Sunday, May 26, 2013

Too Blessed to Stress

"Too Blessed to Stress".  That's something Niall read on Facebook the night before we moved into the new house.  If only it were true!  It made us both laugh, because we were talking about how lucky we've felt with so many things with the house.  And how I have been so stressed out and anxious about everything.  But we are in a good place now.

We moved in about 10 days ago and we're almost settled.  We had a group of friends over today and things were in order enough to make for a fun afternoon.

Movers.  I love them and have learned that (for us) it's worth the extra cost to have them do the packing and unpacking.  The unpacking leaves things in a disorganized state, but it kinds of forces me to find a home for everything.

On move-in day the kitchen looked like this.

And this evening it looks like this.

My dad and step-mom came for a visit last weekend and took us to Ikea to get some things for the house.  My step-mom is an interior designer and made some helpful suggestions.  One was to put a shelf in the kitchen for cookbooks and other items.

She also picked out the rug and gave a lot of other helpful (and requested) advice.

The brown piece of furniture is a sideboard.  I think we're (eek!) going to paint it red and then add a butcher block countertop to make it a kitchen island with barstools.

The table is tucked in the corner for our everyday use, but we can pull it out when we have more people over.  It might sound ridiculous, but I have been so excited to get to the point where I could mop the kitchen floor.  (You can see a little bit of water left from the steam mop, which I love, behind the closest chair.) 

And there's a row of toys for the girls.  Toy box, play kitchen and easel.  Niall requested the clock on the wall.  Now we just need to get to hanging pictures.

The understair WC has been so useful!

And the hallway is finally clear of all the moving boxes and piles of stuff. 

We power washed the front steps and walkway.  Maybe you can't tell.  But I know we did it.

And cleaned out the garage.  We took four dump runs (current total:  35) and have placed some of the larger pieces on the drive for Glasgow Council to collect.  (These were the pieces we couldn't sell or give away!)

We didn't have stairs in our rental flat, and our one-year old is so interested in climbing.  The stairs are nice and wide.  Too wide for our stair gates.  I was in a panic over the baby's safety, and the joiners worked out a solution.  Maybe it's not that pretty, but I love it because it works.  (The stairs need some attention, but that's down the road.)

The front room?  It looked like this just before we moved in.

We decided to paper the built-ins.  And really liked the Brighton print from Harlequin's What a Hoot wallpaper.  At first Niall wanted me to draw and then paint the print, but come on!  One roll of paper was under 30 GBP and was much easier than me drawing and painting.

Ha!  Niall hung the paper while watching football.

The living room looks like this now.  We don't think the chaise longue and couch don't work that well, so we're trying to sell them and get something different.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ramsay Loft Ladder and WD40

Since we haven't yet figured out how to put stairs up to the loft, it's only ladder access right now.    We had to replace the old ladder and looked around for a new one.  The local post office has storage in their loft, and I see the guys go up and down when I'm in sometimes.  

I asked them which ladder they use.  The guys lit up and went on and on about their Ramsay Ladder.  The Ramsay ladders are rather pricey, but we decided to go for one of them.  And so regretted the decision.  The ladder stuck and was so difficult to use.  It took a whole process, at least two hands and five minutes to pull it down.  So noisy and such a pain.  We dealt with it for a few weeks and I wondered what we would do.

Then, last week, we were at the post office again and I talked to the guys about whether they'd had any problems with their ladder.  They said we needed WD40.  I'd been meaning to try some and now I'm kicking myself for delaying.  We got a can and Niall sprayed it.

Magic!  The ladder works like a dream.  One handed pull down, smooth pull, easy up and down.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lady Maths

This might be too much information, but I'm going to share the building work costs.  Mostly because other people divulging how much works cost them has been a huge help to us.  The figures gave us a lot of information to help drive the budget.

We knew the back of the envelope cost to get the house in good shape was £50,000.   We really wanted to make the figure bend to £35,000 so we could afford an extension right away, but try as we might we couldn't cut enough corners and still make the house what we wanted long term.  So we decided to make the house nice and enjoyable now, and work towards an extension in the (hopefully near) future.

As of tonight, we're over our original budget by £11K+.  The main reason is that we decided to covert the loft, which was almost an £8K addition.  

The things that caused us the most pain were:

1.  Costs of clearing the house:  £1605 spent where we foolishly hadn't budgeted anything!  It was an oversight.  The 31 trips to the dump and counting make a little more sense now.  We're working on clearing the garage (again) and I spent a fair whack of time posting freebies on gumtree and freecycle.  (And selling items for one pence on ebay.)

