Saturday, January 14, 2012

End Credits

Five Estate Agent Valuers
Online Estate Agent
Vendor's Estate Agent
Solicitor x 2
Surveyor x 2
Nice Lady at the Bank
Electrical Survey Man
Damp Proofers
Removal Men
Steven and his marvellous plumbing
Structural Engineer
Building Control Man
United Utilites
Mole Engineering
British Gas
Emergency Gas Repair Man
Local Planning Department
Friendly Councillor
Nine building firms
Carl the Builder
Brick Matching Man
Mike the Site Manager
Matt the Spark and friends
Several plumbers
Several Roofers
Mike the Goundsman (and his digger)
Tate and Danny the Brickies
John Lewis flooring department
Smithfield Kitchens
Smarts Bathrooms
CTC tiles
Steve the Carpet Man
Mr Garlick the fireplace man
Plasterers (and their wives everwhere...)
Linda the Curtain lady
Eddie the joiner
Will and Liam the joiners
Terry the Driveway man
Two garage door salesman
Online ordering
Bombay Sapphire

The End

Before and After...

It's almost 12 months since we completed the sale on our house and we're finally able to look at the 'before and after' of our renovation.

When we told our friends we were buying number 2, they literally laughed at us for taking it on. 'It's awful!' they said. 'You must be mad.' Dr B's parents drove to see and couldn't find the words to describe how they felt about it. 'What are you doing?' we were asked. There had been 'many' viewings according to the man who showed us around. 'But it needs so much work....'

We could see the potential, and crucially, it was on the market for less than we thought it was really worth. We even managed to negotiate a substantial discount on the asking price, though in reality we'd have paid the asking price if necessary because it had such a lot of scope, hope of a great family home.

But all the same I cried when we moved in - the house was in such poor shape - during the first few weeks we lived here, the corpses of dead wasps filled the bath whenever we ran the hot tap. The gas board were called to investigate the persasive smell of gas in the garage, which unsurprisingly turned out to be a leak. Pressure washing the patio caused it to disintegrate due to lack of foundations, the toilet began to fail, the front door jammed, the electrics started to buzz.

Twelve months later, the house is transformed; three bedrooms turned into five. The garage and utility room were demolished, replaced by a larger garage and updated utility with masses of storage. The sliding garage doors were replaced with remote controlled sectional ones. The dining room had it's glass wall and hatch bricked up to become a study and we built a playroom. The kitchen came out five times the size of the original. We replaced the windows and ripped out the fireplace.

Upstairs the grotty floral bathroom was ripped out and the space became a galleried landing. Two new bathrooms were created, each twice as big as the original. Walls came down, doors were moved. Even the bannister was replaced. The house was rewired, replastered and had a new boiler and central heating.

Outside, we replaced the roof, rebuilt the porch and pulled down the cedar cladding and original render to replace it with new. We dug up the shoddy patio, replacing it with granite and widening it in the process. We widened the crumbling drive and replaced it with cobbled setts.

The house is absolutely beautiful - Christmas cards from the neighbours all along the road testament that our hard work paid off; other residents stopping us as they pass to compliment us on the build. The old house was an eyesore, they say - a wreck. "It brought down the area" said one neighbour. "you've had your work cut out."

I'm never renovating another house, by the way. We're here for good now.

Monday, December 12, 2011


It's been a while since I posted any progress on the blog; I've been too busy stressing out about the fitting of the bathrooms and finishing the small bits of the job before the carpets arrived.

Terry the driveway has almost finished - a few days late since some terrible weather consisting of hailstones, thunder, rain and rainbows and not much else in between, and yet despite this he's soldiered on with his hood up and his flask of tea. The results are one wonderful patio and gorgeous driveway. A man who walks his dog stopped me on the pavement today and told me our house is 'the best renovation we've ever seen on the estate.' Another man touched me on the arm last week and complimented me on a 'beautiful job.' I'm so proud of what we've managed to achieve with this ugly old wreck that nobody wanted to buy.

