The grass is always greener

Actually, the grass is not always greener on the other side because one of our neighbour’s dogs poos freely in their garden so they have giant dead patches of grass. A good reason to get higher fences. But that’s another story.

Barry has had a plan for some time of having decking in the garden. By plan, I don’t mean some vague concept of “we need to do something to the garden”; I mean plan. He’s drawn it out on graph paper so many times I’m surprised he can’t recite our garden’s exact dimensions. I was reluctant to consider decking at first. I’ve seen some examples and it can look very cheap, and it also requires some upkeep (a dirty word in our house), so I didn’t think much to it.

However! My ex-uncle (for an explanation, please see the post where we broke his sander) has lovely decking, which he put in himself and I really like, possibly because he’s stained it dark and surrounded it in pretty flowers.

And yea, I was converted to deckingism.

And yea, I had to google the word “yea” to make sure I was spelling it correctly. It looks a bit too much like “yeah”.

Regardless, let me give you, ahem, the lay of the land of our garden. Our garden slopes towards the back right hand corner. It slopes down to the right, and down to the far end. The patch of land most likely to get any sun at all is the back right corner, which is also where we very cleverly placed our shed. We used to have a rabbit, so there’s a big square patch of dead grass where the hutch was, and I hate the paving stones, which I’d call a “prison” grey. Hence the plan.

I’m not even sure this will get done this year after all the interior fun with the kitchen and living room, but I can tell you what we’re thinking. We’re imagining decking down the right hand side of the garden, and we’ll have to have two or three separate areas (with steps between them), otherwise we’ll end up about five feet above the ground by the end of the garden. Barry’s got visions of firepits and barbecues dancing in his head, but one step at a time, hey?

Updates on Saturday’s activities – it’s (as you can tell by the picture) been snowing, so we’re really in dire need of a radiator now! We’re being quite indecisive about which one to get, so I think some snappy decision-making’s in order. We nipped to Wickes to get some tester paints (not long and we’ll have the complete range) for the kitchen. After Karen commented about brilliant white not being so brilliant for walls, I’ve been wittering on about maybe a pale grey for the kitchen too, but Barry’s having none of it. In retaliation, I’ve painted two different greys on the wall (and in the corner, thanks Karen!) and I’m hoping he’ll come around. God forbid we have to paint it twice.

I’ve also finally finished painting the living room walls, as shown. There are still doors and skirting boards to do, but they’re going to wait until the kitchen’s finished. Meanwhile, Barry was fitting some of the plasterboard we took down into the gaps in the walls, which should hopefully make it a bit warmer as well.

He’s also plugging up the fan that went from the loo to the outside world, but the expanding foam went a bit wrong and it looks like it’s been really ill.

Our dining room table’s currently in pieces, and we’ve moved all of the chairs up to a spare room so they’re out of the way for when the kitchen comes (a week and a half, people!). It does, however, look to the casual observer that we’re ready to play musical chairs at a moment’s notice.

Ode to an oven (and a half)

As uncouth as it is to love inanimate objects, I love my oven. And a half.

Gazing at it proudly with my husband, we dream of the culinary delights it will surely produce. What starters we shall master! Our friends shall be in awe of our delicious creations! Pies, puddings, and pre-packaged meals await…

Only first we have to actually install the kitchen.

I was going to leave it there, but can’t resist showing the progress – Barry managed to take down the other bathroom wall last night.



One wall down

While I was touching up the living room paint today (not nearly as steady hand as I thought I had!), Barry was busy taking down one of the bathroom walls.  Definitely not supporting walls, thank goodness!

I wasn’t quite quick enough to take a before shot, so the crafty bugger had managed to get the door off and the frame out by the time I took this.

The photos below were taken (in between me painting), showing how he’s taken the wall down.  He still needs to get some bits to block it and the sink off, but that should be this week.














Et voilà!  It looks like one of those fake bathrooms in a shop where they only have three walls!  I think we’re committed now.


Taking down walls, breaking down barriers

As a non-DIY expert, I think taking down walls sounds like a really scary thing to do.  While I have full confidence in my husband’s ability to knock on walls and nod, much like Alan Carr in the Location, Location, Location mashup, it’s terrifying to think that one little mistake could mean a spare room coming down into the kitchen.  We could pretend we lived in a studio, I suppose.

Knocking on the living room ceiling and drilling holes into it to fit the spotlights revealed that the joists run a certain way – on the floor plan shown here (which is actually a mirror image of ours, but the only one I could find), they run left to right, and I’ve indicated the walls we’re planning on taking down.

