We worked hard to get all the decorating finished, the underlay and gripper rail put down ready for the carpet to be laid. I worked until gone 1am to be ready, only to have the carpet fitter cancel due to the heavy snow at the beginning of the month. A few days later the carpet was fitted so we could then get all the furniture set up and curtains hung. Due to the busy work season we didn't get much more done but were just happy to get into the lounge for Christmas. This meant we could reinstate the dining area, if only temporarily and also clear out the bedroom and tidy the study. We finally have more than one usable room again.
We seemed to spend most of the month just fetching wood from the log store, the fire just eats wood but I guess that is to be expected considering the size of the fire and the fact that it is designed to heat the whole house. Within only about six weeks we had burnt all of our dry wood and had nothing left for the holiday period so we had no choice but to buy some more. We arranged for a delivery of five builder bags of logs from a tree surgeon, sixteen month seasoned hardwood. Unfortunately the only time they could deliver was at 6am in the morning during the second week of snow just before Christmas so I had to get up early. They turned up and dumped the bags of wood but in doing so also slid their van into our boundary wall and smashed the corner. Worse than that, when we came out to move the wood into the back garden we found that the wood was drenched and of no use to us until it could have time to dry. That left us with a bit of a heating problem over Christmas so I had to buy a pallet of "eco" blocks to burn, basically compacted sawdust. These we have found do not burn particularly well, but once a fire is going they smoulder away and generate heat for hours.
The wet cold weather finally rendered the back gate unusable as it swelled up and warped so that is yet another job I need to get sorted out next year.
November was the month of the lounge rebuild which involved some major works. We installed the underfloor heating in the hallway and lounge but when we tried to connect these up by running them under the study floor we found that at some point in the past the front bedroom and study had been filled with concrete. This was an attempt to stop the damp rather than deal with the actual problem. This means that at some point next year we will need to remove the floor and break up tonnes of concrete and re-instate a suspended floor. In the meantime I had to run the pipes across the study floor.
We found that the front wall in the new music room was still very damp so Jason removed some of the bricks and found that the cavity was filled with dirt and rubble breaching the DPC. This was obviously caused when the windows were replaced many years ago and all the moisture was being sucked up and into the walls. He had to remove three rows of bricks under the window and dig out all the muck and put in a new DPC.
The window was removed and the first floor suspended on acros while a new lintel was installed. The oil boiler was turned off so the fire became our main source of heat. I installed some more of the ducting to pump the heat around the house, initially into the dining room and the upstairs. After a delay the windows were fitted in the lounge which stopped the drafts from sucking the heat out of the house. The new suspended ceiling was installed and the room was plastered which left us the job of decorating, fitting skirting and lights and vents.
We did a bit of tidying up in the back garden and dismantled the makeshift shower. This unfortunately means we are are unlikely to use the sauna until we get the proper shower sorted out in the hot tub room. The workshop is still infested with rats and I managed to catch and shoot six or seven this month. The sooner the building is demolished and rebuilt in block the better! Added to this, the pillar that held the metal gate leading into the back garden collapsed so we now need to get that rebuilt and buy new gates.
Major works continued on the lounge. CPM came and fitted the stove while we prepared the rest of the room. We pulled down the useless insulation that had been put there by the equally useless plumber when the extension was built, then re-insulated the floor of our bedroom to hopefully help the underfloor heating to work properly. I built a stud wall to create a music room while Karen prepared the ceiling and walls by removing hundreds of nails. I also started to tidy the electrics.. oh my god, what an unbelievable mess! OK, nobody is to blame for this as it is a result of years of extensions and alterations made to the house, but there were cables leading back and forth between the rafters with lots of connectors along the way, but ultimately leading to nowhere. I think (and hope) I may have found a reason for the unexplained tripping of the main breaker. Two lighting circuits shared the same neutral back to the consumer unit! Having removed this the fuse hasn't tripped since.
We put new cables in for the outside lights and instead of trailing them down the outside of the wall we put them down the cavity wall. I pushed a stick down with string attached while Karen tried to hook the string through the hole from outside. That took a while but we got there in the end! Karen decorated the landing and got a mention on Steve Wright in the afternoon on radio two. We installed the underfloor heating in lounge and first part of the hot air ducting along with all the new electrics for lighting and mains.
