Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Avocado be gone - sorry 1970's! Plus banishing bannister gloss...

Hi everyone,

Great to have your comments and as promised here is a little more about what we have been up to– my update today covers lots as you will see!

We have now completely sanded down the banister – the layers of gloss on there over the years were pure hell buut I am so pleased to have it fully stripped back now. Here are my suggestions for anyone looking to do a similar job!

1) Make sure that if you are trying to remove gloss, you use either a paint stripper or a mechanical sander with quite high abrasiveness. I used paint stripper then tried to sand the rest by hand – impossible with gloss! The paint stripper is a gel that can be brushed on, left for around 30 seconds, then scraped off. Cover the floor with newspaper and definately, definayely used gloves and cover all your skin, this is nasty stuff so open windows too. Make sure you use an old tin can, I washed out an old cat food tin, and an old brush for the gel. Once you have stripped all the goo of and it is dry, clean it down with white spirit.

2) Use a fine level of abrasiveness for the final sanding – I chose to do this by hand as the banister is pine, so needed a gentle touch not to dent the soft wood or remove too much.

3) You can stain the wood if you want to show the grain more. I may do this, though I am torn as I have also head that oiling it is good – I am not sure of the difference but I have stain, whereas I don’t have wood oil! Have also heard a lot about waxing, I have some beeswax at home which I have used for some other furniture. However have also heard that waxing is no good for areas that may get wet and as the bannister is near the bathroom it may be people have wet hands after washing, so I may have to oil the wood instead of waxing.

Any recommendations greatly received!

Our other project has been our bathroom, this started as a small job to simply replace the bathroom suite which was avocado… and has now turned into a full bathroom refit! Needless to say we were not expecting to pay for this level of work, these things just have a way of creeping up on you, each decision you make can lead to more expensive decisions. Be warned!

What we have learned from this is that:

1) Get at least 3 quotes from reputable traders from a site like Try to use local companies, as they will charge less generally as there is less travel. Sometimes an out of town company may charge less if they have other jobs in the area the same week for example. Also worth getting contractor quotes for the whole job (they will do all the sub work too), then getting individual quotes for plubming, tiling, plastering etc and seeing which works out cheaper for you overall. Depends how much time you have as well because if you hire various different people for different jobs you will have to be more involved.

2) Once all quotes are in, don’t always go for the absolute cheapest – are they busy? Have they done this sort of work before? Just in chatting to them do you get the feeling they may take shortcuts? Of course it’s hard to foresee everything but some will charge little on the basis that they are in and out with little regard for details or your actual needs.

3) Always, always know the measurements and details of work before they arrive to quote. Give each person the same brief, so that when costs come back you are comparing like for like. We did not do this and with each contractor we learnt more, so by the end we had a better idea of what we actually needed, and so then called the first two to add more detail for a more comprehensive quote. Knowing the square footage for the tiling we wanted for example would have saved us time, and given us more accurate costs for the tiles.

4) Find out how long the job will take and when they will need access, how will you get keys to them, or will you take time off? If they are reliable they can perhaps collect keys from you the night before, and if you end up taking time off, factor this in as a cost, as you would surely have preferred to be having a nice day out instead!

5) Don’t walk into the big DIY warehouses and buy all your fittings and accessories. Take your time and plan ahead. We have bought only basic materials from there, flooring came from ebay, the bath panel came from another online company, taps came from another and the shower screen from ebay. A custom mirror and glass shelf will be bought locally for just £85, a fraction of ready made ones and these are custom size for our bathroom. We are also considering making our own bathroom cabinet, as these can be so expensive. If we make our own, it will fit our bathroom much better (we hope!) and make use of all available space, a premium in a small bathroom.

6) For finishes in a small bathroom, use mirrors, gloss furniture, pale colours and chrome if you can. This means not only light is reflected but also that the look can stay timeless, and you can just change towels/accessories to update it.

To save cash we are doing our own tiling, this saves around £240 in labour costs. Sure it may not be as perfect but we will have to live with that for the savings, and let’s face it, any improvement on the old bathroom is better than nothing! These will be plain white tiles, 40cm x 25cm, in a brick style layout.

So there you have it, I will hopefully add picks next time but as Flickr have changed how images can be used, I will have to find a new way to show you our latest adventures!

Please share your comments, thoughts and tips so we can all learn how to save cash and improve homes on a shoestring x

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Autumn is here - time for chutney, roasts and saving money!

Hi all,
Sorry for the delay - busy few weeks, more DIY and also work aplenty!
I promise to update soon and hope everyone is well - my latest project is the stair bannister and redoing the bathroom, which we are obviously trying to do as frugally as possible...