house – day 32 – getting the bloody doors off

The day we moved into our old house in Bow twenty two years ago, it had snowed heavily overnight, there were eight inches of snow on the ground – even in central London. And that cold weather persisted for the rest of the month. Fortunately, at that time we had a warm, centrally-heated council flat we could stay in. Now here we are in 2013, we’ve got a new house and another prolonged spell of unusually cold weather, unfortunately the flat we’re living in is not as easy to heat. I’m beginning to think the we must have an effect on the weather when we move . So next time, (if there is a next time) we’ll move in summer although if we do, be prepared for snow in August.

First thing today is to get the internal doors out of the kitchen. The walls could be coming down any time soon and I want the original doors safely out of the way so I can use them later. I’d tried to do this late last Thursday, but ran out of time, energy and light. The thickly encrusted paint on the hinges prevented me from simply using a screwdriver, any screw heads you could see were rusty, with soft slot edges. So I’ll have to use an alternative method – time to break out the angle grinder. I had all three doors off in about half an hour and carried them up to the workshop, where I’ll refurbish them.

There are eleven internal doors that need refurbishment. They’re all original doors, but most have been panelled with hardboard. It’s a sixties thing, a lot of people did it to their internal doors to give them a “Modern” look. Many of the panel pins used to secure the hardboard have rusted leaving little dark pits all over the doors’ surfaces. Some of the door panels have shrunk and split and a variety of door furniture has been installed on the different doors, leaving odd slots and holes. I’ll fill, sand and prime all of them ready for the decorator and fit new door furniture of the same style on each one. With eleven doors to fix, it’s not a small job.

The doors upstairs were a lot easier to remove, a bit of hot air paint stripping and the screw heads were visible enough to remove the doors conventionally (with a screwdriver). Which means I should be able to salvage their cast iron hinges too. I’ll strip and grit blast those for a matt finish.

On to the next job, filling the holes in the front reception skirting board where the old electrical sockets had been recessed. I really don’t understand why people do this. The skirting boards in the downstairs rooms are handsome, deep, stepped pieces of wood, yet someone felt the need to cut holes in them to embed electrical points. These holes have to be filled ,now the sockets have been moved to more conventional locations on the wall. I knew I’d need to use the table saw to trim the new wood precisely, so I set to work putting that back together (it’s still in pieces from being in storage). That little job took an hour and a half and by the time I had finished, I was really, really cold. You could see your breath in the shed and i wasn’t possible to wear gloves as the nuts, bolts and washers for the saw are small and fiddly – plus standing still doesn’t generate much heat. Once I had the saw back together, using more wood I’d salvaged from another part of the house, I cut wooden blocks and, after a couple of hours, I was happy with the result. I now need to get some wood filler to finish off the job.

The final job of the day is to start taking up the quadrant that borders the floor in the front reception. I’m going to install a floating solid oak floor and I need the quadrant to cover the expansion gap. I’m trying to use as much original material as possible – not just to save money, if it’s still useable, I believe I should use it.

I was about halfway around the room when Marc turned up to talk about the next plastering work. Walking around the dark house with a worklight, we discovered the new ceilings in the bedrooms had hairline cracks, Marc was not best pleased as he’d been very careful with undercoats to ensure the new plaster adhered. After a bit more exploration, we came up with the theory that the electricians had probably caused the cracks. The plaster was too new. I concluded we should have waited, before getting the plastering work done. Marc and I agreed he should come back when the heavy building work was finished and there was less opportunity for damage.

In the meantime Fiona and I will continue to strip out what we can. It’s going to be a busy Easter (and cold according to the weather forecast).