Thursday, 8 September 2011

Can Frugal Living be Eco-nomical as well as Eco-friendly?

A Home Needs a Kitchen... and a Kitchen Needs a Roof!

In my book of life, the kitchen is the heart of the home. My dreams of one day owning a house with a roomy, farmhouse kitchen, complete with logburning range and comfortable seating area may not have been realised, but that is not to say that we have failed. On the contrary, it is more a case of looking at what we have and then making the very most of it.

I'm not on a farm, I'm not in a farmhouse, I don't have a logburning range and the kitchen, once completed, will never be big enough to house the entire heart of this frugal home, but we need to start somewhere. For Frugaldom, that somewhere is making the 'kitchen' wind and watertight before winter sets in and we all freeze. :)

Our little end-terraced cottage is about 200 years old. As such, it would have had no seperate kitchen, as all the cooking would have been done in what we now call our livingroom. But somewhere along the line, someone saw fit to join the house to what we assume must have been the original washhouse, although some neighbours suggest it was the stable and/or pigsty.

Yes, our cottage is in an area where huge families crammed into tiny houses, grew & reared much of their own food and most walked to work at the nearby mill. Or else they went by horse & cart down to the village, about three miles away. I suspect previous owners here, at some point in the past, had a donkey, judging by the tiny, rusting shoe I excavated from the garden.

Behind the green door lies the basis for my dream kitchen. For all its faults, the door opens and closes, even if the wind does whistle in all around the edges and the rain does run in underneath. It's not like we have carpets in there - we don't even have a proper floor, yet.

The space has almost been gutted. All that needs doing now is the panelling removed from the walls, the rotten ceiling pulled down, the leaking roof replaced and then we can begin renovating the place properly. We're trying to find the most economical ways of doing this, but it would also be great if we could keep it as eco-friendly as possible. Did I say that we're also using it as a kitchen? A few units, a piece of worktop, cooker, fridge, freezer and washing machine have all had to go in there, because we still need to live, eat and do the laundry.

After four atempts, we have finally managed to find a builder/joiner who is prepared to quote for replacing the tin roof, which is an absolute priority. I really don't want to be messing around on an uneven concrete floor strewn with buckets while trying to cook the breakfast porridge, especially if it's a sub-zero winter's morning. I would LOVE a greenroof, but haven't even broached the subject with the roofer. For now, it's a straightforward off with the old, on with the new and leave off the tin sheeting. There's approximately 30 sq metres of 'L-shaped' flat, felted roof to be replaced, then the new ceiling and insulation to be done, plus associated electrical work. Of this, about two thirds of that space needs insulated, the other third already has a ceiling in place that, with luck, will suffice for now.

From an eco-friendly point of view, the suggestion has been made to use sheep wool insulation (thank you for that, 'smallholder Carole', and for the reminder that it's campaign for wool week), so I have been researching the possibilites, comparing costs and working out if it's economically viable for us frugalites to pursue such a luxurious course of action. For this, Google is my friend.

A bit of searching online finds sheep wool insulation at £6.71 per sq metre + vat, then carriage on top of that, so a total of around £200 for this option. Insulation boards, such as Kingspan, were what I had originally considered as the expensive option. Surprisingly, they work out about the same price as the sheep wool. On the other hand, we could simply opt for traditional insulation, which costs about one quarter of the above - so, as ardent frugalites, which 'eco' bell should we toll? Economical, or eco-friendly?

Hmm... decisions, decisions, decisions... I think I need more information and help before making this one.


  1. you must qualify for a grant for insulation surely?

  2. Unfortunately not. Despite our frugal ways, we fall between all the available concessions and conditions. If I was pregnant, had kids under 16, was of pensionable age, unemployed or in receipt of any of the qualifying social security benefits, then that would be a different matter. But Frugaldom is about self-sustainability, so I have never expected any outside help. :)


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