Post-Christmas progress

WARNING:  lots of pictures ahead!

One of the things I forgot to mention in my last post is that the Highland Council decided to give me a Christmas present of putting me back on 200% council tax as of 25th December.  I’ve sent them an email explaining that the house still isn’t done and attaching scans of the latest bunch of invoices and letting them know they can follow progress on this blog, so hello to the Highland Council council tax department if you’re reading this 🙂

So, what’s been happening in the last fortnight?  The stove arrived:

and Pete and James turned up to put the replacement hearthstone in, very, very carefully!

David’s put all the internal studwork back in, has been panelling like a demon and has also replaced all the rotted/woodworm-y floorboards.

We hit a bit of an issue last Friday.  We were forecast gales on Thursday night, not particularly high – gusting to about 65mph or so.  As I was walking down to feed the sheep on Friday morning I saw an SSE van in the village and a flapping power cable.  ‘Wonder what caused that?’ I thought.  The next field I passed was Ronald’s, who lives in the house diagonally opposite Ethel’s.  There appeared to be a heap of twisted metal in it.  ‘Crumbs, some poor sod’s lost their roof,’ I thought.

Er, yes, that poor sod would be me – the haybarn roof had completely gone!

Talking to the SSE guys, they said it looked like it had come off in one piece, bounced off the power cable between Ethel’s house and Ronald’s with such force that it snapped four cables as a result, knocking out power to that end of the village, and then bounced in Ronald’s field, breaking up on impact.  In the picture of the field, you can just make out a piece of wood stuck vertically in the ground to the left of the telegraph pole.  That had driven in over a foot deep.

Mick came home from work and we cleared out all the wood from the stalled byre, finding the chains for tethering the cattle in the process – there’s a selling point!  “If your children misbehave whilst on holiday, simply tether them in our handy cattle stalls…”

And I really must take this sofa to the tip.  Ethel got it for the front room, but decided it was too big, so it’s been living in a cattle stall ever since.

Anyway, the hay is all safe and sound, the wood is in the roofless hay barn and we’ll get a new roof on it once Mick has decided whether or not he’s going to rebuild the front wall, which is bowing out a bit.  Back to the house.

David, bless him, came over on Saturday to finish the last little bits he needed to get done before the heating team started.  I am LOVING the way the bedroom alcoves have turned out – how’s this for a bedroom with a view?

Derek turned up on Monday with his team and Dougie was on hand to wire up the manifold.  Heating is now going in 🙂

Holes are starting to appear for sockets and switches.

And once the pipework is done for the bathroom, the last bit of plasterboarding can be done.

So it’s just finish the heating, get the floor down, install the kitchen and bathroom, decorate it and make a garden.  Easy-peasy, right??

First look at the kitchen!

Howdens emailed through the kitchen drawings for me over the weekend, in Burford Cream, Burford Tongue & Groove Cream and Tewksbury Antique White.  I like the Burford T&G the best, but may go for the plain Burford if there’s a serious price difference.

kitchen-pack-burford-tg-cream

While we were away, Dougie seems to have doubled the amount of cabling in the house and David has framed out the back wall of the kitchen, so that meant this week Derek and his team have been able to start running pipework. Mick’s been getting on with some more insulating as well.

20161003_180618

New stopcock!  No more washing up basin required whenever you turn the water on 🙂

20161003_180636

Flow and return pipes running through the kitchen ceiling up to…

20161003_180646

…the landing, where the manifolds will be hidden in a cupboard.

20161003_180722

Now David’s framed the back wall in the kitchen, Dougie reckons he can finish the wiring off in there, so he’ll be back for a day this week.  David has been tied up preparing his sheep to go through the sale ring (he’s cutting down on numbers), but they went through the mart yesterday, so I’ll drop him a text tomorrow and see if he’s able to get the framing in the bedrooms finished, so Mick can clear the insulation out of the living room and get it fitted.

Much to my relief, I got home to another revised Council Tax bill from the Highland Council – they’ve accepted that the house isn’t currently habitable and dropped the 200% charge.

Council tax catastrophe!

I had a pile of post to open today and one of the letters was from the Highland Council.  “Oh good,” I thought.  “They got my email about extending the 50% council tax discount because the house was still uninhabitable.”

Yes, they did – and it made them look at their records and realise that the house had now been unoccupied for more than 12 months which has triggered their punitive 200% council tax rate!!  So I have a bill for £1,121 for council tax and water rates between September and the start of the next council tax year.  Ouch.

I have one hope of getting it reversed.  On the council’s website is a Long Term Empty Property Discretion Application Form and one of the allowable reasons for the 200% charge being delayed for up to 12 months is:

The owner is finishing renovations prior to moving in or selling or letting and can demonstrate that these works are progressing

I’ve filled it out and tomorrow I’ll photocopy the completion statement for the roof, the interim invoice for the rewiring and the quote for the new heating system, explain it still has no kitchen or bathroom and invite them to visit any time they like and with a bit of luck I’ll at least be able to pay normal council tax rather than double.

Anyway, onto happier things.  Derek, David and Dougie all came over on Tuesday morning and we had a very productive 45 minutes.  We’ve ended up agreeing that the best thing to do is take the heating manifolds out of the kitchen altogether.  They’re going to go on the landing, in the same cupboard that will hide the electricity cupboard.  It means the landing will seem very narrow, because the cupboard will run the length of it, but it’s going in space you couldn’t walk in anyway because of the roof slope, and it means I can put a carousel in the corner unit in the kitchen rather than having to put a false back in for the heating stuff.  So Derek will be back on Tuesday to start running pipes through the joists.

