Indoor camping


I’m currently camping on the living room floor while the last two rooms upstairs get a 60 minute week long several week makeover!

Since we moved in we’ve been using the en-suite as a cupboard, partly because the shower leaked. It did make a pretty good cupboard though so clearing everything out took a while. The rest of the house is now full to bursting, even with full loads to the charity shop and tip! Need less junk! After enough flights of stairs to qualify for a Redwood Forest, Ferris Wheel and Lighthouse badge, it was finally all empty…

This is the first major work we’ve done inside the house since having children so we planned carefully. Here are the blueprints at a 1:1 scale…

(No prizes for guessing who added the extra stickers.)

Partly thanks to an amazingly helpful local planning department, we had an extra window after day one. And no walls.

By the end of day two first fix plumbing is done, and the new and improved walls were beginning to take shape. (The existing walls upstairs are literally just a thin sandwich of plasterboard and paper. Quality.)

At the end of day three first fix electrics are in, the walls were back properly and the bonus window is looking like a fantastic idea.

The plastering started on day four and by the end of day six we have one less artex ceiling, fewer holes in the floor, the door back. Even the new shower tray fitted, which was a bit of a relief!

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The whole job was meant to take five days but unsurprising it’s overrunning. It hasn’t helped that the floor under the old shower has rotted through. This time next week, it’ll all be done though, hopefully!

Update: Hooray, it’s all done! (14th April)

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Now I just need to do a spot of painting…

 

August


A month seems to have vanished since the last post so I thought it was about time I checked in. I’ve mostly been being a parent, and it’s pretty likely it will take several days just to jot down a few sentences between trying to entertain, feed, clean, and generally run around after a baby.

(First break due to waking up with an attack of hiccups!)

I actually squeezed in a tiny amount of DIY last weekend. Top of the list have been a few outdoor jobs to make the most of the weather, and minimise any disruption on what counts as a routine. Don’t think the hammer drill was popular there, especially after it turned out one of the holes wasn’t quite where it should have been. In my defense, I did measure everything; I just didn’t take in to account how wonky the house was! Still need to finish off putting the new house number up… in the right place… sometime!

(Burping duty!)

Wifey very kindly got me a new gadget this month too. I hate reading documents on computer monitors, so I’m definitely looking forward to the e ink experience instead. I’m rather mystified by the idea of a screen saver given the screen, but since it has one I now have a personalised baby calendar, which is nice. Much quieter than the real thing! Mind you, getting time to read anything might be tricky- I still haven’t finished Stasiland in traditional book form, which I started before I was a dad! In case of miracles, I already have a couple of free books, some epub Redbooks, and a guide to creating epub books on there.

(Trying to convince sleeping baby to sleep.)

(It’s asleep! Collapsing in a heap!)

I’ll be avoiding DRM content on principle, except maybe books from the library, which could be very handy for children’s stories! So far I’ve found a couple of tools which look promising for grabbing web sites for offline reading later:

I’m also tempted to try and convert my old internal blog to epub since Blog Central got archived, although I seriously doubt I’ll actually get around to that!

(Cleanup to aisle two!)

Well that was a longer gap than expected (a couple of days) partly due to preparing for a customer briefing as well as baby duties. That did give me the chance to do a bit more with calibre: as an experiment I created a simple eBook for presentation notes just by converting a .odt file to epub. The conversion worked really well without any effort, and it was quite useful to highlight things I needed to remember, and make notes before and after the presentation. Could be something I’ll do again in the future.

(It’s asleep again! Food break!)

The other reason for the lack of any posts recently is that they would have mainly been rants! I expect there’ll be plenty more rants in the future though, so don’t panic :)

After and before


Despite the distractions of an impending baby, we’ve also been making a bit of progress on the house lately. Most of the major work is done (I hope!) so it should just be decorating from now on.

The war on leaks is going well and after ripping out the old toilet last year, the new cloakroom is almost done:

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An even bigger milestone was finally finishing the front bedroom. I don’t think we have a before shot for this room because it was just too horrible!

From start to finish it took about 14 months to complete! That was partly due to getting other rooms done at the same time, but there were a few minor complications along the way: the floor needed a bit of work, someone stole part of the wall and, just when all that was fixed, even more holes were required to install a cable for the new boiler! I do hope we don’t need any extra holes now the carpet is down!

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I guess it’s probably time to get cracking on the nursery…

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The old carpet has gone already and, fortunately, it looks like the floor is mostly ok! Which is lucky really: we don’t have 14 months to finish this room! Maybe not even 14 days!

