And the mess returns…

My inner Little Miss Tidy has had a few moments this week as the work progresses. There is a continuous routine of make mess, clean up and repeat.

Things are moving along. Courtney has continued to install the plumbing and I have pipes of all sizes and shape everywhere! Steve popped back in to re-position a few more electrical cables and Jonathan the carpenter started fixing the door linings but then departed for the arrival of his first born. Lovely.

Neil and Andy have been creating a masterpiece with what was the Gents toilets in the old pub.

This room is to become the boiler room and store room. Internally its a relatively easy job to manage. Knock down one wall, insulate, batten, etc. Externally, the existing roof was an embarrassment to the tradesman that fitted it. No point in us leaving a crappy job (note the word links to the former use of the room. Ha!!) when everything else in the house is done to first class standards. So another batch of timber delivered, breather membrane, a little code 4 lead, batten, soffit and tiles, drainpipe and heyho – we have a working, waterproof, useable room.

Except…before we can finish it off we have to move a soil pipe, and wouldn’t you know – it is cracked and needs to be replaced. What the…? So the big guns have been out again as Andy has been digging more rubble out to access the pipe. Make mess, clean up. See what I mean.

In the meantime, we have been taking delivery of various materials required for the next stage. There has to be some thought process into where the materials are stored so that the minimal amount of handling is involved.

We took in 160 plus sheets (2400mmx1200mm) of plasterboard. The standard board weighs 23kg but the specialist board weighs 34kg and had to go upstairs – remembering of course I don’t yet have stairs. So it took 4 of us to pass the boards up. To say we were all muscle weary after moving it all is an understatement. This work starts next week.

In addition, we had hundreds of metres of insulation delivered. Rolls for the floors and attic, slab for the walls. I can just about carry a roll by myself but it’s a little comical to watch. I am just a little taller than a roll and I can only just get my arms around it. But at least I try!

It’s been a tough week for me personally. I have struggled with sleeping, washing, eating in the caravan after having a few months off and the luxury of a normal bed and flushing toilet! The budget – already pushed to the limit because of the roof – is again being tested daily as many of the prices for materials have increased.

I know I will get used to it again, but my energy levels dissipated as the week progressed. There are jobs for me to do but I didn’t really get on to them.

Am back home and I’ve had a word with myself. We probably have no more than 3 months to finish, and possibly less if we can get the materials. That time will fly – and at least we are busy and occupied – and healthy.

I will get back on it next week.

Enthused, energised and eager…

It’s warming up…

Obviously, I don’t mean outside. When I got up this morning, and flannel washed in Mr. Clooney it was chilly. I can deal with that but it’s always a shock when I apply lashings of wrinkle cream to my face and the cream is not just cold but icy, icy cold.

So to building works. It may surprise you to know the roof is not finished despite my constant praying to the weather gods – and of course to St Vincent the Saint for builders! And the second non-surprise…the render work didn’t start on Monday.

These weather delays obviously affect the budget which will have a knock on effect. I need to choose my bathroom and kitchen – big purchase items – but cannot until I know what this stage is costing. If there are savings to be made then it will have to be in these rooms.

At this stage this could be the first house in the village in which the occupants use a metal watering can as a shower and a camping stove as a cooker! Retro….and earth friendly!

It is warming up in the house. The insulation is going in. A messy job but my clearing up skills have improved over the last 20 odd weeks. Upstairs walls will be done by the end of this week – more or less. There is already a noticeable difference in temperature inside the property.

Downstairs has to wait until we sort out the insulation, underfloor heating and screed effectively raising the floor by some 200+mm. This should be the week after next. In the meantime, the list of things to do just grows.

Stairs, doors, plumbing, electrics, skirting, plasterboard, kitchen, rendering, bathrooms, plastering and…

applied mathematics on the budget whilst drinking for medicinal purposes!

Outside the property is a mess. Obviously the rendering will help, but the courtyard garden will be a challenge. I met with a garden designer whose considered 7-hour expert recommendation was simply to pave the whole area and place a few plant tubs around. Really? Not impressed.

But we will need to do something so I am back on line looking for inspirational ideas.

When will it end…

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…!