I'm happy to report that the tiler finally 'finished the job', though as I remarked previously, he was spinning too many plates and made some mistakes around the shower area in our ensuite, which led to our beautiful Matki shower valve being fixed to the wall with white silicone when it ought not to be - the plumber was trying to cover for the tiler's mistake but my eyes don't miss much and unfortunately for him I spotted the mistake immediately (as well as several of his other mistakes like radiators that didn't actually warm up). Fortunately he returned to fix the radiators two hours before the carpet fitters arrived because his 'fixing' involved messing up our paint by spraying yellow and brown liquid over the walls and skirting boards and creating little puddles on the floor. It was purely by co-incidence that he came and that the carpet fitters were 3 hours late. Anyway, the mosaic tiles look lovely (see the picture) and I'm just waiting for somebody to fix the shower door he's botched and we've got yet more bathroom tiles on order from Spain.

By the time the plumber left I was ready to chuck everyone out of the house. Never mind that Matt the spark hadn't told us how the underfloor heating works (he'll be back...) or that the washing machine isn't plumbed in. By Saturday evening I'd reclaimed the keys and by Sunday I'd lifted all that cardboard and chipboard that was protecting the floors and seen how great the Amtico looked. We've a few more jobs to do. We're exhausted. The house is truly fantastic.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Go Slow

This is pretty much the face I've been seeing in the mirror since Friday. Having miscalculated the number of tiles we needed for both bathrooms, our tiler has been struck down with some little-known 'slowing down' disease which has left him unable to finish our job. I like him a lot, but he's spinning too many plates and it's beginning to stress me out. The extra tiles for the en-suite had to come from Spain and we'd been making frantic calls about them all week. On Friday morning they were on a ferry but still managed to arrive in Altrincham by tea time, which left Dr B scooting over there to retrieve them in time for the tiler to finish the job this weekend.

Except our tiler had other ideas because the uncertainty over our tiles arriving (which would have been here on time if he'd calculated them right) meant he'd been promised on another job for Saturday, though as our project manager told us, all was not lost because he was coming to finish the en-suite on Sunday and 'wouldn't be leaving until the job was finished.'

On Saturday night I found him at the said 'other job' where I handed him the keys and he confirmed he was due on site in the morning but that he'd only be staying until 6pm because he had to go and screed somebody's floor. The latter comment led to two large gins and a lie down because by now I'm just a teeny bit stressed about the carpets arriving on Friday next week and 'leaving when it's finished' was starting to sound like a bit of a fib designed to keep me sweet. He could tell I wasn't happy because he used the line he always uses when I don't look happy, the line that goes 'we'll have a good day at it tomorrow.' He's promised several 'good days at it' in the last few weeks but none of these 'good days' has finished any of the work off.

This morning I arrived on site to finish some bits of painting that have been hanging over - patches of walls where the plaster hadn't dried in time; a bedroom wall that needed a third coat. It was 10am when I arrived and the tiler had just started work, only he hadn't started work because he'd forgotten to bring any tile spacers to work, which is a bit like turning up at work without your actual head if you're a tiler, so he'd sent his son off to get some and he was having a brew and a fag instead, complaining that somebody had made off with the plywood he'd ordered to tile our mosaic splashback. I suggested he would have to get some more plywood if he was going to finish the mosiacs but I'm not sure he heard me because no plywood was sent for and in the time it took his son to get back with the tile spacers I'd managed to touch up two rooms and wash the brushes.

By 11.30 still no work had been done and his son got back with the tile spacers, at which point I heard him complain that he'd been on site for two hours without doing any work. And then it was time for a fag break.

As soon as work commenced, there was a problem with the spacing of the aluminium brackets holding up the quartz. I didn't understand the logistics (or the measurements) because this was a part of the project that Dr B had been involved in and Dr B was incommunicado because I'd despatched him to the local swimming pool with the children so I could get on with painting some walls.

So Dr B was duly bleeped and turned up with two wet-haired children at lunchtime, at which point we swapped cars and I drove the children home while he worked out what the problem with the brackets was (later reported as 'nothing') and went off to get some plywood so the tiler could get on with the mosaics. By two o'clock he was back home reporting that the room seemed mainly finished with just the floor and mosaics to do - the tiler would drop the keys off to us around 7pm and the job would be ready for the plumbers to finish tomorrow.