2.  Joiner Materials:  We knew there would be material costs but we didn't specifically budget anything for them.  Uh, £3K over budget error.

3.  Plumber:  £2K more than we anticipated.  Our estimate was based on what it cost to get a new boiler in Cardiff.  Note to self:  Getting a gas line dug, central heating installed, plumbing laid for a new WC, replacing downpipes and rerouting existing pipework is pricey. 
4.  Flooring:  £1K overspend.  Part of that (£350) is because of the loft carpet.  Another chunk is because we decided to floor the entire kitchen in bamboo rather than sanding back the existing floorboards on one portion and somehow covering the cement in the smaller area.  Also, we made the last minute decision yesterday to spend an extra £150 to get the stair treads professionally sanded.  (After 20 hours of belt and palm sanding, we gave in and called in the industrial machines.)

A few other mis-steps were on the painting/decorating (£800 overspend-despite getting the actual paint for an excellent price) and garden (£400).  The garden was a deliberate choice, since we decided to go ahead and get the lawn laid.  We thought we would do more of the painting/decorating ourselves, but were not able to manage due to work commitments and two very adorable children that deserve more attention.

A few pieces of good news though.  Rather than paying a damp specialist to treat only the dry rot, we used that portion of the budget to have the joiners do the same treatment plan, plus do all the other work in the house.  (New skirting, facings, sheeting the ceilings, built-in bookshelves and wardrobes, kitchen fitting, laying the kitchen floor, putting in plasterboard walls and a whole host of other things.)  The joiners we used were expensive, but I would use them again in a heartbeat.

Getting used kitchen units, range cooker and extractor hood and finding a specialist granite cutter that could source excess pieces saved us £1,000 on the kitchen.  There are still a few things we need to do to finish it off, but I think we're in good shape.

Also, the roof ended up not being in as bad of shape as we thought.  Even with the £1,000 surprise cost of vents, we came in below what we planned.  Putting in new gutters and downpipes was not as dear as we originally anticipated.

As if that wasn't enough information, here is the breakdown.  (Did I mention I love Excel and have almost been pedantic about recording costs?)

Category      Total     Estimate  Difference
Chimney Removals£2,120£2,500380
Joiner Materials£2,914£0(2,914)
Grand Total£58,293£47,040(11,253)

I'll do an update soon on the specifics on the work this week.  Particularly on all the help we've received.  The Young Women from church came and helped clean last night.  Jennifer (a friend) was up at the house with me until 11PM last night varnishing the floors and her mom stayed at our house while the girls slept.  We're so close!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The ground beneath our feet

Since I've not actually posted in this blog (at least not under my name), and I have a bunch of photos on my phone, I decided it was time to contribute.

The garden is more or less done and just needs to bed in now - it's quite a difference from before.

Don't worry, we'll do a before and after post once we move into the house.  But in the meantime, here's a view of the garden with the leftover turf laid on the side.  We're pretty pleased with the results, not least because it will be a nice play area for the girls with their own readymade den/air raid shelter.  You know, just in case.

From outside we move inside to the sanding of the floors.  I'm grateful for a lot of things in life  (as I should be of course), but not having to sand these floors ourselves after the last time certainly ranks up there amongst the things I'm most grateful for.

We got a professional in to do these ones and they're coming up a treat.  Below is the living room floor with the shellac around the edges which is giving the sander some grief but is coming off thankfully.

Starting off 1:

Starting off 2:

Et voila!  Not bad for 90 year old pine I suppose.  It's beginning to look like a home!

And so we move upstairs to the hallway, with a view from the stairs into our bedroom (and capturing three of the four colours of paint upstairs).  You can see where the edging needs done still around the doorways and skirting.  I spent a fair amount of time plucking nails and carpet staples out yesterday to make sure the sander can work quickly.

Our room:

The girls' bedroom (back room)

Margaret calls this her room as it is very similar in colour and placement to her room in Cardiff but bigger, nicely enough:

We were planning on putting Elizabeth in the room but we may not.  I suppose we'll decide on Thursday when we move in.

The upstairs hallway:

And then downstairs to the hallway there:

And finally an alternate view of the hallway downstairs.

The floors are beginning to look nice and not having to do the hard, dirty and dusty work is pretty nice. The professional sander has a 'dustless' sander which is mostly pretty good but of course there is a little dust leftover.  I helped him move it downstairs as it weighs 89kgs.  And it's not evenly dispersed weight either so it's a pain to move.  But at least I don't have to move it again! Thanks Mr Sander guy.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 10, 2013

Week Eight

Okay.  Despite the inability to save money on getting turfing materials, the grass is in!  And we like thenew look quite a bit.  (Especially when I look at the before pictures, like the one above.)

