Goodbye yellow-stained wall

Today’s plan was to paint the landing cabinet doors in the contrast colour of Crown Hall & Stairs Naughty Step and then zoom off to Wick to get a pale green for the stairwell, as I’d had a text from David to say he’s hoping to come on Friday and I wanted to have it done before he arrived.

The colour was drying lighter than the colour shown on the outside of the tin and the further down the doors I got, the more I started to think that it actually might work for the big stairwell wall as well – and since it’s being used in the hall, it would tie upstairs and downstairs together nicely.  So I bit the bullet, put the platform up over the stairs, masked off the edges and went for it.  I did have a slight moment of panic halfway through when I thought it had gone a bit too Southwold beach hut, but I reckon it looks okay, and so far no sign of the yellow tinge coming through.

It’s going to need the once-over with a roller, because it’s showing the brush marks quite badly, but not a complete proper second coat.  Just the bannisters left to paint upstairs now!

Earlier this week my solicitor emailed me to say that the Scottish Ministers’ solicitor had sent her a signed title deed and a plan, so all that remained was for her to complete the registration of the disposition and we were good to go for mortgaging purposes.  I had a glance through it, but something was nagging in the back of my head and I when I opened it up again the following morning, I saw what it was.  They’d used the wrong plan!  It was about to be registered with the initial draft of the plan, which didn’t show the rights of access over the croft.  Not an issue right now, since I have the croft tenancy and can grant myself permission to cross the crofted land, but a potential legal mess in years to come when either I or my executors come to sell it.  My solicitor’s come back to me today to say that the other side have acknowledged it was their error in sending the wrong plan to their clients for signature, and are redoing the whole thing (my solicitor’s offer of getting out the office crayons and colouring in the applicable bits was politely turned down!).  So that delays us by another couple of weeks, but the end is definitely in sight on that one.

I shall hopefully be letting David have free run of the house tomorrow to sort the stairs out, so my job will be to go round my house and make a list of absolutely everything I need to buy to turn Ethel’s into a home from home for my guests – with Black Friday deals starting tomorrow, it’s time to shop.

Three weeks to photos – eek!

I rang the Scottish Cottages rep today to find out how full her diary was, as I knew she was away visiting family overseas for Christmas.  We’ve settled on 7th December for her to come up, which is three weeks tomorrow!  After a flurry of phone calls, text messages and standing at the foot of Pete’s scaffolding shouting up to him, I have Dougie coming next week, Pete coming in the next five days IF the wind speed is low enough for him to get on the roof and drop the flue liner, Roisin at Riverside is checking they can do the furniture delivery on 30th November (1st December is the first day of their Christmas shopping event, so everyone will be tied up with that) and I’m waiting to hear back from David.  However, if the doors aren’t on for the photographs it’s not a problem, so all I really need him to do is a little bit of work on the stairs before the carpet fitters come and the rest can wait until after he gets back from holiday.

In terms of actual work down the road today, I got the white top coat on the landing cabinets, door frames and tongue and groove and then took advantage of the lack of rain and slapped a second coat of green on the gates, which means the slate Mick got me for Christmas with the name and house number can be fitted at the weekend.

I also might have been a tiny bit naughty and driven out west to scout out a small cottage that’s for sale.  I might have been even naughtier and asked the Scottish Cottages rep to have a look at the for sale listing and give me an idea of what it would make as a holiday let.  It’s in a much better condition than Ethel’s was, the home report is nearly all 1s with only one 3, but that’s for damp, which doesn’t worry me in the slightest, because it specifically states that high damp meter readings were obtained in X, Y and Z locations.  My view is that an old stone cottage which hasn’t been lived in for a number of years and has electric heating which hasn’t been left on is going to produce high damp meter readings simply because it hasn’t been warm enough inside to evaporate the moisture in the air, so it’s condensed onto the walls.  It’s got a large garden, two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs (unusual in a traditional croft house that hasn’t been altered much) and two living rooms and a tiny kitchen downstairs, so that would get turned into a utility, one of the living rooms would become the kitchen, pop in some central heating, redecorate, furnish and welcome guests 🙂  Okay, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, since I haven’t seen inside it yet, but I like the location, I like the home report, it’s got character and it’s not a mammoth project.  My concerns are (a) they’re overvaluing the croft land with it and (b) it’s been up for sale on and off since 2013 but no-one’s bought it.  The home report is clean enough, there isn’t anything in the surrounding area that would put you off, no planning applications in (in fact the local plan from 2010 specifically states that road in the village is not under consideration for new housing due to the standard of the road and visiblity concerns with its junction to the main road) and the current owner lived there for over 50 years – I’m wondering if it’s simply the price putting people off, as the asking price is nearly a third more than the home report values it at, but does include the croft land, which the home report doesn’t take into account.  Watch this space, anyway!

