Two in the Tower

… or Rapunzel Reprised.

My last post was on 18th August, so we’ve clearly had a 5-week hiatus.

The intervening time has had our Flooring Man arguing the toss with Moduleo, the suppliers of our defective flooring. Going into any details of his wranglings with this particularly unhelpful company would be both an exercise in futility and would require a series in itself. Just as an idea, they apparently offered us ‘an allowance’, whatever that might’ve meant. Let’s see, we’re going to spend 10s of thousands on a new kitchen and have a substandard floor be its crowning glory? Another ploy was that, since the flooring had been put down, their technical department would have to come out to see it. That wouldn’t be able to happen until November. ¿QUE?

“Unacceptable” has been Flooring man’s response to them consistently.

It is worth pointing out that another flooring contractor has spoken of a similar problem with Moduleo. Flooring Man has now turned down two potentially lucrative contracts, one of which was a 200 m2 job, because the customers wanted Moduleo but he now refuses to do business with them. For anyone thinking of having any vinyl flooring, the message is clear.

One of the problems frequently encountered in business is companies playing the Covid-19 excuse. “There’s only one person on in our customer service department.” Covid-19 has become the modern equivalent of a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. Welcome to Covid Monopoly, a bored game by Joe Bozo. [Yes, I did spell bored that way intentionally.]

Anyway, Francine has delayed delivery of our new fridge for a second time and Flooring Man was now ready to rip up the defective Moduleo crap and re-screed our floor ready for our chosen replacement from, of course, a different company. [Kährs, since you asked.] This was done this morning and once again, with most of the ground floor being a no-go zone, Rapunzel is once again trapped in the tower. Since I was painting one of the bedrooms this morning, I am trapped along with her this time. That means I wouldn’t be able to hand wine to her through the banisters and we had to plan ahead and work out what to bring upstairs with us.

View from the TowerWe’re looking down at a glistening sea of wet screed resembling a moat around our tower. We could do with a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card ourselves.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Flawed

Last week we were floored and were very happy with the service and overall appearance.

That lasted until Francine tried to clean up what she had assumed was a small patch of glue. [Baby wipes are the thing for removing stubborn deposits, apparently, so heaven knows what they do to baby’s bum.] The magic baby wipe failed.

FlawedUpon closer inspection, the blemish was not glue but appeared to be a small area right at the end of the the vinyl plank that did not have a surface coating and was matt, rather than silky. It was as if the vinyl coating was missing and so looks like a manufacturing issue. It’s not a big area, just about 3cm x 0.5cm, but it’s there.

Once seen, Francine started spotting more and more sections suffering from the same flaw, all of a similar shape and size. From close to and directly above, you don’t see it but look at an angle against the light and they stand out. It looks as if a good 50% of the floor is flawed.

Flooring Man has just been round to inspect it. His thought is that it all needs to go and be changed.

It will delay us because all supplies are flaky with companies playing the Covid-19 trump card. Francine has postponed delivery of our new fridge, originally due tomorrow, from John Lewis (at late notice so thank you to them) and we’ll go on with our trusty old fridge in the conservatory. At least it has an ice tray – none of the new fridges do. Weird!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a brighter note, our trusty electrician returned to fit Francine’s sexy and slightly extravagant light above the dining table, or, at least, above the space where the dining table will go once it’s here and once there’s an unflawed floor to stand it on. Neat. The cables are adjustable and we’ve left room for me to walk underneath unhindered.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Floored

Flooring Man had screeded more or less the whole of our ground floor and left fans blowing over it to help dry it out. However, the weather has been v. humid so the screed did not dry sufficiently overnight Thursday for the flooring to be fitted on Friday. Instead he used some of Friday to fill in where the screed had sunk – yes, we seem to have something akin to small sink holes in our floor. I’m sure he’d have had to do that anyway.

That gave me the weekend to do yet more decorating. My target was the downstairs loo, primarily but also the utility room which was also benefiting from a new floor. I don’t usually mind decorating, it can be quite therapeutic, but I’m not keen on decorating against the clock which all my recent efforts have been.

I finished up my second emulsion coats in both smallest rooms of the house [I know, there can be only one smallest] this morning and I only cracked my head on shelves and cupboards four times. Yay!

Flooring Man pitched up earlier than we’d expected but happily I’d finished. He set about planning his attack and marking up the floor appropriately. Francine has chosen wood effect vinyl planks. The glue used to fix them is interesting: the whole floor is covered and then left 40 minutes or so to dry. Downward pressure on the flooring is then sufficient to make it stick … very strongly. They say you can lift the flooring again but you have to heat the glue to soften it and release it.

We spent the afternoon sitting in the garden while our ground floor was transformed. And why not, indeed?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was yet another tradesman doing a very neat job. We’re very happy with the result.

Kitchen-wise, I think that just leaves the kick boards to be fitted, which will hopefully happen this week. Oh, and the new fridge to be delivered, too, sometime. [I may just stay in the conservatory with the old one.]

Francine is already planning the new lounge carpet, stair carpet and a new washing machine, too. Then there’s my west wing to do. Is there no end?

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Rapunzel

Our Flooring Man had had a cancellation and had offered Francine the possibility of getting our new flooring down on this Thursday and Friday. “Why on earth not?”, we thought.

Not content with having just the newly developed kitchen-diner done, madam wanted the flooring continued seamlessly out into the reshaped hall AND into the downstairs loo. Franco piped up and suggested going for broke; why not do the utility room as well? [More of that another day.] That would leave our lounge as the only unaffected downstairs room and the only one retaining a pleasant, comfortable under-foot carpet.

The downstairs loo/cistern was original and so has been in the house since 1980. We were quite keen that it should be renewed. Francine was quite keen that it should be renewed now. So, our friendly plumber came in and ripped out all the fittings to allow the new flooring to be laid unhindered. Good idea.Think of it as a little side project to make me have to redecorate even more of the house.

Having knocked two rooms together and chopped up a goodly portion of the floor to lay new services for radiators and island power supply, the first job was to level the floor with new, self-levelling screed. The screed would take 5-6 hours to set.

Spot the problem, people.

The lounge and conservatory would be usable [we’d decamped there again] but, with the hall off limits, anyone there couldn’t get anywhere else in the house. One simply cannot have a lady put in the position of having no access to a loo for in excess of 5 hours – setting time plus the laying time up front. Francine was confined to the tower with just her mobile phone for company. Oh, the landline and Internet were off to make way for the flooring, too.

Franco, on the other hand, had a handily arranged lunch appointment and was locked downstairs on the opposite side of the sea of screed to facilitate his escape. There’s always the back garden for a chap’s relief, as long as the neighbours aren’t looking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I returned from lunch armed with an evening meal requiring no cooking, Flooring Man had finished [at about 14:00] and two large and quite noisy fans were blowing air over the new flooring screed to assist drying. Rapunzel, as Francine was now affectionately tagged, remained locked in the tower and I settled down to peace and puzzles in the conservatory. [Zzzzzzz …]

Throwing down her hair wasn’t going to rescue Rapunzel from the tower, despite fairy tales. Besides, it would be like climbing a spiral staircase. I did consider putting a ladder up to the window to get her out but clambering back up it to visit a loo might not be a good thing. It’d give the neighbours a good laugh, though.

Evening approached.

Disaster! Neither of us could reach the wine store under the stairs. As the only occupant with access to the outside world, I valiantly volunteered to pop out to a local shop to fix our oversight.

Second disaster! We now had wine but neither of us could get to our glasses which were painted into a corner in the new dining area. Neighbours to the rescue this time; after a crie de cœur two wine glasses magically appeared over the garden fence. Luckily our finger tips could just about reach each other without treading in a sea of screed and the glasses just passed through the banisters.

We had a test prod of the floor surface at 19:00; it felt firm enough but we gave it another 30 minutes before Rapunzel finally escaped the tower via the conventional route.

What fun.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Postscript: Cock-up Cookability

There had been some debate as to how long our “Structural Addition” would take to harden before it was ready to accept our new “push-fit” induction hob. [No longer are there clamps positioned beneath the lower surface of the worktop which tighten the appliance down. Now there are just friction brackets acting sideways.]

Initially 24 hours was mentioned by Template Man. We cancelled having our hob fitted. Then Bonding Man turned up and said it would be ready in 30 minutes max. Further discussions ensued and Template Man, who gets the size of holes wrong, also gets the setting time of bonding resin wrong.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFitter Man #1 was rescheduled and returned at 17:00. We soon had our induction hob in place and connected. Our Structural Addition seemed sound.

Now all we have to do is learn how to use it.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Cock-up Repair

Oh, wait, no, apparently this is NOT a repair.

Having discovered that the hole in the worktop for our hob was “sub-optimal”, i.e 30mm too large, Ultrawood Interiors, who have themselves been superb, were as miffed as we were that one of their suppliers had fallen below par. A cunning plan was hatched by Stewkley Stone to glue back their missing 30mm in the form of two 14mm strips1 of worktop material.

We impressed upon all parties that we needed not only an assurance but a written guarantee that this measure would work for the foreseeable future and not suddenly let go. This we received and this is where we discovered that this was not a repair but was “a structural addition”. [Get out your fine distinctions books.] We have a non-transferable 9-year guarantee.

The bonding resin used is said to be stronger than the worktop material itself. There was for a short while talk of inserting reinforcing bars through the “structural additions” [not repair pieces] but that could possible weaken the worktop material itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was reminded of my Materials professor at university, who had been called in to investigate the original Comet 4A airliner disasters in 1953. Until that time, nobody knew that the stresses within airframe materials around rivet holes was magnified threefold by the hole itself; the planes basically unzipped themselves and fell apart in mid-air. I agreed, let’s just bond it. If it doesn’t work we retain the option of having that run ripped out and replaced.

Our Structural Addition Man [not Repair Man] sounded as if he knew what he was doing and instilled much more confidence than had Template Man, who I now wouldn’t trust further than I could spit.

1. The astute will notice that 2 x 14mm strips adds up to 28mm, not 30mm. My guess is that this allows 2mm for the thickness of the glue/resin/bonding material

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

First Cock-up

.. and what a howler.

Having had our worktop templates made a little over two weeks ago, today they were being fitted. Excitement was high; we’d soon be able to use our new hob.

Our fastidious Fitter Man #1 said he’d come and disconnect the tap and then refit it after the worktops were in situ. That done, shortly afterwards the Stewkley Stone van arrived containing two other strapping young men together with our worktops.

The young men needed to be strapping; we’ve gone for one of the more expensive options, quartz, and with the kitchen sink run being almost 3m long, 600mm deep and 30mm thick, that single piece is pretty heavy. No special equipment was used to lift them in, just fit young muscles.

The sink run was the first placed. It was quite a tight fit and took some of my new paint off the wall. Not really a big deal – I expected to have some touching up to do.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast to go in was our island unit/breakfast bar top with its smoothly curved edges. Between first and last, the hob run had been fitted, with its pre-cut hole for the hob, and together with its upstands and splash back. Everything looked very splendid and smart. The tops were glued in place, by the way, screws not being used into quartz, apparently.

Francine got some cleaning/care instructions.

Re-enter fastidious Fitter Man #1, intent on fitting our induction hob in the pre-cut hole. He was a much less than happy chappie. Oh dear, what could be amiss?

The hob measures 800mm x 520mm. The hole to receive the hob is specified as needing to be 750mm x 490-500mm. Our hole had been cut to be 780mm x 500m, 30mm too large in width. Cutting it too small is one thing, more could be cut out. Cutting it too big is quite another. The Neff attachment mechanism would not work in a hole that was too big.

F**K! How could someone even think of cutting a hole to receive an appliance without reference to either a template or to any specifications? Talk about a schoolboy error; it beggars belief. I was mortified, not to say livid. Hitherto we have had nothing but excellent service from all our other workmen: builder, electrician, plumbers and fitters.

There is talk of splicing back in the missing 30mm. It won’t show, being under the top surface of the hob, but we’ll need assurances that it will be a strong enough bond to last “forever”, take the pressure of fitting the hob and hold it securely.

Decidedly grumpy!

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Fitted Part #1

It’s quite amazing how having work like this done on ones house makes weekends special again. We don’t have to be up and dressed ready to receive workmen at 08:00 on Saturday and Sunday. This was our 5th weekend and we’ve been enjoying them.

For a little light relief, we decided to prepare our new Neff ovens for use. You are supposed to fire them up to “burn off the new smell”. So, into the manuals we leapt to find out precisely how. What, reading manuals? Francine took the combination microwave/oven and I took the regular oven.

Regular? I think not. Flicking through the manual I was gobsmacked to find a page entitled Sabbath Mode. Yikes, we’ve been sold a Yiddish oven! I don’t want a religious oven of any denomination. Maybe it won’t roast pork. I can’t live without roast pork. Just think what a Catholic oven might do, refuse to cook anything but fish on Friday, I imagine. Give me an Atheist oven every time.

Having got over my shock and wondering if they would refuse to work on a Sunday, we wound them up to a high temperate, one at a time, for an hour each to prepare them for battle at a later date. All was well.

Bright and early, at 08:00 on Monday (Day #26), Fitter Man #1 turned up. This was to be their final day of their part #1. Fitter Man #2 put handles on all our units while Fitter man #1 cut the oak tops for the surfaces in the dining area, edged and attached them. The under-unit lighting is now fitted, too. Glass shelves went into our tall cupboards and the door hinges have been adjusted to align all the closing edges.

