Posted: January 26, 2014 in New Malden
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Er… so, yeah, we like, finished the building and stuff. Quite a while ago – but as with all things, they’re never really finished; there’s still books to unpack and pictures to hang and a couple of new cracks to be filled too.

But without any further procrastination and fannying about let’s have a look at Before, During and After:



We’ve gone for more of a conventional driveway rather than the skip and falling over wheely-bin look. This was finished off with a dropped curb this January after months of arguing backward and forward with the council and £1800 later.

Downstairs Hallway:


A vast improvement here: walnut laminate from Howdens, solid walnut mirror hanging above the 30s inspired radiator cover. The carpet is Country Gems Check in Birch grey from John Lewis.

Upstairs Landing:


Painstakingly restored original doors and banister, finished off with a new newel post cap from eBay.

Bedroom 3:


Bedroom 3 is a little on the small side for a bedroom so is playing the part of the Lady of the House’s dressing room, complete with solid walnut wardrobe and chest of draws from Bentley Designs.

Spare Bedroom:


The spare bedroom-come-library

Master Bedroom:


The master bedroom has been de-cluttered, and now features a solid walnut king-sized bed and amazingly comfortable 600 thread count duvet set from Costco.



Units and countertop from Howdens, tiles from Topps Tiles, taps and shower fittings from eBay.



Bit of a change? Probably my favourite room in the house. Sofa and tables from Furniture Village and artwork from Thailand, Morocco and Africa.

Dining Room:


Coronet cast iron fireplace, refurbished original fire surround with leftover worktop mantle piece and dining table and chairs from Oak Furniture Land.



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The majority of the kitchen is now housed in the side extension. Units in Burford White with a walnut stained beech worktop. Oven, hob and dishwasher from Baumatic and temperature controlled wine cellar from Samsung.



An incredibly useful addition to the house is the utility room and downstairs toilet. This features the refurbished original butler’s sink, washing machine, boiler and extra storage.



Not the most inspiring looking office but plenty of desk and storage space.



In need of some care and attention and not looking amazing in the winter, the garden was home to an awesome celebratory BBQ last summer when we officially finished (the majority) of the work.



What a great way to finish a long and gruelling, but ultimately very satisfying and successful project!

Front doors and back gardens

Posted: August 1, 2013 in New Malden

With the amazing weather (and some help from an amazing team of gardeners from Essex) we’ve been cracking on with improvements to the outside of the house. Over a series of weekends, I stripped and painted the front door, the nice gardeners gardened (and built a deck and painted the whole house, put up a fence, installed a gate and built some sleeper beds for my veggies) and me and the girl built a beast of a coal/wood store out of leftover wood and stuff (and yes, it was mostly her brain-child, and partly my boy-strength).

Before we put the finishing touches to everywhere else, do a final tidy and take the long awaited “after” photos, here’s what’s been happening outside in pictures:

The Front Door


Much like all the internal doors, the front door is the original one that came with the house in 1931 – totally worth saving as it keeps the period feature and it’s totally solid (must have weighed 30+kg). It was also covered in about 5 different colours of paint including red, green, blue, white and various shades of cream.

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Once it was all stripped (which took the best part of a day) it was all sanded back to be as smooth as possible. Cracks, dents and holes were filled and sanded back ready for 2 coats of undercoat, followed by 2 coats of top-coat.

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The only fiddly part was taping up and painting round the window frames. But eventually, the door was back in place.


Applying the top coat was a pretty similar experience but afterwards, it looked like this:


The inside was yet to do and that’s why the windows look like they’ve got paint all over them – they have, but on the inside.

The Back Garden

We were introduced to a nice bloke called Gareth who gave us an amazing quote to sort out the mess of our back garden and paint the house – which is what they started with:


Once the back was painted, they levelled everything off and built some sleeper beds which at some point (maybe not this year) will become a veg garden.

