Happy at work…

In August 2019 I nipped to the shops and purchased some ‘work’ clothes for this project. Five t-shirts (short sleeved), 5 t-shirts (long sleeved), 2 hoodies, 2 pr jeans and a pair of steel capped work boots. Very inexpensive, (eventually) throw-away clobber, and not at all (a) fashionable, (b) colour co-ordinated or (c) flattering. Very much like my normal wardrobe…some would say!!

I knew I would be wearing these items week in, week out for 6 to 9 months (26 to 39 weeks) in some unsavoury conditions and I did not want to worry about rips, spillages and stains. They had to be easy to wear and easier still to wash on a weekly basis without falling apart.

In what is week 64 of this project I wanted to throw the clothes off and set fire to them! But alas I was in the OneStop Shop buying a pint of milk and my nudity would have caused a tremulous moment with the youth who was serving me so I remained attired!

I am not a clothes horse by any imagination but neither am I a degenerate, rum-soaked, addled. bag lady. But I look like one and this week, I feel like one – and without the benefit of alcohol. No offence to any bag ladies out there. Or bag men for that matter!

That is testament to my state of mind. I am so pleased to be at the stage we have reached but utterly fed up with the fact that we are neither finished, nor able to finish whilst I await for South Somerset planning department to pull its finger out of …..well, you know the saying.

But I still have work to do…so have to stop feeling sorry for myself and get on with it.

I have been caulking again – window boards mainly, along with the occasional architrave. Painting again – architrave and skirting, but I have also finished the final coat for the Snug and the main hallway. Hurrah!

The painting (inside) will definitely be finished next week – even the snagging painting. We started painting 19 weeks ago. Honestly! My brother was here for the first couple of weeks but since then the painting has been just me – in between the tiling and other jobs. It’s a big frigging property to paint – and it takes time to do it properly.

19 weeks! If any visitor says I missed a bit, they will be wearing the paint!

So, mostly odd jobs now. Fitting some skirting in the main bathroom; some corner trim in the cloakroom, pva on the brick wall in the lounge, then oiling the staircase, etc.

Then I will have a massive clean up job.

If that takes me 19 weeks I am going to give myself the sack!

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!

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!

Not a typical week…

I start by saying that women who typically go through the menopause can be anything from 40 something upwards…Just saying.

Sunday evening – somewhere in Somerset.
The planned underfloor heating test has not happened so I am unnecessarily here earlier than normal. It is annoying but there have been so many missed deadlines on this project I am at the stage of just taking a deep breath, shaking my head and setting a new deadline.

Monday evening – still in Somerset.
Had the underfloor heating been on the property was going to be too hot to work in so I booked myself on to a 2-day tiling course fairly local to my project. It’s at a training centre that delivers apprenticeship training for the building trade so I expected to be in a class of 17-year-olds! I thought about cancelling it several times, not sure I could take the humiliation (in my mind) but I’d already worked up a handful of “older than your mother/grandmother” retorts to show the youngsters how hip I am.

Imagine my surprise when I turned up to find this weeks trainees comprise members of the armed forces and me! I cried a little (see first sentence!). Sometimes my timing is inexplicably good. Two groups. My class has 2 Navy, 2 RAF and 2 Army – all men. They will soon be turning Civilian and are taking courses that may lead to future employment.

As That There Builder Girl my normal daily attire is paint-splattered shorts or jeans and a t-shirt with a hoodie for the cold days, along with my dirty, stained boots. Hair pulled back and tied up with a bandana. No makeup, no perfume. A glorious statement of womanhood! My tiling attire today was no different. The only change was my skin colour as I occasionally peeked at a sweaty bright red as another hot flush whizzed its way through my body. I think they believe I just embarrass easily.

Do you think it’ll look odd if I turn up tomorrow all spruced up; eyes a glitter with makeup, painted lips and casually attired in clean, ironed clothes? A summer dress, perhaps.

Yeah, me too.

I did offer the fellas the opportunity of a real-life project that they could practice their skills on. The house….not me…but they all have to go home to their loved ones!!

By the way the tiling training is good. I have been focussed. Yes indeed.

Thursday evening – in the Frozen North (I wish!)
Tiling in the property started on Wednesday. Not by me. Two days of training does not make Builder Girl an expert tiler. I am, however, going to be tiling the bathroom floor in the flat in Bristol. Nathan is doing everything here for the next 15 – 18 days. He started upstairs in an en-suite and will work his way through nearly 65m2 of tiling. Just the little that has been done so far fills my little heart with joy! How easily I get excited these days (see first sentence!)

Shower tiled and underfloor heating in the ensuite

Saturday morning – in Bristol.
A good nights sleep. Cool and comfortable.

This week was steamy and not just on the tiling course. I am mostly pretending the menopause doesn’t affect me. It isn’t happening even though I have to go through occasional crazy weeks like the one just passed. On and off for years now. Definitely on this week.

I can tell you it was seriously uncomfortable heat during the day and even more so at night with Mr. Clooney. I spent much of the week priming woodwork and MDF anywhere in the property, regularly crying over spilt paint and leaving a little trail of sweat behind me as I meandered.

I spent my evenings throwing my bedclothes on and off and weeping at YouTube videos of puppies and kittens whilst intermittently sending angry tweets to my telecommunication providers.

Thank goodness Neil and Andy removed the big tools from the property.

What a life…


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!

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!