While that was happening the Flooring Man turned up to take final measurements now that all the units are in place. He thought it would take a couple of weeks to get all the necessary materials.

There are no more cardboard boxes containing pieces of 3D jigsaw and the room is no longer filled with tools. We have our space back. We like it, which is a damn good job, really. Here’s how it looks (still without worktops).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We do still have some jigsaw pieces in the garage. These are the kick boards which Fitter Men will return to fit after the flooring is down.

Oh, the new water softener is in and commissioned, too, so maybe we’ll soon be getting some soft water back.

I just hope that we won’t be required to say grace before each meal.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

What a Difference a Door Makes

Thursday began with a conundrum. Since the new plumbing for the Window Wall was done, when water flowed to fill our cold storage tank, we’d been hearing some very strange noises. Some of it was what we regarded as fairly normal pipe rumble but overlying it sometimes was a buzzing that defied explanation – how could a water supply buzz? Eventually Fitter Men, normally with a radio on, heard what we were talking about and decided that they couldn’t live with it either.

Plumber Man turned up to lend a hand. The buzzing seemed associated with the water flow slowing down. A special ballcock was mentioned that either flowed or not, rather than trickled to a stop. Untried technology. The non-return valve on the mains inlet was also suspected. After a fair amount of head-scratching, the team decided to increase the size of the service hole at the back of our under-sink cupboard to enable the replacement of the valve. The buzzing noise went away. Bliss! Clearly we’d had a faulty non-return valve.

Normal work could resume.

Thursday and Friday made our building site look even more like a kitchen, both with the addition of doors and with another appliance.

Day 25 (2 of 3)The Cooking Wall has gained it’s extractor hood and the “vanity” panel (I think it’s more correctly referred to as a “fly shelf”) above it. In my view, the fly shelf ties it in very neatly and is well worth the extra. We’ve taken the protective plastic off the two ovens, too.

The only sub-optimal [I’ve been reading management manuals again] feature on this wall is that modern free-standing fridges are a little deeper than our old existing fridge and the “magic corner” shelf units in the cupboard beside the fridge won’t open fully without fouling the fridge. We’ll be able to reach in, though and they’re better than a smaller integrated fridge, in our opinion.

Day 25 (1 of 3)The Window Wall has progressed nicely, too. We have a working tap and dishwasher which Francine is threatening to use this evening. Washing up in the garden wears thin. The dishwasher now has its matching door panel so is better balanced and won’t fly back up.

Day 25 (3 of 3)Lurking in the centre of all that is the island unit in Oxford blue. We have a double socket lurking around the back as it is definitely going to be the main preparation area. The socket will be hidden under the worktop overhang.

Speaking of worktops, a nice man from Stewkley Stone turned up on Thursday evening to measure and made plastic templates from which to cut. We’re going for the quartz option. They will take about 2 weeks to make.

Meanwhile we have some more conventional worktops on loan to make things more usable for the duration. What considerate people.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

A Few Appliances

Form has continued to develop over the last two days and it’s beginning to look a bit more like a kitchen area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe now have a built-in dishwasher, though it remains door-less. All cabinet doors remain unfitted to avoid the risk of damage during the other fitting work. The dishwasher is apparently now usable though we don’t yet fancy risking it. It sits between our now boxed-in new boiler and the new sink, designed to sit beneath the worktop when we eventually get it. The sink is also said to be usable but we’d have to be so careful about splashes that we don’t really fancy that yet, either. The Window Wall is taking shape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur two Neff ovens were also installed and connected. Once again, usable but, you guessed it, not until we have time to digest instructions and play without any stress. The lower unit is a fan oven, the top unit is an oven/microwave combi affair. The slot for our free-standing fridge is also taking shape. The induction hob and sloping cooker hood (I smacked my head on the sharp-cornered Spanish conventional cooker hood far too many times) remain to be fitted. The Cooking Wall is also taking shape.

There was one little glitch. Our old water softener (a Waterside), destined for the sink cupboard, did not fit; it was too deep. The new cupboards have a backboard with space behind them to conceal electrical supplies and plumbing supplies, and very neat they look too. Our old cupboards did not and were consequently deeper internally. The old one could’ve fitted sideways but that looked awful. I bought a new, and I believe much better, Monarch Midi softener. Some helpful men at Bedford had them in stock at a better price than we could manage locally and I collected one. Fitter man has positioned it already and, though snug, it fits well.

Our water is very hard and showering is suffering. I am looking forward to getting soft water back.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown