Sunday, 28 December 2008

Happy anniversary

It's been just over a year to the day since we exchanged contracts on the house. If someone had told me last Christmas that we'd only just be into our house in a year from now, I don't think we would've persevered. I'm glad we did though as despite the expense and delays it really feels like home. I'm not even missing our old bathroom (which was bigger, newer and had windows)...

Progress on the house is going to pick up this coming week as we're off to Holland for New Year's so Teia's coming over to do some snagging and finishing up. I can't believe we're leaving the house now, I could quite happily cocoon here even in its unfinished state but it's going to be messy and dusty. Five days ago the carpet went down on the stairs. It was actually a good idea living with the cold wooden stairs for a few weeks, complete with sharp nails poking out, as it made us appreciate the thick 100% wool carpet so much more once it was laid. The colour's "sable" or thereabouts, sort of a dark browny grey. Will upload a photo soon...

Monday, 22 December 2008

House of bamboo

It's amazing how massive this room looks now that the flooring is down. The strips of engineered planks of bamboo run the length of the house, rather than the width, which adds to the lengthening effect. As you can see it has a slight reflective sheen and lies perfectly flat. The top floor of the house creaks with every footstep, due to the flooring not being screwed down properly. This will get remedied when phase two of the build goes ahead. The downstairs loo floor was concrete and rubble until Friday, and when our toddler popped her head in and saw that there was a proper floor she actually clapped with joy. She doesn't even use a toilet but even she can tell the significance of a well laid floor.

Rubble rousers

Aaaah, light. The sparky wired up two external lamps which operate on a sensor so if anything moves in the back garden they switch on for about two minutes, then go off again. We can over-ride this from inside, so if we were hanging out in the garden at night and wanted to see what we were doing the sensor lights can be forced to stay on.

The lights seem to switch with alarming regularity and we were putting it down to the nocturnal habits of the neighbours cats (of which there seem to be about a dozen) but at the weekend we heard an animal howling and five minutes later an enormous fox trotted right past our doors. I reckon it was as big as Schnauzer (not a miniature one) or a Cocker Spaniel - and really fluffy. The odd fox we spied from our last flat was always mangy and feral looking, this fox last night looked almost regal. I guess it gets to dine on the spoils of nearby Victoria Park. We're going to have to remove the undergrowth at the bottom of the garden because as much as I love animals, I'm not happy about a family of foxes living there...

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Ground floor goes down

Anthony-the-architect wasn't impressed with our installation headache, and he's dealt with many glass manufacturers in the course of his career. He helpfully wrote a letter to send to Sunfold, outlining all the things that have inconvenienced us as clients which ended with the explanation as to why we were withholding £400 from the final bill. This works out at one and a half days of Teia's time, and half a day as compensation. The entire bill was over £20,000 to Sunfold, so £400 is actually a very reasonable deduction given the circumstances.

Most of the the bamboo flooring on the ground floor was laid yesterday so there's a layer of fine dust all over the house again. The plasterers were meant to come today to do the walls but have gone awol (mmm, it is the Saturday before Christmas!). Bit of a shame as we were hoping to get all the mess out of the way before the carpet goes down on the stairs on Tuesday. Teia stayed over last night so he could get stuck in to finishing the floor today and despite what must be a blinding hangover is enduring the noise from a skillsaw with a cheery disposition...

Monday, 15 December 2008

A roof over our heads...

Now where were we? Oh yes, the aluminium was re-drilled in Norfolk and delivered at the house by 8am this morning. The installation guys didn't show up on site till 11.10am. Quelle surprise. I wonder if my email/phone rants got passed on, because when I arrived home tonight they made a big deal out of telling me they hadn't eaten anything since 8am. I noticed that the job was nearly finished too. They're back tomorrow to deal with the last bit of glass then off to do another job in London (why are so many people getting extensions in the middle of winter?!). I felt a bit bad about dobbing them in, but the person on the other end of the phone said that other customers had said the same thing (ie: they talk too much and could work harder...)

Aside from the job taking six days from start to finish I'm pleased it's happened this side of Christmas as it's getting colder by the day here. Teia's back tomorrow to start lining the walls, and he's planning on laying the bamboo flooring before Christmas too. The actual product from Sunfold looks superb and the doors are really weighty, with a nice closing action. The installation guys said they'd put Ewan McGregor's sliding doors in, and if they're good enough for him, they're good enough for us...

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The roof has gone down

No, you're not seeing things. This is a photo taken today as the rain bucketed down. The framework for the roof that was put up yesterday has been removed and taken back to Norfolk. It didn't have the correct holes drilled to take the windows that slot in, and they can't be drilled on site. The framework needs to go back to the factory where the holes will be drilled over the weekend. The installation men will be back on Monday to start putting all the bits back in place. So what was meant to be a two day job is now going to take three or four, and of course we're enduring another chilly weekend with what is now very gappy hoarding. Hey, at least the doors went in and as you can see, they fit. One step forward, two steps back...

Friday, 12 December 2008

The roof's going up

Yesterday the two blokes from Sunfold arrived at 8.45am and decided they needed some scaffolding or trestle tables. (This is despite an email recently saying that no such thing would be required for our fitting). So they disappeared for two hours to hire the right bits from a local building supplier. By local I mean it's five minutes drive away. As you can see from the photos here the roof bits were eventually laid out and hauled into place. At 5.30pm the blokes downed tools to go Christmas shopping in the new Westfield Mall. Before they left, they told Rob that they had to leave early on Friday to get back to Norfolk for the weekend, but would come and finish the job on Monday.

