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Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Give You--Our finished Remodeling!!

When a work lifts your spirits and inspires bold and noble thoughts in you, do not look for any other standard to judge by: the work is good, the product of a master craftsman. ~Jean de la Bruyere

   We started thinking about the changes we wanted to make to the very front of the interior bow which is the entry to our saloon (living room for non-boat folk) in the dark of last December.
   I drew up an idea on paper and we stuck it to the fridge with a magnet. There it stayed, yellowing with the returning sun, the paper edges growing frayed over a period of seven months. We finally rescued the drawing from refrigerator obscurity, and after a dozen rounds of discussion and re-drawing, Dear Sir and I settled on our plans: Extend the cupboard on the left side, mounting the TV and radio on the outside wall, providing a peek-a-boo spot for the DVD and Skybox to provide accessibility without having them sitting in the open, and inside the cupboard, a set of drawers for Les' tools, shelves for shoes and boots, hooks for coats, allowing us to empty out the contents of the front stairs and find another use for that space.
   I wanted a neat, streamlined look which would also make it easier to keep clean. We also wanted new front steps--all the same width and rise--instead of the different widths and rises we currently had which made stepping inside the boat an unsettling feeling. Re-building the steps for conformity would also provide us with additional storage space inside.
   Finally, we wanted to extend the wood stove hearth and re-tile it. This was something Les spoke of in February 2011 when he proposed to me. He had been thinking of undertaking this project for some time, as the original hearth was in his experience, too short. Live coals often bounced out of the open stove door and left burn marks on the floor. A high wooden lip around the edge of the hearth also trapped coal dust and wood ashes and made it near impossible to sweep clean. Les said he wanted to wait until we were married and living together on board so I could choose the tiles.
   Finally we were ready to begin. We visited Topps Tiles in Macclesfield and I showed Les what I wanted. He told me afterward he was very unsure of my choice but he trusted my taste explicitly and didn't say anything until the project was done.
   What he was thinking was "Oh red tiles and black grout. I couldn't really imagine it. I'd never done a running subway pattern in tiling and it would not have occurred to me to use it around the stove. I think I would have chosen a light beige tile in five inch squares and used beige grout. But I wanted you to choose the tiles and I was willing to trust your decision--which has proven brilliant." Bless him!
   I had spent the winter months noticing the bright red knob on the fireplace poker winking at me from the drab, black shadows of the hearth. I knew what I wanted--bright red, rectangular tiles running in a staggered subway pattern, with black grout to keep the red from screaming out too loud and which would also pull in the matt black of the wood stove.
   We agreed this ambitious project should be broken down into three parts: part I would include the new steps. They needed to be heavy and solid enough to support our weight  and stay in place but easy enough to lift out and access the water pump, which hides behind them. I chose a black and white pattern of carpet squares to cover the stairs, helping them blend in with my color scheme for the hearth.
   Phase II would include removing the low corner cupboard on the left, lifting the book shelf up, making it three shelves instead of two; building a new floor to ceiling cupboard on which the Telly would be mounted on an adjustable arm, and Les' tools would find a new home in hidden drawers.
   Phase III would include removing the cast iron wood stove and stove pipe, repainting them in matt black stove paint, extending the hearth, adding a low angled wall between the stairs and the hearth to contain heat. Les added a thin sheet of heat reflecting aluminum and Firebacker board to ensure safety. Finally the entire right front corner would be re-tiled in my choice of tiling, and the stove would be refitted into its new space.
   We began this ambitious phase of our interior boat remodeling Thursday, August 16th. NB Valerie was moored at High Lane bridge, Stockport, on the Macclesfield canal for a week while Les made numerous trips by foot up to the local DIY store nearby.
   They were brilliant, and for a nominal fee of £4 they delivered all the cut pieces of stair and cupboard right to the boat. One week later Valerie sported lovely new steps--with long, wide treads of an even width, and a low, comfy rise.
   The cupboard was also in and the exterior bits were installed. A break in work ensued with a visit from American friends. Topps Tiles also has a location in Leek at the end of the Leek arm so after the visit with Kialynn and Alana, off we cruised from the Trent & Mersey onto the Caldon, to moor up in Leek for almost a week.
   It takes Dear Sir a fair amount of time thinking about a project. He has to mull the entire thing over in detail in his head to be sure he knows how he wants to proceed. Once Les gets stuck in though--look out! He's a lean, mean, working machine, and his attention to detail is superb.
   Les berates his work, saying it is the best he could do with a hand saw, a 
 jig saw, a level, and a power drill. I am amazed and over the moon!!
   I could see what I wanted in my mind's eye; I can even draw it quite accurately. But I could no more build it than I could fly to the moon. I am thrilled with how everything turned out. The bow area of our saloon is clean, streamlined, and every inch of space is used now; before there was a ton of wasted space.
    The small corner cabinet previously housing the DVD player and Skybox--and upon which the telly sat, took up a lot of room and provided hardly any storage. One had to get on hands and knees and literally stick one's head in the cupboard to find anything.
   The stairs were hard on my knees coming in and going out; dirt always got caught up in the seams on either side and in the corners in front of each stair.
   The old hearth was tiled in dark brown which overall made the corner look like the black hole of Calcutta. The corner was always dirty with ash we couldn't get up from the lip at the edge and we couldn't reach under the stove.
    Now the hearth is cheery and bright. It glows with light reflected from the tiles; there is plenty of room to sweep under the stove, and we can catch any live coals tumbling from the open stove door without anything hot landing on the floor.
There is a uniformity of cupboard/stairs/hearth that didn't exist previously. We gained a ton of storage space, and the saloon is much easier to sweep, mop, and keep tidy.
   Our finished project is a combination of me and Les--our personalities, our joint needs and desires for comfort, storage, utility, and beauty. Thank you my love, for making our floating home such a lovely and loving place to live.
Half old tiling--half new!

