Fixing to Breeze Blocks Using Chemical Fixings

Using chemical to fixings in thermalite blocks

Breeze blocks like Thermalite or Celcon are used a lot in the property industry for their ease of use and green credentials. We had a requirement to fix some wall brackets to Thermalite blocks.

The fixings needed to be able to with stand a reasonable amount of weight being hung off them so had to have good structural strength. Thermalite blocks are scratched with a series of lines which indicate the type of block. In this instance the blocks had 6 squiggly scratch marks that designate the fact that they are from the “Turbo” range.

Thermalite blocks are quite brittle and can be easily drilled or cut producing alot of dust when worked. Any fixing into the block needs to create a tight and secure bond with the inside of the drill hole.

The fixings used here contain chemicals so where gloves, eye protection and a mask in order to minimise  accidental ingestion or contamination.

This job requires M8 studs so a 10mm hole is drilled into the Thermalite block using an HSS drill bit to a depth of 85mm.

Holes drilled ready to accept chemical fixings
Holes drilled ready to accept chemical fixings

The holes need to be thoroughly cleaned out of all dust created from being drilled. To do this a straw, preferably a metal one to stop the straw walls from collapsing under pressure, was taped to the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner and inserted into the hole with the vacuum cleaner turned on to suck out all the dust. As a belt and braces exercise the inside of the holes was coated with a very quick drying clear concrete sealer and left to dry for 4 hours. This step is not absolutely required.

Using a vacuum cleaner with a straw attached to clean out the dust made from holes drilled in thermalite blocks for chemical fixings
Using a vacuum cleaner with a straw attached to clean out the dust made from holes drilled in thermalite blocks for chemical fixings

With the holes prepped to accept the chemical fixings its now time to insert the glass capsules. Make sure the arrow on the capsule is pointing into the hole and push the capsule all the way down to the bottom.

Inserting the chemical fixing capsule into the hole following the direction of the arrow printed on the glass
Inserting the chemical fixing capsule into the hole following the direction of the arrow printed on the glass

Then place the hex end of the M8 stud into the chuck of a drill and tighten it up. Place the chisel end into the hole up against the end of the glass capsule and start the drill pushing the stud into the capsule until it breaks.

The threaded stud is placed in a drill and pushed and drilled into the chemical capsule
The threaded stud is placed in a drill and pushed and drilled into the chemical capsule

Drill the stud home so that the collar of the stud is just protruding out of the hole and then leave it to set for an hour.

Threaded stud drilled into the chemical capsule and left to set
Threaded stud drilled into the chemical capsule and left to set

Once the chemical fixing has been allowed to set the bracket can be mounted on the studs and the hex nuts tightened up to secure it.

Wall bracket mounted to studs using chemical fixings
Wall bracket mounted to studs using chemical fixings

Time to reconsider epoxy grout

Mosaic tiles with epoxy grout closeup

In the early days epoxy grout gained a reputation for being hard to work with and making the cost of the job too expensive. The product has evolved over the last 20 years and has much different properties to that which it had in the noughties.

Epoxy grout has excellent properties when used in shower cubicles, wet-rooms, swimming pools and anywhere that requires prevention of mold buildup, staining and requires good antibacterial qualities.

Early products had very short pot open times which means the product cured very quickly and that you had to work fast to get the product into the tile gap and remove the excess. Even straight after mixing the grout and the hardener it still had a plastic like quality fresh out of the mixing pot that did not make it easy to push into the grout lines.

Modern two part epoxy is much more like standard grout with a greater pot life and a more fluid consistency making it much easier to work with. It still requires a slightly different approach than standard grout but definitely puts it in the realm of general use.

One of the reasons to re-grout an area maybe because old ordinary grout has gone moldy and discoloured. The old grout can be ground out effectively with an oscillating multi-tool and a diamond tile/grout cutting blade. Wear eye protection and ear protection as these can be a little noisy. You only need one channel in the old grout to give the epoxy grout a good key to get adhesion when re-grouting.

Oscillating multitool with diamind blade grout tile cutter
Oscillating multitool with diamond blade grout tile cutter

If you are applying the grout to freshly laid tiles I always allow 48 hours for the tile adhesive to cure thoroughly but check with the guidelines that came with your tile adhesive. Depending on the adhesive you have used to lay the tiles it maybe that you can allow a shorter time or are required to allow longer before applying the grout. Wear protective gloves when applying the grout.

Most two part systems suggest mixing up the entire pot and using in one go. Even though the pot open times are now longer I still prefer to part mix into a separate pot. If you read the specification sheet supplied with the epoxy grout you should see a grout to hardener ratio specified. Normally its around 9:1 grout to hardener. I use some postage scales to work out the amount of grout and hardener to mix together – don’t forget to take into account the weight of the pot you are mixing up the grout in. I normally try and do 2 meter squared areas in one go. The amount to mix will be dependent on your grout line width and depth but try with about 800 mg total amount to start with and see how far that goes.

After stirring thoroughly the measured amounts of grout and hardener its time to start applying the grout. The epoxy grout should stay workable for between 30 to 40 minutes. I start by working the grout into the grout lines with a metal spatula and then using plenty of water and a rubber grout float pulled diagonally across the grout lines take off the excess grout from the tile surface. Next again using plenty of water use white scouring pads rubbed in a circular motion over the grouted area to remove the grout residue from the surface of the tiles. Keep rinsing the sponges in water and be prepared to go through quite a few sponges. Keep the circular motions fairly light pressured at a diagonal to the grout lines as much as possible and don’t press too hard so as not to pull the grout out of the tile gaps too much.

Once the epoxy grout has been applied, and as much excess removed at the time of grouting, I allow 12 to 24 hours for the grout to cure and then start the process for removing the haze residue that gets left behind on the tile after grouting. You can buy specialist products for removing epoxy grout haze. Be sure to wear protective gloves and have protection for your eyes. Also make sure of good ventilation as the cleaners can be rather potent acid based liquids.

Like applying the grout I try and clean the tiles in 2 meter squared areas. Spray the cleaner and leave to get into the glaze for 30 minutes or so. Then using more white scouring pads start rubbing the left over grout haze off the tiles with plenty of water and the scouring side of the sponge. You can tell when the residue has gone as the tiles take on a smoother feel. If you find any lumps of the epoxy grout stuck to the tiles then you will need a knife or scraper just to knock the leftover grout off. Keep rinsing the sponge and again like grouting be prepared to go through a few sponges. Once you are happy that all the haze has gone with the sponge side of the scourer and plenty of water, give the cleaned area a good soaking and then mop up the water giving the cleaned tiles a good wipe over.

white scouring sponges
Have plenty of white scouring sponges for removing the epxoy grout residue and haze

Now all the grout haze has been removed and the tiles are dry its time to seal them. Various types of sealer are available. One that actually soaks into and impregnates the tile and one that just sits on and coats the surface of the tile. For wet environments I always use the impregnating type. They will not give the surface a shiny finish but you can get ones that improve the lustre and intensify the colour of the tiles. Non impregnating sealers tend to be used for non wet high traffic areas. There are also differing sealers for natural stone as opposed to porcelain or ceramic tiles. Check you are getting a sealer for the right type of tile you are working with.

Mosaic tiles with epoxy grout
Mosaic tiles with epoxy grout on a wetroom floor

Some of the products like the polyurethane sealers give off lots of vapor so work in as ventilated environment as possible and wear protection and if sealing an en-suite make sure you leave a few hours for the smell to vapourise before going to bed. Pour some of the sealer into a clean dry pot and rub a thin layer over the tiles with a sponge. If you have really porous tiles you may need to apply 2 coats. Allow the sealer to dry for at least 24 hours before subjecting the area to water.



How to maximise space by turning a standard 6 panel door into bifold doors

6 panel bi-fold doors

I have just such a room, a dining room, that has high traffic and is also used as a temporary work space. It has 2 entrances, one from the kitchen and one from the lounge, with the 2 sets of doors being close together. One of the doorways has a double door which really protrudes into the room. One of the double doors is always clattering into the door of the kitchen and blocking the walkway space into the room.

The solution was to make the double doors from the lounge into bifolds thus tucking the doors out of the way and stopping them from clashing with the kitchen door while freeing up walkway space around the door area.

My initial search for 6 panel doors that came as readymade bifolds revealed only that they came as part of a kit where there was a track that would go along the header of the door in which the bifolded doors would run. The logic behind this was that the track was needed to support the doors when closed and keep them straight in the doorframe. This meant the doors in the kit were 30 or 40 millimetres shorter due to the track mechanism than I needed. I was planning to use thumb turned rack bolts at the top and bottom of the door to hold the doors shut so I wanted full height doors.

The only option was to take 2 standard hollow 6 panel doors and turn them into a bifold doors.


The doors were slightly too big for the opening so a line was scribed along the top with the doors with the doors being parallel to the jam on the hinge side giving the door a couple of millimetres clearance between the door and the header when cut. If the threshold of the door is not parallel with the bottom of the door then scribe a line on the bottom of the door as well. Make sure that timber removed from the top and bottom of the door leaves a gap above and below the door of a couple of millimetres. The timber was carefully removed using a fine 60 tooth bladed circular saw.


The doors were cut down the centre of the panels using the circular saw. The doors were clamped on top of 2 work benches. Cutting the doors in half revealed the hollow insides of the doors which are filled with thin cardboard. The cardboard was pushed in to allow timber battens that were planed to 27mm thick and 36mm wide to be glued in the gap and clamped.


The timber battens were allowed to set for 24 hours. The hinges were then marked up on the doors matching the existing hinge placements. The hinge housings were then cut out using a router to a depth of 1.5 times the thickness of the hinge leaves. The housing needs to be deep enough to take the hinge leaf and accept part of the depth of the hinge knuckle. See the diagram below of the parts of a hinge being the knuckle, leaf and cap.


Don’t worry if the housings are too deep as the hinge depth can be fine tuned with pieces of thin card or paper placed in the housing. Old Christmas cards or Birthday cards are good for this. I used grade 7 fire rated ball bearing hinges to give the doors stability and a smooth movement.


Clamp the 2 doors together and mark the position of the hinges that join the 2 doors together. Then using the router chop out the housings for the hinges. Fit the hinges to the 2 doors so that they join together and then hang the door into the frame. Repeat these steps for the other door. Adjust the depth of the hinges to allow the minimum gap when closed.


