An unusual Restoration Secret.. woodstain!

Yes, more Restoration Secrets.. this time it's Homebase Oak Woodstain!  I use it regularly to glam-up timber stairways, skirtings and architraves if I want a slightly more 'grand' feel to a room or common area. Acrylic woodstains like this are great products as they dry very quickly, and you can easily get a few coats on in a short space of time - and of course being water based it's simple to mop up spills or clean out brushes.

My big secret is that woodstain can actually be used on many different surfaces - not just timber - and it's particularly good at creating stunning finishes on brickwork, stone or  terracota - inside or outside.

Take a look through the gallery; the first few images are traditional uses at our OAKLANDS development, but you'll also see I've used woodstain to freshen up some plant stands that we found on ebay for use as bedside table lamps (I dabbed splodges on to emulate bamboo art deco effect common in the 1920's). Then there's an example of where we've prettied-up nicely detailed brickwork exposed at the end of a hallway - the original servants entrance, now incorporated inside the building within a wide hallway - and also outside, on a pillar to disguise modern engineering bricks, and then finally, on a painted section of concrete bay tiles on my mate's 1930's  end-terrace, where it transformed the street appeal (tile panel now looking more like cedar shingles?) for less than the cost of a pint!

My top tip is to stick with oak - it's the darkest colour in the range so covers best, and make sure you get at least three coats on before inviting opinions as it won't look any good at all before this. Don't be afraid to leave brushmarks, this adds to the effect, but always work in one direction to emulate timber graining - or if outside, perpendicular to the ground, to mimic the effect of weathering - and work quickly so as to avoid over-brushing (it dries quickly, particularly on a warm day).

Mid-Grey Is the new Black

Have you noticed Grey is everywhere at the moment? I'm thinking this trend has kind of snuck up on UK homeowners - personally I'm liking it alot but at the same time feeling a little overwhelmed as  I can't quite put my finger on when it became the colour de jour for period makeover's.

We took a trip out last week to our favorite restaurant in Kenilworth - the Clarendon Arms - and I had to admire this lovely part-restoration/makeover of a home just across the road from the castle. Although an interesting shape, it never really caught the eye before - I think maybe painted in emerald green and white - but now, wow, beautiful mid-grey ballustrading and matching doors + windows.

Grey goes with most colours, and is fantastic when contrasted with a vivid accent - pink, lime green, or pastels like pale blue, mint green etc - and this is why it's a really excellent colour to choose at the moment to add value if you're thinking of selling, or just fancy a quick period home makeover - internally or externally. 

 My top tip is that grey looks best when used on a relatively small area with some detailing or a lighter colour to offset it, so maybe a front door/contrasting with a white timber door frame - or chimney breast/contrasting with pale fireplace surround (like in the photo below, of our sitting room) - make good places to start.

Going for a more modern look within our period apartment, I've recently given some bits and pieces around the place a quick once-over with a couple of different shades of mid-grey - and even used some grey/white damask fabric from Ikea to recover a chair and compliment the scheme. The re-invigorated junk shop lamp had a peach colour shade, with a brown, red and green base that didnt really go with anything - I used some fabric offcuts to recover the shade, and painted the base grey (second image, above).

And talking of grey, I'm hearing we're about to get a mid-grey option added to the standard colours available on the elegant Heritage Range sash windows. We now supply and fit these for period homeowners in the Coventry and Warwickshire area and I'm sure mid-grey will be a really popular colour choice as looks great contrasted against brick or rendered finishes. All in all then, it's great news as these are already unbeatable value if you're wanting to transform your period property on a tight'ish budget.

How to fix sash window condensation

Sash Window Condensation is back..

Only late september, and just 5 C  last night in Coventry, but already the depressing bloom of condensation has started forming on single glazed panes of sash windows in period homes throughout our area.

This is a beautiful Victorian semi in Earlsdon that we restored back in 2006; our family home for a few years - but unfortunately we’d kept with the previous owners secondary glazing, which never worked very well

I happened to be driving past early this morning and took these pictures - lots of condensation already appearing on the coldest parts of the glass. We sold the property a while back now but I remember from our time living there, the only way to manage the problem was to keep the windows slightly open at night. 

Condensation forms when air on the inside of the glass reaches the dew point - which for most centrally heated homes is about 12C. Air, saturated with moisture (either from showers, our normal breathing out , or maybe a rainy day when its turned cold in the evening) hits a cold surface.

There are several ways to reduce or stop condensation but the key principal is to either increase the heat (warm air is happy to hold onto moisture longer before dumping it as condensation), or reduce the humidity level (replace moist air with dry air).

Turning up your heating is effective, but not hugely practical, so anti-condensation measures normally concentrate on improving ventilation - as follows;

  • Stop air directly around the window becoming locally too cold or water saturated by opening curtains or blinds slightly

  • Open the window a little to ventilate the room - air inside any property under occupation is almost always more humid compared with air outside. This is moisture from cooking, showers, but also - particularly in bedrooms - from our breathing and perspiration.

  • Check air bricks and open these up if they have been covered - most pre-1920's will have had an exposed air brick higher up on an outside wall to aid chimney ventilation

  • Check unused chimneys to ensure some ventilation is in place (blocked up chimneys should always have small air bricks placed in the room side, with an air cowl fitted to the chimney pot to guard against condensation forming inside the chimney space)

  • Fit a mechanical trickle vent fan, or better still buy a heat recovery vent (hrv) unit. These are really effective but pricey at c.£300 per room and they work by passing the warmer stale air from inside through a heat exchanger that warms the cold air coming in at the same time from outside. HRV's are often referred to as 'anti condensation fans' as they work extremely well - but check the dB value of the trickle setting as the cheaper ones tend to be alot noiser - and not suitable for bedrooms.

  • a slightly cheaper option that we’ve found does a job pretty well, is to go for a good quality humidistat extractor fan - this one from vent axia is excellent as it’s programmable from an app, looks smart, and has a great trickle vent setting that ensures you get regular air changes even on those cold days/nights when there’s no wind around to suck moist air out via regular air bricks or vent grills.

Secondary glazing solutions can work, although personally I'm not a fan as they have to be completely air tight into the room to work effectively - and it's only the really expensive systems that can achieve this. They also don't do much for the aesthetics of a room, and are terribly difficult to keep clean.

Window upgrade systems are sold by various companies as ways to combat condensation; window filming rarely works and looks terrible however carefully it's done, draughtproofing makes you feel warmer but will make condensation problems worse as it's reducing ventilation, and retro-fitting double glazed glass into original timber sashes is eye wateringly expensive as the weighted balance system also has to be changed.

upvc victorian replica sash windows we recently fitted to a property in dudley, west midlands.

upvc victorian replica sash windows we recently fitted to a property in dudley, west midlands.

Tbh though, (and you probably already guessed I’d be saying this!) the only option that really works satisfactorily is to go with good quality replacement upvc sash windows - zero maintenance, condensation and draught free, and able to cope with extremely high levels of moisture and temperature difference inside to out. 

The process is relatively cheap (we charge c. £750 per window incl. fitting) - and it's really easy to get a good looking job, done quickly. Existing sash boxes can be left in situ, with windows specified to pretty much exactly match the period look of your originals.

Use the form below to drop us a line - we’re happy to help with advice even if your’e outside of our Midlands area.

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