What a difference having a lawn makes for the back yard!  Every time I look out and see green it makes me smile.  I hope the little girls enjoy having an outdoor space of our own.

So...this week.  It has thrown a few curveballs, but we got there in the end.  (Or at least we will eventually, right?)  Today, officially, we got heating and gas!  The radiators were on and the range cooker works.  We're in business!

The sander was suppose to start doing the floors today, so I went up last night and spent about three hours cleaning out all of the rooms except the kitchen.  There was (and is) so much dust, but the house is coming together.

We got the electrics signed off.  Plus two missionaries from church came over today and helped for a couple of hours.  We got all of the rubbish picked up from the yard and I took a few more dump runs.  (Current count?  29 visits.)

We got the pendant lights installed in the kitchen.  (We're going to put in an island underneath the pendant lights.  Probably converting a sideboard we have in storage.)

The joiner rescheduled yesterday (again) and I got worried.  So I started calling around on gumtree until I found someone who could do a few hours of work for us last minute.  One of the things he was able to do was finish laying the bamboo flooring around the oxters in the loft.

We also found carpet.  It's getting laid next week.  We got several quotes and holy cow!  Carpet is expensive.  We ended up going to J&W Carpets and talking to them about remnants and discontinued lines. Niall and I looked at rolls and rolls of carpets and talked to several employees.  One guy felt sorry for us and starting digging through carpet in their back room.  He had to use a crazy carpet forklift to move the rolls around, but we finally found one that was nice (enough) and inexpensive enough for us. It's a darker brown color.

Then I called around on gumtree to get quotes for laying the carpet and supplies.  (And drove with the girls to the other side of town to pick up two rolls of underlay.  10mm thick underlay for £2/meter at Nett Carpets was the best price I could find.)  Doing it that way saved us about 40% off the prices we got quotes for.  Is this going to be a good or painful cost saving measure?  I'll let you know.

Sanding back the stairs is still a painful process.  But then I look at the stairs from Borgen and it reminds me what the sanded back treads with painted risers can look like.  (Oh, Borgen.  I think I want to watch the first two seasons again just to see the room designs and Birgitte and Katrine's outfits.  See the screenshot of the stairs from Birgitte's house?)

I've also been working on this funny built-in box in the small bedroom.  (The head height from the stairs cuts into the room, so the box is the 'aesthetic' solution.)  We don't know what to do with the box.  We've seen some houses that have build a wardrobe on top.  We don't love that solution, but aren't sure what to do. Maybe it can be storage of some type?  It's too narrow for a bed, but maybe a cushion with some shelves?

Anyway, the box used to have a piece of decorative paper and lots of layers of paint.  I used the heat gun to take off all the layers, and the belt sander to clean the wood.  We thought we'd just paint the top, but now that the wood is clean we're changing our mind.

Maybe we can sand it back enough to keep the wood.  You know, with all the spare time.

And since we're moving in six days, we've started buying some soft furnishings.  (Because having a 150 square foot storage room of stuff isn't enough.)  Mostly we need curtains and blackout blinds for the girls' rooms.  But the lengths are causing a bit of an issue.  Instead, I am buying less-than-high-quality items.  To add more color.  (That's what I'm telling myself.)  Niall the Interior Designer has provided plenty of input.  Here are a few items (I'm grabbing these photos straight from the interweb):

Duvet set from Harry Corry.  I bought this from someone on gumtree, so no returns.

We have really struggled with rugs (for the sanded floorboards) because what we like is out of our budget.  It may be that we go with bare floors for a while.  (Like in Cardiff, where we never bought any rugs.)  But, we're giving some less expensive options a go.  Urban Outfitters has free shipping and a decent return policy, plus 10% off purchases right now.  So a bunch of rugs are making their way to our house for a trial run.

Antique Blue Rug (Maybe in our room?  Because in my mind it might just work w/the duvet cover.)

Eyelet Rug  (Perhaps for one of the girls' rooms?)

Red Herringbone Rug  (Maybe for the front room, if we sell the maroon couch and get something else.  You know, always good to buy rugs on hypotheticals.)

And for kicks, this little elephant rug.  Where we'd use it?  I don't know.  But Niall was pretty taken with it.

Oh, and I just emailed a guy about this Chesterfield sofa.  I like the idea of it in the front room with the blue walls.  Niall has been looking at Chesterfields for years.