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The Conservatory

When we moved in, the loft needed emptying and boarding. As a result, we needed space to store those bulky items that we weren’t going to be using regularly (Christmas decorations, seasonal sports equipment such as snowboards etc.) and the conservatory became a convenient dumping ground. Alongside these items were those we didn’t yet know where to place (garden furniture, as-yet unfilled plant pots, laundry baskets and clothes horses) and a few boxes of a friend’s we had agreed to store for a short time whilst he moved to a new house. All in all, it didn’t take long for this little sun room, measuring about 1.8m x 4m, to fill up.

Little problems arose: a leak in the corner, causing water to pool on one window sill during heavy rain and a stripped window lock. The darker evenings meant we weren’t inclined to tackle the leak after work, and the weekends soon filled up in the lead up to Christmas. The window was a security issue, however, and so demanded immediate attention.

Using and improving a conservatory
Using and improving a conservatory

The wide-open window

I returned home from work one day to find one large conservatory window wide open, leading me to panic that someone had been disturbed whilst trying to break in. After realising none of the boxes and bags had been disturbed below the window, and there was no sign of forced entry from the outside of the window, I calmed. It turned out the lock on the window had simply stripped, and the high winds that day had blown it open. My boyfriend spent a good 90 minutes outside with his portable LED light: the window lock had stripped completely, meaning the handle was rotating freely; my boyfriend first tried to use epoxy to repair it, but this simply sheared off when forced was applied; he then removed the handle mechanism entirely, engaged the lock mechanism to hold the window shut, and replaced the handle for aesthetics. As there are plenty of other windows to use in the conservatory, having this one locked permanently until we can replace the handle and lock was not problematic.

The leak

Water only pooled in the conservatory when rail fell at a certain angle and for a certain duration, so it was a problem that floated in and out of our consciousness throughout the autumn. Over the Christmas break, my boyfriend and his father took an afternoon to examine the guttering around the conservatory to see if this was clogged to such an extent as to prevent water flow. Checking the state of, and clearing out, the gutters was a job I had placed further down the list of priorities, along with cleaning the UPVC window frames and windows themselves. As it turned out, the gutter in the leaky corner of the conservatory was clogged with cement dust and debris, likely from the repair to brickwork carried out by the previous owners. A few hours clearing this out resolved the leak, thankfully.

Once the loft was boarded, a month after moving in, we were able to shift much of this, but with the turn of autumn and little need of the sun-room, it was clear we had fallen into the habit of just storing things in there without proper thought, much as you would an under-stairs cupboard. Bulky cardboard recycling, brooms, mop and bucket…the list of stuff we took to storing there was ridiculous. Unlike an under-stairs cupboard, however, the conservatory was very visible; with windows in from the dining room and kitchen, the piles of boxes and miscellaneous stuff became irksome and a bit of an eyesore. So, one rainy weekend when we could ignore it no longer, we took to sorting out the room. My boyfriend did most of the man-handling, moving items to a more permanent place, often the loft, the shed or under-sink cleaning boxes; he took bulky recycling to the local centre. I swept the floors and brightening up the windows (inside) with UPVC cleaner; the outside would have to wait for dry weather. The floor was given a thorough wash, and the garden bistro table and chairs set up for two.

Skirting Boards

With the room watertight, all windows secured one way or another and cleared of clutter, it was time to place skirting boards. The previous owner had left a length of skirting for us to use, obviously having never gotten around to this himself. We took this length to a local hardware shop to find matching material; having located a similar material, we bought what we thought was an appropriate length for the room (in the end, an additional trip to the shop was required). We cut this into appropriate lengths using a mitre saw, sanding down the ends gradually to make a perfect fit. The only blemish is a gap in the wall, hastily made by the previous owners when he needed to gain access to a leaky pipe presumably and boarded up equally hastily with a wooden board. After securing the skirting boards, we decided we would cut a board down to size to cover the gap more discreetly.

The adhesive we planned to use to glue skirting to the walls required the room to be at a minimum temperature of 10°C whilst curing for 24 hours. Being a conservatory, in the middle of winter, this was problematic. So, with another trip to the shops we bought an oil-filled heater to bring the room up to a temperature of 15°C and kept this on for the duration of the curing process. We figured the heater was an investment that would serve us well if the boiler failed at any point and we were without heating for a period.

Within 24 hours, the adhesive had cured and the skirting boards were in place.