While money saving and frugal living can be fun, it is also a lifestyle that many people have to follow, for one reason or another. The reason I chose it was simple - lack of income, no entitlement to benefits, no possibility of a mortgage and I love the lifestyle. Saving to buy a house outright was the only sensible option, in my opinion.
Buying a cheap fixy up property as a renovation project can also be fun, but we need to live and work here, earning enough to sustain the household and carry out essential refurbishment. The most important element of this longterm project is affordability - the house has to be made into a warm, dry, comfortable home and the garden laid out in such a way that it can help sustain the household. This is what I refer to as microholding. It's a very small, self sustaining unit, providing all that's needed to generate enough income to keep the house and household running efficiently, while also providing us with a source of food and, hopefully one day, energy.
Reducing overheads is a must - it doesn't make economical sense to have to spend £50 per week in winter heating a small house, so insulation is the number one priority. The kitchen is the heart of the frugal microholding lifestyle. It is where all the food is prepared, it is the gateway to the garden and it is also the most energy hungry part of the house, as far as electricity is concerned. This room is a conversion that appears to join an old stable, wash house or pig sty to the main house, so the later walls are block built while the original ones are stone.
So far, we have fixed all the electrical and water supplies and renewed the entire kitchen roof. The roof, hopefully, has been the single most expensive part of the project so far. Insulation began with 100mm of Black Mountain Sheep Wool insulation, followed by foil-backed plasterboard. This new ceiling still has to be plastered, but that job can't be done until the window and walls have been completed. Sheep wool is not the cheapest option but it does fit in with our best efforts at eco-renovation.
Last week, we managed to get the old window and frame stripped out and replaced, making a further change to the temperature difference between outside and in the kitchen, which has no current source of heating. During these chilly, winter mornings, when the outside thermometer is reading 0C, the kitchen is holding 10C without heating. Once the fire is lit, the heat spreads and raises this another couple of degrees, so things are looking up in that department. Once the walls are replaced and we have a proper floor, rather than just bare concrete, things should improve dramatically.
Today sees the start of 'project kitchen walls'. The next batch of 50mm sheep wool insulation has just been delivered and this is what will insulate the new walls. Phase one is removing the old plasterboard, then the walls need to be damp proofed before fitting the sheep wool between the wooden framework that will then be clad in foil-backed plasterboard. Again, these will need to be plastered, but that's for another phase of the frugaldom renovation project.
Now, I'm off to clear the space along the back wall of the kitchen and start making a big mess. I'll update with a photo as soon as the first wall is visible.
The actual blockwork feels dry, other than one tiny damp patch at ground level, which would have been below the level at which the kitchen was previously saturated by burst pipes and the old, leaky roof.
I'm optimistic... I think this looks like a DIY job once I've read up a bit more about the best methods of damp proofing.
The rotten wood will need to come out and be replaced but I still have about 10 litres of the Cuprinol 5 Star wood treatment, so that means I can treat all the wood before it gets covered over by new plasterboard.
I'll continue removing the old plasterboard, all of which seems to be perfectly dry and, possibly, reuseable for something, even if it is only the outbuilding. with luck, the temperature won't plummet too low, as there's going to be absolutely nothing to stop what little heat we do have in the kitchen from escaping straight out through the wall. Perhaps I'll drag out the huge sheet of polythene that accompanied the last delivery of sheep wool - anything is better than nothing. :)
The framework on the wall is far too narrow, so this will all be brought out to extend the gap to allow for 50mm of sheep wool to be used to insulate it. It isn't particularly draughty with the boards down, so I'm hoping that means the new roof is doing its full and proper job. The walls and concrete floor all need to be damp proofed but I'm still awaiting word about what the most economical and environmentally friendly way of doing this really is. All suggestions welcome.