Sunday, 20 September 2015

An update on the last three years....And it all kickstarts again!

I cannot believe it is at least 3 1/2 years since we last posted on the blog.  You've missed moving in and everything...!

The new series of Grand Designs has just started and a few people have asked us about where we are with the house now, and did we 'do' Grand Designs! It made me realise that we hadn't posted on this blog we kept up with diligently for years.  So it was time for an update.

We didn't 'do' Grand Designs. To be honest we didn't think about it early enough, but I am not sure that we could have coped with Kevin's questions as well as everyone elses!

So, I think it's fair to say that the last few months before we moved in on the 28th May 2012 were somewhat full on.  We were trying to finish tiling, decorating, and all those pesky jobs that you know if you don't do now, you never will.

You missed me getting very emotional with the Building Control inspector when he gave us our Certificate of Completion and Occupancy Certificate, without any red items that needed rectifying. None.  We did it in one(ish).  I was so proud of us that day.

You missed move in day. Something of an anti-climax if we're honest.  We seemed to have been in the house forever building it, falling in and out of love with it many times over the three years, and now we were actually in.  I think it hit us about a month later when all the furniture arrived, then it felt like a home.

And here we are.  We still pinch ourselves sometimes when we have time to reflect on what we actually did, at our age (young apparently, not old!), with our own bare hands, while living over 2 hours away by car for the first 18 months, working full time throughout, and we're still speaking and married!  Result!

We still have a distinct lack of light shades, and only two pictures up in the whole house; Darran's collector's edition The Simpsons stamps, and a picture we bought in Paris when we got engaged in 2004.  We really need to get more up, but have always wanted to find things that mean something to us, rather than trot off to Ikea and buy load of random pictures.

Moving in was only about two-thirds of the way to the whole project being done. We now have the outside to do.  The house is in the middle of the plot, so there is more ground at the front than the back, but also quite a lot either side too.

We didn't do anything from 2012 to now, but last year we started the back garden (then decided to go on holiday twice to make up for the last 6 years!), lawn and raised veggie beds went in.

This year we have done the decking which adjoins the back of the house (washing line still to move!), and have started to put block paving around the sides and along the back.

Our goal by the end of the year is to have all this block paving done, new slabbing under the breeze way and up the ramp, and then next year we will do the drive, but we have decided to get contractors in to do that for us as there is a lot of levelling to do.

So, it's starting again.  Just when you thought my pink steel toe-capped boots had gone in to retirement, they're back.

What did we learn throughout it all?

Anything is possible.

We had the idea. We found a plot. We planned it, drew it, financed it, project managed it, built it.

We jumped through hoops, fought a few battles. We compromised, we sort counsel.

We tried.  And then we tried again.  And again.

We celebrated, we cried, we laughed. We fell out.  We made up again.

There were times we wanted to sell everything for 50p.

But we did it.

And I love that we did.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Top 10 things not to say when someone you know is self-building!

We've haven't ranted that much on this blog, so now we're about to make up for it!

If you know someone who's building their own house, and when we say building it, we mean them and not a builder (big difference) here are a few tips on what NOT TO SAY!!!!

Our 'Top 10' of the most annoying and testing things you can say to two people who have devoted the last three years of their lives to building a house are:-
  1. I remember having the extension built on our house, such hard work (key difference there....having it "built" for you).
  2. What are you doing this weekend? (The same as we have been doing for the last 150 odd weekends).
  3. It's taking a long time to do isn't it. (We're building a house in our spare time).
  4. Still doing DIY? (Don't even get us started on the difference between self-building and DIY).
  5. Why don't you just do it this way...? (You honestly think we haven't thought of that?)
  6. When do you think you'll be in? (Soon. And it's been soon since the 16th July 2009).
  7. I couldn't do it (well don't then).
  8. You need a team of people to help you (and you'd get another list of 10 reasons why that is a disaster waiting to happen).
  9. You must be tired. (Tired happened Christmas 2009, try again.)
  10. Can't you just move in anyway? (Occupancy certificate? Structural warranty sign off? Building Control approval? Insurances? Shall we go on....?)
We've heard them all, several times. We know people are just trying to empathise and be supportive (most of the time). But please. Enough now.

One of the best things that you can say, which was said to me last week, is quite simply....

"Wow. You are amazing. Well done".