If the doors are too wide then trim the door on the hinge side and use the router to recreate the housings for the hinges. If the gap between the doors is too big then use cardboard or paper shims placed under the hinge to close the gap.I used thumb turns and rack bolts to finish off the doors and allow them to be locked into position when closed.


Not quite Star Trek but pretty close…

The universe

The only thing missing from our Eclisse pocket door is the “Shhhh Shhhh” that crew members get when they walk through a door on the Starship Enterprise.

A project we have carried out renovating what is basically an overgrown shed to turn it into a luxurious hair salon required us to maximise the space that was available. The building is basically an oblong 8 metres by 4 metres with an additional extension of 2.5 metres by 2.5 metres.

We moved the WC out of the extension into the corner of the salon which created a small lobby area into the extension that is now the kitchen. This meant we had a number of doors all opening and closing into each other in a very confined space.

The answer was to install an Eclisse sliding pocket door that allowed the salon to be closed off effortlessly from the lobby and kitchen area. The door disappears in to the “pocket” as the name suggests. A perfect solution for any re-design as pocket doors create extra space in any inside area and remove the clutter and congestion of having multiple doors clash into each other and from blocking the thoroughfare.

The door frame and mechanism comes flat packed and is very simple to put together. The door slides in a metal frame (see picture below) which is made up from the kit that is supplied.
eclisse pocket door frame ready for installation

Below is a picture of the frame installed in the studwork and ready to accept the door mechanism.
eclisse pocket door aluminium frame fixed in place

The picture below shows the door mounted in the sliding mechanism and a flush door handle push pull set (door or handle not supplied) is used to allow the door to be slid open and closed. A normal protruding door handle would foul on the the pocket door frame.
eclisse pocket door handles

And here is a picture of the finished door looking very smart in the salon.
eclisse pocket door

Considerations for a Profitable Renovation

A Profitable Renovation

So the wait is finally over, you’ve bought a property at auction as an investment and now the fun beings as you make the property into a profitable renovation.

With programmes like “Homes Under the Hammer” and “Property Ladder” inspiring millions to buy and renovate properties it can be a common (and expensive) trap to fall into if you are new to making a profitable renovation.  BEFORE you make your investment be sure you do your research and calculate the maths before signing on the dotted line.

Top 5 Tips for a Profitable Renovation

  1. Call in the professionals

If you’re not a DIY expert, call in the professionals. Employ registered tradesmen and builders to plan and complete the job. Ensure you get quotes from at least THREE tradesmen and references prior to committing to one. Property renovations can be no easy task and it can be much more cost and time efficient to hire a professional.

It can be easy to get carried away with moderations and supplies during the process too. Ensure you have a clearly defined budget and timeline. Draw up a written agreement with each tradesman so you have in writing how long the project will take and the cost.  Agree up front how payments will be made.

  1. Onwards and upwards

Property guru from Location Location Location, Phil Spencer advises “the easiest way to get an extra bedroom or bathroom is to build a loft. It’s not particularly disruptive, either, as most of the work can be done from outside.”

Remember though, easy access is essential along with standing height across the conversion. A steep step ladder to get to the conversion won’t do the trick.

  1. It’s not for you

If you’re looking to make a profitable renovation you need to take yourself out of the equation when it comes to home interiors. When it comes to colour schemes, opt for neutral tones and avoid controversial colours where possible. When prospective buyers view the property you want to make it as easy as possible for them to see it as a blank canvas – allowing them to make their own mark. Bright purple walls may be on trend but might not be to everyone’s tastes. Check out this great blog on how simplifying your colour scheme can have a huge impact perception of space too. Come on … off to B&Q for some magnolia, you know you want to ….

  1. Plan for planning permission

You don’t have to go the whole nine yards when it comes to renovating a home for reselling. Indeed just having the planning permission for a basement conversion or extension can add value to the property and can be a lot more attractive to buyers who potentially could be looking to add an extension but don’t want to go through the hassle of the application process. It’s less hassle (and cost) for you too as you don’t need to go through the entire process of managing the project from start to finish.

  1. Park for free

Depending on where your property is and what on-road parking is available, a parking space could potentially add anything from £5,000 to £50,000 onto the value of your house.

You’ll need planning permission from your local council and as always, remember to calculate the cost of doing so against the added value it could bring to the house – but if you have a front garden that can be converted, and limited or no parking spaces currently available this could be a lucrative way to make a profitable renovation.

Looking for more top tips?

  • Check out Waterstones too, they have an extensive collection of Home Renovation and Extension books



Renovation Case Study – VK Hair Salon, Barkway

Front elevation of the shop before works started

Project details

  • Developer – Owner-managed project
  • Property Detail – Retail unit and Hair Salon
  • Location – Barkway (between Buntingford and Royston)
  • Duration – 4 Months


The following case study shows how Owner Giles Sadler took a run down old shop, of wooden construction in a village location between Buntingford and Royston, and turned it into a chic boutique hair salon. Check out the salon’s website at VK Hair Styling.

