Rock on you crazy plumber

Yesterday I arrived to find a confused looking driver sat in a big truck with rock in it. He was peering at our house, cars were working their way around the lorry, and when I pulled up he looked expectantly at me.

Eventually it transpired that he was meant to be delivering it today, but since he was there yesterday morning he managed to contact our garage groundworks person, and they agreed to let him drop off the enormous pile of rock. Although it turns out our groundworks guy is less than thrilled, because the city are mandating landscape fabric under the rock. So they’re going to have to move the rock onto the fabric.

Still, we wanted rock for around the house, and we now seem to have quite a lot of it.

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Our groundworks guy then contacted me in somewhat of a rapid manner, because we’d not actually agreed the price for the work with the construction entrance, but since we’ve ordered the garage (and it’s going to be delivered and assembled in 5 weeks time, come hell or high water), there were distinct limitations on what we could do about pricing anyway.

So, yay. The garage is finally moving towards being an actual building. That’s good.

We also worked all weekend on the plumbing. To say I vastly underestimated the timeline for the plumbing would be fair. I think time-wise on the floor it went much better than expected, but the actual plumbing in for the boiler’s taken waaay longer.

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Still, it was finished enough yesterday that I could pressurize it with air, and it doesn’t appear to be leaking (except that the pressure-cut off is so close to the maximum pressure I can achieve with the little yellow pump, and the time it takes me to remove the tyre-valve from the adaptor to is long enough that the pressure drops to zero in the process, so all I can do is leave it on – and it slowly leaks the air out. But I’m fairly certain that it’s leaking through the pump, not anywhere else.

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It took two trips today, but I got the bits required to connect one side of the central heating circuit; I actually have nearly all the bits to do the other side, but was short two 90s and a chunk of copper pipe. I’m starting to have to do battle a little more with the fact that the pipework has large sections that were pre-assembled, and our space really doesn’t fit them that well. It’s a pretty tight space (as you can see in the fetching photo which sadly predates the ridiculous U the plumbing does to get around from the outlet to the outlet manifold.).

I’m sure that the professional plumber who comes to connect the boiler will weep, or laugh, or both. But it’s together and not leaking (afaik). I’ll take it.

Hopefully I can get the heating and hot water side finished tomorrow. I made a list… maybe this time I’ll manage to get all the bits. Once that’s done we can fill it (although I didn’t get antifreeze yet, because I’ve not calculated the volume of antifreeze required). The system wants flushing first, anyhow…

My other time filling activity has been tiling. I need to find our tile-hole-cutter because I’m really not willing to pay the prices I’ve seen for tile hole cutters over here (especially since our £10 pack of 3 sizes will do fine for this job… if I can find it).

The tile saw I picked up from second use is very nice (but the guard retaining screws are missing, so I can only really use it outside because it flings water a great distance). It’s way nicer than the crappy moulded plastic one we had before. I’ve also got a scorey-snapper tile cutter, and that seems to be working way better than last time I tried one.

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So far things seem to be going on okay on the tiling front. It certainly looks the way we wanted it to… and is progressing reasonably quickly. If I can find the tile hole saw then give it a few more days of work and we should be done…

The never-ending mandelbrot of a single change

So, when we made the decision to switch our boiler to one available off-the-shelf (kinda) locally (it had to be ordered from the warehouse – but it was a next-day job); I knew that it might result in some changes. First, I knew that the new boiler has a 2″ flue, and the flue we installed was 3″. But slapping a reducer on it was acceptable, although I was unclear until it arrived whether that was an option you could switch on the boiler, or whether you had to buy one. You have to buy one; I now know having stared at the manual and the boiler in person.

But the ever deepening spiral of things that change as a result has just continued and made today a very frustrating affair.

To be fair, partly it was frustrating because I rapidly realised that I couldn’t lift the boiler into position. I did lift it – both into the house and in an experimental “can I lift this” way. It’s only 30kg (66lb), but it was instantly apparent that “this was a terrible idea” was the title on the “Kate tries to mount the boiler by herself” blog post.

So instead I did what I could.

