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Restoring radiators – a how-to guide

If we had to pick one sure-fire giveaway that you’re a restoration enthusiast, our money would be on how you feel about radiators. These beauties utterly transform a space and add bags of character when they’re reintroduced to a period home. They’re also a huge labour of love and we’d be willing to place another bet that anyone who’s embarked on a radiator project has spoken some choice words before falling back in love with them when they’re in pride of place.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, renovating period radiators is a fabulous way of showcasing your individuality and love of original features. This month’s blog is a handy how-to of the steps to restore radiators, what to do yourself, and when you might want to bring in the experts.

1. Considerations

Before you start, make sure you speak to a plumber to check what size you need to sufficiently heat your room. They will be able to advise on the number of BTUs (British Thermal Units) you need based on the square footage to be heated.

You should also budget for safety checks and installation (and removal) costs. As a guide, to replace all radiators in a typical 2-bedroom terrace house would take around 2 days, including removing old units and repositioning pipes as required. Also check that your plumber will dispose of your old radiators.

2. Choosing your radiator

At Dorton, we stock a huge variety and styles, from ornately sculpted to industrial radiators. We also sell repro radiators if you like the steam-punk look but don’t fancy taking on a labour-intensive project.

3. Stripping your radiators

One of the joys of original radiators is their age and providence; the downside is that beautiful features are often covered in years’ worth of paint. Stripping them is labour-intensive and you need to consider the best way to approach it. First, make sure that you’re working in an unoccupied space (or ideally, outdoors), because this is a messy task!

You can strip a radiator by hand but this is time-consuming. You may want to do it in stages – use a wire brush to scrape off as much as possible, then sand blast the unit, and finally remove the last of the stubborn paint with a nitrate paint remover. If you’re using a sand blaster, you may want to think about sending it away to an expert.

4. Varnishing, polishing, painting

You’ll need to prime and then varnish or paint your radiator to bring it back to its former glory. We love this chic style, achieved with Farrow and Ball paint contrasting with copper piping.

green radiator

5. Finishing touches

Your plumber should supply the pipes to install your new radiator and connect to existing pipework. Complete the look with period style taps and valves – we love these:



Once you’re done, all that’s left is to crank up the heat and enjoy the results of all your hard work.

It’s always worth a visit to our yard to see what’s new, and make sure you sign up to our pre-claim service, where you’ll be the first to hear about new and unusual finds.

Image references

Lead image Enki Magazine

Olive green painted radiator Pinterest

Ornate radiator This old house

Valves Victorian Plumbing



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Tiles tiles tiles

A sure-fire way to invigorate your home is to add some tiling detail. It’s a perfect project for spring as well, something to add colour and shake up the look and feel of a room, without having to venture too far outdoors!

Having said that, we also have plenty of external tiles, so we’ve got inspo for external projects too. This month, we’re bringing together ideas to inspire you to make a change – and we’ve even got solutions for left-over tiles!

Floored genius

We stock a range of reclaimed tiles, which with a little love and care can be brought back to their former glory. As you can imagine, tiles can come into the yard from a variety of projects, so make sure you visit us regularly to find the perfect style for you.

Quarry stone floor tiles can transform a room – we love this farmhouse style kitchen floor, creating a cosy, homely feel.


Small but sweet

Victorian-inspired patterned tiled floors create an elegant, regal space. Even the smallest of hallways can be revamped fairly simply with careful use of colours and designs.


If space or budget is an issue, consider adding an accent rather than retiling your whole room. For example, rather than tackling a full kitchen, you could choose to tile one feature wall to add interest. Or focus on heavy-use areas such as behind the hob, to combine practicality with creating the wow factor.

Step it up

Up your tiling game with feature details – tile external steps in traditional terracotta, then add features on the stair rises with your favourite patterned tiles to create a twist on subway style. We stock a huge number of quarry tiles that would be perfect for this job – and visit your local hardware store to source a complementary ceramic tile for the rises.


Whatever your project, you’re likely to have some leftover tiles knocking around. We’ve gathered some ideas to use up and repurpose spare tiles:

Coasting to victory

One of the very simplest options to repurpose smaller tiles is to create your own set of coasters. We love the idea of coordinating coasters with feature wall tiles.

Dining in style

Or how about restoring a dining room table? Add a section of ceramic tiles for a truly unique centrepiece.

Potty for planters

One of our very favourite ideas for using up leftover tiles is to create your own planters and plant pots. From the tiny (superglue 4 tiles into a square shape) to the more elaborate (think raised outdoor beds decorated with a tile pattern), the possibilities are endless!


Whatever your project, we’re here to help. Pop in to see us and we’ll help you choose the best option for you.

Image references

Farmhouse Pinterest

Hallway Pinterest

Steps Pure Wow

Coasters Making Manzanita

Table Seeking Lavender Lane

Planter Pillar box Blue



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All I want for Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…and the perfect opportunity to choose a gift that’s a little out of the ordinary.

