I had a dream…

End of week 13 and not only do I work on this renovation project, but now I am dreaming about it too. On Tuesday, I dreamt that I should knock through a door to make the boiler more accessible. This dream happened in time to make it realisable without any knock-on problems. Yay, Neil said, as I asked him if it was possible!

Last night I dreamt about the structural engineers drawings and the task to open up an entranceway upstairs. This was no doubt as part of a discussion at the end of the working day with Neil. The property is on two levels upstairs…and in order to access the lower part we are going to widen an opening, but also raise the entry height so people over 5ft can step in comfortably without taking the top of their heads off.

It is complex (for me anyway) and the structural engineer was asked to provide the necessary drawings and weightings. This job (started today) required some proper thinking before anything was touched. A wrong move could literally bring the house down as there are supporting purlins and joists to consider.

So before the work started Neil and I studied the drawings. We discussed the process; what needed to be propped, what could be held up temporarily with a few spare pieces of timber and hex screws; what could be demolished immediately; where the new purlins, joists and hangers would go, and more. He left the site satisfied that the plan to proceed this morning (Friday) was a good one. I went straight to the local shop and bought a bottle of wine !

Confused was One !!!

But my sleep delivered an understanding.

When I awoke, not only did I understand that I still could not decipher the engineers drawings but I realised that was OK. I have Neil and Andy.

I can bake cakes: I play golf pretty good and I was OK at marketing. I am now also very good at banging in nails. We don’t all need to know everything.

We did OK today. Not quite finished, but the house is still standing.

I hope to dream about cakes tonight!!

The 12 weeks of renovation…

I am undecided if I have just endured the hardest 12 weeks of my life…or the most interesting. At moments time has flown…but not at 4am in the caravan when it’s wet and windy or when I have to empty the pee pot!

I miss some of my home comforts. Not being able to cook multi pan meals and bake. Not having a bed made up and ready for me to climb into. I also miss a flushing toilet and the constancy of never ending running water.

Surprisingly, I am pretty OK with not having a shower every day or only washing my hair or wearing makeup at weekends. I live in numerous layers of t-shirts and fleeces, jeans and thick socks. I am no longer embarrassed by my dressed state when I walk to the local shop for a pint of milk. I suspect I look like a hard-up bag lady, but I don’t care.

I don’t miss TV. I do miss my friends, book club and the golf club. Oh and my family.

What is good is the knowledge I am gaining and the excitement (yes) of seeing an empty space turn into a useable space. For instance I made a floor – a proper stand on it, jump up and down even dance on it floor and it may be there for hundreds of years! Obviously not on my own – Neil did the hard stuff – but even so who else can say that.

The Building Control man seems verily happy with our efforts and we communicate very well indeed. He is also very helpful and has a few pointers here and there but we are getting the relevant approvals as we meander along. It probably helps that his name is Stuart – also the name of my favourite (only) brother just returned from Australia.

Neil and Andy are coping admirably with their aged apprentice. Neil is now a puppy papa so he realises how easy it is to manage me now that he has an 8 week old pup in his household. Although to be fair, he’s never had to drop what he’s doing to run me outside! Nevertheless their patience is admirable.

We are doing some big stuff next week. The roof has seen better days. Imagine an old fella with a big beer belly but he needs to have a 6 pack to survive. That’s the job we’ve got with the roof. I have just ordered a load of timber – much of which has been specified by the structural engineer, Aurimas (one for all and all for one!. I know its the wrong spelling but I couldn’t resist it). Anyway, we have some seriously big pieces of timber to slip into the roof to boost its strength and make that 6 pack miracle happen.

My suppliers – mostly Travis Perkins and MKM – are really delightful and very helpful with my numerous questions. They also play golf so that helps!!