Shop from North gable-end

View of shop from South gable-end

View of exterior area and side of lean to extension

Rear elevation of shop and len to extension

Proposed Layout

3D renders of the proposed layout and final look and feel (Expertly done by Mike Halls at

3D Render of Proposed Hair Salon exterior

3D Render of Proposed Hair Salon interior

3D Render of Proposed Hair Salon interior

Now the hard work starts…

Although this looked like a simple project of renovating an old shed it turned out to be more involved than we could have imagined. There were many hurdles that we had to overcome renovating a 130 year old wooden building of non-standard construction (massive understatement) throws up.

The shape of the shop and lean-to extension are more like that of a parallelogram than a rectangle and the walls are so far away from perpendicular that we have had to strip the old dry lining out (which revealed more issues, missing membrane and insulation, rotten studs, mouse nests, wasp nests etc, etc) and add studwork to create a true vertical face to the wall.

We had to install completely new plumbing that included installing a hot water cylinder, capable of meeting the salon requirements, in the loft and moving the waste and water around in the shop and kitchen to meet the needs of the proposed layout.

First job was to pull out the old stud wall in the kitchen and build the new WC area in the shop.

Temporary sink in old kitchen area

Stud wall removed between old kitchen and WC with new soil pipe installed and temporary sink in new kitchen area

Soil pipe exit into shallow inspection chamber

New WC and lobby studwork

Studwork built for new WC and kitchen wall

Eclisse pocket door frame ready for installation

Eclisse pocket door aluminium frame fixed in place

This is the frame for the Eclisse Pocket Door that we are installing. Not only is the Eclisse system gorgeous to look at and incredibly efficient in its operation but it does a superb job of creating a door in a very tight space, amazing!

Plumbing and studwork in WC and kitchen wall

Entrance into the kitchen and WC on the left with new lobby wall studwork on the right


At this point, a gorgeous new engineered oak wooden floor (supplied by was laid and then instantly covered up to protect the oak smoked oiled finish that had been applied.

New engineered wooden floor from the Southern end of the building


Sky the Dog, overseeing the removal of the South wall drylining

Laying out the salon

Setting out the noggins for the wall mirror fixings in relation to the styling chairs

Wall mirror offered up to the wall for final set-out of noggins in studwork


At this point the electricians (Linco Electrical based in Hertford and Suffolk) were bought in to undertake the not too insignificant job of re-wiring all the electrics. This involved ripping up the overboarding in the loft, which had been nailed down, and then being confined up there for a not inconsiderable amount of time (very hot and dusty) in order to run the miles of cable and fish it down through the voids. Colin and Wayne have done a grand job of putting in a new consumer unit and wiring up all the sockets, lights and hot water cylinder. They have also installed emergency lighting and smoke and heat detectors as required by building control.

Wiring ends to the new consumer unit ready to be connected

Bay window lighting cable

Cabling in WC

Down light cables in kitchen

Drylining boxes for shop light switches

Lighting switch cables in lobby

Lighting cables in shop


The kitchen has arrived. I sourced this from and now takes up the lion share of the shop floor. The carcass is in a lovely Graphite colour with beautiful shiney high gloss doors in Altino Graphite.

Kitchen and shop units delivered

Drylining lobby wall

Studwork complete for new wall at Southern end of shop

Eastern wall of shop with new drylined membraned and and insulated covering

South east corner of shop drylined

South wall of shop drylined

Dry lining almost complete now. Here we are offering up the back wash basins to get the position of the services for the plumber.

Southern end of shop wall partially drylined


Here is the kitchen and WC being I tiled in a light coloured tile (Replica Ivory in 330mm ceramic tiles) from Wickes. First of all the trench, left over from the old stud wall, and the holes for the soil pipe had to be filled with rapid set cement. Then a self leveler was poured in the WC and kitchen area.

Levelling compound has been poured and is now set ready for tiling in the kitchen area

Kitchen area from doorway after the levelling compound has gone-off

WC partially tiled

Couple of cuts left to complete tiling in WC

Setting-out the layout for the tiles between the WC and kitchen area

Laying out tiles in the kitchen area

WC floor tiled leveled tiled and grouted

Kitchen floor levelled tiled and grouted

Rotten sole plate and studwork

While removing the dry lining in the kitchen I found that the sole plate and studs had rotted away. This meant I had to dig a new trench and pour a concrete foundation so I could lay a new sole plate. I then cut back the old studs to good wood and inserted new studs with coach bolts. Then I removed the weather boarding and replaced rotten boards on the outside with a felt backing and damp proofing sheet applied on the inside with insulation and then the new dry lining.

Rotten studs and completey rotten and missing sole plate

What's left of rotten sole plate in kitchen

Old sole plate and rotten part of studs removed

Sole plate removed on one half of kitchen back wall and replaced before removing other half to stop the building from collapsing

Concrete poured ready for new sole plate

New soleplate for kitchen and WC wall

Back to dry lining…

WC drylined

Painting and decorating

Lots of painting and decorating going on with dry line joints being skimmed and dry wall screw holes being filled. Skirting boards have been glossed and then the walls primed and finally coated with matt white.

New handles on windows and frames glossed

Wallpaper put up on feature wall

Wallpaper around light switches on feature wall

Eclisse pocket door handles

WC handle and inuse bolt

Unit installation begins…

Having ripped so much out units are starting to go back in.

