Highs and lows

There are times when I honestly want to hug our builders. Last Friday we approached our front door with trepidation after six weeks away, most recently flat-sitting for yet more generous holidaying friends. The previous day we’d heard from Grant, our foreman, that we were behind schedule by at least a month - and we were beginning to feel decidedly edgy. But this was one of the moments when you walk in, and stare spellbound at the transformation.

To most people, our living room still looks like a god-forsaken hole, but not to us. The stairs have been reversed, and the skeleton of our downstairs loo is emerging – completely changing the feel of the ground floor. Our oak patio doors are installed, and the single rear door (added to create a fire escape for the new loft) has now had its frame built.

And most excitingly, gamely pumping out heat next to the partly boarded up doorway, is a real, working radiator. Oh joy! It’s just a temporary setup, but it means there’s a bit of warmth for the builders and a cosy bedroom for us. All the pipe work for the central heating is in, the boiler and gas metre are installed, and a couple of our smart vertical radiators adorn the living room walls.

Then there’s the bathroom. You would have thought we’d have learnt from the sofa experience (see our first post), but somehow we managed to order a bath that was too big for the front door. And the bathroom door. So the long-suffering builders had to carry it through next-door’s house, over the fence, into our place and through hole in the floor up to the bathroom. But it is a really quite splendid bath, as you can see. We also have a fully functioning loo for the first time in a very long time. The only slight hazard is the fact that there’s only half a landing, so we have to take care not to plummet to our deaths when caught short in the middle of the night.

The loft hasn’t really been tackled yet, but an exploratory hole has been hacked out, and already a steady stream of Victorian-era coal dust is making its way into our world. It’s looking like the space is going to be a smaller one than we’d imagined – probably a single bedroom, because of the restricted ceiling space (we couldn’t go for a dormer because it’s a conservation area). It might seem like a lot of effort for not much return, but as we’re converting one bedroom into a bathroom this is really the only way to preserve the value of the house. We’re hoping a lick of paint and some cunning lighting will do the trick. It’s all about optical illusions.

The finish line is getting closer. We can smell it. Or is that the Victorian coal dust? Grant reckons another 7 or 8 weeks should do it, which means we’ll probably be £5,000 - £10,000 over budget. We still need to buy steel beams for the loft, doors, over-priced conservation roof windows, fittings for the downstairs loo and all manner of bits and pieces we didn’t know existed three months ago.

Hope the bank manager is feeling generous.

the attic navigating near-death when visiting the new bathroom radiators going up patio door is in new bathroom bits and pieces fire escape corridor fire escape wall going up extension roof kitchen surfaces will be installed here soon new staircase for the loft had arrived