David’s back!

And he’s doing a wonderful job 🙂  The kitchen cabinets are finished, though we’ve decided not to glue the upstand in place until Dougie’s installed the extractor fan and we’ve put the splashback in.  The oven’s been slid into place to save space, as David’s brought both his saws inside due to the weather.  Just the knobs to go on the doors now.

He’s also nearly finished the window seat.  I’ll be painting this white and then getting a seat cushion made for each end.

Mick finished the wallpapering.

And Pete came by to put the ridge on the barn roof, so we’re now watertight again – no bad thing, given the weather over the past few days!  He’s coming back tomorrow with a hearthstone for the bedroom fireplace.

Finally, I have to commend the Highland Council’s Council Tax department for their efficiency.  After a few back and forths with them when they kept sending me 200% charge council tax bills and I kept writing back to say the house was still uninhabitable, I sent them this website address and said they could keep an eye on my progress this way if they liked – after which no further bills arrived.  They obviously have been dropping in occasionally, as about 10 days after I put this post up to say we were just about mortgageble, I got a new bill putting me back up to the 200% charge!

Cracking on

So, what does a house need to be mortgageable?  A roof – check.  A working kitchen and bathroom.  Er…

Doing a bit of digging, it seems that the definition of ‘working’ is fairly lax and as long as you’ve got a loo and a sink hooked up in the bathroom and a sink and somewhere to stick a microwave in the kitchen, you’re more or less okay.  Mick donned his Mario overalls and set to work on the plumbing.

New loo – this cost £55 from the local branch of William Wilson.  The seat is absolute rubbish, but the rest of it is absolutely fine and I was always intending to put a wooden seat on it anyway, so not a problem.  We have a small issue in that the pedestal for the sink isn’t deep enough to cover the outlet pipe, but Mick reckons he has a solution to that, though he hasn’t told me what yet!

The kitchen sink is also plumbed in and looking good.  I am SO glad I went for ceramic rather than the composite one, though we were slightly nervous when the time came to whack it with a hammer to knock out the disc for the tap hole!  Fortunately nothing cracked.

There’s some slightly complex pipework underneath – feeds and outflows for the dishwasher to the left and the washing machine to the right.

As for me, I’ve been ploughing on upstairs with the painting.  Second coat of primer on the woodwork today, so the aim is to get the white top coat on the woodwork tomorrow and then paint the wall on Friday, meaning that I mask off the white wood rather than the colour, as it seems less prone to peeling off with the masking tape!

I sent David a text yesterday to find out how he was getting on with his new build, and to my delight he finished last Friday.  He’s off to his sister-in-law’s wedding and then has a lamb sale to go to, but will be back with us after that, so that’s either a week today or two weeks today, depending on whether he’s going to Dingwall or Lairg to sell.  I also messaged Dougie, who is off on holiday for three weeks on Saturday, but will be back with us when he returns.  It does feel like the beginning of the end now!

Frustrations

Guess what?  The income statement turned out NOT to be the final hurdle.  They decided they wanted to see my 16/17 accounts as well, so my very patient accountant prepared them for me and I sent them off at the beginning of the week – after first checking that this time they’d be happy to have it as produced by my accountant’s software, because HMRC is stopping doing printed SA302s for mortgage applications as of 1st September and there’s a 2-week delay between your tax return being uploaded and them being able to send you one, so I’d fall outside the cut-off date.  The building society passed it direct to the underwriters on Wednesday, who scheduled Saturday for a review of the whole application, but I was told I likely wouldn’t hear from them until Monday.

So I’ve been a bit twitchy this weekend.  The double bedroom has had its second undercoat and the ceiling has had two top coats.  I’m currently about half way round the first base coat on the woodwork – I’m going to give it two coats of primer this time and hope that means I only need one coat of the final Milk Bottle. I also think I might have to re-paint the kitchen a different colour.  It was originally intended to be something close to Farrow & Ball’s Cooking Apple Green, but when the paint in the Crown kitchen range I was looking at online turned out to be much, much lighter on the tester, I panicked and grabbed that Island Blue instead.  But I like the muted dark green so much upstairs that I’m considering trying to find something close to Cooking Apple which will stand up to kitchen wear and tear – or maybe even splashing out on a can of F&B Modern Emulsion.

