After first fix got underway, Chris Higgs, who worked on our last two houses in the Forest of Dean, arrived to start tacking the ceilings. Both Bruce (my builder who, together with his wife Kathy, is building his own home on the adjacent plot) and I went along to watch him work.
I tried to photograph Chris working but it wasn’t easy and, at one stage, I almost thought I’d have to put the camera on ‘sports mode’ in order to actually get a usable picture — he never stopped moving!
He lifted the plasterboard over his head, stepped up onto a hop-up and then, using two dead men [supporting props], propped the board and fixed it with the drywall screw gun hanging from his waist belt. These were 15mm boards weighing 35 kilos each, and in all of this, no board edges were scuffed or untidy. He could only stay until 11am that day, but by the time he left, he’d finished the lounge, the kitchen, the utility room and part of the hall.
When he came back a couple of days later with his mate ‘Slugger’, they very quickly polished off the rest of the ceilings and by the end of the week they’d drylined all of the blockwork walls and tacked the studwork.
It was fun watching them standing up the boards, having dabbed out the wall and then putting them into place. It transformed the house, turning rough block walls into recognisable living spaces.
Plastering the Interior Gets Underway
When Linda and I went to the house that weekend, we could see all of our rooms clearly and it was great standing within them and imagining. Ollie and Ed, Bruce’s sons, then started plastering and skim coating the following week.
They taped all of the joints with ‘silk’ scrim rather than paper and, in particular, they scrim taped the junction between the walls and the ceilings to prevent cracking, as we’re not having coving. Incidentally, on the top floor where there are sloping ceilings, they’ve rolled the join between the sloping and the horizontal board planes of the ceilings and it gives the rooms a nice barn-like appearance.
Our grandson, Joshua, volunteered on site for extra pocket money during his half-term, rubbing down the finished walls ready for the decorators. It’s a tiring and very dusty job but he got stuck in with a will. He loves the building site and said that he wants to be a builder one day. Why not? If he can pick up a trade then he’ll always be in demand. The boys are going to teach him to plaster and so far he shows an aptitude for it that I have never been able to achieve.
We are still on target timewise, but as I mentioned in the last instalment, I cancelled the delivery of the furniture for November. I realised that I had fallen into a trap that I have often warned others against — I had hoped to be in by Christmas. But why swap a warm flat for a new house that’ll be barely finished, possibly damp and where we have to get up each day to let chaps in and risk having new flooring walked on with muddy boots?
And there’s another, rather serious, problem. We have a group of at least a dozen wild boar living in the forest immediately behind our site. They come out every evening to rootle up the vegetation. They’ve made more of a mess than we ever did when we put in our services and made a mockery of our reparation work.
The trotter imprints of one of them measure 80mm.We can’t live there until we have proper and very secure fencing and gates to keep them out and the dog in — for if the two should ever meet, our dog Harvey would be in serious danger.
Shopping Around for Prices
After the debacle with the woodburning stove last month, where Linda and I made the mistake of ordering a cheap model online only to discover it wasn’t even large enough to get a couple of logs in, we decided that we’d go to a shop so that we could see just what we would be getting. Builders’ merchants Hales in Cinderford has a fabulous showroom and my son, James, told me that they had quite a few ex-display models at reasonable prices. In fact, he’s bought one for his ongoing renovation and extension project.
So Mrs Snell and I went along, but none of those on offer fitted the bill. We also, against Bruce’s advice, realised that a multi-fuel boiler was better for us. I accept that they are not quite as efficient but they have a grate, which makes it easier to get the ash out, whereas a woodburning stove just relies on a build up of ash that is often difficult to remove. We chose a Franco Belge Montford at a discounted price of just £595. It’s a model we have knowledge of as we had one in our home in Kent.
Elsewhere, Estimators Limited – the company I always get to cost my projects at the earliest stage possible, in order to make sure we’re on budget – had budgeted roughly £1,200 for the staircase, based on a standard range from a builders’ merchant. I went to a local joinery company and they quoted me £1,850 in softwood and close to £4,000 for the same thing in oak. My friend Mark Mathews, who made all of the windows and doors for our previous homes in the Forest of Dean, told me that he would be the same sort of price. “Look at stairbox.com,” he said. “I can’t beat their prices or their quality.”
Bruce and I went online and we designed the staircase using their easy-to-use tools. In softwood, which I am quite happy with, their price was £852 plus VAT — truly amazing, and not only that but it will be delivered just two weeks after order.
So now, with the inside motoring along nicely, we have to switch our emphasis to external matters. We need to get the retaining walls built at the front and in the back garden. The rear wall of the garages will be a retaining wall and we need the garage up before all of our furniture and boxes arrive as quite a bit of it will need to go in there.
We also need to get the LPG tanks in at the front. AvantiGas will be supplying them and they’re due to be delivered shortly. They’ll be buried in each front garden and all we’ll see is a green manhole. We’re getting there.