So the morning had started well enough, I collected the boiler and the fitting kit, and bought some of the bits from Ferguson. Then I headed over to Home Depot to get more – mainly because Ferguson don’t appear to post their prices in the store – you find out at the counter how much things are, and I’m not monied enough to think that’s a reasonable way to go about things.

Having got to the house, the first job was working out where to put the mounting for the boiler. Now, the first thing is, unlike the nice Bosch boiler we were going to get, which comes with a full-size fold-out sheet with drill hole marks, and pipe alignment marks that you can just stick on the wall and then have-at-it, the Navien instead comes with a manual that has some – but not all of the measurements you might want. For example, the minimum distance between the top of the boiler and the ceiling – in the manual. The distance from the top of the boiler to the hanging clips on the back of the boiler? Not in the manual. Having spent some time (and tea, and an Eccles cake), I realised that the house’s flue also no longer lines up with the newly chosen boiler’s flue. And that I would need to shift the flue across to line up. And that means… that the boiler has to sit lower to allow room for that sideways shunt.

After some experimentation and footling, plus a bit of “well, let’s add an inch or two spare”, I concluded that I knew where the hook was going, and lopped the flue pipes off (leaving plenty spare), marked up the walls and prepped to drill.

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Incidentally, the silly little junior hacksaw is because we never took the main saws out of the attic…

I mean, it’s not scary at all drilling into our walls. No.

Lime’s not fragile. Not at all. Noooo.

Okay, so holes drilled, mounting bracket on the wall. Time for some more checks.

Now, I opted to get the connection manifold, partly because I’m a big scaredy cat, and partly because I am not that good-a-plumber. As any plumber looking at the rats nest that is the cold/hot water manifold will tell you.

Anyhow, the manifold is clearly intended for American size houses. None of this 3/4″ m’larkey that makes up the rest of our manifold. Oh no, no, no. That’s not big enough. It turns out the heat/return/mixing zone pipe is a massive 1.25″ pipe. I don’t even have any connectors that big. Home Depot don’t carry them. (I assume Ferguson do, since the manifold is an actual off-the-shelf item).

It’s f’kin HUGE. We could more or less just bathe in it. Frankly, we could more or less have skipped the underfloor heating and just used this. I think it nearly doubles the circulating volume of our heating system.

I might be exaggerating, but just a little.

Anyhow, so I have this massive manifold sat on the floor in front of me and there is the slow dawning realization that there is no way on this earth that it’s going to fit above the aforementioned rats nest hot/cold water manifold.

After much measurement, repeated admonishments to myself to take this as a learning experience, I concluded there’s nothing for it but to cut the manifold out and move the whole damn thing down as low as it can reasonably go.

After staring at it some more I headed back to Home Depot and bought a bunch of bits that I felt would be required to achieve reconnection and rerouting stuff to feed the boiler.

Then I started taking the manifold out. After a while it became apparent that I don’t quite have the strength to just cut off all the pipe-clips that hold the PEX together. And then I got my grump on, headed back to Home Depot for the third time to buy the PEX clip remover, which it turns out is just a very overpriced socket wrench with a slightly sharp doohickey on it that slides over the crimped bit of the clip and allows you to snap it off. Then begins the battle to remove the pipe from the PEX tubing (because I don’t really want to waste that many PEX bends).

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As 5pm rolled around I decided I’d had enough for one day. I’ve managed to reconnect a grand total of three of the 12 circuits, and will be sorting out the rest on our next visit to the house. Along with hopefully mounting the boiler and hooking it up.

We still need to connect the flooring pipes to the manifold, hook all that up and pressure test it too. Unlike the hot/cold water system which shouldn’t be too bad, the heating will need a good flush through as it’s got a lot of copper in it – much of which is soldered using lead-free solder (which I’ve not used before) and proper solder joints (which I’ve very rarely used before – I normally use Yorkshire joints, aka solder-ring-joints, because I’m lazy and…uh, yeah, that’s it really).

We won’t be able to hook up the hot water side until Tuesday anyway, because the hot-water / cold water feed valve kit isn’t included, and is, it turns out, complicated, and so I ordered it after the fact. Adding another $90 to this journey.

