Completely floored!

Walls all painted (apart from the bits I couldn’t reach), so what next? Time to think about flooring, and with underfloor heating through the majority of the ground floor, some form of stone was the obvious choice.

I decided to use slate, partly because I liked the variation of colour available, partly because, with somewhere in the region of 250 square metres to buy, it was among the cheaper options for natural stone; though prices and (as it turned out) quality do vary hugely. I love shopping, but trawling through endless internet sites in search of the perfect slate (at the perfect price) did become a bit soul-destroying. Eventually I found what I wanted and got it ordered. It arrived bright and early on a Monday morning; 4 pallets of slate, a pallet of tile cement and 2 half pallets of bathroom wall tiles. All delivered by one man and his van.

He wasn’t a happy bunny. With an order of this size he was expecting a few beefy builders to be around to help. Muttering under his breath about reading the delivery instructions, which apparently stated “there must be an able-bodied person on site to assist with the unloading”, he opened up the back of the van. Clearly, as a girl I can’t possibly be considered able-bodied. But I jumped up into the back of the van to help anyway.

Each pallet of slates contained 52 boxes, each weighing 24kg – time for a bit of weightlifting practise. To be honest, even weighing in at over a tonne, the pallets aren’t hard to move with a manual pallet truck IF you’re on a level surface and moving them to another level surface. Ha! My site would never make anything that easy. The land slopes away from the building at the front, and is anything but flat.

The first pallet, being close to the tail lift came out fairly easily, and when it was lowered to the ground, we managed to drag it most of the way off the tail, and Mr Happy Van Man drove the vehicle forward. Number two came out pretty much the same way. But by the time we got to the last couple of pallets, the van was clearly parked on the slope, and the two of us were hauling on the pallet truck trying to drag a tonne weight of slate uphill in the back of the van. At one point a pallet was getting caught in a piece of wood on the floor, so helpful Happy Chappy went to move it, letting go of his side of the pallet truck – leaving me arm-wrestling with a tonne-weight trolley load of slates. I lost. And ended up on my bum being dragged into the back of the van by a runaway pallet. More bruises in unmentionable places!

It took us nearly an hour to offload everything, and as the van drove away, with Mr Happy Van Man clearly cursing the day Scotland ever came into existence, the collective weight of the delivery left sitting in my garden was about 5500 kg – and it now all needed shifting into the house. It was about 11am; I was already exhausted, and so far hadn’t managed to get a single slate into the house, never mind actually putting anything down on the floors.

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But no rest for the wicked; the skies suggested rain was imminent (August in Scotland- what else is there?) so at the very least I needed to get the bags of cement indoors.

Ever optimistic, I’d had visions of getting at least one room slated that weekend. Instead I spent all weekend trying out for the world body building championships – at least that’s what it felt like – 5 tonnes lifted and shifted in one weekend. Why do I bother with gym fees?

But by the following weekend, my muscles had recovered (just), and my enthusiasm had returned (more or less). Time to actually start the flooring.

One minor drawback – because nothing should ever be simple with my house – was that some time between the plasterboarding and the painting, 2 shipping container loads of stuff had arrived back from India. (I went out with only half a container full – clearly indulged in a bit too much shopping out there!) So now I was stuck with 198 boxes getting in the way of putting slates on the floor. And when I say ‘boxes’ I mean anything from boxes of crockery to creatively cardboard-enshrined furniture. In other words, not particularly easy stuff to shunt around while your bucket of cement is going off…

The other ‘minor’ drawback I had was to do with evenness (or not) of the concrete subfloor. In places this is intentional; my architect had decided that it would be a super trendy idea if the main corridor was a continuous slope rather than putting in any boring old steps.  Unfortunately, where the concrete should have been flat it was, in places, doing imitations of a mini-Himalayan mountain range.

I think I mentioned earlier, the slate I bought was at the cheaper end of the spectrum. It was supposed to be calibrated to within 3mm, but in fact the thickness of the slates varied from 4mm (which broke as soon as you looked at it) to 15mm – in some cases from one edge to the other of a single slate. Just as well I changed my mind on using slate on the kitchen floor – it meant I had enough spare to cover all the broken and unusable ones. (But if you’re planning a slate floor yourself, take heed – you get what you pay for; cheap slates are a bit of a false economy.)

That said, in my case, the unevenness of the slates proved a bit of a blessing in disguise. I could use them to offset the unevenness in the floor. Though that did mean that laying my slates turned into something like a giant game of Tetris!

I thought it would take me a few weekends; it actually took 6 months. And I never want to see another bucket of tile cement in my life!

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