Ooh Betty

Drip, drip, drip then drip, drip,drip, drip even more were the sounds I heard whilst sitting at my desk in the study. I looked up and watched a steady ‘stream’ of water pouring through the ceiling and thought “that’s shouldn’t happen!”.

IMG_1322I waited for Matt to finish his shower in the bathroom above and then did an inspection under the bath to find it was absolutely soaking wet, with the bath sealant the expected cause. On closer inspection though I discovered the water had actually penetrated the wall tiles, effectively allowing the full power of the shower to soak the wall behind, and subsequently my study.

I put an immediate ban on using the shower and after discussing with Tina, we agreed that a new dedicated shower was required, courtesy of my bonus.

The following weekend I ripped out the old bathroom units; the toilet and sink were built into a unit so were easy to remove although the bath was more awkward due to the size. But it didn’t take long and soon I had an empty room to contemplate the task ahead.

Plumbing and small building tasks don’t phase me; in fact I quite like getting stuck in but I did agree that the tiling should be done by a professional; for some reason I just can’t seem to put tiles up and make them look good.

The new bathroom (or shower room) would require the flooring to be replaced; the water damage had ‘blown’ the original chipboard and a false wall to be built to hide the on-suite pipework which was now visible now that the bath had been removed.

We agreed that we wanted a walk in shower; including a low profile tray and glass screen and the room fully tiled. Of course a new toilet and sink would also be required.

I firstly started on the false wall and soon had the new boarding hiding the pipework. Next was to lift the flooring. As I said earlier, some of the flooring was easy to lift as it was damaged and soon I had half the floor up exposing the beams and study ceiling.

And then came my first ‘Frank Spencer‘ moment!

IMG_1292As I was trying to lift part of the flooring my foot slipped and next thing I was sitting astride a beam with my feet in the study, with large chunks of plasterboard ceiling on the study floor. Oh how I laughed and oh how the dog barked 🙂 I put a brave face on the situation and deemed it was not all bad as the ceiling was shot anyhow due to the water damage. Still I knew I wouldn’t live it down when the family arrived home from work and they certainly took the piss as expected.

I ploughed on with the task in hand and decided that in order to help get the remaining flooring up I would need some power tools. I did some online research and eventually decided that I needed a reciprocating saw, which I duly bought the following day from my what was becoming my favourite DIY store, Screwfix Direct.

When I got my new ‘toy’ to work I was impressed and wondered how I’d even managed to do DIY without one; It cut through the flooring like butter. But it also cut through one of the ring mains circuits under the flooring as well plundering the house in darkness, after firstly creating a large electrical flash 🙂 A quick repair got the power back on; not before the family started to wonder if I really knew what I was doing. Of course I was not deterred and put it down to ‘slight mishaps’ and part of the DIY experience.

Since those two incidents things have gone pretty straightforward and in fact, considering what could go wrong, I’ve been pretty lucky. The toilet and new basin went in without a hitch and the shower install is progressing well.

I’ll post some pictures of the new bathroom once it’s completed…assuming I don’t manage to flood the place!

It seemed a good idea at the time…

One of the pitfalls of agreeing to have a stay-cation is the need to fill your days with enough activities to cover the period away from work. When we decided to forego a holiday away, we both instead made a list of things to do and places to visit. The list included a trip to London, some shopping and a few outdoors rambles with the dog, whilst on the practical side it had clearing out the garage, some gardening, repairing some walls and re-pointing the patio.

In order of importance, the patio was top of the list as many of the slabs had worked loose, with the dog having great fun in bringing indoors lumps of concrete from the joints where he’d managed to ease them out. The steps up to the garden had also worked loose, making it a bit hazardous when treading from patio to lawn. The wall slabs were also in a precarious state, with a stepping-stone lottery as to which ones would give way when you put your full weight on them, a bit like Harrison Ford’s predicament in Raiders of the Lost Ark when trying to get to the prize in the temple by crossing the ‘Walk of God’.