Dear Sir using spacers to set each row of tiles.
Les painting the stove pipe.
Close up of our bright, cheery, newly re-tiled hearth!


Hase said...

Superb!! It looks so comfy and cheerful, I am sure it is so easy to walk right in and feel cozy and at home. Have lots of fun with your new saloon and congrats on some excellent work! XXXX, Silvia

Jacquie said...

Les & Jac, remodelling looks lovely and practical, enjoy all the extra space.Now sit back and relax. Thanks for tip on Pennytalk, we have been using it. Hope our paths cross soon. Jacquie & Stein.

Les Biggs said...

Hi Sylvia,
It is as you say--comfy and cheerful. Lovely to hear from you. Hope all is well with you and yours,

Les Biggs said...

Hello you two! We are glad to hear Pennytalk is working for you. I love your Blogger photo! That is one warm hat you are wearing Jacquie! We look forward to seeing you both again soon.
Jaq and Les

Anonymous said...

Well done Les... looks great thanks to Jaq's eye for colour and your DIY skills. DIY is so satisfying when a project turns out so well.


Les Biggs said...

Hi Jon
I try my best with limited equipment. Would be nice to have a decent workbench for one..

John Witts said...

Hi Les,
B & Q do reasonably good folding benches in the style of the Black and Decker workmate for about £18.00.

Might be worth a go.....

John. :-)

Sue said...

Now then that looks absolutely fabulous. Well done you both. We can't wait to meet up with you both, we seem to be just about the only boaters who have not done so yet!

We are going to have one helava party! xx

Les Biggs said...

Hi Sue
We will eventualy cross paths and we both look forward to it. As for you being the last to meet Jaq, we are saving the best till last.

Jacquie said...

That hat was when we were in the Norwegian mountains, we went up for a drive & picnic, it was minus 10 about, hence the hat, warm rug, hot choc and brandy. Take care xx

Charmaine said...

Kudos, Les. And brilliantly devised, both of you! How satisfying remodeling can be--to see one's vision made real and to appreciate how good that vision was.

Elly and Mick said...

Hi Les & Jaq,
I recalled seeing these pics of your solid fuel stove update and now that we're soon to install one ourselves I've come back to see how you did yours. What type of stove do you have??
Elly & Mick
nb Parisien Star

Les Biggs said...

Hi Elly/Mick
The stove is a Valor willow, small but we find it heats the boat ok. I only had to remove the stove to re-tile but I think you are installing for the 1st time. As i had to do behind the extended tiles you must use fire board(6mm Masterboard) behind the tiles as they get real hot also use it below the stove. The chimney is bedded into the stove with fire cement and the top as it enters the roof collar use plumb-flu a heat resistant silicone both from screwfix. Also the chimney pipe going through the interior roof must pass through a fire proof board and mine has fire rope wound around the pipe between the ceiling and outside steel roof.
Tiles are stuck to fireboard with evo stick instant grab adhesive tube in gun job. Give board a good coat of PVA to seal the surface before tiling. The tiles are fixed by a blob of adhesive in each corner + centre or more if using large tiles. For the bed the stove sits on i used a bed of normal tile adhesive all over the surface so the tiles lay flat to take the stove weight and incase you drop a log and crack a tile.
I did a lot of research on canalworld forum on the net. Lots of ideas but i went with the majority.
Not easy to cover it all here but by all means e mail if we can help.
lesbiggs1948 AT
Not sure of your cruising plans but we are back uk Napton 28th then onto the Ashby for 1st half December(blacking)then towards London so maybe might meet up.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs