Friday, August 29, 2008

More Pictures

I'm really going to bore you with these - I have a total of 16 pictures of the finished article! And I'm going to drip-feed them to you all.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

E-Day + 100

We got our Certificate of Practical Completion from Extend today, officially declaring our project done! So, it will stand at 100 days!

Here are a few more pictures of the place (and yes, I am obsessively cleaning those shiny red kitchen units already - finger marks on the fridge are my current bugbear!):

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

E + 98

A couple of pictures (I've got plenty more to post over the next few days - you'll be sick of it!):

Monday, August 25, 2008

E-Day + 97

Whose sofa is it? The evidence is pointing to a big cat called Willow!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

E-Day + 96 - Supplemental

And here is a movie of our shiny kitchen - it probably will be a nightmare to keep clean, but it looks beautiful, doesn't it!

E-Day +96

Another little movie of our extension. The more we see it the more we love it. Although the last couple of weeks were tough, we're very happy overall with the work done by Kevin McGrath and his team. They cleaned everything up so well, not only on the last day, but throughout the build. I think we were very lucky to find such a good builder. This movie shows the result of Flat-Pack Man's work - Gallant desk, Traby shelf, Arild sofa, etc. We feel a bit like an Ikea show house!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

E-Day + 95

OK, OK, I don't need to count the days anymore, but since this is still about our extension, I thought I'd stick to my stardate count.

We enjoyed today thoroughly. Brendan has become Ikea Flat-Pack Man, spending most of his time assembling our Ikea furniture - some of it was delivered to us, as it was too big to bring back in the car. I'm very happy with it all. The service was excellent, they ring you to tell you what day the delivery will be made, and then the driver rings you on the day itself to give you a time, and it all worked out well. And everything so far is in good shape, all nice an solid, and easy to assemble, and I love my beautiful sofa!

The builders are now finished here. There will probably be a few minor snags, but they have left us with a house in great shape. Kevin and his team were so obliging - I know the last week was frustrating as Stephen didn't work for us on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. We found it annoying that things were dragging on more than necessary, but, with a big push on Friday, it's all done and we're very happy with the final result. The design from Extend works really well, and the execution from Kevin McGrath is generally of a high finish.

We still have to get the hall, stairs, upstairs and outside painted, but that will have to wait a couple of months before Mark is available. We're happy to wait for him and know that it will be done right. He is a very nice painter, and very reliable - he turns up when he says he will. Very important to us, that.

We have to paint the bannister and stairs ourselves, and we have to get a new carpet for stairs and landing organised. Hopefully, we'll get that done in the next few weeks.

Here is a mini-movie of our new home - It's called "Brendan - aka Flat-Pack Man"

Friday, August 22, 2008

E-Day +94 - Supplemental

My beautiful Ikea sofa:

E-Day +94

(Kevin gave a big push and it's all done! Stan even cleaned my front door! We just have the kitchen fitters over next week to put in a back panel or 2. Will take pictures tomorrow - we're busy assembling our furniture)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

E-Day + 93 - Supplemental - Ikea deliveries

We got our Ikea deliveries today - my sofa, shelves and a new bed and mattress. They came with 2 different yellow Ikea vans. In both cases, the driver rang me ahead to give me a delivery time estimate and turned up on time. They were very efficient and we now have an extension full of boxes. We can't unpack anything until the skirting boards are finished.

E-Day + 93

We really really want our house back.

Stephen was here yesterday, and made some progress with skirtings, saddles and beadings, but it's still not finished and he is not here today. I rang Kevin who told me that Stephen was waiting for the door handles to finish everything. I told him we were finding it frustrating, as there is so little left to do, and it's not being finished. He could have been here today and finish all the skirtings. Never mind the handles. If the skirtings were finished, we could start putting our furniture back. As it stands, we don't have a single room that's completely finished or that's not full of boxes (apart from my bathroom).

On top of that, we got our Ikea delivery today, so there are boxes everywhere - and we can't open them and start assembling things until Stephen is finished with the skirtings, and until Mark the painter is back to touch up the bits of wall made grubby over the last few days.

Very frustrating ...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

E-Day + 91

We want our house back!

