It’s amazing what you can do in two days

We had David and Dougie for two days last week and they’ve got a lot done 🙂

Dougie has been tunnelling again – we now have holes in the wall and cables for the outside floodlight, the satellite dish and a switch for all the external lights.

20161120_100241

Inside, the cable runs are just getting more and more wires in them – this was taken standing in the hall and looking up, so all these are running underneath the landing.  I have to confess, I had absolutely no idea how much wiring was in a modern house until now.

20161120_100321

Not to be outdone, David has been working away in the kitchen and spotted a problem – two of the joists weren’t actually resting on anything, they stopped just short of the window!  One quick trip home (fortunately he lives about 6 miles away, which is just round the corner in Highland terms) for a suitable bit of wood and problem solved.

20161120_100651

The framing is up in the hallway and around the front door.

20161120_100310

And the first of my window seats is taking shape – I LOVE it!  Eventually that wooden fence will be replaced with wire stock fencing, so there’ll be less of an interruption to the view.

20161120_100345

And last but by no means least, my wonderful husband has been cracking on with things as well.  The living room ceiling is completely plasterboarded over.

20161120_100413

He’s started on the coombes upstairs – if you’re wondering why he’s not gone all the way to the floor, that’s where the tongue and groove panelling is going to be.

20161120_100501

He’s also put in recessed dwangs ready for Dougie to attach the socket backs to.

20161120_100549

Pete dropped round today.  He’s been trying to get his hands on a beautiful piece of Caithness slab that he’d spotted way out west of here for me to use as a replacement hearthstone, but after weeks of gentle negotiation its owner has decided not to part with it.  Instead he gave me a 2″ x 2″ stone sample to check I was happy with the colour and will get it cut exactly to size at the quarry for me.  The quote for a 75mm-thick piece was over £700, which he choked at a bit, so since it’s a woodburner going on there rather than an open fire (i.e. no direct heat) and the floor’s being raised by the underfloor heating anyway, we’re ordering a 50mm piece and Pete will raise it to the right level – a far more reasonable bill of £350 for that stone and you won’t be able to tell the difference.

David is back tomorrow, I hope, and I must remember to ask him (a) when I need to order the tongue and groove, (b) how much of it I need to order and (c) which supplier he would prefer me to get it from, if any.  Tomorrow he’s hoping to get the window seat in the living room done and perhaps put in the studwork for the internal walls upstairs again.  It’s going to feel quite strange not having it all open up there any more.

Getting warm for winter

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.

20161030_145536 20161030_145604 20161030_145728

The fireplace in the bedroom has been framed round now instead of going over it.

20161030_145652

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.

20161030_145934

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.

A very big delivery

We’ve made some pretty good progress this week.  Dougie has now got about as far as he can with the electrics until the studwall goes in, but we now have all the cables coming down the walls to where the sockets and switches will be, and they’re all neatly bundled up where the fusebox will be moved to on the landing.

156 armadale - kitchen - 20156 armadale - landing - 2

As we had a bit of bad weather earlier in the week, I asked Pete and the guys to take the kitchen and bathroom ceilings down – Mick strained his back over the weekend so we weren’t able to do it ourselves and I didn’t want it to hold Dougie up.  They found the kitchen ceiling was painted, so at some point it must have just been open to the floorboards above.  I’m very wary about going upstairs now though, as I don’t want to fall through Dougie’s cable runs!

156 armadale - kitchen - 19 156 armadale - bedroom one - 23

We did have our first on-site accident though – a dropped crowbar whilst taking down the bathroom ceiling unfortunately bounced the wrong way off the stepladder and took out the sink.

156 armadale - bathroom - 4

Never mind, it wasn’t a particularly pretty basin, I’m almost pleased to have a good excuse for replacing it!  The bathroom ceiling is nothing to write home about and will be covered up with plasterboard once Dougie has done his stuff.

156 armadale - bathroom - 5

Today is Mick’s birthday and fittingly we had a very, very large delivery – all the Quinn Therm insulation and my flooring 🙂  It took up most of the Rembrand lorry on its weekly trip west!

156 armadale - outside - 9

Amazingly we just about managed to squeeze it all into the living room.  In theory, once David and Dougie have gone through upstairs, we can fit the 100mm stuff into the rafters, which will free up enough space for them to work in the living room.  In theory…!

