Getting and Owning Hens

Cathy with Maud & Hildegard

When the Celtic Tiger first fled and the recession began to take hold, one of the only actually useful pieces of advice to be bandied about was to get hens. It might seem counter-intuitive to add to your household when you really should be downsizing, but hens have many qualities beyond providing a regular good source of protein; they mean that there is always food in the house (the eggs, not the birds, this is a family show), you do not need a lot of space to keep them, they are very inexpensive to purchase and feed, and they can be a good source of regular routine and mild entertainment.

The house and territory

I stumbled across a great company at Bloom one year that made timber hen houses (or arks as they prefer) and would deliver anywhere in Ireland; CJ Sherran in Co. Laois. We bought an ark for 5-6 birds (about e400 at the time) but actually only ever kept 2 or 3 in it at a time. The reason I liked these arks was because they were very sturdy (no dog or fox could burrow in), they were fully enclosed meaning the bird run was protected at all times, and with pre-treated heavy timber they would be durable even in wet Irish weather. Friends of mine have made their own arks, which is an admirable endeavour, but to be honest they don’t look as well in the back garden and they are difficult to make sturdy enough to withstand a determined fox (they have had some fatalities).

One downside I will note against the ark (aside from the cost) is that the enclosed run is not big enough for even 2 or 3 birds long term. It takes two chickens only about a week to scratch up all the grass in that 2m x 1m area. Adding some grit and straw helped initially, but as the mud patch spread we thought we better do something. Initially we moved the ark to a new spot every week or so, but very quickly ran out of grass. Our solution was to release the birds. Thinking I could contain the madness, I enclosed a 5m x 4m area with a 3ft post and chicken wire fence, but soon learned that determined chickens can jump that (a pity, because it took me hours to build!). However, our back garden is enclosed by large 7ft walls on all sides, and our home is in the middle of a housing estate surrounded by countryside. We took a chance and figured it would be a very lost fox that would bother coming that far into suburbia for two chickens.  In the four years we have had the hens, we have had no untimely deaths. That said, chickens poop *everywhere* they wander, so while it was fine for us, a childless couple with no particular affection towards our backyard, I could imagine that parents of small children or gardeners proud of their growing creations would rather keep the beasts confined to a set space. I think a higher fence would have achieved this.

Getting the birds

Once we had the ark, the next thing we needed were birds. Just like dogs there are many breeds of hens and each have their qualities and quirks. We opted for a Rhode Island Red mix as they are reputed to be steady layers. We got ours from a local organic farmer, who was kind enough to sell us hens that were already laying. It is possible to buy chicks, and some people prefer this, but not all hens lay and as we only wanted hens for the eggs (as opposed to eating them), so it suited us to ensure they were laying already. Also it is normal for hens to be sold in couples, because as they are not happy without a flock, even if it is a flock of two. Our chickens cost us about e7 each.

Doing the paper work

Once we had the chickens, we had to notify the council that we had domesticated birds, and after one quick email assuring them that we had no intention of selling the eggs or using them in food which we would then sell, we were allotted a flock number.

Feeding them

Having purchased organic chickens I felt it would be a waste to feed them anything less than organic layers pellets. This can be sourced in a range of places, and outside of the usual farm-supply shops, places that supply specialised equestrian feeds are your next best stop. In Dublin, the closest place that I found was Coleman’s of Sandyford where a bag ranged between e15-20 depending on the mood of the owners and their stock levels that month.

Outside of their actual feed I found chickens will eat just about everything else in the garden (except something useful like weeds) and will KILL for tomatoes. Don’t know what it is about them, but like heroin to a junkie, they just cannot get enough of them.

Your return

Hens will lay about 5 eggs in 7 days, some more, some less. Their laying life in my experience is about 2 years, again some more, some less. Our hens also always laid throughout the winter, I have read that this is unusual with some hens laying only in the warmer months. We did nothing to deliberately encourage this, other than keeping them warm (by ensuring we closed up the coop each night) and keeping them well-fed.

One other downside

Another thing that people don’t tell you about hens is that every group has a squawker. This is the hen that announces day break to the universe (I thought it was just roosters that did this, but no) and won’t shut up no matter what you fling at it from an upstairs bedroom window (we received a collection of items from surrounding neighbours’ homes). Honestly though, the squawking is no louder than a dog barking, and after a few weeks people acclimatised to it and the death threats stop. I think this would be less noticeable in louder neighbourhoods, or the countryside.

