Friday, April 22, 2011


Checking my spreadsheet this evening, I plucked up courage to find out what we've spent so far. The answer is £6200. As far as I can see, this has bought us two windows, a fireplace and some nice drawings. Another builder came to price for the job today. 'I hope you've got lots of money' he commented as he studied the plans. I wasn't sure he was right for the job - the flashy range rover isn't quite the 'salt of the earth' image I'd been expecting. Dr B felt the same. It's all very well finding a lower quote, you have to feel you could work with the builder.

Today's was the seventh builder we've had looking at the plans and this one came with some sort of water divining rod to work out where the drains run. It's a time consuming process with much to discuss, though let's face it, since the fiasco over the tree survey we've got time on our hands. Two have sent back quotes, two are pending. The others seem to think it's too big a project for them, though you'd have thought they might call to let you know after all the time it's taken up. The path to a 'finished' home seems very long from where I stand.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Windows. That Open.

Two new windows yesterday. UPVC, work of the devil. Can't help thinking they're an improvement, all the same. This photo is like a before and after shot. Can't wait to get the downstiars done to match.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Take a Seat

You mean I didn't show you our downstairs loo? What an omission - surely the jewel in the crown. The suite's by Twyfords and I know it's 'aqua' because the colours are timeless. It's absolutely bombproof and I'm sure some reclamation yard will give us £75 for it because there are people out there who like this sort of thing. That's the water meter sitting on the skirting board. Yes, the picture matches - it's my 'Australia Blues' - made it myself without ever realising it would be the perfect match for a cistern.

And then theres's that wallpaper, which is peeling away to reveal the rotten plaster that needs knocking off, and the 'vacant/engaged' door lock which is so bad it's good. There's no heating in this room so it's freezing cold in winter - those doors have got to go too. All in good time.

It's being done the first week in June.....

Project WC - start here

We might be waiting for planning permission, but there are some jobs we can be getting on with to avoid doing everything at once. Our next projects are the downstairs loo (aqua suite, rotten spore-ridden plaster and carpet that smells of well, wee) and splitting the master bedroom in half to create two smaller bedrooms. However, none of that can be tackled until we've replaced the affected windows, partly because replacing windows later will damage new tiles but also because one of the new bedrooms would be left without an opening window.

Incredibly, most of the windows to our front elevation are non-opening; huge plates of glass 2.7 metres wide, which I'm sure would break several building regulations and send jobs-worth types spinning. Like sixties cladding, they were once the done thing (our neighbour has the same).

The top picture shows one of the first to be replaced - one window frame spanning two rooms (bottom of the stairs and downstairs loo). You'll be relieved to hear that the right hand panel is obscured glass but I've never seen anything quite like it - the dividing frame disappears into the dividing wall leaving hardly any visible frame wherever you view it from.

And then there's all the hand-wringing and soul searching that goes on trying to decide whether to use UPVC (apparently the work of the devil) or aluminium or wood. Wood is traditional but we've had wooden frames in the past and they require lots of maintenance. In any case, the variations in our brickwork make it hard to decide what colour you'd paint them, which means you'd probably paint them white and from the road they'd look exactly like UPVC anyway.

And then there's aluminium, which is about 25% more expensive and comes in an array of colours, the only one of which I like is the gunmetal grey. This would work beautifully against the rendered parts of the front elevation but wouldn't look quite so right against the brickwork, which kind of counts it out.

We're going for UPVC. Eddie the window man rang this evening to say our first two windows are ready and wanting to know whether he can fit them on Wednesday. The handles are chrome. I'm going to use them with gay abandon...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Full Time Position

I'm fast coming to the conclusion that renovating a house is a full time job. I've tried this line with Dr B and he's having none of it, since he's got used to my bit of income and he's in no hurry to spend any more of his life in the Bupa Hospital to furnish us with Grohe basin taps. Today he spent 2 hours talking to a man in a kitchen shop - he arrived armed with a design drawn by Wickes (and if you're considering a Wickes kitchen then I hear they're well made but that there's a company called Benchmarx that supply exactly the same for a third of the price). The man in the kitchen shop is lovely, he tells me. His name sounds French but he looks like an Arab, though none of this is relevant because he's never built a laundry chute and though he's love to have a go, he'd be adding £1000 to the price for the experience. You see, kitchens are much more complicated than they look, especially when you 'factor in' the utility room and you realise you need a belfast sink for dirty boots and a tap with a spraying arm for all-round cleaning. And a laundry chute coming directly from the bathroom, of course - though I'm not sure how you stop other things coming from the bathroom into the utility room - you know, like noises. And then there's the appliances and the tricky question of whether they ought all to bear the same brand name. Would I be the laughing stock of the school playground if I mixed Neff with Seimens? Do I play it safe and go for an unbranded island hood? 90cm hob or a metre? Chicken or beef? The kitchen man has nice painted doors and you can choose any colour of Farrow and Ball you like, which I realise isn't the main consideration, but perusing the F and B colour chart is so much more fun than looking at dishwashers. Dr B thinks I'm the sort of girl who chooses a car based on it's colour. I'm not - I choose it based on the colour of the seats. Don't tell him.

Trees, Roots and Planners

Seven weeks after submitting planning permission, we were due to receive a decision next week. And then, you know, get building - which is handy, since we're living in an electrical deathtrap (okay, I exaggerate) but still - we know the electrics are shonky and we can't re-wire until we rebuild.

Anyway, the planning department have pulled our application saying it was never valid in the first place because it wasn't accompanied by a tree survey. The tree survey adds no new information (well - there are some trees, but they don't affect the build and the build doesn't affect the trees). So we have to begin the planning process all over again. They have to write to the neighbours to tell them 'look! pretty trees!' and the eight weeks shall recommence.

So frustrating. Our architect completed the paperwork and ticked the box indicating 'no trees' on the boundary. He says this is standard practice. I can't help thinking it's put us back two months. Dr B disagrees but then he always sees the positive.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Continued costs

Still waiting for planning permission. The process takes 8 weeks and so far it's cost us £1300 for the architect's drawings and planning application. Oh yes and £150 to apply for buildings regulations. Today we have a tree surveyor drawing a sketch of the western boundary of our property, identifying tree types and taking photographs. One of the neighbours has objected to our plans, based party on the fact he has trees on the boundary. The planning department has asked for tree survey so they can work out what we'd need to do to protect said trees. There goes another £250. Still, it's nice to talk to the surveyor and learn what's in the garden - a massive beech tree at the end of the drive, a laburnam and some fruit trees (he's not sure what fruit so we'll wait for summer). Structural engineer has dropped us a line. He wants £750 to tell us where to put the steel in the roof. House continues to bleed money from every brick.