The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…

I’ve posted the original floor plans already, this about what I plan to do…. maybe.

proposed downstairs

  • I’ve reconfigured the hall to put in a downstairs WC – there is a decent amount of space below the floor and a manhole right outside the front door so I think this location should be ok.
  • Sadly I’ve lost the vestibule so I’ll have to get a door with a high energy rating and have parcels delivered to Dad’s or work.
  • I’ve moved the door into the extension between the (current) vestibule and the kitchen – unfortunately that wall is load bearing (it holds up the purlin in the roof) so that might be tricky.
  • I’ve made the extension fully openplan – so will need one massive steel.  I tried just about every configuration to keep part of the wall but none of them really worked.
  • The back of the house is south facing so I wanted to keep the kitchen on north wall.
  • As there is no downstairs shower room I’ve gone for a combi boiler and put it pretty much where the mains pipe come in, between the kitchen and as close as possible to the upstairs bathroom and new WC.
  • I can’t have bi-fold doors all the way along the back as that would be a beam on top of a beam but I’m hopefully going to have the extension as light as possible – probably with some skylights in the lean-to roof.
  • Of course I’ve put in a ridiculously large dining table and sofas but as only the kitchen is fixed there lots of scope to move stuff around.


proposed upstairs

  • No more wall between the toilet and the bathroom.
  • The hot water cylinder will be removed as I’m having a combi (and a new one wouldn’t have fit in that cupboard anyway).  In the space where the cylinder was (and a bit more borrowed from the little bedroom) I’ve put a shower but as that wall is load bearing (it holds up the purlin) it will need a lintel (yes, that’s the same load bearing wall I’ve put a lintel in downstairs as well –  eek!).


proposed footprint

  •  A driveway between the tree and the oil tank (that involves putting an opening in the stone wall in a conservation area, getting approval from highways and protecting the tree roots for forestry).
  • A new shed 🙂
  • Oh, that bullet hole at the top is a firepit – I’d forgotten I’d put that there.

Anyway, this is where I got to on my own but as much as I love plans I realise I need to get a pro on the case.

It’s getting hot in here

Except it’s not.

As the tenants only left last summer so I figured the heating would probably work.  That might have been a bit optimistic given… erm, this:

Old Old Boiler

So, one of the first things I did once the electricity was on was to try to fire the boiler.  I’ve never actually had to fire a boiler before (they’ve always just already been on) so I clicked what I assumed was the ignition a few times – it did nothing.  Then I turned that green handle about half way up the right hand side.  It made a whooshing sound – I clicked the ignition a few more times – still nothing.  I stood back and pondered.  Then something seemed to burst and heating oil started spurting up the wall, hitting the roof and raining down on my head.  I jumped forward and turned the green handle again and it stopped.  I shut the door and asked my friends to wrap up warm and bring around some electric heaters.  After a couple of weeks of doing my best to ignore it, I gave me old primary school chum Ste (who’s now a plumber) a text and he came round and gave me some sage advice.  

So firstly, Ste points out that you’re not meant to turn that handle and, had known where to look, I’d probably have seen the pressure gauge steadily rising before it “blew” (which was actually just the overflow kicking in).  Then he asked me where the controller was to switch the boiler on  – “erm, you mean this thermostat thing on the wall in the kitchen?” – he flicked some switches and the pump started up.  Unfortunately it didn’t fire so it’s probably “a part”, he volunteered to send his service guy around but I don’t think it’s worth it – I’m going to have to get a new boiler anyway but that leads us on to the next problem – where to put it?

The boiler is currently in one of the outbuildings which will be demolished for the new extension – so the boiler has to go in the new extension, in part of the existing house or outside (it has to be a special outside boiler in that case).