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The New ‘ Wheels On The Bus’

wheels on bus

Lullabies have long been used to prepare children for the world outside their nurseries. ‘Oh dear what can the matter be’ is not just about the inevitable confusion that arises from sending a young man ill prepared into a haberdashers store – it’s about young men been taken against their will to fight in the American Civil War. Ring-a-ring-a-rosy is a prime example of society’s way of remembering an awful event in history (the Black Death) and passing this memory on to our children through the hive mind.

Ring a ring a rosy (the red swellings that were the first sign you got it)
A pocket full of posy (a perfumed handkerchief people carried to ward off the dying stench of their loved ones)
A tis-shoo, a tis-shoo (you are getting sick now)
We all fall down (dead)

Knowing the meaning brings new horror when you hear bands of school children singing it at the top of their voices with glee.

With this in mind, while singing (butchering) The Wheels On The Bus I thought I would take the opportunity to prepare my son for his inevitable bus going journeys. As a veteran of the public transport service I feel I have a lot of life advice to hand on to the next generation.

We did the first three verses that everyone does – wheels on the bus going around, the wipers on the bus going swish, swish, swish and the horn on the bus going beep, beep, beep. At this point my technical knowledge of bus mechanics ran out, and if I am honest, my son’s genes mean that the odds are stacked greatly against him being a practical mechanically minded person, so we moved inside for a look in there.

The crazys on the bus mutter ‘get outta that garden’, ‘get outta that garden’, ‘get outta that garden’.
The crazys on the bus mutter ‘get outta that garden’ so we avoid them if we can.

The drunks on the bus smell really bad, smell really bad, smell really bad,
The drunks on the bus smell really bad, so we open a window if we can.

The hoilligans on the bus tear up the seats, graffiti their names, try and burn the lino,
The hoilligans on the bus tear up the seats, that’s why they’re the undesirables.

Junkies on the bus usually sit down the back, sit down the back, sit down the back,
Junkies on the bus usually sit down the back, so we don’t sit there.

Babies on the bus cry wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah,
Babies on the bus cry wah, wah, wah, and the Mammies pretend they can’t hear them.

The school kids on the bus shout and scream, shout and scream, shout and scream,
The school kids on the bus shout and scream, all day long

The teachers with the kids say at least there’s a pension, least there’s a pension, least there’s a pension,
The teachers with the kids say at least there’s a pension, all day long

Commuters on the bus don’t talk at all, avoid all eye contact, try not to touch,
Commuters on the bus don’t talk at all, and wish they were somewhere else

Mean old ladies try and hit you with their stick, hit you with their stick, hit you with their stick,
Mean old ladies try and hit you with their stick, so don’t sit downstairs at the front

Criminals on the bus try and pick your pockets, pick your pockets, pick your pockets,
Criminals on the bus try and pick your pockets, so make sure your wallet is safe.

Kids mitching school always get caught, always get caught, always get caught,
Kids mitching school always get caught, so make sure you don’t do it.
{This is more of a life lesson that a bus story, but it cannot be repeated enough}

In the middle up stairs is the safest place to sit, near the window, where it is not too hot,
In the middle up stairs is the safest place to sit, so try to go there.

If the bus is packed you will have to stand, try and find a pole, or sit on the stairs,
If the bus is packed you will have to stand, and that’s the worst journey of all.

Now that I think about it, maybe I’ll drive him to school when the time comes.

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Bathroom Project Part Three: Soft Furnishings, Storage and Final Touches

bathroom project

As discussed in Bathroom Project Part One, there is always one room in a second hand house which tells you the previous owners were possibly colour blind and usually it’s the bathroom. Our previously loved home is no different. The bathroom we inherited was decorated in ghastly pink matched with snot green – one word ‘horrific’. Aside from the décor, the room had other issues: there was no storage, the shower was one of these hoses attached to the taps that you have to run around under to get wet, there was very little light, there was a leak at the bath taps and the wind tunnel caused by the draft from the ill-fitting vent was perishing mid-winter.

