Playing House

Progress on the house has been markedly less rapid since the Boy Laurence and left last Tuesday. The first niggle was that the plasterer failed to turn up. He’d phoned last Monday to say that he would be delayed because his apprentice has fallen over and dislocated his shoulder, but that he’d be around that evening to leave his tools. He then phoned to say that he’d be around late that evening, because he had to present his documents at the police station. Finally, he phoned to say that he wouldn’t be turning up that evening at all, since he’d handed his documents in late and was going to be charged (at the time, we took this to mean fined).

He didn’t turn up the following morning, so repeatedly tried phoning him. When she finally got through, it transpired that the reason he hadn’t turned up was that he’d been arrested for violating the terms of his bail, and had spent the night in the cells. He was very contrite, and promised to cancel the job that he’d had lined up after ours, but in a fit of karma-awareness, we declined – why spread the aggro? Besides which, if he couldn’t manage to present himself in a timely manner at the local cop shop to fulfil the terms of his bail, what’s the likelihood that he would turn up and plaster our wall when he said he would. So, on the lookout for another plasterer – one’s coming round tonight to give us a quote, which I suspect we’ll just take.

On the other hand, the delay in plastering has meant we’ll be able to do a few more things in the master bedroom in the meantime. We’ve finally settled on flooring, for example. The floorboards aren’t in too good a shape, and I was starting to get a bit uneasy about sanding them without first replacing a significant number. I spent half an hour sorting through assorted timber in a reclaimation yard in Portswood to find matches for the existing boards to little avail (I’d have to rip them all down to width, which is a major drag). We then looked at Mr. H’s in Bevois Valley for natural carpets, which turned out to be rather not cheap (about £650 for a sisal carpet to fit the room). Finally went to Wickes and found the solution – unstained parquet tiling. Looks good, should be (relatively) straightforward to fix, can be stained dark, and relatively cheap. Bought quant. suff. for the master bedroom and the library, which came to a shade over £220.

In preparation for the parquet, stripped out the skirting boards in the master bedroom (we’ll fit new skirting to cover the expansion strips around the edges of the room). We’ve ordered new timber to replace floorboards with, and the hardboard to level the floor prior to laying the parquet, but Wickes have been a bit useless on the delivery front, so we’re now taking delivery this weekend rather than yesterday, and have added a few extras to the order. For example, noticed that the aerial lead runs down the outside of the house and through the guttering, so we’ll be running conduit for coax down from the loft, through the master bedroom wall and into the living room below.

Electrics continue to be exciting (in the wrong way), so we will be getting an electrician in to check it over. It turns out that none of the fuses were correctly labelled. The 5A fuse marked ‘spare’ actually powers the outside light and an electric heater (on a 13A fused spur, ironically) in the utility room. Presumably that was why the fuse had blown, then (assuming that the one bar fire is rated at 1kW and draws a shade over 4A). It isn’t clear why there is a heater on what is essentially a lighting circuit, nor do I want to dwell to much on what else might be hidden. I’m assuming the wiring is 1.5mm cable and only rated at 5A anyway. Starting to have worries about the length of the (single) ring main. On a lighter note, finally removed the godawful ceiling lights in the living and dining room and replaced them with something more attractive.

Finally, tried to something about the walls in the living/dining room, which went a bit wrong. I tried to skim a small wall as a test, which was just as well since I can’t skim for toffee (especially after lunch with beer). It also doesn’t help that, when the previous owners stripped the wallpaper and repainted, they didn’t bother sanding the flaking paint off the walls, nor washed with sugar soap to get rid of the residual wallpaper paste, nor primed the bare plaster, presumably because they never show that bit in Changing Rooms. The moisture from the skim was enough to make the paint that they’d applied start lifting from the wall under the skim. In a word, bugger. Had a minor tantrum, which made me feel not at all better.

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