No rest…

I thought my week would be very restful and cool.

In a hot, hot week I am back in Bristol and sleeping in a proper bed, in a cool flat. Joy!

But most of my plans went awry. It was always going to be a week of admin. Lots of bills due to be paid; quotes to assess and so on plus the car booked in for an MOT and service. But I anticipated long lazy walks, meeting with friends and relaxing in the sunshine with a good book.

In actual fact my week has consisted of lots of unexpected expense. I needed new brake pads, discs and tyres for the car so with a service and MOT I was quoted £700 in all! I spent a lot of time phoning around and managed to save a couple of hundred but …ouch.

Then, whilst working in the flat, a hiss and a bubble and drip, drip, drip…..and I had a radiator ‘moment’ in my flat. Disaster averted but time for action. I was warned last year when I put in a new boiler that the 30+ year old radiators looked less than good but you know what it’s like when you have budget constraints. Alas, my hope of them holding out for another year or two has been diminished. I have spent a couple of days sourcing new radiators – 7 in total – along with thermostatic valves. Delivered Friday for fitting by my friendly local plumber in a weeks time. Let’s hope the new ones last another 30 years.

Thank goodness I have trade accounts all over the place – that saved me a few pennies.

Back onto the project. I reviewed the new timeline and realised that I should get my tiles on order and a date set for delivery. I have literally spent hours and hours over the last few months choosing tiles through different suppliers, getting samples sent out, changing my mind, etc. before making my final decision. I returned to the various sites to make the purchases only to find that several of the chosen products are now out of stock and not likely to be re-stocked in readiness for my timeline.

Hurrumph…I said. Or words of a similar nature.

So I spent another day online to start the process again, ending with a final no turning back decision. 63m2 of tiles have been purchased through Victoria Plum and Total Tiles and a mid July delivery date booked. Next decision will be colour of grout…and working out how to get the tiling done!

In the meantime, I am still trying my hand at furniture renovation. A while ago I purchased an old dining table and chair set from Facebook Marketplace for £20 and have slowly been updating the upholstery and painting the furniture. This too has been part of my routine this week – in the carpark behind the flats. In the raging hot sunshine!

I don’t really know what I am doing and if it doesn’t work out, the cost is mostly labour. At the moment anyone who visits me in the flat has to take their meal on a tray so it’s got to be worth a go, don’t you think?

So, not the week I was planning but I am still happy that I did not have to spend my nights with Mr. Clooney. It’s been roasting hot in Bristol. I’d have been medium to well-done if I had been in Mr. Clooney.

Next week, things go up a notch – assuming the plaster arrives on Monday.

Fingers crossed…

Quick, quick, slow….

Stop.

That’s what it feels like. One moment nothing seems to be moving on. Then there are significant changes. Then we stop.

We had to order a further 22 sheets of plasterboard this week as the previously delivered 190 sheets were all used up. This seems an extraordinary amount of plasterboard needed for one property. They are now all but fitted…with just a couple of sheets set aside for finishing the boiler room and the cloakroom.

Neil and Andy have also been finishing off a few awkward areas. A dollop of cement here and there. A touch of timber for reinforcement. A jiggery pokery with a drainpipe or two. I think you can tell my builders terminology has improved over the last 9 months.

I had my last exciting foray into the loft. Neil kindly lent me his paper suit to protect me from the worst of it up there. I managed to rip the backside out on a nail – which went deep enough to also rip my shorts and puncture my ass! I also split the leg seam open as I straddled a joist and caught another nail. Neil just laughed when I apologised about the state of his paper suit. Bless! When I emerged having completed the job, I was again soaked through to my undies and filthy. I am so, so, so very happy that there is no more loft insulation needed. It is truly a horrid job.

I purchased some Danish Oil to bring some life back into the numerous beams dotted around the house. Initially 2 litres, then another 2 litres. 8 litres later and I still have one beam to oil. It’s probably taken about 3-4 (wo)man days to do all the beams but they do look better for it. Each evening I retire to Mr. Clooney and count the rings of oil splattered across my arms and legs – and sometimes my face. I am not sure that Danish Oil is considered a beauty treatment elsewhere but it’s been a daily dose during the last week. I now have a silky glow and I am creaking less than I was!

It’s good news the plasterboard is finished because it means the plastering can start….but of course it can’t because there is still a shortage. My order is on its way and all things being well it should be with us on 29th June. Pete and Morgan are booked in to get started and should be with us for a few weeks. In the meantime, Neil and Andy depart for a while and get to work with other people. I’ve asked them not to enjoy that experience.

For me, this delay means time to obtain further quotes for tiling, painting and decorating, floor coverings, doors and more. I thought I had a tiler lined up but it seems inflation has hit hard in South Somerset as he wants a further £500+ to do the job. Sure I said. That makes sense, I said. Let me sign the cheque, I said.

OK I didn’t.

That is not going to happen. I gave him the go-ahead on his original quote pre-lockdown and presumed that was it. So now I need to reassess the tiling requirement. Neil tells me I can do it so I might just have a go. What can possibly go wrong?

Painting and decorating is a necessity too. I can do some but not all if I want the house finished before the end of the year (and if I am busy tiling!). So I have been meeting up with individuals to get quotes on the job. One fella told me 6 weeks minimum for the work – 30 days at his not insignificant day rate. I am not sure what is going on in South Somerset? Has the lockdown affected their common sense or do I have a sign on my forehead that says “this girl can be mugged”?

The other two quotes suggest 18-20 days max. I will do a couple of the rooms myself so hopefully save on that time too.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Plaster arrives a week this Monday which allows me a week to rest, recuperate, play golf, go shopping (for lights and stuff), get the car MOT’d, pay the bills (and boy are they big now) and go out to play.

