Weve recently moved home again this time into our 12th self-build project. Its easy to think that by now were getting blasé about our exploits. Its also tempting to feel that those who chronicle their self-build exploits in H&R are nothing really special, and that weve seen and done it all before. But its not like that.
Weve self-built 12 times, but the excitement is still there and in a way were just the same as all other self-builders who are doing it for the first time. We still make mistakes. We still have to compromise when the planners wont let us have this or that. We still have to put up with those building mistakes which, although the fault of tradesmen and others, we have to learn to live with because to do otherwise would throw out the critical path were locked into, or cost so much to put right that rectification really cant be justified.
Unlike the beginners, however, we are old hands at the builders merchants. Theres a sense of smug satisfaction as we see laypeople struggling to make their needs known to counter staff who are less than helpful before a cheque book or wallet is brought out as they dont have an account. Where as we walk up to the counter and the chap greets us and types the entry into his computer without even having to ask our name or account number.
But when it comes to the out-of-town stores from whom it must be said, really good bargains can be had that better the merchants were in amongst all the rest. In these stores we are amateurs dealing, unfortunately, with salespeople who are just as amateur and care even less. So we run into an all too familiar saga of, say, ordering 60 boxes of tiles and paying for them. We then explain that as were in a sports car, theyll have to be delivered and that, in any event, this will ensure that the tiles will all be of the same batch. Well, youd think so wouldnt you?
Youd be wrong, and unless youre there or youve got your glasses on when theyre delivered you wont notice the tiny change in the code number beneath the identical description. And its not until the tradesman putting them on the wall reaches down to pick up another tile and it doesnt fit or its a different colour, that you realise youve got a mismatch. So its back to the store and a vain attempt to find a manager wholl take responsibility. Well swap them, were told. Bring back those that are wrong and well change them. But theyre on the wall, we say. No matter, chip them off.
They get changed. In the end everythings all right. Apart from the fact that nobody seems to recognise that the tradesman who spent a whole day putting up the wrong tiles and then taking them off again has to be paid. And will the store pay for that? Of course not. Thats way beyond the remit of the chap who purported to be the manager and now retreats into a junior role. In the end you have to give up. If you didnt youd go mad and spend so much time on the principle rather than the problem that your home wouldnt get finished.
Similarly, unpacking the kitchen units is always fun. Sign here, says the driver. But we havent seen whats in the boxes. Sign unseen, he replies. And then, days later theres a bit missing, a unit without legs, a sink top thats the wrong hand. Itll all get put right but thats another day taken up with explaining and another week before the replacement items finally arrive. Meanwhile the guys making the granite worktops have to be put off. But it all comes together. And despite the niggles theres still a sense of wonder and pride when what was a building site metamorphoses into a home.
We spend the evenings before the move cleaning and polishing, only for it to be made just as dirty and dusty the next day. But no matter. Its almost as if we look for an excuse to simply be there in the 11th home we created ourselves.
Then we move into the 12th and notice the patio slabs where the rain collects in puddles. We complain and over the next two days one chap lifts them up and puts them down to the correct fall. We dont have to pay him but we do have to pay for the broken slabs and the sand and cement thats wasted.
But really, despite being old hands, were like two kids in a sweet shop. Were just as excited as we ever were and as those who have never done it before. And when it wears off, as it will? Well, we dont know but were certain well miss it.