First tall broom cupboard cabinet installed in shop

Tall 900mm units put up in back wash area on WC wall

Drylining and skirting in the kitchen

Kitchen base units partially covered ready for next coat of paint in kitchen

Kitchen door and funiture

Kitchen door from shop

Kitchen from lobby

Patching the kitchen back wall

Kitchen units ready to be installed

Kitchen door painted

New frame in kitchen door

WC walls skimmed and painted

West shop wall windows glossed

We have light…

Kitchen downlights

Lobby light

WC Emergency Light

New lights fitted with 5w led daylight 45 degree 6500 lumen gu10 bulbs

Weather Boarding

New weather boarding fixed to the outside of kitchen

Stations starting to take shape

Single station by backwash area

Stations and cupboards on back wall

Plumbers on-site today

Countertop and sinks being cut in

Outside tap installed

Backwash basins being plumbed in

Window Graphics

Lady frosting in bay window

Male frosting in bay window

Units and fixtures

Sink in WC

Countertop round backwash basins

Units with undercabinet lighting around backwash basins

Mirrors in situ attached to power polses

Upstands going in around countertops in kitchen

New Roof Ladders

The old aluminium loft ladder has been replaced with a nice easy to operate wooden one.

New loft ladder installed

New threshold on backdoor

Threshold into kitchen expertly crafted by Ross

Unit doors now have handles

Unit doors get handles

Starting to look more like a Salon

Entrance and Waiting Area

Reception Desk

Coat Stand and Waiting Area

Kitchen with new appliances yet to be installed

Finishing touches before the opening day

Backwash area with product

Backwash basin area

New signs have been put up by Daren and his team at Addison Signs & Graphics which look really smart.

Gable-end shop sign

Name badges

Work surface created around backwash basins

New Acco channel drain and guttering for kitchen annex area.

New channel drain and guttering for kitchen annex

Opening day

After a lot of hard work, the salon looks great!

Backwash basin area finished

Display stand

Finished kitchen from lobby door

Kitchen finished

WC Finished

Find our more about VK Hair Styling.

Refurbishment Case Study – Ensuite makeover, creating a Wet Room

Finished wetroom

Project details

  • Developer – Managed project
  • Property detail – Residential
  • Project detail – Conversion of En-Suite into a Wet Room
  • Location – Hertfordshire
  • Duration – 6 Weeks


Here are the details for a wetroom we have just completed. The old ensuite was in need of a makeover. The shower cubicle was falling apart and there was water ingress between the tile and the dry lining causing mould issues. The thermostatic shower valve had started to give up the ghost and the shower head had split both because of calcium build up and corrosion.

View of old Ensuite from Basin

View of old Ensuite from doorway

View of old Ensuite from WC

Stage 1 – Demolish old Ensuite

The initial part of the project was to demolish the old shower cubicle and remove all the of other sanitary ware. Some tiles were chipped-off to allow the tiled dry lining to be cut away. We wanted to save as much of the dry lining as possible (where it had not been subject to any attack by mould). The water was turned off and the feed pipes into the sink and toilet were cut. The pipes were also capped and taped up to the waste outlets, once the sanitary ware was removed. A scraper hammered in behind the coving allowed it to be prized away from the ceiling without too much damage.

Old shower stripped out

Basin and drylining stripped out

Having pulled the carpet up, a square was cut out of the floor – from joist to joist oncentres in front of the radiator – using a circular saw set to the depth of the floorboards. This allowed access to the plastic 10mm microbore inlet and outlet pipes for the radiator. Having turned off the heating to let the pipes cool down, they were then frozen using an Arctic Spray pipe freezing kit. These pipes were then cut and capped off. The radiator was then removed and tidied-up with ‘dot and dab’ between the dry lining andthermolite blocks – ready to cut the channels for 15mm chrome pipes accommodating the new towel radiator.

Some remedial work was still required on the noggins, which were slapped in by the original builders using one nail bent (and only half way in most cases). Also, a lot of the floorboard screws they had put in had missed the composite joists completely – no wonder the floor used to creak a lot!

Old Radiator stripped out

Sink and radiator preparation

Channels were cut in the Thermolite blocks to enclose the radiator pipes. Battening was then screwed into the blockwork to take the radiator supports and the new dry lining which was applied, taped and filled.

Plastering and drylining installed for radiator area

The hot and cold pipes and the waste pipe were re-routed through the joist using a hole cutter. John Guest Braided 15mm flexible push fit hoses were run-off the old copper pipe and into a plastic pipe with push fit elbows into plastic and out through the wall. The pipes were run up the stud wall using holes cut through the stud wall bottom plate to accommodate them. The waste was run in 32mm solvent weld. The old holes for the pipes were filled and the was floor strengthened by adding ‘glued and screwed’ noggins around the floorboards that were cut. Battening was added to the inside of the stud wall with threaded inserts screwed into the batten. Threaded studs were also screwed into the inserts ready to take the plinth hanging off the wall to carry the glass sink bowl.

New pipes installed for Basin

WC and Shower pipes

A circular saw was used to cut the floor to allow access to the supply pipes for the shower, and to create the opening for the deck former. Battening was added for securing the pipework and to allow the Pioneer twin Concealed thermostatic shower valve to be fixed securely. The existing hot and cold pipes have been cut off below the floor and re-routed in John Guest push-fit and plastic up to the shower valve. Double check valves (Non-return valves) were inserted to prevent crossflow. The valves chosen were rated to 65 degrees Celsius – normal temperature for a hot water tap in the UK is between 45 and 50 °C,  though it can be higher if you wish.

