Happy new year! I spent it getting plastered…
(Top tip: old bank cards make great miniature floats for skim when you’re filling in plasterboard screw heads!)
Actually, I’ve spent most of the Christmas break concentrating on breathing, as Mick kindly gave me an extra Christmas present of the lurgy going round his workplace, but while I only managed to do a few hours of hole filling, he has spent nearly every day of the holiday down there and has got a LOT done.
Plasterboard and insulation going up in the hall.
The kitchen windowseat has been done as well – just need some edge protector to finish that off.
He even managed to plasterboard the ceiling over the stairs. I’m not sure I want to know exactly how he managed that – apparently it involved those two lengths of wood poking through the bannisters and a piece of chipboard…
David very kindly gave us some time between Christmas and new year as well, and has made good progress with the panelling upstairs.
And the framing for the internal walls is going back up as well, so it’s starting to look more like a house again and less like a shell.
David has been back this week too, replacing the damaged floorboards and finishing the framing, and Dougie has been finishing up the last bits of electrics needed, so hopefully we’ll be all set to go for Derek and his team to start putting the heating in on Monday 🙂
David has been framing like a man possessed and this morning Mick left our house at 7.30am saying he’d packed sandwiches – the result is that the upstairs is more or less completely insulated.
The fireplace in the bedroom has been framed round now instead of going over it.
Still not quite sure how I’m going to make a feature of that, but I went and picked up a stack of interiors magazines at the weekend, because once the plasterboard goes on, this is going to look scarily like a house I need to decorate!
The living room framing is mostly done as well – just the bits round the two large windows downstairs (and my window seats) to go, and then once Dougie has done everything he needs to, it’s plasterboard on and underfloor heating down.
I was down at the house for sunrise this morning, because I wanted to see what the newly-finished front elevation looked like at first light. The aim was to have a soft white that wouldn’t dazzle the other people living at that end of the village, and I think we’ve got it about right:
And in one of those ‘yes, we have been making progress’ pictures, here’s the original estate agent’s picture and one of the above from nearly the same angle:
The total cost of the new roof, windows, door, guttering and paint is about £22,000 *gulp* but it has made a huge, huge difference and I’m over the moon with how it’s turned out.
Today I have David in finishing the living room gable end framing and then hopefully starting on the front walls and my little window seats, and Dougie now has the wiring spec for the underfloor heating from Derek, so is starting on that and will also be drilling the holes in the wall needed for wiring up the outside floodlights. We had a chat about the kitchen – when he measured it out, it turns out the existing hot and cold feeds for the sink would need to be moved in our current kitchen layout, but if I put in a full-sized 600mm dishwasher instead of a slimline 450mm one, they’re in the right place. However, that means I either need to have a slimline fridge freezer (which I don’t think would be a good idea, given that the nearest supermarket is a 52-mile round trip!) or move the fridge freezer to the corner by the window. Happily it will fit in that corner and Dougie says wiring it there will be no problem, so that’s what I’m doing. My homework for the day is to call Colin Chessor in Thurso and arrange for a reel of shotgun cable for Dougie to put the satellite dish cabling into the living room and all the bedrooms.
Dougie turned up on Thursday and got David to plasterboard the two kitchen walls which will have units on them for him so he could draw out the kitchen on the walls and mark where all the sockets and switches are going to go.
It turned out I had a couple of decisions to make about things I hadn’t even thought about – like did I want all the switches for the appliances separately by each appliance or wired to one block of switches (as it’s a small kitchen, I went for the block – less wall space) and where did I want the control unit for the central heating (it’s ended up on the wall outside the bathroom door)? Dougie’s advised me I need to ask Derek to move the water for the sink a few inches, as it’s currently straddling the sink and the washing machine, and also to lengthen the stopcock or I’m going to be reaching through a hatch in the back of the sink unit *and* through a hole in the plasterboard to turn off the water. We need to remember to leave access for the boiler’s filler loop too.
Mick has spent the weekend down there and did a bit more plasterboarding and the kitchen is actually starting to look like a room again.
Upstairs, David has made cracking progress with the framing and Mick has been able to get some more insulation in.
Where the dwangs are gives an idea of the panelling height, although I need to ask David about the fireplace because he’s framed over it rather than doing a return to show off the stone – this is likely my fault for saying I was panelling all round the room and not clarifying that I still wanted the fireplace exposed. I may not be popular when I see him next… I don’t know whether he’ll be getting to us next week, but looking at the weather forecast only Tuesday is scheduled to be wet, so fingers crossed we might see Magnus getting started on the painting.
The one thing I’ve noticed about this project is that as its gone on I’ve got very used to paying large bills without batting an eyelid. Take this week, for example. On Monday I got a text from David the joiner to say he was going into town and he’d stop by for a chat on the way back. Turns out that he was finishing off one of his current jobs on Tuesday and was therefore proposing to spend Wednesday and Thursday working on the house (hooray!) “if you can get me one or two bits by then”.
So we went down the road to the house together and the one or two bits turned out to be 70 x 4.8 metre lengths of 3×2 plus 75 sheets of plasterboard, which is rather more than I can put on the back of the pick-up (12 lengths of 3×2 is about as much as you can do on its roof without risking them all spilling off when you go round a corner). I rang Rembrand in Thurso and explained my predicament to Neil – their lorry usually comes west on a Thursday, but he said he’d see what he could do and, bless him, called me back half an hour later to say that they’d got it sorted and would deliver on Wednesday morning if there was someone to help unload.