The patio was laid around ten years ago and was probably my first major outdoors project after moving to the new build property. When I laid it I will admit it was a bit uneven (my talents unfortunately didn’t extend to laying level slabs) and over the years the paving has got worse. And then there was the issue of the trip hazard which, although at the time I didn’t think was going to be a problem, for many visitors has proved to be their downfall, literally.

And so to the task in hand, namely to re-point the patio. The intention was simple. Buy some sand and cement and re-fix the loose slabs and secure them in back place. Easy.

I found a bolster chisel and club hammer and was soon loosening the old cement, creating gaps ready for the new filler. Then I realised that it would be easier to lift the slabs that were loose and so started lifting a couple. Then I lifted some more. I seems I had laid these first ones straight onto the sand ten years ago, probably the reason why they had moved over the years.

Within a few minutes I had lifted a few and then I had the idea…

“I know” I said to myself, “I’ll lift the whole patio and re-lay it, it won’t take too long.”

And so I got to work lifting more of the slabs. Within half an hour a third of the patio was up (with the help of Tina and the dog).

It was at that point it suddenly dawned on me that I’d taken on something…

a) I didn’t think I could do again,


b) I didn’t really want to do.

A quick chat with Tina and we decided to get professional help in the form of Nick, our next door neighbour, who has installed loads of patios in the past. A bit of negotiation with him, including a Sunday roast and the promise of cash persuaded him to take on the job, with Nick declaring he had a few spare days this week to sort it.

Nick then helped me lift the remaining slabs and I piled the bedding sand up into a heap ready for the work later in the week. Of course, with the patio in such a state we were unsure what to do about Rio, as he does like his digging and a big pile of sand would be too much temptation. And sure enough, with the first chance he got he was in there, flattening the nice pile I’d made ready for Nick in the week. The rest of the day was spent clearing up sand that had been brought into the house.

Nick got started on the patio on Tuesday and soon it started to look like a patio again, although admittedly it took longer than he thought, finishing up on Saturday morning. Rio had been banned from going out there all week to allow the slabs to set, so he was especially pleased to be able to go back out later in the afternoon, getting up to mischief as usual.

Now that the patio is done, I can now start erecting the picket fence, which will replace the electric fence, installed to keep Rio off the garden. This job is not such a major one and should be fairly straight forward, assuming I can get the fence posts installed straight.

DIY Part 2

It is done!

After working solidly for seven days, we have managed to complete the en-suite bathroom, all fully working and ready for use again. It’s been an intense period; I’ve not done DIY like this for a long, long while, but I can say I am pleased with the results.

I left Part 1 of the job with the new shower installed and the area tiled, ready to be grouted. And so to Thursday and firstly to install the new ceiling spot lights and move the extractor fan from it’s existing position to accommodate the new lights. Although this task was straight-forward I took a while as I had to ensure I made the holes in the correct place before committing to the hole drill. Preparation helped and the positions were spot on (no pun intended) and were soon ready for wiring up. I switched off the lighting circuit and proceeded carefully connecting up the new lights and fan. Once done I was about to go downstairs and reconnect the circuit breaker when Tina flicked the switch and hey-presto the lights came on, much to my surprise. Unbeknown to me, Tina had forgotten I had isolated the mains and switched the breaker back on ten minutes earlier when Abby complained her lights were not working. Luckily I had completed the wiring a bit before that point but it could have turned out bad for me if I was still messing with the lighting cables. Tip – always put a bit of tape over the breaker if you are ever working on the live mains circuit when there are others in the house!

Next, and on to the grouting which went well and I was soon hiding the imperfections of my tiling. Tina again tried to harm me, this time giving me a bucket of scalding hot water, which I plunged my hands in thinking it was cold. Another Tip – never assume a bucket full of water is cold!Later that evening I fitted the shower controls and rail, again without a hitch. With Thursday over, it had been another productive day and we could now start to see the ending in sight.