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Next was to build the deck. The design was for it to span the whole width of the property and come out level with the floor inside, to do the whole bring the outside inside thing. It worked pretty well but we had slightly under ordered on the timber so had to reduce the amount it came into the garden by about half a meter. It’s still MASSIVE so this reduction was probably a good thing.

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I’ll save the big reveal shot for another post but in the meantime, he’s what finished looks like to me:


The Wood Store

Because we installed two awesome fireplaces, we knew we’d have to have somewhere to store all the coal and wood for them. Plus, we still have quite a bit of coal left over from the previous resident who only had a fire for heating!

I set about building a wood store from the left over timber but I was quickly told that I was doing it wrong, so the girl stepped in to guide the progress. To be fair, her way was much better than mine. There, I said it (again).

This is the space we were planning to fill:


So we started by building a frame which would come up level with the height of the BBQ side tables. I did some sawing…


And then took some pictures of some wood on wood action


We cut three uprights from the remaining fence-posts and used a bit of C-16 timber for the fourth one. This was then cross-braced with some exterior 2×2″ which I think was left over from the roof of the extension.

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It was scorching hot working on the deck, next to the bright walls of the house, reflecting the sun back down on to us, but we struggled through. At least it wasn’t raining like most British summer’s days.

We continued to chop and screw wood and the beast started to grow in complexity, strength and weight.

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Left over deck boards were attached to the top and left hand side and left over roofing battens were used at the back and right hand side.

After a lot more screwing, we had finished:


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The only thing left was to cut a hatch for the top, put it into place, fill it up with coal and sit back with a cold drink.

Today is the 2 year move-in anniversary. On this day last year, I posted up work in progress photos for the point we were at 12 months in. I’m going to delay doing that as we’re so close to finishing – which should only be a week or two away. Instead, here’s a mini-project that we started back in early May but in part, have only just finished off.

Over the first May bank holiday, we undertook the challenge of storage; we may be two small people living in a four bedroom house, but it seems that we still don’t have enough space so chances are a family of 4+ wouldn’t either.

Key areas to take advantage were somewhere for jackets, coats and shoes in the hallway, additional cupboard space and somewhere to put a TV in the dining room and a cupboard under the stairs.

Dining Room storage

Initially the plan was to design and build bespoke cupboards and shelves in the two alcoves either side of the fireplace. However, after much deliberation, we decided it would be simpler, more effective and a better finish to buy in some more cabinets that matched the kitchen. We also bought another slab of worktop to continue the scheme from the kitchen.

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The cabinets had the feet screwed into them and were then attached to a baton on the back wall. Each side had a 600mm unit and a 500mm unit but as the two alcoves are different sizes, we had to fill the gaps with recessed MDF.

The next step was to cut the worktop to size:


After a couple of coats of Walnut stain and four coats of finishing oil, the worktop was attached, the doors hung and the handles fixed into place.


Since then, the fireplaces have been installed and things look a bit more like this:


Hallway Storage

Another quick win with storage was in the hallway, just next to the front door. We sourced a chrome bar with hidden fixings that would act as a coat rack. Underneath, we built a couple of shelves from MDF and finished them at the front with some leftover door-stop. These were given 3 coats of Dulux satinwood and should make a nice simple shoe-rack.

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Under-stairs Storage

A somewhat bigger project was to turn the drafty and unsightly under stairs area into somewhere to keep things like ironing boards, hoovers and spare tins of paint – or tools until we finish the job.


It was a little complex due to the trapezoid shape of the opening, but after a bit of drawing, cutting, sanding and gentle persuasion, things started to take shape.

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The main side panel was split into three sections with a small opening left for a door. This too was an awkward trapezoid shape which took a bit of head scratching and a trip to B&Q to get right. We were tying to be efficient and recycle some old timber but it was causing more issues than good so we popped down the shops to buy some more 2″x1″ or “wood” as I call it.

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Once the frame was built, it was time to skin it with yet more MDF. The frame was used as a template and the panels for the door cut to size.