Decloaking


The next room on the list got pulled out today. Here’s the cloakroom just before destruction commenced:

Despite Jo’s four hour battle to get it in to a fit state to use on our first day in the new house, it hasn’t seen much use recently. Partly due to having a much nicer alternative upstairs now, and partly because I’d turned off the water to the toilet to stop it overflowing!

As with the kitchen, it looks better just having everything ripped out:

(It turns out the recycling centre is much quieter on a cold wet November evening than it is in the summer!)

Day 365 in the big leaky house


Well, it’s been a year since we finally moved (and it’s not far off five years since we first tried!) so now seems as good a time as any to grumble about the whole process. Hopefully there will be marginally less cursing a year on but if you’re an estate agent, look away now.

Photo © Andy D’Agorne (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Actually, to start with one positive, I’m pretty sure we’d have lost our buyer before completion without our estate agent on the case, especially towards the end when they were getting increasingly twitchy. Perhaps there is a point to estate agents after all?

One of the reasons that our buyer was getting so twitchy was the length of time the whole process took. There were a few big delays along the way although, surprisingly given our usual decisiveness and the slow market, we did find somewhere to buy pretty quickly. So quickly that we were asked to appear in the estate agent’s newsletter. It’s just a shame that purchase fell through. Annoying it fell through because the solicitor discovered that the description of the house wasn’t entirely accurate: it had one parking space, not three. What’s more annoying is that it was being sold by the same estate agent we used, they knew parking was high on our list of priorities, we specifically confirmed with them that there really were three parking spaces, we lost money on the purchase, and there’s pretty much nothing we could do about it. Finding out that the vendor had put the house back on the market via a friend who noticed on Rightmove, instead of hearing from the estate agent first, was a pretty low point in the process. (And if you think they fixed the description before putting it back on, think again.) Maybe we’d be better off without estate agents after all.

The second purchase was only marginally less bumpy, mostly due to the vendor’s exceedingly poor choice of solicitor. Even when we finally made it to moving day, they didn’t release the keys until 4pm- thank goodness we were at the start of the chain! On the subject of solicitors, their solution to everything seems to be an indemnity policy. So just in case some nasty legal thing happens, like the church wants money for no apparent reason, you should pay for protection…. isn’t that extortion? It’s lucky we didn’t end up buying a house with a shared driveway because covenants seem to be another legal mine field.

After the event we also discovered that the survey was erring towards fiction in places. It seems to contain details which you probably couldn’t get from street view, although I still wouldn’t be surprised to find out no one had actually been to look at the house in person. I’ve always thought surveys were a bit of a rip off, but this one wasn’t really worth the paper it was printed on.

I guess that’s more than enough moaning, suffice to say that we aren’t in any hurry to move again! By the time we do inevitably move again, I sincerely hope things have improved. Here are a few ideas that might help, some more crazy than others:

  • Home information packs were an expensive waste of space but it would be useful to simply have the full deeds, with covenants, available with the estate agent before a house being marketed.
  • Both parties should deposit money when an offer is accepted, and perhaps even lenders if they’ve agreed a mortgage. This would need to be well defined and universal, with arbitration for any disputes that arise if a sale falls through, otherwise it’s just a distraction/another legal cost.
  • Quite sensibly buyers and sellers cannot use the same solicitor, but there is also a massive conflict of interest if you buy and sell through the same estate agent. (Avoid it if you can!) In fact, estate agents working for the seller seems increasingly backwards to me. Why not simply register a house for sale, and use buying agents instead? Without the traditional estate agent working for the seller there might also be less opportunity for passing the buck- solicitors could be wholly responsible for the smooth running of the sale process instead.
  • Does anyone really think it’s right that parish churches should still be able to demand money for upkeep? We should put an end to that little racket.
  • Instead of indemnities for everything, couldn’t we do better at making it simple to address problems in title deeds and covenants?
  • Perhaps you should get something in return for that stamp duty, like managing notice of house sales (so buyers and buying agents can still find houses easily without estate agents), title deed/covenant adjustments, arbitration services, etc.

There’s a good discussion with other ideas and examples from other countries in the comments on the “House buying process suffers withdrawal symptoms” post. Unfortunately there are probably just too many vested interests for any real change.

Escape hatch!


This weekend I finally finished filling in the unwanted extra ventilation we had installed earlier in the year:

I think that’s the most woodwork I’ve done since school! I’m sure it’ll look better after a coat of paint.

(Unfortunately there is a very full airing cupboard on the other side so it isn’t actually a very good escape hatch.)