And another ‘thing’…

Sometimes this project feels like Bake Off. Except every round of the competition is a Technical – with scant written instruction – and I never win Star Builder. That normally goes to Neil or Andy or …

Mind you, I never lose either so I can’t complain.

During the past few months its been tiling week, painting week, skirting week, architrave week and so on. This week has been….kitchen and utility week. Yay! One to look forward to.

Exciting and terrifying at the same time. Exciting because for me a kitchen makes a home. Terrifying because there is a reason we rarely hear of people fitting their own kitchens. It can be complex. It requires precision and careful thought. Not my go-to attributes. I am obviously not ‘fitting it myself’ – Neil is here and as always I am his Aged Apprentice.

I decided on the kitchen layout months ago. Took the measurements. Sorted the design, chose the supplier, etc. Then the chosen supplier told me the kitchen I provisionally booked was no longer available. I reluctantly chose another one. They put the price up expecting me to sign the cheque. Not going to do that. I went to another supplier so I was a little apprehensive when the truck arrived on Monday afternoon with piles and piles of boxes.

Not my first choice but it’s looking good and I am pleased. There is a lot of measuring. Measure, measure and measure again. A lot of cutting (routing in this case) and that’s for Neil. A lot of putting things together. Hinges, doors, corner units, larders and more. The instruction manual has over 120 pages, lots of illustrations that don’t make sense to me, many with words I don’t understand. There is a large box just containing packets of …well, stuff. I recognise some things like screws and hinges but I honestly have no idea what some of the other things are.

Where does this ‘thing’ go; what does this ‘thing’ do ..can be heard bouncing off the walls. Along with “oh Alison you numpty” “what an idiot” and other such statements as I chat merrily to myself whilst working out how to put things together.

Neil chats to himself too but he says things like “13.5mm from the right edge!”

Every now and again I ask Neil to re-interpret the instruction manual and explain what I need to do in a simpler language for me to follow. He is a patient man. I think I have said that before.

It took me almost half a day to assemble the 1000mm drawer unit whilst Neil practically fitted out the Utility Room. Once finished, and with vocalised glee, I picked up one of the drawers and the front fell off!

I sorted that minor glitch and slid the drawer into the base unit. “Hurrah” I said and stepped back. ‘Perhaps not” I said as the drawer sat at a wonderfully creative lopsided angle. Another minor glitch which I also sorted. It now looks and works fine!!

Every kitchen comes with hundreds of little plastic covers to fill in the pre-drilled holes that are not needed. Just as well because this kitchen now has a couple of extra holes as my measuring skills are not as accurate as they need to be. It is literally a case of millimetre accuracy. I started borrowing Neil’s glasses – that helped.

So mostly I have done OK. I did have to order another cabinet when we realised my original design measurements failed to allow for 40mm of end panels….but hey, I am a beginner at this. A costly mistake and I won’t make it again.

Neil has done the heavy work. Cutting down the cupboards in the utility room to ensure they fit; allowing for the plumbing pipes in the back of the cupboards and of course cutting the worktops including the huge holes for the sinks. I couldn’t look when the sink hole was being cut.

Four solid days done and it’s looking good. We think another couple of days at the same pace and I should have a proper kitchen. Of course, it won’t work because it needs to be plumbed in, and the electrics need to be finished.

But the drawers will open and close

…once I work out how to put the handles on.

On my knees…

Flipping heck! If someone had told me I would spend days on end on my knees I would have laughed heartily and ridiculed their statement. But that is exactly what I am doing.

Still tiling, still painting, still trying ever so hard to get this project finished.

I have spent almost the whole week on my knees. The knees are just about surviving the workload. My back less so. My hands – covered in tiling adhesive, paint, silicone and white spirit – are like gnarly, leatherette guerilla mitts (the monkey, not the freedom fighter!). My nails…oh don’t even go there. I can tell you that my hand modelling days are well and truly over and if I was entered into a blind test of whose hands are these, no-one would guess they are mine. I am not even sure the participants would guess that they were human.