Shower valve and pipework installed

The wall plate elbow for the shower head was then fixed to battening. Some strengthening was also added behind the 15mm plasterboard, in order to allow the shower arm cover plate to be tightened when the shower arm was permanently fitted. This was because there was no room for the shower arm back plate nut to be used in between the wall plate elbow and the dry lining. We knew this wouldn’t be an issue, as the 15mm plasterboard and the strengthening plate we were adding later, would be more than adequate to support the shower head. The arm and head were temporarily fitted, with around 15 turns of PTFE tape on the shower arm thread into the wall-plate elbow, allowing the pipework to be tested and the adjustment of the thermostatic range of the shower valve.

Shower head temporarily fitted

The WC soil pipe was adjusted to repair a fault left over from the original builders where the pipe was under pressure. The cold water supply pipe was also moved to allow placement of the new WC.

New hole cut in floor for soil pipe

The dry lining for the sink wall was cut to size with holes inserted for the supply pipes, waste and support studs. Everything was screwed to the wall studs.

Drylining installed for basin area

Shower and waste trap

The shower waste has been installed. The original solvent weld waste was cut back to the 50mm pipe which has a ‘reducer’ down to 40mm. This was then teed off into the shower trap and then continued on via a ‘reducer’ to the sink in 32mm pipe, maintaining the fall back to the 50mm pipe.

Channel drain and pipework installed

Shower deck construction

The shower deck needed to fall towards the Acco linear channel drain at something like 6mm per metre. Pre-formed decks such as Impey and Milano etc. are available to create a ready made shower deck. Pre-formed decks simply slot into a cutout in the floorboards on ply inserts across the joists. On this occasion, the homeowner opted to make their own deck using tapered noggins, plywood, and Hardiebacker board. The fall on the deck constructed is a little higher and was achieved by inserting tapered noggins across the joists giving the fall angle required. As the house was been built using composite joists, modified joist hangers were used to get a good fix for the noggins. The noggins were screwed and glued, for ‘belt and braces’, using Evo-Stik Resin W Polyurethane Wood Adhesive which sets in around five minutes – it’s very strong, but don’t get the stuff on your skin and use in a well-ventilated area as it contains isocyanates. Extra strengthening was also added around the exterior deck area.

The compression fit waste for the drain was connected to a 40mm solvent weld pipe before putting the final ply infill piece down.

The Aco linear channel drain is 700mm long and allows a flat deck to fall into the drain, facilitating the use of large format tiles on the deck surface, as opposed to centre drains, which either use mosaic tiles or angle cut large tiles. 12mm Hardiebacker board was placed over the noggins to create the deck. The noggins were placed at 200mm centres, with 15mm marine ply set in between on battens glued and screwed to the noggins. The noggins were only tapered up to the linear channel drain. From the drain onwards the noggins were level back to the joist. A piece of Hardiebacker was been cut to size with a cutout for the drain and placed at the back. The drain was then screwed into the Hardiebacker. 2 peices of Hardiebacker used to create the fall were glued to the noggins and ply using Bal rapidset flexible and screwed at 300mm intervals using Hardiebacker screws. To cut the Hardiebacker, a P3 mask was used and a Malco Siding Shear attachment for an electric drill which can be found on Amazon…s_sce_dp_1. These prevent excessive dust being created when cutting the boards which contains silicates.

Adhesive was run around the edge of the drain and over the drain screw heads, as well as in-between the Hardiebacker boards, where they join and butt up to the floorboards.

Shower deck laid with hardiebacker board

Stud wall and towel radiator

A stud wall was built to separate the shower and the toilet. The stud wall was chosen because the house is likely to be let and a large glass screen would be impractical, not just because of the safety aspect, but because the water is exceptionally hard and calcifies glass surfaces on contact. A shelf was been built into the stud wall to keep shampoo bottles etc. The wall was built out of 44mm x 75mm studding and dry walled in 15mm acoustic plasterboard, like the rest of the wet room. The remaining dry-wall was put up around the room.

Shower drylined and primed with Mapei primer

Tiling around the towel radiator was completed so the radiator could be fixed into position, plumbed in, and tested before the floor was over-boarded and tiled. Fernox LS-X was used when making the compression joints for the Lock Valve and Radiator Valve, with the chrome pipe and for the threaded joints into the radiator itself. This gives the joints the best chance if the radiator is knocked, or if the joints don’t quite seal properly. The chrome was removed from the pipe where it goes into a 90 degree push-fit elbow. This process was because the chrome was too hard for the teeth of the pushfit joints to bite into, and is likely to pop off, if not removed to reveal the softer copper underneath.

Towel radiator installed


The whole room was then over-boarded with Hardiebacker board and the walls partly tiled. The shower area was tanked using the Mapei wetroom kit. This involves first applying a coat of the Primer G after making sure any gaps are filled, and then applying a coat of the Mapei WPS gum. The joints were then taped with Mapei tape – internal and external corners as well as the pipe collors over any pipes, by applying another coat of the gum. As recommended, 24 hours were then left before tiling.