And then prepare for that person to burst in to tears!

Thursday, 1 March 2012


We fitted the extractor fan and splash back in the kitchen a few weeks back. It looks lovely (even with protective covers still on!) and makes a hell of a noise even on the lowest speed, but that's want you want so there's not curry smells the next morning and so on.

The gloss black kitchen tiles have arrived so before the tile cutter gets put away, we've the kitchen to do too. The cooker has also been delivered and the gas man will hook that up when he comes to install the boiler which will hopefully be in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Tiling (again)

Just when you thought it was safe to put away the tile cutter, it's back out with a vengeance. Darran's back on his favourite job (not!) of tiling the ensuite and bathroom. Here are a couple of pictures at the half way stage.

Bath in, and waiting for gloss black border tiles to arrive.

Ensuite, with borders fitted. Looks very nice!

So, a couple more weekends and that will see that tick. Not much more left now.....

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Bathrooms

You've seen the kitchen done, now on to the bathrooms. We certainly weren't idle on our two week break over Christmas and New Year!

As we've got more of a wet room set up rather than a shower tray set up in the bathroom and ensuite, we needed to do 'tanking' (technical term!) around the corners and floors of the wet room areas.

Then it was on to tiling the floors. We've gone for black in the bathroom as we have gloss white tiles for the walls, and a dark brown for the ensuite in keeping with the rest of the colour scheme in that room, and we have gloss cream for the walls.

(Both room still need another couple of washes to get the grout dust off so look a bit dull).

And now it's on to tiling the walls. Just the mosaic and feature tiles to decide on. More decisions. Anyone want to make this decision for for us....please.....anyone.....?

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Kitchen

We now have a kitchen! Well all bar the cooker, fridge and dishwasher.

We spent AGES faffing about on the Ikea website, visiting Ikea, thinking we had made decision then changing our minds. We went from gloss black, to gloss red, to gloss white, to gloss black, to limed oak, and finally settled on gloss white. And we're so pleased we did. Anything else would have made the kitchen really dark.

The worktops also came last week so we've fitted those, with just the raised bar bit to go as we don't have the stilts for that yet.

Even though it's still got all the blue protection on the doors, we're really pleased with it.

Now to choose tiles - here we go again!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Story of The Floors

Are we sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin!

We decided we would tile the kitchen, dining room, sitting room, lobby and cloakroom floors, and the front bedroom floor as this will be used as a study/home office for us. We found some lovely Travertine floor tiles which we would use for the sitting room, kitchen etc. and shiny black granite for the home office. The total floor area of all these rooms are around 70msq so we had a pretty big area to cover.

We had originally laid the screed ourselves (you can read about that here) and although wasn't level, wasn't too bad in places, but as you need screed as level as possible to make laying floor tiles as easy as possible, we decided to put self levelling compound on the areas that were seriously out to make our life easier.

You would think, as we did, that self-levelling compound would do what it says on the bag and self-level. Well, no. It doesn't. We followed the instructions to the letter, and when it had set and we came to lay tiles, it was more out of level than it was to begin with. So two rows of the Travertine tiles back up again, and silence. Now what do we do? We had all this expanse of floor and 2.5 tonnes of floor tiles, and a floor, which at that time, wasn't suitable to lay them on.

As we assessed the damage, the levelling compound had seemed to set in mounds, so Darran was down there with the grinder over the next few days making good the floor, and after about a week we felt brave enough to start the tiling again. And it was fine, albeit a little bit of levelling needed to take place with using more or less adhesive as necessary, but we were at least on our way.

Well, it took weeks and weeks to lay the tiles. Not helped by the floor problems at the beginning which took the edge off it all. I'm not sure why we thought it wouldn't take that long. I think you just get swept up in a new phase of the build and all that enthusiasm outweighs realism sometimes! And with only working on it at weekends, it dragged on and on and on and on.

The granite tiles on the other hand, went down a dream.

Both floor areas are now grouted. The black granite is almost finished, although the final top coat of sealant has not buffed to a mirror shine (which it should) so we've washed that down as instructed and will see what happens when it has dried.

The Travertine needs the top seal coat, but will need a wash down first is it has a film of grout dust on it at the moment.

Both floors look fantastic. And they needed to after the struggle we had.

No pictures just yet, I'll wait until it's finished.