Usually our floor ideas are about design or materials but this one’s about the approach one family took to finishing off their extension when money was tight. It wasn’t all about the finances through.
Keen to see items reused
Graham Wheeler* is keen to see things recycled and reused, and working at home is just as much about not wasting energy and time commuting as it is about having a good work-life balance. So when he had an extension built on the back of the house to function as a proper home office, he did it as eco-sensitively as possible, including the flooring.
Freecycle comes up trumps
“The extension took the place of a brick built outside toilet and coal store, basically a two-room shed with no roof. That was long gone. It had been exposed to the elements for so long that the top half-dozen or so courses came off by hand!” Graham explained.
Most of the bricks were too far gone to be reused so they’re now in the garden as a wall for the vegetable patch and trimming for paths. The window and door for the office however, did come from freecycle, the online group where people swap unwanted items.
Can’t always get what you want
“I love freecycle,” said Graham, but you can’t always control what you get. The problem with carpet that people are chucking out is that you have to hope there’s enough areas that aren’t worn, so you can cut round and there’s still enough for what you want to use it for.”
“I had a few false starts, like carpet that was described as ‘large offcuts’ but then what’s large? Turns out they thought six by six (inches) was large, so that was no good. I just used some bits to put under furniture we’ve put in storage, then had to chuck the rest, a real waste of time and energy, that was.”
Hall carpet does the trick
The carpet that delivered in the end was someone’s old hall carpet. “It was a large red brick Victorian villa in a village not far away so I knew there’d be some wide bits, dog legs and stuff,” said Graham, “and it was about thirty feet long. Bit of a struggle getting it in the car, but worth it, because there were so many unworn bits.”
After waiting a few weeks for a run of dry, sunny days, Graham got the carpet out and unrolled it in the garden.
“The heaviest wear was in the narrow hall to the front door, so that got cut off straight away and earmarked for winter veggie patch cover,” Graham said, “that left me with the wide bits that used to go around the staircase and off to the kitchen and dining room, it was about twenty feet wide in that bit.”
Finding the good bits
There was heavy wear in the middle of that section, after all the carpet was being thrown away because it was being replaced. Having cut the wear out of the middle Graham was left with two long strips, each about eight feet wide.
“I straightened up the edges, cut off all the dog-legs around the sides from doorways and corners and stuff, then went and looked at the office, which is pretty much square, about eleven feet by twelve, all straight lines apart from the doorway, thank God!” said Graham.
Planning the join in the extension
“I knew I’d have to make a join somewhere, so I made newspaper templates of the desk, bookcase and computer table and put them down on the concrete to work out where the join should go.”
In the end he decided to use one piece of carpet for the high traffic area from the door of the extension to the desk, and under the desk. Graham arranged it so that a narrower strip would go under the bookcase, with the join running parallel to it, about two feet in front of the bookcase.
“I usually don’t bother getting up to go to the bookcase,” Graham explained”, I just scoot over a few feet in the chair, so the castors and my feet aren’t going to cross the split. Once I’d made my mind up I left the best looking piece as wide as possible and cut down the other one to about four feet.”
The carpet had come with underlay as well, which was in good condition, just a bit compressed in the heavily trafficked areas, so Graham was able to put down three good layers of underlay on the concrete floor for maximum insulation. He then taped the two pieces of carpet together on the reverse and put them in place, cutting to fit the room with a slight gap all round to allow for a little movement.
“I left the skirting till last and mounted it so that it’s pressing down slightly on the carpet, as it’s quite high with all the underlay and the carpet, so it’s really only held in place by the pressure of the skirting board and the strike plate at the door.
“It probably isn’t the way the pro’s do it, but I’m not exactly going to be doing a lot of walking on it so I reckon I’ll get away with it,” said Graham, “if I don’t I’ll think of something else!”
“It’s cost me nothing but my time, I’ve reused something that would otherwise have gone in the tip, it looks good and it’s warm, so I’m happy.”
* names have been changed