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Playing House

Progress on the house has been markedly less rapid since the Boy Laurence and _kjs_ left last Tuesday. The first niggle was that the plasterer failed to turn up. He'd phoned last Monday to say that he would be delayed because his apprentice has fallen over and dislocated his shoulder, but that he'd be around that evening to leave his tools. He then phoned to say that he'd be around late that evening, because he had to present his documents at the police station. Finally, he phoned to say that he wouldn't be turning up that evening at all, since he'd handed his documents in late and was going to be charged (at the time, we took this to mean fined).

He didn't turn up the following morning, so ias repeatedly tried phoning him. When she finally got through, it transpired that the reason he hadn't turned up was that he'd been arrested for violating the terms of his bail, and had spent the night in the cells. He was very contrite, and promised to cancel the job that he'd had lined up after ours, but in a fit of karma-awareness, we declined - why spread the aggro? Besides which, if he couldn't manage to present himself in a timely manner at the local cop shop to fulfil the terms of his bail, what's the likelihood that he would turn up and plaster our wall when he said he would. So, on the lookout for another plasterer - one's coming round tonight to give us a quote, which I suspect we'll just take.

On the other hand, the delay in plastering has meant we'll be able to do a few more things in the master bedroom in the meantime. We've finally settled on flooring, for example. The floorboards aren't in too good a shape, and I was starting to get a bit uneasy about sanding them without first replacing a significant number. I spent half an hour sorting through assorted timber in a reclaimation yard in Portswood to find matches for the existing boards to little avail (I'd have to rip them all down to width, which is a major drag). We then looked at Mr. H's in Bevois Valley for natural carpets, which turned out to be rather not cheap (about £650 for a sisal carpet to fit the room). Finally went to Wickes and found the solution - unstained parquet tiling. Looks good, should be (relatively) straightforward to fix, can be stained dark, and relatively cheap. Bought quant. suff. for the master bedroom and the library, which came to a shade over £220.

In preparation for the parquet, stripped out the skirting boards in the master bedroom (we'll fit new skirting to cover the expansion strips around the edges of the room). We've ordered new timber to replace floorboards with, and the hardboard to level the floor prior to laying the parquet, but Wickes have been a bit useless on the delivery front, so we're now taking delivery this weekend rather than yesterday, and have added a few extras to the order. For example, ias noticed that the aerial lead runs down the outside of the house and through the guttering, so we'll be running conduit for coax down from the loft, through the master bedroom wall and into the living room below.

Electrics continue to be exciting (in the wrong way), so we will be getting an electrician in to check it over. It turns out that none of the fuses were correctly labelled. The 5A fuse marked 'spare' actually powers the outside light and an electric heater (on a 13A fused spur, ironically) in the utility room. Presumably that was why the fuse had blown, then (assuming that the one bar fire is rated at 1kW and draws a shade over 4A). It isn't clear why there is a heater on what is essentially a lighting circuit, nor do I want to dwell to much on what else might be hidden. I'm assuming the wiring is 1.5mm cable and only rated at 5A anyway. Starting to have worries about the length of the (single) ring main. On a lighter note, finally removed the godawful ceiling lights in the living and dining room and replaced them with something more attractive.

Finally, tried to something about the walls in the living/dining room, which went a bit wrong. I tried to skim a small wall as a test, which was just as well since I can't skim for toffee (especially after lunch with beer). It also doesn't help that, when the previous owners stripped the wallpaper and repainted, they didn't bother sanding the flaking paint off the walls, nor washed with sugar soap to get rid of the residual wallpaper paste, nor primed the bare plaster, presumably because they never show that bit in Changing Rooms. The moisture from the skim was enough to make the paint that they'd applied start lifting from the wall under the skim. In a word, bugger. Had a minor tantrum, which made me feel not at all better.

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Electrics continue to be exciting (in the wrong way)

And I thought that the electrics in our house were bad when we got it...

You know, it could be easier to just have the house re-wired at this point.