We're at the stage where progress is slow, and we're stuck in the house waiting for tradesmen, and we just want things to get back to normal. Kevin had told us last week he was hoping to be finished on Wednesday or Thursday. That's last Wednesday or Thursday. Now, we think we'll be lucky to be finished before this weekend. Stephen the carpenter didn't turn up yesterday or today. He'd be finished by now if he had been here. On Monday, Kevin told us that 2 of Stephen's guys didn't turn up on another job and he had to go in himself. Today, when I rang him around 2, Kevin said that Stephen had suffered from a tummy bug last night, but that he would definitely be in tomorrow. Somehow, I don't think so!

This is really disappointing. It's getting us down. We feel we can't get settled in the house, as there is still finishing work to be done in most rooms. And it's leaving us with a bad last impression. Somebody else is obviously screaming louder than us. I know that's the way things are with builders - large or small - they are always juggling several jobs and contractors at a time, and things don't always pan out as expected. But there is so little to be done to get it finished. I just want it to be over!

Monday, August 18, 2008

E-Day + 90

No pictures today. Kevin and Stan were here pretty much all day working on making good the plaster around the electrical sockets and on a crack at the junction of the old and the new. Slow work, let me tell you! Brendan had shown these to Kevin on Friday - basically, the plasterers had cut holes for the sockets, but these holes were too big, and no amount of patching properly addressed this problem. It looked worse after painting - not the end of the world for sockets that will be partially hidden by furniture, but it looked quite bumpy. Kevin seemed to be annoyed with himself for not having solved this earlier, so today, he was like a man with a mission, determined to get it sorted.

To be honest, I don't think it's made much of a difference. If anything, the crack looks worse. Stan's painting skills and paint brush are not up to a painter's standards - we'll need to get Mark the painter back in to sand the bumps and touch up the paint.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

When Lighting Strikes

Global Warming is certainly bringing some strange weather to Ireland. We're well accustomed to rain. But not to tropical downpours! I wouldn't mind if we got some tropical sunshine and heat, but it's just grey and wet, very wet. It rained heavily again today (and no leaks, I'm happy to report!), but it didn't feel thundery, there was no grumbling in the distance, or anything to prepare us to what happened this afternoon.

I was in the upstairs back bedroom, browsing the web. All of a sudden, there was this huge flash in the sky, more or less at my eye level, between our house and the house behind, like an explosion, and the percusive sound was like a gun firing against your ear. Really scary. I ran down the stairs, calling Brendan, and as I got no response, I had visions of his chared body by the computer in the kitchen. And then I saw him rushing out of the shomera, alive and well, but as shook as me by what he had experienced. He didn't see the flash as such, but the explosion sound was so loud and so near that he thought one of the computers had blown. He had only just gone out to the shomera, and was about to sit at the computer. He was lucky he wasn't outside at the time. He had been outside, between the house and the shomera, less than 2 minutes before lighting struck.

We waited for the mad rain to stop, and went to check on things in the shomera. All was well there. Computers are fine, the phone is fine, but the telly hasn't come back on yet - we suspect it's NTL, as everybody we've talked to on the estate has told us their telly is down.

We were the lucky ones, that's for sure. One family wasn't so lucky, although nobody was injured, thankfully. When we heard a siren, like half the estate residents, we went to have a look. 2 firebrigade trucks and 2 garda cars were at the scene. Lightning had struck the chimney in one of the houses at the top of the estate (highest point and all the rest), breaking it in 2, and, according to a neighbour we talked to, the force of the lightning pushed the fireplace out across the living room. I'm not sure how much damage was done, but I can only imagine how scary this was for the family, who were in the house at the time. And the worry about the structural integrity of the house ! What a nightmare it must be.

I've never experienced anything like this in my life. I've seen bad thunderstorms in Belgium and Switzerland, but never anything so sudden and violent. I hope I never see anything like it ever again.

Half an hour later, the sun was shining, and the rest of the day has been more or less dry, with very dramatic skies.

PS: picture of the chimney courtesy of our intrepid photographer, Brendan!

E-Day + 88

Not quite there yet. We really thought we'd be done by now, but the carpentry work for the doors and skirtings is taking longer than we thought.

Stephen has got the doors up, but the kitchen door we're not allowed to open yet - I'm not sure why. I think it's something to do with the foam that's used to fix it in place? Although, now that I think of it, I don't think he used foam for that one. He's got the architraves (that's the door surround bit) up for the other doors and they are looking good. He's also got most of the wood cut to size for the skirting boards, and has started fixing some of them to the walls. I'd say there is another 2 days' work to finish that. He is very meticulous, measuring everything carefully. It is slow work. You should have seen him carry the door frames around - he was like a ballet dancer, so careful not to knock anything!