I continue to wish that we’d opted for electric underfloor heating, or a heat-pump hydronic system, although I still can’t think of a way it could have worked (other than building it a little shed on the end of the building, or completely changing the interior layout, or perhaps having the hot-water tank for the heating in one of the attic voids, which seems crazy).

Installing gas, right now, seems like such a terrible environmental idea (it really is); still, we’ve decided pretty much that we are going ahead with solar, we think, so perhaps we can offset it a bit.

The most frustrating thing about this whole installation process, though, is that it means we can’t get our floor down for 2 more weeks (it’s a two-day, both of us job). Although I guess I might be able to do the bathroom floor earlier, since it’s tiled. And as soon as the hydronic bit is approved, we’ll be able to cover it. Meh. Maybe that’s a plan.

Anyhow, I’m less grouchy now and more tired. More news from the field of crazy DIY housebuilding after the weekend, I suspect.

And we’re back to terrifyingly expensive jobs

So, we’ve had a phase where we were mainly doing things that we’ve already paid for. Which has been relatively low spendy and while there’s been stress it’s been much more… task focused stress. As of yesterday, all of the pipe is down.

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And we’ve fixed my bathroom error…

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The bathroom is fixed, but we do still need to whack a billion nails into the mesh – every 8″ :(

And so we’re progressing to terrifying but exciting things like:

  • Pouring the self-levelling compound.
  • Trying to work out how to deal with the front door area which is nearly 2.5cm higher than the rest of the house (because self-levelling compound will run away from it).
  • Installing the boiler

Yes, we are still going with a gas boiler. Yes, I feel insanely guilty about it. Yes, we should have done something different. But there’s no room in the house for an expansion / water storage tank (as required by a heat-pump hydronic system). We should have stuck with electricity, and perhaps got the supply uprated to 400A, and put solar on in the first place. I realise that now.

I didn’t at the time.

It would also have meant I didn’t have to deal with this mess:

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On the plus side, I managed to order the boiler this morning. Most places won’t sell one to some idiot child like me, needing a contractor licence and account before they’ll flog you one. But I found a company that doesn’t care, which is handy. It’s not like I’m going to actually connect the gas to it. I’m going to do the plumbing and electrical side, then call for our gas-engineer to come back.

That should be arriving tomorrow afternoon.

It would, I suppose, be nice if we could have timed it to have the gas cooker here at the same time. That’s clearly not going to happen though. Or most likely not going to happen.

I also ordered the ‘I have no clue what I’m doing’ primary manifold, that most plumbers would probably make from scratch, but if it’s available as a kit for me to install, let’s have it.

The floor, however, is proving to be more of a challenge. There’s one brand (Henry) that makes a self-levelling compound that doesn’t require reinforcement over wooden floors. As you might imagine, that’d be nice. I’ve spent much time chasing around trying to find it – and yes, I can get it from Home Depot – but not for a week.

There’s another, Bostik, that makes one that requires a fiberous mat that ‘breaks down into fibres’ when you pour the self levelling compound on it. The underlayment is available here. Locally. In stock.

They can’t get the mat, and had no idea it exists, despite being listed on their website as “you need this, too.”

I’ve also found Sika which doesn’t say anything about a metal lath. It looks pretty much perfect. It also, is not available locally.

I think, if we go with the flooring we’ve been planning it’ll be the henry. I’ll have to run around and fill all the voids with the Henry crack-filling stuff, then pour the self-levelling compound over the top. Which is much less nice than just throwing the damn stuff down in one go, but as is often the case, renovating a house means doing 80 steps where you’d only need one in a new house.

Alternatively, we can put down the mesh, but that means staples every 6-8″, which is a fuck-of-a-lot of nails, especially over the areas of the floor where the hydronic radiator pipes run. On the other hand, it’s tempting because I’m beginning to think that if we use Custom LevelQuick RS we can probably get away with just pouring it over the whole of the floor in the main room, without futzing around with filling the pipe voids.

It’s one of these terrifyingly large decisions, where we just have to spend the money and do it. Because the cost of getting someone else in is way more than we can afford or justify. But it’s not something we’ve done before, so having read everything we can reasonably find… off we go, into the abyss.

