« January 2011 | February 2011 »

3 posts from February 2011

26 February 2011

The Renovation Diet

Up until this past week I was beginning to be reminded just how bad building work is for the figure, especially in the winter.

Cold weather justifies an almost daily bacon sandwich and the mild but chronic stress/excitement of witnessing the house you bought for hundreds of thousands of your own pounds being destroyed while spending hundreds of thousands of even more pounds putting it back together demands an additional and plentiful supply of cakes and biscuits, at least in my case.


But then last week happened. And I lost five pounds. Why? Because it was the very worst week, and I can only write about it now because the sun is shining and I've had some sleep. 

First, my elusive roofers were on site on the Monday. Good news. In fact, fantastic news. Then I discovered that the temporary roof protection they had installed had failed once more and we have lost even more original parquet flooring. They have since re-covered the unfinished roof and there has been no further water ingress, which shows they can do the job properly but it's always after the damage has been done.

Then they caused really serious damage. So serious that the programme has been set back by at least a further two weeks, on top of the delays caused by asbestos, snow and the roofers not being on site when they said they would be. So really, really bad news.

At the same time I was trying to negotiate on the growing number of variation costs that are coming in, to not only fail, but also managing to upset my main contractors with my ruffty-tuffty big city ways, which is also really bad news as I really think they are great. N J Whittaker (see Nick, I do mention you, and I do mean it) are not only the most professional firm I have ever worked with, but very supportive in liaising with sub-contractors and just a really nice bunch of people, as most people are in Devon.

Then in the midst of all of this, while on site trying to deal with everyone and everything, with my wire haired fox terrier Larry on site inspecting his garden and wondering when he would get it back, poor little Larry, a stately 13 years old (91 in human years), who is also "partially sighted", fell about 7ft off our terrace, which I witnessed out of the corner of my eye.

I rushed to him in his almost normal looking lying-on-tummy landing position and lifted him to make him stand but he just kept leaning over to the right and falling over. I then saw a little bloody gash on his head. Mildly hysterical and furious with myself for being so irresponsible I gathered him up and rushed him to the vet's, almost crashing with one of my builder's vans on the way.

Once at the vet Larry was checked over for broken bones - none found thank God - but also immediately hospitalised and I was told I would be called in a couple of hours with an update on his condition.

With things kicking off on site it was probably just as well I had to return to try and sort things out. Which I did.

But reader, for the first time ever, I'm afraid I did the very worst thing a girl can do on a building site. I cried. Kev, the roofer, even felt compelled to put his arm around me. Given the rarity of his appearance I should have grabbed that arm and handcuffed him to me until the job is complete.


Now it's Saturday. Larry is completely and utterly back to rather odiferous, cantankerous and hirsute normality (note the bald patch on his right leg where the drip went in, and the cardboard boxes we are living with); Nick and I are friends again, I hope; I've chiselled away at the budget to try and cope with the variations, which to be frank is a daily task really; and I've reprogrammed works so that we can move forward.

However,  that plan is entirely dependent on the roofers. If they do not appear on the 7th March and work for the rest of that week and ultimately complete the job then we are well and truly stuffed. We will have a half finished roof and therefore an unprotected house. We can't move forward on the main contract either because you can not start dry lining and plastering until the building is water-tight. And our moving in date will be but a mirage.

Mr Roofer has said he will be there, though he hasn't responded to any of my e mails this week. The frustrating thing is I do believe he is a real craftsman  - he does beautiful lead work and he really knows his onions. When he's been around he's been great with coming up with clever design solutions and I can see why Alumasc recommended him but I suspect, like many guys in this game, they take too much on on the one hand and on the other, don't realise how important it is to communicate openly with clients and be honest about their situation so everyone knows where they stand. Roofing is particularly perilous because it is so much at the mercy of weather conditions.

I might want to lose weight but please not this way!

16 February 2011

time waits for no man except, it seems, my roofers

A six week job approaches its sixth month.

Most recent "activity" consisted of being promised site attendance last week only to have a single person on site Thursday and Friday. 

This week the most imaginative excuse for breaking the "promise" to attend first thing Monday I have heard for sometime, consisting of a fan belt, the Welsh mountains and lack of mobile signal.

A "promise" to attend at 8 sharp Tuesday translated into showing up sometime after 8.30 after an essential Macdonald's breakfast had been consumed, this communicated to me with perfect nonchalance.

As a result works to the interior are being seriously held up now - our main contractor quite rightly not wanting to install new ceilings while the roof is incomplete and after the considerable and considerably expensive damage caused by extraordinarily inadequate protection at the beginning of this project.

What is absolutely breathtaking is when I imagine myself behaving like this with my own clients. And I simply can not imagine it. This complete lack of respect for others and pride in ones professionalism is unfathomable.

And it is a shame because, it seems at least, the quality of craftsmanship is good. If only the quality of customer service could match up.




07 February 2011

Where the "Cygnet Period" meets the Bronze Age

IMG00446-20110128-1315 There comes a time in every project - usually around the middle - that you could call the "Cygnet Period", where the house you spent thousands on and then spent thousands more ripping apart looks utterly forlorn, broken and caked in mud and, moreover, where very little appears to be happening.

Mute Cygnet 2 

But in fact a whole lot is going on unseen, probably more than at any other time in the project - where you are leading the team through the travails of unforeseen challenges, where you are scrutinising every unforeseen cost - adding here, taking there. Where you are desperately trying to make sure everyone and everything is turning up on time. And trying to make sure people tell you when they need things by, rather than letting you guess.

But what appears above the surface is not the mythic, pristine and graceful swan, furiously paddling beneath, but a rather shabby looking cygnet, albeit a cygnet that will, though you can barely believe it, turn into that fabulous swan.

Hence my recent lack of posts noted by a surprising number of you.

And what have I been doing?

Well I discovered that the wonderful people at Barber Wilson are pulling out all the stops to supply me with my own range of new brassware to install into our "master bathroom", I have confirmed all my other sanitary and brassware orders with the friendly folks, Steve and Claire, at Honiton Tile and Bathroom and those incredibly efficient boys at The Showroom (my order an entirely chrome/brushed steel/nickel-free zone), I located the rather amazing Feature Radiators who are making me a "landscape" towel rail in a sprayed coloured finish at the excellent price of £300, I've booked in my SEC boys for yet more asbestos removal, we've had our drains relined and the septic tank emptied by the impressive Drainology, I found an amazing company called Rocco Stone in Cheshire who are supplying me with great big 900 x 600 slabs of flamed granite for my kitchen floor and outdoor paving at a jolly good price (which is just as well as I had not planned an entirely new kitchen floor). I've also found a beautiful terracotta tile to go into the dining room from, and I love the name, Floors of Stone. I've had to sit down when I got my quote from Mr Resistor. I've been trying to grasp the finer points of carpentry as we attempt to fit a perfectly straight fascia board to the perimeter of a very wobbly roof. And I've been working/procrastinating/deliberating on my joinery drawings, of which there are quite a few, the kitchen proving to be a special challenge for some reason. 

What is exciting is my bronze windows have started to go in and they look amazing (though my rubbish picture plus the mud doesn't really do them justice). All they need is the bronze window handles which I had to buy specially from Allgood. Unfortunately no such solution for the handles to the sliding doors and we have had to go with hideous roundy ones, one of two options from the manufacturer. I actually preferred the alternative but husband doesn't want to be flipping the flipping handle all the time though he says the one he preferred make the doors look like something out of a call centre - fear he has a point but I have searched high and low. Maybe we can customise??

And my luscious outdoor lights from Engineering With Light are due to arrive tomorrow.

So, I guess I had better get on with those drawings......