There are aspects of the electrics that are quite sensible and straightforward, but there are also some shortcuts that are quite unacceptable (the diagonal wiring in the kitchen wall, for example). The mislabelling of the fuses is simply the stupidity of the previous owners, but doesn't constitute a dangerous installation in and of itself. The shallow cable runs through notched joists are also not dangerous in an electrical sense if you're aware of them (they don't appear to violate the regulations), but they're clearly a bad idea that runs against common sense.

It doesn't help that the ground floor is a concrete slab, since having all the wiring for sockets run through the ceiling was clearly too great a temptation to having a single ring main.

Ah, so the house probably had a reasonable electrically installation which was then messed about with by previous owners who shouldn't have been let near electical DIY with someone else's barge pole ? Sounds like the central heating system in our house - our plumber had lots of fun getting that sane.

The cable running through notched joints can be made safer by using a safe plate

I've been trying without success to find safe plates to cover the cables - Wickes doesn't seem to do them, surprisingly.

That said, I'm not entirely sure if I'll be able to use them in the one place of concern that I'm aware about. Within the width of one floorboard, the joist has been notched twice to carry a central heating pipe and a cable (originally a pair of cables), so there's not an awful lot of joist to fix the plate to and still have space to fix down the floorboard. Oh, and the floorboard has been sawn above such a notched joist, so there are two floorboard ends to be fixed there...

re: previous owners and electrical safety, there are some things that I'm certain are the work of the people we bought from, like the live bare lighting cable covered with filler, the mislabelling of the fuses, and others that were probably the work of earlier owners, like the diagonal cable in the kitchen wall. I'm sure if the previous owners could have wired a plug safely, and I doubt if they'd have tried anything as complex as wiring a circuit for a cooker.

I've been trying without success to find safe plates to cover the cables

Well, that was why I provided the link to TLC Direct who are the only place I've found who sell safe plates.

Dodgy joist

That sounds... unfriendly. One option is to make use of noggings either side of the problem joist to provide extra support to the cut floorboards (actually, this is a good idea generally).As to providing protection to the pipe and cable, its going to depend on how far apart they are as to the best way to do it.

Yes, the plan for the worst of the joists included noggings, not least to give the (new) floorboards something to be nailed to.

when we get our loft done would you like the boarding we currently have up there? keep meaning to send something out about the stuff we have got to get rid of but you can have first refusal if you want it
kinda depends if your loft is boarded I guess

better go Lots has just rerefound the Easter egg


I think that Is may already have replied by mail, but yes we'd love your loft boarding.

Oh Nick, you don't know how much it gladdens my heart to hear someone else suffering with flaking paint. I've had awful trouble and several tantrums when trying to paint, and the *second* top coat lifts off a lump of flaking paint (which *looked* perfectly sound) back to the bare plaster. That's after a scrub with sugar soap, plaster sealer, base coat and one top coat.

If you want to remove it can I recommend a product called Nitromors Textured Paint remover, which I found in B&Q - it's a paint stripper safe for use on large surfaces and on plaster. It might need a couple of coats - on the second coat work it well in with the brush till the paint dissolves, then wash off with water, attend to any remaining patches of paint with wire wool and give the whole thing a wash down with sugar soap.

A hell of a lot of effort, but worth it if you're a perfectionist like me.

Good luck :-)



Re: Flaking paint

We'll have a look for that - is it one of the solvent-free strippers, or is it the standard dichloromethane/methanol witches' brew?

Ummm... I've looked on the tin and it's not specific. I haven't ever used 'proper' paint stripper (yet) but the tins for it seem to have more death warnings than my stuff, so I'm guessing it's not as noxious. You still want the windows open when you use it though. (Is paint stripper usually a thick liquid? This stuff is a really thick gelatinous paste.)

Incidentally I'm stripping the nursery now and discovered that the variety of flaking paint in there is quite easily removed with a wallpaper steamer and sharp stripping knife - with due respect to existing plaster (most of which is fortunately quite sound in this case), obviously.

Hi, I've included you in my friends list, because your stories about renovating the house interest me .. hope, you don't mind. I've found you through ias ...
thx by the way ...

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