Friday was painting day, with a little impromptu plumbing as well. I decided to try to take the en-suite radiator off the wall and in doing so damaged the pipe which meant the central heating system would have to be drained down, and quick to avoid a flood. Luckily, this proved to be easy and allowed me to sort out the damaged pipe and plumb in the heated towel rail, a task I’d originally planned for Saturday. Tina now joined the party and started painting the ceiling, walls and skirting boards and by the end of Friday we had completed the decorating and I’d changed the taps in the pedestal, with a little help from Nick next door when I had a couple of water leak issues. Friday evening saw us partake in a takeaway, our first of the week, which was not bad considering the upheaval we’d been through all week.

Saturday morning was laminate flooring day, not before reconnecting the radiator and the new towel rail. I quickly nipped down to the local plumbers again, this time for some rust inhibitor for the central heating system. I thought I’d be clever and poor it in to the new rail before sealing the system. Unfortunately another leak, this time the towel rail fittings and panic ensued. Many towels later and the problem was solved and lovely hot water was coming through OK. I’m not sure how much of my £18 worth of inhibitor actually saw the system.

Onto the flooring for the rest of the day, a task I really enjoyed as it gave me a chance to use my power tools; cross mitre saw and circular saw, items that rarely get fired up these days. I finally had the flooring done by tea-time and so, with the en-suite nearly done it was just a few fittings to install, get the shower screen back together and tidy up. We finished just before ten o clock.

So we just need the new blind to arrive; it’s been ordered through the ‘Well Hung Blinds’ man and a cabinet to arrive from M & S then the room will be completely finished. I dread to think what the whole bill for the project has been, we seem to have spent lots and lots. Still I guess that’s what a bonus should be for!

DIY Part 1

20110323-194302.jpgAs I stated in an earlier blog, this week I took a week off work to carry out some DIY tasks. The list of to-do’s included installing two showers, fitting a heated towel rail, fitting ceiling spot lights, changing taps, tiling and redecorating the en-suite and laying a laminate floor. DIY on a grand scale and something I’d not tackled for a long while.

Keen to get started as soon as I could, I decided to start to install the new shower that was going to be used by the kids in their bathroom on Sunday afternoon/evening after we got back from our weekend away. I had previously purchased the plumbing fittings, pipework and other bits and pieces to carry out the work so was fully prepared for the job in hand. And it went very smoothly, with the new shower up and working the following day, after connecting the shower to some power.

The only problem was my aching body, with muscles I’d not used for many years, but for the rest of the day I started on the en-suite, breaking in to the wall tiles to expose the pipework hidden behind. Unsure what I was going to find and how I was going to fill the big hole I did manage to complete the pipework, not before having to visit the local plumbers merchant for more copper pipe. Having slept on the problem around how to fill the hole, I woke up with an idea and so it was off to Wickes for some wood, plasterboard and more plumbing bits. I also bought the tiles which were to cover over the existing tiles in the shower area.

Back home and I soon got to work patching the wall, making it ready for tiling the next day. Onto the heated towel rail which was to be plumbed into the central heating system. I cut a hole in the floor and in doing so was a whisker away from cutting into a pipe just below the surface of the floor; builders are so careless about where they install the pipes and the placement of these were not great. I also realised that the heating system would have to be drained down; a task I’ve not performed for a long time. So that task can wait till later in the week!

So to today and it was tiling day, not before visiting Wickes again earlier this morning (actually it was 7am just after they opened). As I was tiling onto existing tiles the surface was good and therefore wasn’t a major issue. I can’t say my tiling skills are brilliant, but hopefully the grouting will hide many of the imperfections.

So another successful day, hopefully tomorrow I can get the tiles grouted and install the ceiling lights. At this point I can then get some help from Tina who so far has only been able to clean the shower cubicle that I dismantled earlier in the week.
She has kept me going with a constant flow of tea though which helped immensely.

So mid-way through the project and it’s going well. Another update will be posted at the weekend, hopefully with the majority of work completed.