Having resolved the shower, leak and wind tunnel in Part One, the next step in, Part Two, was to change the colours. Now in Part 3, the final stage, it’s time to make this bathroom the throne room it should rightfully be.

Bathroom Grey

I started with storage. As you can see in the before pictures, previously storage in this room consisted of a wire rack beneath the sink and a towel rack beside it. This always made the room look messy because everything was on show, and, unlike the perfectly manicured bathrooms in the sales catalogue, in my bathroom the bottles are not all the same size or conveniently the same colour. However, the rack sufficed when we were just two, but now that our family is getting bigger, items that belong in a bathroom that I may have previously stored elsewhere must be returned and in general we will have more things in the bathroom.

The requirements for the storage was simple – I wanted enclosed units and as many of them as I could fit, without placing them unreasonably high. I also wanted to tackle the lighting issue with these units. Having ruled out under-shelf lighting because I was nervous working with electricity in the bathroom and didn’t want to pay an electrician, I settled on everything being mirrored. This meant that at least what light did come in through the window and from the ceiling light was bounced around the room for full effectiveness.

Initially I began my search with my old favourite, the masters of the small living space, Ikea, but I found their pieces either too big or too expensive. A scan of Woodies and B&Q gave the same result, however Argos came to my rescue. I managed to get two tall boy units small enough to fit in the space between the bath-and-toilet and then the toilet-and-sink. I also purchased three hanging units to hang on the wall at the end of the bath. Although as no trip to Ikea is ever wasted, I did pick up five hanging rails for towels (four for storing clean bath and hand towels , and one for the hand towel currently in use).  I also picked up a mirrored unit for over the sink.

Bathroom storage

Next thing I sourced was the shower curtain. Standard shower curtains are 200cm length, and even in Ikea, where everything is designed assuming it will be placed in a high ceilinged Swedish home, the longest was 200cm. I wanted a shower curtain that was at least 220cm length, because I wanted to hang the shower rail at ceiling height, thereby making the room appear taller ( or at least not making the ceiling appear lower because the rail was in eye line). A search of EBay found such the item, and in a very plain white. This meant that when not in use, I could tuck the shower curtain into an old elasticated bracelet and hang it from a hook stuck to the tiles, behind the tall boy. This prevents the curtain screening parts of the room, which makes the room appear smaller.

Bathroom Curtain and Towels

As with most bathrooms, the only soft furnishings are the towels. I was fortunate to be decorating at the time of a 70% sale in House of Frasier and made a killing on some luxury grey and white towels. These I hung in a checker-board fashion.

The last piece of decoration to be added was a Banksy poster above the toilet to add a splash of colour, which will be in Part Four.

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Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

“Can I have two shots of tequila, I’m baking.”

“You don’t need to make an excuse, if you want tequila at two in the afternoon you can have it.”

“No, you misunderstand. I would like two shots of tequila, which I will not drink, but instead put into this flask, so I can bring it home and bake with.”

The barman glanced at the three other punters in the place, who were sitting behind half empty pints watching the horse racing, to make sure he was not missing a joke of some sort here. They looked away from the telly in the corner to return his confused stare. He turned back to me.

“Tequila in a cake? That’s gonna be muck. What you want is brandy. Like at Christmas. I’ll get ya brandy.”

So before you even start these, let me tell you, there is no need to go out and buy an expensive bottle of tequila, but it might be quicker and raise less suspicion. By the time I left the bar, with two tequila shots safely in my pretty Cath Kidston flask, the barman had the feeling that I can only assume hardware owners have after selling rope, shovel and balaclava to known criminals who say they want to do a bit of gardening in the cold. He didn’t know what I was up to, but he was pretty sure it was not baking, and it probably wasn’t legal. I toyed with the idea of bringing him back one of these cupcakes to show that my intentions were pure, but I doubted if he would eat something he suspected had criminal intent.

The recipe I am using is an adaptation of Cookie Girl’s Margarita cupcakes. And by adaptation, I mean I’ve discovered a few short-cuts!

