That was the week that was…

Who ever thought this madness we are living through was possible? Not me.

I returned from my extended trip to Portugal last Saturday, very pleased to return home. I spent the weekend working online, sorting out the budget, paying invoices and was planning to stay in Bristol on Monday to order numerous building materials from plasterboard to stairs and more.

Monday morning I awoke, as we all did, to a strange atmosphere so I jumped in my car and went to site. It became pretty obvious that some type of lockdown was going to happen and I didn’t want to be stuck with Mr. Clooney (can’t believe I just wrote that), but more importantly I didn’t want to lock up a site with thousands of pounds of materials piled up inside. I discussed the choices with Neil and Andy and we all agreed to close the site at the end of that day. As it turned out, our instinct was right as the UK went into lockdown at 2030hrs that evening.

Fortunately, the scaffolding was already being dismantled and is now gone. A big shout out to Patrick D Warren Scaffolding. Their flexibility and helpfulness throughout the roof issues was brilliant. Great business if you need their services.

The rendering was completed and another good job by Pete the Plasterer who will be back for the internal plastering I hope. The external painting is almost complete with perhaps less than a day needed to finish the job. I am glad I threw the money into the pot to get this done. It looks so much better – even in an unfinished state.

It seems I have been pretty lucky in the timing of all this. That is the way I am looking at it anyway. The financial hit will need to be managed one way or another; the knock-on effect in terms of timing won’t be known until the lockdown is lifted. I am not getting anxious about it. It is what it is and there are more important things to worry about.

So back to Bristol. I am in lockdown with 2 others; one of whom happens to be a personal trainer which is obviously a good thing but when there are literally no excuses for turning up to train it can be quite painful. We actually have an organised daily routine. A run. A 1hour plus gym session. A yoga class.

And to think I used to complain about clearing rubble and my wheelbarrow journeys. That was nothing compared to the agony I am now enduring.

Wishing you well. Wish me luck, and feel free to send me ideas of how to get out of class!?!?!?

It’s gym time…

The waiting game…

Having escaped the site for a couple of days to celebrate a friend’s birthday and to get some much needed rest, I find myself with a gaggle of lost souls sitting at a kitchen table contemplating the current global crisis and wondering how and when we are going to get home. This short break away from site has turned into a longer sojourn than expected for all of us. The birthday celebrations/short break also involves a friend who lives in Spain, and has been held in another friend’s home in Portugal and it is their kitchen table at which we are sitting. Our return flights have been cancelled. Our re-booked flights were also cancelled. Portugal has declared a national emergency which includes limiting movement. The Spanish border is closed, and no ferries are running.

We do have a snorkel, but only one and it is a bit of a swim back to Blighty!

At the moment our short break has turned into 10 days…but that is only if we can get another re-booked flight this Saturday. No guarantees. Definitely a waiting game. Ah well!

At a time like this, the joy of working with competent and trustworthy builders is invaluable. The work continues in South Somerset and Neil and Andy have carried on at speed in my absence, sending pictures to keep me up to date with the progress. Bless ’em for being so damn good.

Pete and Morgan have also had several good weather days in which to complete the external render and …drum roll….it should be completed this week. Then a lick of paint and the facelift will be complete – ish. Doors, windows, drainpipes…still to do but you know what I mean.

In the meantime, every external wall upstairs is insulated and most of downstairs is being done this week. The stair man is visiting to measure. The plumber, electrician and tiler are all booked in readiness for first fix and the carpenter is booked in for door linings and other wood-related jobs.

We will be vigilant in regard to the current madness. All of our ‘trades’ are self-employed so we will continue, with the support of our builders merchants, to finish this project in a timely and healthy fashion!

In Portugal, we are lucky. Staying with a friend means we have access to a washing machine and other homely and needed goods. We are in the mountains north of Porto surrounded by little villages so no panic buying. We are surviving on great home-cooked food and lashings of wine and playing card games. No money has changed hands yet!

A couple of us have also managed two games of golf (alas, course closes Friday!). Now it’s time to repay our friends for their hospitality. We are stepping forward for jobs around the house. Sanding and painting doors, garden furniture and fences, weeding the garden and whatever is needed and useful.

