It’s been ages and ages
It’s been ages and ages since I last posted.
I could tell you that I’ve just been too busy to post, I could say I had a spell of illness and was too sore to post, I could say that I’ve been too lazy to post…
Well, I could say a lot of things and generally, I think that all of them in some way would have an ounce of truth in them.
I’ve done a lot, well I’ve worked a lot and I have little to show for my endeavours. I seem to have worked on projects and not only have I not written down what’s been done but I’ve also neglected to seek out my little camera and record them for posterity.
Anyway working with the media I have to hand I can say with some confidence that I’ve:
Put a cold water storage tank in the attic.
I got a bit architectural on this… I could have just put a tank in the attic on an adequate platform but I got a bit carried away with the structure. What should have supported a couple of hundredweight of water should now provide an adequate shelter if there’s ever a nuclear attack. The thing’s bolted and screwed, it’s trussed and double-trussed, it’s just a badass tanks support.
Put a new rising water main in the house
The idea of the tank was to improve water pressure in the house. The timing of the tank deliberately coincided with the new utility room renovation.
The utility room is the last room I need to work on, the cold water stopcock and ingress into the house is in the utility room. Cold water from the utility room is shared around the house via a nobbly old bit of 15mm copper upstairs. My mission now that I had access to this room was to divert the supply from aforementioned nobbliness to a brand new HEP20 22mm rising water main that I’d chase into the wall and course through the house.
This, in turn, would supply the cold water tank and upstairs fresh water taps with higher pressure water from the new wider, higher bandwidth piping.
Or so you would have thought.
Put in more and more plumbing
Bought quite an astonishing amount of pipe and fittings from Screwfix
Once the tank and rising water main were in place then it was a matter of re-plumbing everything to meet the new requirements of the new pipework and tank.
Some fantastic work later and I had a matrix of pipes coursing into the attic, all on ball-lever valves. It looked wonderful.
I had a couple of disasters, not least flooding the utility room when I’d managed to get an airlock in a pipe and while clearing it I’d forgotten to seal off the end of the pipe with the airlock in. So upon clearing the pipe I worked upstairs unconscious of the mayhem ensuing in the downstairs utility room. It wasn’t too bad actually, flooding is possibly too strong a word for it, damp is perhaps not strong enough though.
Anyway, at the end of it all I very Frankenstein-ly switched on all the large lever valves, the tank started filling and all sorts of gurgling and popping ensued. I may have even shouted the odd “It’s Alive”…. followed by maniacal laughing.
Now let’s cut back to the original plan, what was all this work meant to achieve:
Improve hot and cold water pressures to taps
Insert a break tank into the system to allow me to install a power shower pump.
Well, I switched on the hot water and there was no improvement at all.
The cold was barely better
The tank though was there and in place and will provide the necessary break to allow me to use a power shower pump.
So all in all a bit of a disappointment, however now that the break tank is in place it means I can pump water to the taps as well as the shower. The only problem though is that the twin impeller for the power shower that my wonderful sis and bro-in-law gave me won’t do the job, I’ll need individual pumps for both the hot and the cold (to allow taps to be switched on independently).
More expense and shopping later I’m now the proud owner of a Stuart Turner Monsoon pump, I just need to find another matched pump on eBay for the bargain price I got the first for.
Fitted a couple of lights into the attic.
I’d planned ahead and once I’d fitted the light switch on the upstairs landing I had a cable ran into the attic.
Once I was working in earnest on the attic super-structure in the attic I got quickly tired of working with floor standing halogen lights and decided to implement plan two and use this pre-planned lead and put some more permanent lighting in place.
Balancing on ladders on bits of wobbly wood stretched between attic joists is not recommended, but by gosh I managed to do it and I got a couple of light fittings fitted into place.
It took a bit of fiddling to get it working, it turned out there was a bad connection and after taking up the floorboards and mucking around for a while I discovered it was because the light switch (which I’d looked at first) was wrongly wired up.
Anyway, the lights made a big difference, not only were they more convenient but they were less fatal to the flying insects in the attic. When working in the past with the halogens I’d noticed that once every ten minutes or so there’d be a zzzzzt as some insect would meet its demise on the extremely hot halogen bulb.
I don’t know where they were coming from but something must have laid a bunch of eggs up there and they were waiting for their opportunity to hatch.
Anyway, I had a bit of an Amityville moment when working up on the platform for a day I glanced up at the ceiling to notice a swarm of houseflies circling in a rather demonic manner.
