Room with a View
The feature photograph is not quite the Florentine view of E. M Forster’s River Arno and this post is not to be confused with that story, nor the 1980’s Merchant Ivory classic film adaptation of his Edwardian tale, A Room with a View. Of the ever burgeoning portfolio of pics, this one does seem an apt illustration of our first month as property developers.
Week one is behind us as I receive a pleasing text from the builders:
‘All possible demolition at this point is complete and we are awaiting a Friday delivery of scaffolding. Mean time we will be clearing rubbish from the site’
Appreciating the heads-up, we pootle over to the house that evening anticipating little to have changed. In fact, evidence of progress is literally lying all around. Sorted into piles of ‘like’ materials, the demolition waste brings a new perspective on the term ‘garden design’. Zoned in the same way, this carefully planned landscape brings order to the chaos. Reclaimed bricks and slate tiles for reuse on the far left; rubble retained for hard-core closest to the path; timber stacked lengthways to the right and the remains of the dated, chipboard kitchen ready for its transfer to the skip.
This early evening visiting is addictive. We return the next day. How can we resist a peek, post scaffolding? Last week’s open plan aspect of the ground floor has spread to most of the side of the house! I snap happily away, partly to illustrate the blog, partly to capture the sensations brought by each new view. Of course many of these sights, like the Room with a View, are transient; moments in time which will not exist once the building is complete. All the more reason to keep a record, don’t you think? We are amazed at the speed of the manual deconstruction. Floor boards have been removed revealing the hard-standing surfaces beneath the old side extension. Each time we peel back the layers of the house we search the exposed parts for more clues to its history. I almost expect to find Tony Robinson and the Time Team crew digging an archaeological test pit somewhere round the corner!
No visit to the house today. Instead I meet to talk blogs with a good friend over a coffee. She wants to hear all about the house project and presses me for the next post. Having read all the pre-build instalments she is impatient to know more. I promise to be more consistent with my updates, at the same time venting my frustration with the blog’s apparent limited reach. I receive her social-media savvy advice to add Pinterest to my ever expanding collection of media accounts and to follow others with similar interests, particularly those corporate bloggers in the home improvement magazine world. There. Yet another reason for the visual record… I feel a house makeover double page spread could be on the horizon…
Another first. Today I visit the family home accompanied by the youngest member of our family, my 10yo daughter. Predictably her reaction is guarded not gleeful. This has been her home since birth so she is both curious and unsettled when confronted by the reality of the building site. Whilst she absorbs the scene, I document the developments; rubble hills have swollen to mountain proportions; footings for the pillar between the lounge and the dining rooms are ready and the preparation to block the internal doorway between the old kitchen and the lounge is complete. We journey home discussing the merits of redevelopment versus moving. She concludes that staying put and accepting the changes is far preferable to moving out. She plans to buy the house from us if we ever decide to sell.
For once we have a reason to visit other than nosiness. As project manager, the last few days of my time have been spent obtaining window quotes. In the process it has become apparent we are several measurements short of a full set (and I’m not talking marbles, though you may be forgiven for thinking so from the photographic evidence of the destruction). Although most of the window sizes can be calculated off plan, we have a slight problem; there is no rear elevation drawing to illustrate the height of the bedroom and bathroom windows at the back of the house; worse still, two small windows, one on the landing and one in the under-stairs cupboard (don’t ask) are not shown at all! Luckily my lack of professional surveying skills can be forgiven and we need only take reasonably accurate measurements for the quotes to be completed.
Armed with a tape measure, we arrive on site to find a pallet of new engineering bricks, their juxtaposition with the old, jarring orange against deep red. The washing machine looks forlorn, covered in brick dust, sitting at an odd angle away from the wall. Note to selves: we will need to return to give it some love and attention; to clean and cover it for protection. As white goods go, it is reliable and purchased fairly recently, and so is a keeper.
The engineering bricks have been put to good use and form the pillar to carry the first steel when it arrives. Whilst the scaffolding is still up, further upper-story demolition is evident. The outer attic wall is gone, along with the window which will not be replaced. Like a piece of Battenberg sliced through, all the segments of the house are exposed. We wonder how long it will be before construction will start. Surely the demolition tasks must nearly be done? Many more and there’d be little left of the original!
Most of our visits are in the evenings once work has stopped, when the site is quiet and still. Today we are due to meet the builders for a progress report. We park out on the road instead of pulling into the drive, mindful of becoming a potential obstruction to lorries and vans. A few years ago, the prospect of coming across the spectacle in front of us would have delighted my now teenage son. As we round the hedge there are diggers and trucks in action, seemingly everywhere!
Picking our way down the path, hardly visible under layers of muck and dust, we wave hello to announce our arrival. Speaking over the noise of the machines is tricky; an enforced break is necessary and gradual peace extends over the site as the engines cease. Our discussion ranges from floor levels and flooring, to the explanation of decisions to build support structures ahead of the extension, to the position and investigation of the well mentioned in an earlier post. Apparently the approach thus far has been a little unorthodox, dictated by issues uncovered along the way. Thankfully the hidden well, which caused a sharp intake of breath when first raised with the architect, turns out not to be a problem. It had already been in-filled at the time of capping. Instead the requirement for appropriate support to the existing upper story and the positioning of the steel which provided the technical challenge. Then a discrepancy between the detailed building plans and the structural drawings added complexity due to differing dimensions of the supporting pillar. Thankfully a solution was found and the adaptation approved for building regulations purposes. We leave, at the end of month one, contented. Much has been accomplished in four weeks. Undaunted by the umpteen weeks ahead , we treat ourselves to lunch at our favourite Italian deli for coffee and a sandwich to celebrate.
Nikki Halsall © 2015