It’s just a couple of bits of plasterboard….

So I have a nice shiny island, complete with fully plumbed-in sink (eventually), working Aga, and ice-on-demand for the G&T. So barring a few more cabinets everything in the kitchen’s rosy, right?

Well that depends which way you look at it. The view to the Aga is looking good. But the other end of the room clearly needs a bit of work….

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It’s been one of my major procrastination projects, mainly because I haven’t figured out what to do with it.

I did managed to persuade my Dad to start the job a couple of years ago, while I was away on a jolly somewhere. Apparently there was a fair amount of procrastination and  head-scratching even then. And a bit of cursing when he discovered that the wood I’d bought would have been better used making wonky corkscrews.

I’d probably have attempted to use the wood and ended up with a slightly corkscrewed wall. But my Dad, when he does eventually get going, is a perfectionist, so he went out a bought some properly square timber. And proceeded to build a beautifully over-engineered work of art.

It looks like one of those squirrel’s intelligence tests. You know – where you stick a hazelnut in the middle of an assault course and watch to see if the squirrel can work out how to get through it.

But it did mean that I could at least board up some of the wall. And I have to hand it to my Dad – it’s the only genuinely straight wall in the whole house.

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It’s stayed like that for a year or so, until I finally decided that I could put it off no longer and I had to find a solution for the rest of it.

The problem is the large bunch of wires feeding through the wall from the cottage to the fuseboard at this end of the house.

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There’s not a lot of headroom as it is. I couldn’t build a false ceiling because the door wouldn’t open. I couldn’t build a false wall because the door wouldn’t open….

I looked at it. I thought about it. I made a cup of tea. I sorted out some random bits of wood from my hoarded collection of offcuts. I looked at it some more. And had another cup of tea.

I thought about drawing a proper plan, but I had another cup of tea instead. And finally decided that the best way to approach it was to build little sub-frames and randomly screw them to the wall – if I put enough bits of wood up, surely I’d be able to hide the wires eventually…

So there you have it. I’d like to see an intelligent squirrel get past that lot.

After all the hassle with the frame, I assumed the finishing off would be a doddle. Just a couple of bits of plasterboard, a lick of paint, a bit of flooring and a new door. Then feet up and a G&T. Jobs a good’un!

Well the plasterboard went on easily enough (though I shall gloss over my efforts at getting a nice smooth joint between the boards!).

Then for the flooring. And I’m a dab hand at wood floors, so that shouldn’t take long.

Yeah right. This is my barn remember. No straight walls (apart from the one my Dad built) and no level floors.

So the concrete floor that comes out of the cottage has a slight uphill slope. The concrete steps built up from the kitchen floor are perfectly level, but slightly lower than the cottage floor. It creates a kind of cliff-edge mountain range right in the middle of the floor. So when I tried to lay my flooring, I ended up with a wooden see-saw. And guess what? The door wouldn’t open!

I had another cup of tea while considering my options.

Option 1: Chisel the floor level: I tried. But it was the masonry equivalent of painting the Forth Bridge with a lip brush. I gave up.

Option 2: Put a thinner floor covering down: Well in that case I couldn’t use wood – even switching to engineered board instead of the solid wood I was using would only save a couple of millimetres. So it would have to be tiles. But large thin tiles laid over a mountain range? They’d crack the minute you stepped on them. You’d have to bed them down on so much adhesive they end up as thick as the wood. And the door wouldn’t open. So it would have to be small tiles. Really small tiles.

Well I admit I have been known to go a bit mosaic-mad on occasion, but that really wouldn’t look right here.

Anyway, I wanted to use wood to match the rest of the kitchen floor.

So it would have to be Option 3: Buy a smaller door: The door is already slightly shorter than the average. The doorway between the cottage and the main house passes under the valley between the two roofs, so the existing door is already ‘vertically challenged’. Anyone over 5’8″ has to duck. What’s another cm between friends?

I managed to find a door company that would make a bespoke oak door that would match the rest of the house. Amazingly without breaking the bank.

Add a bit of paint and a couple of wine posters and then open the gin.

 

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A definite improvement on the old view, don’t you think?

Bits, Bobs, Odds & Sods – the confessions….

This was supposed to be written yesterday – sitting in an airport lounge with a G&T in hand, doing the ‘Confessions of a self-builder’ thing. Unfortunately the fog intervened, my flight was cancelled twice, and so I’m now stuck on a train – hey ho, the joys of the 500-mile weekly commute.

Anyway, confession time – did I spend all weekend prevaricating, or did I get any of those odd jobs done?

Well one thing I did realise this weekend – there’s actually only a few reasons that jobs don’t get done:

Excuse #1.  I hate sawing wood by hand…

… so the steps leading into the snug have been put off for quite some time, because I need to trim a whole length of oak flooring that I was using to finish the steps.

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This weekend, I thought I’d discovered a crafty alternative to the  hand saw – a router with a flush trim bit. A whole lot less effort than sawing. Unfortunately I hadn’t really bargained with the amount of sawdust it creates and since it had to be trimmed in situ, the wood trimmings scattered far and wide into the music room below. It probably took me longer to clear it all up than it would have done to saw by hand!