So that is it. 12 weeks done in a blink. Week 13 will soon arrive and I am so looking forward to carrying the 4.8m lengths of timber aloft my shoulder whilst climbing a ladder to the second floor whistling to the tune of “Hi Ho, Hi Ho…”

In the meantime I head back to Bristol for a weekend of wood-working (yes really) and a party to attend. If there is not yet a dance called The Woodchop or Renovation Wriggle – there will be by the early hours of Sunday morning!


Is it a floor? Is it a ceiling…

A short week for me. Monday was supplier meetings so no physical work until Tuesday and am heading home on Thursday evening as off to the Big Smoke for a Friday night of loveliness with a scrummage of Penguin rugby players and supporters (is that the collective noun?).

But a short week doesn’t limit the amount of work that has to be done. So Neil and I have the task of levelling off one bedroom floor and putting in a brand new floor in another bedroom (happens to also be the ceiling for the boot room / guest toilet.

This requires much timber. I am becoming well versed in timber terminology. Here it’s spoken in old ‘money’ (6by2; 4by2 etc) but ordered from the merchant in new money (150×47) unlike plywood which is still ordered in sheets in old money (8ftx4ft). Over 140m ordered for the two rooms. Thankfully its cut to manageable sizes…though if you’d seen me (wo)man carrying a 4.8m length of timber from the carpark to the pub you would question the term ‘manageable’.

Then there’s the nails – 40mm galvanised clout nails in this case. Ordered by the kg rather than the hundreds or thousands. 2.5kg for this little job. Add 52 joist hangers, 5x 1m lengths of M16 threaded rod then cut to size; M16 nuts and washers and a tube or two of silicon and we are ready to go.

Neil does the calculations and measuring. No surprise there for those that know me well. I am after all just the apprentice on this job…but I am learning and spend my day watching and learning in between lifting, hammering and cleaning – with an occasional expletive when the hammering misfires.

It’s getting colder now too, although much of the work is still very physical so keeping warm is not a problem once the work starts. But first thing in the morning is a tad chilly and my “home from home” caravan is fighting hard to keep me warm in the evenings. Last night’s howling gale was an interesting experience. Once I reassured myself that the caravan was too heavy to fly away, and I got used to the swaying motion it was really rather soothing. Reminded me of sleeping in a yacht in a force 8 gale.

I was “rocked” to sleep whilst listening to some chillout tunes!

Oh the life of That There Builder Girl.

All work and no play…

I am one of those personalities that loves learning new stuff, regardless of what it is generally. It’s one of the reasons I had a fairly successful career in marketing. I had to work on numerous brands and products from cars and garden tools to computers and sanitary products and had to learn a lot about the products. And I was definitely one to take my work home with me – alas!

Now that I am the apprentice on this building job, its the same thing. Neil and Andy are answering my questions on a daily basis and my learning slope is steep – even from basic stuff such as plumbing pipes that are brown go underground. I also now have a handle on inspection chambers, risers and couplers. Yippee!!

But life should be more than work (not that I call this work) and it’s good to divert the brain. Living in a caravan limits my evening entertainment. No TV. There is a video player but I am not really a film buff. So its the radio, podcasts and music on my phone primarily. And oh boy, what joy there is to be found in podcasts.

I thought I might share some which may be of particular value to anyone else going through a similar process. Some are American …but once you get over that they are worth a listen. Some real life. Some might make you chuckle. Some might make you shout out loud at no-one in particular. All entertaining. (Quick shout out to my mate Annie who keeps a watchful ear out for anything I might like). These are the ones I have been devouring the last 10 weeks.

The two things that keep me going after the hard work of daily renovation. A large mug of coffee and podcasts playing through my Jam Heavy Metal (great sound!).

I haven’t found a decent renovation/property podcast. If you know of one, do let me know. Or any other recommendations very welcome.

I also read a fair bit – currently Rules of Civility by Amor Towles and the soon to arrive Book Club book – Drive your Plow over the Bones – Olga Tokarczuk. What a great title.

There is also a constant re-read of Housebuilders Bible 12 – Mark Brinkley (13 is out now). Extremely informative for anyone with limited knowledge or renovation and housebuilding like myself.