We’ve had a pretty good day for weather today, which means the roof has made great progress.

156 armadale - outside - 10

Fingers crossed we can get hold of David for next week, otherwise we’re going to grind to a halt again, but for now we’re moving forwards at pace.

Let there be light!

David arrived on Thursday and had a quick site meeting with Pete and Dougie, the upshot of which is that he put the Velux windows in on the side of the house Pete is currently working on and will be back again at some point this week to put the studwork in for Dougie.  I went down on Thursday evening to have a look at the windows and was so pleased that I almost cried!  The amount of light coming into the top floor now is amazing.

20160623_181149 20160623_181518

Dougie is still tunnelling, very neatly.

20160621_084215

And having had a look at our kitchen layout, he’s now more convinced than ever that venting the extractor fans from there and the bathroom through the roof is going to be too much distance for them to work effectively, so he’s having an exploratory dig through the wall to put them out of the back instead.

20160624_171911

I went to Rembrand at the weekend and ordered up the insulation, which came to an eye-watering £1,778.  I keep telling myself that it’s paid for itself once I’ve saved about 4,200 litres of heating oil…  Seriously, as I intend to own this house for a very long time, it’s a good investment.  While we were in there we saw they had an end of line special offer on 18mm engineered oak flooring, so today I’ve been measuring up the ground floor as it looked really nice and at £21.99 a square metre, worth grabbing if they have enough.  (A similar thickness bought online is around £29.99 a square metre.)  Measurements are as follows:

Kitchen – 3.36 x 4.00 into bay window = 13.44sqm
Living room – 3.90 x 4.00 into bay window = 15.6sqm
Hall – 3.20 x 1 plus 1 x 0.52 plus 1.09 x 0.9 = 4.7sqm
Total = 33.74sqm – so I’ll order 35sqm, which will be £769.65 (assuming the price they were showing included VAT…) and if I go and see them tomorrow, it can be delivered with all the insulation on Thursday.
The bathroom will need something different, as engineered wood usually isn’t suitable for use in it, but I measured it anyway – 1.7 x 2.15 to the shower tray = 3.655sqm.

Today we’ve been baking to feed the team next week.  I’ve made a lemon drizzle cake and Mick has gone all in on the sausage rolls after they got rave reviews last week – he’s done sausage, pate, cheese and onion, Mexican-spiced sausage, and wild boar and mushroom!  Also pictured are the custard biscuits I made last week, after I raided Mum’s recipe book while I was away.

20160626_165340 20160626_142838 20160622_210629

The boring bits

It’s been nearly eight years since I last moved house, so I’d forgotten what a pain all the administrative bits are.  Over the last two days I’ve managed to mess up sorting out the council tax (apparently I don’t go on to business rates until it’s available to let, so I tried to apply for a major works discount using their online form and accidentally tried to backdate the claim for two years – well, they asked how long the house had been empty, so I told them!) and nearly mess up sorting out the electricity (didn’t think I had to take a meter reading because it was a PAYG key meter, rang them back to give them the reading, and then got cut off when they attempted to transfer me to the appointments system to get someone out to replace it with a credit meter), but on the plus side, I managed to speak to Pete the Roofer’s recommended electrician, who is very hard to get hold of because he’s so in demand, and he’s said he’ll give me a ring back to sort out a time to come and have a look, and the double-glazing and front door company are ringing back tomorrow to make an appointment.

We had another couple of hours stripping panelling this evening. Some pics from tonight.

We finally found some insulation!

156 armadale - bedroom one - 7

Hole in the wall – not brilliant, but when I put my hand in (yes, it’s that big!) there was no draft, no daylight and no damp.  Phew!

156 armadale - bedroom one - 8

The front wall of the house with the rafters sitting on it.

156 armadale - bedroom one - 9

Someone had carefully worked out the angles of the roof on the back of this bit of panelling

156 armadale - bedroom one - 10

Temporarily distracted by the last of the evening sun as it hits Strathy Point

156 armadale - bedroom one - 11

And the reason all that panelling has to come out – it’s very, very tasty apparently!

156 armadale - bedroom one - 12

Now that we’ve got going, I’ve started using my Instagram account properly, so if you want the pictures-only version of the blog, give me a follow 🙂