500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

More DIY SOS than Grand Designs

June11

On Friday our stuff from the UK finally arrived in John Davey’s van. Though we did the sensible thing… living in the Czech Republic for 3 months before we made a firm decision to move over here… it still feels a little strange – not now having a home to go back to in the UK. Suddenly I feel rather far from home.

John Davey did a grand job for us. Every single item arrived safe and sound – unlike our last move… of 2km – the casualty being my Ming Dynasty china (a grand name for what in fact was a soy sauce bowl!). I still have the bits & will one day find someone capable of fixing it for me.

So, as well as moving lots of boxes about we started some of the tasks we can handle ourselves, such as removing the alarming light fittings in some rooms:

M fitted a new main light in our bedroom & I cleaned up a pretty chrome light I found in the attic for the kitchen. We also noticed a big push button we’d not seen before in the dining room. We had no idea what it was for, so M pushed it and a red light came on, followed a couple of seconds later by a loud explosion.

So, an odd sensation to have all our bits & pieces from the UK in Novy Mlyn. I have stepped up security… by putting yale locks on the downstairs windows. These need quite a lot of work, but I have heard of a furniture restorer who may be able to work on them. It will cost about £300 to replace each window for new, but identical windows. Plastic double glazing is the rage here at the moment, however with our old house it is important that we are not hermetically sealed in as this would cause horrific damp and mould problems. For ecological reasons, I want to repair rather than replace windows. We failed to find any ‘off the shelf’ solution to add a security lock to our windows – nails being previous option, so I added a block of wood on a hinge to the bottom of the outer window, and used this to drill a lock into the lower frame. This is inelegant, but effective.

The 24 Vienna windows (100 x 190 cm) each consist of 6 glass panels – double glazing with a gap of about 30cm between the two layers. The larger bottom part of the window opens outwards, and is designed so that the frame can be lifted off the hinge for cleaning or repair – very clever. The top panels are joined together, in principle so that if you open the inner window, the outer window will also open. On all of the windows we need to do some repair on the metal work, many of the levers (just described) are missing, and the metal catches that firmly close the windows all need some work. I would also like to replace the glass eventually with glass which is tinted to stop uv light damaging our soft furnishings/ self cleaning/private/energy efficient. This needs some investigation.

There is a problem with damp in the downstairs of the house… so… our plan had been to lift the floorboards and excavate under them so that the earth was no longer touching the joists below the floors. We learnt how to take up a floorboard from the dodgy 80’s DIY book we have (judging from the carpets they were fitting), and managed to get one board up to discover… underneath the kitchen floor… a layer of tar covering something hard. It would be lovely to think this was a slate floor, however I suspect that it is concrete. Now, what to do next? If this has been put in as a moisture barrier, it is clearly failing. Perhaps if we put in the under floor heating & ensure ventilation is adequate then the walls will dry out. The radical option would be to hammer out the concrete and excavate… how do you get tar out apart from by scraping it?

We made an exciting discovery… if you pour water down the vanity sink in the dining room, or into the bath it goes away! it doesn’t go down the pipes which have been sabotaged in the cellar, so we’re not sure where it goes to. I suspect it may drain away into the ground somewhere so it’s obviously very very important only to use these for water, no chemicals. It is also perfectly possible that these drains will stop working at any point. We may, however have a temporary solution for washing… we have a simple solar water heater – a bag which you place in the sun with a sprinkler on the end, which we can heat up during the day and then hang over the bath in the evening. An expandable system no less, if we have one bag for each visitor to the house! Or we could build one out of beer bottles like this one invented by Ma Yanjun (we have plenty of empty beer bottles to hand):

beerbottlesolar.jpg

http://www.ecofriend.org/entry/necessity-the-mother-of-invention/

M spent much of the weekend continuing to tidy up the front of the house. He’s removed the funny kennel on the front porch, and put a path into the small front garden. He also fitted a cat door into the cellar. On Friday night we spent the evening on the porch, playing records from our collection of 1970’s singles. Still no water apart from rainwater, but feeling more like home.

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