“I’ve started so I’ll finish.” — Magnus Magnusson
I’ve lost track of time a little. In the three weeks of radio silence since I’ve last posted, we’ve hired an additional contractor, work has begun on the post-flood remedial works, and we’ve hauled the family off to Turkey for a couple of weeks of sailing R&R. To make matters more unnerving this summer, three kids got exam results (two of these for university, so en famille might be minus a couple very shortly which severely affects my sense of being mum, but that’s another blog-worth of drama), and we’re still in Rental II with only about half our stuff. So everything feels a little un-grounded. Ben has run through the history of where we are for timing and legals, so I’ve been comparing his dates with the blog, and the two don’t match. We’re all a little exhausted from this 36 week job morphing into more of a commitment than any of us reckoned it would be.
But it will get finished.
The Official Drying Out was completed the week we went away. This was a great moment for Mike which meant that he could start getting on with some serious decorating.
A big welcome aboard to Shaun and his team. They’ve been tasked with building two bridges and a drive. Shaun works with Gary who is a neighbour on the estate and runs a high-end development firm. He was kind enough to fit us in this summer, so his job dovetails nicely with the timing set out by the insurers for remedial work to be finished in time for us move in mid-September. So far, their team includes Dimitru who runs the groundworks team, Pat the Foreman, and John who runs the paving-laying squad.
It’s a little weird to have two separate firms on board simultaneously, but it’s working out pretty well so far. There hasn’t been much overlap between the two as the house has dried out, and if Tim’s crew operates from the back of the house, Shaun’s gang can work at the front.
Diggers arrived onsite and they got cracking immediately.
Shaun’s team spent a lot of time levelling and setting out at first. Groundworks are a funny business: it always seems to take forever to set out, with earth moving from here to there and back again, but then the finished surface happens all at once. Ben came to site a few times a week while we were away, and he said that these guys were working hard every day. Even when it absolutely chucked it down, they simply put on their yellow macs and kept on at it despite tromping through mud all day.
The copper beech hedge we’d planted in 2001 was removed and carefully set to one side (thanks, Shaun!). I’ll try to rescue some of them, they’re hardy things, but I have to be prepared for buying new ones to span the two new sections.
Electrical ducting is a Big Deal. It’s expensive as well. We’ve got lines running underground for a car charging point, others for lights in the ground in three separate places, a spur running to future lights in the garden, and one more duct to the lamppost which requires routing under the second bridge that’s not yet laid out. To make it simpler and easier to deal with should a fault occur later, Shaun and Pat-the-foreman set out a central point where they join in a box. Great thinking.
The old pipe was excavated, the old single phase electrical supply was removed, the new bridges were built and the overall levels were agreed with Dave while we were away. I don’t have many photos of this period, but Ben and Shaun have helped out, and most of it is on the time lapse.
Part of managing the bridge building required pumping one side of the ditch to the other so we didn’t flood our neighbours.
One of the design items we took advice on and changed slightly was the angle to the drive at the street. The windward side (nearest the main street) has a smaller radius than the leeward side, so cars won’t cut the corner and decimate whatever we plant on the verge. They make an asymmetrical bridge, but it will look nice lined with the granite edging setts. Shaun and the guys guessed that we’d want this so they laid out extra concrete on the bridges to support it.
Although some decorating and replacement of doors and architraves was carried out in the house, most of the remedial work couldn’t be done until the flooring was laid. Only then can the skirting go on, and most of the redecoration could be finished. Predictably, we’re waiting on the electricians again, they’re a week late already, but they have been onsite a few times cutting in lights to the exterior and checking the wiring so we can get the electrics certified for building control.
Terry returned to replace the black ply soffits with oak. This was an expensive decision that I had doubts about, but Clinton called it, and you can plainly see that it is a big improvement and lightens up the porch and walkways.
We’ve got to measure the distances between light sockets in the bedroom because we suspect that the switch will now live behind the bed which will be awkward. Eventually, the hanging lights will be longer and adorned with some sort of pendant at some stage when we a) agree on one, and b) can afford it.
At long last, Gavin arrived and got started laying the boards straight away. It will take him into next week to set out the entire upstairs and the study. He will also have a look at some of the boards in the drawing room that need replacing while he’s here. Some boards in the Rustic variety have large filled knots that look incongruous with the rest of the really nice ones. The snagging allows for replacement of a few, and Ben and I spent a little time prioritising which ones to examine. The boards are the big thing that everyone on the remedial team has been waiting for because once they’re laid, the finishing and cleaning can begin.
The side fence also went up. It needs a little work and we’re discussing how best to improve it.
It takes a cast of many men to move the sand, edging and pavers to get it all looking nice. Edging went in first, and the haunching it sits on was set out at a consistent 45 degrees. The inside face of the edging stones are completely aligned, ready for the paving stones to sit in the sand on the drive side.
To get the levels right they lay and level steel poles in the sand on either side, then they drag a board across the poles.
The first stones were laid brick-bond in line with the middle edge that lies between the bridges. John and Pat suggested this is the longest line across the drive and the one that will draw the eye. I had originally wanted the stones laid in a Random Cluster pattern, but this wouldn’t work well with the falls required from the house to the road. To achieve a fall, each stone needs to sit ever so slightly stepped, but it’s millimetres over metres so you can’t really see it. If we’d laid on a slant, you’d see one single larger gap where the slope stars, and this would look stupid. Overall, laying this drive requires much more skill and forethought than I’d imagined.
Before Shaun’s team took a break over the bank holiday weekend, they managed to get a good chunk of the west bridge completed.
Gavin has done a great job in re-laying the floor throughout almost the entire first floor. Just a few thresholds, Gillian’s room and the study to go.
We’re almost there. There is a bunch of chasing from compriband around the windows to coordinating the electricians and plumbers to finish the underfloor heating, and we’ll be in. Can’t wait.