Having achieved the hallowed weathertight status, our thoughts began to turn inwards — specifically the plasterboard. Given the scale of the space presented by our tower to the front, we took the decision to move the staircase into this new atrium hallway. One of the problems of the existing house was a slightly underwhelming staircase and so moving it, despite the cost implication, would have a positive impact on both the flow and ‘wow’ factor of the entrance itself.
So much of the project is based around addressing the problems that the current house presented that, at times, we felt it might have been best if we had knocked the whole thing down and started again. At no time was this more painfully evident than after our initial chats with our lovely plumber Neil.
He’d quoted based on the additional extension work as per the plan. Taking a few minutes to examine the existing heating system, he concluded that, as the pipes were predominantly buried in the ground, there could be no guarantee that they weren’t corroding or likely to corrode in the near future. And when you’re spending a lot on tiling and flooring and generally creating quite a nice house, the last thing you want hanging over your head is the threat of a newly invasive installation.
So a brand new heating system for the whole house it was. And another few thousand pounds gone in the blink of an eye.
With first fix involving this continued mix of stripping out the original and creating new runs, plastering would be a critical benchmark for us in turning what was effectively a building site into something approaching a home again. Now I love aesthetic-based decisions, but I am equally interested in performance and longevity too. Plasterboard is not something that keeps most people awake at night but the implications of it can.
We inherited the house with the problems that bad plasterboard causes — loads of holes unfilled for shelving and curtain poles; poor quality fixings everywhere, interspersed with battered plaster and so on.
I came across British Gypsum’s Gyproc Habito board a couple of years ago and always remembered their demonstration — effectively it can hold up to 15kg by a single threaded screw, and is practically impossible to damage. It’s basically a dense board that creates the feeling that a traditionally wet-plastered wall delivers — removing that slightly cardboard feel that too many modern homes have. It’s relatively fast to install, requiring fewer fixings, although with it being dense it can take longer to cut, and while it doesn’t flex, it is a bit heavier to lift.
What we’ve ended up with are better walls that can be adapted as we change the way we live in the house. We then skimmed them with British Gypsum’s Pure Finish, which claims to improve indoor air quality and at the same time is ‘a joy’ to install, according to our plasterers.
There has been a mix of new plastering and patching in as the new space meets the old. What constantly surprises me is how much of a difference the plastering trade makes. Before, it’s a building site. Afterwards, it’s a room quickly on the way to becoming liveable.
Our approach throughout the project has been to invest in quality and look to the long term. It’s the right thing to do, but doesn’t make things easy — or cheap!