Grandpa Webb's blog

Monday, 07 October 2013

Half way up the stairs, I need a plank

About a month ago grandma discovered that there was a tear in the lining behind the curtains on the landing window. It could have been caused by rough handling or it may have been -- as grandma pointed out -- that the curtains had been there for the past 20 years and were falling apart.

Grandpa WebbWe needed new curtains. To discourage any backsliding or changes of mind, the old curtains were taken down and thrown away, which helped concentrate our minds on finding replacements. This involved lots of research into colour, material, type of lining, type of rail, whether they were drawn by grabbing the leading edge or by pulling on a string and whether they would be ready-made or custom built. I swear it’s easier to buy a new car than decide on a set of curtains.

Eventually we decided that what we wanted was a Roman blind. When they are open, these sit at the top of the window. To close them you pull on a string and the blind unfolds like a concertina and drops down until it covers the whole window. At least that's the theory.

Roman blinds come in a bewildering array of styles and prices. For a start you can have blackout linings, interlinings or no linings at all. And how much do they hang down when they are open? A Roman blind that covers half the window when it is in the open position is not what’s needed. And do we want to raise and lower our blind by pulling a string and winding the end round a cleat, or use a mechanism featuring a knobbly nylon cord that winds them up and down?

Roman BlindFor this window high street prices for a custom-built Roman blind varied from around £350 to more than £500. Time for more research. We eventually bought the material from one supplier, and sent it to an Internet-based blind company to make it up.

When my daughter heard this, she was horrified: "WHAT? You have sent good money to someone on the INTERNET and you have never seen their work?" It was no good explaining that we had exchanged emails with our internet supplier and were pretty sure she was up to the job. I suppose our daughter had a point, and she sounded a bit like me.

The blind was duly delivered along with some screws and brackets for fixing the header to the lintel over the window. The blind itself looked good, but the place where I was expected to fix it didn't.

Some years ago we extended the staircase when a new room was built in the roof. A bit of the new staircase overlaps one corner of the landing window. If we hadn't mucked about with the house, fitting a Roman blind would have been relatively easy. Now fixing one end of it was going to be decidedly tricky.

It sounds obvious, but if you need to make holes in a concrete lintel, your first requirement is a good quality drill bit. Some years ago I bought a magnificent metal box packed with 200 drill bits for masonry and steel. The whole lot cost me about £30, which should have rung alarm bells. They are useless. The masonry drills go blunt after a few seconds, and the so-called high speed drills snap all the time. Mind you, the box is nice.

This time I bought one decent 6mm drill bit for £5 to hammer-drill the eight holes needed in the lintel.

But first I had to get at the lintel. One end was easy. Standing on a pair of steps on the landing my expensive masonry drill easily chewed four holes for the first two brackets. But the place for the other two brackets was over a substantial drop to the hallway below and there was no clinging on -- I needed both hands to fix the brackets. What I needed was a ladder and a plank.

I have a small ladder in the garage. The plank is in the shed. Except when I go to get it, the plank has disappeared. I haven’t lent it to anyone. Who would pinch my 6ft plank? Then I remember it is in the garage with the ladder -- except the plank is screwed to the wall where it is acting as a very strong shelf. Ah well, time to unload all the paint tins and other stuff, unscrew it from the brackets and return it to its original use.

Poised on my plank, with some difficulty (which I wouldn’t recommend), I fix the two other brackets. The header for the blind has a lip at the leading edge that engages with a couple of tags on each bracket. When I tried this out with one bracket on the kitchen table, it worked beautifully. But perched on my plank, holding the end of the header, with grandma on the steps holding the other end, it wasn't easy at all. But we did it in the end, and we are still speaking.

The blind fits perfectly inside the window reveal. It slides up and down smoothly and tucks itself tidily at the top during daylight hours. Job done.

Well almost. I still have to screw that plank back on the garage wall, so I can get all those paint tins off the floor.

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