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

Ingredients

Batter

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp lemon essence

Filing

  • 85g butter
  • Juice & zest of 2 limes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yokes
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp of tequila

OR (as I found out later) you can instead use

  • 1 jar of lemon curd
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp of tequila

Icing

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g cream cheese
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 1 lime – juice & grated zest
  • 1 tsp Triple Sec
  • Green food colouring

Method

  1. Preheat oven 180C/Gas 4 and line baking tin with paper cases
  2. In a large mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, sift in flour, baking powder and lemon essence. Mix until smooth.
  4. Fill paper cases 2/3 full to allow rise.
  5. Bake in oven for 15-20 min
  6. Filling: take three or four large spoon of lemon curd and mix in lime juice and tequila to taste
  7. Once cupcakes are cooled, core and fill with filling
  8. Icing: in a large mixer mix butter and cream cheese. Add icing sugar and mix. Add lime juice, zest, Triple Sec and colouring. Mix well.
  9. Spread icing over cupcakes & decorate
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
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Bathroom Project Part Two: Painting Walls & Tiles

bathroom project
The dreaded ‘before’ pic

As discussed in Bathroom Project Part One, there is always one room in a second hand house which tells you the previous owners were possibly colour blind and usually it’s the bathroom. Our previously loved home is no different. The bathroom we inherited was decorated in ghastly pink paint work matched with snot green tiles – one word ‘horrific’. Aside from the décor, the room had other issues: there was no storage, the shower was one of these hoses attached to the taps that you have to run around under to get wet, there was very little light, there was a leak at the bath taps and the wind tunnel caused by the draft from the ill-fitting vent was perishing mid-winter.

Having resolved the shower, leak and wind tunnel in Part One, the next step was to change the colours.

The colour choices of the previous owners, pink and green, while fine in theory, in reality were a daily assault on the senses. The tones selected did not work together, and both colours clashed with the grey floor tiles. Having successfully avoided the need to replace the wall tiles in Part One, I decided I would paint the existing ones rather than replacing them. I also decided that replacing the floor tiles was an unnecessary expense, and decided to use these as the base of my design.

The floor tiles were a slate grey colour, which made me decide that I would like the bathroom to have a masculine, utilitarian feel to it. As the bathroom is small I wanted to give the impression that the wall opposite the door appeared to be further away than it was. In order to do this I needed to choose a dark colour close to the door, which in theory in your mind’s eye pulls these walls closer to you as you walk in the door and a pale colour for the far wall, as pale colours give the impression of perceptual space, and thus the wall appears (again in theory) to be further away from you.

Bathroom Paint test

For the dark hues I choose to test a teal colour I had recently fallen in love with and a daring dark grey. As I do for wall colour choices, I purchased a tested and painted a big blob on a space on the wall at eye level that I frequently walk by or see, and left it for a week, to make sure I was not going to change my mind after painting the whole wall. As the family got used to the colour choices and they were debated over dinner, I cracked on with painting the tiles.

Bathroom Paint Tiles v2

I decided to keep the tiles simple, and chose to do them in white; partially because white is my favourite colour, partially because I think it lends itself to the masculine, utilitarian feel I was aiming for and partially because I already owned white tile paint from painting the kitchen tiles downstairs.

I started by removing all the hooks, shower heads, cabinets, whatever was attached to the tiles that could be removed – going around things carefully is so much more work that simply removing and replacing afterwards.

Next I cleaned the tiles thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly. I washed them with jif and dried, then bleached them with an old toothbrush and then cleaned them with sugar soap. There can be no residue of any sort on these tiles when you start painting, if there is, it will show in relief in the paint and cause chipping of the paint further down the line. Time invested in this deep clean will be returned tenfold in the quality of the end result.

Next I painted the tiles with a white primer, carefully avoiding both dribbles (by not overloading the brush) and cohesion patches (by making sure the tiles had no residue). Make sure you work the primer into the grout and every corner.

Before leaving the primer to dry give it a look over to ensure there are no imperfections and no dribbles. These are quick to fix while the primer is wet, but if you miss some and the primer is dry, just sand them down with fine sand paper and touch up as appropriate.

Although most primers only require one coat I did a second because I was covering dark tiles and I wanted a very crisp look.

Once the primer is dry add a layer of tile paint. Tile paint is an oil based paint like gloss paint and behaves the same way, so paint one side from the top to the bottom before moving on, because the paint will get tacky as it starts to dry.

Again I did a second layer of tile paint to ensure there were no shadows creeping through from the dark tiles underneath. Also because I went from left to right with the first layer, I went from right to left with the second. This means that the last place you did with the previous layer when you were tired, is now the first place you do refreshed and refocused for the next layer.

