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

Mist Coat

… or is that mist overall?

If I said I’d never had to deal with raw plaster walls before it would be a bit of a porky.

Many years ago, when we moved into our house, the end wall of the dining room was a single door with floor to ceiling obscured glass panels. It looked bloody awful. So, we had double doors put in with a proper wall. When I say “proper”, it wasn’t, it was a plasterboard stud partition wall – the only one in the house, all other walls, even upstairs, being real blockwork. [I should’ve insisted on a block wall – 20/20 hindsight.] Whatever it was, it was a nice new smooth wall so I just slapped on vinyl emulsion in our chosen colour. All was well.

The two long walls of the dining room were covered with lining paper before being painted because, once a wall is emulsioned, then papered, you are consigned to papering it from then on ‘cos some paint remains but some comes off, leaving a patchwork of ridges. In preparing for this major project, I had to strip the lining paper from the walls. What a fun job that was … NOT!

I was surprised when, reaching the corner with the plasterboard wall, whatever was on the plasterboard wall began pulling off in sizable chunks. Much wine has flowed over my tongue since then and I assumed I’d papered it. Wrong. What was coming off was elastic chunks of vinyl emulsion. It was coming off because I hadn’t done the old job quite properly; I had not applied an initial mist coat. [Actually, I was glad I hadn’t because I was now able to strip a painted wall.]

A mist coat is a cheapo non-vinyl emulsion, usually white, thinned by about 20% with water. The idea is that, being quite thin, it soaks into the plaster providing a good base for the colour you actually want. I set about thinning 10 litres of cheap white emulsion down to about 13 litres.

I spent 90 minutes or so masking off new copper pipework, all Sparky’s wonderful electrical switched and sockets, and the brackets for the raunchy radiators. I made little skirts for Sparky’s protruding downlighters, too.

Gnome SuitRollering regular emulsion spatters a bit anyway. Rollering cheap, thinned emulsion was going to spray like buggery so I’d invested a princely £3 in a disposable white gnome suit, a.k.a. coverall complete with hoody. I’d never used one before but, when I climbed into it, I was really quite impressed – it was papery, lightweight and breathable so I didn’t get too hot.

I set about applying my mist coat, dressed in my gnome coat, to both ceilings, all the walls in the kitchen/diner, and the hall, which was now missing a kitchen door so had been re-plastered.

This was laborious work and took about 5 hours. It also took about 12 of my 13 litres of thinned emulsion. And there was me thinking I’d been forced into buying too much [10 litres is the only size they do]. I retired not so much hurt as achy. My neck is the worst from staring up at two ceilings. I’m lucky, though, with my height I can reach the ceiling without artificial aids.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt looks much brighter now.

A little less impressed with my gnome suit which evidently protects you from spatter but not from gobs of emulsion which soak through and get on your clothes. The crops I’d worn beneath may never be the same again. Little matter.

Tomorrow, I may go commando. Surprised smile

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Welcome to the 21C

Sparky was back again, this time mainly to tackle our fuse box.

The house is c. 1980 but the electrical system seems to have been c. 1960 – we are equipped with real wire fuses [no nails or paper clips, honest] and only six of ‘em, all of which were used. We need additional circuits for an extra oven and the induction hob, which, incidentally, will consign my beloved collection of expensive, stainless steel, French Cuisinox pans to the metaphorical bin ‘cos their aluminium sandwich base doesn’t fly on induction. [Grump!] Anyway, ‘t is time to switch to a modern circuit breaker device.

Sparky began by removing the old fuse box and set about threading new, thicker uprated cables through the cavity to the main meter box. He was a bit concerned about this operation but hoped that, by taping the new to the old, he could pull the new cables into place. Things were tight; it took him pulling and me pushing but eventually they were through.

After making all the connections in the new distribution board it was time to test our new electrical system. Sparky’s tester seemed to be playing up. After 10 minutes of head scratching he dove into the meter box. Lo and behold, the probable cause of all our electrical interruptions earlier on in the project was revealed. The bozo who had recently swapped us over onto a smart meter had not tightened the cable clamp onto the neutral wire; the cable was flopping about in the terminal. Sparky did it up and his circuit tester was happy. Mystery solved.

Not out of the woods quite yet. When Sparky tried our garden lights, the circuit breaker popped. This was a repeatable error, of course. Undoing one of the garden light pedestals from the brick base revealed a colony of woodlice and wire connections caked in what is best described as damp soil. Circuit breakers are a lot more sensitive than fuses and a bit of leakage across damp soil was enough to make ‘em complain. The garden lights are not a high priority item and will remain disconnected until I can work up the enthusiasm to do something about them. Doubtless all four are home to similar colonies of wildlife.

With everything else working as advertised, we got our certificates and are cleared for take-off.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown

Let There be Light

… the return of Sparky.

Plaster drying nicely, our serenading electrician returned for his round #2. Our newly embedded cabling and pattress boxes got dressed in sockets and switches.

This man is so precise; he first went around the area armed with a Stanley knife trimming away any small amounts of plaster that had overflowed the edges of his neat handwork. Then sang his accompaniment to the radio as he fitted all the hardware.

Francine has bought a design statement for a light over the dining table. She didn’t want him to fit that until the cabinet work had been done just in case it got clonked, so he rigged up a temporary ceiling rose for the interim.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATime for Sparky to test his map of the eight downlighter positions, now covered by new ceiling, in the kitchen area. Out came his hole saw revealing wires in all the right places as hoped. In went the downlighters. Well, mostly in – he asked if I’d like him to leave them protruding, rather than flush as yet, so I could paint the ceiling without worrying about getting paint on them. Of course.

I am going to have to release his switches and sockets, of course, and I just hope I can screw them back as precisely as he did. You-know-who will be checking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve taken the opportunity also to have a power socket placed over the patio outside. This is just a regular double socket (Sparky doesn’t use singles at all) in a waterproof housing. That should make Francine’s job of mowing the grass easier – no more need to run the extension lead out through the back door. Woman’s work, gardening. Surprised smile

I may have been doing it for 40+ years but I’ve also learnt a bit about decorating. I’ve not had to deal with very much raw plaster before; I’m supposed to apply a so-called mist coat – regular emulsion thinned down so it soaks into the plaster better. The smallest quantity of cheap trade white emulsion our local professional paint supplier sells is a 10-litre tub. I’ve got plenty, then, but it was only £20.

The plaster is nearly dry enough.

Posted in 2020 Covid-19 Knockdown