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It was a bit of a tricky process to make sure that the door fit snugly into the opening without catching on any of the surrounding frame etc. but eventually, it seemed to fit correctly.


The hinge positions were marked and chiselled out.


After a hanging, removing, sanding, re-hanging and re-sanding, eventually the door fit correctly and it was time for some paint.


Meanwhile, inside, I filled the screw holes and gaps between the panels before giving everything inside a coat of primer.

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Once that was all dry, I slapped on 3 top coats of satinwood. As that was less of a priority, I think I managed 1 coat every 3 weeks and then…

…eventually, two months later, we hung the door.

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Instead of attaching a handle (which would stick into the hallway a bit), we went for a more minimal approach and just drilled a finger-hole to allow the door to be opened with ease.

It may have taken a while to finish off, but being able to hide stuff away under the stairs has made a huge difference to the hallway. Not far to go now.

Re-light my fire

Posted: June 28, 2013 in New Malden
Tags: , ,

We’ve been getting lazy and outsourcing things recently. While the guys were laying the driveway outside, a lovely pair of geezers from Teddington installed two cast iron fireplaces and the surrounds that I restored. I spent the day working from home and managed to snap some photos throughout the process.

We had bought two slabbed granite hearths (42″ by 18″) and two Gallery Coronet cast iron arch inserts and had them delivered to site.

The guys turned up and after clearing the area and sweeping away all the loose bits and pieces, laid a bed of cement for the first hearth.

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Next, the insert and surround were offered up so that the correct position could be marked out – the idea being to centre the surround on the chimney breast and set the insert far enough forward so there’s no gap between it and the surround.

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After that, the surround was removed and the insert fixed into place and sealed with plaster.

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Pretty soon, things were looking finished.


But first, the insert had to be back-filled with rubble and cement to secure it into place.

Towards the end of day one, the first fireplace was complete:


As things were winding up in the lounge, a very similar process was happening in the dining room:

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And at the end of day two, that was also finished:


Nice eh?

Over the last three days a bunch of lovely local lads have given the front garden a facelift and given us some much needed curb appeal. We’ll be adding even more once the remainder of the house gets painted in a couple of weeks and when we’ve done some gardening.

The driveway laying process was pretty quick and painless but here’s the story:

This is not the finished product but the obligatory before shot; nice, innit?


The plan was that the work would take place over three days – day one would be excavating and flattening the site, day two would be building a couple of boundary walls and curved flowerbeds and day three would be for laying the block pavers.


I opened the front door at 7am on Wednesday morning to see a digger parked on the pavement. I assumed they’d be bringing machinery but I wasn’t expecting something so small and compact. This gave me an idea (which was impressive because I hadn’t had my morning coffee).

Last September, we found out from Building Control that we would have to dig a soak-away in the back garden for the tiny amount of additional rain water that would be running off half of the roof of our new extension. Yes, half. Normally a soak-away would be 1m3 in volume but we were advised that because we have clay soils, we should dig 1.5m3 just in case (I’m pretty sure nothing is soaking into clay, but whatever). We started digging.

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After a few evenings work we had gone down about 40cm.

We haven’t done any more digging in 9 months.

But seeing the machine on the front driveway, I thought we might be able to kill two birds with one stone. We measured the gap down the side of the house as 1200mm and then measured the digger: 1100mm. So after a bit of stopping and starting, quite a bit of shouting and possibly some nervous driving, I was able to see this from the back of the house:

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Job done in 10 minutes. Incredible.

They then got to work out the front, making a huge pile of soil which was then removed by a grab truck.

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When the whole area had been dug out to 9″ deep and all the topsoil removed, a base of what looked to be a mixture of sand and rocks was laid and then hammered flat by a big ole vibrating machine.

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At the end of day 1, things were looking flat:


The following morning a group of four guys turned up to start on the brickwork and flower beds.


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It turned out that we got an amazing deal on the bricks. We had ordered the yellow London stock style bricks because we thought it would give a nice contrast to the charcoal grey pavers and the cream painted house. The bricks that were ordered were newly made “London stock style” and cost about 60p each – not bad but we needed 650 of them. The delivery company cocked up and sent us reclaimed stock bricks which cost more than £1.20 each. We didn’t have to pay the extra because they’d already been delivered to site. Result.


Around 4pm the last brick was laid and the guys tidied up and went home.

This morning, they were back for some good old fashioned driveway laying. Before I left for work, they had started spreading sand and flattening it down with a big noisy machine. Probably not what the neighbours were wanting at 7.30am…

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After a fun day of writing code and fixing bugs at work, I came home to the finished driveway. What a change:



Here’s a few more snaps, all taken from an upstairs window throughout the process:

Now we get to fill it with plants and cars and enjoy not having to navigate around pallets and empty boxes that have called our front garden home for the last 23 months!

Today was the first of two days of having band new fireplaces installed. We decided to get the pros in for sake of ease and quality of finish and so far, the results are looking good – more on that in a future post…

However, one of the reasons we were able to afford professionals to fit the fireplaces is because we re-used and re-furbed the original fire surrounds ourselves – for the mere price of a ten pound note. Here’s what we did:

The first surround was the simplest so I tackled it first.



It wasn’t weighted down by layers and layers of paint, it was just varnished, so I knocked the mantle piece off and attacked it with a hand sander. Within a few minutes, I’d removed most of the varnish with a coarse paper and then smoothed it off with a finer grade.


It was in pretty good condition, so I just filled some dents and screw holes and put it to one side, ready for painting. Done!


The second surround (for the lounge) needed a bit more work. It was a completely different design than the dining room one, with a tall, panelled section above the mantle, with another mantle like bit on the top. I like things to match, so that had to go.

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I whacked off the mantle with a hammer and then used a blunt scraper to pry off the crappy old trim – I could have used a chisel but didn’t want to risk damaging the woodwork.

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The remaining trim was removed and the top panels knocked out in preparation to saw off the top section.

Pretty soon, that was removed and the whole thing was looking much better.


I spent the next few hours stripping off the paint with a heat gun, much like we did with the doors. We had bought a piece of trim from B&Q that closely matched the other surround and that was tacked on with panel pins. The piece of trim cost £10 and is all the money that was spent on these two surrounds.


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We grabbed some leftover worktop (one piece was actually left over from a previous property!) and trimmed it to size and rolled the edges with sand paper by a couple of mm.


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The worktops were then stained to match the kitchen ones and then given four coats of Liberon finishing oil for protection and a nice shine.



Meanwhile, I started the first of 3 coats of Dulux satinwood, sanding in between each coat for extra smoothness.



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Once everything had been stained, painted, sanded and dried (a process that takes several days due to the number of coats and drying time), the tops were screwed on to the surrounds and they were offered up into place.

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Looking good, eh? And not bad for a tenner!

It’s so SOFT!

Posted: June 17, 2013 in New Malden

Wednesday last week was a big day as we finally have something other than wonky floorboards and dusty stairs to walk on; the carpets are down!

The night before, we cleared out the rooms upstairs, took the bed apart and carried wardrobes and chests of draws down to be stored in the lounge. The lounge will be carpeted but we’re waiting until the fireplace is installed (in a couple of days) to avoid making a mess of the new floor coverings.


Here are some before shots that I took BEFORE carpet as I left for work….

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A few hours later, three dudes from John Lewis turned up and got to work.

When they came round to measure up a few weeks ago, they worked out the most efficient layout for each room on as big a piece of carpet as they can manage. These are then pre-cut in a warehouse and then trimmed on site which makes the whole process super fast and efficient. Three upstairs bedooms, hallway, stairs and study were completed in just 3 hours!

They started by laying some nicely branded paper to stop drafts through the floorboards.

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Then the underlay – we bought the most expensive stuff at £8.95 a meter so it would be nice and soft underfoot and even out some of the wonky floorboards.

