Category Archives: Renovation

Easy Gains: Removing VAT on Retrofit Energy-Saving

For all the publicity that the ‘sexy’ side of climate change mitigation gets – wind, wave and solar power or the shift to electric vehicles – all of which are necessary and laudable, the biggest difference that we can make is to reduce our demand for energy in the first place.  Continue reading Easy Gains: Removing VAT on Retrofit Energy-Saving

The Bookshelf Constant

It is an invariant law of the universe that books expand to fill the space allocated to them, plus ten percent. I call this The Bookshelf Constant. You can’t outwit this any more than you can gravity and it is entirely independent of how many books and bookshelves you buy.

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Renovation of the Year

Yes, really. We’ve been judged, voted upon and are winners of the 2014 Daily Telegraph/Homebuilding & Renovating UK Renovation of the Year.  Which is nice and we have an impressively heavy glass trophy and some rather nice photographs by Nigel Rigg to remind us of this.

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There. Or thereabouts.


It’s taken us six years, but we’re there. Actually I’d say we’re three months from finishing and probably will be for several years, but all the basics are in place, remaining work being the painting of woodwork and one bedroom, the tiling of one of the bathrooms and the rectification of various minor-but-annoying balls-ups by the main contractor.

Continue reading There. Or thereabouts.

Recycled Warmth

The last piece of the insulation jigsaw went in today: 27 bags of Warmcel recycled newspaper-based insulation, blown into the floor of the new master bedroom. This room sits above the unheated stable and tack room, now our garage and plant room, so when we used this room as our living room, it was perennially freezing unless we had storage heater, radiator and the log burner on, full blast. With the heat pump now in the plant room, we also needed better sound insulation between the floors – the pump isn’t particularly noisy but the buzzing of the compressor would definitely not aid a good night’s sleep.

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Pass the Anthracite…

Our renewable energy (lack of) saga drags on. Using our own records and technical audits from both BRE UK and a new supplier recommended by Danfoss, we’ve been able to demonstrate that our original renewable systems supplier, MMAXX Ltd, and their managing director, Neil McFarlane, had neither the competence to take on the work in the first place nor the integrity to admit it and either turn down the project or bring in people who did know what they were doing. That’s led to more than a year of non-functioning systems, damage to our property and a system that has so far provided neither the heat nor hot water specified and required. It’s also failing to deliver the promised savings or environmental benefits.

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Stoves Online

Our woodburning stove in the kitchen, replacing a very old and burned out multifuel stove,  is a Woodfire 12i, sourced from Stoves Online ( The first one they sent was damaged in transit – whether by their courier or by MMAXX Ltd we don’t know (MMAXX didn’t check it over on arrival at their depot, unpacked it then brought it up dumped in the back of a van, so I know where my money goes) – but Stoves Online were unfailingly helpful and courteous over arranging the replacement.

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Funny thing – before I moved back to Scotland, I’d never come across the habit of “Taping and Filling” – using Ames tape to seal the seams between adjacent sheets of plasterboard and then plastering and sanding the joint smooth. But it seemed to make perfect sense – after all, why should we pay for plasterboard and then pay some highly skilled bloke to spend days plastering it? Continue reading Plastered

Small Decisions, Large Consquences

In renovating Stronvar, we’ve created an insulated shell inside the original fabric of the building, bringing each wall in by about 120mm and increasing the effective thickness of the walls from around 800mm to nearly a metre – this is a not insubstantial building. Continue reading Small Decisions, Large Consquences

The Great British Workman?

What is it with the British? There’s been so much bitching over the last couple of years about conditions in the building and services industries, so it might seem reasonable to expect that companies would be focussing on delivering for their clients and just getting the job done.

Continue reading The Great British Workman?