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What home improvements have you made?

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What Home Improvements Have You Made in Your Home?

We Know that BISF home owners are passionate and resourceful when it comes to home improvements.

We want to know what you yourself have done to improve or renovate your BISF home!

Share your thoughts, ideas and designs with us a BISF House and get valuable feedback from other members of our site.
You can easily upload photographs, show of your work or even share before and after shots. If you're feeling really creative you even create your very own post and upload images of your project for others to see.
You can also discuss any problems or concerns that may have in fact you can share any aspect of BISF home improvement on the internets only dedicated BISF Website.

We know how hard it can be to find reliable and resourceful information relating to this type of property.

By sharing your projects, you will be helping to create a one stop information and resource database for other owners facing similar projects. You will also receive valuable advice from other members that can prove invaluable to any BISF property owner.

Posted : 30 December 2011 1:05 PM
Posts: 29

Hi richsmif
thanks for your advice im such a wally have used a chain cutter before in my line of work, never occured to me to use on flue pipe simple. should be having a go over next few months see how it goes

Posted : 14 April 2012 7:58 AM
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Hi Doug
Another great set of images and thank you once again for sharing them as they can be so very useful to other members and a valuable resource for us all.

It was around five years ago that I removed the last flue pipe so apologies if my recollection is not brilliant but I seem to recall that the pipes just slotted together in a collar that was not permanently fixed in any way.

As for the flueless fire yes, I have two carbon monoxide detectors in the room and it was a good job that I did because after around 3 years of excellent trouble free performance the alarms activated one night showing a high PPM of carbon monoxide in the room. I shut down the fire and inspected the catalytic converter and it had started to visibly degrade. I searched the internet and found a huge difference in price for the replacement part but managed to get one for around £40. It was easy to fit and the monoxide levels are back to zero. I had the fire serviced once again and got a clean bill of health but if I hadn't had the alarm it could have been far more serious.

I would suggest only fitting a flueless fire after all major works have been finished in the house, otherwise the fine dust from plaster etc can cause the catalyst to produce soot above the vent. Since the new one one fitted I'm glad to say there has been no more soot and despite some comments on the internet regarding condensation it has never been a problem for me.

Posted : 14 April 2012 12:59 PM
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Hi Richmif
Now that sounds like a great tool to me and one I have never used but it would have saved me a huge amount of work.
In fact that could mean doug could easily cut the flue in the loft just below the bracket in the loft and remove the flue and the flue box in the front bedroom if he wished leaving just the upper section of the chimney and cowling in place rather than repair the hole in the roof.

What did you do with your roof Rich after removing the flue?

Also do you have a photo of the chain cutter as it's not a tool I'm familiar with?

Posted : 14 April 2012 1:18 PM
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Rich, I'm guessing it looks a little like this 'Cast Iron Soil Pipe Cutter'

Is that right?

Posted : 14 April 2012 1:28 PM
Posts: 472

I've started renovating the living room and today I stripped the plasterboard off the window wall in order to reinsulate it and rebuild it like I did in the back bedroom. 

The wooden structure I found is exactly the same as upstairs, fairly flimsy compared with what you'd normally build, but as it only spans just over a metre on either side of the window I guess it was OK. 

Some sort of rodent (I guess) has damaged the old glassfibre insulation in patches. It's removed the brown paper in a few places and burrowed through the insulation itself and removed some too. I guess it's got in through the loft as the cavity opens into the loft.

Another problem I've found is that the centre wall is thicker above the picture rail than below. It seems to have an extra layer of plasterboard above the rail. It is the same in the dining room, kitchen and hall too and I think it's to do with steel beam in it. Not sure how the plasterer will deal with skimming it...

Here are the photos. You can see the old insulation and woodwork here, some of the damage to the paper I did when taking off the plasterboard, but some looks like rodent damage.


Possible rodent damage under the window. The paper casing of the insulation has gone and a lot of the insulation itself has been chewed/removed. I'm surprised any animal would touch that itchy fibreglass!


More possible rodent damage above the window:


"Fibreglass heat and cold insulation"

Woodwork and old insulation stripped out. The render wasn't what I was expecting at all. I thought it would be like the back of lath and plaster walls and you would be able to see the steel lattice laths, but it's been smoothed over completely. It looks pretty much as good as new - no sign of rust, cracking etc.


Here's the steel upright in the corner next to the hall/front door. You can see how the woodwork is clamped on with a special clip thing. I think it's important to leave that woodwork in as I can't think of a DIY way of attaching new woodwork to steel, so it gives something to screw your new woodwork into.