Shower deck and walls tanked

Tiling walls and floors

The floor was tiled with a black slate effect ceramic tile from using Bal Rapidset Flexible. At this stage, the walls have nearly been fully tiled with a stone effect tile from using a couple of bags of adhesive (Mapei Keraquick, leftover from another property). The Keraquick was mixed with Latex Plus, not water. There is a mozaic being run through the middle of the tiles which was sourced from Wickes.

Finished floor from doorway

Down lights and tiling

The ceiling was skimmed and painted with a moisture resistant paint and four down lights were installed. The tiles were grouted with epoxy grout in an Ivory colour. The Granfix epoxy grout was supplied by Horncastle Tiles Ltd and was a two part epoxy. The pot life of the grout, when mixed is about 30 minutes. The tiles were masked with tape to limit the amount of epoxy that had to be removed once applied with a finishing knife. Epoxy grout has been used to limit maintenance and maximize water resistance.

Downlights installed

Finished floor from basin

Epoxy grouting wall tiles

Installing the toilet and the sink

The toilet (Ceramica Genoa Close Coupled Toilet) which was sourced from and the sink (Savona Glass Wall Mounted Basin) which was sourced from have now been installed. The non-standard 30mm chrome waste pipe on the sink was fitted to the 32mm plastic waste pipe in the wall with some Fernox LSX around the joint. Some caulking was also put over the top to hold the chrome pipe collar in place, where the pipe goes into the wall.

WC Installed

Basin installed

Finished wetroom

The epoxy grout has now been applied. The grout used was a two part epoxy in Ivory made by Granfix and supplied by Horncastle Tiles Using epoxy means the grout needs less maintenance over a longer period of time than conventional grout.

The grout is more workable when stored and mixed at room temperature with a pot open time of about 30 minutes – although, it starts to get a slight rubber-like texture at around 20 minutes. Always mask the tiles with masking tape when applying epoxy. This involves a lot of masking tape, but means that larger areas can be grouted with one mix. The epoxy is worked well into the gaps and then once the masking tape is removed, is wiped over with emulsifying pads and rinsed in warm soapy water. Work on all the vertical lines first and then the horizontals. Because the epoxy sets very hard and has very strong adherence, use it to seal the floor and wall joints around the shower area. For the rest of the floor and wall joints use Mapei’s Mapesil in Vanilla.

To clean and protect the tiles, the two products used were from LTP called Grimex and Glaze Protector which you can source from Tile Giant

Finished wetroom from doorway

Finished wetroom from basin

Finished wetroom from WC

Refurbishment Case Study – Diary of a property renovator

Exterior rendering

Project details

  • Developer – Owner-managed project
  • Property Detail – Semi-Detached House
  • Location – Barnstaple
  • Duration – 4 Months

Day 1

When we arrived at the house after completion day we found that all the previous owners belongings were still inside so the first job was to clear it. We started this yesterday afternoon and got all the furniture, carpets cupboards etc into the lounge and garage ready for a skip to be delivered first thing today at 7:30am. Hopefully we will get most of it in the skip and then start taking the kitchen and bathroom suite apart and get the tiles off the walls. Here are some pictures taken before we started:





These pictures were taken while we were clearing the house. It took 3 skips in the end and we still have some rocks and overgrown bushes left in the front garden. We will also have to remove a ton or so of shingle and earth from the backgarden before we can grade it and turf it.






Now the house has been reduced to a bare shell we can start to plan out where things are going. The boiler was previously updated and moved to the small bedroom. We are going to move it back into the kitchen. The electrics are currently on one ring. We have started to re-wire into separate rings. Also the garage has been electrified at some time as a spur from the lounge feed and then spurred again for the lights which we will remove and run a sub-main with its own consumer unit and RCD (Residual Current Device). The fuseboard has no RCD and will be replaced with a new Consumer Unit with RCD’s and MCB’s (Miniature Circuit Breakers).

Here is a picture of the kitchen design that we have drawn up. We have had to place the units based around where certain items are or will be situated such as the boiler, soil pipe, and radiator. The kitchen is 3.1m in length and 2m wide.

Most of the channelling and knocking out for the twin and earth and back boxes has now been done in the kitchen. The garden has been completely cleared of rubbish and all the over grown bushes have been removed ready for grading.

This is the bathroom ripped out ready for the new plumbing and electrics t be put in before the tiling and bathroom suite is fitted.

Lounge now clear and ready for floor to be taken up and new electrics installed.

Here is the garden clearance well under way.


This is most (but not all!) of the rocks that were removed from the front garden.

These roots were all removed from the clay pipe storm drains (remnants of pipes in bottom left hand corner of photo) which had to be dug out and replaced.

Part of the new storm drains.


The front and back garden has been totally cleared and we have had a digger in to grade the ground before we add topsoil and turf. Also today we have the plasterers in doing all the ceilings and walls and a roofer to fix some broken broken tiles on the garage roof and to re-do the flashing.



Snow and ice stops everybody getting in on Friday, more snow on Saturday. Looks like we’ve shutdown for Xmas!


The carpenter managed to get in yesterday and installed the garage window frame that he had made up for us along with the door frame and door. The door frame came from Magnets and the door came from B&Q. It has double glazed panes which is a bit of overkill for the garage but it will match as we have ordered the same door for the living room back door.