In preparation for the visit by CPM we ripped out the old fireplace so that the chimney and fireplace could be inspected. What a nightmare job! A relatively simple task turned into a major reworking of the whole lounge, a year before we planned to do it! This has meant that the "dining room" (more like a hall way) has become our main living area until the lounge is habitable again. I had to extend the TV arial cable and remove the hideous ceiling fan to make the area useable and while Karen is in Germany I intend to make some major progress on the lounge. Before Karen left for her school trip she was on Radio 2 talking to Simon Mayo about the fireplace and what we plan to do. Her chosen song was "Come on Baby Light my Fire" by the Doors.
We've had the odd occasion when the main fuse has tripped out in the middle of the day for no apparent reason, so at some point I will need to look at this. I am not sure what is causing this to happen. We spent a little bit of time in the garden cutting grass and tidying up and I wired up the outside lights on the games room which actually look really nice, not what I expected. The front bedroom has unfortunately taken a bit of a back seat this month. My annual surfing trip to Cornwall also slowed down progress.
The first week was spent in France on holiday, our first holiday in four and a half years, so nothing was done on the house. Coming back to a missed week of work means most evenings have been spent trying to catch up. The day after we got back from France the inverter was replaced so we could start generating electriity again. We also had the units moved from the loft space of the games room into the garage so we can quickly and easily check on the status of the system; so far everything seems fine. We also received our first cheque from Scottish Power for our electricity generation. Although it is far less than we would have received had we not had the technical problems, it is still nice to get a cheque and watch the electricity meter going backwards.
I finally got around to removing the old consumer unit and wiring the house electrics into the new RCD proteted unit. I found that there were six cables wired in that were no longer in use, as well as an array of cables that had obviously been put in place for small changes, such as a supply to run a single socket in the kitchen, a socket spurred off the cooker supply, and a seperate cable for just the hall light. All a bit untidy but not too bad considering the changes the house has undergone during it's life.
Karen spent some of her break working in the garden trying to keep the weeds under control and also moving plants from the games room border. The rest of her time was spent painting the window edges of the games room and painting the porch. It looks really nice but now shows up the rest of the house. We wanted to get the games room painted but the weather and the consumer unit was against us, so instead we started working on the front bedroom.
We noticed that the farmer's fence at the end of the garden has fallen (or been pushed) down and there is evidence that a cow or calf has been in the garden. Many of the nut trees have been munched, athough that could have been the sheep.
At the end of the month (on my birthday) we went to get some more ex-battery hens from the BHWT. We also went to Horley near Gatwick to look at a Fondis wood burning stove for the front room. Time to start thinking about getting the heating sorted out for the winter and if we can heat the house using the piles of wood then that is better than buying another tank of oil. Just waiting for them to call and arrange a site visit for the quote.
When I get time I try to paint a bit more of the render on the games room but work is hectic for both of us. I also noticed that our solar panels are not performing as they should and on investigation I found that one of the inverters has stopped working. Not sure when that happened but looking at the power generated I think it was some time in May or June. After being fixed the whole system died so now we aren't generating any electricity! However, we have got a new rescue chicken called Bella so at least the eggs will continue to flow!
Unfortunately, one morning when I let the chickens out I found that Tikka had died in the night. We don't know if it was age or illness but now we are left with Korma and Bella who I am glad to say are getting on better. We paid for someone to come in and trim back all our connifers and also finish of the stump grinding of the roots of the old sycamore tree. I just don't have the time to do this myself but I did find time to fit the new outside tap at the back of the games room. Also, Steve came back and adjusted the sliding doors in the hot tub room as they had dropped again.
We noticed that half of the box hedges we moved to the beach hut did not survive so we will need to buy replacements. We also woke up one morning to find our neighbours (sheep) in the garden and munching on our plants. They ate our Virginia Creeper so Karen had to buy and plant a new one.
Karen started by cutting back the huge pampas grass in the corner of the front garden and ordered a swing seat for the back garden and some art for the sauna room. The solar panels are still generating more electricity than we can use during the day so our meter is happily running backwards. Steve finished off the rendering and repaired quite a few areas that had blown, so unfortunately it doesn't look fantastic at the moment. Hopefully this will not notice after it gets a coat of paint.