And the radiators arrived on Friday morning and were set up when we got back from visiting Paul on Friday evening. We're glad we were not there, as we would have been fretting about knocks to the floors and grubby fingers on the walls. Kevin was there to supervise the whole thing and it went well, without any damage to the floor. We wanted Kevin to watch the plumbers closely, as they had left some scratches on the tiles in the en-suite bathroom when they put in the sink and loo after the tiling. It looked really bad at first, but it now appears that it was porcelain marks over the tiles, rather than a scratch in the tiles themselves. Kevin managed to clean it up pretty well. Not 100%, but we'll live with it, I think. Building an extension, you learn the art of compromise.

Margaret had advised us to protect the wooden floors, and we did, but we're only sorry we didn't have full cover for every inch of it. Any bit that wasn't covered got a scratch of some sort, whether it was from the painter's ladders, the kitchen units, the doors and carpentry tools or plumbers' toolboxes. It upset us a lot at first, but hopefully they won't be too noticeable when everything is finished. With time, I'm sure there'll be more scratches, but we just want everything to be perfect, if only for one day! Over time, we probably won't notice the imperfections, just enjoy the new space. It looks stunning with the kitchen units lit up at night, I have to say!

Stan tidied everything up and even karchered the front drive. It almost sparkles! It certainly hadn't been this clean in 2 years, since we had last cleaned it!

We're nearly nearly there! The thing is that we were not mentally prepared for it to take this long, as Kevin had told us at the start it would probably take less than the 14 weeks quoted for, closer to 10 weeks... We thought it might take 12 weeks maybe. The scope increased slightly, and we're now just over the 14 weeks, and we just want our house back! So, the lesson learned is not to be taken in by Kevin's optimism. Plan for 16 weeks, and be pleasantly surprised when it's done quicker. Not that we'll plan to ever do any more work to the house. This will do us for a lifetime!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

E-Day + 85 - So close, and yet so far

This is the frustrating bit - we're nearly done, but it's slow to finish. Ray the plumber finally came in today, and finished Brendan's bathroom, and managed to scratch some of our brand new tiles. Very annoying. And the worst thing is that he left without saying anything, so we only discovered it after he was gone. I'll be so glad to be rid of him - he has to come back again to set up the new radiators, whenever they are delivered. We had been told they would be delivered on Monday, but now apparently they are stuck on a boat from England that is being delayed by the weather. Mmm. Mmmm. It's raining all right, but the sea doesn't look that rough to me!

Stephen the electrician, ever so reliable, tidy, and nice, on the other hand, rang this morning to tell us he would be in tomorrow around 9:30. If only the plumbers were a bit more like him!

And Stephen the carpenter, such a lovely fellow, was in all day, setting up the doors and cutting the skirting boards. He's a very sunny personality, and he works very methodically. He does a great job, very neat and tidy. If only the plumbers were a bit more like him!

Last night, I couldn't face the night in, looking at the dust and the mess everywhere, so we went out for a meal at the China Sichuan restaurant in Stillorgan, our last meal in that location. They are closing next Wednesday, we overheard Kevin tell a customer, and re-opening in their new restaurant the following Monday. We had a peep at the new restaurant last week. It's in Sandyford Industrial Estate, across from the Stillorgan Luas stop, in a quiet cul-de-sac at the foot of one the relatively new apartment blocks there, at the back of the big Microsoft building. It looks really nice, contemporary, understated and plush at the same time. I can't wait to try it out!

BTW, I've written 540 posts to date - that's a bit scary, isn't it? If I was writing a book, it would be one of these big long sagas. Speaking of which, I'm reading A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth, for the 3rd time. It's just such a good book, I feel I will read it again and again. When I'm old and grey and I can't walk anymore, hopefully I'll still have the strength to hold that big heavy book and I'm sure it will bring me the same joy as it does today.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

E-Day + 84

Most of the electrical work is finished - only the uplighters in the decking need to be done, but the weather is bad again - after a dry morning, it's been bucketing down all afternoon, and the sky is so grey it looks like it will last forever. Really depressing weather, more like Belgium than Ireland!

