Working on the chain gang

So this is how it goes.

We live in a 1930s mid-terrace built by the Swaythling Housing Society to a Herbert Collins design. This is not a “Collins House” – it was built as social housing, and was subsidised with the profits from Collins’ more up-market developments. It is clearly of a lower build quality (the cement render hides some rough cinderblock brickwork) and smaller dimensions than the posh houses on Orchards Way (as will attest), but the design is good, and some aspects of the build are remarkably good.

One of the good points is the downstairs floor. The house is built on a concrete slab, and the floor in the living/dining room consists of pine tongue-and-groove floorboards bedded into a layer of bitumen on the slab. No electrician has ever hamfistedly hacked them around for the simple reason that there’s no space under them to run cables (on the downside, the floors upstairs have been comprehensively butchered, particularly in the hallway).

We decided to get the living/dining room floor sanded. Unfortunately, our initial investigations under the carpet failed to reveal that the gas fitter who installed the living room gas fire had run a gas pipe under the floor in the dining room. He’d lifted – and discarded – a 15′ floorboard running across the house, chased a channel for the gaspipe into the concrete slab, then filled up the floorboard-sized gap with concrete. The floorer has sanded and varnished the living room, but held off on the dining room until the concrete was removed.

I’ve now spent a solid day and a half laboriously chipping this concrete fill out with a lump hammer and cold chisel (after getting the gas pipe disconnected) so that the floorer can lay a replacement floorboard and finish off the job that he started a few weeks ago. I have blisters on my right hand, bruises on the knuckles of my left hand, and an incredibly sore right forearm. The living room looks gorgeous, and I’ve every reason to believe that the dining room will look just as good.

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