I fully intended to finish off the plastering this weekend, and even though the first half of the morning was taken up with our weekly shopping trip, I still entered the lounge after lunch with plastering on my mind, but somehow I ended up building the beginnings of a small gas meter/ electrics cupboard instead.

For a long time now the mass of wires and cables behind our TV had regularly irritated me, as I have to admit I do have a slightly anal obsession with tidiness, so I’d already decided to dismantle the existing plywood box that contained the gas meter* and build a cupboard that would also contain the power outlets for the TV, Router, Tivo box etc..

*For some reason, probably because it was the cheapest option, the previous builders had positioned the gas meter in the lounge behind the TV, nice bit of planning there!

Before I could do any plastering I had to cut out for the new sockets and cabling and it was whilst I was doing this that I figured it would just be easier just to build the cupboard than attempt to plaster that area of the room. Fortunately I had a load of bits and pieces of timber from previous projects so managed to find enough materials to keep me busy for the rest of the day and make a good start getting the cupboard built.

I think I spent about six or seven hours working today, but I reckon if you add up all the time I spent digging through the contents of our trailer looking for timber, travelling back and forth to the garden shed every time I needed yet another tool or packet of screws and even more time spent looking for tools which two minutes earlier I had actually been using!, then probably about half that time was actual work!

Won’t be making much progress tomorrow either as its the annual ‘Secret Gardens of Oxton’ event. But more of that in my next post..

Time for a hot shower and a cold glass of wine.. not both at the same time obviously 😉

TV area before today's work

Cupboardy area before I started today's work

Partly built cupboard

The result of my days labour.. sometimes these things just take time!

Thanks for letting me know!!

Digging Hole

We received a letter earlier this week from United Utilities informing us that they had become aware of a mains water leak on our premises. It informed us that the leak must be repaired within eight days from the date the letter was written or they would have to obtain a court order and then carry out the work themselves, at a significantly higher cost than if we got our own plumber in to do the work.

This was extremely annoying on a couple of levels.

Not the fact that we had a leak, or that United Utilities had informed us of the leak, but because a representative of United Utilities had become aware of the leak, whilst checking the stop-tap controlling the supply our property, and then;

DIDN’T call at the door to see if anyone was in that could be informed of the leak straight away;


DIDN’T put any form of notice through the door to inform us of the problem in advance,

but instead went away and presumably reported back to head office, who then wrote the letter which took two of the eight days notice given to deal with the problem to get to us..

Fortunately, I completed a City & Guilds Plumbing Course several years ago so was able to carry out the repair myself straight away, however, for your average householder this could have been a costly business as it isn’t easy finding a plumber in an emergency, unless your insured or willing to pay a premium for the call out.

As it happened, we were going away for the weekend, so I had to carry out the work when I got in from my day job and ended up having to remove a square yard of wet soil and mud out of the ground, in the dark, to get at the bloomin leak..

Incidentally the fitting which had sprung the leak had only been installed a couple of months earlier by the builders which have been referred to in some of my previous posts..

Wasn’t bloody happy!!

When is a Door not a Door

Wonky door, could have been fitted by my builders.When your bloody builders make the door frame too bloody wide!!

As Barbie Builder would be the first to tell you, when it comes to carpentry, my abilities fall somewhat short of perfection. However, while my joints may not be the ‘neatest’ in the world, even I can get the basic dimensions right. So you can imagine my surprise, when I came to fit my new standard sized thirty inch, (762mm), fire door into the recently ‘professionally’ constructed door lining, to discover they had made the frame thirty and a half inches wide! (775mm)

The problem with fire doors is you can only resize them within very narrow tolerances so you can’t go and by a bigger one and cut it down to size and I’m pretty sure no one makes a thirty and a half inch option as standard. In an initial panic I decided to append a half inch thick strip of wood to the door. I’m not sure even this adaptation is acceptable on a fire door either but, as it turned out, it had to be removed again anyway!

Having expanded the door and subsequently tried to fit it, we discovered there wasn’t one straight or level edge to any part of this frame, In fact it would have been more at home on a Hobbit house it was so bent. I know I should have checked this all out before I even touched the door but I suppose I just expected a newly installed frame to been fitted correctly.. not any more I don’t!

In the end the only option was to completely remove the frame and replace it. Yes I probably should have called the builder’s back, but to be honest I didn’t feel inclined to let them loose on the job any more. I bought a new Fire door lining from Wicke’s for about £25 and over the weekend ripped out the not so old and fitted the new.. I also hung the door.. amazing how much easier it is to fit doors when the hole is square!

Max Headroom

Max HeadroomThere was a bit of a break in the weather this weekend, as in nothing falling out of the sky for a few hours, so I took the opportunity to carry out a much-needed repair job to the van.

Owing to the fact that the van had once again become my primary mode of transport, the repair work got pushed above the outstanding basement jobs in the priority list.

A few weeks ago I’d managed to get a last-minute dental appointment whilst at work. This led  me to choose an alternative exit to my usual one from the tunnel through which I travel when driving to and from work. There is a main bank of toll booths aligned across the front of one end of the tunnel and a further two automatic booths on a side exit. The side exit, which I’ve rarely ever used, provides a slightly shorter route to the dentists than the main exit booths.

Taking into account the fact that I regularly drive through the main toll booths in our van and have never come even close to hitting the height restriction booms which dangle freely above each toll booth, you may think it understandable that I would have no reason whatsoever to expect that on this one automatic side exit booth there would be installed a solid steel girder with a height restriction about one inch lower than the top of our van.. but there bloody was!

