Building a new home

Snags & sofas

As February passed there was less and less contact from the builders about the snagging list, let alone any work being done. I regularly emailed a copy of the list to the developer and builder with any new discoveries added to it but all I got back (after repeated request) were acknowledgements that it had arrived and, occasionally, vague assurances that things would be looked at. This was a bit demoralising but perversely spurred me to be more insistent about getting even the smallest issues dealt with.

New mini-wardrobe in my office, currently holding the ironing.

In the meantime there was progress in other areas. David returned with the mini-wardrobe for the office that tucked nicely into its little recess and provided a hanging rail and shelves for overnight visitors. It's a bit small for a long-term inhabitant but I'm determined to set the house up for my requirements rather than some theoretical owner in the future, and for now it's an office and guest room rather than a fully-fledged bedroom.

David & I discussed having a door on the new wardrobe but I thought it would add to the visual clutter and decided instead to have a curtain that drew across it. The walls either side of the wardrobe didn't line up so the curtain could pull over to one side and give unobstructed access, which would make the most of the small size. I considered getting a curtain to match the sheer across the French windows but I wanted something more opaque to 'close off' the wardrobe contents, on top of which having everything matching was a bit too homogenous, even for me.

Lara, the designer who'd helped me with all my other curtains, was coming round to check on them - a few small adjustments were required after they'd settled in - so I asked for her opinion. She suggested a 'curtain door' - fitting the fabric to a hinged rod that could be opened & closed without needing to pull the material along it. This seemed a much simpler idea so she took the measurements and I went along to the showroom to borrow a book of fabrics, from which I chose something textured that (more or less) matched the wall colours - I wanted this to blend in rather than stand out.

Mirrors finally arrive.

A few days later my bathroom fitter was back with my mirrors - a full-length one for the landing (the only space upstairs where there was room to stand back from it) and a smaller one to go above the washbasin in the toilet. These were fitted quickly & efficiently but once again things weren't quite 'finished' - both mirrors were left with writing scrawled across them that took quite a lot of scrubbing (by me) to remove and the mounting of my drying rack was postponed (again) as the other fitter, needed to get up to my very high ceiling, was off sick. Sigh! Still, progress was being made. least in some areas. My garden work was rescheduled, in stages, back into early March. Quite a change from the 'before Christmas' that I'd been originally promised.

Suddenly, out of the blue and with no warning, there were builders back on site! Coming home after work I was accosted by Angelo, someone I'd met working on the development months ago, who brandished a copy of my most recent snagging list and assured me we'd be ticking the items off as they were finished. Next day, true to his word, I had people in the house working on various bits & pieces and visible progress was being made! When nobody turned up the following day I began to suspect that this was another flash in the pan, all promise without anything to back it up, but they were back again soon after and actually getting things finished off.

At first there was a bit of residual irritation that these jobs, most of which were done in less than an hour (often spectacularly less) had been left hanging for months. But as the professional, competent & friendly workmen (not ones I'd seen working on the site before, which was interesting) got to work and things started getting ticked off the list this was replaced with a real sense of near delight - it was as if the weight of holding all these failings was being eased and I could start to appreciate my new home without all the other stuff getting in the way. It wasn't perfect (the developer had noticeably stopped using 'luxury' in his description of the place) but I wasn't needing to put up with shortcomings while I waited for the builder to fix them.

On top of the general snags & fixes some interesting things emerged during the work. The tiles & flashing around my fake chimney had been placed the wrong way round and were channeling rainwater into the chimney stack rather than away from it, leading to damp stains on the office ceiling. The long lost stabiliser pole for the shower screen suddenly reemerged and the 'impossible to match' lock on the French windows was somehow located & fitted. My long-promised pole for opening the Velux windows was finally delivered, four months late. And then there was the painting...

When I was asked to choose my paint colours I'd gone for two shades of posh magnolia, one for upstairs, one for downstairs. As the painter doing the snagging work started to touch up the refilled cracks and missed spots it was apparent that the colours really didn't match and, after some experimentation, it turned out that the 'upstairs' paint had been used for downstairs and vice-versa. As I'd lived with this reversed colour scheme for four months without noticing I accepted that this was fine as it was. However as the upstairs painting dried it became clear that it didn't quite match the existing colour. We've agreed to give it a while to see if the colour changes over time but the painter thought it was unlikely (the new shade is lighter) and with there being patches in all the upstairs rooms it looks like the entire upper storey will need to be redone. We'll see how that goes down.

