Doing up the big shed part 1

One of the things that attracted us to the house we nearly bought was the shed. The log cabin to be more exact, it was big, it was cosy, it had storage and a log burning stove. It felt like having an extra garden room and we loved that. But that house wasn’t to be (as we discovered a house we liked more)

The shed- before

The shed- before

When I first looked round the garden of the house we ended up buying, the number of sheds was overwhelming. There was 7 garden structures in total, this includes the wendy house, chicken shed and the greenhouse. But this blog is about the big shed. The big shed is roughly about 8ft by 10ft so it’s smaller than the other one, but still not too bad a size. The reason we overlooked it was as it was full of junk. It was full of junk when we had the viewings and the previous owner did mostly clear it out, but it still had a lot of junk and of course our junk ended up in there too. Not only was it full of junk, but it was also covered in pink fabric, the pink fabric on every wall and the ceiling and some horrible carpet stapled to the floor. And not only was the fabric pink, but dirty too and also covered in holes, from which poked the insulation. It also had a hole in the floor near the door and a bit of dampness.

One of the least bad holes!

One of the least bad holes!

On the plus side it did have insulation, and it did have electricty and lighting. Okay the lighting is strip lights, but that’s okay for now. And we thought to do it up, would be a lot cheaper than starting a fresh.

So on the first few days in the house the carpet was ripped up, so we could check the floor. It was okay, but a bit damp in patches. So my Dad invented a way to lift the shed up, using a car jack. I don’t really know how he did it, other than using some shelf brackets, but he lifted an entire shed on his own, and it seems to have fixed it. Amazing. Shame no one was looking.

We then left the shed for a bit to get on with other things. Then Simon got really keen to do it up. He could use it to study in, it could be a summer room, and if we make it good enough, it could be used on occasion as a guest room. So we cleared out all the junk to other sheds. We unscrewed the various shelves and brackets and hammered out any nails and random bits of wood stuck to the walls. My Dad said plaster board may be hard to put up in a shed, as you don’t have much to hammer against. My brother suggested we painted the fabric, I thought he was a bit crazy, but decided to have a go anyway. We’d simply staple more fabrc over the holes.

Fabric stapled over hole- what a bodge!

Fabric stapled over hole- what a bodge!

The paint went on, but took about 3 coats and I used a full tin of paint on a small corner of the shed. It took an age to do. And the stapled on fabric looked like a complete botch.

The paint, not really working!

The paint, not really working!

Simon’s mum suggested fixing MDF onto the walls. So I decided I could do the wooden planking idea that I’ve seen mentioned in various blogs. So we were passing a DIY shop anyway, I thought I’d show Simon the wood, and to my surprise the store offered a woodcutting service. I knew some stores would, but I didn’t think this one would. We were underprepared but decided to get a couple of small pieces to see if it works. We found a small cheap bit of hardwood and noticed the sign saying 2 free cuts per piece of wood. As the wood was 60cm wide we decdied to cut it into 20cm pieces. We bought a nail gun and a saw and we were off.

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The wood attached easily. As it’s a shed, we didn’t worry too much about making it level or if pieces had to overlap. In the end I think we had 3 more trips to get more wood, as we never measured it up and at one point we thought we would stop 3/4 of the way up the wall, to avoid having to go into the apex.

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But I wanted to do it properly. And it turns out a piece of wood I took down had the right angle on it, so  just had to cut the hardwood to this and it fitted perfectly.

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We’re hoping to change the strip lights for something else, so at the moment we’re not doing the ceiling, I’ve edged it in with some white paint, so hopefully once we put either wood or fabric on the ceiling it will be okay. So for now we’ve not put wood up around the sockets or light switch. I’ve cut out pieces of wood to fit here.

Wood cut to fit in, once any wiring is done.

Wood cut to fit in, once any wiring is done.

We bought the cheapest white home brand paint we could and it went on so much easier than onto the fabric. It took 2 coats and I painted “roughly” so it would make it look more wood like. One tin did 2 coats everywhere and had some left over. I did like the look of the wood before, though it looked like cardboard. The white paint makes it look a lot nicer though and more like a room.

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My parents were throwing an old carpet out, so we are using that for now. I want to put of sealant in a few gaps to neaten it off, but all in all it’s a huge improvement. Simon has already started using it for his studies and meditation. Hopefully we will get the rest done soon and also paint the outside. I’m really happy with the way it has turned out and I can’t wait to finish it off!

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Making a chicken cage into a seating area.

Now I apologise if you’re looking for instructions on how to make a chicken cage, you’ve come to the wrong place. This is how to unmake a chicken cage. We inherited several sheds with our house, and one of them was used to keep chickens and other birds in.