Cops and robbers…

(Apologies…forgot to upload this last week!)

Oh dear ! There was always a chance some little toerag was going to try and steal stuff from our site. We had a break in last weekend – through one of the windows. We don’t keep anything of value on site so there was nothing to steal. But it probably means replacing another window and a door.

We have a crime number and the police have been to take fingerprints and boot prints left by the invaders, but not expecting much of a result. Fortunately Mr. Clooney was not affected in his gated compound.

It is an uncomfortable experience and one that is, unfortunately, not new to me. Not a good start to the week, but the brainless selfish tw*ts will not win the game. Rant over!

So roof time again. We need to fit vent tiles on the roof above the bathroom and ensuites. Why are they so expensive? They are needed now so that they are properly fitted whilst the scaffolding is in place so I’m breaking open another piggy bank.

The gable end has a little turned up point that needs to be levelled so the battens and tiles fit the roof properly. We are, in effect, giving the house a nose job! This will be followed by a few lengths of undercloak (sounds a bit Harry Potter) and a bit of cement work and then …drum roll…roof might be done. Well, next week anyway.

The 4 new windows are soon to be installed but the glazing is not being upgraded until I put my hammer down. I have been trying to sort out the new back door and side window. These all have to be fitted prior to rendering – so supplied and fitted in the next few weeks. The front door won’t be replaced until we have finished knocking six bells out of the property. It’s the main access from the carpark so is whacked regularly by wheelbarrows, timber and my boots.

It’s a short week for me. Off to Cornwall for a Second Family holiday with my Bestie and all her mad but gorgeous relatives. Leaving Neil, Rob and Andy to look after Mr. Clooney and the house, of course.

Next week looks a bit stormy…at least that might keep the thieving doo-dahs away!

Am now off to batten down Mr. Clooney’s hatches!

And another week…

Well that was interesting. My meeting with the felt supplier and builders merchants (see last weeks blog) amounted to …well, nothing much. Perhaps not a surprise. The rainfall inside the property was all down to atmospheric pressure! Rob the roofer, Neil and Andy all have a different viewpoint. We have been assured the felt will dry out once the tiles are in place. I have asked for a guarantee – in writing – and am still waiting on that.

In the meantime, work continues. The fascia boards are done as is most of the guttering. We still have some drainpipes to sort but they need to wait until the rendering. Some of the roof tiles are now on and a little repointing of the chimneys has taken place.

The lead work is next. A product that goes up and down in price on a daily basis and although it’s purchased in rolls (3m & 6m) and various widths there are other considerations that I did not know about. The most important is you should always request Milled Lead for roof work. It is more expensive but it’s a must.

For those of us too inexperienced to tread the roof tiles more than once (scared!) there has been some more demolition and an ongoing relationship with my dance of the wheelbarrow. A new skip arrived and I was tasked to fill it. This I did over a number of days.

Glamorous job this building lark !!

The garden is accessible through a covered walkway that also leads to the gents. This walkway has now been dismantled – a job I took on. Another first for me – removing a window, then back on the crowbar, hammer, sledge hammer and drill. Tiles off the roof, battens removed, beams smashed and then the brick wall. I attacked it with all of my physical might – and it didn’t budge. Not an inch. Andy came to the rescue with the sledge hammer and the jack hammer and it gave in. I helped, of course, but the wall knew it had beaten me.

I should say at this stage if you have never used a sledge hammer yourself it is not as easy as it looks. Ours is heavy and has a typically long handle. Creating a momentum at shoulder height in order to strike a wall is simply knackering. Andy was very good for not laughing out loud at my effort.

So we now have an idea of how big the courtyard garden will be and I need to start thinking about doing something with the space.

In theory, all of the demolition is done – apart from breaking through a wall to reach the boiler room. A relatively small job.

In theory…

An unexpected turn…

There is no doubt that the big unanswered question on this project was going to be about the roof. How much work and what was it going to cost? What would show up when the tiles came off? Would it make me weep openly or simply be the cause of even larger quantities of alcohol to be consumed? Or both?

