Things you don’t expect to hear from your electrician

“Do you have a small make-up mirror I could borrow?”

I’m quite used to Dougie phoning me from down the road to answer queries, but that one threw me a bit, not least because I’m not really a make-up kind of girl.  However, one rummage through the dark recesses of the bathroom cupboard and I turned up a Clinique blusher compact with a mirror in it (bought for my wedding in 2011 and used about twice since!) and took it down to the house to find out what he needed it for.

As it turned out, he wasn’t planning to restage Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Armadale-style, but had left his own small mirror behind and wanted to check the position of some wiring from underneath the new fuse box.  All was well and we now have sockets upstairs with power to all of them.  The smaller white fuse box in the middle is a breakover switch – this gives us the ability to switch the house onto a generator if there’s a power cut.

Dougie has very carefully covered all the new sockets in protective film and taped around the edges, so they don’t get covered in paint when I’m decorating.

The heating manifold is beginning to fill up, though I’m still trying to get hold of Derek to find out when he’s going to come and finish off downstairs and switch the system on.  The reason I’m getting a bit angsty about it is that we need the heating on for two weeks to warm the wood flooring up so it expands before it’s laid.  David will be doing the laying and then installing the kitchen on top of it, but he has sheep and we’re getting perilously close to the beginning of lambing season!

And I’ve been working away at my bannister – my new specialist sanding tool arrived yesterday, so I hope to have a play with it tomorrow, but I did manage to get most of the upstairs hand rail done with what we had.

Sunday was sheep-moving day.  There was so little grass left on the fields around the house that we decided to move them out to the hay field on the point, which hadn’t been grazed since it was baled in August.  To get onto the track down to the point (Reismeave, to give it its proper name), you can either come out of the front gate, turn left on the road and then turn left again just before the next house, or you can go out of the back gate and through a little gap between the corners of two fields which has been deliberately left for sheep to hop through, dropping straight onto the track and avoiding the road altogether.

Well, the latter option seemed like the most sensible one to us, so Mick set off in that direction rattling a bucket of sheep nuts with 14 hungry sheep following him and Jack and I blocking the escape route to the road.  Unfortunately although the gap is large enough for a normal-sized North Country Cheviot hill ewe, which tend to be on the skinny side, our lead sheep, Bella, hasn’t had a lamb for several years and is therefore a somewhat portly lady.  Bless her, she tried her best, but even with Jack barking encouragement from behind, she was not going to fit through that gap!!

So we went the longer way round and managed not to (a) lose any of our sheep or (b) pick up any belonging to anyone else and the ladies are delighted to have some thick grass between their toes instead of mud.  It’s not a bad view for them either.

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

Exterior finished

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:

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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:

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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.

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.