Just call me 'two sofas'. Living room still a work in progress.

While the snagging work was going on I found another problem. Looking under the sink for a new kitchen roll I discovered the paper was absolutely sodden, as was another pair of rolls next to it. After some rooting around I found the water supply to the dishwasher wasn't fully tightened and was slowly dripping, as it must have been doing for months. It was simple enough to fix (even for me) and it seemed that most of the water had been captured by the paper rolls - after clearing the shelf out there didn't seem to be residual dampness underneath - but it was another case of 'if this is broken what else might be?'.

The snagging work conveniently overlapped with my being at home for most of the week - I'd lost track of my work holiday time and found that I had four days remaining that had to be taken by the end of February or lost. I'd planned to go on a city break somewhere but a residual sniffly cold made that less appealing, instead I decided to use some of the time to carry on with my fitting out of the house.

Two of the rooms still had big question marks hanging over them. The living room was now a cosy space at one end but the other was essentially unused - maybe this would change as spring & summer made the window end more attractive but I wanted something with more than a seasonal appeal. The office was functional but after having a friend stay for a few days it seemed that the inflatable mattress wasn't perfect as guest accommodation and I was leaning back towards having a sofabed instead. After taking some measurements I took at trip to IKEA to look for inspiration.

The incredible meandering drainpipe.

Results there were mixed, as with most of my other recent IKEA experiences. I plumped for a 3-seat sofa for the living room that would fit 'under the stairs' (partly) and would give me a more comfortable reclining space for reading, I toyed with the bright red cover but in the end decided it wasn't quite right and went for a neutral beige that matched my existing 2-seat. No such luck with the sofabeds, they were either uncomfortable (as sofas), the wrong size or just expanded to a set of foam blocks on the floor, no better than the inflatable mattress.

When the sofa arrived (in one huge, heavy box) I put it together and spent some time rearranging the living room to see what the different permutations felt like. There's still a way to go with it - I'd like to get the DVDs stored less obtrusively, maybe on a high shelf over the long sofa, and maybe move the books out into the entryway - but the new layout is clear & spacious and the small sofa by the window is a nice place to sit. A new rug is next on the wish list, something with some rich colour for the TV end so I can move the current pale one back towards the window.

The office remains somewhat sparse but I've bought a wooly mattress cover which should make the inflatable a bit more comfortable (and warmer - my guest said that was the main problem with it). Some shelves are needed which would get the hi-fi off the floor and leave space for a sofa or some other seating. Once the garden is done and the weather improves I can see myself spending more time in the office and making it funky rather than purely functional.

The laundry dryer in place at last.

Speaking of the weather, the incessant rain had highlighted the fact that the guttering in the courtyard was woefully inadequate. The main downpipe would overflow at anything stronger than a light shower and splash water over the gateway & one of the external staircases, the backed-up rainwater would then spill out of the gutters and cascade down directly in front of somebody's front door. In what seemed to me to be a bizarre solution a new downpipe was constructed that wormed its way down, weaving around the existing walls & tiles and actually crossing over another gutter on its path. I asked if a larger downpipe might have been a simpler solution but was told that this was impossible due to 'heritage' restrictions. So now we have my fake chimney and Bradford's most convoluted drainpipe to 'preserve' something that was never there to start with. Hmmm.

After weeks of waiting my laundry dryer was finally installed in the bathroom. The high, sloping ceiling had proved more of a challenge than I'd anticipated but after some creative carpentry the pulley-driven rack was in place and ready for its first load.

After such a long period of inactivity, accentuated by my very quiet work schedule since the Christmas holidays, it's been quite exciting to see things moving forward again. The snagging list is down to a third of its previous size and the new living room layout feels much more comfortable and spacious, which is odd considering there's now more furniture in there. Maybe this is the start of Spring energy after the Winter slowdown? Certainly I feel more positive & energised than I have for a while and much happier in the house. Good times ahead!