Once the tiles, old batten and felt were off we realised that one side of the roof had to be fitted with new rafters all the way along due to a massive dip about one third up. We knew (sort of) that something was amiss. I am pretty sure I saw a load of squirrels using the roof as a ski jump one night – or that might be another one of my dreams!

We sorted the dip. I was not expecting the same problems on the other side of the roof. I don’t know what I was thinking! Just a 9inch dip from one end to the other again at about 1/3 of the way down.

Oh well. It is what it is I say to myself each night as I empty another piggy bank.

But the roof has thrown another little surprise at us. Actually, not the roof but the felt that we used or to use its proper term – ‘breathable membrane’. With the new rafters sorted, the felt went down and new batten was nailed into place. First side done and so we gleefully moved onto the second side.

But no. This felt stuff is supposed to be waterproof. Even during the first few nights it started showing leakage. Drips inside the property. Rob the roofer spoke to the supplier. Then we had a night of frost and the inside of the felt froze…and when it defrosted the resultant water rained into the property – literally. Puddles and all.

A word with the product rep resulted in an immediate ‘not our products fault’. Very helpful. Thanks for listening.

Thankfully, our building materials supplier is a little more reactive. We swapped out 3 rolls for another batch of the same product and some of it has already been installed on the other side of the roof. So far it is bone dry. The original is still soaking wet. We think the first lot was a dodgy batch. The product rep – yes the one who is so helpful – says its impossible…! Didn’t expect that response…!

So…now we wait. The product rep is coming to site on Tuesday along with the building materials man. We probably need to rip out what we have done which not only means additional labour and material costs but extending the scaffolding hire – and I don’t intend to pay for it.

Rob the roofer has never seen this before. Neil has never seen this before. Andy has never seen this before and I have never seen this before. But to be fair, I have never seen breathable membrane up close and personal before so I don’t think I count in this regard.

In the meantime, a skip arrived which means only one thing.

My ongoing relationship with a wheelbarrow and spade continues.

There is no rest…

Timing is everything…

Project management in any business has as much to do with managing time as it does with controlling budget. I have considerable experience in project management from working in the marketing industry including organising mammoth, multiple site public-facing events! But of course I knew what I was doing then and I knew in what order things should be done.

Now I am guessing – and of course seeking counsel from the two experts who are currently covered in concrete dust – Andy and Neil. (If you remember Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown that gives you an idea but without the insects!).

An example. The roof has to be fixed. This will now start in January – clearly not a great time of year to be on the roof stripping it bare but there is no choice. Scaffolding is necessary but am delighted with the ideas and patience of Patrick Warren Scaffolding – and because we are on a road we require a Highways Licence. This needs to be submitted to the Council at least 10 working days prior to the build date. Whilst the scaffolding is in place I also need to arrange the external rendering or pay again for the scaffolding at the end of the project so its being done during/after the roof work. Rendering (by pub supporter and regular Pete the Plasterer) requires that the replacement windows – 4 in all – must be fitted before the job starts. These can take 4 – 6 weeks to measure and make – and of course, its Xmas and not all factories stay open. Externally, the property must be free of any accoutrements – signage, lights, ivy, water pipes, flaky paint, etc, and in our case, the covered walkway to the outside toilets need to come down. Having scaffolding in place also means a decision needs to be made regarding the fireplaces so we can fit the appropriate chimney liners but this is determined by the open plan kitchen and so on and so on. And then what am I going to do about the gutters and downpipes?

The decision on type of tiles for the roof is also imminent.

Then there is the question of having to move the electricity supply into the building from what will be a shower room into the new utility room. It sounds simple but requires multiple large companies and my electrician to be involved. But that’s for another time.

This all in a week when we are installing acrow props that will hold the property up whilst we move a huge steel! There are 19 props, plus numerous wooden wall supports and an ingenious lifting device designed by Andy.

By the way, when I say WE, I don’t mean ME.

It all looked terrifying – or as Neil calls it “squeaky bum time” – and my anxiety levels hit a high so I opted out and went shopping for bathroom ideas…and a little black dress! It is Xmas time after all!

When I returned the steel was moved and the pub was still standing.

Neil and Andy looked utterly relieved.

Don’t know why they were so worried!