Kitchen or bust – did we make it?

The week started with David finishing off the kitchen floor.

and then moving through into the hall.  It was a slower job than I’d anticipated, mainly because of the amount of work it took to carefully cut all the edge pieces to fit around the door and the stairs and into the understair cupboard.

On Tuesday, Dougie turned up and he and David loaded the kitchen into the back of David’s van and brought it down the road.  Units started to go in.

and Dougie got the bathroom lights fitted as well.  They’re 18-watt LED lights and are VERY bright!

On Wednesday I added to the growing paint mountain when I realised that (a) I hadn’t bought the colour for the twin bedroom and (b) I’d only got slightly off-white paint for the ceilings, not the woodwork.

On Thursday David got the living room floor down

and got the wall units over the sink up.  We ended up having them about 70mm higher that we’d originally intended, because David thought to check the height of the tap versus the base of the cabinets and realised that you were going to skin your knuckles moving it if we had them as originally planned.

On Thursday night I cleared out and Henry’d the bathroom, all ready for David to lay the floor in there on Friday.

On Friday we hit a snag.  I was mucking out the horses’ field when I realised that David was standing in the garden.  He’d discovered that the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom, which was one of the few we hadn’t done from scratch with the studwork, didn’t have studwork in the right place to hang the wall cabinets from.  My options were (a) he broke open the plasterboard, put some wood in, replasterboarded and then I skimmed, sanded and painted again, or (b) he could go into town and get a hanging rail from Howdens, which is a metal strip that could be screwed into the existing studwork to hang the cabinet on.  We ended up with option (c) – I drove into town to pick everything up and he got on with flooring the bathroom!

I was also under instructions to pick up an upstand for the kitchen worktop.  Because the kitchen/bathroom wall isn’t quite straight, there was a gap of a few mm between the worktop and the wall towards the corner, and David felt that adding an upstand would be a better option than filling it with grout.  So I trundled into town in our ancient pick-up truck, which has a 3-metre lock box on the top of it.  The hanging rail came in 2.4m strips, the upstand was 3m lengths – and was about an inch too long to fit inside!  The Howdens manager had a brainwave and ran back inside for a roll of pallet wrap.  A bit of clingfilming later and I was good to go.

So where did we get to by the time David packed up his van on Friday afternoon?  Well, we had a complete downstairs floor, because he finished the bathroom.

And the kitchen?  Well, we didn’t quite get there, but it was pretty close.

Dougie needs to come and wire in the oven, hob and extractor fan (if you can make out the white-edged rectangle on the left-hand wall, between the cabinets, that’s where David did have to break open the plasterboard to install some studwork for Dougie to attach the extractor to!), Mick needs to plumb in the sink, dishwasher and washing machine, and then we need to make up the two big drawers which will go in next to the four-drawer unit, put the shelf in the corner unit, put the innards in the plate rack unit above the sink and fit the doors and kickboards.  Oh, and that upstand needs attaching to the worktop.

Also still left for David to do – downstairs skirting boards and door frames, fit doors (which we haven’t bought yet), make a cover to hide the pipework in the hall, do the window sills in the living room and kitchen and fit a thin piece of wood around the bottom of the landing bannister spindles to hide the underfloor heating.  He’s going to come to us any days he’s not needed on the new build, but work is going to slow down again now.

I haven’t exactly been sitting on my backside all week, I’ve been painting.  The double and single bedrooms both have their undercoats and the ceiling in the single room has had its first top coat.  I’ve found that I’ve been getting really sore forearms using the roller, so have switched back to a brush.

