One step at a time…

Actually, more than one step. We have the outline of a staircase. The original staircase was removed on 4 October last year. Since then we have been hauling materials and ourselves up and down a very long ladder, many times a day. At times it has been precarious.

The joy of having a useable staircase is immense. There is much to finish with it but not until after the plastering is complete as the handrail, newels, etc are all solid oak and we need to protect them from the inevitable mess to come. Jonathan, the carpenter, has also been fitting door linings and window boards.

Courtney, the plumber, has all but finished first fix. A day or two next week and then that will be it until the plastering is finished. A grand old job he has done too.

We have no idea when the plastering is due to take place. There is a shortage of materials, as a result of factory lockdowns – unless one fancies a little bidding war on Ebay. I have no intention of paying £30/bag when it is normally less than £6. Some people – pah!

The delivery of plasterboard was timely and Neil and Andy are getting on with it. The rooms are looking like rooms. Once the boards are in place, it means the final layer of insulation can be installed. This is a less complex job which means it’s perfect for me. Much of the insulation is positioned between the walls and floor/ceiling joists.

But….there is of course the loft insulation and by golly, that is a dreadful job. Covered from head to toe, wearing a mask etc I hauled myself up a ladder along with roll after roll of 150mm insulation. First layer rolled one direction between the joists. Second layer across the joists. 300mm of warmth. Building regs satisfied.

Easy job. Except of course this property is ancient so the roof space is a mini assault course. My ducking and diving technique has improved. Professional boxers would be impressed, although I did manage to get a few sharp cracks on the head – one of which could / should have been a technical knock out!

Easy job. Except for the requirement to balance precariously on the ceiling joists whilst squatting underneath the beams in order to roll out the insulation. Another option is to kneel along the joists and shuffle along. Painful and bruised knees follow. A missed footing and the newly installed plasterboard would be ruined. A quick stretch to release the muscle tension generally means a thump on the head, back etc. Refer to previous paragraph.

Easy job. Unless you are terrified of spiders, webs and other scuttling insects who were suddenly unnerved by my presence. There is an itchy-ness working with insulation but that does not compare to face planting a lived-in spiders web in the near-dark, overheated conditions of a loft.

Easy job. Except we are having a mini heatwave. I went in pale and resurfaced pillar box red, soaked through and absolutely filthy. Even my socks had to be rung out.

There are spiders making their nests as I take this photo!

When I returned to Mr. Clooney and stripped naked (I’ve always wanted to say that!), a couple of errant spiders ran out of my hair! (I’ve never wanted to say that!).

The good news is that I have insulated half the loft.

Half.

Guess what I am going to be doing next week.

Mercy, mercy me…

And the mess returns…

My inner Little Miss Tidy has had a few moments this week as the work progresses. There is a continuous routine of make mess, clean up and repeat.

Things are moving along. Courtney has continued to install the plumbing and I have pipes of all sizes and shape everywhere! Steve popped back in to re-position a few more electrical cables and Jonathan the carpenter started fixing the door linings but then departed for the arrival of his first born. Lovely.

Neil and Andy have been creating a masterpiece with what was the Gents toilets in the old pub.

This room is to become the boiler room and store room. Internally its a relatively easy job to manage. Knock down one wall, insulate, batten, etc. Externally, the existing roof was an embarrassment to the tradesman that fitted it. No point in us leaving a crappy job (note the word links to the former use of the room. Ha!!) when everything else in the house is done to first class standards. So another batch of timber delivered, breather membrane, a little code 4 lead, batten, soffit and tiles, drainpipe and heyho – we have a working, waterproof, useable room.

Except…before we can finish it off we have to move a soil pipe, and wouldn’t you know – it is cracked and needs to be replaced. What the…? So the big guns have been out again as Andy has been digging more rubble out to access the pipe. Make mess, clean up. See what I mean.

In the meantime, we have been taking delivery of various materials required for the next stage. There has to be some thought process into where the materials are stored so that the minimal amount of handling is involved.

We took in 160 plus sheets (2400mmx1200mm) of plasterboard. The standard board weighs 23kg but the specialist board weighs 34kg and had to go upstairs – remembering of course I don’t yet have stairs. So it took 4 of us to pass the boards up. To say we were all muscle weary after moving it all is an understatement. This work starts next week.

In addition, we had hundreds of metres of insulation delivered. Rolls for the floors and attic, slab for the walls. I can just about carry a roll by myself but it’s a little comical to watch. I am just a little taller than a roll and I can only just get my arms around it. But at least I try!

