Groundhog day…

It’s plaster and painting time again! We have been here before.

Upstairs is plastered. That means out with the paintbrushes again. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it. Painting ceilings and walls. There is no skirting or door frames at the moment.

It is not easy. It is back-bending, neck extending, exhausting and messy work. However, I am not alone in my end of day pain. My big brother, Stuart, has returned to assist once more. Bless!

This time he gets to sleep inside the property amongst the dust, paint brushes, plaster and general chaos that is our building site. He had the pleasure of enduring the fast-puncture airbed for his first night here whilst sleeping in the bedroom with a curtain free window next to a street light! The airbed went down even faster with him sleeping on it…something to do with the weight ratio! Apparently he didn’t sleep too well that night!

I felt so guilty I went shopping and purchased a nicer puncture free airbed for him so the rest of the week has been far more comfortable. When I say comfortable…it’s still a blow up plastic bed on a rock solid floor covered in dust. He will undoubtedly get me back for this one day…but in the meantime, I will continue to utilise his labour.

We are breaking the back of the painting whilst it is breaking us. Both of us are suffering from Painters Thumb (does that even exist as a condition?). Imagine 8 hours a day gripping a roller and paintbrush and you might understand why it could be a thing. There are also blisters. Really proper sore ones across the palm of the hand.

For Stuart that is. Not me. I have the hands of a hardened builder – gritty leather paws with mini muscles bulging from each finger.

I have chosen colours for the bedrooms and each time we open a tin of paint, Stuart asks me if I intend to paint all the walls with said colour. I get the feeling that my colour choice may not match his!

To be fair, I do seem to have chosen a specific colour selection. There may be a throwback to my “dating men in uniform” days. There is grey (RAF – Mike – my first true love ), Olive Green (Army – John – no…he was my first true love) and I do have a dark blue yet to be used (Navy – the entire US Fleet who used to visit Hong Kong when I lived there and yes definitely my first true love!).

Those were the days!!!!!

Back to the project. I have done my research. The colours are popular and I believe they will help me sell the house this year, next year or whenever that time comes.

As you know it has been one step forward…and then…!

Nathan the tiler is unable to come back to the project for family reasons. His 6th child is on the way. Poor fella is probably exhausted.

We did get some way with Nathan on site. The en-suites and the bathroom is almost complete. Just the splashback to finish.

But downstairs we are tiling both entrances, the utility and the cloakroom. That is still a lot of work to be finished and some of it is a little more than straightforward. The tiling needs to be completed before the skirting, architrave and doors can be fitted so Neil is coming back in to finish the job. He is the man of many talents.

It seems my tiling course will come in handy after all as we shift from Master and Apprentice builder to Master and Apprentice tiler!

In the meantime, Pete and Morgan are skimming and hardwalling downstairs! Sounds like a rave – but it means the plasterwork is getting done. Another 25 bags of Multifinish was delivered this week (that is 95 bags in total) along with some plastering sand and cement so we know the job will be completed by the end of next week and without any further delays.

Hip hip…

Moving on…

It’s a week of happenings.

The plaster arrived earlier than expected so Pete is back in. We still don’t have all that we need but it’s enough to get started again and at least upstairs will be completed in due course and some of downstairs will be started. I think we need another 25-30 bags to finish the job but at least we are moving again.

After ordering them several months ago, the external doors arrived and have been fitted by Matt from Door Central. There is a little more work just to finish off some of the brickwork which disintegrated when the old doors were removed but otherwise we are good and secure. They are pretty simple in terms of design and colour but they do look good and, importantly, they meet all the Document Q requirements for Building Regs. Now we all have to remember not to bash the door open with the wheelbarrow or other work-related equipment each time we enter the property.

Now the doors are fitted, it means that the external render can be finished. Pete will get onto it once the plastering is done…or when we run out of plaster again.

The internal doors have been chosen and will be delivered once the plastering is complete. It’s not a good idea to store them on site whilst the plastering is underway because of the moisture in the air. They could warp. Who knew!

I spent a day trying to work out how much architrave and skirting is needed. Then looked online and fainted at the price. Then I looked up how to work it out and found I had mis-calculated by hundreds and hundreds of metres. Still learning.

Oh…and I have an operational en-suite bathroom.

Flushing toilet. Yay.

Sink with hot/cold water. Yay.

And…drum roll please ….a fully functioning shower. Hippeddy doo dah yay!

No lights, no fan, no mirror. Nowhere to hang a towel or a toilet roll. But I don’t care. I step out of the shower onto a tiled but dusty floor which just cannot be kept clean. But I don’t care.

The water is being run off the cistern rather than the boiler so the electric bill may be a bit high. But I don’t care. I am sure that had Courtney been here on Tuesday morning when it was working, he would have received a standing ovation from the other onsite trades who have had to put up with my sweetness during their working on site.