I gave Ste a decent grilling about what’s the best approach with regard to boilers and heating systems in general and my house specifically – this is what I learned (well, some of this I knew before but is included for completeness):

  • Regular boilers have a separate hot water cylinder (this is the system the house currently has)
  • Combi boilers don’t have a separate hot water cylinder (they heat the water on demand)
  • The current hot water cylinder will need to be replaced and the cupboard it is contained within is too small for a modern cylinder
  • There is quite a bit of space under the floorboards on the ground floor (enough to get down and run pipes)
  • A boiler has to have a flue to an outside wall (it couldn’t go in the coat closet)
  • The cylinder doesn’t have to be against an outside wall although it will need to be vented to the outside, this could be under the floor (it could go in the coat closet)
  • An outside boiler is no less efficient than an inside one.
  • A combi or a cylinder should be as close as possible to the taps which use hot water.
  • It doesn’t matter how far away a regular boiler is from the taps.
  • You can’t chase pipes into brick walls so they will need to be boxed in, somewhere they can all be grouped together will mean a neater job can be made.
  • The cost to supply a combi vs a regular boiler plus a cylinder is about the same.
  • It is about an additional day’s labour to install a cylinder
  • For a my sized house with one bathroom, a combi would be fine
  • For a my sized house with one bathroom and an additional shower room (which is unlikely to be used at the same time) a combi should be ok
  • For a my sized house with two bathrooms (or the prospect of later putting in another bathroom) a regular boiler plus a cylinder would be best, a combi wouldn’t cut it.
  • The hot water cylinder could go in the loft but the floor would need extra support.
  • The cold water storage tank in the loft would be removed
  • The soil pipe is cast iron so another toilet couldn’t be added to the stack
  • There is a manhole outside the front door so it might be possible to run a new soil pipe
  • New radiators are more efficient than the old ones and for the cost, it’s probably a worthwhile upgrade
  • The radiator in the living room (which annoyingly takes up the only wall without a door or a fireplace) could be switched for a vertical one next to the French doors)
  • The radiator in the hall could be changed for a smaller one
  • The radiator in the bathroom has a dodgy bit of pipe (“could go at any time”)
  • He likes my plan to reconfigure the bathroom and add a shower
  • I don’t have to redo all the piping (particularly the bedrooms) but it might be a good idea to do it all at once.
  • My pressure is too high – it needs reducing (high pressure is hard on taps etc)
  • He showed me where the oil level was in the oil tank
  • It’s a single skin oil tank
  • I’ve a lead supply pipe
  • Oh, he showed me how to take the radiators off the walls

I also got him to give me a load of finger in the air prices but until I decide exactly what system I’m going to get and where it is all going to go, we can’t really make an progress.

N.B. all of the above relates to oil boilers – I’ve no idea about gas as oil is cheaper on the Isle of Man.


What exactly are your intentions?

I’ve posted the original floorplans already so please refer to that page if you need some context.

These are my current intentions anyway.

  1. Downstairs, I’d like to knock down the outbuildings (which are single brick thick with a tin roof) and build a single storey extension with a ‘lean to’ roof.
    • This would create an ‘open plan’ kitchen / dining / living room
    • I’d like to incorporate a downstairs loo (ideally with a shower in it)
    • As boiler is currently housed in one of the outbuildings that would have to be incorporated into the extension somehow as well.
  2. Upstairs, I’d like to reconfigure the bathroom
    • Knock down the wall between the bathroom and toilet (assuming there is a separate downstairs loo).
    • Remove the hot water cylinder and square-off the little bedroom in order to incorporate a separate shower into the bathroom.
  3. I’d like to put a driveway in
    • The tree won’t be allowed to be felled (it’s not registered but they have more rights than people here)
    • The oil tank has to stay where it is (it’s the best place for it)
    • I’d like to keep the gate and the path up to the front door (it matches next door’s).

The house is in a conservation area but it isn’t one of ‘precious’ buildings of the area – those are the 12th century Abbey, the old Mill, the Church and the Hall and I can understand the need to conserve them but I reckoned a solitary pair of post-war semis would basically be shrugged at by the planning department.  The other semi has a single storey extension and in 2004 was granted planning permission for a driveway but never implemented it – due it it having changed use several times in the past the houses are no longer mirror images either.

However, after having a meeting with planning department it turned out my assumptions were slightly off the mark – rather than the philosophy being that those houses weren’t really worth conserving, instead it’s felt that they have a negative impact on the conservation area and nothing should be done which may make that worse.  Hrmph.  Anyway, it’s probably not that bad, they weren’t keen on a two storey extension but after some deliberation I wasn’t really either – a lean-to extension would be preferable to the current flat roofed outbuildings so they are encouraging that.  There’s only the driveway which might be a problem, since next door were granted permission the conservation policy has gotten stricter and… well, I just hope the wall isn’t too precious.