Friday 31 July 2020

Gymnast on the building site

In a spare moment today I decided to pretend to be Olga Corbett doing a routine on the high beam. I stood on the wall instead but it felt pretty authentic. 
Unfortunately I didn't realise that the friendly delivery guy from the Builder's Merchants was watching from a nearby plot, and he gave a very nice wave, although a round of applause would have been better.

I considered trying a cartwheel but I am quite bad at them at ground level, so gave up with that plan. 
I did spend most of the day painting, but by 4.30pm a wasp was stuck in the kitchen with me and looking very aggressive, so I decided to call it a day. 

Thursday 30 July 2020

Lots of spare screed

The garage floor screeders arrived first thing this morning and were very efficient. By 10am they had finished and gone, and we now have a garage floor that we can park our car in. 

Actually not quite yet because it has to dry out first and then we have to build the driveway to get to the garage, but you get the idea. 
We had loads of spare screed which was what is called a dry mix. It was a very nice consistency, but we needed to use it all up. I started by filling in the foundation trench that I dug two days ago. 

Darren and I then worked together to build a new, and hopefully stronger platform for our water butts. It also used up some of the spare coping stones that were cluttering up the front garden. 

There was still some left so we dug more trenches at the other side of the house. This site was chosen because it was in the shade as it was very hot today in the sun. 
However, my lovely stork looked very happy standing in the sun all day, and he seems to be successfully stopping his relatives from eating our fish.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Last second cancellation

At about 4pm yesterday the guy doing the concrete screeding in the garage rang to confirm that we would be ready for him to come today. That was a shock because we weren't expecting him until tomorrow. 
He said that there might be some spare concrete, so we should be ready with somewhere for him to leave it. 
Panic and action stations, as I set about digging some mini foundations for a future little wall in the back garden.

I got to the plot early today to level it all up and Darren started to empty the garage. With half an hour to go before the screeder was due to arrive we realised that we didn't have any waterproof membrane to put under the concrete so I ran to the car and set off to the builders merchant.
I got back with ten minutes to spare and we managed to get it all laid down. Phew, panic averted. 

Twenty minutes later and with no sign of the screeder I rang and he said 'funnily I was just about to call you'. I didn't think it was very funny, but apparently his van had broken down, so he is coming tomorrow after all.
I then decided to deal with the huge concrete plinth that used to hold the electric and water pipes, but is now redundant and taking up a huge space in the front garden.
We had hoped that we could get it taken away, but that wasn't possible, so I set about digging a hole to bury it.

It took a couple of hours, but by then I had a made a large coffin shaped hole. 
The concrete plinth is on a pallet just behind me and it probably weighs at least half a ton. 
The next step was for us to get long planks of wood and lever the concrete to the edge of the hole. The worry was that it would fall at the wrong angle and then we would never be able to move it. However, in an amazing manoeuvre, we made one final push and it tipped upside down and landed right in the middle of the hole.

Brilliant result and eventually it will be buried under the driveway. 

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Kitchen delivery

All hands on deck today for the arrival of our kitchen. Not for us the IKEA flat pack, we have gone for ready built units that were made in North Yorkshire. 
Susan and the two plasterers gave us a much needed hand to get everything inside. 

It's all in the living room and Darren is keen to start fitting it, but I think that there are some more urgent jobs to do first. 
The plasterers got on well today and the rooms are taking shape. Months ago we made a mistake with the ceiling level in the kitchen and we have 'styled it out' by raising part of the ceiling (otherwise the door wouldn't open) and it looks almost as if we did it on purpose now.

The dark parts are the raised area and the plaster there is still wet, but I like the effect. The hallway also currently has a two tone wet plaster effect. 

We had a final delivery just before we left for the day of two taps that Darren bought online for under £40 but they look amazing. 

Thursday 23 July 2020

More hole digging

I think that I really have dug the final hole for our build. 
This one is for the condensate from the new boiler that was fitted today - hurrah, hurrah. 
As holes go, and I am now a bit of an expert, it was a fairly small one. It only took a couple of hours to dig, and the main problem, as always, is getting through the stamped down gravel path around the house, before then digging out the clay. 

