here about family things, particularly the trip to Train Land at Drayton Manor Park! Also the whole learning and perceptions subject, given the boys are growing and learning so quickly and changing all the time. That’s the stuff i’ll look back on and wish I had more information on.


Loft boxes & pictures for walls…

In preparation for the loft work (loft hatch and blocking up of window), we’ve been clearing stuff from up there, including lots of boxes with all the living room things which we were saving till the room was totally finished. Well, the schedule has slipped a bit (!) and we’re now concentrating on insulation, so we’ve unpacked them anyway.

Lots of nice personal stuff like picture frames, old glass bottles and general ornament things which will make the house seem more lived in. We’re still going to paint again but getting the render sorted out is more important. Jamie also got into the loft and helped us out.

We’ve also unpacked the pictures and frames and chosen spots for them. This has been a big missing part of the whole point of the spaces. The principle was to setup the spaces in a more simple and less cluttered way, with very good storage solutions so we could reduce the amount of furniture, particularly in the living room. This would then provide a blank ‘canvas’ onto which the pictures would be hung, therefore providing them with a more spacious setting. This would then help each one to stand out and be appreciated more.

We’re setting out the main wood burner chimney breast as the family picture wall, and we’re going to put lots of random sized frames, of various colours, on there. It’s amazing to be finally doing this as it’s only been 2/3 of a living space, with only the structural elements and painted walls (almost) as they should be.

Having said that, i’m well aware of how much effort and thought has already gone into the house and this always gives me a sense of satisfaction.


DYI Sunday madness…

Ok people, some progress on the house to report…

Claire’s Dad Neil kindly helped by finishing the plaster boarding to the outside of the bathroom upstairs + got the insulation inside the stud wall.

While Claire’s Mum also kindly looked after the boys, I got on with the skirting boards in the living room and got about half way round, before rain stopped play.