We finished tidying up after the builders and moved the remaining 2 tonnes of sand out of the front garden and put it in the back. We lifted about a quarter of the old patio slabs to reveal the concrete underneath, ready for next year when we start to work on that. Karen wanted to remove the 11 box bushes from the front garden so we dug them up and then, using Izzy to dig a long ditch, replanted them by the beach hut to give the area a more enclosed feel. When they have settled in we plan to trim them in the shape of a wave.
Because Tikka keeps getting ill we decided to enclose the chicken run with wire to stop the wild birds from getting in, the source of the illness. This was a real pain and doesn't look too good but it should only be for a year until the workshop is demolished and rebuilt. Another advantage of keeping the chickens in is that it keeps them safer during the day and they can't make a mess on the patio.
At the end of June I painted the new render around the electric cables sticking out at the back of the games room, then fitted the lights and sockets. Only the outside tap to do and a lot of painting! We spent a very hot day trimming the brambles and hedges around the perimeter of the field, a real pain of a job but necessary to keep the weeds at bay. Of course a lot of time was spent mowing the lawn too! Because I have just split the company into two seperate entities I have a huge amount of work to do so I think July may be a slow month for progress on the house.
The first weekend was spent clearing the rest of the boxes from the front bedroom so that I could then lift the floor and install the final cables for the alarm. I pulled up part of the the floor to relocate the cables in the hallway and study and I put in cables for smoke detectors in the house and games room. The alarm was fitted and now covers both buildings.
The rest of the existing render was hacked off the games room walls and then re-rendered smooth. I finished off the internals of the sauna while Karen painted the external wall and the last bits of the ceiling. Portsmouth lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup final before being demoted to the Championship so a weekend of mourning was announced, on which I fitted the skirting in the sauna room. The doors of the hot tub room dropped which meant we couldn't close them properly so Steve came back to adjust them. I also paid for most of the wood we had to be chopped up ready for the stove (one day). It was a much bigger job than it appeared and took 4 days and 2 chainsaw blades. A concrete base was set up beside the summer house and I spent a day just moving and re-stacking it all. Of course, everything started growing this month so a lot of time needs to be spent just keeping on top of everything.
While I was off riding around France Karen did some more planting and sowed some grass by the entrance to the beach hut to see how it grows. She also planted some lavender plants along one edge of the beach hut.
The first half of April was a rush to get the sauna finished in time for our wedding anniversary stay-cation. There was exactly the right number of spruce panel to finish the walls and ceiling but not enough aspen to complete the valances and stove guard. Although it was not entirely finished in time for our anniversary weekend, it was almost done and perfectly usable. Of course you need a shower to complete the suana experience but the hut tub room is currently being used for storage so we rigged up a hilarious temporary shower outside using trellis, pallets, lino and a hose pipe. My god it is cold! The blinds arrived and were put up to finish off the games room and the new van arrived, Hermann.
Our anniversary was lovely, we used the sauna for the first time and the daffodils by the beach hut came out to remind us of that warm spring day six years ago. The day was also enhanced by Tikka recovering from the illness that had killed Rezela last month.
We then spent the last two weekend moving all of the boxes from the front bedroom down into the games room to be sorted and stored in the cupboards. Instead of just putting them straight in we decided to go through everything and get rid of all those things you end up collecting even though you don't really want them, just because you can't make the decision to get rid of them. Amazing the crap that we hoard over the years.
As the weather has improved Steve came back to finish off the porch and begin the job of rendering the games room. We've decided to go for a smooth finish so all the existing lumpy render had to be scraped off the walls. This was not an easy job. The porch was of course not as simple as it should have been because there wasn't a lintel above the doorway and the bricks all dropped. He had to put in a new lintel before he could continue with the rendering, another job that has now been done properly which we don't need to worry about.
I dug up a bit of the patio so that the pillar at the end of the games room could be rendered. I expected the level to go down quite a way but that section is laid on top of a large concrete step. Although not really a problem it will mean thinking carefully about the design on the patio when we start to work on it, hopefully next year.
There was a lot of decorating done this month. At the beginning of the month the garage floor was finished ready to be painted so I moved the remaining 2 or 3 tonnes of ballast round into the back garden. The ramp into the back of the garage was built and the doors to the sauna room and cupboard were hung. I fitted the skirting and painted the garage ceiling while Karen began waxing the doors and frames. We put up the lights in the garage, cleaned the door and re-wired the control box.