It’s been a tough week for me personally. I have struggled with sleeping, washing, eating in the caravan after having a few months off and the luxury of a normal bed and flushing toilet! The budget – already pushed to the limit because of the roof – is again being tested daily as many of the prices for materials have increased.

I know I will get used to it again, but my energy levels dissipated as the week progressed. There are jobs for me to do but I didn’t really get on to them.

Am back home and I’ve had a word with myself. We probably have no more than 3 months to finish, and possibly less if we can get the materials. That time will fly – and at least we are busy and occupied – and healthy.

I will get back on it next week.

Enthused, energised and eager…

Pushing on and on…

I need to dispel the myth that I have an inside track with 10 Downing Street. I closed the site in the morning (March 23) and then the lockdown was announced that night. I started the process to re-open the when I visited 5/6/7 May prior to the PM’s announcement on Sunday 9th. This meant we would have deliveries arriving at 8am on Monday morning and could start work immediately.

For future reference, I have made a diary note to visit my sister’s fully operational and re-opened pub for the second week of August. Let’s see if my timing is right for then? If it is, I am going to stand for election as a political soothsayer !!

In the meantime, my little project is pushing on. The plumber is here this week for first fix. Courtney has the place to himself inside the property and is very helpful at explaining what he is doing. A lot of new terminology for me to grasp. The forced time off has done little to help my memory or learning capabilities but he is being very relaxed with my odd and sometimes daft questions.

Externally, the final render and painting has (almost) been finished by Pete and Morgan. Pete on one side of the building. Morgan on the other. It’s looking quite lovely – apart from the front and back doors which are still being knocked about with deliveries, etc. They will not be replaced until they can be safely entered without causing damage.

The stairs have been ordered, not from the original company as they are still closed and have no idea when (if) they are going to re-open. So a single flight of stairs has been ordered from Howdens along with numerous parts – oak rails, spindles, newels, caps, etc. Then some more timber and sheets of various board so that Jonathan the carpenter can work his magic. Jonathan will be with us for a couple of weeks (on and off) as he tackles numerous jobs from door linings, window boards, airing cupboards, door hanging, skirting, architrave and more.

But first we start fixing plasterboard – required on almost every wall and every ceiling. Foil backed for bathrooms along with soundboard and fireboard and, of course, the standard plasterboard. So Monday and Tuesday will see the delivery of 180 sheets of plasterboard and over 300m2 of insulation material for the loft, walls and floor.

This also means the return of my favourite duo, Neil and Andy.

Is this the new normal…?

Ready, steady…

On the morning of March 23rd I closed down my project. The PM announced the lockdown that evening.

After much planning, and confirming with numerous people what I am allowed to do, I am about to get the project re-started.

I am sitting in Mr. Clooney writing this and arranging the opening of the site from next Monday – 11th May. I have popped down for a couple of days to sort the site out and get Mr. Clooney ready for accommodating me for the next 2 months or so. He has survived my absence rather well. Just a little sprucing up inside and a wash-down outside – no more than what I have had to do for myself following weeks of being locked away!!

The builders merchants are open and are re-stocking although there appears to be some material shortages. Time will tell if this will affect the project timeline. Deliveries only for us. No popping to the shop for me so I can drool over the tools!

My plumber is ready to start first fix on Monday morning.

The carpenter is popping around to measure up for the stairs, door linings, window boards, skirting, cupboards and more so that he can start once we have the materials and it is safe to do so.

The plasterer is waiting for the plasterboard to be delivered and fitted but should be ready to go by the end of the month.

The electrician has already completed the first fix.

The tiler will pop in as and when required to ensure the plumber can complete his first fix, and will then finish the tiling as the job dictates.

Neil and Andy have been keeping themselves busy working elsewhere but will be back on site once the plumbing first fix is (almost) completed. We can apply social distancing without too much trouble and have plans in place to ensure we are all appropriately protected.

To be fair, Mr. Clooney and I have been socially distant since this project started so it’s not a new experience for me!!

First job for Neil: we need to put a new roof on the boiler room and he can do that from outside whilst the plumber is inside.

In the meantime, I will be clearing out the garden and sorting through the materials in the carpark – which is currently covered in rubble and discarded wood.

There is still much to be done. The original deadline for completing this project was the end of May. I suspect we won’t be finished till end July now – or even into August – particularly as I can’t have all the trades working on site together.

It is what it is.

We will be sensible.

We will be safe.