Sometimes this is fun, sometimes it’s just terrifying.

Oh…and the plumbing? It turned out there was another box that I’d missed – it’s been a year since this stuff arrived, that’s my excuse. I’m going to look at that after lunch.

It’s been a little irritating

Today was one of those days. A somewhat irritating, less than successful day.

Partly I set myself up for failure. I was planning to finish the office floor’s pex pipeguides for the underfloor heating. This, actually, would be a reasonable target for a day; even for a bit over half a day as it’s a fairly simple layout section, but I was also expecting two separate permit inspections and also our plasterer was coming to fix some minor issues that we’ve noted.

So he arrived first, and while initially I was able to get on fine, eventually he hit the room I was laying the floor in, and… so I switched to putting up an exterior light.

It was at this point that I discovered I’ve installed a lightswitch upside-down. I’m not sure how, but I do need to fix it. Thankfully I discovered this with the voltmeter, not with my fingers.

Now it turned out that the light we ordered was about 1/2 an inch too tall. Having dismantled it and applied some gentle force, it fit, but the process was quite frustrating.

And then things started to go awry. So, our permit inspector turned up, and looked at the floor. Fine, he said, carry on, call him back when we’re done laying it. Which was the plan for that inspection – because we’re not done, but are running out of time on the permit. But then we had a very cross-purposes conversation where I misunderstood what he was talking about, and he, I suspect, misunderstood me. I didn’t realise he was there to do both the plumbing and the pre-hole-digging permit inspection for the garage. And from what I understand, he was confused because I took him to look at plumbing, when he was expecting to look at the ground, and couldn’t find the attached permit.

I think that’s it.

Anyhow, on I went with my day, and looked at the room where our plasterer had been working. The floor, unsurprisingly, was quite wet. Which is not ideal for gluing and screwing things. So I decided I’d switch to looking at the installation of the manifold and such for the plumbing.

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It took me a long time to realise that half the bits listed in the generic instructions are not included in our kit. Mainly because I kept trying to keep a list of what I’d identified in my head, rather than on paper, which would have been more sensible. Also because this is more complex stuff than I’m used to plumbing, so working out what things are is more complicated. I’m guessing this is because we’re using a combi, not repurposing a regular water heater. And because it’s designed for purpose, I’m thinking that many of the bits just aren’t needed.

But there’s no specific instructions, and no indication how they’re expecting it to be laid out. Having battled with that for a couple of hours, comparing mismatched diagrams from the boiler company, the makers of some of the parts, and the generic install instructions I threw my hands up in frustration and decided I’d cut the bits where it says to cut them so I can lay them out in front of me and work out what’s missing and what I need.

Only…

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Now, I knew that lump of adhesive had ended up on there, because I’d fished out the leaking container of glue. However, what I didn’t realize is how well it’d bonded to the thing – and nothing I did could remove it. And my final attempt ended up with it cracking.

Having stared at the plumbing some more I concluded that I might as well go and get a pipe cutter… and since it was now apparent that I would be doing some proper copper plumbing, a new gas cylinder for my torch. A quick google led me to the useful information that Benzomatic is a US-available brand, and it was stocked in BoB. Good.

Then while I was making my list I ran across a rather important list – things for the shower base in the 3/4 bath.

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And was struck by a slow-dawning-fact. We’ve put down the PEX plumbing in the bathroom, but I’d forgotten that before that went down, first there was meant to be metal lath, and underneath that, waterproof felt.

Well, bollocks.

At least the pipe’s just screwed down.

So I added the ‘stuff for the shower base’ to my list, and prepared to head out. I got out the door before twigging that I couldn’t leave. I called the permit inspector and finally worked out one- that I’d got him and our other permit inspectors’ names backwards, and two- what our cross-purposed discussion was about. He’s going to come back tomorrow (yay), and I now knew that I needed to lay out the footprint for the garage. Adding that stuff to my list I headed to BoB.

Having got there it became quickly apparent that despite Benzomatic selling blowtorches both here and in the UK, the European one is a completely different thread to the US one. So yay to that.