After that, grippers were attached around the edges of the room and the carpet started to go down.

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The “AFTER” photos don’t really do the whole thing justice because you can’t feel what it’s like. However, it’s made such a difference, has made the colour of the walls and woodwork stand out a lot more and made everything feel a lot more finished.

Downstairs study

Bedroom 2

During the day, a whole boat-load of furniture also arrived (fortunately, once the carpet fitters had left). So the evening was spent putting pouring over flat-pack diagrams and trying to work out which way was up.

Main bedroom

Things are shaping up nicely and the end is now in sight – next time I’ll be writing up how we restored the two 1930’s fire surrounds for a tenner and the installation of the new cast iron fireplaces…

Things are progressing nicely. While we continue to strip doors like there’s no tomorrow, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We have a few things booked in to happen within the next days and weeks and should have lots of things to post up soon. Some of these include:

Carpet fitters are coming in two days. They’ll be fitting carpet in all the bedrooms, upstairs hallway, stairs and study! The lounge will be done later.

Two lovely looking granite hearths have arrived and will be fitted along with two cast iron fireplaces in two weeks time (after that, the lounge carpet can go in).

Front driveway will be excavated and block paving laid at the same time as the fireplaces are being done inside.

Rear garden landscaping starts on July 1st and will involve a massive deck, some sleepers and a truck load of turf.

In (perhaps premature) celebration of all of the above, I have got a little carried away and started ordering new stuff to put inside and outside the finished house. We’ve ordered a whole suite of bedroom furniture, a sofa, coffee tables, book cases and entertainment units. We would have ordered a load of stuff for the office too, but that has an 8-10 week lead on stock so might have to be found elsewhere. However, one thing that is bought, arrived, unboxed and already baring fruit is my new BBQ.

I previously had a nice big Anthony Warrall Thompson one with two big burners, a side burner and a fair amount of space for grilling meat. However, after a mere couple of years the whole bloody thing has turned to rust. In celebration of a big ole deck to put it on, I ordered a slightly larger, more upmarket grilling machine made of stainless steel – guaranteed not to rust (apparently). The only thing is, it’s a bit big…

My first indication of it being quite large was when I was sent a photo in an email letting me know that it had arrived and been left in a box on the front “lawn”.


It may be in the foreground, but it is quite big compared to the car in the background…

When I got home, I realised that it really *was* quite big. It was so big, in fact, that the girl was terrified of it:


But then I think she was just confused by it:


Again, note the scale – it’s pretty much as big as a person – quite big.

It was also quite heavy. 109kg to be precise. I had to Google it to check…


And as such, we had to employ ancient Crystal Maze style techniques to get it down the side of the house. We punted for the slide it on to a piece of wood, slide it onto another piece of wood, take first piece of wood from behind and place in front again, repeat, technique. Which worked fine except for the uneven ground.


But eventually, we got it into the back garden and placed it next to the old one for a little comparison.


By that time it was getting dark so I decided to leave the assembly for another evening.

A couple of days later, I managed to get all the bits and bobs attached, the gas hooked up and the whole thing fired up. I even had the chance to make some (delicious) tomato and basil burgers with field mushrooms and aubergine with a lemon, rosemary, garlic and oil dressing.

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I’m getting used to the size of it now but it still makes me smile every time I see it. Ridiculous, but awesome!

Apples and Pears

Posted: May 22, 2013 in New Malden
Tags: , , , ,

The decorating continues and the end is in sight. Or at least, more in sight than it was 6 months ago…

Something that started almost 6 months ago (5th January to be precise), was restoring the staircase. This has been a labour of love much like the doors (which we still have 4 left to do) but has made a HUGE improvement to the hallway.


So, back in January, this is how the upstairs banister looked:


I started by stripping off the old paint from the newel post and handrail.

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That got boring pretty fast, so I handed things over to my glamorous assistant

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We had to take things in turn because the stripping and scraping is really hard on the hands – especially when the thing you’re stripping is fixed into place and in an awkward position.