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I’ve been veggie for almost 20 years and I don’t eat eggs, and my boyfriend doesn’t eat eggs often, so it didn’t seem a useful idea to keep hold of the chicken shed. I did like the idea of taking on some rescues, but its a lot of responsibility. When my Mum first suggested turning it into a veranda it seemed a good solution. But for the first while we just used the shed as a dumping storage area.

So on my parents recent visit we decided to do it. In preparation me and Simon cleared out the shed. My Dad was on hand to help take the metal wire of the cage, and it was quite an effort. We didn’t really know how much of the wood was structural and how much was just to hold the wire in place. In the end we left the side intact and removed the front section and door. We made sure to use gloves to protect our hands and took care around any nails and sharp bits. Simon sawed off a couple of bits of wood left over from the cage section and helped take down the old bird boxes.

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We were left with the basic structure for the veranda, but one problem being that it stunk of bird poo. So a combinatin of sweeping, wiping, scrubbing, cleaning an elbow grace later, the cage was cleaned. It was taking on shape and could be used as some sort of beach hut or porch with seating area.

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Me and mum set to on painting it, the paint that was sage green on the tin, looked more pale blue in real life, but it was liveable. The enclosed bit we painted with white paint. This bit was by far the most smelly section of the shed and I wore a mask to help. The outside needed 2 coats, and somehow I agreed to letting my mum paint some African inspired designs on the back.

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Once I gave her the go, mum was off and soon she was happily painting. I think it works well. We then put some beach chairs, and plant pots around and some old rope and bunting to decorate it. The internal bit can be used as storage, so now its a really useful structure that looks nice, rather than the dumping ground it was before.

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A moment in time 15th April 2014

As I step into the garden, endless tasks stretch out before me, will the garden ever be “done”, but I can’t help but be distracted by the scene, it seems like the flowers have awoken all over the garden and the birds sing along excitedly. But its the pink blossom that takes me back to my childhood, walking on the back streets near my childhood home, towards Costella local park. Having a sense of freedom being allowed to go there without a grown up and playing on the playground next to the pond.

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In the garden we are working hard to prepare the growing space. We’re tackling a lot of weeds and also a huge bonfire patch, as well as various bits of junk. We’ve gathered up the ashes and put them in a section of the compost heap and a bag. We’ve dug some in and spread it out, but there is still a lot of ash! Every time I go out to dig a robin and a blackbird come and sit close by, sometimes just a meter away and sing sweetly at me, all for a few grubs. The robins first nest came to nothing, the 5 eggs in it sit there unloved. They’d made a nest in a wooden box on the side of the shed, which has some power cables in, and the door just wouldn’t stay in the right position. The cats would have made fine work of any chicks anyway. Tallulah and Phoenix the neighbours cats are regular features in the garden, they win over anyone who comes in including the roofers. They lap up any attention given to them and play mischief. Once they both wouldn’t leave alone one of my globe artichokes. Sitting under it and biting the branches. They also enjoy a good mud roll, which seems a bit wrong for a cat.

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Although the cats are apparently brother and sister they don’t get on and usually come to the garden separately. If they appear at the same time, they usually keep their distance and if close enough you can hear the odd bit of hissing. There is also a ginger who comes on a nightly patrol in the garden. His tail wags uncomfortably, though he does accept tickles. He will try and show off Phoenix if given the chance.

The raised brick bed is doing well and the bulbs have come up okay, the grass is doing well and I’ve even doing a “grass toupee” on another patch that was full of weeds. Simon has taken to regular mowing, more to use the grass cutting as mulch, than to make it look tidy, but still a good start. The fruit bushes we put in are looking healthy, except the kiwi berry, but even that will hopefully pickup. A couple of plants I thought I killed have fresh buds. The weather is really good for april.

Tomorrow my parents are coming, one of their fairly regular top up visits to help with some DIY. I will tidy before they come, but not too much, as soon the usual chaos will be unleashed: home made cushions and colourful fabric offcuts from scrapstore, electrical bits, toolboxes, not to mention the half eaten packets of biscuits and more apples than we know what to do with. But soon we will all blitz the house and garden and more DIY will be done than imaginable. Jobs this time involve the ambitious repositioning of the washing machine from the kitchen into the utility room, so the fridge can be in the kitchen. We will also put a sink in the utility room for all the jobs that are too dirty for the kitchen. The utility room currently has no water, so its easier said than done. We’re also looking to convert the old chicken shed/cage into a sitting space for humans. Making it into something like a beach hut with bunting strewn across it and baskets of salad growing in front and a grape vine growing up its side. There are a few smaller jobs too, and needless to say more weeding.

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At the moment I’m trying to tackle dandelions- they are everywhere. Arnie my old allotment neighbour taught me to at least remove the heads, otherwise they will spread. They are a pretty flower and do look lovely on roadsides when left to grow wild. But when in the middle of a veg bed, I’d rather they weren’t there. So if I only have a few minutes I will de-head them. If I have longer I will pull out the full root and cover it over with some cardboard. Of course, there’s not usually just one dandelion, but several, so it is time consuming, but hopefully if I keep it up, it will reduce their numbers significantly.

