house – day 245 – 248 – balustered

We’re not going to accomplish a great deal this weekend, my sister and family are coming to visit again on Sunday and they’ll be staying overnight. When we originally arranged their visit, we thought that by now they’d be able to stay with us, it turns out they can’t, so they’re staying in the nearby Marine hotel. We’ll probably go out with them on Monday too. The Indian GP is live on TV on Sunday morning, so we’ll be watching that – even though we expect Seb will win as usual and get his 4th F1 championship and RBR the manufacturers title again.  This weekend, we only have Saturday and Tuesday for renovation work, as I’m going back to London on Tuesday night.


Saturday morning, I’d hoped I was going to be able to collect my new car. It was not to be, the dealer still doesn’t have the paperwork. Instead we watched quali over breakfast and got on with more decorating. Fiona painting and me completing cleaning up the fire surround for the rear reception. I’ve changed my mind again and decided to leave the wood unpainted. I’ll probably use a water-based matt varnish with a slight stain, to deepen the colour. The wood does look nice and, with most of the old white paint flecks cleaned off, looks pretty good against the dark blue wall.

Cleaning the fire surround took most of the day, but once that was done I turned my attention to the stairs. Last week, I’d cut a piece of moulded wood to replace the scrappy piece of moulding I’d removed from the ceiling a few weeks ago. This was a prototype piece, to test how it could look and to enable me to get more precise measurements for the final piece. Having examined it in situ, I realised it’s not an ideal solution. Instead, I could use another piece of base rail to receive the tops of the new spindles that will form the balustrade. The original balusters (fret-cut flat pieces of wood) had been cut short, so that they all ended at ceiling height and had been nailed into a roughly hewn piece of moulding. I checked B&Q and found my nearest one didn’t have any in stock, so I couldn’t get one today. I spent more time measuring, checking and working out what needed to be done. I finally re-cut the groove in the hand rail to accommodate 32mm wide spindles. (Also to tidy up the untidy groove.) it’s something I’d been putting off as it was tricky and making a mess of it was not an option as the handrail would have been very difficult to replace. I’d tried to do this a few days ago using my 1/2″ router but it was too bulky to get into the corners, the guide fence didn’t fit and it was too heavy to use upside-down safely. Fortunately, I found there is a router attachment available for the Dremel. I’d ordered one and a set of mini router cutters earlier in the week and, using these, I managed to cut a neat groove, just the right width for the new spindles. It was a relief to get this done and it meant I could get on with finishing the stairs.

After watching the Grand Prix (the outcome was just as expected) in the morning, we spent Sunday and Monday socialising, sightseeing and eating and drinking. We had a jolly nice time and ate some rather nice food. The predicted heavy storm passed over us on Sunday night and we got wet going home after Sunday’s dinner, but the following day was sparkling sunshine and the wind had dropped significantly. It was quite a sight on Monday morning to see about thirty ships anchored off the north Kent coast, where they’d ridden out the storm. It’s a welcome change to go out where we now live, rather than spend all day on the house or in DIY sheds, which seems to be the norm for us right now.


On Tuesday, I installed the new spindles on the stairs. I went out early in the morning to get an extra base rail set, so I could implement the solution I’d come up with on Saturday. As well as providing a solid top fixing for the spindles, an extra base rail set will give me some extra fillets, just in case of errors (the angles are awkward). As I was measuring the base rail pieces, I realised that I didn’t need to replace the original piece of moulding I’d taken down from the ceiling, the top rail would provide a neat enough finish without needing any extra timber trim. That meant I didn’t need the trial piece I’d cut earlier. if I’d known this earlier I could have got Marc to plaster where the old timber used to be when he did the rest of the ceiling. Now, we’ll have to fill and sand that patch instead. The angle where the two rails meet is pretty acute and I had to build a jig to enable me to cut 23 degree mitres in the ends of the pieces to join them neatly. Eventually I got the pieces cut and in place, it looks a lot neater now. However, the joint is not as tidy as I would have liked. With the base rails in place I cut and installed the spindles. By the time I’d completed that job, it was time to go home, the staircase is now finished. There’s a little filling to do, but it’s now ready for painting.

Just before I cut the last piece of wood, a screw fell out of the chop saw guard, which meant it wouldn’t open. Eventually, I fixed it, but it’s not great news. I need this saw for the wooden flooring, all 55 square meters of it. I hope it holds up long enough to complete the job. I don’t really fancy shelling out £300 for a new chop saw, when I’ve nearly finished the house.

It was an easy drive home, via the supermarket to pick up some fresh provisions, but that’s hardly surprising late on a Tuesday evening. I hope there’s not too much more of this now, Christ, I’m knackered.

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