As there are no internal doors using the en-suite has to be at specific times of the morning and night for me. I don’t want a tools down moment because the guys glanced into the room as they passed by. No-one should have to see that! When the guys need the facilities they just whistle to warn me!

It’s another week of tiling for Nathan. For me, it’s a little bit of priming and painting including sealing knotted wood.

The slithering creature has returned (see last blog!)

My new inflatable mattress has already got a puncture. It’s pretty difficult on a site like this to have a clean floor – or clean anything for that matter. There are sharp bits and pieces everywhere as I have found to my discomfort. Fortunately, the puncture must be tiny as the mattress does not completely deflate overnight so my sleep is still better than before.

It just hisses gently in the silence of a dark night.

Still sounds like a Disney snake…a bit like the snake in Jungle Book. Hissssssss!

Oh no. Now I have an ear-worm. I have Baloo and Mowgli singing Bare Necessity going round in my head.

I bet you do too now!

Hot diggedy doo…

The first few days of the week were like hell on a hot day.

I expect it was the same everywhere but there is nowhere to hide for That There Builder Girl.

We had booked in fixing the garden fence and a few other fiddly jobs for the first two days of this week. The gate needed to be moved so the external rendering can be finished. Neil came back to site for a couple of days and we both melted as we bedded in new fence posts and (mostly) re-used old posts and panels. I want to hide the oil tank and other detritus at the back of the garden so we also built a new fence section that crosses the courtyard. You may not be surprised to hear I decided the painting of these fences can wait for another time when perhaps the temperature has dropped – lets say down 10 degrees should do it.

Inside the work is going along well. Oak newels, spindles, base and handrails are fitted and the stairs look lovely. They need a touch of danish oil but again that has to wait until the temperature drops. Jonathan the carpenter has also started to put up some panelling on the wall alongside the stairs to hide the broken stonework, bricks and an old door opening. We haven’t covered the whole wall though – there is still a lot of original blue lias stone on show. A little feature for those that love their older buildings.

I made a rookie error when priming the wood around the doors and stairs. My head hung low as I admitted my failure to Neil. I forgot to add the knotting oil to the fresh wood prior to the primer. I looked online for recommendations to resolve my mistake and I have been adding some Zinsser B-I-N primer to hopefully compensate for my mistake. Only time will tell if it works. In the meantime I now have a bottle of knotting oil in readiness for the next batch of fresh wood that needs attention.

This is why I am STILL the apprentice.

Nathan is tiling upstairs with all of the bathroom and ensuite walls now completed. The floors will be finished shortly now that the underfloor heating has been installed and a self-levelling screed has been laid. Then he moves downstairs to do the cloakroom, utility and hallways.

Courtney the plumber has been in doing his magic. The cistern and expansion vessels are now sited and my store room looks like something from NASA. More copper pipe needed, along with some other fancy pants plumbing stuff (can’t remember what they are called) to link it all together. Then 40 odd end stops will be fitted on all the open pipe work because I have asked for a fully functioning ensuite to be ready as soon as possible. The delay in plastering means it will probably be another month or more before the full second fix – and I can’t take the heat and discomfort any more. I need a flushing toilet; I need to wash; I need a shower. Me, me, me. Actually, not just for me but for those around me!

The big news this week is I have left Mr. Clooney.

Only at night though. It won’t surprise you to hear that Mr Clooney is ‘hot’ – oh yeah – and it was simply too much for me for a couple of nights. In addition, the seat cushions are beginning to buckle and bend and split as they are hauled around the caravan each day and night to make up my bed and office. This sort of caravan is not made to be lived in day and night and it’s beginning to show.

So I dug out the old inflatable mattress and moved inside the property amongst the dust, boxes of toilets and sinks and bags of tile adhesive. It was still warm but not like sleeping inside an oven.

For those that have followed this blog from the beginning you may recall that the mattress has a slow puncture. I forgot about it.

My first night of using the mattress for nearly a year resulted in me waking up in darkness listening to a slow hissing sound. My heart rate hit an abnormal high as the noise sounded remarkably like a snake (albeit a Disney version). I lay stock still worried that a slithering creature had managed to find its way into my bedroom.

Only as my brain function started again did I remember the puncture and fell back to sleep. In the morning I awoke on a deflated mattress with slightly raised sides. Imagine a bowling alley lane with the inflated tubes they lay down the gulley for the youngsters. Getting up was comical and rudely noisy as the mattress appeared to have a severe case of flatulence.

Nevertheless, it was still considerably more comfortable than sleeping in Mr. Clooney.

The house will be my new overnight accommodation for the foreseeable future. A quick trip to Aldi and I am now the proud owner of a new inflatable mattress (for less than a tenner!).

No more slithering creatures expected – unless they are specifically invited!

Patience is a virtue…

That is what I have learnt recently. Of course I’ve always known that patience is a virtue but saying it aloud does have significant resonance at the moment.

