house – day 279 – 282 – deck the hall

We’re well and truly into the final phase. Once the flooring is down and trimmed with quadrant, we’ve got just a few more smaller jobs – finish under stairs cupboard, carpet the upper hall and stairs and the front door to replace – and we’ll be ready to move in properly. There’s plenty of snagging to do, but none of it need hold up our moving stuff in date.

Saturday

I started bright and early on the front reception floor. Our friends John and Barbara would be dropping in around lunch time to see our house for the first time and maybe we’ll go out together for a spot of lunch, so I was anxious to make a good start on the floor. With the lessons learned from flooring the study (actually developing a few handy time-cutting tips), progress was pretty fast, although it’s still pretty physical work. By lunchtime, I had more than half the floor down and was finally reassured that I had ordered sufficient timber for all the rooms all those months ago. When I floored the study last week, I started to have misgivings about my estimates. In the meantime, Fiona was painting woodwork in the hall – there’s quite a lot of it.

John and Barbara arrived, we showed them round the house and then went for a pleasant walk around town. We’ve hardly seen the place in the last few weeks, it was nice to get out. We bumped into a few people we now know,  making the place feel more like home and, after a decent lunch in a cafe, headed back. John and Barbara back to London and Fiona and I back to our DIY.

By the end of the day, I had the reception floored and the quadrant (to cover the expansion gap) pinned in place. Installing the edging wasn’t quite the simple job I anticipated, thanks to some odd angles in the bay window, but I think that’s the trickiest of the three rooms, although the hall has a few nooks and protuberances to be dealt with.

Sunday

Time to start on the hall. First we had to clear it. At last, we can move the scaffolding tower back into the workshop and we can see, for the first time in a while, what a sizeable room the front hall is. Since we moved in, I’ve joked about getting chairs, a coffee table with old magazines, a water cooler and a fish tank for the hall, perhaps we should get a receptionist too. The previous owners used this space as a dining room, we won’t be doing that.

I worked on preparing the under stairs cupboard door (the old pantry door) for painting and hanging whilst Fiona cleaned the hall floor. During her vacuuming, scraping and scrubbing, she discovered some evidence of woodworm in a hall floor board. When she’d finished her work, I took up a few boards and had a look. It was pretty localised and the joists were unaffected (phew!), but I took out the infected board and two adjacent ones, so I could replace them. I’ll treat the surrounding timber, as a precaution, before I put new boards down. Fortunately, I have enough timber left over from the hall panelling (I bought a large pack of boards from Wickes), that’s just the right thickness. I just need to cut down the width of them to fit the existing gaps, I’ll do that in the morning. I also need to get woodworm treatment and, with it being Sunday, everywhere is closed now. Looks like I won’t get started on the hall today. I’ll just get everything ready for tomorrow.

Monday

Breakfast, then a quick trip to B&Q. There are a few things we need in addition to the woodworm treatment, so it’s not an unanticipated trip. I just wished I could have done it at a more convenient time. When I got back, I painted the timbers with treatment and whilst it was drying, I prepared the reception room quadrant for painting, filling and glueing it where pieces of wood were loose, then I started putting down the first underlay and boards in the hall.

I was making steady progress, when a  howl of anguish from the kitchen indicated Fiona wasn’t happy with something. Turns out the cause was T-Mobile, who had supplied her with a PAC code to move her phone number to Three, an irreversible process she’d started on Friday. However, they had neglected to tell her until today, that her phone would need to be unlocked and it would cost £20 and take 20 working days to do it. This means she’d be un-contactable for almost a month. We researched all the unlocking options and decided that the easiest choice would be to buy a cheap phone that would take her new SIM. Then she could at least take calls and texts, whilst T-Mobile took its time about releasing her phone. We’d thought we’d found a reasonably-priced phone at Tesco, so we set off to get it. However when we got there, it turns out that this phone didn’t work with the Three network and the cheapest compatible phone we could buy was £150. The helpful guy in the shop suggested we go to Three directly and get one from them. All this lost us each a couple of hours of work on the house. Something we could do without right now.

Fiona resolved to go to Canterbury in the morning as she would not be able to work in the hall, whilst I was flooring it. By the end of the day, I’d got about half the floor down and had reached a good place to stop. The next bit of flooring would severely restrict access to the kitchen whilst I was laying it, so it would be better if I was on my own. (And the woodworm treatment wasn’t yet fully dry.)

Tuesday

This was always going to be the tricky bit of flooring the hall – extending into the new hallway that provides access to the new kitchen. I’d prepped this  area yesterday, putting in new bits of flooring to fill a couple of large gaps (orginally this was where the old partition wall was) and reinforcing what will be probably the most heavily trodden area of the house. I also cut some new oak strip to terminate the tiling in the kitchen and the wooden floor in the hall and undercut door jambs so the new flooring can run underneath it (rather than cut the new flooring to run around the complicated mouldings). However, the really tricky part is to get a nice straight, seamless run of flooring from the front of the house through to the kitchen. When I finished yesterday, I was pretty convinced that there weren’t any awkward widths of plank to cut (ie too narrow) so I thought it would work out OK. When I started measuring and cutting timber to begin the new area of floor today, it was apparent that it was going to fit very nicely. Fiona had gone to Canterbury to sort out her phone, so I had the place to myself and could work without interruption. I had a bit of scare mid-morning as I was hammering a piece of flooring into place. As I hit the piece of timber, all the lights went out. I thought “oh shit!”. This was just like the time in the old house when I was fishing the hall we’d decorated and drilled through the ring main whilst installing a coat rack – where the previous coat rack had hung before. Today though, I realised all power was off and, after checking the consumer unit and seeing nothing had tripped, I went outside to see if the rest of the street was affected – at the same time as Gill, our next door neighbour. It was indeed a power cut in the area. Phew! At least I wouldn’t have to start destroying our decorating to repair a damaged cable. Then I realised I wouldn’t be able to do any work until power was restored and time was getting pretty tight, damn! After a few minutes, as Gill and I chatted, I saw a light come on and heard a burglar alarm go off – we had electricity again, so I was back in business.  By the time Fiona came back around lunchtime, the flooring in the new part of the hall was more or less complete.

There were a few fiddly pieces to cut around the reception room doors and radiator, which took a while to get right, but by five o’clock the hall was complete and transformed. I have to go back to London this evening, to work the rest of the week, so there wasn’t much time to do anything else. Last Saturday I had anticipated I would have the flooring down and the quadrant installed by this time today. Alas, thanks to the unforseen delays, I’ve only got the flooring down, there isn’t enough time left to do any useful work on the edging, which means the gazebo (my temporary workshop) has to stay up until next weekend – and there’s a severe storm predicted for the end of the week. I brought all the tools indoors, and cleared up a lot of pieces of wood and sawdust. I stripped the gazebo of its walls, to minimise wind resistance, packed up what I needed and set off back up the M2.

On the drive back to town, I reflected on what we’d achieved over the last two weekends. We did a lot of work in eight days and, with a little more effort next weekend, we’re now poised, ready to live in our house for real. In a week’s time, we won’t be “camping” any more, we’ll be living in our new home, that’s an exciting prospect.