Once dry replace fittings.

The family decided that the grey actually worked the best, so while I had the paint brushes out, I painted all the walls grey.

Bathroom Grey
Nearly dry grey walls

Next stage is to get the furnishings and final touches – See this in Part Three

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Cookbook Review: Alcoholic Cupcakes from Cookie Girl’s Eat Me

Eat Me Cookbook

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

Nothing says I have come to party, but in a controlled safety-switch-on sort of way, like an alcoholic cupcake. They are perfect for hens/bachelorettes, birthdays, afternoon tea; events of any sort really, where there will be plenty of alcohol on hand but possibly not much soakage. These cupcakes are a way of slipping in a little safety net for those who can’t drink like a hobo at Christmas, but like to think that they can. They work well at the start of the festivities when people are sipping the classy wine, heels and hair intact, discussing political events in a sophisticated way. They are less effective if the flip-flops are on, makeup askew and the words ‘And Another Thing’ have been uttered more than once. At that stage, just start laying tarpaulin.

However, alcohol in food is a delicate balancing act (excluding jelly-shots which I categorise as solidified alcohol rather than a food product). Unlike a liquid which races through your mouth and is only on your palette for seconds, food is chewed and swirled around your mouth for a few minutes. So something that is delicious as a drink can be overpowering as a food no matter how much you like the flavour. If these cupcakes are to succeed you must remember one simple rule; food is not the medium through which to consume alcohol; if you want to get drunk I suggest stop eating and start drinking. Do not be tempted to add extra shots into recipes to get everyone drunk. The result tastes so disgusting it is inedible which makes the action self-defeating,

My favourite recipes are some I have modified from Cookie Girl’s Eat Me cookbook. For those that don’t know Cookie Girl is a lady otherwise known as Xanthe Milton. Ms Milton got into baking professionally while taking a break from acting. She began selling baked goods to West London office workers, before setting up a stall in the Portobello Market, and then going on to supply Selfridges nationwide.

In her Eat Me cookbook she has 4 alcoholic recipes – Jack Daniels, Kahula White Russian, Malibu Pina Colada and Margarita. Myself and the Cookie Girl have different tastes in alcohol, so rather than going out and buying an expensive bottle of liquor only to use a few tablespoons, I instead modified her recipes in order to use alcohol I did have in my house. The results work very well so long as you substitute similar flavours. So for instance, I don’t have Jack Daniels but I do like the occasional Southern Comfort and coke, so I exchanged shots of Jack for Sunny C. I don’t have Kahula, but I do have Tia Maria, this exchange works quiet well.

However, sometimes exchanges are not possible. Nothing tastes like tequila. It is unique. However, it would be a shame to have to fork out about €40 for a bottle only to use 2 tablespoons, so instead bring a flask down to your local pub and buy two shots for closer to €5. The barman might give you a funny look, and the bar flies might think that you are more pissed than they are, but really, if it means the success or failure of your cupcakes do you really care about their opinions?

Another tip is to be careful of the decoration that you propose to use. Most of Cookie Girl’s recipes rely on the action of both the cupcake and the icing together to make the flavour, so if you plan to use rolled icing or some other decoration, make sure you have a strategy to add it on top of the flavoured icing in the recipes. I find that little cocktail umbrellas are a great way to decorate these cupcakes, because nothing says sophisticated fun like a little umbrella.

However, if you have all the ingredients that she calls for, these are simple recipes that are easy to follow and have great results.

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Bathroom Project Part One: Getting Started

bathroom project

There is always one room in a second hand house which tells you the previous owners were possibly colour blind and usually it’s the bathroom. This tiny space is where people are encouraged to let their creative side free and go a little naughty with their colour choices when they really should not. People think they are selecting bold prints with contrasting colours and dynamic textures (all the guff you hear on these home make-over programmes), when in actual fact the end result resembles something from the darker parts of Trainspotting.

Before

Our previously loved home is no different. The bathroom we inherited was decorated in ghastly pink paint work matched with snot green tiles– one word ‘horrific’. I give the previous owners the benefit of the doubt and say it is possible that the colour of the paint looked different on the sample, but there is no excusing the tiles, I can only assume they were on sale.