Now I hate killing things, I have been known to put silverfish into the lift in my previous flat, I will not touch a spider, woodlice are given outside accommodation, wasps and bees are rescued, well you get the picture. However normally I will shew a housefly out of the house but in this instant, I somehow left all of that at the attic entrance and sought out anti-pest measures in the form of a can of RAID I had from a previous infestation.
Now I’m not proud of what I did and I’m certainly not proud of the results too, as not only did the RAID perform it’s lethal function but it did it in a rather torturous fashion, not instantly killing the poor little flies but rather extending their agonies. They all dropped buzzing through the loft hatch and then proceeded to die on every window ledge in the house, giving me an aide-memoire of all my evil doing at every turn.
Not good… but at least after that first day, there were no longer any more outbursts of insect life… and death.
I got rather sick
I was putting my little girl to bed one night.
Every night – up to this day – I have to coerce her into bed with a set routine of various exercises. zOne of these being “robots”… in robots I am a robot, I pick her up and throw her onto the bed then I repeat… Now before you reach for the phone for the local social care unit you have to understand that I do this at my little girl’s insistence, she loves playing robots.
Well, this one night we were going through our usual routine. me being the aforementioned robot I picked her up and threw her on the bed, then straight away and my second and final throw and ping… ouch, that didn’t feel good.
Hmmm, I read her a story and tried to get up….
Double ouch not good at all.
I went downstairs, headed off home and after a night of tossing and turning I got up and struggling into my clothes I somehow managed to get to work.
This was a particularly difficult week, I had audit in..
By lunchtime this wasn’t going to work, I headed to the doctors, he prescribed me painkillers and told me to take two weeks off work.
I took the painkillers, entered a world of yellow submarines and enjoyed a couple of days of complete abandon. After this I then entered the world of pain of complete and utter constipation – little buggers had managed to achieve what no other drug, illness or amount of eating the wrong diet had managed and bunged me up good and proper.
This was a hell I’d never encountered before, it was without doubt one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life… I don’t know why I’m sharing this… perhaps it’s because I doubt anyone would ever get to read this far but it really was awful. By the end of the two weeks, I was just about recovering but it still took some time to get over the effects of the drugs and the backache.
I put the door handles and locks on
This was a job that I had not looked forward to but it was a job that someone recovering from a bad back and aherm… you know what… could do without stressing too much.
I’d managed to get the panelling off the doors – thanks Dad – I’d got the doors stripped and rehung, thanks, sis’ and bro-in-law – I had then wood filled where the old handles and locks had been fitted incorrectly and now all I had to do was fit the handles, locks and door keeps in their new positions.
I suppose I hated doing this job as it was one that involved skill and concentration to get the door keeps and lock fitted perfectly in the right position and there were seven to do.
Anyway I did it, it all fitted and worked too.
I also bought some fancy escutcheons too, they’ll look lovely once I get around to fitting them.
I had my wonderful sister and bro-in-law back over
The wonders that can be achieved with two pairs of extra hands on board and those four hands belonging to my big sis and her hubbie. They are just fantastic, not only a great help but a great motivator when things are getting a bit lonely.
They were on board for a five days, my house was a tip when they’d arrived but they went through it like a spring cleaning whirlwind. My tools were all itemised, dust was dusted, floors were mopped and cleaned and it was just a fantasy of things being put into place. One doesn’t appreciate what it’s like working in a dirty hole, day in day out just trying to get things to work. Well a shovel full of tidying and organising and things are much easier to stomach.
The utility room was to be next on my agenda and they went at it hammer and tongs. I had not appreciated just how much junk had amassed in the time that I’d been there. I was a trip down to Homebase and a purchase of a bunch of 64 litre Really Useful Boxes that managed to break the back of the room. This job alone would have taken me days, it would have certainly been one of those that I’d underestimate and set me back another week. Sandra and Russ were tougher than this and sorted everything into boxes and transported them to the safety of the master bedroom.
Actually the master bedroom merits a special mention in the cleaning stakes. It had become my unofficial task room and had suffered from an afternoon of wood sanding. I’d underestimated the amount of dust and sawdust that the exercise of sanding my railway sleepers would have generated and in a short amount of time I’d reduced the room to a dusty disaster zone. Sandra and Russ had had to tackle sawdust everywhere, even the ceiling wasn’t immune from a thick layer of misery. They’d had to dust and hoover everything, the curtains were clog-tastic with sawdust, they’d had to be taken down with the nets and washed and taken back home to their home for some steaming and ironing.
I decided too to get a heap of wood delivered, mainly to finish the boarding out of the attic. I was very aware that my back could still be a problem so I ordered it while they were helping me out. I know that sounds mean, by needs must, I was a bit crook and it needed sorting sooner or later. So a large dollop of chipboard and some vastly long beams arrived one day and dutifully they were unloaded and found their way upstairs with the majority going into the attic for fitting.
