Sunday, April 28, 2013

Week Six

Niall has been sitting here gloating, saying "I was right." And, technically, he was. I said we'd be in the house by the beginning of May. He said mid-May (or June.) But, in my defense, Niall didn't want to give the required two-month notice on our flat until March 26, meaning we have to pay for our rental flat until May 26. So when the decorators asked for an extra week and the floor sander couldn't re-arrange for us until May 10, I let the schedule slide. Well played, husband. Well played.

Anyway, since we're not going to be moving into the house this week, we've been focusing on getting some things on the to-do list done.  One item was to re do the front steps.  They've been a hot mess since we viewed the house.  It was only when we started really looking at them to get them done that I realized how lucky we are that they didn't collapse on us.  Here's how they looked when we viewed the house:

Yesterday one of the builders let me know I couldn't use the front door for a while because, steps.

We decided to re-use the slabs that were already there since they were the right size, in good shape, and it would be a waste to throw the old ones out to get new ones.  Let's pretend I'm an eco-warrior, but we both know I'm just cheap.

Building up the sides and relaying the slabs was grueling work.  Not that I did it.  The guys were completely spent after they finished, and called it a day.  I think the steps look better (and are more structurally sound), but I also think they look a little sloppy and might be sloping downwards.  I'll check again on Monday.

So, we have a list of about 130 things we need to do before we move in.  Niall watched the kids and I spent most of yesterday working at the house, slowly checking off items.  I decided to focus on the kitchen.  For the first time, I got to see the granite exposed and use the sink.  (I LOVE our sink.)

Eight hours later and...well.  Maybe you can't tell much but the cupboards have been cleaned, the cabinets sanded and varnished (again) and everything except the plumbers' stuff has been cleaned out.  The kitchen was so dirty.  And (given our experience in Cardiff) I'm going to have to deep clean a few more times and deal with the settling construction dust for a few months. It gave me a better sense of what the space is going to be like.  Also, I love our shop vac.  (And the hand vacuum from the dump.  One one of my dump runs a lady was throwing it out and I asked her if it worked and if I could have it.  Niall was slightly embarrassed.)

Tonight Niall went up to the house.  He's at work during the day and has been watching the kids on a Saturday so I can work at the house.  Most of what he sees of the house is after the kids go to bed.  Anyway, here are a few shots of the things he liked.

The doorway in the understair WC has been painted.

Here's the inside...we'll work on getting a better picture.  It's small, but I'm so grateful for the extra toilet!

The backdoor has been filled and painted.  We still don't have the glass for above the door.  (It's a reclaimed pine door.)  Funny the things that I find myself loving about the house.  One is the Yale nightlock on this door.

We bit the bullet and painted the front door.  When we got the door (also reclaimed, but this one is oak instead of pine.  I hear oak doesn't do as well in Scotland) originally we intended to paint it.  But we liked the wood look once it was hung.  However, the condition of the door (five holes, three filled and two for locks.  Back window molding missing, we're working on getting some replacements cut.  Grain pronounced and somewhat weather beaten) kind of forced the decision.  Here's how the door looked when I first saw it and how it looks in the hallway now.  (We have a lady that watches the kids two hours every day during the week so I can manage the house projects.  She loves unpainted wood and is a little disappointed with the paint.  But not enough to stop watching the kids, thank goodness.)

And the upstairs hallway, looking towards the bathroom.  (The bathroom door has glass in it.  It's nice for the extra light, hopefully it's opaque enough.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Good Morning Hallway

So remember how Niall thought there was too much blue in the house and wanted to get yellow for the hallway?  And I wasn't sure about the yellow but Niall said to trust him so we got mis-tint paint?  Well, the decorators painted the hall yesterday.

I wasn't sure about the yellow.

One of the painters asked what I thought and I said I had no comment.  He said something about how the color will certainly wake us up in the morning.

Niall went up to see the house last night and was so pleased with how it looks.  That's good enough for me.  (As a note-can you see that plug with a cord?  Yup, that's right.  The house is fully wired and we can use the plugs! )  And can you see the finial? (One of the round ball we had on the banister.)

The guys are doing the woodwork today.  It has taken two men, working full-time with an arsenal of paint sprayers and rollers, two full weeks to paint the house.  Ha!  I did have a passing thought we could do it ourselves before moving in.  (There are still plenty of things that need to be painted by us, like the inside of closets and shelves.  And stairs, vestibules, storm doors and utility closets.)