New torch, and lead free solder acquired (I have no idea if my other solder has lead in it, I’d guess it does, it’s not legal here). I also picked up a pipe wrench, so I can see about separating the sink from its broken drain, and the shower stuff, and a new blade for the battery-circular saw (which was struggling to get through the plywood today).

And then me and pythagoras made friends.

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It took a distressingly long time and was startlingly hot in the sun, but eventually, with the help of the inspirational moment when I worked out that if I tied all the posts together with the flagging tape in the right lengths for the sides of the garage and the diagonal, then I could futz about repositioning the corners until it was roughly parallel to the house (made more difficult, because Rebecca is sat right where I need to measure) and so long as all the sides and diagonals remained taut, it should be a rectangle.

And so, it was done.

And it is pretty much the only thing I achieved today.

In other news the Tuff-Shed 5-6 weeks for delivery and assembly has become 8 weeks. Which puts the arrival of the garage…after we’re hoping to move in. Which is…unhelpful.

Some of the lights we ordered came with bases that don’t fit US plastic wall boxes, which means we either need to make new bases, or make plates to go on the wall. Either way, it’s effort we didn’t want to put in. Also, some of them arrived damaged, and they came from a company we won’t be ordering from again (called Beautiful Halo), who’ve offered us a 5% discount (ha!) and told us to spray the one we complained about. Since the discount doesn’t even cover the cost of paint, that’s… not impressive.

It’s all very privileged stuff to be stressing about, and I’m well aware of that. But it wasn’t a good day, not after what’s felt like really good progress on the floor up until now. It’s somewhat of a come-down.

And with that, the pool was gone.

So, a while back I shared that we’d had a sudden and unexpected installation of an above ground pool. One day we didn’t have one, the next day you could swim in our front garden.

It wasn’t an ideal situation, although the River Birch (or Beech, and possibly not river anything, it’s all rather unclear) does seem to have enjoyed the underground garden-watering-system that was active while we were on holiday. It is looking very green.

Anyhow, we paid a lot of money to plumbers this week. The old, failed water main is still in the ground, but the posh burrowing machine they brought around did manage to get a nice new main under the house. Impressively, you could see a constant flow out of the old main – which had been switched off for days – as water slowly flowed backwards out of the house and into the ground.

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The only slight fly in the ointment was that they didn’t bring a flagger with them – so had no means of doing traffic control – which meant that they couldn’t put pipe in the ground as far towards the front of our yard as they’re meant to. Because the digging machine couldn’t go any further back than in the picture otherwise it’d block the road. Which meant that our plumbers got to dig a massive trench for the last 8′ or so. I felt a bit sorry for them, particularly when one of them asked if we had any water bottles…

… which I’d not bothered to bring many of, because I was expecting the water to be back on. Ah well.

I also had a chat with one of them about the heating system – he warned me off the boiler I was looking to get because there are no local dealers. Parts, apparently, take quite a while for them to get if something does go wrong. There is, however, a combi-boiler brand that’s fairly common around here and is stocked by a bunch of places (along with a range of spares). So I’ll be throwing one of them on the wall I guess.

He also suggested something I’d heard of (which is horrendous, but clever) which would mean we would only need a hot-water-boiler, not a full combi, but because we have the heated towel rails which really need a corrosion inhibitor in the water, the cunning ‘use the hot water recirculation circuit for heating’ idea won’t work.

Feh. It is the difference between $1500 and $2400.

I continue to regret choosing to put a gas heating system in. Although the money for putting in gas really would have been a bit crazy for just a cooker. Although, that’s really the deal-breaker. I still can’t stand cooking on any electric stove I’ve encountered, but electric heating and hot water would have been fine had I have thought about it a lot more than I did. Well, I did think about it a lot, but… I wasn’t flexible enough in my thinking.

Still, since we like cooking on gas, we would like to experiment with producing our own gas using a biodigester, but probably not in this house.

So while they were boring a neat hole under our house, I spent the time chopping plywood into chunks and gluing / screwing it to the floor.

