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  • Writer's pictureLara

December and January at Scatterbrook Cottage

If November had been frustrating December was even more so. After the initial excitement of getting all the steels in, we were back to having trouble with bricklayers turning up. Needless to say, Christmas rolled round and we still weren’t even close to being watertight. Because the bricklayers didn’t turn up there was no chance of a roof going on before Christmas, and everything was set back once again. We did finally meet the most reliable tradesmen we’ve had so far, the electricians, who turned up when they said they would and did exactly what they said they were going to do. It was like a little Christmas miracle.

We made room for a tree at Christmas; even though the rest of the house was a tip I was determined to have the living room vaguely festive, despite the bare plaster and missing skirting board. For Christmas itself mother had volunteered her house, so there were 10 of us at hers for 3 days ( we stayed in a hotel, I don’t think many of us would have escaped alive otherwise!). We went to London for New Year and it was a wonderful feeling not to be thinking about the house and the stress of it all.

January rolled round, as Januarys do, cold and miserable. Having told our PM that we didn’t want the Unreliable Bricklayers here ever again, he had employed a new contractor over Christmas, John, who won my heart just for the sheer fact that he turned up, never mind his tidy brickwork. The roof beams were finished and boarded out, ready for Roof Man who had been on holiday in warmer climes. We needed dry weather for this part as the fibre glass has to be done in one go. In the end, although it was dry it was below freezing most mornings so it took 6 half days to get it finished.

This was a big step as it meant the roof lanterns could go in. Finally we seemed to be making progress once more. The roof lanterns went in almost without any drama, however two of the glass units have scratches that occurred during the manufacturing process so they are being replaced, the damaged ones are useable though so it didn’t stop further progress. We asked for the ‘biggest lanterns we could have’ as the room is north facing and overshadowed by the first floor, so we need to get as much light in there as possible. We are really pleased with the amount of light coming in, the lanterns are beautiful. And finally the scaffold came down!

If that was a big step then the day the bifold doors came should have been a day for bunting and a brass band. Should have been.

We were so close… The fitters turned up, the exterior framing went in, the door frames went in, 4 of the 7 panes of glass had gone in… I went for a look from the inside with the PM and I pointed out that the doors were sitting too low - as in, ‘when the floor was poured it was going to come up over the bottom of the doors’ too low. I think you could have heard a pin drop as realisation dawned. It turns out that in new build houses the doors come with extra ‘packing’ round them which made them 40mm too big. The door fitters had asked for a course of bricks to be removed so they would fit, without anyone thinking what impact that would have. Out came the glass, the door frames, and the frames, to be left on our lawn for the weekend while it was worked out what to do.

I impressed myself with how calm I was.

On the Monday the brick course was re-laid and and on Tuesday back came the door fitters to start again without the surrounding packing that wasn’t needed because we’re not a new build! By the end of Wednesday we had doors again, but were they the right height this time?

It was close, they have millimetres to spare when the floor is being finished. But they will have to make it work now because the doors are in, and they are staying. We are over the moon with them, these doors are the entire point of opening up the back of the house - so we can enjoy the garden all year round. Despite the garden currently looking like it has played host to Download Festival.

However, life is about balance and it seems that for any gains we make we have to have a loss. We were supposed to have a plumber for 5 whole days that week for all the first fix plumbing - we still have a waste pipe from ceiling to floor waiting to be moved, the mains water entry point needs to be moved, and another load of pipes from ceiling to floor where the boiler used to be also need to be re-routed.

On the Monday the plumber turned up at 6pm. In case you don’t live in the northern hemisphere, in January it’s dark at 6pm. He came with an iPhone torch and expected to have a meeting discussing what we wanted and where. We were less than impressed with his vagueness, however he promised to be back the next morning with our labourers to explain what chasing out needed to be done. He did come back, for about 10 minutes then we didn’t see him again.

All of this led to a very tense site meeting on the Wednesday where no one was left in any doubt as to how we were feeling. There’s a lot of shrugging goes on with tradespeople (I keep calling them tradespeople but reader, they have all been men) and sometimes you need to remind them that, when they clear off home at the end of the day, their building site is your home and you can’t disappear to a warmer/cleaner/nicer environment.

On a more positive note we have finalised the kitchen design and bought our flooring (both with great January Sale price tags)

Let’s see what February brings (it should have brought a completed project, but that ain’t happening)

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