Sunday, 12 July 2020

Odd jobs today

It's a beautiful summer Sunday, but work today as usual.
I started with acid washing the bricks on the side of the house. I did most of the house while the scaffolding was still up, and I hoped that the terrible weather would scrub the bits that I couldn't reach. However, that wasn't happening and there was still some sections that needed doing. 
Up on the ladder for a couple of hours, but I can tell the difference.

Next job was painting uv protection oil on to the cladding that still needs to be attached to the house. We decided that it would be easier to get one coat on now, and the second on the house when it is finished. 
There was quite a lot, but that's another thing done. 

This afternoon I started a new job that I am not yet very good at, and that I already know that I don't like much, but it needs to be done. 
It's attaching armoured metal in front of the electric cables to avoid them accidentally being pierced when putting up pictures, etc in the future. 
Daz is working on this too and this is a photo of some of his work. 

I am not this advanced yet and have only covered a maximum of two wires at the same time. 

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Water duct sorted

I have mentioned before that our water pipe ducting wasn't deep enough, and I proved this by manually digging it out all the way to the house. 

The contractors have now agreed with me and have kindly agreed to put it right. I was expecting a couple of men carrying spades, but they had other ideas. 

They turned up early this morning with two enormous machines and the first thing that they did was remove the big pile of clay that was in their way. 

I was so pleased because I was planning on hiring a skip and loading the clay into it by hand, but within ten minutes it was all loaded up and gone. 
They then dug a huge trench and our ducting is definitely now deep enough, so there is no chance that it will freeze in the winter. 

What a relief, and a big thank you to the lovely workers. 
Wagtail update - it has been a very noisy and busy week in the front garden, but they have ignored it all and spent all day every day bringing tasty treats to their babies. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Slightly in the doghouse today

I did know that it was Darren's birthday on the 8th, but I lost track of the date so it caught me a bit unawares. We had cake on the roof terrace with S and P today, and it was my turn to buy the cake, but instead of buying a good chocolatey one with candles, I forgot and bought a basic lemon drizzle instead.
Actually it was very nice, and everyone was distracted from this oversight because Kevin McCloud and his team were back filming on our street. 

He stood right in front of our house and then walked along the street doing his piece to the camera. What was interesting was that he probably did about ten takes, and this shot shows him turning around and heading back to start the scene again. 
I have another interesting photo that I took from someone else's Facebook page. I don't think that's illegal, and not many people read this anyway.

Our house is in the red circle, but the photo shows the whole of Graven Hill wood behind us and the surrounding area. His post says that he was in an aeroplane, and we often see gliders above us, so maybe that is how he did it.

Today was a good day for me because I have almost finished putting the acoustic insulation around the whole house. It is amazing how much quieter the house feels, and somehow more solid and substantial. 
Finally, a little update on the plasterboard and plastering situation. I have found a very nice plasterer who is going to do most of the house for us, as I think that otherwise we had bitten off more than we could chew. 
However, we are going to do a few little rooms ourselves, but probably stop once we have used the 50 boards that we had delivered last week. 

Monday, 6 July 2020

Plumbers and baby wagtails

The two plumbers arrived today and got on with the first and a half fix. They are being paid on a day rate, and a cynical person might think that they would take it a bit easy. 
This is not the case at all, and they charged around at a million miles an hour and by about 1pm everything was done. Darren and I were both exhausted when we they left, from having to answer loads of questions about exactly where showers and toilets were to be situated, and putting up a surprise stud wall ready for the radiator pipes. 
The bath is now in the right place and looking very happy. 

Another very happy event took place in our garage today, as our baby wagtails hatched. 
I haven't mentioned the birds and their nest before in case anyone complained about the noise and dust that surrounded them. 
We only found out that the birds had decided to build a nest in our garage when I walked out of it and a very angry bird stood right in front of me. She was leaping up and down and screaching and as I stood to one side she flew right past me and up into the open joists. 
A couple of days later Darren took this photo of her nest and eggs. 

They have spent a week with the electricians who put a fuse board within a few feet of the nest, and today when the plumbers drilled holes in the floor just above their heads. 

