Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Bathroom Evolves

We'd planned the bathroom carefully with the builder and plumber.  What would become the bathroom consisted of a narrow room with a single toilet and a small window.  This was next door to a larger room to the right of it with two cubicles, dividing a lovely old casement window.  We would take down the partition walls, making one space, keep the door to the single loo, make the other door a cupboard by blocking it in and moving the door further into the room.  The shower would go in the corner, the bath under the big window, the loo under the small window and the sink between the shower and cupboard.

Once the massive cast iron bath arrived, we went back to the drawing board, worried that it wouldn't fit.  And changed the plan completely, drawing the sanitary ware on the floor, to scale and writing instructions to the builders on every available surface.  The bath and shower stayed as planned.  We scrapped the cupboard and made that door the main entrance, blocking in the other door.  That blocked in wall would then screen the sink and loo.  The first sight for the lucky bathroom entrant would be the bath in all its cast iron glory.

Surely now the plan was set in stone...

Once the floor was down and it was a black porcelain floor and not stone or even a gnarled, old pitch pine floor waxed to a lovely deep shine, our ideas had to change.  It all looked too sharp now for the rustic, wood panelled look that I'd had in mind. 

Black Porcelain Tiles with Black Tiled Skirting

The tiles on the floor were laid in a brickwork formation.  The white 'public toilet' tiles in the shower will be similarly arranged.  The discussion turned to the boxing in of the pipes.  Did we want wooden skirting or tiling?  I took a random sample of five views: three males and two females.  Interestingly, all the males went for tiles and the females for skirting.  This despite the fact that the torus type of skirting that we had in mind is a dust trap and, as we all know, it will be the females who deal with it.  I think there might be a research project in this but, sadly, I'm too busy making decisions about bathrooms to pursue it.

So, a black floor and black tile skirtings.  It's a very sharp look.  Is it too contemporary?  Does it fit with the spirit of the building or, as Kevin would say, is it true to the integrity of the building?  The bath, sink and loo are very traditional and there are old casement windows. 

Casement Windows

The plan now is to keep it simple.  White walls (although I have a Linda Snell-ish hankering for eau-de-nil), probably the same Jim Lawrence towel rings that we have at present.

Jim Lawrence Towel Rings

Hopefully, it will work.  Hopefully.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Toilet Training

Hopefully, we will have more planning time for future stages of this renovation.  Then we will be able to identify flooring, lighting and other materials at our leisure, making sure that it results in a look that we are happy is sympathetic to the house.  And that's the first lesson: to take our time.  Of course, for this first bathroom, this hasn't been possible as the imperative was to get a bathroom together asap, to have it inspected and to make completion on 26th October.

The next lesson is to insist that the builders cover the flooring.  I asked for this on Day One but, when the junior builder said that he would have to go to the builder's merchants to get plastic sheeting, I relented and provided some of my mum's old sheets.  Probably a death trap on floors (especially when carrying a cast-iron bath!), these were quickly dispensed with.  The stair carpet is not lovely; it's industrial.  But we are going to have to live with it for some time to come as we can't afford another.  The carpet cleaner has said that he will see what he can do with it.  Let's hope he can make it look reasonably decent.  Next time, I won't take pity on the junior.  Second lesson: insist that the carpets are covered.

Watching the plasterer plastering with the sanitary ware in situ was nerve wracking.  The floor was covered in sheeting and rubble.  I have yet to inspect the tiles and whether they have been scatched or damaged in some other way.  The plasterer wasn't happy; I wasn't happy.  Third lesson: make sure that things are done in the correct order.

Once the excitement of the first week was over, the builders seemed to wander off and lose interest.  I think we might have retained the impetus if we had everything absolutely organised and materials in place from the word go.  Then we could have capitalised on their enthusiasm.  Fourth lesson: strike while the iron is hot.

An Inspector Calls

The surveyor arrived on Friday, just before one.  I met him at the gates.  He looked benign enough.  We went into the house and I took him into the room containing the sanitary ware.  And he confirmed that it is, in fact, a bathroom.  What a relief!

He said he was going to write his report that afternoon.  So, hopefully, it is with the Halifax now and we are on for completion on Friday.

It's going to be an interesting week.