Fortunately I’d only approached the booth slowly and I quickly applied the brakes as soon as I heard the slight screech of metal on metal. I quickly had to reverse back out of the side exit, which in itself was pretty hazardous, and then exit using one of the usual booths. I had no opportunity to check the roof until I parked up outside the dentists, even then I had to climb  on to the bumper to get a closer look.. at the two-inch long gouge in the top of the van just where the front panel above the windscreen curves up to the roof!

Understandably I was well and truly pissed off and I swear I’ve looked several times since, as I’ve come back through the tunnel, and I still can’t see any height restriction signs!

Anyway, to make a long story slightly shorter I had to make a quick repair as soon as I got home using a print acetate, a tube of clear silicone sanitary gel and a roll of black duck tape. Unfortunately the black tape started to lift off after a couple of journeys and then I started using the bike again, until the weather turned crap once more, so the job was left until now.

Top Tip: We had recently repaired a shattered plastic freezer tray using some white waterproof tape we’d bought from Wicke’s. The tape which had stayed well and truly stuck in place despite the freezing conditions so I re-covered the acetate and silicone repair patch with several strips of this tape and so far it has survived a weeks driving through the icy conditions with no sign of lifting up and, as its white like the van, its far less noticeable.

As for the basement: progress this weekend consisted of me gluing a wooden threshold across the front door frame to keep the drafts out and Barbie Builder glossed most of the skirting boards in the living/dining room area and gave the breakfast bar a third coat of emulsion. Every little bit helps.. or so they say!

“Cracking good job, Gromit!”

Wallace and GromitAnother weekend has passed and, like most of the others, it brought with it its own collection of distractions from the path of DIY. This weekends main distraction was a trip to see the Wallace and Gromit exhibition at Spaceport.

As mentioned in the previous post ‘A Grand Day Out at Alton Towers‘, we had saved up a load of Tesco day out vouchers to use at Alton Towers, only to discover when we got there that they were the wrong type.  As the vouchers were due to expire at the end of November we decided to use some of them up visiting Spaceport, mainly because it was the nearest participating attraction to where we live.

The centre is very much geared up for kids but we we’re just curious to have a look inside with it being near to where we live. We spent a couple of hours in the exhibits and I think it is well worth visiting if you have school age kids, or really like Wallace and Gromit, but the audio visuals are probably getting a little dated now for older kids, still we had a good laugh and personally met Wallace and Gromit, I kid you not!!

The only downside the the visit was when I managed to walk into the revolving glass door on the way out, when it wasn’t in the open position, much to everyone else’s amusement!!

Quickly skirting over the rest of Saturday… Got stuck into tiling the kitchen area of the basement flat on Sunday and I’m very pleased with the results so far. I’ve tiled a large floor area before but this is the first time I’ve laid wall tiles on anything other than small repair work scale.

I think the expected coverage stated on the adhesive tub of up to 4 square metres glued and grouted was extremely optimistic, I wasn’t laying it on too heavy and only managed about 2.5 square metres just glued! But I’m no expert so maybe you don’t need much glue at all and if that’s the case my tiles should be well and truly stuck on 🙂

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Slow Progress

Cartoon Kitchen FitterNot as productive a weekend on the flat as we would have liked. We didn’t get any work done on Saturday because on Friday night I went out with my fellow Unison Branch Officers for our annual Christmas night out which resulted in me feeling a little unenthusiastic the following morning/day.

We did, however,  make some progress on Sunday and now have a lovely fitted ceramic hob. Unfortunately I managed to turn this into a slightly more complicated task than it needed to be by failing to realise that the hob had a greater depth than that of the worktop.  Schoolboy error number one!

We measured and cut out the hole in the worktop only to discover that we also had to cut away the front and rear support strips of the base unit below to accommodate the additional depth of the hob. To top it off the whole procedure was made even more difficult because I’d covered the back edge of the worktop in sealant and we were left with a pretty restricted space to work in once we’d moved the whole worktop back off the base units resulting in a fair bit of sealant transferring from worktop to us!!

All the worktops would have been fully fixed in place if it wasn’t for schoolboy error number two of mine. I managed to cut one of the corner joint strips incorrectly only to discover that our local B&Q didn’t have any more of the same colour in stock so can’t finish until we get another one of these. (Update: Barbie Builder has now driven to another branch of B&Q to get one).

In complete contrast to my efforts Barbie Builder added a border to the small bedroom, which she had hand cut out perfectly from a full sized roll of wallpaper, with no problems whatsoever.

The Very Long Term Basement Project


How wrong was I when I made this post. The Basement Flat project still isn’t finished (24th August 2011), and the My Outstanding Projects website isn’t anywhere near complete either!

Without tempting fate, the Basement Flat Project actually is now within a few weeks of completion (I think) 🙂


I won’t go into too much detail here about the history of this project as I will almost certainly go into much more detail about it on my other website:, which incidentally is still being built and is, therefore, currently an outstanding* project in itself.

*The usual definitions of outstanding are:

  • distinguished from others in excellence; “did outstanding work in human relations”; “an outstanding war record”
  • having a quality that thrusts itself into attention; “an outstanding fact of our time…
  • owed as a debt; “outstanding bills”; “the amount still owed”; “undischarged debts”
  • great: of major significance or importance; “a great work of art”; “Einstein was one of the outstanding figures of the 20th century

In the context of practically all of my projects it most definitely means ‘Unfinished’

Anyway to cut a long blog short this project has been running on and off for many years but is now finally within a few weeks of completion. As I’ve just installed a Gallery component on this site I thought it would be a good test of its functionality to publish a small gallery of the last few weeks progress and it will give some context to some of my future blogs I have no doubt!

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