Aside from the décor, the room had other issues: there was no storage, the shower was one of these hoses attached to the taps that you have to run around under to get wet, there was very little light, there was a leak at the bath taps and the wind tunnel caused by the draft from the ill-fitting vent should have had a road sign to warn people not to get blown off course.

The only positive things I could say about the room was that it had good space and the white goods were a good colour: white.

When we initially moved in I thought something needs to be done with that bathroom, but daunted by the challenge, I made my way around the house decorating every other room instead of it. Finally 5 years later, it was the last room to do. I could no longer avoid it.

Having removed the Ensuite shower from our room, I decided the first thing we needed to do in the main bathroom was to install a power shower. There was no point in decorating the rest of the room if the shower fitter then needed to remove tiles or plaster board to fit the shower, so by rights it needed to be done first.

Bathroom Before Shower

We were gifted a power shower by my very generous mother-in-law (now you know what to get the couple who have everything, it was one of the most useful gifts we ever got!) about 3 years ago, but not able to fit it myself and not really knowing how to go about getting it fitted, it sat in my attic while I procrastinated. Finally with no excuses left I began to ring around. Eventually I found a company that supplied the showers, but they only fitted them officially if the shower was bought from them, however unofficially one of their fitters was happy to do a nixer. It took him only a few hours to hook it up, and the result was a real life changer. I cannot believe I spent 5 years putting it off!

Once the shower was in place, the next thing that could require the tiles to be removed was the leak from the bath taps. In order to prevent leaks springing between the edge of the bath and the wall, the last row of tiles holds in place a small lip which curls under the bath edge. This is then sealed with putty. So if we needed to remove the bath to repair the leak, then we would need to remove the last row of tiles, in order to allow us to remove the bath. (It’s ok, I did not know any of this either, my Dad explained when I asked him to come around and look at the leak).

An investigation of the leak revealed that the leak was coming from the point where the bath and wall joined behind the taps, the putty seal had disintegrated. Now, by rights, if a professional was coming in to fix this leak, they would by default do a professional job of it; remove tiles, bath, replace tiles, refit bath, seal the whole lot up again, all while the cost kept racking up. My Dad, with many years of experience under his belt, suggested that before we* (*read he) tried all that, how about we try just putting a huge lump of putty over the problem area to see if that could plug the problem. If it didn’t work, we could just remove it and fix the problem the long way. So he put the putty in place and we waited to see if the leak disappeared. Several showers later, with no evidence of drips coming through the ceiling downstairs, we declared the short cut a success.

Bathroom Vent

This left the last ‘structural’ issue: the wind tunnel. Now, to be clear I am not normally in favour of plugging vents. These are safety features required by law for a reason, and removing one is the equivalent of removing the safety switch from a lawn mower or gun. However, in our bathroom, which measures a mere 3m*4m, there are three orifices through which oxygen can enter and carbon dioxide/monoxide can leave (the vent, door and window), so I didn’t think it was a massive issue to bring that number down to two.

I decided to use expanding foam for this task because it fills the void with a nonporous substance, but it is not permanent. So should we decide to sell the house in future, or if we need to open the vent for some other reason in the future, this will be possible without much work.

I removed the front grate of the vent, gave a little clean (but being terrified of spiders not too deep of a clean) and then sprayed in the foam. The thing to be careful about when using this foam is that it will continue to expand through every open space. So, if you fill the vent entirely from front to back, the foam will go through the grill of the vent in the exterior wall, and this will look terrible from the outside. It is easy to fix, you just need to get a ladder tall enough to reach the vent and cut it off from the outside, but, most people don’t have a ladder that will safely reach this height. So the best thing to do is just be careful how you use the foam. Try to put it just to the front of the vent, and only fill about a third of the hole. You can always top up the foam when it hardens if needed.

Once you have sprayed in enough foam, to prevent it bubbling out of the vent in the interior, place a sheet of cardboard or paper over the orifice, held in place with masking-tape. Leave the foam overnight to harden. The next morning the foam had pushed the cardboard slightly away from the wall, leaving the foam layer slightly proud of the wall. To remedy this I simply cut a sliver off with a carving knife, the same way you would cut a slice from a loaf of bread. I then replaced the vent to cover up the unsightly foam.

Stage two of the project will be selecting the colours to paint the wall and tiles.

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