Fitting out – Part three

Looking back on all this writing, perhaps a time check is in order. We are now at 2nd October 2010.

Perhaps that gives some idea of the time it takes to do this stuff yourself and hold down a regular job at the same time. Perhaps it also gives an indication of how long it takes me to write all this…

As I mentioned way back at the start, the master bedroom has a vaulted ceiling. This is approximately four metres from the finished floor level at its apex. As also previously mentioned, plasterboarding it was a right laugh. Now I had to plaster it.

I know it is generally recommended to start with ceilings but to be honest, I couldn’t face another Herculean task at that stage. I’d been at it so long I needed a little respite, so I opted for the walls first.

However, even these were larger than normal, as with the open height space and the roof pitch it was 3.00 metres from floor to pitch line, rather than the standard 2.40 metres. Regardless, I bit the bullet and got on with it.

I have to say, even now, I was very chuffed with the results. These were the first walls I didn’t even have to think about sanding, so smooth was the finish. I might finally have got the hang of plastering.

Luckily, around this time, I had a week’s holiday from the day job, so I just cracked on and plastered as much as I could, finally ending up with only the two sloping sides of the vaulted ceiling left to do.

However, at this point, life intervened again. There was the small matter of a first wedding anniversary, closely followed by hospital appointments, Harry Potter films, school concerts, ice skating lessons and finally, a cat who decided to go AWOL in a Post Office van and disappeared for two weeks in the run up to Christmas, (I am not making this up). These all conspired to swallow up what little spare time there is at weekends and evenings, especially in the winter months. There was also the small matter of the -180 temperatures to put up with. Those tend to put the kybosh on working outside. I finished a multitude of small jobs such as dry fitting the en suite plumbing to make sure it all fitted in my design and hanging doors but essentially I put away the tools for Christmas.

Refreshed after the Christmas holidays, on 3rd January 2011, I got stuck back in and decided to tackle the plastering of the vaulted ceiling. Here’s where another spanner was flung into the works. I had borrowed a long and very handy ladder from a mate, (it was actually his mother-in-law’s). I’d had it for nearly a year and it had been used almost every day. However, now I definitely needed it more than ever. So what happened? The mother-in-law decided she wanted it back. Right now. Not to use for anything, you understand, just so it could go back in the garage. It was annoying but what can you do? So, I bought my own ladder. It was another expense I could have done without but it was essential. The Law of Sod strikes again.

Plastering backwards up a 42o slope is a great laugh. Stilts would have been no use for this job. I could have hired scaffolding and most people probably would have. However, I would direct you back to various points in this blog that refer to “budget”.

So, I rigged up a system using my nice shiny new ladder, my old one that wasn’t tall enough to reach the apex of the room and two scaffolding boards that had been left by the roughcaster and that I had “liberated” from the garden. For any paranoid health and safety types reading, I did screw battens to the floor to provide support for the ladders and they were in no danger of moving.

It was the most difficult part of the house to plaster and it took a whole day but there was a strong sense of achievement when I finished it. Unfortunately, there was some sanding required but it was limited to a foot wide area at the ridge beam. The angle made it impossible to get in properly to float the finish. However, when it was sanded, from the floor you couldn’t see a thing.

The room was then painted white to seal the plaster and then the final colour for the room, a deep, dark red was chosen. The colour was inspired by a visit to The Boathouse restaurant in Kilsyth, which had similar windows and waxed timber finishing joinery. As some people may know, red over white is not easy to do. The upshot was, it took two large tins of paint, about four coats and three weeks to get the room painted but it was worth it in the end.

I was about to start laying the floor and fit the finishing joinery when I was asked to do another job for a friend. Thirty metres of six foot high timber fencing and the laying of a solid base for a shed. It was good money so I said yes. I did have cause to regret that decision, standing there setting posts in freezing temperatures, Paslode gun in hand and freezing cold rain pouring down the back of my neck but the thought of the extra funds kept me going. There was also the satisfaction of doing a good job and it did make a huge difference to their garden area. It also added a few pages to my portfolio.

That took most of February 2011.

Therefore it was March before I got back to finishing the bedroom. By the end of the month, it was done and we finally got to sleep in the new room. It was possibly the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had. Lying there staring at the stars through the high gable windows, it was like being in an exclusive hotel room. The only thing missing was sandwich monkey…… (c Dylan Moran).

I then moved on to the last room of the whole thing. The master en-suite.

Back at the design stage, many moons ago, this room had been designed as a bog standard (excuse the pun) en suite, with shower, toilet and wash hand basin. However, my in-laws were giving us an all singing, all-dancing shower cabin as a wedding present, so there had to be some adjustments made. The upshot was, at the plumbing first fix stage, I didn’t have any details for the shower cabin, so I had to estimate the most sensible place to bring the water supply tails up. My chosen position turned out to be equal parts fortuitous and inspired. More on that later.

Now being a dab hand at plastering, (ahem), it took only a weekend to plaster the whole room, however, when things are going well, that is usually the time for a disaster to strike. Disaster did not let me down….

Just as I was finishing the plastering, I moved my trestle and happened to nudge one of the water supply tails for the wash hand basin. Whoosh…..the cap blew off the fitting and I got mains pressure cold water straight in the gub,…er….face. I was downstairs and had the water off within 20 seconds but when I got back upstairs, there was about 5mm of standing water over the whole chipboard floor. I grabbed every towel and absorbent material I could find and flung them all on the floor to mop it up but worse than that, there were two extra holes in the floor due to an earlier change of pipe position. These now acted as perfect drains and the water drained down in to the cavity between the new lounge ceiling and the first floor. It couldn’t find a way through there so it ran along the back of the coving round the entire perimeter of the new lounge and new side hall, then started to seep down through the walls.

It was enough to make you want to cry.

But I didn’t.

I grabbed two hairdryers and set them up to blast hot air into everywhere the water had gone and I drilled tiny holes in the bottom of the coving and got the excess to drain out. Luckily, thanks to this rapid action, the only damage caused was some water staining that had to be re-painted.

It could have been a lot worse but it wasted an entire day and probably lopped five years off the life expectancy of my heart.

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