Sunday I skived off the painting and instead we wrestled the sheep through a footbath (twice) and then I went up to the hill to put my peats up.  Last time we were up there, we were laying them out flat to dry in the sun.  They’ve shrunk somewhat as a result (these were pretty much edge-to-edge).

The idea is to get as little of the peat in contact with the ground as possible.  Some people make mini-Stonehenges out of them, some stand them up on their ends perpendicular to each other for support and some put them up in a herringbone pattern by getting a small chunk of peat to prop up the first one and then laying peats at 90-degree angles to each other.  I went for the herringbone.

I got the long side of the bank done and then my back told me that if I wanted to be able to move today I’d better leave the short side for another day, so I’ll try and get back up there tomorrow and finish them off.

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!

Kitchen or bust!

Great news – we didn’t just have David for today, we’ve got him for THREE WHOLE WEEKS (excluding this Friday when he has to go and do something else) and that hasn’t involved either shackling him to the old tying-up rings in the cow byre or bribery with baking!  The bad news is that come the 24th, he will be tied up on a new-build house for at least 6 weeks, so we’ve agreed that we’re all going hell for leather to get the floor down, the kitchen in, the window and door surrounds done, the dado rail installed round the top of the panelling upstairs, the window seats topped off, the fireplace surrounds done and the landing cupboards built.  He’s kindly said he’s happy to come over on a Saturday when he’s working on the new-build if we need him, but I’m hoping that three weeks will be enough to get us mostly sorted.

So July is definitely going to be a very, very spendy month.  David went into Thurso with a big shopping list of wood, so I have to go into Rembrand and pay for that on Wednesday, and this evening I’ve been researching kitchen appliances.  Looking at my rather neglected original budget, I had in £2,000 for all appliances, and I am very proud to say that I’ve come in at £2008.96 including free delivery to the Highlands.  That’s an oven, hob, extractor fan, dishwasher, washer-dryer and fridge freezer, all of them given favourable Which? reviews.  I used Currys PC World via Quidco* (2% cashback!) and they had some on-site discount codes as well, which took £160 off the total.  Very pleasantly surprised that they offered free delivery to my postcode, which generally gets lumped in with Orkney as it starts with KW (Kirkwall) even though it’s on the mainland.

Everything should be turning up on Tuesday 11th.  The plan is that this week David works on the upstairs rooms while Mick and I get downstairs prepped and painted.  Next week David will move downstairs, making sure the floor is laid in the kitchen by the end of the week.  The third week we’ll try and get Dougie in on the Monday for the joint visit and that will be kitchen installation week.  Wish us luck – we’re going to need it!!

Traditional Easter

Easter weekend and DIY – as British a tradition as toast and Marmite 🙂  We have been no exception, although I had to bow out gracefully today because I’ve pulled a muscle in my back.  We’ve made progress though.

Mick has plasterboarded one of the dormers upstairs.  Originally this was just a flat ceiling, but I wanted it opened up and I’m glad we have, though it’s going to be a git to plaster.

Talking of which, I’ve nearly finished plastering the kitchen – just the sides of the chimney breast and the window to go.  Mick started to sand down the dried stuff, but his lovely new random orbital sander worked for about 15 minutes and then the motor burned out, so that’s going to be a phone call to the place he bought it tomorrow!

While I’ve been plastering, Mick has been plumbing and the shower mixer is now plumbed in and plasterboarded over.  We thought we could hear a drip, but when Mick took the right-hand sheet of plasterboard off, everything was bone dry and we couldn’t hear it any more, which is a bit strange.  We’ve left the plasterboard off for now and will investigate properly next weekend.

Spoils of my last shopping trip – black slate to tile the shower with, a mosaic tile for a border, teal paint for the double bedroom, grey for the living room, platinum for the bathroom (which will have one dark grey feature wall opposite the shower) and sage green for the single bedroom.