So onto work.

All the doors are fitted, as are the handles and locks, all courtesy of Neil the returner. I think the doors look great. It took me such a long time to make the decision but I am very pleased…particularly with the glass doors that lead into the kitchen. Door stops are also in as is most of the architrave and a lot of the skirting. Hence the painting…more filling, then painting, then more painting, then more painting, then more painting. Then caulking….then, go on guess….Yes, more painting.

And in between all that I still need to finish the tiling. Back on the knees.

Just the cloakroom walls to finish tiling, then the final grouting and bish, bash, bosh. Tis done!

Am I repeating myself?

We have new glazing in all of our windows after a visit from Langport Glazing – another local company. The new glass is a requirement for building regulations – because its…….because I……..because they said so. No choice. The new glazing lets in a lot more light as we removed the ‘georgian bars’. Looked good for the pub, but not for this home. The new glazing also makes the windows look like they are all new. Weird that!

And now it’s getting proper cold. We are not connected to the boiler or mains electric yet so no central heating, but I do have a gas bottle fire in my temporary bedroom. Bed time here is rather different to my norm. Occasionally I find myself in my pyjamas and tucked up in my lovely inflatable bed by 630pm. I have no furniture to sit on. I have no fancy clothes to get changed into once I wash. So bed it is, with my phone and laptop, a book and a flask of coffee. It keeps me warm but I do hope it doesn’t become a habit.

It’s cold in the morning when I wake up – normally around 630am – but the house is incredibly well insulated and is warmer than I expected. And to be fair, this time last year I was sleeping in Mr. Clooney and that WAS so cold I could cut my breath with a knife…so I must count my blessings.

Next week for me is ….tiling and painting.

What a shock…

More of the same…

Neil returns for two days this week – at the beginning and again at the end – to take over the carpentry work. Lots of skills that fella! He will be here next week too, thankfully.

I am back on the tools…well, paintbrushes and rollers, scrapers, sandpaper and filler. Am crazily painting the door stops, architrave and skirting before it is put in place just to get a little ahead. It will still need painting again once it is installed, but hopefully only one more coat will be required. By doing the first coat now, it should save me from spending a week on my knees.

It’s not a problem for my knees, but it is for the rest of my body. The days are long gone when I was flexible and strong enough to kneel, stand, kneel, stand, etc, for 8 hours, day after day without a knock on effect to my physical being. I am currently having to roll onto my back and stretch my legs and back out before getting up with the help of anything near by, but I have to do it carefully so I don’t faint from the blood rush to the head.

Fit bird, me!!

I am also roaming around fixing stuff that has been damaged during the last few weeks – a sprinkle of filler here, a dash of caulk there and dollop of paint to finish it off nicely. Bake Off has nothing on me!

Then there is the tiling to finish.

Yea…and the window boards.

Oh, and I still need to finish painting the Snug, the hallway walls and ceiling.

And outside…

I have also started digging up a part of the carpark – by hand. According to Western Power there should be an electrical supply point on the corner of my carpark. It should be buried two feet deep (or thereabouts) and before they can quote for the onward supply I need to confirm it is there. They could do this of course but their charges are not too friendly !! So there’s me with a metal shovel digging to find electrical cables….

What can go wrong ?!?!?!?

If you see me sans eyebrows and a startled look on my cherubic face framed by curly hair, you will know I found it!

Onwards…

The final furlong…

When I say furlong…I mean miles!! And it’s uphill and I am on foot. And there’s a howling wind pushing me backward and some head-high jumps to navigate over. But I am trying to be positive and alert and focussed.

The good news is we got on really well with the tiling. The hallway floor is complete, the utility is complete, the cloakroom floor just needs grouting as do the splash-backs in the bathrooms. That leaves the boot-room floor and cloakroom walls which we will get to in a week or so.