The builder didn’t comment when he came round to quote, so I think that means he was in agreement that they’re not supporting walls.

There is a lot to consider.  These three walls contain quite a few items to move, including plug sockets, light switches, the house’s thermostat and two radiators.  A third radiator needs to be moved from beside the loo.  Everything then needs plastering.  It’s not a small undertaking.

I’ve been advised by Barry (I’ve been told I can now provide my husband’s name, which makes life easier!) that electricity wires are, in theory, put in in straight lines.  That should make moving the switches easier.  Radiators are completely beyond me, but I’ve been told that the pipes come from above, not below, if that means anything to anyone.  I’ll try and get some before shots shortly, but the loo’s currently a holding area for all of the stuff from the living room!  It’s like living in one of those puzzles at the minute where you can only move one bit at a time.

The first thing to tackle in this whole thing is blocking off the sink and toilet.  By removing them, it will give Barry more room to manoeuvre to get the walls surrounding them down.  I’m just thinking about the fluffy towels we’ll have when we can fit a tumble dryer in the kitchen rather than hanging them on chairs or radiators to dry.  Crispy!

If you can’t stand the heat

Following my mother-in-law’s suggestion, we decided to look into knocking down walls to make our kitchen a larger room.  We think (and so do many of our friends, now we’ve discussed it!) that it’s really small for a house this size.  However, we know we’ll be knocking money off our property by getting rid of a room, albeit a smelly hole.

We did have a builder round to quote for knocking walls down, installing a new kitchen (plus installing fitted wardrobes in our room, but that’s definitely going to have to wait), but the prices were more than we’re willing to pay, so the husband is going to do it all himself, with a little help from the tea fairy (me).

We went to B&Q before making a decision, and vaguely had an idea of high gloss white units in mind.  We were still at the stage where we were testing the water and weren’t really committing to anything, but as soon as we saw this, we knew we had to have it!  The kitchen is from B&Q’s Cooke and Lewis range (as is the photo).

We made an appointment and then a few weeks later sat for an hour having the kitchen designed, with the added benefit of it being on sale as it was January.  If you get installation, they do make you change all of your electricity points (“to ensure they’re safe”, never mind we’re in a new build) and the cost for installation alone was a whopping £3,600, but we looked past that to supply only, which was much more manageable (and they were offering 3 years 0% finance).

Then madness gave way to reason and we realised we’d better get another quote from somewhere to make sure it really was reasonable and we hadn’t lost our senses.  We went to Wickes to get a quote from lovely Malcolm, who quoted us on the Caledonia.  It’s an inoffensive plain white high gloss unit, with integrated handles which I’m not too keen on anyway, but would have lived with if it was the difference of, say, £2k.  It wasn’t.  And my cleaner mother reliably informs me that integrated handles are a nightmare to clean anyway.  Sorry, Malcolm.

I’d also like to point out here that I double checked MSE about B&Q’s units and prices before we sold our souls and there were good reports, but also some scathing ones about the price of their installation.  My guess is that it’s something they don’t really care to get involved in, so they make it worth their while for the times they do.  As a side note, Martin Lewis’ website is brilliant, and I always check it before buying anything major.

So, the husband trotted back to the B&Q designer with our full page of tweaks for another hour of kitchen creation (measurements were slightly off, we wanted white, not cream, a bigger sink and oven, to name but a few changes).

Ah, the oven.  It deserves a post all of its own.  In fact, it’s not just an oven.  It’s an oven and a half.  My mum actually counted the number of knobs on the front from the picture and told me what each of the ten might be for.  Seriously.

B&Q price-matched Wickes and even managed to squeeze in a cheeky wine rack, and I’m really glad they did (price-match, that is) because the colour combo units make me much happier than plain white.  Granted, we were going to tart the white ones up with a flash of colour from a fuschia upstand, but it’s not the same you understand.

The husband called me to ask if we were going for it; B&Q gave him 20 minutes to make his mind up.  I didn’t really need the 20 but ummed and ahed along until we came to an agreeable conclusion.

This was a week last Wednesday.  On the Thursday, he got a call from Indesit asking if they could deliver our new oven on Saturday, very eager.  He managed to put them off a week, but couldn’t delay it any longer, so we’re going to have a random oven until the walls are sorted, the old kitchen is out, the new kitchen is in and we can get a registered gas man to fit it.  The joys of self installation!