A little light reading
In the beginning.
The condition of the house when we bought it, was tired !
It didn’t have A/C.
The roof was old.
The heating needed replacing.
The bathrooms were ancient.
The lovely wood floors were covered in plywood for some reason.
It’s been around 20 years since we purchased this older home in Weston. (Built around 1906) on a corner lot.
We spent the first few years working on the inside, we still have a few things to do. You find more as you uncover areas long forgotten.
It’s a good idea to keep a little of your budget back for the unexpected – 10% is a good figure.
What we have done Inside.
We rebuilt the bathroom, by opening up the old dining room, then closing the doorway to the kitchen.
Next, we split the family room in two forming a new dining room and a bedroom.
The kitchen became larger by closing off the old entrance to the old dining room.
The new dining room received a much more robust flooring. We laid terracotta tiles on a durarock sheet bed.
The downstairs bedroom was recarpeted.
The Office had an extra room added for a half bathroom. We formed an office with a rest room from the old bedroom.
We began collecting old pieces of furniture for each room.
The living room.
The Dining Room
The Dining Room
We spent some time collecting antique furniture.
We laid a terracotta floor over over a durarock sheet base for the dining room.
Next, we installed French windows and had a rear entrance way to the new garden deck.
The work took around three days, and wasn’t that disruptive
Reinstalling insulation was something to remember to do, as was resetting heating and cooling vents, and power outlets.
Once completed we redocarated the inside and added a deck outside, which we stained green
We started with white but quickly changed to a cheerful yellow. Which blended nicely with the green wooden ground level deck, which we kept 2 inches away from the house.
Then we started on the garden.
The plan was to create seven individual small intense gardens that you walked through.
Planting a mixed Hornbeam and Beech hedge provided privacy, reduced a/c and heating bills
Hedges need annual pruning
I’ve found that staining decks green, works really well.
I’ve found that benjamin moores wood stain works great, recoat every three years
The work is never really finished but we are slowly making progress – well that was until we returned to our passion of sailing.
So now we sail during the summer and ‘tinker’ with the house, in the colder months of the year.
Roofing – replaced around 5 years ago
We replaced the three layers of shingles with a ply base then membrane and finally new shingles. It was all completed in three days.
Windows – replaced around 5 years ago
We replaced all the main sash windows with georgian style double glazed windows, they took around two hours each to replace and made an enormous difference to the appearance of the house and significantly reduced our heating bills.
The aluminium siding was cleaned and repainted using an epoxy based white paint. This took rather longer than planned.
Electrical – renewed around 20 years ago
We upgraded the master fuse box to two hundred amps. Relacing 95% of the wiring in all areas where we replaced the plaster with sheetrock, using at least 65 sheets of sheet rock.
Bathroom – replaced around 20 years ago
We removed the old bathroom, took down the walls and built a much larger bathroom, with double walk in shower and jacuzzi, walk in wardrobe and laundry room.
Deck – Constructed around 10 years ago
We wanted a wooden deck, not raised. So we used concrete base blocks and ran rafters across to form a grid to screw treated wooden planks on. By slightly moving the center joint we were able to create a broken joint that visually looks better than a straight line.
Once completed we stained the wood with an outside Benjamin Moore green wood stain – its time to recoat the stain.
Hedge approximately 20 years old. – needs a yearly pruning.
Probably the most effective addition outside is the hedge.
The hedge reduces significantly how hot the inside becomes – around 20 degrees cooler during the summer,. So much so that we have only used the A/C for a few days over the past few years.
During the winter months the leaves of the hornbeam hedge remain , reducing the effects of the cold winter wind.
Painting the aluminium siding white, using a a two part epoxy base system from Sherwin Williams took a little extra time. However I think the overall effect was beneficial.
Tankless water heater. recently replaced original 20 year old one,
The first one a Bosch lasted twenty years, it reduced our hot water creating gas use to less than $12 on average per month over that period.
Then one morning the water feed to it exploded – they think the pressure exceeded 750lbs. It sure was lucky to be in a small town, the city engineer had the water off inside 15 mins, the oak floor got wet, but there was no other damage.