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The pipe-guides are all done in about 1/5th the house. Some of that, though, is the complex sections – the laundry’s done, for example, as is some of the fiddly bit where these pipe guides cross the hydronic pipework for the heated towel rails (and where I had to be super careful about putting screws). Hopefully the majority of the house should go roughly as quickly as the bedroom did (which was pretty fast once I’d worked out the system).

I was hoping to get the pantry done today, but instead decided to wake up at 3am and spend the rest of the night waiting for sleep to return. As I was already fairly tired the idea of going and working with powertools didn’t seem too clever, so instead I’ve done errands and worked on a long, tedious, but important government form that I’m working my way through completing. Yay.

We have, however, got pricing on our range cooker, fridge, and range hood. We’ve also ordered a biiiiiillion proper light fixtures (as opposed to the temporary ones up in the hall), and we’ve installed… three.

Oh, oh! But I do have to share that our glowy around the door LED ridiculousness…. works!

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Yeah, I know, it’s OTT. That’s us.

A couple of the stupid sticky “holds 1lb per inch” bits of tape have, as expected, failed. But I can fix that and I have a plan for when the others fail.

Anyway, it’s pleasingly glowy. Albeit over the top.

And we are starting to tentatively talk about moving in… in a couple of months which is quite exciting. After 2 years of struggle, getting into the house would be bloody awesome.

Well, that’ll be an oops then.

Today continued the interna(tiona)l festival of wiring. Outlet after outlet succumbed to the combo of wire strippers, snipe nose pliers and a screwdriver. They were thrown, cajoled, prodded, pushed and in some cases somewhat forced into their little boxes.

After a while I reached an end point. That point where every outlet box I could reach contained a fitting of some sort. And so began testing. Bathroom fan – check. Many outlets – check.

Some outlets… not so check. Odd.

Multiway switches in the hall… First one… yes. On and off. Second. On and off. Third… Noooothing.

Poot.

So then there was the period of time where I rechecked the package (not obvious, at least to me) before finally searching on t’internet for t’instructions. And it turns out that on a four-way switch, unlike an socket, or a regular light switch, or a dimmer switch, or a timer switch, or ANY OTHER BLOODY OBJECT, the colour code does not indicate ‘hot’ and ‘neutral’. Ooooh no.

That would be too simple.

No, on a four-way switch, the colour – which is incidentally the same colour used for “hot” in other circumstances – indicates which two connectors are connected together. The IN/OUT does not operate across the switch, but down each side. Because it makes perfect sense to use the same sodding colour to mean something different on different switches. Obviously.

That resolved – I gleefully posted a video of it working.

And then I got down to working out why the outlets in the office don’t work. And, err, I think it’s because…

…and this is evvvver so slightly embarrassing…

I may. And this is currently just a theory, mind. But I may have forgotten…to….connect them to the fusebox.

A bit of gazing at photos, and a count of connections in the room suggests that the point where the cable should enter from the fusebox does not, in fact, have sufficient cables coming in to make that possible. Indeed, looking at the photos, I strongly suspect that the cable goes around the room, then up to the attic and then stops.

I will check this on Sunday morning. But that is my current working theory.

I think, for reasons that escape me, I decided to move the office circuit off the bedroom circuit, but never actually made that connection. I clearly decided that the other bedroom would no longer be on the same circuit, because the bedroom works. As does every other outlet in the house.

But not that room.

Sooooo. It’s actually a relatively easy fix (she says optimistically). I just need to join the office to the lounge circuit. Neither is likely to be heavily loaded, so… and handily, they share a space between studs. So that may be a Sunday/Monday/Tuesday activity. Along with buying…housey things, like a fridge and a cooker. And a washing machine. And so on.

Let there be light

I have spent the past two days doing an inordinate amount of wiring. This has been a process made less fun by my dislike of US outlets, and the tightness of some of our boxes. I’ve also come to realise that while it’s hideously inefficient (in terms of number of connectors), I far prefer to use a larger number of block connectors, and no twist connectors, because the twist connectors occupy much more un-controllable volume.

Once you’ve twisted together 6 wires, they’re difficult to bend, especially in the horrid flexy plastic boxes that are the mainstay of US wall wiring.