After several days of doing short bursts of work, the upstairs section was all stripped. It was sanded back with a combination of electric and hand sanding, starting with coarse paper and finished off with some super-fine stuff for a nice smooth finish.


The process was repeated for the downstairs section. Working on the steep, narrow staircase made the whole process even more awkward and frustrating.

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But eventually it was all stripped, even the stringers that run up the sides – where the staircase is attached to the side wall.

We bought a couple of newel post caps from eBay for some ridiculously good price (a couple of quid each, if I remember rightly) which were glued in place and left to dry.

The next stage was to paint it all. Previously, the hand-rail was black with white spindles but we decided to blend everything together and slapped 3 coats of Dulux Brilliant White satinwood over everything.

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Each section of the staircase (upstairs and downstairs) would take anything from 1-2 hours to paint and with 3 coats everywhere and 24 hours drying time between each, it took a long time to finish.


All it needs now is the cupboard under the stairs to be finished off and some carpet laid and they’ll be looking as good as new!

Obviously, I’m talking about our lovely new floor…

Yes, over the long Easter weekend we spent 3 days laying the new downstairs floor. After three 12-hour days of scrabbling around on our knees, and chopping wood in the back garden in the freezing cold (and snow!) we were pretty exhausted but pretty pleased with our efforts.

However, to put that in some context, here’s how it looked before:

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The first task was to move all the lose bits and pieces into the utility room. After that, we had one last bit of old floor to cover with ply in front of the front door. It turns out that trying to screw wood into concrete is a pain in the ass and cutting all the pieces to fit the slightly odd-shaped porch area and get it all secured took almost half a day.

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While that was going on, I cut and laid the underlay across the rest of the hallway, ready to lay the laminate on top of it.

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Now it was time to lay some floor. We’d chosen a nice dark “Walnut effect” floor from Howdens (where we also got the kitchen units).

To start off, there was a bit of head scratching to work out the best starting point so that we wouldn’t end up with tiny slivers and off-cuts at the edges of any of the rooms. After settling on one of the corners of the hallway, we got to work.

Laying laminate is pretty straightforward – it comes as tongue and groove boards that just clip together; there’s no glue or nails involved. The floor is laid in rows, starting at one corner of a room and clipped together, end to end, until you reach the other side of the room. Once one row is complete, you move on to the next, first clipping all the boards together end-to-end and then connecting that whole row to the previous one in one go. A 10-15mm gap is left on all sides to allow the wood to expand and contract at different temperatures and while being walked on.

It was pretty tricky to work our way all the way from the front door to the back wall of the property in a single row of boards and it was all we got done on day 1…


The next day, we cracked on laying the rest of the hallway and left half of the dining room.

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One of the first obstacles we came to was what to do around the door frames. We wanted to have the floor run straight through (and under) the doorway between the hallway and kitchen so did a bit of YouTube-ing to find out the best solution. The method we found was to use an off-cut of flooring to mark the finished height of the floor and chisel out the door frame from that point to the current floor level.


The boards were then able to be slide into the grove created in the door frame and clipped into place. After that, we made good progress, working our way towards the kitchen, under the area where the fridge sits – moving it out the way temporarily…


Whilst that was happening, I cut the remaining boards the finish off the entrance way and downstairs hall.

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The fridge was moved back into place and by the end of day 2 we’d completed the kitchen. One of the tricky bits here was to slide some of the boards underneath the units – they had been hung so there was a just a big enough gap for the floor to slide under them but it did take a few failed attempts and some gentle persuasion with a rubber mallet before it was all looking perfect.

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On day 3, we shuffled all the furniture around to start working in the remaining areas. I continued to work in the kitchen/diner, laying the remainder of the floor up to the chimney breast whilst Kylie got to work in the utility room.

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By lunchtime, we were done and it was all looking pretty sweet. I even had time to lay a bit of skirting board in the utility room which shows how the expansion gap gets covered up and everything starts looking finished.


Nice, eh?