Fitting Out – Part two

Now, anyone who has read the previous posts will probably be thinking,

“I thought the kitchen was finished in time for the wedding ?”

Well, technically, yes.

However, it now had to be plastered, have coving fitted, be painted, have the hob connected, have the worktops sanded and sealed, have splash backs made and fitted, have flooring laid and finishing woodwork done.

There were no great dramas getting this done. I was now a dab hand at plastering and coving. For any plasterers reading, yes I cut the mitres myself and they are all spot on. None of your “off-the-shelf” pre-cut jobs for me. Plastering around some of the units was time consuming but when finished, you would never know.

We did have a debate about the splash backs. There was a momentary dalliance with an IKEA system, then the more usual tiles but finally, (and based mostly on cost), it was decided that we would use MDF, routered, (by me), to look like T & G and painted, (again, by me). Costs ? One sheet of 2400mm x 1200mm x 18mm MDF – £18. Paint – left over from doors and windows. Cheapest tile coverage – £58 plus adhesive and finishing pieces. No comparison and £40+ saved. My friends have all been asking where we got the splash backs from, so they must look ok. They look great to us.

The gas fitter returned and connected the hob and the worktops were finally sanded and sealed. Cornicing was installed to the top of the units and kickboards to the bottom. Finally, the flooring was laid and the open shelves and accessories that had been carefully stored for over a year, got to see the light of day.

Since the new kitchen was an open plan design, integrating a new hallway, that area was finished too.

We decided on a colour scheme of greys. As it turned out, we were “bang on-trend” as interior designer types like to say. I’d like to take credit for being on the cutting edge of fashion but my wife and mates know that has never been me. The truth is, we liked the colours. Initially, I wasn’t keen on the idea of starting with grey plasterboard walls, plastering them, sanding them, painting them white to seal the plaster, then painting the whole lot grey again but when it was done it looked really good, so that was that. The finishing touch of putting up my framed album cover collection, gave the whole thing a rock’n roll edge and really set the tone for the rest of the house. (Come on. You’ve seen the photo. I think I’ve done quite well to get this far without mentioning music. Hello Cleveland !).

I said there were no great dramas ? Step forward the cats. There is something about a dark hole just big enough to get your head through that is manna from heaven to a cat. Maybe an animal expert could explain. The said “dark hole” was the access from the sub-floor for the water and waste pipes, inside the kitchen sink cupboard. The cats duly obliged their curiosity and both disappeared down the hole into the sub-floor. On finally returning to their point of entry some two hours later, they decided that this was no longer to their liking and was now too small to squeeze their royal backsides through. After another hour of unsuccessful coaxing with food and snacks, they both made the mistake of turning their backs. Animal lovers, stop reading now. Tails make good handles in times like these and both were extricated backwards via the tiny hole, unceremoniously, amid much squealing and wailing. Suffice to say, they won’t be in a rush to do that again.

There’s only so much you can do after you get home at night and without the pressure of a deadline, it is difficult to stay focussed and motivated. Having to look after a seriously immobile wife added some stress and effort to normal life, not to mention the drop in income with her not being able to work. I could go into a tirade here about the NHS, Doctors, Hospitals and the DSS but I’m not going to. Suffice to say, the effect on the build budget was severe. However, by July 2010, the pain from the still undiagnosed back injury was now being managed and she was able to return to work. This took some of the pressure off the finances and we were able to get on with the rest of the rooms. Next up was the new lounge.

Although I was now quite comfortable with plastering, the vast expanse of the ceiling in the lounge was a daunting prospect. It was the largest single area I had attempted to date, at 20m2 and it was approached like a military operation. I know plasterers use stilts but I didn’t have those, (nor did I have the required circus training), so I set up a low trestle system of scaffolding boards instead, which meant I could reach all areas of the ceiling without stopping, moving gracefully, (ahem), from one board to the next.

It worked a treat. That is, until halfway across the ceiling when the sun decided to make an appearance outside, (an occasion usually met up here with cries of, “Whit’s that big orange ‘hing up in ra sky ?”) With the glazed frontage to the new lounge, the temperature rose rapidly, even with the doors wide open and the plaster started to go off in proportion. It was now a race to the death. Even stepping from board to board like Fred Astaire on Speed it was a losing battle. Then, just when things looked bleak, a saviour arrived……in the form of a huge dirty black rain cloud and the orange thing disappeared never to be seen again that week. The temperature dropped again and the whole thing was able to be smoothed and polished without further drama. Job done.

After that, the walls were easy and were done in one weekend. The coving then went up swiftly and without issue. One of the joys of doing all the internals yourself is that you can take the time to make sure all your walls are plumb and all your corners are 900, not 860 or 940. It makes mitres so much less time-consuming. After that, the entire room was once again painted white and it was time to decide on the final colour scheme. Off we went to the builders merchants.

After going through all the paint charts, the swatches and the match-pots to no avail, in a moment of clarity and inspiration I suggested that maybe we could just continue the colour scheme of greys through from the adjacent hallway. This idea was met with resounding approval and as an added bonus, we already had enough paint to do three walls, so there was a budget saving as well.

Painting done, the flooring was finally laid, skirtings, facings and finishing joinery fitted, windows washed and that was it. It took about five minutes to move the sofas, tv unit and coffee table in and within half an hour of finishing the room, it was like we’d always been in there. Reminiscent of the opening credits of The Simpsons….

Next up was the master bedroom and en suite.

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