I shot into town on Tuesday morning to pay for it and handed over my debit card for just under £1,200 without thinking twice about it – plus a stack of homemade flapjacks for them to say thank you for being so helpful 🙂 I made another batch last night for David (and possibly Dougie, who is going to try and come over tomorrow) and took them down just as the delivery lorry rumbled down the road, so I helped them unload. It’s refilled the living room, put it that way…
But it means that David has some straighter lengths of wood to choose from for the long sections in the gable end framing.
David and I had a long discussion about whether the tongue and groove panelling should go to the bottom of the Velux or stop where the house walls stop, a few inches below. We’ve gone for the latter on the grounds that it’ll be much easier to do the window surrounds with plasterboard than trying to match up panelling and a dado bead.
Finally, here’s my paint mountain! I hope it’ll condense down significantly when I get round to removing all the packaging. At the moment it’s looking like three semi-reasonable days next week and then rather wet, so I’m crossing my fingers that Magnus will be able to get started.
We’d hoped to be cracking on with fitting the Quinn Therm this week, but Mick’s mother has been unwell, so he’s been busy making sure she’s okay and I don’t want to start cutting into expensive insulation without supervision, at least not the first time I do it!
That doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting here twiddling my thumbs, I’ve been literally talking the talk today. Dougie the electrician called to say he thought it would be a really good idea if he, Derek the heating engineer and David the joiner all got together on site with me (and Mick if he’s not at work) to have a meeting about where the heating manifolds are going to go and how we’re going to disguise them. It’s a very good idea, so I’m doing my utmost to make it happen. He’s going to be here next week, Derek is flexible for days and times next week and I’m waiting for a reply from David – fingers crossed he can do next week as well, because once I know how far that manifold is going to be coming out from the kitchen wall and how that affects where the kitchen units can go in, then I can finalise the kitchen design and make myself that Howdens appointment.
ERG also rang me to say that Billy had the door situation under control and would give me an update soon and what was the situation with the window sills that were mentioned in the ‘work to be completed’ section of the job sheet? Well, when the salesman came round to see me, I chose oak window sills, however I’m not sure the surveyor who came round noticed them on the paperwork (he started off by telling me it was only four windows and no door on his list!), as the two guys who did the installation said they weren’t on their job sheet and they hadn’t been given the materials – however, it would have been tricky to fit them without the framing in place. So I’ve told ERG that I would be equally happy with either option out of (1) I call them when the framing’s done and they come up and do them or (2) they take the cost of materials and labour off the final invoice and I’ll get David to do them – they’re going to think about it and let me know.
This is the bit of the whole project so far that I’m least comfortable with. Buying a house? No problem. Talking to financial institutions? No problem. Stripping out a house? No problem. Discussing project with tradesmen? No problem. Sorting out a problem with some work? I come over all British and apologetic! Mick reckons I’m too nice about things like this, but I’ve spent nearly 20 years working in customer or client-facing roles of one kind or another and know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a complaint and, even if the customer’s being nice, it’s not the best part of your working day. Hopefully we’ll get this resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
I was working away for a couple of days this week, so it was nice to come home and see progress. The roof is now very nearly finished – the ridge tiles are on, the guttering has all been hung and the downpipes attached. There was only a drain for one downpipe on the back, but Pete has advised a roof of this size needs two, so he’s fitted one and when we get Kev in to do the groundworks, we need to ask him to dig us a channel so we can put one in. They’ve re-harled the track where the old power cable used to run and all that’s left to do is the chimneys, so they’re currently moving the scaffolding around to the gable ends.
I got a call from SSE PD (Power Distribution) while I was away to say that they’d had a cancellation out my way and could fit my job in, if that was acceptable. More than! Fortunately Dougie was available to let them in and work alongside them. The cable in has been completely replaced and we now have about a metre more clearance under it.
David managed to get here for half a day as well and the framing is coming along nicely. I now know what a dwang is! (The horizontal brace piece between the vertical studs.)
Dougie nearly gave Mick a heart attack by saying he was sure that 100mm Quinn Therm needed a 50mm air gap rather than a 25mm – we’ve only just got 25mm for where it’s going in the rafters. So Mick did a bit of Googling, and yes, it does need a 50mm air gap if you’re using tar paper as your roof underlay, but if you have a breathable membrane like ours, 25mm is fine. Phew. I think Rembrand would probably have exchanged it for us, but it would have been a hassle!
We’ve also done a nice bit of materials recycling by asking James and Connor to dump the old roof into the big tractor ruts, which were getting on for a foot deep in places.
So what next? Well, Dougie’s away on holiday, which will hopefully give David a chance to get ahead a bit. We’re going to start fitting the insulation into the roof today to make some space in the living room. ERG rang me to say that my windows and doors could be installed on 25th and 26th August, so I’d like to have David around on at least the first day if possible. Pete’s going to give me the number of a guy called Magnus who has an air-free paint spraying system and who can paint the house for me – whether I can get that done before the windows go in is debatable, but we’ll try! Kev is hopefully coming over this afternoon to talk groundworks for both here and home – in other words, it’s all getting expensive! Fortunately the last Barclaycard balance transfer offer has reappeared, so I cleared the card last week and will apply for the transfer on Monday, which gives me another £11,400. That should finish paying for Pete and Dougie and the windows and Magnus with hopefully a bit left over towards Derek the heating engineer, who I should probably ring to find out what his availability is going to be over the next few weeks!