This is the hole and the next photo shows the pipes and limestone soakaway. 

We just need to lag the pipes and then fill it all back in. Unfortunately, the heavy clay never goes back in as it came out, so we will no doubt be left with a pile of spare clay that will have to go somewhere else. 
The boiler and all of it's pipes are looking nice and tidy, although it is not actually working yet. 

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Plastering progress

We didn't get much done on site today, but here is the latest from the plasterers, although I have to say that Darren and I did board all of the ceilings ourselves. 

This morning I had a very long showdown meeting with the Managing Director of the window company and one of his senior staff members. They seemed helpful and genuine, but about a month ago Darren had a similar meeting with the Operations Director who took loads of notes and promised to sort everything out.
Two weeks later we found out that she had left the company, and last week we found out that all of her promises had 'slipped through the net.' Lets see what happens this time.
We then had a lovely afternoon shopping for lights and a water softener machine. We bought lots of lights, but no softening machine yet, although we did see an interesting demonstration of the difference between the local hard water and the fancy softened type. 
It involved a bar of Imperial Leather soap and a washing up bowl and the local water turned really cloudy with scum round the bowl, while the softened water was still sparkly, clear and full of lots of fluffy bubbles. Impressive stuff, but will be buy one? 

Monday 20 July 2020

Plasterers and high level painting

We have found some lovely plasterers and they started work today. They are happy to do whatever is required, so they are starting in the living room which we have fully boarded. 
They are then doing the kitchen where we boarded the ceiling. We didn't board the walls because they all need dot and dabbing, which we hated and was very difficult. 
Later in the week they are going to finish the bathrooms after I decided that my efforts weren't up to scratch. 
I am a bit sad about this, but I gave it my best shot, and I keep telling myself that it is better to try and fail than not try at all. 
While they are inside, we are working outside and Darren has clad right to the top of the staircase.
This is where I came in and headed to the top of tower with my varnish and paintbrush. 

The platform is nice and stable and as long as I didn't look down then I was fine. 
The second coat of varnish is now on so tomorrow we need to take the platform down and start on the sides. 

Friday 17 July 2020


Well, I have the garage back to myself today because all of the baby wagtails have left their nest. The first brave bird left in the morning two days ago, and then sat unsteadily on the back fence as it was fed by it's mum. 
I was sort of lucky enough to see another one leave later the same day. It headed straight out of the garage and up towards the roof of one of our neighbours houses. It misjudged the landing, head butted the top of the wall and then fluttered and fell on to the parapet a floor below. I think that it was okay, but it was a very advanced manoeuvre for its first ever flight. 
The final one really didn't want to leave and spent the whole of yesterday standing sadly on the ledge next to the nest. Very poor photo below. 

It eventually left when I accidentally disturbed it. I thought that it had already gone and so I walked in to the garage and saw it sitting on the floor. It squeaked really loudly and angrily at me, and then it was up and gone. 
It's very quiet without them, but at least I can now get on with insulating and tidying the garage. 
I spent most of today up a ladder trying to make the edges air tight, and I just need to put two layers of insulation between the joists and then it can be plasterboarded.

Not an exciting photo of the inside of the garage, but that's what I've been doing, so I had no choice. 

Tuesday 14 July 2020


Graven Hill have just released another drone photo and our house is in a prominent position. 

The site is gradually filling up and you can see the land at the front of our house. 
This is going to be landscaped and work has been going on for a few weeks now. There is going to be a small toddlers playpark in the semi circle that you can just see in the photo. 
We were quite excited today because the centrepiece of the park was due to arrive on the back of a lorry. 
We were told a while ago what it was going to be, but had different memories of the conversation. Darren was expecting a pirate ship, and I thought it was a tree shaped climbing frame, so one of us was set to be disappointed.

In the end though we were both a bit underwhelmed. It was a huge tree trunk, but it just lies flat along the ground. It's probably a lot safer that way, and on closer inspection it is a beautiful thing that has been carefully sanded and planed, so hopefully no splinters either. 

Also, it isn't finished yet and it isn't for us anyway. 

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