That, and the fact that either side of the outlet, when you wire it and install it, are bare, unprotected connections to the live and neutral sides. That means if your irritatingly unflexible ground cable wants to sit near the front of the box, then they sit right next to the ground cable. Not quite touching, but close. Close enough to make me feel uncomfortable, then have to take the switch out a bit and spend some entertainingly trying to shove the wires back in the box without breaking it or bending it so far that it won’t sit where it’s meant to.

The single boxes aren’t too bad. It’s the triples that are upsetting.

Anyhow, that being said I have installed many things.

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I finally got around to installing the last two breakers in the fuse box today – partly because I wanted to find out if the light around the front door works (spoiler: it does, but a bright sunny day isn’t the best for taking photos of it).

Also – testing revealed that there is light in other locations now:

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We have two installed and functional lights. We have many, many outlets. I’ve still got 8 to do tomorrow, though. I also need to work out whether our complex lighting multi-way switching is working. I can only test the hall tomorrow, but that’s the most complex one. If that’s right the others are most likely right. Or at least easily fixable.

It is quite exciting, though, to have more than one functional outlet. And having lights…on a switch… than you can just use? Oooh, that’s fun.

We made a big rock.

So, one of the interesting things about lime plaster is that as it dries it gradually turns back into what is essentially limestone. It’s a two step process, the water evaporates and you get a chemical drying at which point it’s fairly hard, but it then starts reabsorbing much of the carbon dioxide that was put out as it was transformed into lime. That reabsorbed carbon dioxide it seems is trapped again, and presumably forms part of the crystalline structure that gradually forms of the next few weeks.

So our house is now, internally at least, covered in limestone.

This has been a hell-of-a-week. Last week at work was fairly busy, and on Saturday while I was at work, and Kathryn wasn’t well, the plasterers set-to on the house. On Sunday I turned up to find they’d finished the second bedroom except for the final-final spray polish and buff.

So the process goes thus:

First coat (which we did before the holiday) in which you embed the mesh and try and get a key to which the next coat will stick. In this coat they mixed some small amount of tile adhesive – to help it stick better to our non-plaster-rated drywall. Basically, they added glue to it.

Second coat – this is applied with a steel trowel, and is fairly thin – when I was doing this I was told to aim for only a couple of mm. Unevenness in this is then smoothed using a polyfloat. Swirling motions take the high spots and carry them to the lower spots making the whole thing more even.

Third coat – once the second coat has hit a point of being dryer (I’m a little unclear on exactly the right level of dryness, I only did this in one small area), using a finishing metal float the existing plaster is smoothed and – depending on who was doing it, sometimes a very thin skim seemed to be added over the whole thing, and sometimes just patching was done.

Finally they’d go over it and spray it down, touch up any bits that weren’t good enough, and using some small rock thing, they’d smooth out any high spots.

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Now, for an optimum strength you should keep the plaster moist and have it dry slowly, so we’re misting the building for the next few days. And then the dehumidifer goes back on and we start work on laying the heating pipe guides and the floor, putting in sockets / outlets and eventually…moving in.

In the background we’ve applied for the planning permit for our garage, so hopefully that’ll get built soon and we can move some of the stored stuff out of the house. And Rebecca into the garage.

In bad news, we have gained an above ground pool.

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And of course, the water main has broken just after the meter which is, we are told, our responsibility, despite lying on city land. Also, handily near a telegraph pole, so that should be… a nightmare.

Huh, a ceiling.

When we left we finally gave in and allowed someone to do work on house when we weren’t there. We left a drywall company with a key and Kathryn’s mom with another key on the basis that they would come in and make our ceiling look ceilingy.

I largely managed to avoid angst, apart from a fairly frantic conversation about why their equipment was tripping the circuits in our house ending with me explaining that all the live circuits are AFCI/GFI protected, and there’s no live circuits that aren’t GFI because they’re all ‘wet area’ circuits.

But it wasn’t entirely clear that when we came back the ceilings would be done.

But they are. And bloody hell if they don’t look like competent ceilings.