The builders returned from wherever it is that builders mysteriously disappear to during the course of a job.  There was some tidying up and the plumber and his aged apprentice fitted the shower, which had been tiled that morning.  I'm sure that in any other business the apprentice would have grounds for a harassment case as he was cursed, beaten and generally abused for the fact that shower doors are apparently difficult to fit.

Plumber Being Sightly More Polite to Builder

So, the plan for Monday is that yet another skip arrives and the final piles of rubbish left by the marketing company will be removed.  The pipes in the bathroom need to be boxed in and then the only thing left is the radiator, which we are yet to order.  The carpet cleaner is arriving on Monday afternoon and will begin working down through the house so I guess that I'm going to have to hoover ahead of him and get rid of the piles of twigs in some of the fireplaces.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Strange Incident of the Plasterer in the Garden

A frantic knocking on the door of No.7.  It was Tuesday morning.  My mum answered it and the plasterer was standing outside.  He'd gone out to his van and the door to the house had slammed shut behind him.  The keys were inside.  And also a full bucket of plaster that he'd just mixed. 

Bucket of Plaster Under Threat!

Did I have a key?  He needed to get back in before the plaster went off.  I didn't.  But the Estate Agent did.  I ran to the High Street, burst into the office.  The plasterers locked himself out and his plaster's at risk, I cried, have you got a key?  M, the estate agent, coolly picked up a bunch from his desk (how did he know and why were they there?) and handed them to me.  Thanks, I cried and ran off.  A bucket of plaster saved.

Plasterer Back Inside - Phew!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Will anything to do with this house purchase ever go to plan?  No surveyor between 0900hrs and 1100hrs as planned.  By 1530hrs, I contacted the Estate Agent and the Financial Adviser.  No response from either so walked up to the Estate Agent's.  They kindly rang the surveying firm to find that the survey was booked in for next Monday, 22nd, because we were on holiday apparently.  Not sure how that happened as I have email evidence from the Estate Agent talking about this Tuesday, S took a call on Saturday talking about this Tuesday but the Financial Adviser has an email from the building society that clearly talks about 22nd.  Chinese whispers and too many cooks, I think.  Anyhow, we're on for Friday so back to slaughtering goats and carrying around cockerel's feet .

Of course, everyone knows their Von Moltke and the fact that no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.  And so it is when bathrooms meet builders.  The plan was simple: replicate the bathroom that we already have.  So the red rubber tiles would be removed, followed by the plywood, to reveal the old Georgian floor, which we would lovingly restore with wax and elbow grease.  Then we would put a dado round and panel with butt 'n' bead.

Red Rubber Tiles...

The tiles and plywood came up to reveal not very nice, fairly modern, narrow planks which were covered in staples.  We could remove them, they said, in a tone designed to make me say no.  And then see how the boards look.  But it will take ages.

...Not Nice Floorboards

...Still Not Nice Floorboards When Close Up...

We could paint them white, I thought, like in the Heritage Bathrooms brochure.  That might look OK.  It might also look cheap and nasty, not giving the wow factor that we are seeking.

...Everyone Agree That This Hasn't Got the Wow Factor So That I Don't Have to Suffer Weeks of Self-Doubt...

Then the plumber suggested that we go to the nearby reclamation yard to see what they had on offer.  They had some older pine boards with a good grain and they were 7" wide.  I tried to 'phone S.  The plan was to ring once, if no answer, ring again and he would endeavour to answer.  It didn't work.  The plumber texted him the photos, which meant that they exchanged messages for a while with S thinking it was me at the other end.  Luckily, S manfully retained his focus and didn't send any billet doux to the plumber. 

It was almost closing time at the reclamation yard so the plumber and I decided that I would go back to No.7 and phone S.  We decided that the pine boards were the solution.  I texted the plumber and asked him to pick up the boards in the morning.  The next day, I was just about to head up to the cashpoint to withdraw wads when the builder rang.  He was in the reclamation yard with the plumber.  In his view, the boards were no good.

Spot the Reclamation Yard Competition

Back to the drawing board.  There was another reclamation yard near Cirencester.  Or there were some nice old boards at the one in Devizes, according to the electrician.  Stress levels rising, I went to call S but had decided by the time I got back to to No.7 that I have a day job too and didn't have the time to drive around Wiltshire and Gloucestershire looking for the right floor.  It would have to be tiles.

