So I left you with a bit of a cliffhanger before Christmas, hinting at a bit of a disaster in the bathroom renovation. Sorry if you’ve been in suspense ever since, but if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know it’s all been resolved and we’re forging on. Thank goodness.
If you remember, we had ripped out the old bathroom, the suite, ceiling, and walls, and had it all replastered. We were ready to lift up the floor and get the plumbing in place for the new suite, because we have moved everything around to improve the crazy layout. When we pulled up the floorboards, we got a bit of a nasty surprise. Having already lifted them on one side to fit the towel radiator when we first moved in, we already knew there was a hidden staircase under there – the blocked up one from the second cottage that was joined into one to make our house.
What we hadn’t realised was that of course, when the house was built in the 1850s, there were no upstairs bathrooms, so all the plumbing had been added at a later date. The wonderful plumbers who did this decided their easiest option was to cut holes in all the joists to make room for the pipes, sometimes quite large ones. Added to that, the joists were running the length of the room, and were quite widely spaced. In fact only two of them spanned the entire width. We realised straight away the structure wasn’t going to be strong enough to hold a bathtub full of water, never mind a person as well! In fact, even walking along them, the joists were bending. The entire floor needed replacing.
Cue an evening of depression thinking it was going to cost us a small fortune and some builders to fix. However, a bit of research and conferring with the neighbour who is a builder (handy chap to know), we decided it was something we could DIY. Now, I’m not going to write any tutorials on this or go into any detail, because aside from ordering lumber, measuring and chopping joists to size and making a lot of cups of tea and coffee, I didn’t actually get involved in the tech side of this, and even if I had, it’s not something I’d want to write a how-to on and then have someone follow it and their house fall down! It might not of course (ours is so much stronger than before), but you know, I’m all about the easy DIYs and things anyone can do, and I don’t class replacing floor joists as that kind of project.
It was a fairly time-consuming job. First we had to remove the old joists and the lathe and plaster ceiling over the side passage and staircase which was a seriously dusty, filthy job.
Then we built an external frame of joists which were fixed into the old joist slots in the brickwork and then bolted to the stone all the way around. Then we used joist hangers to slot joists across the length (at much narrower intervals). Finally, because we wanted to be sure it was all secure, we added support struts across the width, also using joist hangers.
As the bathroom is half over the old staircase and half over the passage to one side of the house, whilst all this work was going on, our home was essentially open to the elements.
Yes, we could shut the bathroom door at night, and wedge it, but it wasn’t very secure (I slept so badly listening out for people breaking in!) and it certainly wasn’t very warm (it was early November and snowing). I was so relieved when we finally got some boards down over the joists and closed off our house again!
It was a while though before we could insulate the underneath after all the plumbing had gone in, and the house stayed freezing for a few weeks. Now however we have insulated both inside the house and above the side passage, and replaced the side passage ceiling with boards. We still need to paint it, but I don’t think that’s too high priority. Luckily the neighbour who actually uses the side passage for access and to store his bikes has been very understanding while all this went on, because it was totally impassable for a while.
We managed to salvage a lot of the wood ripped out from the bathroom in two ways. First I chopped up a lot of it for firewood, and realised half way through I had nowhere to store it, so I built a quick log store with some of the wood which I’m quite proud of (tutorial coming soon), and second, the old joists were quite lovely and thick with great character, so I cut enough for three floating shelves either side of the living room fireplace. Sadly while we were storing them in the side passage someone decided to have a nosy and help themselves, so I’m reduced to only two shelves each side! Maybe I can find suitable replacements eventually.
So, that’s the big delay on the bathroom. It was a huge amount of unexpected work and cost, though doing the work ourselves meant our main costs were joists, hangers, screws (so many screws), insulation and floorboards, which ended up coming to around £400 – not too bad for an entirely new floor.
We finally had an empty room, ready for us to crack on with plumbing. More on that next time, but head on over to my Instagram for a few sneak peaks of how it’s looking!