We also have other flooring this week. Despite rumours to the contrary, I have only used local suppliers and trades to help me with this project. Another local company – SJH Carpets – was sourced to fit the carpets upstairs and LVT downstairs. Day one of flooring installation meant me being despatched to Mr. Clooney whilst a self-levelling compound was laid downstairs and underlay installed upstairs. No space for me to carry on with any of my jobs, including painting.

Oh no..I said aloud. Yay yippedy doo…I said in my head.

I spent the day trawling through an excel spreadsheet seeing if I have miscalculated my expenditure – hoping perhaps one of my columns has totalled with the wrong formula. Who am I kidding? Budget management has always been a speciality of mine – damn me!! So, no spare pennies to be found. Deep breath. Move on.

It’s taken 3 days to get the flooring done and it just adds that little extra oomph to the house now. Certainly, it is considerably warmer sleeping on a carpet than a wood floor though it’s upset my equilibrium again. I got up in the middle of the night for a wee visit and my feet told my head I was at home in Bristol. I wandered around my temporary bedroom trying to find my way out to the bathroom in a sleepy confused trance. Thankfully I awoke fully enough to make it to the ensuite but goodness me, it was a close call. I blame the carpet…

I spent much of the week on my hands and knees – either removing excess adhesive from tiles and cleaning them, or painting wood. I am trying to get ahead with painting some of the skirting, architrave and door stops. It’s not the ideal way to do it – and it will undoubtedly need touching up once installed but its definitely easier and quicker to paint this way.

I took time out to order the kitchen too. Not my original choice…colour or manufacturer…but that is for a different post another time. At least it is on order as is the range cooker and hood.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I was hoping this would all be done and dusted by 1st November – a month from now. That is not going to happen now…and to be honest, I am not sure when the finish time will be.

I am not going to set any more deadlines.

It is what it is!

More of the same…

Neil has returned and we are back on the tiles. Neil is anyway…I am still painting trying to get upstairs ready for carpets to be fitted.

The front hallway and utility room, boot room and cloakroom all require tiling so it’s a matter of sticking on the knee pads and just getting on with it. A little bit of maths, a straight edge, a laser and he’s off.

I too am clad in much-needed knee pads (Silverline gel pads from Toolstation which I highly recommend) whilst I paint the skirting installed upstairs along with the architrave and door stops. Painting could or should be therapeutic giving you time to contemplate life, loves, etc. The only thing going around my head is that I will have to do the same amount of painting again once the skirting etc is installed downstairs.

Swear word, swear word!!!!!!!

Despite having lots of time on my own I am way behind on social duties …phoning family, replying to emails, contacting friends with a smiley hello. To be fair, if I sent a smiley hello to some of my friends they would be down here in a flash worried about my mental health. But you get the gist. I am feeling guilty about my lack of communication.

I cannot really account for the time. I do start pretty early – around 0630 rise and shine and on the tools as soon as I have had some tea and breakfast – this week I am loving a banana on toast! It’s also a physical job and I am not as fit as I was or as young as I was or as slim as I was or as capable as I hoped I might be! Or in more simple words, I am huffing and puffing my old, fat self up and down ladders trying to get jobs done and it is very tiring.

But …there may be another reason for my lack of contact. My inflatable mattress sits around 8 inches off the ground. Once I sit or lie down on it, I find it incredibly difficult to get back up and not just because I am tired…well you try it. There is no comfortable way to get up…its a matter of flapping and rolling about to eventually end up on my knees. Then I take the form of a Sumo wrestler (minus the oversized loin cloth) and haul myself up. My friend Annie (personal trainer) would tell me I need to work on my core. Maybe so…but actually I just need to sleep on a proper bed.

So …at the end of my working day, I visit Mr. Clooney for a warm hello and cook my dinner, return to the house for a hose-down and refresh, and sit or lie down on the mattress as it’s the only place that is comfortable. And there you have it…me stuck for several hours wondering how I am going to get up again.

