Lots has happened at The Upside Down House in the last 48 hours. Having landed at Heathrow with 80kg of luggage (thank you James at Etihad) on Thursday evening, I was whisked away by Katie for a nighttime viewing of all the changes on site. The big changes I hadn’t seen in person:
– Wooden floor laid (using timber requisitioned from the loft)
– Kitchen installed, tiled and unwrapped (Katie hadn’t seen it without its blue wrapping either)
– Bathrooms completed (only part-tiled without any sanitaryware or towel rails when I last saw them)
– Light fittings, switches and electrical sockets installed and working (even the pimp-my-ride strip lights on the stairs!)
– Heating on (toasty underfoot)
– Stair handrail and balustrade fitted
– Cabinetry fitted in the snug, hall, boot room and utility
– Fireplace in
– Comms cabinet installed under the stairs (tucked-away in the deepest corner it’s less accessible than planned but leaves more space for storage)
– Walls, woodwork and ceilings painted
– Carpets fitted (being accustomed to cold tile floors in AD, this is probably what excites the kids most about moving-in; they’ve been wriggling around making Carpet Angels and asking to sleep on the floor!)
So, LOTS of changes… But I must confess to having felt a smidge disappointed that it wasn’t even closer to full completion. Being remote from developments but working towards an end date allows your mind to form an impression of what things will be like on move-in day, and we weren’t quite there…
And this is because of one pretty big issue that has resulted in lots of knock-on impact: the render applied to the outside walls didn’t set properly and has slumped down the walls.
The render had already caused delays due to an unknown time requirement for one-week of base coat application and two-weeks of drying before the main coat could go on. Now, two weeks after applying the main coat, it had become clear that the mix was too fluid. Because the render wasn’t finished, the following installation work couldn’t progress:
– Timber louvres at the front
– Balcony at the back
– Undercroft woodwork underneath
– Outside light installation around the sides
– Railing installation above the drop
– Scaffolding removal from everywhere
And any frustrations I might have had were dwarfed by those of the build team, who have worked the last four weekends in a desperate bid to keep things on-track. So a lack of commitment and hard graft clearly isn’t to blame – it’s just one of those things you come to expect when you’re trying to cram so much in to such a short space of time…
And so the big date finally arrived – 28th November: the confirmed date for our shipment arriving, having sailed 6,937 nautical miles from Jebel Ali to Felixstowe on the Sima Prestige V for six weeks, arriving in the UK on 21st and arriving at site bang on-time at 09:00 yesterday morning. And with it, one of the biggest line-ups the site has ever seen;
– 4 builders
– 3 decorators
– 3 renderers
– 3 removalists
– 2 electricians
– 2 hopeful new occupants
– 1 architect
It was a busy day. With so many people with such overlapping objectives in one relatively small space, it was a recipe for disaster… But fair weather and good humour meant the day went off smoothly: The decorators followed the removalists around and tidied up any scuffs they left on the paintwork. The builders kept reclaiming their ‘borrowed’ tools and equipment from the renderers. The electricians stayed out of the way beneath the stairs and up ladders. And the hopeful occupants unpacked the kitchen, directed boxes to the right(ish) rooms and ticked-off the packing inventory.
Midway through this scene of chaos, the architect arrived for the site meeting – cool as a cucumber. And so it was that we got together for the regular fortnightly site meeting to discuss progress and make a decision around moving-in. To cut a long story short, we agreed we could move-in, at risk, while works are still ongoing. The inside is 99% finished, while there’s probably 20% of the outside work still to be finished. Assuming the renderers’ mix was the right consistency yesterday and we have a good few days of drying, work on the outstanding features will start on Tuesday.
As the builders prepared to depart for the weekend, our first guest arrived (Godfather Tom) with flowers and chocolates in-hand, helping us unload a few more boxes, entertain the kids, quaff some bubbles and test the new fireplace before making a graceful departure.
After Shepherds Pie was eaten (the oven works!) an early night ensued and we’ve now spent our first night in our new home. Boxes everywhere, no tinterweb and still a few online shops short of a full fridge, it’s very warm, quiet and comfortable. Wandering round taking stock of all the changes and imagining how we’re going to use the space, it already feels like it’s going to be a great place to live.
P.S. More photos to follow!