The keys were dropped at 7pm as arranged. Our tiler had that look on his face that said he hadn't finished the job (I have come to recognise this face because he's pulled the same one every time he's promised to 'have it finished by the end of the day' and he's been on the job for about 3 weeks now). 'We've not had a good day,' he said as he stood in the porch. I can't honestly tell you why they hadn't had a good day because I couldn't hear a word he was saying with all the shouting and swearing going on in my head, much of which ended with 'sake'. Suffice too say, they yet again haven't managed to get the job finished. He looks almost as stressed as I do. I'm not totally confident I don't need to look for somebody who can 'stay until it's finished.'

Friday, December 2, 2011


Today is the fifth day we've had the pavers on site and in that time, they've dug the site out, stoned it up and begun laying the patio. Looks remarkably like the patio we had in our last house only the Marshall's flags we had there were roughly twice the price of this stuff, which is actually granite - we couldn't believe this stuff was cheaper.

The builders have been back today, though I'm reluctant to give them the keys that John Lewis have handed in as I'm getting tired of the place being a building site and having the keys does give you some sort of control. I'll have to hand them back on Monday but until then it feels like our house again.

Yesterday they got some scaffolding up the side of the house to replace the barge boards and chimney cowl as well as repointing the chimney stack.

Carpets go in a week today. Two weeks today, we'll be home. To our lovely new home.


It's taken five days, but handing our keys over to John Lewis has produced this lovely Amtico floor and we're really chuffed with it. It's called 'Fresh Oak' and all I want to do is look at it. The flooring runs into the utility room and hallway and is now covered with layers and layers of cardboard, sponge and plywood to prevent it being damaged by the workies, who seem to breathe dust and rubble of the sort it's not designed to handle.

Funny - the minute you install a floor, it all starts to come together.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rip it Up

We've reached the much-anticipated November 28th - I say 'anticipated' because it's now week 16 and we expected the house to be finished and ready for flooring. The house isn't finished but John Lewis are doing the flooring and the date couldn't be altered, so today we put the house on lock down for a week and gave them the site managers' keys. Last night I dreamt they sent three fitters who all lit cigarettes in my house and blew the smoke into my face. I'm clearly living on the edge.

We're laying Amtico flooring downstairs and because the foundations are new, most of the floor has to be damp-proofed and re-screeded with a self-levelling compound before they can lay the planks. New concrete dries at a rate of about an inch a month, which means we have only four inches of dry concrete under the kitchen (if you think that's bad, go visit the Hoover Dam - it's still not quite set in the middle after all these decades). The damp-proofing adds £1,000 to the cost of the work but the alternative is to wait for the concrete to dry and there's no way I can live without a floor for that length of time.

I sort of dreaded this happening before the house was finished because it means you can't walk on the floors - trades can't come in to do their jobs, and neither can we. More to the point, the floor costs an arm and a leg. It's not designed for muddy boots or scratchy equipment. The man from John Lewis says we have to cover it up, good style.

We are now fully painted, with the exception of one window reveal (which has been repeatedly overlooked) and the glossing in the master bedroom, which is also inexplicably missing. We have no internal doors (well, we do have internal doors, they are just lying on the floor in packets) and though the glass hob has been replaced, it's been fitted in such a way that we can no longer close the top pan drawer. Each solution seems to bring a new problem.

The family bathroom has now been plumbed in, in fact the bath has been full of water since last Friday, which we think is designed to make the bath heavier and hence the sealant set firmer but we don't really know since the plumbers didn't mention it before they left. The ensuite is incomplete after the tiler once again miscalculated the number of tiles required (we need 32 extra....). We're really hoping the tiles turn up this week, but as they're coming from Spain, it's not as though we can go and get them ourselves.

The Tyrolean render is complete and looks amazing. One of the broken windows for the porch has now been replaced but not the other. The bricks on the porch have come loose, the chimney needs pointing, the cowl replacing. The drains need connecting.

Today our patio and driveway people turned up to rip the ground apart, which is a joy to watch because the previous owner had a thin layer of tarmac poured over the top of her concrete drive and it broke up into grit which was then constantly trod into the house. The back of the property is causing a headache because it slopes upwards and westwards, which requires some sort of retaining wall to stop it all collapsing onto the new patio. Who will build the wall? What will it be made of? The house bricks aren't designed for that job. Terry the patio man doesn't know - he does patios and drives. I hope he does them well because I've been looking forward to this part of the job since we first bought the house. Watch this space.