Charlie Baker - Q1, 2005

January 2005

Re-roofing? There's no felt under the slates, no insulation except a bit of fluff on top of the attic ceiling, the 2 chimney stacks have got a slight lean on them. But we can't afford it. Also, when we were designing Homes for Change breathing walls were just starting to be built. The idea that you let the building breathe is interesting but in most old houses this breathing is done through the chimneys - as they have been blocked off, gaping holes in windows sealed up with draft strip, once you've put felt in the roof, where does the breathing happen?

I'm a bit confused because airtightness is now a test for new buildings so have we gone full circle. I don't know so I'm going to try it out. We can't afford to re-roof yet, I've shoved foam up the chimney's so that there is still some ventilation but only a trickle and we'll see what happens. It does get very cold in the attic when the wind blows though.

Moving in soon, 7 skips of crud out of the basement and hardly any treasure, sent as much off to charity shops and into various recycling bins as we could but despite trying to be sustainable we've still just shoved a few tons into land fill – oops!

Stripped out the bathroom, there are tendrils of something growing underneath the hardboard that used to have cork tiles on it, the floor is completely rotten half way across the floor. The big dresser in the kitchen below it which I had fancied keeping is quite rotten too. The plaster in both rooms is only held there by the wallpaper. Look on the bright side we can put some insulation up on the bathroom wall now that there's no original woodwork/plasterwork to retain like there is in the rest of the house

February 2005

It's cold, ow! You can forget how cold these houses are when you've spent 10 living in a well insulated modern building, and my body seems to have forgotten the 10 years I spent on the Crescents. So we need heat.

We've got a great collection of nice old fireplaces but Manchester's a smoke control zone so only coke. Well that's not happening, there was moment when I romantically thought I could nip down to Wales every now and then and get a bag of worker owned Tower colliery's high grade Welsh anthracite, but no! While I still have a 23 year old instinct to support the miners, it's a fossil fuel. Sarah has discovered that you can get woodburners that are allowed in smoke control zones. So we've now got a Morso wood burner which at full wack warms most of the house. Does mean we can burn waste wood and some cardboard as long as they're not painted or varnished etc. and we now dig around in other people's skips for a 'nice bit of firewood'.

March 2005

Couple of report backs then. Polyx oil is great under bare feet and upstairs in the bedrooms is doing well but there'a lot of muck being generated by the house, us and the bits of work we're doing and it's not wearing well. We've had to get Danny back in to cover all the bits of the floors that are wearing out with some hardboard. Hmmmm, we're going to end up having to redo that bit in the high wear areas – but you live and learn I 'spose

And HID lamps: the ones I've seen for night time bike riding come on immediately - iGUzzini's don't, they're better than they used to be but not by as much as I was lead to believe. They are the kind of lights which once on, you leave on. So actually a bit of a dead loss in a house where you're trying to economise on energy use! So far we've only installed them in the bathroom, kitchen and hallway which are so dingy that actually quite a lot of the time it is best to leave them on. But word of warning if you're trying to get spotlights at 100 lumens/watt – check the fittings for warm up time before you buy them, and if anyone wants 7 very nice recessed downlight/spotlights get in touch as I've not put them in the kitchen yet as it still has no ceiling.

The very expensive dimmable fluorescents are great, you can have them right down to candle brightness, they make no noise, there's no glare and the quality of light is really nice. So fluorescents 1, HID nil. The allegedly dimmable tungsten task lights had actually had the transformers spec changed, unbeknown to the salesman and they all blew up after being dimmed, so I had to change them - mildly inconvenient! But now it does mean that we're only using as much power as we want so most of the time the bulbs are only using 10 watts or so.

Still haven't solved the problem in the kitchen though, I've got boxes of lights not really fit for the job and don't know what is....


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