And Stephen the carpenter has started putting up the doors, after doing more work on the decking this morning while it was dry. He's got a couple more days' work to finish the doors and skirtings, I'd say. There was no explanation as to why he wasn't here yesterday.

And Ray the plumber didn't turn up. David tried to contact him this morning but couldn't get through. Then Kevin apparently managed to talk to him and he promised he would be over "within the hour" - that was around 11 this morning (it's now nearly 6!). Somehow, we knew he would not turn up. It's really annoying - without him, Brendan's bathroom can't be completed and my front office still has a loo and a sink in it - not very practical! Its frustrating to be so close to having it all finished, and to be held up by a tradesman not turning up.

No pictures today, the place looks too messy!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

E-Day + 82 - No More Leaks!

The rain yesterday was torrential - there were flashfloods in a number of locations around the country, with thousands of people stuck on the M50 and other roads cut by the flooding. This was the perfect test for our roof, that Kevin and Stan had just worked on that morning, after we had discovered a leak at the bottom of the Velux window. Brendan had texted Kevin when we found the leak, but we were not expecting him to come and fix it until Monday. But that's the way Kevin is - he just does not want to let his customers down, and he is always ready to jump in the van and come to the rescue, with Stan in tow of course!

Well, after the rain we had yesterday, the roof has passed the test, that's for sure, and we're not going to let anybody back on that roof to do anything more to it!

Mark finished the painting work in our downstairs rooms yesterday. He did a test of the 2 paints for Brendan to see, and they are almost identical, one slightly darker than the other, but definitely not creamier or yellower. It's a highly reflective paint, and it's picking up the colour from the wooden floor a bit, hence the warmer effect. I'm very happy with it. It's lovely and bright this morning and the light is reflecting everywhere.

And Kevin the tiler is here grouting the en-suite floor. This picture shows the devi mat laid under the tiling.

The house is still in complete up-heaval. After our serene last weekend, it's been a hectic week. We've had non-stop tradesmen in the last 48 hours: Mark in at 7 am on Friday, and Kevin the tiler out at 9:30pm. Mark in at 7:30 am on Saturday, and Kevin out at about 4:30 on Saturday. And Kevin the tiler in again this morning since 10:30. And it all starts again tomorrow morning. Except now the end is in sight: Stephen the carpenter will be in on Monday to finish the decking and put up the internal doors and skirtings. Then Stephen the electrician and Ray the plumber in on Tuesday to finish the bathroom and the electrics, and hopefully the radiators. After that, it should only be tidying up, so we're hopeful that by Friday, we'll have our house done! (Well, there are still a couple of panels to be delivered by Craftstone for the kitchen, and the bin drawer to be supplied)

It will all be in time for my sofa delivery from Ikea, due on the 19th.

And we'll have the upstairs and outside to be painted, but that won't be until late September at the earliest I'd say. And our new table and chairs to be delivered, in about 8 weeks. We finally found what we were looking for yesterday, in Montana, just around the corner in Sandyford Industrial Estate. It was in the sale, so we've saved a bit of money too.

Friday, August 08, 2008

E-Day + 80 - Supplemental

Some pictures of Willow, who has taken to our new Dunnes Stores deck chairs!

E-Day + 80

Busy day today. The place looks like a bomb hit it again, and I don't think we'll have the energy to clean up again at the weekend - plus there will be tradesmen here tomorrow, so there really is no point.

Stephen did more work on the decking - amazing how much goes into a decking - I would never have thought. Kevin was over with Stan and tidied up a good few bits and pieces and made us feel good about things in general. Stan even hoovered the stairs! And they sorted out the hot air tube for my new dryer, which was delivered today. So our shed is now looking like a proper laundry room!

Our doors were delivered. They are currently sitting in the extension, and will be installed on Monday, after the painter is finished.

Mark the painter and his colleague are making great progress with the painting. They were able to start yesterday afternoon, with one coat of white throughout the kitchen. Today, they were in at 7 am, and did another coat over the 3 rooms downstairs. They used their own mix for the colour we had picked, based on a sample we gave them. Apparently, it's scanned into a machine and a mix is produced based on that, but it's not an exact match. Brendan is a bit disappointed - he finds it too creamy. I, on the other hand, think it's just perfect. I think Brendan was hoping for a more minimalist white look, whereas I prefer something slightly warmer.