The window company managed to get out of Torquay despite the well below zero conditions and fit the new PVCu windows today. Also we have started fitting the new skirting boards and architrave and treated the new wooden garage back door and window to protect them from the elements while we are away over the festive season.





Now we are back in full swing after the festive break. The carpenter is in in at the moment hanging the front door. Below are some pictures of the door being offered up on tapered wedges ready to be planed to size. Then there are some pictures of the rebate at the bottom of the door being chopped out with a router. Then finally the hinges and locks being scribed and chopped out with a chisel. It was dark by the time the door was hung so I’ll put some pictures up of the finished job today.







This week the carpenter has finished off the architrave and skirting. All the electrics are now wired so we have replaced the floor boards and made good where we had to chop boards out to run cables. The boiler has now been moved back into the kitchen and is now fully functional so everyone’s happy now that we have the heating on. We have started prepping the walls where conduit has been run and holes have been made etc ready for painting.

This week we have spent prepping and painting the walls in the kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen has now been painted with a couple of coats of primer and four coats of Vinyl Matt Magnolia on the walls and Matt White on all the ceilings plus undercoat on all the skirtings and architrave.

The carpenter has completed the fitting of all the internal and external doors and door furniture. The three external doors have been treated with a clear wood stain and the internal doors have been primed with undercoat.

The outside decorating contractors have performed the first stage of their prep taking down all the unwanted fixtures like satellite dishes and aerials which are no longer used. These holes have then been filled up along with the old boiler pipe holes. They have painted the soffits, barge boards and front door frame and undercoated the up and over garage doors and made good where the new window and door was put in the garage. They will return to spray with anti-fungicidal treatment, smooth off any holes which have sunk in and re-bracket the guttering where the fixings have broken or been removed before giving all the render two coats of paint.

Yesterday we tiled and grouted the kitchen floor with a black slate tile.

The kitchen units have now been fitted all bar the wall units. The Kick boards (plynths) and some of the doors have yet to be fitted and the cut outs for the hob and sink in the counter-tops will be jig sawed out next week.

The bath has been set up and fixed to the floor and wall and a frame has been put round it ready for the plywood to take the tile. The floor has been tiled with the same slate tiles as the kitchen.

All the walls have been prepped and the bedrooms have been primed and painted with matt magnolia on the walls and matt white on the ceilings and the skirting boards and architrave glossed white.



The tiling in the kitchen is now complete and the cooker, hob, cooker hood and sink are in. The taps need to be fitted which needs some cutting around of the panel behind the sink unit. The thermostatic controller for the boiler can now be fitted along with the rest of the electrics in the kitchen. It just remains for the radiator to be painted and the walls finished off around the tiling and new taps fitted for the washing machine along with cutting the access holes in the wall panel. The pull handles also need to be fitted to the doors and drawers.

The bathroom just needs a couple of tiles where the hot and cold feeds and waste pipe extend out from under the bath but this cannot be done until the sink is in. Some remedial work, to allow the tiles to sit flat and perpendicular to the wall, needs to be performed around the window where the double glazing fitters cemented a bar which protrudes out beyond the aperture of the window.

Work has now been completed on the outside walls of the house. The guttering has been re-routed at the back of the house to accommodate the back garage door and a third coat of exterior paint has been applied on the render and second coat on the garage doors. The rest of the internal walls in the house are being prepped and painted and work has started in the garden to remove the old shared fence and replace with feathered edge.




The basin has been installed and plumbed in the bathroom with a splash-back matching the rest of the tile. The tiling has been finished around the sides of the bath and the water feed and waste pipes and the bath panel has been cut and fitted. Anti bacterial caulking has been applied around the bath (when filled with water) and the basin and around the ceiling. Remedial work has been carried out around the inside of the bathroom window. There is some making good to do for the grouting and around the walls and the shower head to fix up along with the shower screen, which will finish off the bathroom work, all slated for Tuesday of next week.

The finishing touches have been applied to the outside of the building fabric with just the turfing, fencing and threshold construction to complete.

Carpenter Tony Dumbarton has been on-site finishing off dry lining, door drip caps and skirting boards in the cupboards where brickwork had been exposed and pipe work had been re-routed.

The exterior render has been finished and also all the making good on the inside has been completed.


The bathroom is now finished. The kitchen is almost complete. Just waiting for the consumer unit to be moved which is scheduled for next Thursday. Then the last wall unit can go up.
Work is busy around the house painting the walls, skirtings and architraves. There is also activity outside removing an old boundary wall and concrete fence posts ready for the new fence and top soil to level the garden up.


Holes for the fence posts have been dug out, concrete gravel boards put down and the 6 foot feathered edge panels have been mounted in between the posts in the back garden. The first part of the back step has been constructed.

4 tonnes of top soil have gone down mostly in the back garden to level the ground and make sure the turf falls slightly away from the house. Then the turf has been laid and edged with plumb slate stone. Now we just have to keep it well watered for the next couple of weeks.





The house has now been carpeted through out in a lovely warm oatmeal carpet and adds the finishing touch to the interior.

The refurbishment works are now all complete and the property looks like a show home. Now we wait for the valuations from the estate agents.