We bought a Rinnai replacement (cost exactly double the first one) it is just as efficient. There is a way to had an additional radiator, which we may do in future for keeping the bathroom warm when having a Jacuzzi.
Wood burning Fire upgraded to a 2021 sealed unit complete with stainless flue.
We recently changed our home insert as it clearly wasn’t up to code.
Our new one has its own stainless steel flue, meets the 2021 code.
Only a 65000 btu heater
Its not quite as hot burning as the previous one, but it produces sufficient heat to reduce our furnace heating to particularly cold days. It doesn’t burn as much wood as the earlier model.
The wood has to be dry and no longer than 18 inches.
Changing out the humongous old one took some ingenuity as it must have weight at least 350lbs maybe more.
Range number two.
The first one lasted twenty years, when a mouse chomped on something electrical inside, the resultant ‘bang’ persuaded us to replace the unit, well and the small issue of the oven no longer working.
Living in a small town, which used to suffer power outages often, it seemed wise to select a gas range.
Today the more efficient conductive electrical ranges are more environmentally friendly, but we would still choose gas as it gives an alternative should the power be cut.
Fridge Freezer number two
The first one died after about 18 years along with the dryer.
(we will continue to update this article)
Trees are an attractive addition to any landscape, they provide shade and balance to a garden.
They do have a few requirements :
Leaves need to be attended to, they are great for composting shrub beds, chop them up with a rotary mower and they are easy to move and place
They also need trimming – best to use an expert
Sometimes they drop limbs.
and then some hedge trimming – usually a hand job twice a year, this time a little more intense work.
Beautiful landscapes take time, professionalism & commitment, from the owner, the designer, the builder and the maintainer.
Unlike almost any other purchase a homeowner can make, an external project involves nature, nature has a habit of seeking attention often !
So let’s take a moment to walk into my life as they say.
There is a well known expression ” The customer is always right” – this is very true. It is essential to build the customers trust, and not lose it, for once gone events have a habit of sending everything as we say ‘Pear shaped’ …. today, let’s stay positive and explore some experiences….
I only know ‘My’ experience, which to be fair has been fairly extensive, as well as fun, over all very enjoyable, with the odd heart stopping moment, which we will discuss later.
My school days, yes ,I was privileged, were at Bearwood College, it’s a school in a beautifully laid out estate. Designed by The Rev Gilpin back in the early 1800’s for John Walters the founder of ‘The Times’, – some 500 acres, at school we were expected to do Estate work on the huge grounds once a week to help maintain the appearance of the school around the mansion house.
So as a youngster for 2 hours every week we played at aftercare of a huge Estate – I’ve just interviewed a colleague who did this for real as a Head Gardener of a 12000 acre estate, with among other things a 44 acre formal garden, this after years of designing spectacular award winning gardens, it’s a fascinating interview, as the estate is probably the busiest in the world with many events attracting over 100,000 visitors at a time, there is a motor racing and horse racing circuit within the grounds ! – you can hear Alan shortly on Growing Trends Podcast
During my vacations to earn additional pocket money for school – the Tuck Shop was stocked with all things fattening, that us kiddies always preferred to real food ! No just kidding.
I worked with a friend in his dad’s business of Forestry – we planted new woodlands in the winter break, did more planting in the spring break, then weeded the newly planted woodlands with a long handled hook in the summer break – it was heavy work but very rewarding, the ploughman’s lunch with a pint of shandy at lunchtime sitting out in a pub garden in the summer was glorious, however toasting your homemade sandwiches over a small twig fire in the depths of winter, cold, soaking wet, drinking peppered hot bovril wasn’t quite the same, especially as your toes were on the verge of frostbite !
Even the summer days had their own special moments…
“That is until you came across a wasp’s nest buried in the ground in your row as you cut down the foxgloves, brambles, and other assorted weeds a swarm of angry wasp’s chased you along your row, which I might add was almost always a vertical hillside ! The really scary one was, when a pheasant launched itself at you as you almost chopped its head off ! It used to take me a few minutes to calm down from that – you never ever hit the bird, or really saw it, but you sure heard it, and it was a huge blur as it flew past you.!”