The windows too were in for an upgrade – see below – Sandra and Russ were the muscle that got them fitted and also the fastidious polishers and painters that prepped everything ready for them to be inserted.
On top of it all – apologies if I’ve forgotten anything – but they were the nuts and bolts of this week. Without their input, spirit, generosity and ingenuity lots of stuff would not have happened. I’m still suspicious of them going to the shops to buy a bundle of rather expensive really useful boxes, armed with my credit card they were to purchase them on my ticket. Looking back at it now the receipt did seem a bit inaccurate (certainly wasn’t really useful boxes J ) Call me Mr. Suspicious but I reckon they dipped into their pockets to help me out on this one.
Love you both 🙂
Triple Glazed Windows
One of the biggest jobs over the weeks that have passed was to get the second bay windows and the arched stained glass window secondary double glazed using my patent double glazing technique.
This would involve stealth, smoke and mirrors… and rather a large influx of cash.
The glass was meticulously measured and purchased from the wonderful Sealed Units Online http://www.sealedunitsonline.co.uk the tricky bit of all of this being the arched window, not only is it huge but I was very aware of the ease at which I could get it all wrong. In an effort to ensure it was right I actually measure the arch and then armed with my measurements I made up a template out of cardboard and pressed this onto the window to see if they matched.
Anyway as intended the glass arrived on time and in the capable hands of Matt who kindly carried them into the house… as my back was still recovering. I was rather rude and forgot to offer Matt a cuppa for his efforts before he whisked off on another job to some far flung corner of the nation. I was not happy with myself, I’m better than that… usually.
The glass was cut to perfection and my measurements fitted almost perfectly. There was a little adjustment to do here and there but mainly this was due to the frames being a bit twisty and out of kilter.
In order to fit the frames properly it involved a lot of frame sealant: internal frame sealant, external frame sealant, frame sealant for sealed units the amount of cartridges I went through was rather spectacular. Top this up with glazing sealant too, there were empty tubes everywhere when I finished.
As jobs go it was initially simple but became more and more complex as it went on. Removing the beading was going to be simple but in the bay window the beading was found to be an intrinsic part of the frame itself and not just a simple matter of pranging it off with a hammer. Out came my multi-tool and perched on the top of a ladder I spent a rather scary half an hour trimming it off bit by bit.
The simple act of removing the frames went reasonably well in the bay windows but it revealed a little rot here and there and some uncomfortable holes that needed filling too. There was also the necessity of trimming the bottoms of the frames so that they would fit flush in the frames, unlike the higgledy-piggledy fashion the previous fitters had left them in. So even before I started the strenuous job of filling every gap with frame filler I had to cut and fill the wooden frames themselves.
The arched window was a nightmare, just getting the bottom frame out was a terrible job and if I hadn’t had San’ and Russ to hand then I’m sure it would have ended in a disaster. The frame was a mess the bottom rail was rotten and on removing the frame it started to dissolve, without three pairs of hands it would have leaked a large section of carefully manicured stained glass onto an unforgiving landing and that would have been that. However as we had hands a plenty things didn’t go too badly and we teased the frame and glass out without a hitch. I then removed myself, glass and frame to the utility room and remade the whole of the bottom rail using some timber I had to hand, a lot of filler, glue and some beading I’d bought to finish off the job. A bit of sawing, planning, gluing, sanding and painting and you’d never know it was a new part.
The sawing of the stained glass bottom rail and containing frame was rather clever too, the main window has always been rather skewiff and I managed to saw the other frame and window frame in a manner that offset this skewiffidness, once refitted it looked a dozen times better than it had. This was something that has really bugged me for ages, I was rather pleased with the results. It all needs painting from outside now but once it’s done it’ll look fantastic.
Frames sealed, glass glazed, holes filled and a rather lovely set of brass locks fitted the glass was ready to fit.
The glass as mentioned need a bit of adjusting to put in, nothing too difficult but it would have been a terribly tough job without those extra hands to guide it in and out during all the trimming. I know I have taken the lion’s share of the acclaim for the fitting but there were large dollops of input from my glamourous assistants in the fitting of these windows, not least frame sealing, insulation strip fitting (lots of E profile draft excluder fitted), glass polishing and lots of manual labour too.
Once fitted it was out with the decorative mouldings to replace the temporary screwed in latches we’d employed to hold them in place. This was a long job with lots of mitred joints and lots of fitting, adjusting and refitting before some wood filling, sanding and painting. I’m now nearly done but I still have yet to fit the arched decorative cover and the final sand and paint to the other windows.