Posted : 28 August 2012 8:44 PM
Posts: 472

Hi Marc, I'm glad you like the photos! There is a vent in almost the same place as you describe, but it's under the right hand side of the window.

Fortunately the ceiling boards are actually plasterboard, but they look a bit strange because where I've scraped the wallpaper off them it has come away with the top layer of the cardboard backing of the boards. They look a little bit different from modern plasterboards because the paper/cardboard is a lot thicker and the gypsum plaster inside is grey rather than white, but basically they are the same thing. I'm going to coat them with PVA before I get them skimmed because they look very absorbent because I've taken some of the surface off. All of the downstairs ceilings seem to be plasterboard and all of those upstairs were fibreboard. I'm not sure if i've drilled/tapped all of the downstairs ceilings, but I expect they are all the same because the boards are continuous between rooms, which is unusual but logical as they obviously put the ceiling up before they built the internal walls.

I have been putting in some more sockets already actually. While doing the living room I took the opportunity to put two in through on the other side in the kitchen to replace a death-trap the previous owners had. They had put in a socket in the kitchen that was connected to an ordinary appliance flex that went through a hole in the wall to the living room where it was plugged in(!) to another socket!

In the window wall on the left I found the original rubber-insulated mains cable and also in the wall was a piece of board with a circular hole where I guess the original sockets were mounted. The house had been rewired with wiring in surface conduits which I've taken out in order to put them in the wall. Is it normal for a BISF house to only have one ring main? I'm guessing it was done because the wiring has to drop down from ceiling height to each socket downstairs because of the solid ground floor so it makes more sense to put the sockets upstairs on the same ring.

I seem to remember you said something about harvest mice liking the wall cavities. Maybe that is what damaged the insulation? I did find a bird skeleton in the protruding steel window surround so I guess that the old windows must have left a gap they could get through.

Posted : 30 August 2012 9:41 AM
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Morning Ed,
Ah the joys of having plasterboard downstairs! Sadly as I have mentioned before, all of my walls were hardboard and all the ceilings were fibreboard but I'm glad to hear that you have a plasterboard ceiling as this can save a lot of work.
Out of curiosity are your ceiling light points offset, ie not situated in the middle of the room? All the front rooms that I have worked on have had off centre light fittings. This was easy to resolve but it did involve inserting a support between the joists.

The plastic conduit rewiring was pretty standard in many BISF houses and in this area it was installed in the 80's although the consumer unit was still pretty dated having no rcd's. These houses in the Midlands were also only fitted with one ring main using a multitude of junction boxes which by todays standards is not best practice. I have since replaced some of the individual fuses in the consumer unit with RCD,s and that reminds me that I still need a few more. They are pretty cheap and much safer in my opinion. I will take a phot of my box to share just in case it helps others.
As for the cables through the wall lol, that sounds like something my late Father would have done bless his cottons and no small wonder that accidents do happen with bad wiring.

I've never seen a vent under the window before and yours appears circular from what I can see. Do you think this was an original vent or one fitted later?
At this point I would also check with a Gas fitter if new regulations require a vent at a higher level or not. I know mine had to be inserted around 6ft high from the floor. Not being Gas Safe registered I am unsure about the latest regulations but I would hate to see you having to bore a vent after you have completed the work.
I may be way off but it's probaly better to double check.

As for vermin, yes I had the exact same issue but it occured around a window in the back room of one of the properties. All of the paper was chewed off the insulation causing it to collapse. I have no idea how a bird could have got inside though lol.
One thing to mention, in two of my properties despite rewiring, they were not earthed. There was no grounded earth cable going from the consumer unit. This may have just been particular to the houses here but it is also worthwhile to check your box just in case. Once again it was pretty easy to resolve but do take a look just in case.

Right off out to do another few jobs for the day before it pours down again.

I will catch up later.


Posted : 30 August 2012 11:01 AM
Posts: 472

Morning Marc,
I'm glad as well because redoing the ceiling upstairs was by far the most time-consuming job! 

The light in the living room is in the centre but in the dining room it's nearer to the window, same in the kitchen. Also in the two larger bedrooms there are two lights, one near the party wall and one at the other end near the window. Someone told me having the ceiling lamps near the window was standard in those days and the idea was for privacy as it made it harder to see in at night. I don't know if there's any truth in that. Also, in the architects plans it shows a table or desk under the one position and a bed under the other. I didn't change the positions, but I did rewire them slightly as the far light was operated by a pull cord and the near one by a switch by the door. Instead I put in a two gang switch so they could both be operated from the same point next to the door and I could get rid of the untidy pull cord.