After leaving school, working for a year at an Estate Agent’s introducing clients to property investments, helping sell houses and commercial properties all around the Thames valley.
I heard about a new landscape course at Merrist Wood College, was accepted, and spent three years really enjoying myself earning a College Degree in the process !
The course was so good, everyone of us was head hunted way before the course finished, well, now that I come to remember Bill, he had the new MGB sportscar, decided to buy a yacht and sailed off into the yonder, never to be heard of again !
Subsequently I discovered how much fun it is to have a yacht and go sailing !
I spend a further three or four years in a London Borough’s parks department learning some serious construction techniques – they called us Landscape technicians. There were six of us, in the group, when four of us left and the fifth joined the ranks of the clergy, one of the original six is still there so Ian must have 43 years of service ! It took almost 12 full time jobs to replace us !
We learned a huge amount, it was a great place to learn, with lots of variety, seriously engineered construction techniques, a dedicated to us work study team, so we knew how long items took to build.
Overall though it lacked the ability to really expand ones horizons, beyond parks, open spaces & schools, so after three years it was time to move on.
Private practice was a completely different place, armed with the knowledge of how to build to an exacting commercial standard – something that held us in very good stead as we built our company, we did something probably unique at that time, we deliberately concentrated on Design and Build we won one award after another, ( currently 17).
We achieved this mainly because we created a standard working method, for our staff, we used standard details that we documented,. Most importantly we loved to experiment with new ideas.
No we didn’t do this ! This is a planning ‘item’ in Oxford, but I bet you took a couple of looks at it !
One of the first A-ha !!! moments was Dri-lay drives, it happened because a client asked for a brick drive with a dark mortar joint.
We duly designed and installed the drive – which took two men 10 days just to point by hand !. This seemed a waste of potential profit , so recalling our local authority days the next one we tried was with the dri-lay method we had used in parks, the very first project saved us over 50% of the normal time to complete !
One of the design features we added, was a ‘canted’ brick edge, when ever possible this served two purposes, it was visually very attractive, catching the eye, creating a visual movement.
More importantly for the housewife, it was a superb aide memoir when driving onto as if you got too close to the edge the powered steering ‘tweaked’ enough to prevent you from driving into the landscape – this produced lots of customers from recommendations..
Below you see the first ‘dri-lay’ natural brick drive, we used a harder brick at first as the clay bricks tended to snap if you applied too heavy a vibration – after a while we figured using a rubberised mat would alleviate this issue.
The bonus to us, the first drive took 2 weeks to complete, this one was finished inside 4 days !
I well remember driving to a large concrete manufacturer of paving and blocks in 1984 and asking for help with our advertising budget – in those days the firms would pay a percentage of your advertising if you mentioned them. Anyway we went up to Derby from London ! gave a presentation on ‘Designer Drives” , it blew them away and we were politely told that the market didn’t exist. – a year later we had 5 crews constantly working building Dry lay drives, so many firms were starting to see the market potential. that we moved up to bricks.
By then we offered Block Drives, Brick Drives and for the really discerning Granite Sett drives – I have to say a granite sett drive looks quite exceptional
We also learned a valuable lesson, as we didn’t want to just build drives, we broadened what we offered clients, adding canted brick edges, specially designed recessed manhole covers, multi coloured drives- which then became ‘brindled.’ As the manufacturers caught on.
Pictures of our drives appeared on advertising brochures from those very companies.
Our next Aha !!! moment was the recessed manhole cover, which we made ourselves at first..
See if you can see the second one in this picture above! This project was one of the first where we used a specially made stock brick the yellow is the kiln dried sand we used to brush between the interstices.
and the final result ..
We designed & built lots and lots of drives…100’s of 1000’s of square meters in area.