However, just after they had left I heard a tiny chirping, and now both mum and dad are flying backwards and forwards with tasty treats.

I have checked online and the babies are due to fly away in about two weeks time, and the garage is due to be nice and quiet during that time. They should all be gone by the time the plumbers come back on the 24th.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Tape and jointing

About 15 years ago I went on a week long plastering course and by the end of it I had come to two conclusions. Firstly that plastering is a very skilful job, and secondly that I was quite rubbish at it. 
I also went on a one week bricklaying course, but that is another story. 
I did pick up some tips though, and over the years I have often repaired small pieces of damaged plaster. I also nearly always then covered my work over with either tiling or wallpaper, so it always looked okay. 
I don't think that this experience qualifies me to drywall, as I think they call it in America, or tape and joint the whole house, but I am thinking of giving it a go. 
I have watched a lot of you tube instructions, and bought a load of tools and I am trying out my skills in the en suite bathroom. I am on day two today, and am noticeably better than yesterday, but I am not sure yet if my work is going to be acceptable.
I do hope so because it will give us a lot more control over the build, and save a lot of money. 

Meanwhile, Darren has been trying out plasterboarding, and today he did the living room ceiling. I also helped a bit by hoisting the boards over my head and then holding them in place while Darren screwed them in. 

I have to admit that I was helped in this task by a dead man, as apparently it is called, which is a long stick of wood that you push up against the ceiling to help take the weight. He is there, right in the middle of the above photo.
Personally I am trying to stay gender neutral so they are now known as the dead person. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Coffee and Henry

Another step in the electricity project today. Our electrician came and moved the temporary consumer unit in to the garage, and we now have extension cables running in to the house. 
Fantastic news, and the first thing that we did was have a coffee. 

What a lovely treat that set me up for the next task - 
hoovering with Henry. 
It is amazing how dusty and unpleasant the house has become, so I spent a happy hour or two smartening it up. 

Not quite so happily I am still on insulation duty, and I spent the afternoon packing it in to the ceiling on the top floor. 

Finally, I don't know how they found this blog, but the Graven Hill company got in touch with me a few days ago and said that they had been reading the blog and found it both useful and informative!
No one has ever said that before, but anyway, we are now featured on the Graven Hill website, and if you are really keen you can follow the link here.....  Graven Hill newsletter

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Next stage of the electric project

Our electric connection is gradually making its way inside the house, and it took another step today. Last week it was disconnected at the box in the front garden and a wire was put in to the box on the exterior house wall.
Today a guy arrived to take the meter out of the garden box and put it in the new box. We still don't have any electricity again yet, because the next step is for our electrician to connect the meter box up with a wire that I think goes to the fuse board in the garage. That's due to happen tomorrow, so I can almost smell  coffee in the house again soon.
I spent another day fighting with the itchy insulation, but I have now finished the ground floor, although I don't think that the bath is staying in the living room.

I only needed to do the wall on the top floor so that was a big relief.


Darren has almost finished the plasterboarding in the en suite so the room is starting to take shape, although this photo doesn't make it very clear. 

Sunday, 28 June 2020

More insulation

At least twice before I thought that I was coming to the end of the insulation process, but yet again I am very wrong. 
This new job is a big one, and quite unpleasant, as all of the ceilings need a layer of fluffy insulation. This is acoustic insulation which should reduce the sounds passing between different floors and rooms. 

Unfortunately, this is the type that is really itchy, full of dust that makes you cough and gets in your eyes. 
I have just got started with it, and have finished the bathroom and most of the en suite. I am getting the technique now though, so should be quicker from tomorrow. 

Darren is working on the bathrooms too, ready for the plumber to come back in a few days time. 
He is putting up cementboard in the showers and boxing in pipes, and the rooms are starting to take shape. 
We are also starting to put plasterboard on the ceiling, which is quite a task. 


Saturday, 27 June 2020

No electricity

It might have sounded as if we had electricity in my blog yesterday, but the celebrations were actually because the electric cable had been moved from the garden where we had a meter, to the outside of the house. 
We have to wait for at least another four days before we get a newmmeter and then electricity working back inside the house. 
We knew all about this timetable in advance, so it was disappointing soon after they had left when Darren leaned out of the window waving his electric saw about because he was surprised that it no longer worked. 
I am also disappointed that the kettle doesn't work, but at least I was expecting it. 
Another person who was surprised yesterday was the gas fitter who walked all over my sweetcorn and sunflower patch in the front garden. 