Excuse #2. It’s just too fiddly

I put so many jobs off because I know they require time, patience, and attention to detail – 3 things I don’t have much of!

Having trimmed the oak floorboard and secured them all down, the steps needed some sort of finishing edge. Cutting the trims to fit isn’t difficult, but getting the corners to mitre properly isn’t just fiddly; as far as I’m concerned it’s Mission Impossible. Which is why wood-filler can be a girl’s best friend…

Still, one thing to be said for this kind of job – it’s not messy and there’s no heavy lifting involved. So as an expert in the art of procrastination, putting off some of the less palatable alternatives, I went on a bit of a mission to finish trimming everything I could find….

The landing by the stairs:

The shelf in the snug:

The edge of the bedroom flooring:

I know there’s a few I’ve missed, but they’re the extra fiddly ones. I’ll get round to them next time. Promise.

Excuse #3. I hate cleaning the cement bucket

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So I never actually bother. Whenever I’ve finished a job requiring cement or grout or any similar kind of goo, I dump all the tools in the bucket, fill it with water, and ‘leave it to soak’. Well it used to work in university days on the burnt spag bol pan – most of the time.

Unfortunately, dried cement is a bit more persistent than even the best student cooking efforts, so cleaning it takes considerably longer – which is why I keep putting off any jobs that involve ‘the bucket’.

But this is non-procrastination week – so the bucket got cleaned and a few long overdue jobs got done.

The steps in the kitchen need some plasterboard and plaster filling, so I’ve been
putting them off because of ‘the bucket’.

But unfortunately, until I get them finished, I can’t paint the walls either side, and I can’t put the kitchen floor down. So there’s a couple of major jobs dependent on getting that bucket cleaned!

It may not look much different to most of you, but it was a couple of hours work with my bucket of cement and a tub full of plaster skim.

I also had a bit of plasterboard to cement to the wall on the cupboard I’ve built to house the heating manifold. Most of the board was screwed onto a wood frame – a nice, easy job that creates no mess and doesn’t require ‘the bucket’. But there was one small strip that had to be cemented in place – which means it’s been left hanging randomly ever since I first built the cupboard (quite a few months ago!)

Another job to cross off the list – and I think I can put the bucket away again (without cleaning it). Though I think between the kitchen steps and the cupboard, I’ve now let myself in for a fairly major painting job next weekend…

Excuse #4. I really haven’t worked out how I’m going to do this…..

I think I’ve mentioned wonky walls before. Well one of the issues this created was a huge, irregular gap between the string of the staircase and the walls. I hadn’t really worked out what to do with it. A few weeks ago I got a bit trigger-happy with a can of expanding foam:

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And not knowing quite what to do with it next, I ignored the giant slug-like protuberance growing out of the side of the staircase.

But since it’s ‘finish the job’ week, I decided this was probably a good one to tackle.

So I attacked the slug with my trusty Fat Max knife, sanded it to within an inch of its life, covered it in layer of plaster skim, and finished with a coat of paint. IMG_1012

It seemed to work out OK. And it’s definitely another job I’m really glad to see the back of.

Excuse #5. I just never got round to it…

For the wall between the bathroom and the stairs, I’ve painted (or at least base-coated) one side, and tiled the other. But I never quite got round to finishing the end of it. But in the spirit of ‘just get on with it’, a couple of bits of plasterboard, an edging strip for the tiles, a bit of plaster skim, and a lick of paint….. jobs a good’un!

This next one’s a good one. I made the steps up into the dressing by building a frame and buying some stair treads which I cut to size. But I never quite got round to securing them. Which meant that if anybody stood on the edge of the tread, it could have tipped up and pitched them down the stairs. Well there’s only three steps, so maybe that wouldn’t be too catastrophic, except that those three steps are directly opposite the edge of the gallery, which doesn’t currently have a balustrade. So a tilting step could have pitched someone down the stairs straight over the edge of a 10ft drop onto the music room floor. Oops – possibly a bit of a health and safety issue.

Well you’ll be pleased to know they are now all secured:

(Though it will probably still be a good idea to get the balustrade installed…)

And the last job of the weekend? Well remember that rat-trap I mentioned a couple of weeks ago – the one that was being shunned by the mice because of its lingering aroma of BBQ mouse? It appears there was an intrepid Dangermouse in the house who decided to explore. A flash and a bang, and Dangermouse was no more. Unfortunately, I’d been away for a couple of weeks; I don’t know when he was zapped, but he’d been dead in there long enough to become a bit ‘sticky’. It couldn’t be put off any more – the trap had to be blitzed. It was a job for latex gloves inside the Marigolds, but I do now have a shiny, clean, odour-free rat-trap.

At this point, frankly, I think I deserved the rest of the weekend off. Actually I think it’s been quite a productive weekend; lots of irritatingly small jobs done. But I don’t think I’ll be doing the whole confessional blogging thing again – much too much like hard work!