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We couldn’t afford to get them to do the skylights, and we’re planning to veneer them in wood anyway (and at over $1k to do them to a level 4 finish, it wasn’t worth it for something we’d cover up), but all the other ceilings are looking remarkably respectable.

Even the shoddiest bit:

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Of course, now that people know we’re back it’s all got super intense. We had a nice peaceful day scheduled yesterday, but instead spent it trying to schedule other people. So when I left today our ceilings were being painted (they were primed with some ultra-thick smoothing paint in these photos). They’re hoping to finish that off tomorrow.

Then Saturday our plasterers come back and start putting the finish coats on the walls.

We need to pick up the pace a bit because – well, one, we’d like to be in the damn house, but also, two, our kitchen cabinets are ready.

We dropped by to see them…but couldn’t because they’re so busy that there’s many kitchen stacked in front of them. But they’ve kindly offered to hold them for a while.

We’re also excited to get in.

I also, today, tried to get some traction on the garage build. But it turns out there’s no longer any way to submit paper plans to the city. I’ve nudged our tuff-shed sales person, but will probably end up just paying to have them scanned, which was the planning-tech’s suggestion.

Already the holiday is wearing off.

I haven’t forgotten, though, the feeling on the island. And that’s something that needs to be investigated. If we can make a living, then… yeah.

In which we don’t get our rental EV, or our sleeper train journey

Oh, the joys of a lack of foreshadowing.

So having sat in the lounge carriage on the sleeper (apparently available to those in prole class, if the 1st class passengers aren’t using it) and had a pleasant desert, some nice drinkies, and watched as the highlands rolled past, we slipped to our tired and battered bedroom, and laid down to rest our weary selves.

Of course, sleeping on a train for some is a delight, but for us – well, it turns out neither of us are great train sleepers. Also, the night-light was on. We didn’t realise it was the nightlight and were both deeply confused by the glowing blue light. Now, had we have not been so tired, we might have been willing to switch the lights back on, and then would have noticed the switch marked nightlight. But we didn’t. More fool us.

Mind, it didn’t matter, because at 3am we were awoken and informed that the train had failed. It was an ex-train. It was sat at Edinburgh… and we traipsed, as directed, to the nearby Jury’s Inn where we were treated to coffee, tea, or fruit juice. No breakfast, mind. Nothing at all to eat.

There we sat for nearly 2 hours, before we were herded back to the station to get on a non-sleeper train to London. I can’t say that any of this made us terribly happy. At least the staff were nice and apologetic.

By the time we reached London – hours after when we were meant to arrive – for our one-and-only planned full-day in London on this trip…we were completely exhausted. Thankfully, the hotel let us check in early and we laid on a comfy bed and dozed for an hour. Then we meandered around the area – stopping at Ottolenghi for an insanely good lunch (gods, he is so good). Then we pottered to Spitalfields market, and then on to the Barbican Centre for an excellent AI exhibit.

Sadly, the book of the exhibit failed to include any of the damn women, that they had a whole section on in the exhibit. Which was somewhat annoying because had I have known that in the exhibit I’d’ve taken down a bunch of names. But we only discovered it afterwards. I realised, while there, that I seem to have somewhat imprinted on the Barbican Centre. Having been there so much as a kid the brutalist concrete feels terribly friendly and safe. And it just warms my heart being there. Odd, really.

Anyhow, the next morning was family day part one – and we headed over to see my sister, who took us to see Jerome K Jerome’s grave at Ewelme, along with the fascinating grave of Alice de la Pole. We also went for a potter around the village and saw the somewhat quirky watercress beds that line the middle of the village. It was all in all very pleasant. Then off to see friends in Bristol – where we had a lovely day, and rounded it off with a glass of port and some ridiculous deserts in a nice restaurant.

And then we pottered down to Cornwall to see my mum, where we discovered there’s an enormous number of local walks we’ve not done. We discovered it a bit late, and there were enormous wind storms while we were there, so it didn’t exactly factor into our plans that much, but we did go and potter up to a neolithic tomb, which was amazing. Next time we go we shall have to actually go on some of these walks, rather than our standard loop that we’ve more or less done for the past 9 years.

Yes, I know, we’re insane.

And now we’re back…and that’s a thing.