So, after work, to B&Q to buy the tiles that we had identified as a contingency on Sunday.  Grey marble.  I'll have 20 boxes, my man.  Luckily, they only had the ten boxes under the display as, while he was gone to the storeroom, I noticed the price.  It would have cost £1000.  I phoned S.

A new plan.  He would go to his local B&Q.  I would hang around my B&Q until he phoned.  You quickly get bored.  Then, for the second time in my life, my mobile phone came into its own.  (The first was to help a poor lady whose car had broken down on a busy roundabout.)  S marched round his B&Q and I marched round mine, phones in hands.  After about fifteen minutes and a process of elimination, I bought the black porcelain and headed home.

...Black Porcelain Tiles...

But this, of course, would now dictate the look of the bathroom and it wouldn't be like our current one, that's for sure.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Where is the Bathroom?

Monday evening, 15th October.  Tension is rising because the surveyor is due tomorrow to make his pronouncement on whether the bathroom is in fact a bathroom and whether that means that we are now eligible for a mortgage. 

I took no photographs of progress today as we seem to have stepped back in time to last Monday when the room was covered in rubble.  Perhaps my expectations have been raised too high as progress has been so rapid.  In reality, there has been progress today as the second doorway into what was the single cubicle loo has been blocked in and the room is being prepared for plastering. 

But with the floor covered in rubble and apparent rack and ruin everywhere, things felt a bit flat.  The plasterer has been muttering darkly about the fact that the plastering should have been done first.  I've tried to explain the urgent requirement to have a working bathroom before tomorrow and hence the rather back-to-front (not the term he used...) approach.

The surveyor's definition of a bathroom is, apparently, a room with a sink, loo and a bath or a shower.  Well, we're nearly there.  We have a sink and a loo. 

Onde é a casa-de-banho?

 We have a bath. 

где туалет?

And we have the pipes for a shower. 

Ble mae`r ty bach?

And, since today, we have both hot and cold running water for the sink, the bath and the showerpipes. 

Despite our promises to each other that this was going to be an enjoyable project, it hasn't been so far.  The issues over the mortgage, trying to sell, then rent the other two houses and then trying to get a bathroom in situ in little over a week have all been pretty stressful.  Kevin McCloud cautions that you need a full time project manager and he is right. 

As soon as we knew that we were going to exchange on Friday 5th October, we ordered the bathroom.  As mentioned previously, we'd decided to simply replicate our current bathroom so off we went to the BC Sanitan website, where the relevant items (or sanitary ware, to use the technical term) were selected and then ordered via a local supplier. 

On Wednesday 3rd, I rang to see how the order was going.  Everything but the shower doors had arrived and it was all taking up too much space in the showroom so could they deliver?  But was there anyone to help me as the bath was very heavy?  But it's only fibreglass, I thought.  A horrible feeling of doubt began to grow.  I went back to the BC Sanitan website.  It was cast iron. 

Πού είναι η τουαλέτα?

A long chat with one of the salesman followed.  He gave me a quick physics lesson and reassured me that it would be fine.  The floors could take it.  The bath arrived on Thursday.  Luckily, there was a driver and a helper.  The three of us managed to get it into the hallway.  Just.  But how on earth would the builders get it up the stairs and how could the floor possibly be strong enough to take the weight?  Would someone end up in the pantry, sitting in the bath?

Tuvalet nerede?

And it was battleship grey...

Bathroom kidhar hay?
The builders, as builders do, reassured me that it would be no problem.  And then the painter came...

Gdje je kupaonica?

Hvor er badeværelset/toilettet?  (The feet for the bath, in case you're wondering...?)

Kur ir tualete?

So now it's my favourite Laura Ashley Creamware (or, at least, a metallic version made to match) and the feet are matt, not shiny (they'd just been painted in the photo) black. 

Well, so far so good, the bath is in situ and can take the weight of S and the plumber.  For long enough for them to have their photograph taken anyway.

Dov'è il bagno?

There's more to blog about the bathroom.  And I'm sure the avid bathroom afficianado will be much relieved to hear that.  There's the saga of the flooring - see the Fun Tile Facts website (no, really: to whet your appetite.  There's the way the bathroom evolved and took on a life of its own, growing into something that it was never intended to be.  And then there are the lessons learned.  Thankfully, we have more bathrooms to create and so we will have every opportunity to apply these lessons.

But, for now, there is the surveyor and that burning question: where is the bathroom?