We learned some valuable time saving lessons, the best looking was always bricks laid 45 degrees from the road direction, they took longer and required much more cutting, so warranted a slightly higher charge, but they almost always looked better.
Natural bricks are not a standard size, so after about 6 ft (1.8m ) of one direction the joints tend to start running out of line so be careful how you set out. Oddly 45 degree herringbone actually helps to hide this visual effect.
I have to admit that it has, and continues to be, an awful lot of fun and enjoyment, not to mention the satisfaction that comes from achieving a well thought out and attractive scheme, or seeing a client years later saying how much they have enjoyed what was done, how well it has lasted.
A case of “Quality is remembered long after the price has been paid.”
I’ve always adopted a slightly different approach with private clients as I felt that most were not highly conversant with contractual law, or quantity surveying, always striving to give sound , honest advice, and maintain a high quality finish no matter what….
How is it that some projects just look wonderful and others just ok ?
The answer is in the detail and the finish.
There is also no doubt in my mind that, the more experience one has, the greater the ability to be able to produce , not only an award winning scheme, but also to ensure that the design is both workable and economically viable – of course if money is no object ? – I have personally worked on a few projects where money was not part of the equation, oddly they didn’t work out any better than a well designed and thoughtfully implemented scheme.
Some more A-ha !!! moments later , especially as we have grown longer in the tooth, we become smarter and now obtain patents for our “A-ha !! ” moments.
In the meantime do listen to our interviews at Growing Trends
Drop me a line if you have a question or request.
Over the years many events have shaped my days, some have been unusual, some really amusing, some scary and some just plain out of this world.
As I try to remember each, or find another scribbled note in one of my many journals, I’ll try and add them for your amusement.
Early Days in Henley on Thames.
So, in no particular order I’m going to try and write them down, just as I remember them today.
If my mother were alive today she would say “How frightfully Interesting” one of her favorite expressions when raising her eyebrows in feigned acceptance.
Now I should start by suggesting all these little ‘pearls’ were probably her fault, after all she was the one that let go of my perambulator as we took our morning walk along the towpath alongside the river Thames in Henley on Thames at the tender age of eighteen months.
The ‘pram’ proceeded at increasing velocity across the footpath until it met the kerb by the rivers edge.
It came to an abrupt stop.
Catapulting its contents – me – into the river !
I was fortunate that we were near a boatyard at the time, a kindly boatman from Hobbs Boatyard fished me out of the river with a boat hook in fairly short order.
I’m told that there was no lasting damage, perhaps though you may decide otherwise.
Around the age of two
We lived in St Marks Rd, not too far from the town center.
After all those years I still remember a number of events from back then.
The one that stands out was of the milkman – he used to deliver milk with a horse drawn cart.
Anyway this particular day he was almost at the point of delivering our milk, we were heading out for a walk.
I had been given a boiled sweet which I proceeded to try and swallow whole.
It wasn’t long before I was choking.
The resultant panic from mother drew his attention to me, whence he came over picked me up turned me upside down and vigorously tapped my back, out popped the boiled sweet.
To be on the safe side my mother then took me to the top of the road and into the small cottage hospital where I was given an xray.
I still remember this because in those days you had to rest on a white enamel like frame, it was really, really cold.
The lady in a white overcoat then hid behind a screen while the machine made all manner of noises – quite scary for a young lad!
Happily, I was fine, we continued on our daily walk.
Around the age of five.
We had a large number of relatives living in Henley in those days so after we moved to Caversham some 7 miles away we were often returning to visit.
On this occasion we used the train, my brother had come along by now.
He was 18 months younger than me so mum used a pushchair and I walked alongside with some reins attached so that I wouldn’t run off.
I cannot remember us arriving by train, but I do remember leaving in the early evening, it was just getting dark.
The journey entailed using the branch line from Henley on Thames, via Wargrave to Twyford where we would catch the train to Reading.
We arrived in Twyford on time, and changed trains, as we left the station.
I remember saying to mum that we had been here before, sure enough we no sooner arrived in Wargrave.
Mum got off here hoping to get another train back, unfortunately the next train was the one we had been on, and it wasn’t due to return until very much later.