Pete’s done an amazing job with the fireplace.  The mortar has faded as it’s dried (the close-up was taken on Friday, the wider angle today) and all he has left to do is clean the stone up and then he can fit the stove.  I’ll be asking David to finish it off by doing a return back to the stone and then a simple wood frame around it, painted white.

I heard back from my friendly mortgage broker on Thursday.  He wants to approach two different lenders and asked me to fill out a chunky form with all our financial information and send it to him, together with Mick’s payslips, my tax returns and copies of our credit reports.  I’ve pulled it all together over the weekend and emailed it over today, so all I can do now is cross my fingers.

One year on

Unbelievably, it’s exactly a year today that we got the keys to Ethel’s.  That was the day we confidently expected to be welcoming our first guests when we got back from holiday in October – how wrong can you get??  Right now, I’m crossing everything very hard that we might just get our first visitors this summer!

Mick has spent most of the day down there putting up the kitchen ceiling, so Dougie can now fit the ceiling lights in the kitchen and bathroom, and Derek has said he’ll be here on Wednesday to finish installing the heating.  Assuming he does get it all done in one day, I can then ask David to reserve us a few days in a fortnight’s time to get the downstairs floor laid and install the kitchen.

Once Mick was back to dog-sit (our young collie is going through a phase of eating things he shouldn’t when left unsupervised during the day), I went down the road to get to grips with my new toy.

Appropriate gear was donned (this is SUCH a good look for me….)

After a couple of false starts before I worked out I could turn the speed down a bit (I’m sure the small chunks it took out of the rail will buff out), I got to grips with it.  The sanding reel seems best for the spindles, but the little flapper disc has done a great job on the groove in the bannister.  Unlike the random orbital sander I was using before, I do have to remember to sand with the grain using this.

With potential heating next week, I also needed to check we had some heating oil.  No glass level on the tank, so I found a stick and we appear to have about 4 inches left.  I should be okay to leave ordering until April.  One annoying thing is that the main filling hole is padlocked and none of the keys we have seem to fit it – either that or it’s rusted shut.  I think the tankers can fill it using the smaller one, but they’re not keen on doing it because it slows them down.  The little spike thing with the wire appears to be some sort of wireless level-checking device, called a Watchman, made by Kingspan Environmental.  I’ll contact them and see if it’s possible to get it working, as I’m guessing Ethel and John never used it.

The final job down there for the day was to feed the ladies, who were most unimpressed at me being late.

It was a beautiful evening – dare we hope that there’s a touch of spring in the air?  This was taken on the way back up towards Ethel’s from the sheep field on the point.

Is that a room I see?

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.

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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.

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Upstairs, David has made cracking progress with the framing and Mick has been able to get some more insulation in.

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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.

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Sorry Royal Mail

So I’m very impressed with B&Q.  Not only did they get my paint to me on Saturday (the delivery estimate was Monday) but the cashback also tracked as a percentage of the full price of £580 rather than the discounted price of £400 (which I guess may change before it’s paid out).

The problem is that Royal Mail up here isn’t really set up to deliver 100 litres of masonry paint, so when all the boxes turned up at the sorting office in Thurso, they filled three parcel yokes on their own and wouldn’t fit into the postman’s van.  So James the postman was asked to come and knock on my door during his normal delivery round to see if I was going to be in at 3pm, which I was, and they put them into a van of their own which they gave the driver who comes round collecting from all the postboxes to deliver to me.  Absolute gold star to Royal Mail for that one!

The boxes are now taking up a big chunk of my annexe and I now have a bit of a problem.  I got the quotes through for the kitchen and the plain Burford and the Burford Tongue and Groove were the same price, so I get to have my T&G 🙂  The issue is that it’s their stock take at the end of the month, so the quote is only valid until 29th October, but if I order, pay for and take away my kitchen by that date, they’ll give me another 10% off.  Which would be no problem if it was flatpack, but Howdens’ units come ready-built.  I think for an extra £264 off I will make them all fit somehow…