The Bunker


Day 23. We have walls and a ceiling.


And what walls they are. ‘HardieBacker’ replaces plasterboard as the optimal stud wall lining for tiles and apparently it’s like sawing into concrete. Right at the moment the room manages to create the sort of ambiance one might enjoy while standing inside a sea container. Or, indeed, a bunker. If (God forbid) the three minute warning should ever sound in these parts the builders, so I’m told, will all be legging it over here and sheltering in our bathroom as the most bombproof structure they know.

It’s plasterboard on the ceiling. If it had been any other room in the house we’d have been calling up the lime plasterers, getting the laths replaced and finishing it with haired mortar and lime skim in the traditional way. As we did with the bedroom. The trouble is, this time it’s not just any other room in the house, it’s the bathroom. With a power shower. And humidity. Back in the days when the house was built there were no such things as bathrooms. A tin tub in the garden, or hauled inside in winter and placed in front of the fire, was as good as it got: just as we saw Ross Poldark demonstrate, rather enticingly as it happens, in a recent episode of the historical drama. Back then they didn’t need to worry about the fact that lime plaster and excess humidity don’t go well together because excess humidity had yet to be invented. Certainly as far as a power shower in a windowless bathroom was concerned.

The solution was to rebuild the room as a ‘pod’ within the main body of the house, created using modern materials, which will enable us to enjoy all the trappings of a 21st century bathroom experience while allowing the old structure to continue to breathe, unencumbered, around it.



Another bit of progress this week: the wet room deck for the shower.



The beautiful old beam.

I couldn’t board that up. Especially now that Mike has managed to strip the beam of the layers of black paint which sadly covered it before. It’s the opposite end of the room from the shower and vapour extraction should keep the worst of the steam at bay.



Day 25. The ceiling is plastered and the ‘first fix’ is complete.


Five weeks in and it’s fair to say that the novelty of ablutions in what was once a guest en-suite bathroom has long since worn off. This bathroom was clearly designed for guests who might not want/be required to stay for very long. It’s little more than the size of a cupboard to be honest. The corner sink has the capacity of a shoe box and if that wasn’t bad enough there is a corner vanity cupboard placed on the wall directly above it. Cleaning one’s teeth of a morning requires a bodily contortion that surely no vertebrate should ever be asked to perform, prising your head into the minuscule gap between the cupboard and the sink, your face suspended a bare two inches clear of the ceramic. It’s either that or open the cupboard and plunge your forehead into the array of shaver (his), deodorant, moisturisers and all other paraphernalia of the daily routine to gain that vital extra inch or so of over-sink airspace. I generally opt for the latter.

But, no matter. Yesterday we had the first working day sans tradesmen for all of those five weeks. The bathroom is now prepared for tiling and there’s a natural pause in proceedings until the tiler is free to start work. The builder took me aside on Friday and quietly intimated that Mike was planning to take me for a grand day out. Slap up lunch and everything. To make up for all the hardship suffered during the last month and a bit. Should I have noticed a mischievous glint in the builder’s eye? Possibly. We got as far as the tile shop. To buy grout.



The new bathroom tiles.

A warm light grey for the main walls and floor and a positively glowing turquoise for the feature back wall behind the bath.


It’s a long time since we’ve done any tiling. Naively I had assumed that grout still came in white. Or grey. And maybe a slightly darker shade of grey for the truly adventurous. But no. Nowadays it seems grout comes in just about any shade you can think of. Even turquoise. Comprehensive colour charts are produced. And, should you be one of those lucky people taken on a special outing to the tile shop by your husband, you can have really cool little sticks of grout (each contained within its own metal housing) to lay alongside your tile of choice.

We opted for white grout. But the darker grey for the turquoise. Somewhere, buried deep in the heap of discarded copper pipes and offcuts of HardieBacker, a scrap of that old pioneering spirit may still linger on.