We are digging out weeds and dandelions from the main growing area, breaking up the soil, spreading the ash in it and then mulching over the top with cardboard, grass, straw and stuff from the compost heap. We’re trying to pick/sieve out all the nettle roots, glass and nails from the heap as we go along, we suspect there is yet more bonfire ash in this pile. Each day we try to go out and observe were the sun comes from and where the best spots are for each plant. We’ve started off some more seeds. Already in the ground are some asparagus, globe artichokes, peas, oca, onions and garlic and not forgetting the potatoes!

The house came with several sheds, all but 1 still stand, but most need some sort of DIY doing, such as painting or a new roof. One of them we are hoping to turn into an outdoor room/office and we may need to put plasterboard or something in it. The existing greenhouse is doing well and has various plants and seedlings in it. The greenhouse we got free is still in pieces, but we have a rough idea of where it might go.

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Inside the house, things have been moving slowing after the initial burst of painting and wallpapering. That’s partly as there isn’t lots left to to and partly as we felt we’d done enough painting for now and want to do the outside. I’m still very keen to do up the bathroom, but I’m not yet sure if I should make it bigger or not. It’s tiny, very tiny. The loo is separate so we could knock through to there, but its nice to have a separate loo, we could also knock through into the wardrobe, but its nice to have the storage space. There is a space downstairs we could fit a loo, but it would be cramped. For now we’re going to fix the tap that doesn’t work and live with it.

We’ve been in the house for a little over 7 months and very happy, and we’ve certainly put our own stamp on it.  We’re still yet to feel settled into the village and should make more use of some of the local shops and pubs- there isn’t many and we don’t want to lose them. We’re looking forward to the summer and seeing what fruit and veg we can grow and if we can have a few garden parties while we’re at it.

 

 

Moving tips. What to leave for your buyer?

When you’re moving house, its obviously a very stressful time and it can be hard to plan, especially if you don’t have a firm moving date. For myself it did seem a lot of my time was spent chasing solicitors, estate agents, buyers, sellers, banks etc. But selling my first house, I did want to make sure I left it in as good condition for my buyer as possible. So here are some pointers of how you may make things as nice as possible for your buyer.

  1. Collect up all the instruction leaflets for anything that you leave. If you have the instructions for any white goods, fireplaces, boilers, showers or anything else like that, collect them together and put in a file. You wont need them once you move, and if you put them in a file all together, they are less likely to get packed up by mistake.
  2. If you have any paint left from decorating, gather together and label which room the paint is for. It’s a good idea to label the paint as you use it, as you may end up using similar shades and forget which is which. Also any spare tiles, flooring or other decorating items may be useful for the new person to patch up any repairs. Put them all together in either an insulated shed or an inbuilt cupboard, so they are handy without looking messy.
  3. If you have unwanted items such as furniture, rugs or kitchen goods, begin to find new homes for them a month or so before moving date. It may be that the person buying would like them, so offer them first choice, if not try freecycle, ebay or a charity shop. Once you clear them, it frees up space for packing.
  4. Collect all your keys, those left with friends, relatives, estate agents and former flatmates. Also any gate keys, garage keys and window keys. Do label them. At the flat I was left with a bundle of keys that no one knew what they were for, as well as a similar bundle here.
  5. Make sure any inbuilt cupboards are thoroughly cleaned out and smelling fresh. (not too bleachy) the new person, likely wont have the energy to fully clean them, but will likely want to unpack.
  6. Leave them any spare light bulbs for fixed lighting as not worth packing and may not work in your new place.
  7. Leave them a way of forwarding your post to you, preferably leave them some printed labels which say “please forward to” and your new address printed on them.
  8. I also left them some written instructions and I did spend a bit of time on these, but I know my buyer found useful. These are the sorts of things I included:
  • Details of how to work the boiler and what times it will come on and off.
  • How to get hot water for the shower.
  • A list of buses and where they go to and details of nearest train and tube.
  • recommendation of local take aways and restaurants as they’ll be unlikely to want to cook for the first few days.
  • Details of what to do with rubbish and recycling, and if appropriate collection days.
  • Any relevant emergency numbers, such as the freeholder, plumber, gas engineer, local hospital.
  • And details of the house/flats quirks that may help the new person, such as problems with air bubbles in the water system, windows that open in an odd way etc.
  • Details of fuse box, water stop cocks, and anything else which may be useful
  • Details of what you have left and where it is.
  • Details of any phone, gas, water, electric supplies and where the meters are.
  • A contact number for yourself, in case they have an emergency.
  • A nice welcome to the house and a new home card!

If everyone does the same, it could help moving day be slightly less stressful. If the house/flat is ready to move into as soon as you arrive, it does make things so much nicer.