We obviously don’t know what the next weeks and months will bring. Isolation may be a necessity but, ironically, it may also bring us all closer together. Let’s hope so.

Wishing you all good health…

Timing is everything (part two)…

So back in December I wrote about how important timing was.

You’d think I would follow my own posts. Timing is very important and I forgot. I have been so focussed on getting to a first fix date that I have forgotten to allow for a number of other to-dos prior to first fix. This week has therefore been a rush to get some additional quotes in for a carpenter and tiler. Anyone who has done this type of work knows that it can take weeks, if not months to get good trades booked in.

I am hoping to get a cancellation slot just to get some of the must have work done in the next couple of weeks…but we shall see.

In the meantime, Neil and Andy are back on the tools following a week away whilst the UFH and screed was laid. The final 60mm insulation boards were delivered on Monday and this will allow us to finish the external walls over the next 2 weeks. We have been through approximately 400m of batten upstairs and 80 sheets of insulation. Sometime soon we are going to have to work out exactly how much plasterboard is needed…a mildly terrifying thought given the cost. Plus of course I still need to order further insulation for between the walls and the roof space.

The screed looks gorgeous…OK maybe not gorgeous, but it is good to see. It’s a slightly odd feeling being closer to the ceiling with the floor having been raised about 190mm. I can also now open/close windows without standing on a chair.

Up to now my weekly payment runs have been pretty steady. From here-on the bills are going to come thick and fast. The render still needs finishing. Then the start of the electrics, plumbing, boiler, radiators, bathrooms, kitchen, tiles, flooring, door linings, window boards, skirting, architrave, fireplace, lighting…and more. And more. And more. And then it still won’t be done.

I am sneaking away from site as I have hit ‘the wall’. I am pooped. Done in. Energy-less. And a tired That There Builder Girl is not remotely productive. Even Mr. Clooney rocking me to sleep at night has had little effect on my rejuvenation.

So it’s half a week for me this week, and half again next. A serious adult would go home and rest-up, but I am away with a gaggle of girls to put the world to right.

Neil and Andy are on the job as always, and I have ordered a delivery of another 300m of batten and 100m of 3by2 timber. That should keep them busy.

Now where’s my passport…

Screed finished and UFH manifold in place.

What a difference a day makes…

Actually, make that a month. February has gone. March has arrived and we have just had two consecutive days without rain. The joy of it.

This means that the external rendering process has actually begun. Two days in and one long side of the property has been primed and also received a coat of render. Another long side and a gable end still to do and hopefully we can find another couple of days of sunshine in the next week or so. Pete the Plasterer, and his ever-so young sidekick Morgan, have done me proud so far.

Then its out with the scat gun (I think that’s what its called). The property cannot take a nice smooth finish. It would just highlight the oddities built into the fabric of the building. As such we are going dotty…a tyrolean render. Not my cup of tea, but it will suit the style and age of the building. The big decision is whether to pay for the colour stuff or keep it plain and then paint.

There is a cost difference but the budget has not had a good time recently. The last month or two should not be seen as simply a diversion of funds to unknown problems, but more as a full blown, unseen and unheard attack from behind.. a proper mugging.

The result is a financial hit delivering physical and mental torture. I know I will get over it. I will take another deep breath and rearrange a few things to get us on track but it still hurts.

Back to good news. The floor downstairs has received 100mm of insulation and a DPM layer. The underfloor heating pipes have been laid and the manifold fitted. This is to be finished off with the 75mm of screed in the next two days. I am really pleased with whats been done so far. I have been helped enormously by my friend Warren and the company he works for – Mec-Serv. Warren has held my hand throughout this process and provided expert knowledge and the reassurance needed at this stage of my big renovation. It is after all my first UFH experience. Love you my friend (and wifey Susie too) but you both know that anyway!

The flooring work has also meant there is no other work being done inside the building. Neil and Andy have gone elsewhere for the week (I hope they don’t like it too much) and I have spent most of my time with Mr. Clooney working out how to re-balance the budget whilst remembering all the things I forgot to include in the beginning – like skirting ! Who forgets skirting for goodness sake!!!!!

I try not to drink whilst I am down here but sometimes it’s simply not possible.

Anyone surprised…?