Wednesday 29 July 2009

Builders Bum/Grand Designs

As anyone will tell you, I'm one for tidyness. The evidence of clothes strewn around my bedroom floor and dirty dishes perched precariously on the arm of the sofa may count against me, but in my heart, I like things to be in their place. You can understand then how much angst there has been for the last seven months as we have had to live in a state of perpetual chaos. Because 2009 has been the year of living in a building site. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not whingeing, I'm just looking for all the support and sympathy I know you have to offer me in my hour of need.

In Buckhurst Hill, we have had a new tiled floor in both the kitchen (replacing some curling linoleum) and the bathroom (replacing some beige carpet left by the previous owners - I really can't stand carpet in the bathroom), new bathroom extractor fan (it gets steamy for all the wrong reasons) and shaver sockets (left unsupervised, the electrician fitted them in the ceiling too - WTF?), completely replastered the landing and staircase walls (I'm not one for Artex). The job involved chipping all the old stuff off the wall, and even now I find places with enough dust to recreate a whole new Sahara in our back yard. And we put down a new cream carpet to replace the dark blue with swirly flowers one which would have been nice about forty years ago.

We also replaced the back door with a new one - a stable door - that task should have taken a couple of days, but ended up stretching on for five weeks.

It would have been worse, but my friend at Wallpaper magazine threw her arms up in horror when I suggested removing the York Stone fireplace. Evidently it's a la mode, de rigeur and quite avant garde. I'm not a follower of fashion, but if the bible of the design cognescenti speaks, I feel I should listen.

Down in Brighton, its been a similar tale, so we've had no where to escape to.

Just before the New Year, I summoned (oh yes the feeling of power when I know I'm going to be writing a fat cheque) the builder/project manager who had previously created the office, and in Brighton had previously fitted a new bathroom, ripped out old kitchen and turned it into a bedroom (don't worry, our flat was once two, so we had two kitchens which is at least one more than I need). I went through and explained everything that needed to be done, and sat back and waited. And waited. And waited. By the beginning of March I still didn't have a quote. So I had to start again, without the benefit of a project manager. Firstly I got in an electrician who fitted new sockets, switches and fuse board (they're not called fuses any more, but hey ho) and left them to hack as many holes in the walls as they possibly could whilst putting a number of sockets in the walls at a delightful angle - different angle every socket. Nice. The dust was spectacular. So I set about cleaning up...but it's hard when all you can see is holes in walls.

Next in came the decorator, and in fairness to him, he is fabulous. But as every room was being decorated, everything I own was piled into the middle of each room making it impossible to find anything. Brighton is an old Regency building, and as he peeled old wallpaper (some of which could probably have made an appearance on Antiques Roadshow), the wall would come with it. In large chunks. Combine that with lots of rubbing down and guess what? Yes, yet more dust and rubble. You could walk in the flat, and within a moment your mouth was filled with a gritty taste. Nice.

My mistake was to allow him to cut away the edges of the well-worn and very tired carpets, as that means whether I want to or can afford to I have to replace them all.

At the same time the damp-proofers came in to sort out the damp that had plagued the flat for years. Several tries and several weeks later, the damp is still there, just in different places. Newly decorated places too.

Back at the start of May we also went into the kitchen shop as the current one would be condemned by the health and safety thought police. What I thought would be a straightforward process became very tortuous, and it was only last week that we were able to actually order it. And if we're lucky they might begin to instal it sometime in September...but only if I acquiesce to the very extortionate over-charging the installer is demanding for the removal of the old one. Still it'll look lovely when it's done. And it evidently comes complete with beautiful sunset out the window.

The decorating is finished, all except the entrance hall and landing - which we can't start whilst we've still got the old kitchen to go out and the new one to come in. The plan is for a beautiful polished venetian plaster finish. But no one mentioned that to do that all the bendy crooked two-hundred year-old walls will need to be skimmed. And I've had to abandon refurbishing the upstairs bathroom until next's just too much for a stressed out homeowner like me. The boy is very pleased with his rather plainer room than the space-rockets and stars and planets of his childhood. I'm just waiting for pictures of busty page 3 girls to go up. I'll sneek a peek.

So if all goes according to plan B, or plan C or even plan D, I reckon we might just be free of workmen by Christmas. Or the New Year. But I'm not saying which New Year.


  1. I hate dealing with workmen. They never come when they say they will and never finish on time either. We have been trying to get a carpenter to come and build a new door for our dustbin cupboard and you would think we were asking for them to copy St Paul's Cathedral. So far we have rung three and nobody has come by to give us a quote despite making arrangements to meet them.

  2. The best thing about workmen is the day when they finish.....

  3. I'm sure it'll all be worth it when it's finished ! You'll love it

  4. I'm with Auntie Gwen. When it's all over, you'll feel fab. Crap until then, but wonderful afterwards. Much like pregnancy I'm reliably informed.

  5. I've always thought I'm in the wrong game. Builders/tradesmen seem to charge what they like, turn up when they like, - and then you're grateful when they do turn up! I wish I could get away with such unprofessional behaviour.


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