I don't think that he is used to flowers on a building site and tried his best to avoid them, but he just kept forgetting and stomped on a couple of them. 
It couldn't be helped though, and all was forgiven because he did a good job. 
The plants in the greenhouse are doing well and I have green tomatoes, 

flowers on my aubergines, although I have no idea what to do with them and 

small chilli plants. 

They look quite big in this photo, but I have actually just zoomed in. 

Friday, 26 June 2020

Success with the gas and electricity

Brilliant news today, the gas and electricity men were all happy with the holes that I had dug, so we are all connected up.
In fact the electric guy was amazed that I was the groundworker, and said that the hole was 'perfect'!!
I was so pleased with him that I gave him one of my favourite chocolate biscuits with his coffee.
Not such good news though for the water duct. 
I had dug this out too, and at about 300 mm underground the ducting levelled off, so I stopped digging, because that was where it could be connected. However, the plumber thought that wasn't deep enough underground. I checked this out with the original ground workers who laid the ducting last year, and they said that it would soon go deeper, and I just needed to dig a bit further on.

Well, I dug and dug and it still stayed at 300 mm underground. So I then decided to dig a hole near to the house to see how deep it was there, but I couldn't find the duct (see hole at bottom of the photo). So I resumed digging my trench towards the house. 
After about another hour, and getting tired and fed up, I stopped for coffee. 
Back to work a bit later, and I decided to try again with the exploratory hole near the house, and within 10 seconds I found the duct!!
How annoying is that. I had dug about a quarter of an inch too far to the right, but anyway, it was still only at 300 mm when it should be 750 mm. 
Not sure what to do about this at the moment, but at least I don't need to go to the gym for a very long time.

Quick fish update, they have settled in very happily, eat a lot and swim out to see me every time I walk past. 

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Digging holes

Top tip for today, no matter how hot it gets, don't wear shorts and then crawl around in the mud digging holes. You will end up with very dirty knees and look like a 12 year old boy who has fallen over playing football. Sorry no photo of this as I am too embarrassed. 
However, I am very proud to present photos of some of the holes that I have been digging over the last few days. 

Actually, I wasn't in the best of moods at this moment, and I didn't actually dig all of this hole, but I did have to link it up with a big hole the other side. 

This is one of the holes that I did dig, and it is so that a gas supply can be connected up and then taken to a box at the side of the house. It is then linked up with another hole that I dug there too. 
There is another quite deep hole for the electricity supply and yet another for the water. 

The exciting thing is that the company are due to come tomorrow to connect the gas and electricity, and I hope that they will be happy with the holes. 
Last week after the Great Downpour, the gas hole was almost filled with dirty water and there are thunderstorms forecast overnight, so I hope that they miss us out this time. 
In case you are wondering, I tied a long piece of string to a bucket and emptied it out by hand a couple of days ago.
Meanwhile, Darren, who does all of the difficult and technical tasks, has bought a fantastic machine gun style screw gun and has put in the first of many hundreds of pieces of plasterboard. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Visit from Grand Designs

No, not at our plot but at our very near neighbours. We knew that Kevin McCloud was coming and I spent the whole day scanning the street and nonchalantly popping out in to our front garden just in case he was passing at that exact moment.
Unfortunately we missed him completely although we did see lots of his crew and cameramen.
Our scaffolder, who we are now on quite friendly terms with, did turn up and spent the afternoon topless while putting up the scaffolding on the site, so he might well be on the programme once it is ready.
Thank you to Paul for this rather distant shot of what I believe to be Kevin McCloud on another plot. 

I think that's him on the second from the right. 
Today I bought a load of porcelain floor tiles and am using them to build new flood defences for the garden after last week's flood. 
I have dug down just in front of the new fence and buried two thirds of the tile into the clay. It's hot and hard work, and I haven't done much yet, but I need to go all the way around as thunderstorms are due in a few days time. 