Two weeks to carpets

Time is sliding by remarkably fast.  My wonderful mother has solved the curtain problem by reminding me about John Lewis.  The pair I absolutely loved for the living room turned out not to be suitable for a window of that width, because the material is too heavy for that long a curtain pole, but they’ve got some plain grey ones that will be fine, plus plain pale blue ones in the same style for the kitchen.  Price?  Just £75 a pair.  I need to double-check the length of curtain pole and then I’ll get those ordered.

Other than that, it’s really been landing, landing and more landing.  The first job was to take the old coat hooks off the wall.  I was going to keep this until I realised that it had been made by sawing off the tops of double coat hooks and could easily slice your fingers open.

Mick carefully filled in all the gaps in the panelling and then ran the big orbital sander over it, to take the top layer of varnish off ready for painting.

I got to work base coating the landing in white and couldn’t believe what a difference it made to the amount of light up there.

First coat of primer on the panelling.

I finally finished sanding the bannisters.

Working my way down the stairs.

The problem is that even after THREE coats of undercoat, it still looks as if someone’s been chainsmoking there.

So I’ve taken an executive decision and that wall is going to be pale apple green instead of milk white!  I went into town today to see if the paint shop had the colour I wanted, but they don’t stock the Crown Hall and Stairs range and I didn’t have time to go over to Wick, so that’ll have to wait until Saturday.

Mick has been brave and started tiling the bathroom.  It’s not a job he likes doing, but he’s better at it than me, so he gets lumbered with it.

The carpet fitters came over last week to measure up.  They were kindly fitting me in after a long day on two jobs roughly in my direction and even more kindly they drove round the village looking for me when they called at my house and found I was out.  I didn’t mean to be out, but my neighbour’s ram had escaped and I was helping her find it before it got anywhere near the ewe hoggs (this year’s lambs, which all roam loose around the village over winter) and we had some unwanted teenage pregnancies!  They called me back with a quote 48 hours later, which I agreed to, and they’re coming to lay them on Wednesday 29th November.

This gives me quite a tight timetable to work to.  If all goes to plan, it should work like this:

  • I finish decorating the landing, hall and bannisters
  • David comes back to lower the lip on the top step of the staircase and fit the downstairs doors
  • Dougie gets all the electrics finished
  • Pete fits the woodburner
  • Mick finishes bathroom
  • Carpets are laid (Wed 29th November)
  • David fits the upstairs doors (Thu 30th November)
  • Furniture is delivered (Fri 1st December)
  • Curtains, blinds, bed linen, kitchen equipment, etc. etc. put into house (weekend 2nd/3rd December)
  • Parking area scraped and gravelled, garden scraped (4th-6th December)
  • Snagging (w/c 4th December)
  • Scottish Cottages rep visits to take the initial photographs and get us on their website pre-Christmas (w/c 11th December)

I’ve been leafing through the Howdens catalogue this evening, choosing doors and door handles, and realised I have no clue whether I need to order 12 x the handle part number for 6 doors or whether they come in pairs!  I think this is the point where I just hand over the details of what I want to David and let him work out the quantities.  Next job: choose the fabric for the two Roman blinds for the dormer windows.

Nearly finished a room!

Latest mortgage update yesterday, for all those crossing their fingers, is that the forecast is currently being considered by head office.  However, they’ve confirmed that it is the final hurdle, so if it’s approved then we’ll be given a mortgage offer in principle.

