It’s all too easy to batter Freddie the Flooring Contractor and Young Rodney, says Neal. So, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, he presents the other side of the coin – the demanding client with unrealistic expectationss.
SO Dear Reader, I was summoned to a very palatial block of Thames-side apartments, south side, right on the riverbank, and directly opposite Cheyne Walk. A very smart address. The Russian owner had bought the penthouse. This penthouse was of course the whole top floor. You couldn’t fault the breath-taking 360deg London views.
Naturally, the owners were far too grand to rub shoulders with a mere flooring expert, so Mr Flunkey was provided to meet me and escort me round – just to ensure I didn’t run off with the Romanov silver, or wads of Gazprom bonds, y’understand.
Walking in the door, Mr Flunkey immediately asked that as I was there, could I first have a look at the swimming pool which had a timber deck surround. I was a shade unimpressed at having just arrived, to immediately traipse down many floors to the pool.
‘Oh no,’ I was told. ‘The pool is on the roof, on TOP of the penthouse.’
And so it was… complete with a huge electrically retractable lantern roof, to open it up to the sky, in case you wanted to do a bit of plane-spotting while perfecting your backstroke. Wow! If you knew where to look, you can even see it on Google Earth.
According to my somewhat leading instructions from the offices of Mr Heep-Queeg Solicitors Plc, I was tasked
to inspect the utterly fatal gapping defects in the wood floor, which of course I was sure to condemn unquestionably.
I was informed this horrid example of flooring, was so poorly laid it would naturally require complete replacement, and doubtless trigger an exhaustive lawsuit. I was told this was evidenced everywhere in the installation, across the whole huge expanse of oak boards… the very long… very wide oak boards, with nary a knot to be seen. The boards measured 4,800mmx300mm for you technical bunnies, so a VERY expensive floor choice.
The boards were indeed displaying gaps, but most gaps were pretty tiny, as to be nearly invisible. As part of my day kit I carry a set of engineers feeler gauges for the really fine work. I had to work down to a gauge leaf of 0.02mm before it could get into most gaps. Now 0.04mm is about the diameter of a European human hair and yes, there are genetic differences, and we Caucasians get the thin end of the wedge.
I can just hear the cries from the 52%: ‘See, the EU even made us have thinner hair.’
Now the standout feature of this installation was the finish, as Mr Flunkey explained:
Post-installation, what with all that boring oak grain being so tedious, so woody and so yesterday, Mrs Svetlana appointed an artist to creatively paint the floor. He covered the whole floor with five subtly differing shades of grey in a swirly but intricately interwoven creation to represent clouds? Or the sea? Or more likely Post-Industrial Man’s conflicting relationship with God and the Natural World. But it was pretty impressive, nonetheless.
Unsurprisingly, as the whole surface had been painted, the small contraction movements along the longitudinal joints, became breaks in the paint and stood out like railway lines running the length of the expanse.
The other eye catching feature impacting on this artistic creation, was it being somewhat marred and scraped around the dining table, where the chairs slid backwards and forwards on the floor. Looking at the head of the table and the really bad abrasions there, I reckoned Mr Vladimir must have been a pretty hefty old unit.
The apartment was warm. Oppressively so. Ventilation was most notable by its complete absence. With the huge windows, it wasn’t so much of a solar gain as a gallop, and coming in from all possible directions. It didn’t appear that the curtains were much used, on the basis that at that height, there were no neighbours able to look in.
Moisture levels were so low, that some of my meters wouldn’t even register, so below 6% M/C. Similarly hygrometer RH readings were hovering around 30. Being a bit traditional personally, I love the differing and varying grain patterns in timber, so I’m not much of a fan of wood stains, but I do understand the idea. But paint? Might as well have made floorboards from MDF.
Now none of the above was down to Freddie the Flooring Contractor, or even Young Rodney having an ‘off’ day. I could only conclude the flooring material had been very well manufactured, then faultlessly installed to withstand the pretty extreme site and ambient conditions I encountered on the job… and I said so.
I guess my hinted at invitation to share Vladimir and Svetlana’s dacha in the woods around the lakeside in Dzerzinski Oblast, has been postponed indefinitely. I was almost tempted to forward a large can of industrial paint stripper to the building concierge, for the attention of the quality on the top floor – almost.
Oh, and the swimming pool decking? It was fine. Just a bit grubby. So that too was nothing to do with our Freddie either.