Hopefully you can just see the tiles, and see the dreadful state of the grass that is covered in clay from last week. 
Darren has also put the panels back on the fence, and it is now looking pretty nice. 

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we also ordered the kitchen, got the garage measured up for a door, and are setting up for a potential fight with the window company. 

Monday, 22 June 2020

Staircase cladding

We got to the house today and saw that the cladding that Darren put up a few days ago was covered in white streaky lines. 
We were really surprised and I decided to wipe it off with water, but it only made it a lot worse. 
In a panic I telephoned the company who sold us the £400 fire retardent paint, who said that we should have painted the varnish on before we let it get wet, and there was now nothing that we could do.
Oh no. 
However, when I went back outside a while later, it all seemed to have dried and was looking much better. We then spent time experimenting with wiping it gently with water, sanding the damaged bit which definitely didn't work, and finally varnishing an area to see what happened. 

Unbelievably, once we had varnished it, then most of the damage disappeared and it still looked good when we left tonight. 

Hopefully it will still look good tomorrow and I will give it another coat. 
From now on Darren will put up more cladding and then I will varnish it straight away, and we do have a heatwave coming up, so hopefully we can get to the top before it rains again. 
Also, our next door neighbour spent a lot of time today levelling the fence, and Darren is going to put back the panels. 

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Final stud wall

I spent another day trying to make the house as airtight as possible with my silver tape, while Darren started putting up the stud wall on the ground floor for the downstairs toilet and store room. 

Not very glamorous, but every day counts. 

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Silver foil day

Yesterday we finished putting the endless tubes together for the MVHR machine, and today Darren switched it on to test it.
Touch wood, it all seems to work nicely and all of the vents in thehhouse either suck or blow as planned. 

There are two huge tubes that lead to the outside and one was blowing out a gale, and the other was sucking like a hoover.
I then spent the morning covering the tubes with insulation, and I would like to see any air try and escape through it now. 

I then spent the afternoon taping silver foil around the edges of the windows to make them air tight.
Darren spent the day putting up the cladding on the staircase, and you can see one of the vents from the outside. 

Ps, I can imagine what you are thinking, and yes, it is a massive monster. 

Friday, 19 June 2020

Too much rain

A few days ago we set up our water butts in bright sunshine and hoped for a bit of rain to get things started.

It was then a case of being careful what we wished for, because the heavens opened when my sister and brother in law visited.
At first it was just a few huge raindrops and was quite exciting. It quickly got faster and we went outside to check on the downpipes. 

It was pouring straight into the first barrel and within a few minutes it was full, and then the water started flowing through the joining piece into the second barrel. Soon Darren found a problem because the water was flowing in more quickly than it could fit through the pipe, so it all started overflowing. 
I then looked at the back garden and flood water was pouring in under the new fence and soaking the garden. 
Fortunately the inundation went around the fish pond so they didn't all float away, but the garden is looking very sorry for itself at the moment. 
On the bright side, all of the water butts are full although I won't be needing them for a while.
I also need to build up the flood defences which were taken down when we got the fence. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Drama with the fence

So last week the fencers, who it turns out are not actually fencers, finished the fence. (They are bricklayers who are doing fencing because they aren't busy at the moment.) 
From our garden it looked very nice, definitely exactly down the boundary line, if a little uneven. 
However, from our next door neighbours side it looked terrible.

I didn't even get around to taking a photo when it was all intact, but after a meeting between us and the neighbour, it has already been taken apart. 
The fencers turned up just as we were taking it down, so I had a bit of an argument with them and they went off in a huff. 
They also did some good work and levelled the space around our back door which is great, and built us a small retaining wall which is not so good. Unfortunately there are no weep holes in the wall, so I have dug out all of the soil behind the wall and Darren has drilled weep holes for me.

I have back filled it with gravel, put in some weed proof membrane to stop the soil getting through and then put in a few plants. 
All very frustrating, but it will be good when we have finished it for the second time.
I should have sent this yesterday but didn't get round to it, and I now have a bit of a jam of stories piling up. 
To get a quick one briefly out of the way, for those of you interested in our fish, they seem happy and are exploring their new territory.