About Me, This Old House

Slowly But Surely


The back of the house showing the block work for the rear extension

Slowly but Surely

I suppose you could say that things are moving on slowly but surely at This Old House. Our builders (J.B Bentley & Sons) are experienced and capable. They are fairly patient with my continuous questions, my requests for updates and site visits that see me trampling over their newly laid block work. They politely tolerate my attempts at project management although they’d surely prefer me to go away and leave them to it.

That being said, patience is not a virtue I have been overly blessed with and, as winter approaches, I would prefer things to be moving more quickly.  The boys are not there every day and as the weather worsens, I really want them to press on.

To be fair, when they are on site, they work pretty efficiently. Things are finally starting to take shape.


Part of the kitchen interior

For the last few months there has been literally no back to the house. It has been disconcerting to say the least that opening the front door and stepping into the hallway has meant staring into an abyss of little more than twisted masonry and fresh air. The house is on an elevated site and there was a lot of groundwork to be done before any visable construction could take place. It seemed to take forever to get to ground level.

Thankfully the last few weeks have seen steady progress and we are now up to ceiling height on the rear extension. It is great to get a true sense of the space that we will have and to see openings framing what will eventually be the view from the kitchen sink.


I love that the kitchen window will frame the view of this old tree (minus the pile of debris).

Don’t Try This At Home

We have had a few hiccups too. (My apologies to our neighbours a couple of streets along who, due to a miscommunication between the builders and their suppliers, received a couple of tonnes of cement outside their house at an ungodly hour one morning).

We are also making all the classic mistakes that people make when managing a building project. We have no contract with the builder, no completion date and, perhaps most unwisely of all, no final agreed budget as yet (it is still being debated). It’s not good for my nerves. I am a “dotting the i and crossing the t” kind of person. I started my working life as an office manager and project co-ordinator in an architect’s office. (You can find out a little more about me here). I have also managed a major renovation in our previous home which you can read about here so I’m very well aware that this is not the way it should be done.

If you are thinking of embarking on a building project, whatever the scale, I strongly advise against this approach. I would never have proceeded in this way but for the fact that the builders have done numerous jobs for us in the past including the construction and extension of my husband’s business premises.

My hubby insisted that the Bentleys were the only ones for the job and I’m putting my trust in his instincts and the quality of the work that I know the builders are capable of. I will also feel completely justified in putting the blame squarely on his shoulders if it all goes drastically wrong (which I’m sure it won’t)! In the meantime, he is quite happy to let me play bad cop and have all the awkward conversations needed to keep things moving.

Trying to Stay Sane

To steady my nerves and keep me from dwelling too much on the enormity of what we have taken on, I’m looking into every scheme and grant available, calling in favours, haggling for discounts, making second-hand purchases and hoping and praying it works out as planned.

I have been taking an upholstery class. I’m reasoning that by the time we finally get all our furniture out of storage, at the very least it will need to be reupholstered.


I’m mid-way through re-upholstering one of my favourite chairs in this gorgeous Clarke & Clarke fabric from IFD in Carryduff, BELFAST

My initial thought was that I could save money by doing it myself. It has turned out to be somewhat of a false economy though. By the time I have paid the course tuition, bought materials and gathered all the equipment I need, I could have bought new furniture for less. Still, it’s keeping me out of mischief and out of the builders hair.

I am trying to keep myself sane by enjoying the crisp autumnal days. I’m taking long walks up the hill to Stormont and dreaming of the day to come where I can sit on my roof terrace and enjoy a similar view with a G&T in hand- if we ever get that far!



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