I was hoping for something more dramatic I think from day one of our side return extension. I had thought an army of builders might arrive brandishing sledgehammers to knock down our much cursed kitchen but not so. Kevin McCloud talks of ‘breaking ground’ – admittedly on a self build grand design and not an extension of probably no more than 6 square metres – but even so it sounds more, well, significant. We had to be content with breaking a fence. Next doors fence. So actually yes, perhaps you could say there was drama after all but not quite the type I was after….one very irate neighbour and a very pissed off site foreman.
In our defence we had been negotiating with the owner of next door and the management company ( it’s tenanted) to get a party wall agreement signed for a few weeks now and in our relief to have that done and dusted with surprisingly minimal fuss, we neglected to consider the people who
actually live there. Or rather I forgot them until I saw the builders breaking down our adjoining fence and thought to myself, “hmm, perhaps Ill go next door and just let them know whats going on”. However, still in my pyjamas and with a plumber, carpenter an 18 month old baby and my mum all in the house in addition to the building company, I didn’t get sorted until it was too late. An apology and a freebie unblocking of a drain on her property calmed tempers .. for now. The hopeful sentence “you’ll be finished today?” spells trouble ahead.
So where are we with our ethical, eco planning you may be wondering? Well, sourcing the kitchen has indeed proven to be tricky – though there is a firm out there who makes carcasses from recycled plastic. However what we have plumped for is to use a local company who hand make their units – so rather than using reclaimed materials instead we are upholding ethics of a sort by supporting a local business. The worktop we are planning to have is made from recycled glass and the flooring is reclaimed from a Yorkshire school gym. So far, so green. Upstairs however we removed a cast iron original fireplace thinking it was a wooden repro and replaced it with a run of Ikea wardrobes. I’m pretty sure that cancels out any good we may have done the planet and officially makes us hypocrites.
It’s also become very apparent that our desire to employ two of the famous three R’s….reuse and recycle (I’m not convinced we are doing much reducing…) is resulting in much mirth. First to the cowboys selling us the junk ( S quotes a TV series where one of the characters has a second hand shop called “I Saw You Coming”) and second to the tradesmen we are employing to try and fit this stuff. Today it was the job of our carpenter to shoehorn slightly warped old doors, one of them showing signs of some, thankfully repairable, rot, into our existing door frames. Embarrassingly the doors still had the prices written on them next to a scrawled SOLD and our surname. Over his 20’th coffee of the day, our carpenter chose to enlighten me….a new door would probably have cost us a tenner more and a days less labour.
The flooring, which S is trying to work into some kind of workable state ( reclaimed flooring does not arrive tongue and grooved in plastic, sealed, neat packs ready for stacking. It’s in unwieldy bundles with splinters and remnants of a taped basketball court – it tumbles, as opposed to stacks, and sections have to lie diagonally across the room running from bottom left hand corner to ceiling right hand… and warping all the more as it does so). I console myself that we will be giving our carpenter a good few weeks of much needed work but the price per metre which we unashamedly boasted of a few weeks ago “Can you believe it? For maple?!” doesn’t seem quite such a bargain as we anticipate the labour invoice….
But, I say to myself, it will be worth it in the end. I visualise these doors stripped, waxed and with the horrid, broken, textured glass replaced (at yet more expense…I realise) looking handsome. I visualise the expertly laid and sanded floor looking beautifully imperfect and it all feels worth it.
I’m trying not to think that stripping the doors ( with non toxic stripper…a further green point surely?!) will simply reveal one too many imperfections and we will run out of flooring as the spoil is just too great……