Solar focus came in and removed all the panels then installed a new mounting system to channel any water that gets in back down and onto the bottom flashing. This seems to have resolved the leaking problem.
I made a decision at work to scrap the Duke and buy a new van, after much encouragement by Karen, so one of the last jobs for the old boy was to go and buy 20 more sheets of plasterboard. We reorganised the hot tub room so that they could be stored until needed. Also, the materials to build the sauna in the sauna room were delivered so at the end of the month I started to construct the shell of the room. While I was doing that Karen painted the garage walls and floor so that we could finally put the cars away again. The garage looks great!
At the beginning of the month Solar Focus came back and agreed that the solar panels are leaking badly along the centre track and that it needs to be fixed. That's not happened yet. Jason came over and started laying the new concrete floor in the garage in three parts. The poor old Duke had to collect 60 bags of cement, which almost killed him, and we had 14 tonnes of ballast delivered onto sheets in the front garden. Izzy did her usual job of moving it over to the mixer. The door between the garage and the games room was partially put in but the oak laminated door frames are not a standard size and are of "ok" quality so it's not the best finish in the world. The door itself however does look very nice. I've had to buy a solid oak door liner for the sauna room door which is the standard size and should finish the area nicely. While Jason was working on the garage I ran a cable from the alarm unit in the house, through the loft, along the eaves, across the wall and into the games room ready for the new alarm panel. I also wired up the rest of the ring main, lighting circuits and heater in the sauna room.
The scaffold tower arrived so we used that to paint the area at the back of the garage. The worktop arrived and I'm planning on using some of the big metal cabinets we are storing for my mum as I doubt she will ever get around to doing anything with them. We also started to fill the cupboards with all our boxes of hoarded junk which we just can't bring ourselves to throw away. The TV cupboard was the first to be completed giving us an entertainment centre to watch DVDs, play the PS2, Wii etc. Cool! The beer fridge was ordered and the pool table was delivered so the main room really is coming together nicely. I've even started working on the arcade machine! SRS Windows came in and replaced all the old window handles and fitted the window boards. Just need to hang and wax the doors and fix the skirting.
Steve came in and finished the walls and plastering in the garage but unfortunately we've developed an annoying electrical fault. We've had some very heavy rain and water has somehow got into a wire somewhere which is tripping the RCD. It is possible that it is caused by the leaking solar panels but I need some time to investigate further. In fairness to Solar Focus, they have called me and said that they have ordered a complete new kit to replace the one installed. This means removing all of the panels and starting again, hopefully some time in March.
We also noticed that the back garden is covered in hundreds of small round holes which we think are made by voles. If they are then we have a major infestation! Country living!
Happy New Year! Our month started with the main room being plastered, fantastic! That's when things really start to look finished. The whole floor area was so uneven that it had to be levelled by covering in a layer of concrete up to 10cm in some areas. The floor was then covered in a layer of 50mm celotex, then a damp proof membrane and then moisture resistant 18mm chipboard flooring. Jason also put in and connnected the water pipes for the shower and outside tap while Steve carried on boarding and plastering the back rooms and garage. This was a slow job because he had to plaster between all the exposed beams. The doors to the back of the garage were replaced by a low threshold door so the bike and mowers can be moved in and out.
After that was all done we spent a weekend painting the ceiling and the walls and I wired up the lights, heaters and a few power sockets in the main room so we could work in relative warmth, although the open doorway into the garage does make it cold. One Saturday we went to that place I swore I would never go to ever again, Ikea! Unfortunately Karen had discovered that they had the perfect size of oak effect wardrobe. Loaded up with all the cupboards we were unable to fit the 2 sofas in the van so had to make a second trip one evening after work. Two weekends were spent fitting the underlay and laminate flooring before we could then begin to build the cupboards. I also put up the dart board that the boys generously bought us for Christmas. Karen was the first person to hit the bullseye!
On the rest of the house, as you can imagine, very little happened, although the front door was new front door was fitted. We did have a few problems with the guttering above the conservatory, which got blocked and frozen in the heavy snow. This then meant that when the snow melted the water ran into the soffit and behind the tiles which then came through into the house and drenched all the plaster at the top of the stairs. Typically this area of guttering is completely inaccessable so I've had to buy a scaffold tower and staging boards so I can sort that area out. It will also be use for maintenance at the warehouse and also for working on the chimney later in the year.