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.

Landscaping Case Study – Planting Trees in Back Garden

New trees two years on

Just finished a project to plant four Extra-Heavy Standard trees to act as a screen in a back garden.

The trees chosen to plant were 2 Red Rob (Photinia) and 2 Holme Oaks (Quercus Ilex). Both these types of trees are evergreen to give screening all year round. The trees were supplied in containers – the Oaks in 600mm diameter pots and the Red Robins in 900mm diameter pots.

Red Robin in containers on Patio

Quercus Ilex in containers on Patio

Trees on patio surounded by trugs of dug-out earth

The tree pit was dug to twice the diameter of the containers and the sides and bottom well worked with a fork. A small mound was made at the bottom sprinkled with Mycorrhizal Fungi.The mound was made up of 75% soil taken from the original spoil of the tree pit and 25% Levington Tree and Shrub compost.

First hole dug

Prepared tree pit with Mycorrhizal Fungi

The root ball of the tree was winched into position on the mound so the top of the root ball was level with the top of the tree pit. The hole was then back-filled with the rest of the 75% soil / 25% compost mixture with a small amount of Fish Blood and Bone.

Winching the containers up the garden into the tree pits

Winch used to drag trees up garden

Frst Red Robin planted

First Quercus Ilex planted into newly dug tree-pit

To finish, some bark chippings were sprinkled over the root ball and rest of the back filled tree pit. The tree was well watered in and then the root ball and surrounding area were moderately watered every few days since. The 2 Ilex have been lightly staked as very high winds have been experienced since the trees were planted.

Newly planted trees from dining room window

Newly planted trees from bedroom window

Two years later, the trees are doing well and have put on a couple of feet. The screen they provide is very effective and I’m sure you’ll agree they look as beautiful as they are practical.

Trees two years on

DIY Case Study – Problem fitting Baumatic Ceramic Hob

Beaumatic hob installed

Just fitted a new Baumatic ceramic hob in a kitchen we were renovating. The fitting instructions give the cutout dimensions which do not take into account the screws sticking out from the side of the hob.

Here is our first attempt to drop the hob into the cutout made to the size specified in the Baumatic instructions. As you can see the screws in the front of the hob are preventing the hob from fully seating in the aperture.



Here is the cutout marked up for the extra cuts to allow for the screwheads. Note also that the instructions state the the air holes in the side of the hob should not be blocked which would be the case given the cutout dimensions supplied so we have marked some extra channels to allow for these.

This shows the cutouts after they have been made. We used a small router and chiseled out the ones which were inaccessible.

After coating the freshly cut composite of the countertop with some evo stick to seal and allowing to dry the hob now fits into the hole.

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.