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).


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

Our Window Wall

I have never understood what the f-f-f-flipping heck a wonderwall is/was. Oasis were talking/singing [singing?] complete tosh. “You’re my wonderwall”; what does that mean, you’re as thick as bricks?

No matter, today’s target was our Window Wall and under the window goes our sink and all the associated plumbing paraphernalia. Today, Fitter Men set about ripping out our old sink and associated plumbing and replacing it; just the plumbing for now, at least.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOff went the hot water, off went the cold mains water and out went the old copper pipes and waste pipes. Then Fitter Men started planning and installing the new stuff. As you can see, they’ve made a very neat job of it … and these aren’t the plumbers, technically, anyway.

I’d been looking forward to this part of the project. Our old mains water stopcock was seized up with chalk, so hard is our water. I used to be able to turn it off with the aid of a spanner. If I did turn it off, bits of chalk would break away and work their way up the cold riser, getting jammed in a the cold storage tank’s ballcock causing it not to shut off properly resulting in overflows. Now if we forced it with a spanner the thing most likely to break off might be the stopcock itself. Nobody wanted to risk it; our water supply was turned off at the meter. I always felt very vulnerable not being able to turn off the water supply at the main inlet.

We’ve got a nice new working stopcock now and I feel much more comfortable.

All our old waste and supply plumbing was inside the old sink cupboard. The new stuff runs behind the sink cupboard and looks much neater. There are water connections for the taps, of course, but also for our water softener. Where we used to have three separate waste pipes running through the wall, there is now just one. Much neater.

What we don’t have this evening is any sink or hot water tap. We’ve been washing up on the patio.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

The Build Begins

Our 4th set of workmen, Our Fitter Men ❗ , turned up on Thursday morning to attempt our 163-piece 3D jigsaw that should end up being our kitchen cabinets. Fitter B set about assembling the jigsaw while Fitter A started undoing our existing sink unit and studying/planning the plumbing changes.

As Fitter B progressed, the area began filling with assembled cabinet carcasses and the remaining pieces of jigsaw got fewer and fewer.

On Friday morning, Plumber Men turned up to fit the sexy vertical radiators onto the now painted walls. I had been desperate to get the walls painted first so as not to soil the white of the radiators. They filled the system with water and began balancing the valves to get all radiators working efficiently (we hope). We could now come off the expensive-to-run immersion heater option.

Weekend 4-0068By the end of the day we had most of one corner run of cabinets fitted. This is where our induction hob and two ovens (one a microwave combi unit) will eventually go, along with a free-standing fridge tucked in the corner. Built-in fridges are less capacious so we’re sticking with a free standing unit.

It looks as if the final paint shade we picked will be fine. Phew!

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown


Yesterday late afternoon I got a message from Builder Men to say that Francine’s replacement kitchen window was in and they’d be here at 08:30 to fit it. The weather forecast did not look particularly favourable for ripping out an old window and standing outside fitting a new one. Good old Sod’s Law strikes again.

Sure enough, Builder Men pitched up on schedule, did a swift bit of preparation then Man #1 left to collect said window.

Our kitchen units, from the Chippendale range, were also due to be delivered today, Wednesday being their day for servicing this area. The units were coming from up north so we thought they would get here a little later in day.

Wrong. Francine took a phone call at 09:00 saying Mr. Chippendale was just finishing his first drop and was 30 minutes away. His truck, with Doncaster written on the back, drew up at 09:35. He’d apparently started his journey shortly after 05:00.

Our instructions were to have the longer pieces stored in our garage while the shorter components were to be stashed in the newly painted kitchen/diner. I hadn’t really given this any thought, but I was surprised to find that everything but our larder unit (largely to house the central heating boiler) came flat-packed.

Chippendale, flat-packed? Whatever next? Our other option at the start of this process would have been Sheraton units; I presume they also come flat-packed. Chippendale and Sheraton are two of the finest, most traditional names in British furniture and their stuff now gets delivered flat-packed. How the mighty have fallen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe component boxes seemed endless. I remembered assembling the furniture for Casa Libélule which came in 16 boxes and that was puzzle enough.  I’ve counted the items on the delivery note; trying to make sense of this 163-piece 3D Jigsaw looks like an absolute nightmare.

I’m very glad it’s not going to be me doing it.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

The Colour Merry-go-round

I think we’ve both lost track of the colours that we have (temporarily) settled on for the walls. Holding a tiny colour swatch up against a cupboard door just doesn’t do it. Neither, it seems, does painting a piece of lining paper with a matchpot and propping the cupboard door up against that. In both cases, slapping the colour on a wall and switching to a large expanse makes things look very different.

We discarded the options we had after our 50 Shades of White lining paper test [actually it was five different colours]. We settled on a Laura Ashley colour called Pearl, a bit like a very light grey.

More head scratching; trying mentally to extend my test patch, pearl began to look a bit dull. We [that’s the royal we] wanted something a bit more chirpy. Moving our sample of Dulux Morning Light [one of those initial 5 samples] around into different lights it seemed fine with the cupboard door and did look chirpy. It’s one of the Dulux “Light & Space” range which is supposed to micro thingies that reflect more light.

OK, I should be able to get it mixed up in Dulux’s “Kitchen” paint to resist grease. We could do with the Light & Space micro thingies in the hall which has now lost some of its light. On Saturday, I high-tailed it to the Dulux trade centre in Bletchley.

I muttered “Morning Light” along with “Light & Space” and the lady looked bemused. She’d never heard of either the colour or the finish. This was odd; it’s the only paint type that this colour is available in off the shelf.

“What about Kitchen?”, I rejoined. More bemused looks ensued. She consulted the infernal computer and reeled off a few finishes that she thought she could manage. None sounded familiar. If I went back with the wrong finishes, I’d be for the high jump. I told her so and left.

I went to the trade paint supplier back near home and told the helpful chap there my sad story. He said he could mix me a Morning Light facsimile in a Johnstone’s washable base. He could also do it in a Dulux “Diamond” base … but that’d be £85 for 5 litres, enough to make Farrow & Ball prices look quite reasonable. I bought 10 litres of Johnstone’s.

I slapped some on one wall of our hallway. Francine’s face was less than promising. I covered a large, mainly plain wall in the dining area. Francine’s face remained less than promising. It seemed quite sunny to me, though I was in a minority, but I had to agree that it didn’t look right with the cupboard door. What completely sunk it was that it didn’t look right with one of Francine’s photos, destined to hang on it. [I’ll use it to paint my office, when I get it.]

Losing the will to live, we decided to try good old Brilliant White. Casa Libélula had been white head to toe, as is quite usual in Spain, and we liked the airy feel it gave in an essentially open plan space. I smothered a few walls in Brilliant White. It looked OK and Francine’s photograph looked fine.

If anything was wrong, it was that the bright white made our Ivory cupboard door look a little drab. This was a bit of a shame ‘cos the ivory counterpoint to an Oxford blue island unit was supposed to be something of a feature.

On Monday morning, clearly much refreshed, Francine came up with another option: Farrow& Ball “Wimbourne White” – white with just a touch of yellow-ish. Running short of time to finish before the units arrived on Wednesday, I high-tailed it to our local trade retailed for a matchpot. It looked great with the door and all our other bits. I went and bought another 10 litres of Johnstone’s facsimile and set about over-painting all the mist coat in the entire kitchen and dining area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe like it and so does Francine’s photograph. We may be in business. Let’s hope this is the very last change of mind and colour.

Did you know that “mist” in German can be translated as shit? I’m going to redefine “mist coat” as a coat of paint that you thought would be OK but that just doesn’t work.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown