Another tale of domestic excellence…

My house is a charming Victorian property in a quiet coastal town, part of a small row of houses on the banks of a little brook.

Or that’s what the estate agent told me when she showed me this place because it was so “full of potential” (a phrase that just means you’re buying the worst house on the street).

In reality, my house doesn’t have a single level floor or square corner and being on the banks of a  brook just means you have to keep decorating, because your home LAUGHS in the face of damp proof courses.

All this, though, is nothing compared to the Loft of Horror.

The Loft of Horror is what happens to the second floor of your home when the previous home-owner decides he wants a loft conversion and, heck, he’ll just have a go at doing it himself. How hard can it be, I imagine he asked himself. 

A bit harder than he imagined, is the answer. The Loft of Horror used to be accessed by this rickety, almost vertical, metal ladder/staircase contraption. I had to have it removed before we moved in, it was such a safety hazard. Once you got into the loft, things were even more fun.

Friends, it was an encyclopaedia of bad DIY – one gable end was riddled with damp where rain was coming through the roof and the ‘walls’ were made of plywood nailed to the beams. Oh, and there was no electricity – the previous owner had just drilled a hole in the bedroom ceiling and ran an extension lead through it. An innovative approach to wiring, I think.

It’s taken more than two years to undo this handiwork – repairs to the roof and chimney, drying out the walls, putting in a new staircase and bannister, strengthening the floor, putting in proper sockets and lights. Then we insulated the whole space, boarded the walls and had the room plastered.

Like most things in (my) life it wasn’t what you'd call a textbook DIY experience. The first builder died just after putting in the staircase (which didn’t fit). The second builder died just after putting in the replacement staircase (which did fit). The first time we had the walls plastered, all the plaster fell off the walls a week later – plaster and gloss paint don’t mix, it turns out.

Anyway, this week saw the finish line.

While we were in Devon our decorator came to finish painting the loft, and I returned home to a gleaming white loft room, complete with nice new shelves for Flea's books and toys. There are lights, sockets and skirting boards. The sun streams in through the new skylights and it’s all quite lovely.



What the hell is that?


Where once there was silence, there’s now a beep.

It’s clearly electronic in origin – since it happens precisely every 20 seconds. It’s loud enough to be heard through the entire house. Wandering around cocking my head to one side like a spaniel allows me to determine the sound isn’t coming from downstairs. It’s loudest on the first floor landing. If I go up to the Loft of Horror, it’s considerably quieter.  Where is it coming from?


It’s 1am and I’m still trying to work out what the wretched noise is. I’ve disconnected all domestic appliances, alarm clocks,  turned off my mobile phone, and disconnected the carbon monoxide alarm.


I turn off all the electricity in the house at the main board.


I am getting a bit cranky by this point so in a move that will disappoint The Sisterhood I admit defeat – and phone a man.

“Please help me, there’s a weird noise in the house, I don’t know what it is and I am going MENTAL”

My friend thinks. “Didn’t you have this once before, and it turned out to be a low battery in the smoke alarm?”

Genius. I breathe a sigh of relief and take the battery out of the smoke alarm in the kitchen and – just to be safe – the one in the hallway, too. Thank goodness that’s sorted!


“Why isn’t it stopping?” I whimper.

“Is there a smoke alarm in the loft?” the chap asks.

I run up to the loft. No dice. 

“No, there isn’t one here,” I say. “Although weirdly, there’s a bracket for a smoke alarm on the wall. I wonder where the smoke alarm is?”

And then it dawns on me.

The smoke alarm is behind the newly damp-proofed, boarded, plastered and painted wall. And it’s still beeping.


Anyone know how long those things take to die? 



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. susie@newdaynewlesson
    17th July 2011 / 8:04 pm

    If I didn’t feel so bad for you I would be laughing even harder. I hate that noise and it takes ages until it stops.
    Is that picture the room? Looks lovely if so.

  2. 17th July 2011 / 8:17 pm

    Oh no! How frustrating! I hope it dies before it drives you crazy!

  3. 17th July 2011 / 8:19 pm

    I know I shouldn’t be laughing but I had to get up off the floor to type this. Ermm smoke alarms have a half life of about 6 years I believe (joke)! Why aren’t you laughing? x

  4. 17th July 2011 / 8:32 pm

    Oh whoops! Now that could get very annoying!!

  5. 17th July 2011 / 8:35 pm

    I was about to go all sympathetic with the mis-sold house thing, as we were totally duped when we bought ours last year. But now I’m just trying not to wet myself laughing. I mean, sorry, I really feel your plight..

  6. 17th July 2011 / 8:57 pm

    It’s like this stuff writes itself!

  7. 17th July 2011 / 9:01 pm

    Oh dear I am trying not to smirk, trying not to smirk, its no good! Laughter has broken free!

    17th July 2011 / 9:10 pm

    Oh bless your heart, Im so sorry but I havent laughed this much in a while. And what a relief that other people have the most bizarre things happen to them too. Can I just ask did your builder have a white stick?.

  9. scribblingmum
    17th July 2011 / 10:17 pm

    GAH! *tries not to laugh* That’s a nightmare! And I can’t think of one helpful thing to recommend….surely it can’t last that long…. can it?!

  10. 17th July 2011 / 9:40 pm

    I am laughing, then every 20 seconds I scowl.

  11. 17th July 2011 / 9:40 pm

    It’s okay – I don’t mind that you laugh.

  12. 17th July 2011 / 9:42 pm

    The builder clearly was distracted, unfortunately I can’t feel TOO badly as he died soon afterwards. Maybe he was already on his last legs?

  13. 17th July 2011 / 10:14 pm

    So, let me check I’m understanding this correctly – TWO builders have died shortly after working on your house? What do you DO to your burglars?
    I get the feeling the decorator might be in trouble if you ever run in to him again…

  14. 17th July 2011 / 10:29 pm

    You laugh but the builder on my last house died as well. I’m a curse, clearly.

  15. 17th July 2011 / 10:29 pm

    I’m thinking 2 weeks maximum – that’s how long I’m mostly out of the house for.

  16. 17th July 2011 / 10:41 pm

    Ooooh No!! Gorgeous looking room though! 🙂

  17. 17th July 2011 / 10:50 pm

    I don’t often share blog posts with my hubby but had to show him this one as it tickled me greatly (sorry Sally)…..he immediately starting stating how 2% of surgeons leave things in during operations…I don’t think it really compares??

  18. 17th July 2011 / 11:18 pm

    The funny part is – you couldn’t make it up! You’d think it impossible to overlook, and idiotic to ignore. But it happened – and I must admit I did guess correctly as I read your story. But then, I’m an electrician – I could tell you a few horror stories!

  19. 17th July 2011 / 11:34 pm

    I reckon everyone thought it was someone else’s problem – so the joiner left it to the builder, who left it to the joiner, who left it to the plasterer, who left it to the decorator – and they all left it to me. Thanks, chaps.

  20. 17th July 2011 / 11:35 pm

    Well, this one’s not life threatening – just annoying!

  21. 18th July 2011 / 4:31 am

    I’ve also had that low battery in the smoke alarm thing more than once – but they are usually accessable. Ever practical – I suggest two sets or earphones for the duration.

  22. 18th July 2011 / 8:57 am

    Oh no, how awful! I’m laughing but only because I can relate to your frustration! Hope it stops soon.

  23. 18th July 2011 / 11:04 am

    Beep, beep beep.
    Must not laugh. Mainly becuase it sounds like something i would manage to do too.

  24. Titch
    18th July 2011 / 11:06 am

    Oh dear. We had a smoke alarm experience – the battery (which was meant to last 10 years and lasted 1 and which is non-replaceable) died, and then we all got used to the chirruping. Except my dad, when he came to stay. It so enraged him, he cracked it off the ceiling, bringing a fair bit of paintwork down, and put it in the garden. We thought the rain would kill it, but no. We heard it through the bathroom window. The bleeping started in August last year, and stopped about a month ago. Sorry. On the plus side, you do get used to it – it almost becomes part of the family…

  25. 18th July 2011 / 12:48 pm

    Smoke alarms are so annoying when they run out of battery. We had the task of finding a smoke alarm running low on battery in our basement. Was found at the bottom of a box after a week of searching all through the stacks of stuff stored.
    Can you find the smoke alarm with a metal detector & cut out only that bit?
    PS Do you give your builders warning about the death curse?… it could be helpful for their family to have additional life insurance when their loved one is working under such hazardous paranormal conditions. ;o)

  26. 18th July 2011 / 2:10 pm

    Oh dear, that’s the laugh out loud chuckle that I needed today. From past beeping-hell experience mine took about a week to die, but I’ve heard horror stories of others taking months. Might be better for your sanity to get the builders back in, and surely cheaper than you hacking the wall to bits yourself in the middle of the night in some sort of beep-induced rage!
    Sarah x

  27. 18th July 2011 / 7:16 pm

    Perhaps they take as long to die as the builders who worked on the loft. Sorry, not funny. At all.

  28. Ali
    18th July 2011 / 8:20 pm

    Oh dear, I am truly feeling sorry for you but laughing at this post at the same time :)though have to add gorgeous new loft room. It just a little beep sorry I mean blip!!!

  29. 18th July 2011 / 9:41 pm

    Oh no! I do feel sorry for you and I would love to come over and offer the services of my builder friends but I like them alive 😉

  30. 18th July 2011 / 9:43 pm

    I won’t tell you that my parents on was going for months until they managed to get the damn thing and kill it 😐 *runs away*

  31. 18th July 2011 / 11:05 pm

    So a day later – hows the beeping!!! I have to say – this could only happen to you!!! I am really sorry… the heady joy of a a whole new space turns into a beeping problem… sorry… Just think that after all this you will be an expert on how long it takes for a smoke alarms battery to die…

  32. Chuckalicious
    22nd July 2011 / 10:38 am

    I love this post. I cannot offer any words of wisdom, other than I bet it takes weeks for the battery to finally die. But I love this post. Thanks to tots100 for suggesting it.

  33. 22nd July 2011 / 7:21 pm

    Noooooo! That’s pure torture. Lovely to find you at long last, via tots100!

  34. 30th July 2011 / 9:47 pm

    OMG – I didn’t see that end coming at all, hope it dies out soon 🙂

  35. Insomniac Mummy
    2nd August 2011 / 2:20 pm

    Has it stopped yet?