Thursday, 5 July 2012

Challenge Number Twelve: Get Our Attic Fixed

Ever since we moved into this house nearly five years ago, the dormer window on our top floor has leaked. Quite why the crazy people we bought the house from had never noticed this lies probably in the fact that they were crazy, or too busy installing the crazy kitchen sink, crazy window blinds, crazy bathroom sink, crazy lack of splashback tiles, and crazy decking with no drain access in the back yard. The builder who did all this for them had their number programmed into his phone as “the crazy people”. (We know this because he’s been to service our boiler a couple of times.) What seemed quirky and original when we viewed the property quickly became annoying.

But not as annoying as the leaky window. Obviously we tried to get it fixed. A pair of cowboy roofers turned up and charged us £700 to do everything to our roof and chimneys other than repair the leak, which was caused by a bad seal against the lead flashings down the side. We tried several other roofers. They either didn’t return our call, or came to have a look to give a quote and then disappeared. One said it was too big a job and that he would pass on our number to a bigger roofing company, who then never contacted us. We tried joiners instead but as we couldn’t afford to replace all the windows in the house and therewith give them a 20-grand project, they weren’t interested in a small but complicated job. We were well aware that to replace the window, scaffolding would have to be erected, adding to both the hassle and expense of the work. The landlord of the student house next door, a local property baron and developer, offered to have a look when I was moaning to him about the behaviour of his latest tenants, but he quoted a total of £8,000 to do the work. I think he only came round because it was his mother who used to own our house and sold it to the crazy people, and he was curious to see all the crazy things that the crazy people had done. It seemed ridiculous that nobody wanted the work when there’s allegedly a recession on.

Once Charlotte arrived, we just gave up, as we had more important things to worry about, and simply made sure that we regularly emptied the buckets stashed under the eaves to catch the drips and stop the water soaking through our bedroom ceiling. It’s amazing what you get used to. Realising we lived in a crazy house meant that we were minded to look for something for practical for life with a toddler and so we just thought we’d put the house up for sale with the work still needing doing and price it accordingly. However, as time went on, we decided we’d be better off selling a watertight house, crazy or not.

So I resolved to try again. One brilliant thing about having a baby is that you get to meet loads of new people who all live near you, which means it’s far easier to get recommendations of local tradesmen. So all it took was a visit to a friend’s house and an admiring comment of her windows, and lo and behold, the magic phone number fell into my hands. I then just had to make one phone call.

But then there was the minor obstacle of my phone phobia to overcome. I hate ringing strangers, particularly when I need to ask them to do something for me. I usually nag Dave to do it instead. Or send an e-mail. But making this one of my challenges meant I had to ignore my cowardice, pick up my phone, sit on the front step and, hands trembling, dial the magic number. Then a few days later we had a quote within budget, and a couple of months after that, the new window was delivered and installed. The joiner was brilliant, the decorator he employed less so. The buildings inspector was nonetheless thoroughly impressed and gave the new window a big tick.

We still live in a crazy house, and we still have leaks elsewhere. And other things to fix in the attic, like the fact that it has no insulation and a big crack in one of the bedroom ceilings. But the challenge I set myself has been completed.

The old window

Water damage

No view thanks to the seal having gone in the glazing


One of many water catchers under the eaves

Work in progress

Terry's and the Knavesmire grandstand visible again

Millennium Bridge visible again

The finished window

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