The stationmaster allowed us to keep warm by his office coal fire. It was very, very late by the time we arrived home.
My first taste of 7up, about age 8
SS Sunrhea – a buaxite carrier from McKensie to Alcan in Canada.
My father was a merchant sea Captain, one of his first commands was a grain ship that sailed from the Great Lakes to Bristol Avonmouth.
As a special treat we were going to visit him on his ship and stay for a few days.
I guess I was perhaps 8 years old, my brother 6 and a bit.
After being given a tour of the ship, a 10 open holds – grain carrier it seemed huge to us, although I doubt if it was much more than about 12000 tons – the engine room was very noisy and seemed enormous to us kids.
I vividly recall watching the crew handle the giant vacuums that sucked the grain from toe hold in storage bins on the dock.
The operators used wide mesh shoes to stop themselves from falling into the grain – which would be very dangerous.
Every lunch time we were detailed to go around the men’s quarters with a xylophone to announce lunchtime… as we passed the first officers cabins he always came out and gave us a bottle of 7up each – we had never had it before as it wasn’t sold in England.
Just plain hard when you are only aged 10
My father was often away at sea for many months, it meant that us kids were quite a lot of work for mum, so we ended up being packed off to boarding school.
I was the first to leave at the tender age of 10 and a bit, I’m not sure if I had taken my 11 plus by then, but I do know I passed the exams.
The school seemed miles away ,very big and foreboding, it was rumored to have ghosts.
For a ten-year old it was initially unfriendly, scary, a lonely place.
Fortunately everyone else had experienced the same feelings at one time or another.
You soon fell into, got kicked into, or just went along with the routine that was designed to remove much of your free time.
The training was excellent for later life as you were able easily to compartmentalize each day.
It didn’t always work, especially if you had just come back from a day out and didn’t have another one for another 6 weeks.
As a footnote..
As we became older, wiser and more used to the conditions, we did learn that it was very beneficial to be at such an amazing school , with friends from all over the world, experiences that just a few were lucky enough to have.
Around age 11
I was a chorister, with a pleasant treble voice so it seemed natural to be picked to perform in a musical called ‘Oliver’ Lionel Blair had just written a modern score and he donated its use to us.
Apart from singing and acting the play in the school theater, we traveled all across London to various venues performing for groups.
Around the age of 12
My first trip abroad ( in 1965) was to a small Austrian town of Lech high up in the Voralberg.
In those days you reached Lech using the Osterriche Poste bus which picked you up from the railway station after a two-day train journey that commenced in London, included a ferry across the English Channel and then on through France, Germany and finally Austria.
I still remember playing ping-pong on a concrete outside table, very interesting bounce.
There was also a spring fed swimming pool, very ‘fresh’ water temperature.
On the plus side the bedroom duvets were amazingly warm – convinced me to use them always.
Seem to recall the food was pretty good.
It was around this time that I started working with a friend for his dad’s forestry company.
During the Christmas break we would finish planting young saplings in the mixed woodlands he was creating.
We also dug up small ‘Christmas Trees, and cut down larger ones which we would them ‘stick’ into pine logs and wrap.
I think Yattendon Estate stills does this.
During the Spring break, we would complete any planting that was hanging over – as long as it was before Easter.
After Easter we would repair fence lines so that Deer, Rabbits etc didn’t eat the newly bursting buds.
In the summer armed with a long handle ‘hook’ sometimes known as a ‘slasher’ we would ‘weed’ the long rows of saplings planted usually at 5ft centers that ran up and down the hillsides.
The weeds were often over 5ft tall, the digitalis was home to way too many ground wasps that would attack you if you let them.
The scariest animal though was the pheasant, at close quarters and 6 inches from the ground they give you a heart attack as they launch themselves out-of-the-way.
Of course the trick is to weed all along each row without cutting down the newly planted trees – the first job in the autumn is to replant those saplings that either die or are chopped off in the weeding process.
During the summer season, we would often ‘weed’ an area around half and acre in size each day.