As far as I can tell the ring main runs from one socket to another with no junction boxes and the consumer unit has RCDs so I think it's basically fine and just needs a few extra sockets and cosmetic work. Actually my partner did get a shock from the dodgy socket when he plugged a kettle into it which must have drawn more current than the flex (table lamp/small appliance type flex) could handle. Fortunately it wasn't serious! I have checked the earth because we were getting static shocks from the electric shower and it turned out that the earth to that wasn't connected inside the shower unit!

Thanks for the tip about the vent, I'll look into that. Some of the other houses have two, one low down and one high up. It looks as though it was put in when the boiler was put in, maybe 20-30 years ago at a guess. The hole through the wall is round (you can see the plastic pipe for it on the window sill in one of the photos) but the face plate/grill is square. It does let quite a draught in, but obviously essential to let the boiler work safely.

Here's a photo or two of the vent under the window, which I had dismantled to put the insulation in. Then I cut through the insulation board which I thought would be easier than cutting the hole first and trying to line it up. The render is about 5cm thick. I guess they put it under the window to make it more unobtrusive. I looked into the vent question and the requirement is 100cm3 of free air, which is what I have (it's marked on the vent itself). 

I have though removed the vent between the living room and hall by replacing the piece of plasterboard it's cut into, because I don't really see any point in it.

I have a quick question about getting the walls skimmed. I had two plasterers round for quotes but both said that the walls and ceiling needed reboarding because the surface had come away with the old paper. My dad said that's nonsense and it would be fine once primed with PVA. I also spoke to my neighbour and she said she had her livingroom, diningroom and kitchen skimmed without being reboarded. What's your experience with this?

I have reboarded the small wall between the door into the hall and the window wall to get rid of the vent and put in a new flush finish light switch. Underneath the old switch was this piece of wood with a hole cut through it with a surface-mounted switch on top (there is the same thing for the electrical sockets). I cut the wood out and put in a dry wall box for the switch.


I was surprised to find that there was no support for the studwork above the window - it spans the whole 2m between the steels with no attachment above. When I removed it, the wooden window surround started to sag a bit. To support it and the new studwork I cut a bit of the old 2x2 and bolted it onto the steelwork just above the window in the middle, which had a handy and unused hole in it! Then I screwed up from the underneath of the window surround into the 2x2 which lifted it back to being straight.

Here I've put the ring main cables that were in a surface conduit in behind the boards by cutting out holes above the battens on the party wall and notching them. It's a fiddly job but I think it's worth it to hide them. The thinner cables are ethernet cables - one to the back bedroom and one to the small bedroom that we use as studies. They run through the loft and I have built them into the bedroom/bathroom wall with a socket there as part of the bedroom refurbishment. The square hole is for the ethernet sockets and the rectangular one is for the power socket. Unfortunately there isn't enough space between the plasterboard and concrete blocks behind to fit in a dry wall box so I'll have to drill into the concrete to fix metal boxes in instead.

Here's the whole window wall - I've put the CLS timbers in the other way round from normal because there isn't as much space as upstairs because of the thickness of the concrete render. Obviously it's not quite as rigid as normal, but it should be at least as good as the original, which was fine. You can see the re-used piece of 2x2 which is darker than the new wood, above the middle of the window. I've also screwed the bottom of the window frame down as that was bowing upwards for some reason.

And now not directly BISF related, I found this G-plan sideboard on Ebay which I think will look fantastic with the 50s theme!

I can see now why the top of the wall isn't vertical. For some reason they have used a piece of 2x2 timber in the steel beam instead of a thinner piece of wood, so it sticks out further than the studwork underneath.

I haven't tried to prize it out yet because it isn't clear how it is attached but I thought I'd replace it with something thinner and then the wonkiness can be corrected.


Posted : 30 August 2012 11:56 AM
(@richard smith)
Posts: 17

*you should foil seal the joints between the insuilation board n timber really.

Posted : 12 September 2012 6:11 AM
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Hi Ed, apologies for the delay. I managed to get a couple of weeks vacation in Spain but sadly the internet was so hit and miss and it was dial up which was a real blast from the past lol.
Re the plaster boarding issue I personally would agree with your Father. PVA should be sufficient on old plasterboard as long as the paper outer lining isn't too bad such as large areas where it has separated from the underlying plaster.
In cases where some of the paper covering has peeled away with old layers of wallpaper, I found that as long as the plaster underside isn't fully exposed, PVA is acceptable. When the plaster is exposed in large it can be prone to crumbling and hence not a good base for new plaster even with PVA.

That's just my experience as I'm no plasterer. :0)

Posted : 13 October 2012 8:44 AM
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