It's nearly 8 pm, and Kevin the tiler is still here, working on Brendan's bathroom, which will be done in the same style as mine - without the pink shower curtain, and with a devi mat - the equivalent of an electric blanket that goes under the tiling. I wasn't too gone on the idea of underfloor heating, so I opted out. If I change my mind, I can always take over Brendan's bathroom!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

E-Day + 78

No builders today - too much rain this morning. But then it brightened up beautifully this afternoon. Ah well!
Despite the fact that it's lovely not to have builders around for a change, I'm a bit anxious to get them to finish some of the items (such as the leaky roof - but you need a dry day for that, and the decking - but you need a dry day for that too), as we have a painter starting on Friday (or Monday at the latest). Kevin promised they'll be over tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to the last bits and pieces to be done.

Happy Birthday, David

Brendan and I wish you a very happy birthday!

Monday, August 04, 2008

E-Day + 76

Bank Holiday Monday - no builders today.

It's wonderful to have the house to ourselves, even for just a few days. The end is in sight, and we can't wait to be done.

Yesterday, Brendan cooked his signature chilli con carne. This is a picture of the work in progress.

Now I must go back to my boxes and get more kitchen things out and into my new presses. There are still a lot of boxes and bags up in the front bedroom.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

E-Day + 74

No builders today - the first Saturday in what feels like ages that we have the house to ourselves.

Yesterday was another busy day. As we had to leave at 1 to go and see Brendan's Dad, a lot had to happen in the morning, and it being Friday, contractors didn't seem to turn up on time. But it all worked out in the end.

My bathroom is finished, and is looking lovely (after a lot of cleaning up - I find that the young plumber in Ray's team isn't too clued in on keeping the place clean after himself). Brendan's bathroom has been started and is looking like a bomb hit it. By next weekend, it should look just like mine. We got good advice from David and Kevin about using the same tile as a skirting board and putting up a board with mosaic by the side of the bath (instead of the yellowed plastic element), and it's looking much better than the old lino.

Detail of the tile (B&Q) and mosaic (Tubs and Tiles) and pink shower curtain (Dunnes Stores).

We have the timer for the heat working, and one of the sockets above the cooking counter. The hob has been connected and is now operational - very snazzy. Stephen the electrician is a diligent worker - he just focuses on the job and is very neat. He got on great with Brendan, as he is also interested in music, and the 2 of them discussed all the music programs that they use on their computers.

The extractor hood is sorted, thanks to Alan, the kitchen fitter. If you're ever looking for a kitchen fitter, I'd definitely recommend him. He is local, he turns up when he says he will, and does a very neat job. He had a tough time yesterday, adjusting the back panel with the granite to make it all appear straight. And the extractor hood required a bit of imagination in terms of getting it to go through the kitchen panel at the top. The illusion is perfect.

There were a lot of tool boxes around yesterday, and, despite the mats, our floor got a bit of a bashing - a couple of knocks. We probably won't notice them after a few days, but it just shows that it's essential to protect a new wooden floor if you have builders and tradesmen around. Some of them are great (David always takes his shoes off), but some of them are just young men who don't pay much attention to such detail.

Today, we have the house looking lovely. We have taken most of the mats up so we can enjoy the floor. Brendan assembled a few Ikea items, and got his stereo hooked up, and I have spent most of the day washing dishes, cleaning presses and filling up our kitchen units. And Brendan is cooking a roast and roast potatoes for dinner tonight- our first proper meal (well, our 2nd really, as we had chicken last week).

And I even got to sit down on our decking for half an hour, enjoying a bit of sun.

Next week: completion of the decking, tiling of Brendan's bathroom, finishing off of the electrics, including decking lights, and hopefully doors and skirtings (although I have a feeling the supplier won't have them ready on Tuesday). Not sure when the radiators will be delivered. I think it will be another couple of weeks, as there was a 6-8 week time on the delivery. And our painter will start the week after next. We got Mark Delaney in the end - he won't be able to do it all in one go, as he has other jobs he's committed to, but he'll do the downstairs rooms to start with. Did I tell you the other painter let us down?

And we still need to find a new dining table. Another day's work!

PS - we still have the plastic covers on our kitchen units. It's not coming off until the last of the tradesmen is gone!