Still no plaster. Nothing I can do about it. Yet.

Still no telephone line. No broadband. Poor mobile signal. Nothing I can do about it. Yet.

Still hoping Mr Clooney (the real one) turns up to visit Mr Clooney (the wheel one). Sorry…nothing to do with patience. Just thinking out loud again.

I require patience to wait for the tiling to be done properly. It’s not a job that should be rushed. It is getting done in those rooms that were plastered, and I am very pleased with the results so far. Nathan’s attention to detail is lovely to watch. Believe it or not, the first finished en-suite has used every tile purchased. That is either a genius effort on my part or I am a lucky little ‘sort’ and I ended up accidentally ordering the exact amount of tiles required.

I prefer the genius title!

Of course, this now gives me some minor concerns that the other tiles ordered may be under or over the quantities needed. Or perhaps I am really a genius and it’s only just coming to light. I am pretty sure my Mother used to ask me this question all the time. “So you think you’re a genius?” I always thought the question was laced with sarcasm…but perhaps not.

After the last week when my hormones were running riot along with my body temperature I am pleased to say I have settled down into what is normal for me. It’s just as well as this week we have a fully functioning boiler and, at last, we tested the underfloor heating downstairs. That meant starting at 20 degrees and eventually raising the temperature to 40 degrees. It felt warm!

To help with the warmth, we had the log burner fitted this week too. In for a penny…etc.

I wonder if the fellas working on site knew I was showing them what it’s like to work whilst going through the menopause?

Sometimes this is a difficult project for me to manage and then something happens and I realise how lucky I am. This week a long-time golfing buddy – a decent, honourable, good man died. His family are devastated and my heart bleeds for them.

Perspective.

RIP Gary S.

Not a typical week…

I start by saying that women who typically go through the menopause can be anything from 40 something upwards…Just saying.

Sunday evening – somewhere in Somerset.
The planned underfloor heating test has not happened so I am unnecessarily here earlier than normal. It is annoying but there have been so many missed deadlines on this project I am at the stage of just taking a deep breath, shaking my head and setting a new deadline.

Monday evening – still in Somerset.
Had the underfloor heating been on the property was going to be too hot to work in so I booked myself on to a 2-day tiling course fairly local to my project. It’s at a training centre that delivers apprenticeship training for the building trade so I expected to be in a class of 17-year-olds! I thought about cancelling it several times, not sure I could take the humiliation (in my mind) but I’d already worked up a handful of “older than your mother/grandmother” retorts to show the youngsters how hip I am.

Imagine my surprise when I turned up to find this weeks trainees comprise members of the armed forces and me! I cried a little (see first sentence!). Sometimes my timing is inexplicably good. Two groups. My class has 2 Navy, 2 RAF and 2 Army – all men. They will soon be turning Civilian and are taking courses that may lead to future employment.

As That There Builder Girl my normal daily attire is paint-splattered shorts or jeans and a t-shirt with a hoodie for the cold days, along with my dirty, stained boots. Hair pulled back and tied up with a bandana. No makeup, no perfume. A glorious statement of womanhood! My tiling attire today was no different. The only change was my skin colour as I occasionally peeked at a sweaty bright red as another hot flush whizzed its way through my body. I think they believe I just embarrass easily.

Do you think it’ll look odd if I turn up tomorrow all spruced up; eyes a glitter with makeup, painted lips and casually attired in clean, ironed clothes? A summer dress, perhaps.

Yeah, me too.

I did offer the fellas the opportunity of a real-life project that they could practice their skills on. The house….not me…but they all have to go home to their loved ones!!

By the way the tiling training is good. I have been focussed. Yes indeed.

Thursday evening – in the Frozen North (I wish!)
Tiling in the property started on Wednesday. Not by me. Two days of training does not make Builder Girl an expert tiler. I am, however, going to be tiling the bathroom floor in the flat in Bristol. Nathan is doing everything here for the next 15 – 18 days. He started upstairs in an en-suite and will work his way through nearly 65m2 of tiling. Just the little that has been done so far fills my little heart with joy! How easily I get excited these days (see first sentence!)

Shower tiled and underfloor heating in the ensuite

Saturday morning – in Bristol.
A good nights sleep. Cool and comfortable.

This week was steamy and not just on the tiling course. I am mostly pretending the menopause doesn’t affect me. It isn’t happening even though I have to go through occasional crazy weeks like the one just passed. On and off for years now. Definitely on this week.

I can tell you it was seriously uncomfortable heat during the day and even more so at night with Mr. Clooney. I spent much of the week priming woodwork and MDF anywhere in the property, regularly crying over spilt paint and leaving a little trail of sweat behind me as I meandered.

I spent my evenings throwing my bedclothes on and off and weeping at YouTube videos of puppies and kittens whilst intermittently sending angry tweets to my telecommunication providers.

Thank goodness Neil and Andy removed the big tools from the property.

What a life…