I’ve been trying to forget about it and get on with the painting.  It took two and a half hours to get into all the little pockets at the top and bottom of the tongue and groove with a tiny brush.  (Sorry, I am still unable to get WordPress to display portrait photos in portrait – I can go to Edit and Rotate and then they refuse to save.  They’re the correct way up before I upload them!)

And then it still needed another coat, damn it!  But it was worth it – I reckon it looks pretty good.  Colours, while I remember, are Crown – Milk Bottle on the ceiling and woodwork, and Crown Period Collection – Promenade on the wall.  It’s a pretty good Farrow and Ball imitation and while it doesn’t have quite that same depth and warm that F&B does, it makes up for it by being £18 for 2.5l instead of £43.59(!).

Certainly a vast improvement on a year ago!

All that’s left to do in that room now is (a) touch up the spots where the masking tape took the green paint off; (b) Dougie to fit the smoke alarm and TV/phone socket; (c) David to fit the door; (d) get carpet laid and furnish it (including a blind for the Velux).

In other news, one of Mick’s colleagues was selling an oak coffee table, did we want it for £100?  Yes please, especially since the drawer handles match the ones I’m using in the kitchen!  (I know where it came from and I think it cost him closer to £300.)

136 sheep, a car service and a funeral

…were just a few of the things that got in the way of progress being made this week!  David sent me a text to say he wouldn’t be with us on Monday or Tuesday as he had a funeral to go to and then would be taking advantage of the dry weather to get his sheep clipped.  And you can see why; it was gorgeous.

So Mick and I cracked on and got the kitchen walls primed.  Because we’re painting straight onto plasterboard, which drinks paint like someone who’s been lost in the Sahara, we decided to put on two base coats of diluted matt white as an undercoat.

Pete turned up as well, hoping David would be there to build the frames for the concrete skews on the byre roof, and ended up lying on his back in the living room fireplace making a template for the register plate that will sit around the flue.  He and Mick went and fetched the stove from the annexe at home and lugged it into place.

The kitchen appliances were delivered on Tuesday and I lost even more space in my office!  (Apologies – sideways pictures again, but it took me six attempts just to get them to upload this evening and it’s nearly 11pm, so I’ll try and fix them in the morning!)

By Wednesday Mick was looking half dead, but had still been talking about cancelling his car service and carrying on working on the house instead.  I put my sternest voice on and packed him off to Inverness, on the grounds that we needed a 45-degree connector from the back of the stove to the flue which he could pick up from the wonderfully-named Bonk & Co while he was down there.

David arrived back after shearing 135 sheep and finished the landing cupboard and the upstairs windowsills.

And finally, on Wednesday afternoon, the first colour started to go on the walls in the kitchen!

(And yes, there was some fairly creative language when my roller slipped and this happened!)

Annoyingly, I ran out half a wall before finishing, so Mick zoomed into town first thing on Thursday morning and picked up another two cans, because it needed a second coat.  It looked pretty good when it was done.

I got going with painting the bathroom and was a bit surprised to open a tin of ‘Platinum’ and find this:

But fortunately it stirred up to the correct colour.  (‘Tin Bath’, the other bathroom colour, is sparkly blue before stirring).

David carried on with windowsills and Velux frames.

And then somehow it was Friday and time for the kitchen floor to take shape.  We took off the thin layer of chipboard that had been protecting the underfloor heating insulation from getting too squashed and had a good vacuum up.  Given we’ve been walking around on this for six months it’s in pretty good shape.

Finally, on Friday afternoon, David was able to get started on the floor, and it looks wonderful.

Also happening this week, Magnus came to give our house a new coat of masonry paint as well as doing all the woodwork for us, and it looks amazing.

We went into Riverside Replicas and ordered the sofas, but there’s been a slight hiccup with the rest of the furniture – the range I’ve chosen for the bedrooms is being discontinued shortly and the manufacturer doesn’t have enough stock to meet my order.  We’re waiting for details of the replacement range, but the bits they’ve seen look very similar.  As long as the headboards on the beds are 115cm or lower, it should be okay.