And to think, I thought this was something to worry about in old age…Heck, wait a minute.

When does ‘old age’ start?

Knock, knock…

The internal doors have been fitted upstairs. This will be the first time in over a year that there is a door to the site toilet. My whistling career is coming to an end – thankfully!

It’s a very good week for moving things forward. Jonathan is here using his carpentry skills to fit doors, architrave and skirting – upstairs only at this time. Courtney has returned to fit and plumb the bathrooms and radiators – also upstairs.

We did have a moment on site – a minor incident with the plumbing. Courtney switched the water back on after fitting various bathroom items all day. After he headed home and whilst I was still painting, there was a rush of water in the kitchen downstairs. Water poured through one of the holes for the light sockets. I turned the water off, positioned numerous buckets and Courtney returned to site. A small problem with the shower fittings in the bathroom….quickly resolved.

However, I spent the evening trouncing up and down the stairs to see if any more water was escaping…unnecessarily as it happens as Courtney had indeed fixed the problem. But things like this play with your headspace. That night I dreamt that my inflatable mattress had turned into a lilo and I floated down the M5 escorted by a flotilla of white vans.

I told you my dreams are weird.

You may not be surprised to hear that I am still painting – and I have still not finished. In fact the painting will not be finished for weeks as once the skirting and architrave is fitted, I will be starting on the woodwork. When that is done, I have to finish the outside of the building and the garden fence….and it goes on and on and on.

I have incredibly sore wrists and thumbs now and am considering putting in an “injured at work” claim to myself. If this has a long term effect on my almost professional golf swing I will be most upset.

A couple of friends popped by to say hello and view the site for themselves. It was great to get feedback on all the hard work from people who know me well. Susie and Wendy even brought food with them so we lunched al fresco in the carpark sitting on pallets. I am after all an exemplary host.

They appeared very happy with my efforts and weirdly said nothing about the state of my being. Paint splattered hair, face, arms and legs. But I did have to explain why I was using a skipping rope as a belt on my shorts.

Why not, I said…

Dream, dream, dream…

My dreams are going a bit weird here.

I wonder if it’s because of the luxurious accommodation or the fact that I go to bed pretty exhausted and my little brain wanders off into some hopeful land of merriment to keep me cheery.

In one of my dreams I have been asked by some unrecognised wealthy entrepreneur – not someone I know – to build houses wherever I want and give them away to those that need them most. The first build means me travelling to Scotland….with Mr. Clooney in tow. I don’t have a tow bar on my car so I made one out of a door knob and a hosepipe. Absolutely no idea what that all means.

I also had a dream about marrying a professional rugby player who also loves playing golf. But I’ve had that dream for years and to be fair I am normally awake when it occurs! I also know exactly what it means and who the rugby player is!!

My new found beauty regime is going well. The dust and dirt application was the chosen method for a while but I have moved on. I shower at least once a day now and then cover myself in a mix of emulsion, vinyl, silk and eggshell paint. This requires a great deal of expertise. Sometimes I do it delicately by splashing a little drip here and there from a roller or brush – a method that is particularly useful for face splatter. Other times I am more carefree and simply drop a paint pot from height to encourage a more artistic coverage. Either way is effective.

Anyway, back to business. Although much of the painting is complete (thanks again, Stuart) there are still a number of rooms to finish. Ceilings are particularly difficult. My height does not lend itself to this job and I am mostly balancing on the top rung of a very high ladder to do the work. My reach is also limited so I am up and down the ladder several hundred times a day at the moment. My calves are sore. My wrists are sore. My thumbs are sore. And I think I have painters elbow – if that exists.

That’s all I have done all week. Paint.