It makes such a difference though, not only to the heat on the landing and study but the sound from outside is so reduced it’s quite amazing.
The utility room is my last room.
The utility room was the room I was looking forward to doing the most.
Not only because it was the final room but because I felt it would be an interesting and nice room to do, oh how wrong was I?
First jobs done by Russell and Sandra were to clear out the shelves and park the contents neatly in boxes upstairs. Job done…
Next it was up to me to strip out the room, well how simple is that, the walls were hardboarded over so how tough could that be… oh and strip out the two cupboards too. Ninkle.
The cupboards proved to be rather tenacious and removing the glass without breaking it was extra troublesome as it was fixed into the runners and not the usual simple lift and tilt exercise. These took ages to get out and as they were fixed rather permanently to the walls they caused quite a bit of damage on removal.
The hardboard was really well fitted, in fact it was fitted to green hardboard tiles underneath and these were neatly fitted to battens that had been screwed into rawlplugs into the walls. A very neat and well done job, that caused havoc with my walls to get them off.
On removing the hardboard masking the chimney breast I found that there wasn’t a chimney breast at all. There was only a gaping gap up to the ceiling, nothing but a bit hole.
The hardboard around the sink and corridor wall held back a picture of some dampness on removing this hardboard the plaster was flaky and a single hammer blow brought down a large section around the sink. In fact, I removed lots of this plaster back to the brickwork were it had eroded – I reckon it was due to a lot of things but a drippy water boiler could have had a lot to do with the problem.
Anyway, the best I could do was removed everything, I removed any nasty plaster I found, all the hardboard, all the electric wiring and any battens or hardboard. I ended up with a nasty mess of pockmarked and naked walls, an empty chimney and third wallpapered room.
Moving on with the project I had then moved onto fitting out the rising water main and a radiator in the study, a new hall radiator and the radiator fitted in the corridor to the utility room. This meant lots of chasing in of pipework, the study even used a stretch of utility room wall so it was out with the angle grinder, goggles and respirator for my last foray into dusty wall work – at least I hope it’s my last foray.
Anyway fitting the radiators proved expensive as I’d bought the wrong type and it drove me mad having a slightly slimmer one fitted until I relinquished and bought the correct fat ones I’d had all along. Still I had found places for the slim ones to be fitted so it wasn’t too much of a problem.
Once the main and associated pipework had been fitted, the radiators hung and rehung then I could get on with a spot of plastering.
First though I needed to get the chimney void filled in, I did this twice as my first attempt didn’t involve any damp proof membrane and I concluded later it must need some DPM so I ripped out my work and started again.
Basically, though I cleaned up the void in the chimney, filled where it needed to be filled and then framed it out with some C16 timber. I then lined the void with some thick plastic sheeting, stapled it all in place with my new funky stapler and then filled it all up with insulation. Once this was done I shuttered it all in with plasterboard.
Next, it was on with the plaster and out with the bags of bonding plaster and buckets of water and pain.
Normally I don’t mind a bit of plastering but this was too much, there was just loads to do, the room was a mess and I didn’t enjoy it at all. I got covered in the stuff, the walls did too, the floors got a helping and there was dust and goo everywhere.
Once this was done though I had to tackle the finishing plaster, this is even less fun than the bonding plastering as it involves six stages of applying plaster and polishing it. The chimney breast took a five hour shift, one sitting, no breaks to get it finished. The corridor looked less but took as long and the bit near the sink took forever. It was really hard work, my arms and hands were in bits afterwards. The finish was better in some places than others but it would still take a lot of filling and sanding to get it mirror finish in some place.
Next to tackle the last of that wallpaper, hey well that will only take a night to do… Wrong…..
The remaining thirds of the walls had rather nasty gnarly paper to remove but the ceiling had the dreaded woodchip… with… a layer of gloss paint over it… nooooooo
Even with a steamer the ceiling took an hour to shift a square foot of paper, it was only with the help of the Zinster Spider that I managed to eventually pick up the pace a little. The ceiling in the end took a full two hour shift to remove one strip of paper from one end to the other. The full room took nearly three days to complete, I still have yet to remove the paper lining the shelves in the cupboard, I know that I’ll crack a small bottle of bubbly once I complete this, as this – fingers crossed – is the last of the wallpaper I’ll need to remove from the house.
I now need to fill, sand and paint the walls and ceiling, to fit a plinth for the washer and drier, to fit a floor and skirting, paint woodwork, fit wiring, make a sink unit, fit taps and plumbing and generally do another dozen jobs before I can finish what was going to be my favourite room.