That was the week that was…

Who ever thought this madness we are living through was possible? Not me.

I returned from my extended trip to Portugal last Saturday, very pleased to return home. I spent the weekend working online, sorting out the budget, paying invoices and was planning to stay in Bristol on Monday to order numerous building materials from plasterboard to stairs and more.

Monday morning I awoke, as we all did, to a strange atmosphere so I jumped in my car and went to site. It became pretty obvious that some type of lockdown was going to happen and I didn’t want to be stuck with Mr. Clooney (can’t believe I just wrote that), but more importantly I didn’t want to lock up a site with thousands of pounds of materials piled up inside. I discussed the choices with Neil and Andy and we all agreed to close the site at the end of that day. As it turned out, our instinct was right as the UK went into lockdown at 2030hrs that evening.

Fortunately, the scaffolding was already being dismantled and is now gone. A big shout out to Patrick D Warren Scaffolding. Their flexibility and helpfulness throughout the roof issues was brilliant. Great business if you need their services.

The rendering was completed and another good job by Pete the Plasterer who will be back for the internal plastering I hope. The external painting is almost complete with perhaps less than a day needed to finish the job. I am glad I threw the money into the pot to get this done. It looks so much better – even in an unfinished state.

It seems I have been pretty lucky in the timing of all this. That is the way I am looking at it anyway. The financial hit will need to be managed one way or another; the knock-on effect in terms of timing won’t be known until the lockdown is lifted. I am not getting anxious about it. It is what it is and there are more important things to worry about.

So back to Bristol. I am in lockdown with 2 others; one of whom happens to be a personal trainer which is obviously a good thing but when there are literally no excuses for turning up to train it can be quite painful. We actually have an organised daily routine. A run. A 1hour plus gym session. A yoga class.

And to think I used to complain about clearing rubble and my wheelbarrow journeys. That was nothing compared to the agony I am now enduring.

Wishing you well. Wish me luck, and feel free to send me ideas of how to get out of class!?!?!?

It’s gym time…

What a difference a day makes…

Actually, make that a month. February has gone. March has arrived and we have just had two consecutive days without rain. The joy of it.

This means that the external rendering process has actually begun. Two days in and one long side of the property has been primed and also received a coat of render. Another long side and a gable end still to do and hopefully we can find another couple of days of sunshine in the next week or so. Pete the Plasterer, and his ever-so young sidekick Morgan, have done me proud so far.

Then its out with the scat gun (I think that’s what its called). The property cannot take a nice smooth finish. It would just highlight the oddities built into the fabric of the building. As such we are going dotty…a tyrolean render. Not my cup of tea, but it will suit the style and age of the building. The big decision is whether to pay for the colour stuff or keep it plain and then paint.

There is a cost difference but the budget has not had a good time recently. The last month or two should not be seen as simply a diversion of funds to unknown problems, but more as a full blown, unseen and unheard attack from behind.. a proper mugging.

The result is a financial hit delivering physical and mental torture. I know I will get over it. I will take another deep breath and rearrange a few things to get us on track but it still hurts.

Back to good news. The floor downstairs has received 100mm of insulation and a DPM layer. The underfloor heating pipes have been laid and the manifold fitted. This is to be finished off with the 75mm of screed in the next two days. I am really pleased with whats been done so far. I have been helped enormously by my friend Warren and the company he works for – Mec-Serv. Warren has held my hand throughout this process and provided expert knowledge and the reassurance needed at this stage of my big renovation. It is after all my first UFH experience. Love you my friend (and wifey Susie too) but you both know that anyway!

The flooring work has also meant there is no other work being done inside the building. Neil and Andy have gone elsewhere for the week (I hope they don’t like it too much) and I have spent most of my time with Mr. Clooney working out how to re-balance the budget whilst remembering all the things I forgot to include in the beginning – like skirting ! Who forgets skirting for goodness sake!!!!!

I try not to drink whilst I am down here but sometimes it’s simply not possible.

Anyone surprised…?

It’s raining, it’s pouring…

Is it possible to grow webbed feet? Is Mr. Clooney the modern day ark? All answers on a postcard…

I can tell you it is a tad uncomfortable in South Somerset when the wind and rain announces itself. The days are disrupted as we are trying to finish the roof. The nights are difficult as Mr. Clooney rocks to the incessant beat of the downpour. Sleepeth interruptus occurred consistently last week. The only good point – at least I wasn’t there this weekend!

I guess that’s what you get for doing a renovation project in February. Ah well.

If anyone is thinking of doing property renovation I would still recommend it. It’s pretty interesting and certainly keeps me occupied. But I would issue a word of caution. Turning a commercial property into a residential property is so much more demanding.

Demanding = bigger budget.

The requirements are quite significant and only relevant because it was a commercial building. If this had been an old decrepid house that I was updating I wouldn’t have to do half the amount of work. About 1/3 of my total budget has been spent so far and much of it to comply with these commercial to residential regulations.

The bad weather has allowed us to move ahead inside. We have built the stud walls for the utility, both ensuite bathrooms and finished off a little brickwork here and there. The 4 new windows have been installed, but we are holding back on the new glazing for the existing windows (building regs) until I no longer need to use a hammer. Sensible precaution given my apprentice status and how many mis-hits I apply in a day.

We have also broken through the back wall which will eventually be the boiler room. At the moment its our toilet so its going to be ‘whistle while you pee’ as we no longer have a lockable door there.

So what next. We need 2 days clear weather to finish the roof and 5 days in the next 10 to do the rendering. In the meantime, we are inside insulating and it’s a big and expensive job. The sloped bedroom ceilings need 50mm between the rafters, then 60mm on top of that followed by battens and plasterboard. All of the outside walls get 60mm, then battens then plasterboard. The attic has 150mm between the joists and another 150mm on top. The bedroom floors get 100mm and each stud wall gets 75mm. The ground floor gets 100mm before the screed goes down.

I keep telling myself we are turning the corner. But it’s a long sloping, winding, uphill corner littered with hurdles and water features.

I am off to buy a snorkel and water wings…!