It took me around 6 months to pass the various real estate exams to become a real estate agent in Missouri and Kansas – a necessity as Kansas City is on the line between the two states.
My first impression was – Wow this is different to what I remember back in England all those years ago.
I started in Real Estate working life in 1971 with Messrs Nicholas a medium sized Land & Estate agents in Reading, with around five branches in the locale.
This time I had been lucky to pass all the exams on the first attempt.
A big thank you to Lynn at Real Estate Prep School in Gladstone.
There is a definite benefit to sitting in a class of contemporaries who know the lingo and are brighter than you !
Selecting a broker to work for was an interesting exercise in balancing, diving in with both feet or being just a number in a large brokerage with little one on one contact.
Being somewhat of a social animal.
I chose a small friendly broker, where I felt learning would be much easier and definitely one to one.
After a couple of years it was time to move to a little larger brokerage.
Having spent the best part of 45 years promoting my design and build business working with companies & homeowners in England & America it wasn’t difficult to talk to people.
Having a ‘Boss’ is a little different!
Initial real estate advice was you will need to call 50, 60, maybe 70 people a week to obtain clients.
It’s probably true.
Whilst I realize that indeed to move ahead it will be necessary to obtain leads and contact lots of people.
I have also noticed that being stuck behind a phone is not the whole story.
In fact, my first three clients came from just walking down a street and talking to people.
it’s at this point I confess that my English accent has its benefits.
Today, five years after obtaining my licenses.
Completing many hours of continuing education, code of ethics, learning the multiple listing service, paying all manner of fees, being fingerprinted twice, having two FBI back ground checks and signing up for dotloop, css, forms are us, renting some lock boxes, a crm or two, attending some heavy-duty boot camps.
It’s time to go sailing a little more.!
So I figured why not take the potential clients with me?
No, no, I was just dreaming about the European way of working !
Actually, I was serious and during the summer months please do come sailing its fun.
My short-term goals are to list two homes a month and sell two homes a month, not necessarily the same ones.
Between the buyer, seller, listing and selling agent, lender, broker, and title company.
Many of the forms have time restraint penalties and completion penalties. – another word for fines!
Having completed a reasonable number of sales and purchases.
I am aware that being on the edge of old has some advantages in this business: –
- Namely staying calm when all around you are losing their minds is a benefit.
- Maintaining a sense of humor, while keeping focused on the goal.
- Listening to the clients needs and wishes.
- Being patient.
- Being willing to go out of your way to smooth the process.
- Keep to the plan – in this case the time program.
- Remember who your customer is.
- Most important have fun.
- Make sure everyone has fun.
- Just to repeat make it a fun time.
There is without a doubt something magical about helping someone find their new home.
Providing a personal service to each client is very important to me !
Call, Text or email me…
Email : Chris Dyson-Coope
Tel : 816 813 0729
Would you like more information? – Visit- Our Hortcuisine website
How it all started, my first job.
It’s been very many moons since starting out early one morning to work ‘in the woods’ near
my home in Caversham, Reading.
Leaving the house at 6.30am, with a hoar frost on the ground, piling into the back an Austin van, joining three others who were much more able than 14 year old me.
My mum would pack a lunch for me and added a thermos flask of hot soup.
Matt, the foreman greeted me, introducing the rest of the crew, Wilf an older gentleman
with a very gruff appearance, Aleric a much younger, very well educated fellow, David, who was my age
and the son of the boss. he was also my friend.
We were only driving about 15 miles to a small village called Checkendon where the boss owned a small woodland – around 20 acres of mixed hardwood planting.
We arrived at the five bar entrance gate, the area looked like an over grown field. Then driving down a small track, that stopped at an old rectangular concrete building with just a door, no windows. Everyone piled out, and headed for the building, inside were a selection of ‘v’ shaped planting spades, a bunch of ranging poles and a large pile of plastic bags with various bare root tree species inside.
The plan this day was to complete a mixed hardwood woodland planting. The planting distances were 5ft row separations with 5 ft planting gaps.