I have been on my own. No trades. No visitors. So I have formed a very deep relationship with a number of spiders that share my bedroom. There is Mr. Speedy – a large long legged fella that can cross the room in less than a couple of seconds. On first sight he scared me silly…but I am used to him now. There there is Mr. Acrobat who hangs around most of the day, dangling at varying heights from his ceiling-based web. He can reach down to my coffee mug but I have warned him against a possible overdose of caffeine. He appears to have taken it on board. Our Mr. Lethargic has positioned himself on my ceiling and cannot be bothered to move at all. There’s always one! And finally, Mr. Jacuzzi who lives in the shower and appears to get quite excited when the hot water sprays about. He runs around wildly avoiding the spray (I imagine shouting out loud) but always returns in readiness for the next shower.

I would get rid of them (humanely of course) but I suspect they would only be replaced by other family members. I see them as my guardians – but I do have a little concern about their goings-on at night when the lights are out and I am sleeping. I have not yet felt a tickle on my face – or worst still in my throat – but I would be worried if one of them went missing overnight and I woke up feeling full!

The house has broadband now – only took 3 months from order – so my entertainment is a little more interesting. I have access to Netflix and other such delights but I still spend most of my evenings checking on prices and ordering materials whilst listening to podcasts. There is a growing shortage of manufactured materials and delivery times are getting longer for everything so I will be finalising a lot of orders over the next week or so as a precaution to the longer lead times or (hopefully not) another lockdown.

Next week will be much more engaging. For me…still more painting but the carpenter returns. That’s Jonathan, not the old fella from 2000+ years ago.

Until then…

Turning a corner…

Do I speak too soon? I hope not.

It does feel like I am turning a corner and I can now see the end – albeit through myopic, dust crusted, paint splattered old eyes!

My brother Stuart, who stayed another week to help with the painting, would tell me off for saying this because saying it out loud might put the spanner in the works. But there have been so many ‘spanners‘ that I figure it’s worth saying it just to make me feel better.

Throw whatever you want at me. That There Builder Girl is made of strong stuff – she weeps.

So – plastering and painting. That was still the order of the day. Upstairs has been painted. All ceilings, all walls, all window boards have been sanded, filled, misted, primed and painted. They look pretty good too for a couple of amateurs! The door frames have been primed in readiness for the door stops, doors and architrave; the walls are ready for the skirting.

We have taken delivery of 15 doors, 200m+ of skirting and 130m+ of architrave. Stuart and I carried the doors upstairs so they can be laid flat and away from the moisture caused by the plastering. The doors weigh between 25kg and 35kg each. There was a moment when Stuart, sweat soaked and lungs bursting, looked at me just as he did when he was 10 years old and I pinched the chips off his plate. I was expecting him to call our Mum and tell her I was being a meanie…! I think he called his wife instead!!

I will need more skirting for sure but this will get us started. The carpenter arrives in a week when he will get on with fixing everything. Then I will have the joy of more painting.

Downstairs received a lot of hardwall and sand & cement treatment before the final skim of plaster this week. Some of the walls were plastered last week so it was deja vu for me and big Bro. Mist coat again…more ceilings…more neck ache, back ache and thumb ache. Lots of masking so we don’t inadvertently paint the beautiful wooden beams. It takes some doing. My language skills have progressed. Lots of quiet abuse as concentration slips and I accidentally paint my face, the floor, a window, a coffee cup, the kettle…anything that is in the way.

Stuart finished painting the kitchen including the ceiling – it’s 9.4m long! More quiet abuse bouncing off the walls. The mist coat, which is watered down paint and therefore tends to splash about a bit, left him an interesting colour at the end of the day. I don’t think he knew how funny he looked – and I sent him to the shops for some milk just to humour me and scare the shopkeeper!

The long days proved worthwhile. We got a lot done. Stuart has returned to his wife and children bearing the scars of working this project. I am so grateful.

He will no longer get woken by me at 0630hrs but I suspect his kids will do a good job of ensuring he doesn’t sleep in. Hee hee!

I only have the hallway, snug, utility, boot room and cloakroom to paint. Oh, then the stairs, wainscoting, window boards, skirting, architrave, fireplace….

Oh flipping heck!!!

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!