Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Kitchen is the Hub of the Frugal Household

Frugalising the Kitchen

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.

1st Update: This is the first corner to be revealed after stripping it back to the bare block. Only the wood at ground level is rotten, with the usual tell tale signs of woodworm.

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. :)

2nd Update - There were no hidden surprises awaiting me behind the old plasterboard. Indeed, it was amazingly dry and still no signs of any rising damp. This is an external wall, so I'd have expected any dampness to have shown itself by now.  Frugalpuss thought it was a great game of hind and seek and is still sat in the midst of the dusty mess.

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.

NYK Media


  1. Can't wait to see the photo's. You are doing a grand job.

  2. You're doing a brilliant job. The way you're doing all the work, slowly and methodically working around the house as and when you have the funds and the materials is absolutely the right way.

    So many folk chuck money at a new place, do everything at once and then sit back and regret some decisions or just realise that the huge overspend and subsequent debt just weren't worth it.

    I'm picking up so many tips and ideas from reading your Blog, they will all be squirreled away for when we have our new place.

    We move to our 'inbetweeny place' in the next few weeks and then at last some serious saving can commence so we can buy our very own 'fixy up'. I just wish we were further north where the prices are lower (and the family all live), but you can't have everything, we'll just have to save even harder.

    Here's to a soon to be cosy kitchen, the heart of the Frugaldom empire.

    Sue xx

  3. Photo updates now added. :)

    Thanks, Sue, I appreciate all the mopral support you have been able to offer over tha past. It really is a shame you can't move further north so we could have compared notes over a cuppa. Good luck with your forthcoming and, hopefully, penultimate move! Exciting times ahead for you, that's for sure.

    Debt is simply a no go area for Frugaldom. Even the thought of chucking someone else's money at the project doesn't appeal to me in the least. I take great pleasure in demolishing all the old stuff, wish I was as keen to clear up afterwards.

    With luck it will be dry tomorrow and let me get all the plasterboard, which I have now bagged, outside and ready for binning. The next wall won't be so easy, as it's only being cut back a meter for damp proofing. Hoping I can manage to cut through it alright so there's little or no damage done to the top half. Also hoping to locate one of the original windows, which could then be opened up and turned into a hatch linking kitchen to diningroom/livingroom and allowing better flow of heat. I have a cunning plan for this IF this old window is where I think it should be.

    Off for a quick look at Sue's blog while the dinner is cooking here. :)

  4. 2 of my most inspirational 'blogging' pals having a chat!

    Nyk, you are doing so well and I am thrilled that so many positives are occurring during a challenging project. It will be so worth it.

    Sft x

  5. SFT, it looks like you're doing a fantastic job of paying off your mortgage, too! I'm most impressed and still rooting for you to have it gone by the end of this year. :)

  6. You asked for a few suggestions/ideas?

    What about tiling the floor and maybe some of the walls? You should find lots of cheap tiles at carboot sales and DIY places like Wickes. When we built our brand new (old looking) house, we used roof slates instead of wood for window sills.

  7. Dave, I haven't even thought about the decor. Damp proofing conundrum solved, though. I've now ordered Wickes own brand DPM plus vapour barrier. Cost less than £50 and I got cashback. :)

  8. I thought of the tiles for the damp. Also when you and the pets have been in the garden and tread some of it back into the kitchen. It only needs a quick mop.

    My dad brought me a Wickes flat pack kitchen over to Ireland for only 300 pounds. It's a few years ago, but they do have some bargains!

  9. The last kitchen of my 'own' had red quarry tiles, which I loved. Did manage to break quite a few pieces of crockery on it and was paranoid about toddlers falling on it, but it always looked great and was so easy to mop.

    I still need to damp proof and get a floor laid in order to have anything to tile, should I choose to go that route, so roll on next week and my Wickes order. The cashback is already showing. LOL


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