Onwards…for the end is in sight!

What’s the definition of a house..?

I don’t mean the word. I mean the feeling. I think I know.

It’s a collection of rooms with walls that you cannot walk through – all courtesy of sheet after sheet of plasterboard. With a huge amount of effort we almost have a house – apart from the fact there are no bathrooms, kitchen, etc. But you get the gist!

Upstairs has 4 bedrooms, 2 ensuites and a bathroom, a hallway and even an airing cupboard. Proper rooms defined. Of course, no doors or architrave or skirting or anything else for that matter. But they are actual rooms.

And so to downstairs. A slightly easier plasterboard job as no sloped ceilings, but still much to do. You’ve heard this story before. Insulation, plasterboard, clean up. Insulation, plasterboard, repeat….

Courtney the plumber has been back to fit the shower trays. Steve came back to fit the electrical back boxes – all in readiness for plastering.

Adam from Mec-Serve (our fab underfloor heating company) has been back in to assess the final area that needs screed. We couldn’t do it first time around as I hadn’t purchased some of the plumbing materials which were supposed to be fitted before the screed was laid! My bad!

The 8 yard skip filled by me slowly but surely last week has been exchanged with another empty one. It seems the shovel will never leave my hands, although there is a rumour that Andy has access to a digger this weekend and may be able to clear some of it by machine. Either way, hopefully this will be the last skip…until the next one!

I have worn out yet another pair of gloves.

I have been trying to get a telephone line and broadband put into the house. At the moment I use the data on my phone to run my computer. It’s incredibly unreliable and deeply frustrating. The O2 mobile signal in this area is weak and erratic even on 3G, so even normal telephone usage is impossible on some days – and not just O2 apparently. Ridiculous. Someone complain. Oh that’s a job for me!

This week saw the arrival of a router from Vodafone and an engineer from OpenReach. A simple job….but no. The engineer couldn’t reach the telephone cables on the telegraph pole immediately outside the house so we had to wait for a platform vehicle. The platform vehicle arrived, which was used sparingly as it was ‘the wrong one’ (something to do with the passing traffic and danger !). In the 3 minutes it was used, the engineer couldn’t find the necessary lines (pairs I think he called them) on the pole needed to input a telephone line into my property. Difficult to understand really as only last July there was a telephone line, broadband and a card machine data-line. But for this week, no phone; no broadband. So they have to come back.

It’s not the engineer’s fault. I know that. They will be back with a bigger platform vehicle, which means putting in a traffic control system as they will close off one side of the road. They will run cables to another telegraph pole and onwards to a big box. Gosh, I will be popular with the neighbours….again!

So..back to the renovation thing. I still need to do research on tiles, lighting, doors, architrave, skirting and other stuff online. I am so pleased the shops are starting to open. I will, at least, be able to view some of the needed items and get out of the caravan now and again.

And…drum roll. I have plaster. I don’t have it yet, but it’s coming at the end of June.

So another week of frustration with with a ridiculously poor mobile data signal and no broadband. This has lead me to (a) drink (b) profuse swearing (c) writing letters to the authorities (d) all of the above.

Answers on a postcard…!

The never-ending story…

When you start on a project like this it’s nigh on impossible to set an accurate timetable. Ripping a building apart opens up all sorts of surprises (understatement!), and these inevitably affect the timetable and the budget.

When I met with a number of builders prior to starting work with Neil, they all said it might be done in 6 months but best allow for a little longer to allow for anomalies. In my head I thought (hoped) it would all be done by May – allowing 8 months in total.

Unsurprisingly, the lockdown hasn’t helped. It’s not just the 7 weeks in which the property was closed. Many manufacturers closed their factories so it’s now difficult to obtain materials, particularly plaster. The knock-on effect in terms of timing and money is unhelpful. Another understatement.

I will be pleasantly surprised if I can get all the finishing touches completed by 1st September 2020. We started the work on 2nd September 2019. 8 months to 12 months. More than 30% more time needed.

Imagine, if you will, what that has done to the budget never mind my sense of humour!!

But continue we must. Plasterboard on the walls and insulation in the loft, the walls and the floors. We are not far off finishing upstairs. It takes so much longer when there are sloping ceilings, and much of upstairs is just that, but it’s almost done.

First fix plumbing is more or less complete. Just the shower trays to be positioned. First fix electrical will be completed once the plasterboard has been installed.

Carpentry continues. All the door linings are now positioned. Window boards are all but fixed. There is the formation of an under-stairs cupboard, and the start of an airing cupboard.

My tasks this week include once again covering myself head to toe in protection and masking up before rolling out more insulation throughout the loft space, whilst simultaneously batting away spiders and trying not to knock myself out. It is physically arduous!

A-rolling I do go.

I have a large shovel, an 8 yd skip and an enormous pile of rubble in the carpark. I have developed a rhythmic technique for filling the skip but can only put so much effort into it at one time. It is physically taxing!

A-labouring I do go.

Me, my skip and my shovel. What has my life become?

And of course, I am still the broom witch and cutting plasterboard and carpentry is dusty and dirty work. It is…what it is.!

A-sweeping I do go.

My evenings are still centred around paperwork and researching materials and suppliers. I also spend time listening to podcasts (this week Louis Theroux – Grounded) and reading (this week Norman Mailer – An American Dream) interspersed with phone calls. Thank you callers!

And every evening I have to make a bed up out of seat cushions. Caravan living may sound ‘romantic’ to some but if I can give one tip, make sure you have a separate sleeping compartment. Assembling a bed every night gets a little tedious.

It’s the end of a tough week but the sun is shining and everyone I know and love is safe. Today I will be heading back to my home and friends in Bristol.

A-drinking and eating I do go. Yay!