While they were here, Dougie and David measured up the kitchen and came to an agreement about where the stud wall would be and therefore how much space I had to put kitchen units in.  I’ve spent this evening redrawing the design to fit and will give Howdens a ring in the morning to see if we can pop in on Saturday and just talk it through with someone.

Pipework on Tuesday means that we need to get that Quinn Therm cleared out of the living room, so we’ve been working down there in the evenings again.  My job was to take out the last remaining bits of plasterboard in the bathroom and I found a lovely wooden lintel.

156-armadale-bathroom-7

Mick has been carefully cutting and fitting the 100mm Quinn Therm into the roof, but had a quick practice with one sheet of 25mm in the kitchen.  Bye-bye fireplace….

156-armadale-kitchen-22 156-armadale-bedroom-one-25 156-armadale-bedroom-one-26

David gave me his estimate for doing the window sills and I think there may have been some coughing and spluttering at ERG’s end (to be fair, I think it included some work that ERG wouldn’t have done) because I have one of the fitters coming up in the morning to have a look and see what needs doing.

All talk, no action

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.

Plumbing the depths

Mick was away this week, so I took the opportunity to ramp up my workload and earn some extra cash, which meant that nothing got done in the house until the weekend.

Derek the heating engineer came round on Saturday morning to (a) remove the existing central heating system (we needed the radiators off the walls to take the last bits of panelling off) and (b) deliver his estimate for installing underfloor heating and fit the woodburner.  He warned me that I’d probably need to sit down before I opened the envelope, but I knew from Googling that I was going to be looking at £75-£100 per square metre, depending on which method of fitting was used.  So to:
1.  Disconnect existing radiator central heating system
2.  Supply, install and commission 65sqm of overfit insulation boards, 4 rolls of edge insulation, 200m of 15mm layflat pipe, 6-zone manifold, 6 actuators, pump control pack and an under-floor control system.
3.  Install multi-fuel stove.
for £5,685+VAT (total £6,822) was more or less bang on.  It’s actually going to be a little bit more, because thanks to a miscommunication he thought that we were keeping the existing wetroom floor in the bathroom and so didn’t include it in his measurements, but it won’t add too much more to the cost as it’s not a huge room.

Hot water cylinder out, Rayburn unplumbed, kitchen counter gone, radiators stacked up ready to be stored.

156 armadale - bedroom one - 13 156 armadale - kitchen - 6 156 armadale - living room - 7

My job today – stripping out bedroom three.  That still had two and a half completely untouched walls when I started!

156 armadale - bedroom three - 1

Plank addressed to the house

156 armadale - bedroom three - 2

A very old nail left on the studwork behind the plasterboard and a card found down the back of the skirting board.

156 armadale - bedroom three - 3 156 armadale - bedroom three - 4

Upstairs really starting to open up now – just the two bits of panelling in bedroom one to take out.  We’ve decided that (a) for safety and (b) because we don’t fancy trying to plasterboard that high over the stairs, the panelling up the stairs can stay in place unless any of the trades needs it taking out. 
156 armadale - bedroom two - 9

Lovely old hearthstone set into the floor – it’s a shame this will have to be covered up.

156 armadale - bedroom two - 14

This was my reward for carrying a huge pile of removed panelling from the second bedroom out into the byres on Saturday – I’ve been itching to see what was under this bit of lino and now the radiator’s gone, I could finally find out.

156 armadale - hall - 2

Sadly, a bit of a let-down!
156 armadale - hall

And finally – us!  Mick tackles the pipework, Jura supervises from her favourite spot on the windowsill and I take a boilersuit selfie 🙂

156 armadale - kitchen - 4 156 armadale - kitchen - 5 selfie - 1

The jigsaw puzzle

It’s struck me today that project managing this is a little bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle.  You find the odd piece or two that go together and gradually you work out how it all fits together.

The heating engineer came round this afternoon and delivered the good news that (a) the boiler is a combi boiler and (b) it’s in pretty good shape and doesn’t need replacing.  Hooray!  The hot water feed from it hasn’t been connected up, seems that Ethel and John simply used the Rayburn and the hot water cylinder upstairs, which means that’s a closed circuit and we can simply disconnect it from the header tank, drain it and take it all out.  Does mean I have to find another use for my saved mirrored door, but I’m glad of the extra space in the bedroom.

So I’m starting to piece the timetable together like a logic problem.  Pete is replacing the roof and needs the joiner (who’s the only major trade I’ve not yet spoken to) to enlarge the existing Veluxes and cut the new ones, which will depend on us having stripped the panelling in the relevant areas.  He’ll also need the stonework person to patch the harling into the spots where the fascia boards are being removed, who’ll also need to patch up the spot where the electrician is moving the mains power cable.  The electrician needs to work with the joiner if any cabling needs running up the new studwork behind the plasterboard.  The heating engineer needs to put the underfloor heating down and install the woodburner and hearth before the joiner lays the wood floors.  The joiner is the one we’re going to need the most flexibility from, I think, in terms of popping back and forth.  Fortunately he’s the one who lives closest!