So, the loft.  I have mixed feelings about it.  The ladder access really is a bit of a pain.  But once I get up there, I think the space is coming together.

We made the decision to leave the structural supports (I learned yesterday the vertical supports are called oxters, which means 'armpit' in Scots!) exposed.  It does look a little odd, but I feel like it makes the room look more open.  Now we have to figure out how to finish them (we bought a belt sander with the intention of trying to sand them back) and flooring.  

I think we'd both like carpet, but getting around all the oxters means lots of cuts and may not look very good.  We've talked about doing a border of laminate or hardwood behind the oxters and then carpet in the middle. We'll see.  The only bit of the brickwork that was decent enough to leave exposed was a bit of the chimney.  We're still going to have to clean it up and then seal it.

Like I said, I like the loft once we get up there.  But, uh, how we chose to do it is a bit unusual.  I wanted the ceiling to go down as far as possible on the outside wall.  As a kid I loved spaces like this!

But, uh, with a big hole in the floor dropping down 10 feet, I don't know how much time the kids will spend up here.  The joiners put in that little dividing wall so we'd have a place for a light switch when entering the loft.

And the new Velux window gives the room so much light.  Did I mention that Niall's already claimed the space under the window for his desk?

Because the decorators have been busy in the whole house, I haven't been able to do much work physically.  I did manage another sand and coat of the cabinet doors, but they still need some more.  And we've made a list of things that we need to do to move in (or shortly there after.)  The list is currently sitting at 135 items so far.  I've been focusing on doing research/getting quotes/making a game plan to manage the list.

And we're still trying to figure out how to finish the countertops.  One problem is a backsplash (or splashback as it's called here.  Actually, we don't want it very high, so I think it's just called an upstand.)  Anyway, we have 17 of these granite tiles that match the countertops.  They have cement and plaster stuck to the back and I've struggled to clean them.  I think we've found a tiler that will grind off the backing and put in the tiles.  We only have enough to cover part of the countertops...

And the front steps!  They're a mess and need to be replaced, which we knew.  We planned to replace them a little later, but they are not holding up well so we're getting quotes to get them fixed before we move.  I had big plans about putting in sandstone steps with a bullnose, but Niall has convinced me to follow a more economic route.  (We'll basically going to have the steps look like this.  Except cleaner and more structurally sound.)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Niall the Interior Decorator

Niall has been very patient with the whole home renovation.  I mean, he's on board and all, but I've always been the one a little more gung ho on a fixer-upper.

We talk about the house a lot.  It turns out Niall has some strong opinions about how he wants the house to look.  And I'm worn out with all the structural and less 'fun' things that we've had to go through to get to this point, so he's kind of driving the finished look.

One thing Niall wanted is for the house to be a place where our kids feel like they belong.  He wants the colors to be more vibrant than they were in Cardiff house.  We're using Polly Dunbar's palette that she uses in some of her books and in the TV show "Tilly and Friends".

Images courtesy Blaine

We have a lot of the various blues in the house.  Niall (with good reason) feels like it's too much and has really been pushing for a yellow hallway.  I'm not crazy about the idea, but he's asking me to trust him.  So, yesterday we went to Johnstone's and managed to find a yellow that's kind of like the background in the picture with the elephant.

We lucked out, because yesterday was a slow day at Johnstone's.  The paint guy let me look through their mis-tints.  Nothing suited, but there was a light cream color in wipeable matt.  We couldn't be picky about the outcome, but the paint guy agreed to add some more yellow to the paint.  (They won't usually adjust the mis-tint color, but luck was on our side.)  The end result was fine with us, and cost £12 instead of £100.

The second thing that Niall has been fairly vocal about is keeping the kitchen cabinets unpainted.  The second-hand kitchen we purchased was advertised as oak, but I'm not sure what the wood is.  (I've been told it's oak, pine and beech.)  The wood was pretty orange and beat up.  After sanding it and putting on a clear varnish, it looks fairly close to Howden's Tewsbury Oak.  (Pictured below.)

My ideal kitchen would be a painted blue wood in shaker style.  But we've done the work to clean up the cabinets and will leave them as wood for a while.

This next week I'm planning to focus on the kitchen and then move on to the stairs.  We've had finials added to the newel posts, and will paint the banisters white.  The painters are still working on the paint work and should finish on Friday.

