In some respects, not much seems to have happened in the last month — sometimes, during a build, it can feel like little is moving forward. Bruce (my builder, who, with his wife Kathy, is building his house on the adjacent plot) and his sons have moved across the driveway to concentrate on his house.
They have a final date when they have to leave their rented accommodation. I accept that we haven’t got a finite date as we’re currently living in an apartment that we own and, although it’s getting more and more crowded with furniture and bits and pieces for the new house, we’re relatively comfortable.
But don’t get me wrong. It’s still a disappointment to arrive on site and see that some things look just the same as they did the day, or even the week, before. It’s a feeling I am well used to and it’s a feeling that I suspect all self builders will experience at some point.
The Kitchen Goes In
Looking at things more closely and, in particular, looking at the photographs that I’ve taken since last month, I realise that quite a lot has actually happened. The kitchen units arrived. We bought them from a local specialist and supplier Lydney Bathrooms, and when they arrived and Bruce’s son Ollie started to assemble them, we were all amazed at just how good they were.
They’re German. In itself, this is typically a hallmark for quality. There’s such a feeling of rigidity and solidity about them. The doors and drawers are, of course, soft closing, but they glide in silently and they don’t just come up against rubber stoppers but have a seal around their total circumference. The kickboards fix on ratchet clips that hold them down to the floor and their underside has a rubber seal that is clamped against the tiles. Needless to say, I am really pleased with the kitchen.
To top it off (quite literally) local monumental masons ME Damsell & Sons fitted the quartz worktops. These are off-white with a slight sparkle to them.
Mike Damsell of the company had a great idea while they were on site: he suggested that, rather than having the 100mm upstand all around, the worktop should be installed right up to the underside of the window sill and that the window sill should also be in the quartz. It looks great and it does away with the need for wall tiling, which I wasn’t that keen on anyway. We’ll have a clear glass screen behind the hob unit, fixed with mirror screws, as a splashback.
My wife Linda was thrilled with the refrigerator, which has a full-height larder unit (the freezer is going in the utility room), and the double oven and dishwasher is in — all by AEG who contacted me through Lydney Bathrooms and told me that they were having a promotion and that I qualified for a £225 cashback, which they duly credited to my account!
All terrific. So was/is there a catch? Well, yes. When choosing the kitchen, I didn’t pay much attention to the extractor hood in the showroom. I gave it a cursory glance and said ‘yes’. Ollie duly fitted it and we hated it. It was too low and, as he explained, he couldn’t get it any higher because he was limited by the roof as to how high the external vent could be.
We went back to Lydney Bathrooms and had a closer look at alternatives. And there it was. We’ve chosen, carefully this time, a unit that will be at the same height but which, instead of presenting itself in a horizontal plane, is at an upward angle. It’s in black glass, which matches the hob and they let us have it for just £141 — the price they’d pay for it, with no profit to them.
Second Fix Gets Underway
Elsewhere, Andy, who worked on our two previous homes, has been getting on with the floor tiling and the second fix carpentry, much of which he’s already decorated.
Bruce also nipped in and fixed the wainscoting in the en suite. It replaces tiling in all areas except the shower cubicle itself, which Andy has fitted already. It’s not traditional vertical boarding — I found an MDF substitute, which comes in 560mm x 900mm panels costing just £11.25 each.
It looks great. But, although the description says that it’s moisture resistant, two of the panels that were fixed to studwork – rather than to a solid wall – have warped and will have to be replaced. It’s a problem for now. I don’t think it’ll recur when it’s all painted in a light blue gloss and I certainly think that it will always be a lot more stable than individual boarding, which, almost always, shrinks back and exposes the joints.
Meanwhile, we’ve ordered the carpets, which will be fitted shortly. I have also scheduled our furniture and effects to arrive a few days after the carpets go in. We may not be entirely finished, but the first floor is virtually done and decorated and most, if not all, of the furniture can go up there. At least we can then stop paying £366 a month to store it.
Progress On Site
Outside, the front garden is now largely backfilled. Once Bruce’s LPG tank arrived he was able to bring soil and spoil from the back to cover both tanks.
The sewage treatment plants also arrived and Bruce and the boys will shortly be concentrating on getting the drains in and then sinking the tanks into their positions in the ground, beside the garages. That’ll then mean that we can cast the slabs for the garage and carport and build the rear retaining walls.
Our plumber Matt, who’s Bruce’s nephew, has also visited the site and he’s gone away to price up and buy the boilers and radiators for the projects. It won’t be long before we can fire up and run the underfloor central heating – not that that’s vital as far as making the place warm is concerned – the woodburning stove in the lounge seems to pump heat throughout the whole house.
So all in all, quite a bit has actually gone on since last month’s article and, in a few weeks’ time, I’m certain it’ll all come together. If we don’t move in when our furniture and effects arrive, it’ll mean that we can take our time unloading the more than 60 boxes, rather than – as we’ve done so many times before – spending our first weeks stumbling about through piles of old cardboard and paper.