photos pending Andrea being able to clean the brick dust off her camera lense! Eek! Photos have now been included where possible.
A lot's happened in the past couple of days, some of it a big lesson on how to communicate clearly with our tradespeople. Friday morning opened with a panicked call to Adam from our electrician. We had planned earlier this week to have the builders get started leveling the joists in preparation for laying the floor. However, we didn't want them to put the actual plywood panels that would help support the floorboards in yet, as there were a few little things to finish up before that point. Unfortunately, our OK somehow translated to them preparing to put down the plywood while the electrician showed up to finish his last few bits of wiring. All this while we were both on our way to work!
Fortunately it mostly got straightened out. Since there was a good chunk of preparation work to be done by the carpenters, our electrician had plenty of time to sort out what he needed to do (primarily finishing the phone and cable connections, pinning down the earth wire, and a few bits and pieces for the alarm system).
However, although things worked out well for him, we still had one piece of work left to do as well. Even though we had the electricians chase out wall panels for our surround sound system, we had to sort installation of the speaker cables ourselves. Initially we thought we could install empty conduit connected up under the floor and use a plumber's snake or something similar to feed the cable through after the floor was installed. While this seemed pretty clever when we thought it up, we now only had Friday evening and early Saturday morning to test it out. No pressure!
We ran out of light on Friday evening. Overcast skies and the power still out at the house meant that we got pretty much nowhere before we had dinner. So literally at the crack of dawn on Valentine's day, we were switching off the alarm clock and making our way to the house to begin the Great Surround Sound Wiring Experiment. It was a grey rainy day and we began walking to the house around 6am. So romantique.
The electricians left us with plenty of PVC conduit to work with, and after a few experiments with a heat gun we found it was really easy to heat up and bend any way we wanted to get all our speaker outlets connected with where we wanted our amp to go. When the carpenters showed up to start work, we bribed them with coffee so they'd do the bedrooms first and buy us more time to finish our experiment. (This was actually not necessary, as our builders are truly Good People, but we figured it didn't hurt to sweeten the deal.)
We got all of our conduit hooked up reasonably quickly, but we were worried about whether we'd really be able to easily feed the wires through all the bends and turns in the conduit. Once the plywood was glued and nailed into place, that was it. We'd no longer have access to the wiring. So Andrea went off to Bunnings with Penny to get the new fence pickets, and Adam went off to The Hi-Fi Trader to get speaker cable.
The Great Surround Sound Wiring Experiment was a failure. Due to the time crunch and the uncertainty, we didn't want to risk testing out the plumber's snake tactic, and we found that the cable itself would get stuck at the second major curve in the conduit. So we ripped out our PVC artistry and fixed the speaker cables into their wall plates. Upshot: speaker wiring is already done and just needs face plates. Disappointment: our sound system won't be as flexible or reconfigurable as we want.
The other issue with getting the plywood subfloor done was that we also needed to make sure we could hook up the gas line to our second fireplace. When we purchased the house, the front room's fireplace was wood burning and the second room was equipped with a natural gas burner. We had friends who had a gas fireplace sitting in their shed that they weren't using. Since a gas fireplace can be quite costly we were really pleased to find they were happy to just give it to us (thanks, Manuel & Gabi!). So Saturday morning we came over and picked up the very heavy fireplace insert and drove it back to the house to get ready for installation. Fortunately we were able to get a plumber on short notice to extend the gas pipe over to the other fireplace.
Since we had such an early start on Saturday we let ourselves sleep in a little on Sunday. After noon, Penny came back over to help us with our new fence pickets that she and Andrea had picked out at Bunnings the day before. Since the carpenter had to come back on Monday to finish a few hours' work on the subfloor, we managed to sweet talk him once more into installing the pickets on the fence and putting together a new gate (see? truly Good People). We pulled off the old unloved, knobby topped pickets, and painted primer on the fence. Since the cheapest pickets were untreated pine, we got to try out some of our nifty borax-based pest control solution. It's much safer to work with than arsenic and all it involves is dissolving the powder in warm water and painting on to the raw wood. After the pickets dried we painted primer on those two, and finished up just as it started to sprinkle again.
Penny also did us a great favour by picking up some special stove blacking and beginning work on restoring both our fireplaces to their former glory. It's amazing what a difference it makes when some rust is scrubbed of and shiny new black paint is applied.
The week ahead is an exciting one. On Monday the last of the subfloor will be in place; only a few small pieces remain to be put down. It's already looking like a real house again! And of course with the help of a nail gun the new pickets will be installed on the fence. Then Tuesday our renderers start. Initially we had planned to start last week, but at the last minute our builder recommended a renderer he'd worked with before who gave us an awesomely low quote that we couldn't refuse.
Also coming up next week, since the subfloor is in we'll need to arrange delivery of our timber floorboards. They will need to sit in the house for at least a week so that the wood can acclimatise to the environment there and reduce the amount of stretching or shrinking it might do after it's installed to prevent the boards from buckling. We also need to order our new window for the kitchen.
Once the rendering's been completed, our next two major tasks are to have the cornices installed and arrange to have the electricians come in and install all the faceplates and switches. Hopefully then we can have lights again!
Even though it was a harrowing weekend, things have really turned the corner. On the plus side, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. One thing we learned though, was that once things get rolling, they can move really quickly! Clear communication, good planning, and staying on top of all the little things are really important to preventing panicked crying sessions at 5:30 am on Valentine's Day (of course the same can be said for relationships, too).