And the actual stairs?  Well, we'll see.  I'm going to try to sand the treads and then we'll decide if we'll paint the risers and treads or just the treads.  Here's how it looks now.

The wardrobe doors are in.  (They're MDF and need to be painted.  The joiner had them routered.)

And the loft is getting plastered.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Too Much Blue

I did not think I'd hear Niall say it, but he did.  There is too much blue in the house.  I like the front room blue.  The plan was to have it in the hallway as well, but Niall thinks it will be too much.  So we've spent some time trying to find a yellow that may work instead.

There is a big patch of paint and plaster that fell off the wall.  The decorators told me 'it happens', but I don't know if we should be concerned.  The plaster is going to fix it soon I'm told.

Oh, the used kitchen.  It's the gift that keeps giving.  Since we're trying to go with the natural wood (and not paint the cupboards), we want to use the handle holes that are already there.

The rod handles are pretty beat up-corroded and dirty.  I was going to buy new ones, but since the kitchen is bespoke, the handles are all sorts of crazy sizes.  And I can't find replacements.  So, we're currently making our way through the bars.  It involves oven cleaner, steel wool, Brasso and a lot of elbow grease.  Refurbishing cabinet furniture...that's what passes for night life these days.  (Can you see the four bars that have been cleaned and the contrast of the one that hasn't in the photo below?)

I told the decorators they would be the only ones at the house this week.  But I lied (not on purpose.)  The electricians, plumbers and joiner have been in work on various things.  And today the roofers have been working on putting in 10+ roof vents.  (Required by Building Control since we converted the roof.  £1,000.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Let the Painting Begin

The painting has started.  There is a lot of blue.  The camera doesn't capture the color very well, but I really like the mis-tint blue.  (This is the back bedroom.)

The smaller front room is a brighter blue, called 'Spa Retreat'.  (Color matched to the Next color.)

I sanded the frames for the cabinets.  Instead of the amber yellow from the aged varnish, they're now back to the light natural wood.  I bought a seal that hopefully won't amber the wood too quickly.  And we're still trying to figure out what to do with the extractor fan to cover the ducting.

So, do you see the pendant light?  And how just next to it on the ceiling there is a wet bit on the ceiling?  That's where the bath is leaking, as we found out today.  Hopefully the plumber has fixed it.

Our bedroom has been painted.  Oh, you can't tell?  Well, neither could I.  Given that the name of the paint is 'Baked Clay' I shouldn't be surprised it kind of looks like the plaster.  Niall keeps telling me that it's easy to change paint, so when we don't like the colors it's not a big deal.  Wise words to calm first world problems.

The interior wooden surrounds are in almost all the windows.  I was particularly pleased with the bay.

And we're in the process of trying to strip the letterbox from the front door (boiled it, then scrubbed with vinegar and salt.)  We were one set short of door knobs, so I bought a sort-of-similar set from The Paint Stripper and we're working on getting them cleaned up as well.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Four Weeks

Yesterday marked the fourth week of owning the house.  After some scrambling and nagging, we got the vent for the chimney hood installed.  But, uh, now I'm not sure how to make it look better.

We've deliberated on what to do with the kitchen cabinets.  After humming and hawing we decided to paint them, so I got the supplies.  Then Niall saw how the granite looks and changed his mind.  He asked that we not paint them yet and try and refinish them.  Yesterday and today I sanded off the varnish.  It is a dusty, dusty job.  (I tried to take pictures of the sanded cabinets, but it was so dusty the camera wouldn't work!  Instead, here I am in the lift, headed home to take a shower.  So glad we're not living in the house yet!)

Yesterday marked the last day the joiners were on site.  They finished their part of the loft.  We need to get it skimmed and painted.  And then I have to figure out some way to finish the beams.  And we're not sure what we're doing for flooring.

The roofers came and removed the old window.  They put in a new Velux.  I was buys sanding and didn't find out how they supported the new windows.  (Two of the vertical supports have been removed.)

The pile of trash has grown again.  Today we took seven trips to the dump to get the pile manageable again.  It's dirty, difficult work loading the car and then unloading it again.  But I kept telling myself it saves us 140 pounds.  (That's how much the guy charges to remove a 14-yard truck of rubbish.)

Next week the painting starts.  We got the rest of the cans today (these are the ones that are in the Next colors.)