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Renovation Diaries 07. Plumbing, heating, electrics and more

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For this Renovation Diaries instalment, there’s lots of progress on the roof and we see the installation of some of the essential services. The plumbing gets underway with the prep and installation of the underfloor heating. Outside, the brickworks are coming along and the Chapel windows are in the midst of restoration. The groundworks for the drainage are happening and the beginnings of the full electrical re-wire begins. There’s lots going on!

In case you missed it, I’m going to be sharing weekly renovation updates on Wednesdays as an additional post. Posting once a month just wasn’t allowing me to keep up with the pace of the progress! So for now, Sundays will be the day for more houseplant-focused posts, with the occasional Photo Diary appearing in the mix too. Renovation content will be up Wednesdays for the foreseeable. I hope you enjoy the more frequent posts!

The roof takes shape

The roofers have been doing a brilliant job at re-covering the roof with the reclaimed slates. Below is a photo we took very early one morning of it looking really smart! Inside it looked different again as the membrane was covered by the slates and the whole space started to feel cosy and a lot warmer again.

Replacing the fascia boards

Another consideration in restoring the outside of the Chapel was replacing the existing wooden fascia boards. These were looking very weatherbeaten and some were rotten in places. We wanted to keep the colour close to the original so here are some photos showing us colour matching a battered piece of wood…!

We’d also been doing some research into the history of the building and came across an old black and white photo of the Chapel! What was extremely interesting at this particular point in the renovation was that there was a different detail on the fascia board here than was currently on the Chapel. In the photo below, you’ll hopefully be able to make out a crosspiece that runs between the two sloping sides. Above this horizontal piece looks to be a fan detail that’s similar in design to the one that’s currently on the porch.

It seemed that finding this photo at precisely the time we were starting to work on the fascia boards certainly warranted it to be reinstated! Our builder knew a skilled cabinet maker who would be able to copy the design of the fascia boards which have lovely chamfered, curved details. He was also going to make us another finial to go on top on the porch as the existing one was pretty rotten.

Insulating the floor and heating prep

Moving back indoors now and it was time to get prepared for the heating installation. At this point, we needed to prep for any electrics we wanted bringing into the centre of the floor plan. We also needed to block out any areas to avoid damaging the heating pipes with other floor installations. Things like the centre pole of the stairs, the reinstallation of the pulpit etc. This took some careful measuring!

We then insulated the floor with super thick boards in readiness for the underfloor heating pipes to be laid. Seeing the floor level rise up by another 150mm was great and made it feel closer again to how the actual floor would feel.

We crawled around the space, taping all the joins in the boards to provide a good surface for the heating pipes to be laid. In the photo below right, you can see the first glimpse of where the pulpit is going to be.

Plumbing and Underfloor heating is installed

A huge milestone in the renovation was the day the underfloor heating got installed. The previous owner ran radiators off an oil-filled boiler. But originally, the Chapel had a wood burning stove in the centre. You can see it in the photo below from 1935:

This photograph makes our underfloor heating seem almost like science-fiction in comparison! The prospect of decent heating was one I was especially excited about, particularly after the winter of 2020. The cottage rental we were in whilst doing the renovation had quite minimal heating and that winter was without doubt, the coldest I’ve ever been!

Below left is the underfloor heating manifold that’s situated in the cloakroom. Once the screed had dried over the pipes our plumber was able to able to carry on with the pipe work for the heating and water.

I really enjoyed this part of the renovation as the Chapel really started to feel like it was transforming into a home! There was a buzz of activity and lots of decisions to be made every day! Understanding the order of the process and how different elements would come together was key at this point. Knowing exactly where we needed pipes, where some of the parts of the sinks were, what kind of radiator we’d need upstairs etc. I was very glad at this point that we’d bought a lot of those things early on as it made this part a lot smoother!

View from the mezzanine once the screed had dried:

Restoring the Chapel windows

One of our joiners was working restoring the windows in his workshop. Here’s one of them back at the Chapel:

I really got to appreciate their scale when they were standing on the floor before installation! The windows comprised of a mixture of glass. There were three different patterns and on the east and west walls, the corner squares were blue. We set about replacing the old ‘bathroom glass’ with this traditional acid-etched glass. These were likely installed as a replacements when panes were broken. There was no colour on the squares on both front windows, so we decided to add in some yellow here as a point of contrast. Just look below how rich the colours are! That blue is a proper International Klein blue shade. But more on that later!

Brickworks

With the scaffolding up, the builders were able to work on the brickworks and grinding out of old mortar higher up the building. This was quite a painstaking process but the freshly pointed areas were looking great! Here’s a look at one of those beautiful window arches again with the alternating cream and terracotta bricks. One of them actually needed to be re-built altogether, which didn’t look like an easy task!

For the vestibule/porch roof, we needed to strip the old slates off and put in thick insulation into the cavity. We worked over a weekend and got it prepared for the roofer to lay the reclaimed slates. One of the next jobs would be to get my sander up here to strip back the porch fascia boards here. These were in okay condition, but would benefit from some work before re-painting.

Drainage and electrics progress

Before the electrician came to work on the first fix, we needed to check our plans and make noggins for the back boxes. We’d planned out the sockets and switches in our drawings of course, but this was the point to check everything. We measured and cut the timber to size before fixing them in. It was also time to look in more detail at lighting etc.

The view of the cloakroom from this position was one that felt so much bigger in reality (below left). The copper pipes for the plumbing were also weaving their way around the Chapel interior:

On the first floor, there was some real progress in the bathroom plumbing. These are the pipes for the sink and bath. And there has always to be a pile of sand for the brickworks somewhere!

Meanwhile, outside there was a digger. Getting the drainage sorted was another important step in the process of getting services in. Waste drainage pipes were laid under the floor earlier for the bathroom and cloakroom. The digger was to connect them to the mains sewer.

Conclusion

So things are coming along, we have the beginnings of electrics, plumbing, heating and drainage now! The roof is up and the floor is down and it is starting to look like a village Chapel once more. We’ve taken it apart and now it’s coming together again. How exciting, it’s a hive of activity and you can start to imagine a home. A new lease of life for the old building!

For easy navigation, I’ve made a ‘HPH renovates…’ tab on the homepage to catalogue this series. Alongside sharing the key points of the renovation on my main HOUSE PLANT HOUSE instagram, I’ve got a dedicated secondary page — HOUSE PLANT HOUSE renovates, which I will link here, where I’m sharing more of the Chapel renovation project.

This process is actually quite intrinsically linked to HOUSE PLANT HOUSE because alongside being a space for my plants and I to grow, it’s also going to be a place from which I can run my small business. This was something I’ve had to put on hold for a while, with re-locating and all, but it’s a goal I’ve been working towards behind the scenes for the last few years. Essentially, the Renovation Diaries will document the creation of a physical iteration of HOUSE PLANT HOUSE, which I’m really looking forward to sharing.

Thanks for supporting HOUSE PLANT HOUSE,

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