Today should have been another full-on blitz down the road, but we had a sheep to drop off at the auction mart for tomorrow’s sale (so all of my very observant readers who were wondering why the post title refers to 136 sheep but David only sheared 135 can now relax – here’s the extra one!).  This involved taking our little flock from the field, down the village road to the communal fanks, putting them through the shedder to separate out the one being sold (a shedder is a small gate in a narrow run – a race.  Only one sheep at a time can fit down the race and when the sheep you want to separate comes up, you open the shedder gate, it shoots off into a separate part of the fanks, and then you close it again and the rest of the sheep go through the race as normal.  Timing is everything!) and then taking the others back home and getting the single one into the trailer and driving her the 35 miles to the mart.

It was 2pm by the time we’d got back and had a quick sandwich, so Mick tackled our jungle of a lawn, which had been running riot for a fortnight, and I went back down to give the living room and hall ceilings their top coat of white and put the second coat of colour on the bathroom accent wall.

Note to self: do not leave masking tape on for more than 24 hours 🙁  I got away with it with the rest of the walls, but this one is going to need a lot of touching up tomorrow!

The heat is ON!

As anticipated, the heating system was successfully switched on on Thursday afternoon, but there was just one small problem left to solve – Derek had checked the tank and found that what I thought was 4-5″ of oil was actually 2-3″ of oil and about 2″ of water.  The system had been off for so long that condensation had been slowly topping the tank up.  So Mick went down the road armed with a can of WD40 and a determined expression and managed to get the lock off the main filling cap and then Steve came back on Friday morning, syphoned off three very large cannisters of water, bled the system again and said I was good to go, but please to get oil delivered ASAP!  One quick phone call to Simpsons later and I have a delivery scheduled for early next week.

Dougie had left all the thermostats set to 21C and as a result the house had warmed up amazingly over 24 hours and was showing 18C or 19C in all rooms.  We’ve turned them down to 16C to eke out the remaining oil a bit and also because it’s just going to be too hot for us to work in there as it is at the moment.  It’s fascinating to watch the the little motors open or close the valves as the temperature setting changes.

I sent David a text to see if he could come and lay floors for us during the first week of April.  He’s going to schedule us in a couple of days, but is a bit distracted building a timber-framed house for someone at the moment, so I suspect we’re going to have to use our time with him carefully as he’s expecting it to take at least 12 weeks full-time.

Mick and I have both taken next week off work and we’re planning to blitz the house in terms of taping, jointing, skimming, sanding and, hopefully, painting, so that by the time David arrives to put the engineered oak floor down, we’ve got as much of the downstairs messy stuff done as possible.  Wish us luck!

An expensive day

Last-minute emergency pre-Christmas shopping is supposed to be things like stuffing balls, sprouts and bacon, isn’t it?  Not what I bought today which included:

  • A multifuel stove (plus fitting kit and flexible flue liner)
  • Paint for priming the plasterboard and panelling and some of the colours (we need to have another look at the small bedroom, the living room and the kitchen after the sample pots didn’t quite turn out like the catalogue colours)
  • 17 litres of ready-mixed skim (for me to fill in all the screw heads on the plasterboard and the joins that can’t be taped)
  • More wood for framing

It just struck me the other day that Derek was probably going to want to put the stove in BEFORE he laid the underfloor heating in that room and so I’d better get a shift on and order it.  Fortunately Stovesareus had what I wanted in stock and should be delivering a Stovax Stockton 3 on 5th January.  Small, traditional-looking, and capable of burning peat – perfect for a croft house.

In other news, we had a fairly strong southerly with rain in it overnight, i.e. perfect conditions for testing out the chimney sealant, and I’m happy to say it passed with flying colours – dry as a bone in there this morning 🙂  If it comes through the rest of this week the same way, I think we can safely say we’ve solved the issue.  Fingers crossed.

Edit on Thursday 22nd:  I can add 72 x 4.8m lengths of lining boards to the above list now, as David sent me a text to say he’d picked them up from Rembrand on Monday and would cut them all down to size at home before coming and fitting them for us next week, but I needed to call Rembrand and pay for them.  One swift phone call later and I’m a smidge over £400 lighter, bringing me to about £1,500 in two days – not bad going!!  I think the next two to three weeks are really going to see a huge shift from building site back towards inhabitable house.