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!!!

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!

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…?

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!