Cloak-room makeover

Corner sink basin

This cloak-room has remained the same since the house was built in 2000. It was uninspiring then with all the inlet and waste pipes unflatteringly on display below the wall hung corner basin. Now was the time to give the cloak-room a makeover and give it a more contemporary feel.

Old cloak-room in need of renovation
Old cloak-room in need of renovation

The first job was to pull up the old carpet and level the floor with a self leveling screed. The old toilet was unscrewed and removed (nb the toilet and corner basin were recycled on the freecycle website reducing waste costs and helping the environment at the same time!) making sure the waste pipe was taped up to stop waste gases coming out of the pipe and into the house. A long spirit level was used to show high points in the floor.

Cloak-room concrete floor
Cloak-room concrete floor

Once the floor was leveled it was time to lay some tiles. A dark gray square porcelain tile was chosen and laid in a square brickwork pattern with a 4 mm grout joint width.

Gray slate porcelain tile laid in square brickwork pat
Gray slate porcelain tile laid in square brickwork pattern

The tiles were laid with a rapid flexible adhesive that requires only three hours setting time before the grouting can be applied. A light gray grout was used and as always pulling the grout float at 45 degrees across the grout lines so as not to drag the grout out of the joints and then taking the excess off with a sponge before it dries hard on the tiles. The grout was left to harden for 24 hours before the tiles were then cleaned up with a grout remover using a non scratch scouring sponge and washed off with plenty of water.

Gray grout
Gray grout

Next job was to cut off the old overflow pipe and fill the remaining hole as the new toilet has an integral overflow outlet that vents into the pan and to re-position the water inlet pipe to accommodate the new back to the wall close coupled WC.

Remove overflow and re-position inlet

To re-position the copper water inlet pipe the old elbow had to be removed and replaced with a new one at a different angle. First the water was turned off, the pipe was cut after the elbow and any water in the pipe was taken out. The paint around the joint was rubbed off with emery cloth and flux was brushed around the joint. Then to de-solder the elbow joint heat was applied to the elbow very carefully by placing a heat protecting soldering mat over the pipe to stop the flame from burning the wall. Map gas was used in the blow torch as this burns hotter than propane. Heat had to be applied to the joint for about a minute right in the hottest part of the flame about an inch from the torch nozzle before the soldered joint released itself and the elbow could be taken off.

Soldered copper elbow joint to be removed
Soldered copper elbow joint to be removed

Then a new elbow was soldered on making sure the pipe and elbow were cleaned up first with wire wool and flux was placed around the inside of the copper elbow and outside of the pipe. A new piece of pipe was soldered on the other end of the elbow and a 1/2 inch straight tap connector soldered onto that. This enabled a braided hose with an isolating ball valve to be screwed on the end to connect to the cistern inlet for the water supply.

Soldered copper pipe for cistern inlet
Soldered copper pipe for cistern inlet with elbow and isolating ball valve

Next the wall was painted and the new back to the wall toilet and cistern were connected and screwed down. With there being no gap behind the WC it does make connecting the waste pan connector and inlet water supply slightly tricky. A flexible pan connector and 500 mm braided hose for the water supply give enough play to allow the joints to be made without too much trouble. A tip for putting the pan connector on is to put washing up liquid over the exterior of the pan outlet pipe to aid sliding the pan connector on.

Back to the wall WC
Back to the wall WC

Next the sink was removed and the rest of the walls painted . The hot and cold water supply inlet copper pipes were cut to allow 1/2 inch straight tap connectors to be soldered on and isolating ball valves screwed on to those in order for the tap connectors to be attached later when the sink gets installed.

Isolation ball valves and tap connectors for sink
Isolation ball valves and tap connectors for sink

Next the vanity unit was altered with cutouts made in the shelves and carcass to allow it to fit around the pipework. The vanity unit was screwed to the wall at the top and bottom to make it stable.

Altered vanity unit carcass
Altered vanity unit carcass

With the vanity unit fitted the tap and clicker waste were installed in the sink with clear jointing compound placed around the joints of the clicker waste to help the seal and the sink was put in place with dobs of silicon placed around the top of the vanity unit carcass to keep the sink in place. The tap connectors were screwed on and the waste connected up with a flexible hose and the door put on the vanity unit. A tiled mosaic splash back was created around the sink using a contrasting tile of grays, greens and browns with a light gray grout to tie in with the grout used for the floor tiles. Then the skirting board was fitted and the fixtures and fittings put on the wall.

Cloak room makeover
Cloak-room makeover
Vanity unit in cloak-room makeover
Vanity unit in cloak-room makeover
Cloak-room makeover finished
Cloak-room makeover complete

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.

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.