Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Replacing the Kitchen

When we moved to France four years ago we kept our flat in Richmond as a hedge against UK property price inflation and to provide us with some income from letting.  In the last two years we have progressively replaced every electrical item, together with the boiler and the hot water tank, as a result of breakdowns.  Fortunately Jacqueline and Ari were very tolerant about all of this but they are now buying a house and the flat has been empty since early July.
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We had already decided to replace the kitchen, which was installed when the building was built in 1994 and was deteriorating.  The kitchen cabinets of that period sat directly on the concrete floor and every time there was a leak it soaked into the chipboard.  
 To save some money I have done most of the work myself, but having no choice about the timing has meant that we missed our planned trip to the Pyrenees and we have ended up doing it all in a hot and humid UK summer.
We started on 7th July and have just finished.  There was a destruction phase, requiring many trips to the tip, followed by chasing the walls for changes to the electrics, followed by a rapid installation of the base units.  This gives a strong illusion of progress which then seems to slow to a crawl as the work moves towards more detailed electrics, plumbing and carpentry.  
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The NVQ training that I did for plumbing and the exam that I passed on the 16th edition IEE electrical regulations (85% the highest result the training centre had ever had)  were helpful, but not as useful as the two months that I spent last year supervising Audrey’s major refurbishment project.  There is no substitute for experience in practical matters!  Perhaps one day I will get measurements right first time and not make silly mistakes.  Not that I am intending to do more of such projects.  In fact I would be quite happy if this was the last one that I do!  I don’t enjoy the hard work and I get very frustrated when I don’t foresee the problem areas.  If you don't use an Ikea corner unit, beware of corners in L-shaped kitchens!! Ikea give no advice about this sort of thing and you are expected to know! The quality of their kitchen cabinets, however,  is very good and all doors and drawers have soft close mechanisms which are not at all expensive.
The physical toll is several episodes of gout, a few bruises and a notch less on my belt!  Unusually I have only given myself one electric shock when I forgot that the cooker supply is on a separate MCB.  Last week I avoided flooding the flat downstairs because I noticed, just before leaving for the day, that a connection I had made earlier was leaking.  That was a close thing.

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The end result looks good but, as usual, when I look at it I see the things that didn’t go quite right, or caused a problem, and take the rest for granted. 
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Until yesterday there was still an issue with the heating system to put right, before we could leave and return to our home in the Lot. We were waiting on the very busy Paul to come and sort it out.  He has been and checked everything, he wired in a new valve actuator, and we hope that this is now all resolved.  I will check it again tomorrow. Heating system electrics are probably the most complicated subject that electricians ever tackle and not many can do it.  Of course it would be so much easier if they worked to drawings and labelled wires, like one does on an engineering project, but they prefer not to!
We have found a young couple through Foxtons who take over on 1st September.  We hope that they have a better experience than the last tenants and no breakdowns!


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