As climate change and the very real threat to our planet escalates, many of us are considering the impact of waste and single-use plastics as we do our Christmas shopping. We’ve rounded up some ideas for festive gift giving with a difference to help you do your bit to reduce waste and shop sustainably.

Give the gift of Hygge!

Hygge Bath

Over the last couple of years, the UK has embraced the Danish concept of Hygge, defined as ‘a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being’. Think thick socks, candles, blankets and hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire.

Our salvage yard at Dorton is packed with original pieces guaranteed to dial up the Hygge – from Victorian radiators, to wood-burning stoves and decadent roll-top baths, the list is endless.

If your friend has a wish list, let us know and we can help you find exactly the right gift. Now all you need to do is figure out how to fit it under the tree!

Festive story-time


Create a little piece of festive magic for the little ones in your life. Transform reclaimed wooden boards into a cosy nook for bedtime reading and storage. We love these bookshelves, made using scaffolding boards and iron brackets. Take it a step further and add decals or stencils with your child’s name.

Vintage gems

Esso Sign

It’s always worth a visit to Dorton to peruse our one-off items as you never know when we’ll find some unusual treasures (sign up to our Pre-Claim service to be the first to hear about new arrivals).

Surprise your vintage-loving friend with a retro tin sign or plaque to hang in their home or garden. This recent find is from Volks Electric Railway at Brighton sea front:

Volks Railway

Shop our packed yard for antiques like these stunning original brass and copper fire extinguishers:

Vintage Extinguishers

We adore this PYE record player:

Record Player

A magical winter wonderland


Add a touch of sparkle to your friend’s Christmas decorations with a traditional lantern. Line the driveway, decorate the porch, or bring indoors to pop in the window. Imagine this gorgeous lantern adding to the festive charm of a cold winter’s evening – a truly unusual gift to give this season!



We’re open as usual up to the 20th December at 4pm and reopening at 7.30am on Thursday 2nd January 2020, so pay us a visit to choose a unique and sustainable gift!

Image references

Bathroom The MOA style

Book shelves Shabby Bear Cottage

Retro sign English Salvage

Lantern DIY Enthusiasts


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Quirky planters for springtime colour


It may be autumn, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming of adding a little colour to our gardens – so this month we’re bringing you ideas for interesting and unique planters, for inside and outside.

Whether you’re looking to plant spring bulbs (be quick before it gets too cold!), you want to add some greenery to your indoor space, or you’re planning ahead for next year, we’d recommend creating your own planters (or repurposing vintage ones) to create a truly unique look for your home and garden.

Go potty for planters

Planting several pots

Let’s start simple with some ideas for existing pots, or repurposing garden structures such as urns. This is the easiest way to introduce some spring colour into your garden. Create drainage with small stones (or broken pieces of tile or ceramic) placed at the bottom of the pot, fill up with compost, and add your bulbs. Finish off with another layer of compost, and water well. For full instructions, check out this RHS tutorial.

To transform your urn into a planter, you’ll need to add drainage holes, then you can treat it in exactly the same way. Or, to make a giant statement, take a look at our stone troughs!

Cre-ate a mini garden

Stencilled crate

Change things up with different types of storage – try a wooden crate for a rustic, vintage look. We love how this crate has been personalised using stencils for a truly unique finish. You can either plant straight into the crate, or simply use it to house plants in their own pots – so you can swap and change with the seasons, or if you get bored!

Alternatively, salvage a solid box like this gorgeous wine crate to create a mini garden! (tutorial)


A most unusual tea party!


Create an adorable corner of your garden with a set of vintage teacup planters. In the garden, our advice is ‘more is more’ – we’re thinking clusters of teacups, and even teapots, grouped together to create impact.

Inside you can be more delicate as your planters will be safe from the elements. We absolutely love this vintage teacup collection. Try pairing with succulents for an on-trend look.

Let your imagination run wild!


With some creative thinking, virtually anything can be transformed into a planter. Vintage prams, bicycles, wellington boots, dressers, chest of drawers – add paint, pots, and flowers, and the world is your oyster!

Spice up your life


This super-cute herbs and spices planter is the perfect way to restore and reuse old pallets, as well as grow your own delicious produce. Add signage if you like, using stencils as in this example, or place labelled markers in the soil. Position in a sunny sheltered spot, or fix to a handy wall, then sit back and bask in the glory of your self-sufficiency!

Whatever you decide, here at Dorton we have a vast collection of products to help you get started. Not sure what you’re looking for? Sign up to our Pre-Claim service, for details of our most interesting pieces before they leave a demolition site.


Image References

Spring bulbs RHS

Stencilled planter Plantabox

Wine crate garden and tutorial Tidy Mom

Vintage tea cups Ryland Peters & Small

Chest of drawers Good Housekeeping

Herbs and spices pallet planter Garden Lovers Club