Trials and tribulations…

I am aware that in the time of a global pandemic my little project has little importance. But that does not stop it from being a source of anxiety and stress.

The week started sweetly with a significant delivery of plaster – multifinish used for skimming and hardwall for… hardwall(!) – after placing the order over 6 weeks ago. Pete and Morgan turned up cheery and ready to get on.

We agreed the order in which rooms need to be plastered first. I am desperate for a completed bedroom and ensuite so I can move out of Mr. Clooney, sleep more comfortably even if on an inflatable bed, and have a shower and a flushing toilet. I am such a diva !

The store room needs to be plastered and painted so we can install the boiler, cistern and pipework – also required for my diva-ish need to shower. A working boiler is also needed to test the underfloor heating system before we start tiling and fitting any flooring.

The main hallway, which is an open space from the floor to the roof needs to be plastered whilst the tower scaffold is in place. As soon as the plaster is dry, it will be painted and the tower scaffold can be removed giving us much better access to the property.

Those are the priorities. After which the plastering can be done as necessary.

Or so I thought.

The problem with ordering materials for this sort of build is it is really difficult to gauge how much might be needed. Upstairs most of the the ceilings are sloped – which takes significantly more product than a flat ceiling. After just one week we realise that the 40 bags of skim plaster delivered on Monday is not going to be anywhere near enough for this job.

We think we may need another 30 bags. I have been told by one supplier I can get 10 bags – in the 3rd week of August. Another supplier says I will have to wait until the end of August and there will also be a limit on quantity. You get the picture.

All the recent planning with the tiler, carpenter, electrician, plumber, floor fitter and so on now have to be re-worked and their diaries are already full.

1st September was my ‘socially-distanced working’ completion date. It would have been possible to do it quicker but I have to be responsible with the numbers working on site at any one time. September is now impossible. It’s likely I will have another two months plus of expense that was not accounted for in my budget. I returned to Bristol feeling…frankly, exhausted and utterly defeated.

But a good night’s sleep after lots of hugs, laughter, food and wine with my Bristol bubble and I am back on the positive path.

So I will be spending the weekend working out how to best carry on with the project on a room by room basis. The property will have to be partly plastered, partly painted, partly tiled, etc, until we can get the supplies we need.

I will set another completion date. Initially March, then almost immediately May then realistically September…Let’s say Christmas now.

The good news this week? The plans went in for the new house build on the carpark.

Am I mad…?

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!

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.