We were under the impression that this job would take one day, though earlier in the week we found out they allocate two. To have to run to three days is inconvenient (I am writing this while wearing a blanket, the entire back of the house downstairs is open) ...and expensive.

Teia was on site to remove the hoarding and tarp and pointed out that if the blokes had knuckled down they could've finished the entire job in one day. Apparently they spent a good part of the afternoon talking rubbish and downing cups of tea.

I fired off an email to Sunfold to complain and to say that if we have to pay Teia for a third day (to remove/install the hoardings) I will deduct his day rate from the amount we owe them. I don't mind wearing costs when there is a legitimate reason but when it's because a couple of installation staff are taking the mickey I see red!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Stairs and Christmas

The extension started being installed today. Yippee! Will give a firmer update once I've seen the progress. This photo shows the state of the stairs right now - we've had the faux parquet ripped up in preparation for the carpet, which will be laid in a couple of weeks. The wooden strips that are visible are full of tiny sharp nails, this is what the underlay attaches to. The kids have had a few scrapes and have got the hang of wearing slippers inside at all times, though the back of my Ugg boots are looking really scratched up.

The photo below shows our concession to Christmas. Rob (and the girls) would be keen for a real tree, but owing to the mountains of unpacked boxes I've managed to persuade them that it'll have to wait until next year. I dug out my fibre optic tree for the third year running. I love it. It looks tiny because it's perched next to a 40" flat screen TV but the lighting effect (which changes every couple of seconds) is perfectly festive for me. The DVD players and the Sky box are going to be housed inside that cabinet. Rob found some infra red devices which means you can use remotes without having to have the cabinet doors open - genius.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Two more days of chill?

Here's a photo showing what's separating us from the elements right now (ignore the mess on the counter top, this photo was taken in October). Yesterday I had a call from Sunfold Systems saying they'd had a last minute cancellation, and would we like our glass and steel installed this week. Would we what!

Teia-the-builder confirmed he could make it to the house on Thursday to remove the hoarding and tarp and prepare the space for the installation team to do their magic. The brickie needs to come back too to fit the flashing and the cornice stones on the party wall, but he can't make it until the weekend. I've got Sunfold calling me back today to confirm if it's OK to progress with the installation if the brickie's not on site, their concern would be if it rains before the flashing is fitted that water could seep in. I've checked the forecast and it looks like it's going to stay clear until Saturday, fingers crossed things progress and it doesn't rain...

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Swings and roundabouts

Evidence of the cold here, yes, that's snow. And below are the mattresses which are making a reappearance as the temperatures plummet. Last week we had to replace the dryer as the one that came with the house gave up the ghost, and this week we've had to replace the washing machine. Both these items together cost nearly £600 which (of course) we hadn't budgeted for. On the good news side, we were told today that our bill for the rest of the glass on the extension was going to be £300 cheaper, thanks to the 2.5% reduction in VAT. For anyone not in the UK, the VAT reduction is supposed to give the economy a kick start but I'd poo-pooed it as it seems such a paltry amount when buying day-to-day items, but when you're spending thousands 2.5% does make a difference! Our mortgage looks set to tumble too, it's already almost half what it was when we took it out in February. There's light at the end of what seems like a very long expensive tunnel...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Storage and stuff

We've had quite a few sympathetic emails from friends who thought the timing was unlucky ie: moving into an unfinished home just when a bitter cold snap hits the UK. I have to say, it's actually no colder than a Wellington* winter (*in NZ, where we're from). I lived in several wooden houses there which were badly insulated, had no central heating or double glazing and were impossible to keep warm. Hunkering down in London with the frost/ice/snow is sort of nostalgic...

Speaking of warmth, and therefore gas and boilers - we are getting bespoke cabinetry made to house the boiler, as well as hide an assortment of objects. It'll run the length of the extension wall. There'll be a bar in there, a hole for a TV and shelves for cookbooks, miscellaneous debris etc. Pictured is the architect's plan for the cabinetmaker to work from. For a while we considered Dieter Rams shelving from Vitsoe but decided that something with doors that was custom built would work better. Also, a colleague said Dieter's shelving could look too industrial for residential spaces. She's an expert in these matters and I'm happy to defer to people who know about these things.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

20% off nothing

We ordered this Muji bed by phone last Saturday afternoon as we had a guest staying for a few nights last week. For some reason Muji won't deliver on Monday or Tuesday so the earliest we could get it was Wednesday. Come Monday and I checked my inbox and was horrified to find an email… a 20% off everything at Muji voucher - ARRRGHH. Too late, as the bed had been paid for over the phone via credit card. It would've saved me about £70 to have cancelled the bed, and re-ordered it but my brain was too foggy to attempt that negotiation. As it transpired, we were too shattered to empty the spare room of boxes so our guest ended up in the girls' room in the bottom bunk for her stay... while the bed remained leaning against a wall.

Last night we got motivated enough to assemble it and it didn't take too long actually. The packaging is insane, so we're hoping a neighbour will procure a skip sometime soon so we can dispense with the miles of cardboard...