At last

At last the weather has begun to cool down a tad. Today (5 th) it is 21 deg C, down 8 to 9 deg from what it has been lately. With the humidity down too at 43% relative, it feels much fresher. It still has yet to rain but at least the ground is staying wetter for longer after I have hosed the gardens. As is stands today the forecast is for rain later next week! Still a long time to wait and even then they say it only has a 60% chance of raining on one day with lesser possibilities for the following days. Ah well, we have to endure it all for now. I am now in a better position for doing a little more work around here but not too much! Today, this morning, I did the weekly shopping again and it looks like it is going to be my responsibility from now on if things don’t change. E hasn’t done the shopping for almost three months now. It’s just another chore for poor old Shirley Anne to add to her pile. One of our next-door neighbours is currently having the whole exterior of his house re-pointing which means scaffolding being erected. For the past two weeks it has been covering the front of the house and the work has progressed well. Yesterday the scaffolding crew returned to erect more scaffolding to the side of his property adjacent to ours. They asked for access to fit a couple of bracing poles onto our rear pathway. As his section of the space between the two properties is far smaller than our own it would be dangerous not to have bracing poles in place. Had they needed to use the garage roof  I would have had to erect a couple of supporting columns beneath. Fortunately I do possess three of those and have had to use them when we had scaffolding on our garage roof. The only problem with that is the vehicle can’t be housed in the garage when they are in use. It isn’t before time that our neighbour is getting the work done for his house’s brickwork has been in a very poor state for quite some time. He has been getting bits done here and there but it wasn’t enough by far. It isn’t that he couldn’t afford the work being done, we think he has just been reluctant to fork out the cash. It will of course improve the house’s appearance and sale ability. Perhaps he is thinking of selling it on. While the scaffolding guys were here I had some good banter with them and discovered that one of the crew had actually been part of the team that had erected scaffolding around our house way back in 2010. He must have remembered all the cups of tea and coffee that came his way.

Shirley Anne

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Darned thing

So Saturday (24) came along and I was up early once again. During the last few days we had discovered that the dampness in the bottom of the cupboard in the gym we have been decorating wasn’t drying up. It had to be caused by an ingress of water from outside the building. I had given it a few days to dry but it stayed wet. Two things are at work here. Firstly, the house walls were not constructed with a damp-proof course or membrane and secondly, the boiler room floor is below the ground level outside. I have no real idea why when it was laid the builders made it so. The house was built in 1877 but a quarter of the boiler room being part of an extension built we think at the turn of the century, that is 1900, was added to the already low floor. It is the only room below ground level at the rear of the house though at the front the rooms there are below ground only because earth was piled-up in front of the house…

There are vestiges of former windows below the soil level which have been bricked in. I suppose the thinking was because the ground the house stands upon is sandy there was enough drainage as not to become a problem. Anyhow on Friday I got to thinking about what I could do about the ingress of water and from where it was coming. When I took measurements I discovered that the floor inside the cupboard was nine bricks down from the window in the room but outside only seven courses are visible above the path and eight just where the wall ends at the grid. Now the grid is below the path so it puts it at the same level as where the dampness appears inside. On checking the brickwork I found gaps in the mortar at ground level and especially around the grid. I decided to mix some fine cement and use it to seal off the gaps both along the base of the wall and around the grid earthenware.

I used a small amount of what was left to patch up the plinth beneath the boiler

and then I set about painting the shelves and insides of the doors of the cupboard which now will only need touching up here and there,

Saturday and Sunday were forecast as dry and sunny and as I write this on Saturday lunchtime it is indeed sunny. It needed to be dry at least so the cement can set.

Shirley Anne

Invention

The time spent on the pit project was limited to an hour and a half on Saturday morning as I had reached as far as I could go. The main task was to skim the internal end wall I had roughly worked on the day before and then put some spots of the same mixture on the floor of the pit. These spots of concrete were to be level with each other and would act as guides when I laid the screed concrete.It was time for lunch after which E went out to her monthly meeting and I thought I would sit a while out on the patio as by then it was warm and sunny. However I didn’t stay sitting long for I noticed a chrysanthemum which needed pruning of its old growth. I had missed it when I pruned the others a couple of weeks ago. I decided to prune it but on the way to collect the tools I noticed a couple more bluebells in the long bed which needed digging out. I ended up checking each of the flowerbeds and dug out around thirty or so. They just don’t give up do they? (See last years posts around this time). Finally I gave up on the idea of sitting outside and returned indoors and setting ‘Robbie’ to vacuum the hallway I went into the kitchen to do some baking. I wanted to bake two sponge cakes, one with some coconut in it and the other with coffee. I was following a recipe for a rich butter cake as opposed to a Victoria Sponge but along the way I made a little mistake and I ended up preparing a fusion mixture of the two! Talk about invention! Surprisingly though the cakes turned out very well and quite tasty. I guess many recipes started off this way.

Shirley Anne

Walking through the day

We had been informed that warmer and drier weather was coming our way for a couple of days, an ideal time to be doing any outdoor work that was necessary. It was Saturday (14) and I had plans to do some patching up of the garage floor, completing the ramp I had put there many years ago and filling in a couple of holes with concrete after the recent work we had done. First though I wanted to go for a longish walk as I hadn’t been able to do any walking other than the two miles I had walked a couple of days earlier. I hadn’t been too well and had remained more or less indoors for a few days. I arose early and went out as soon as I was downstairs. I walked south along the coastal road to Ainsdale and onto the beach there turning northward to walk back home. I was surprised how many folk were out and on the beach so early on a Saturday morning. It was about eight forty-five when I arrived there. The round trip from home on that route is just over seven miles. I have to admit to feeling a little tired but that was probably due to my not eating breakfast and not having been out for a while. I did take a banana along with my bottle of water. Anyhow I ate breakfast on my return home and after a short time donned my overalls and got on with the concrete mixing. For this work I used 6 mm granite chippings in the mix rather than using grit which would result in a finer concrete as it would have to withstand a vehicle passing over it. These are the holes which required filling after the old wood frame was removed and the existing floor ramp which was never finished years ago…

The ramp exists because the garage floor is almost level with the concrete drive leading to it. When we had heavy downpours of rain it sometimes ended up inside the garage so I constructed a ramp to prevent that happening. It does the job but it needed the back edge finishing. Here are pictures of the finished work.

   The van wasn’t going anywhere for a couple of days! Rain water flows into the grid shown which is lower than the surrounding concrete drive. The drain pipe actually runs beneath the garage floor to connect with the main drains at the rear of the house. That work had been done when we built the garage back in 1988/9. Much has changed since then. After lunch I added an extra fixing to secure the new bird box I had fitted a week earlier then carried on with some gardening work. Who said retirement would be boring with nothing to do?

Shirley Anne

All out of sync..

Out-of-Sync
Out-of-Sync (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not very often is it that I complain about being unwell and for reason, I am seldom unwell. That is a good thing and I am happy I can at this time be able to say it for many folk have the misfortune of having poor health. In that respect I am fortunate but it isn’t to say I never get ill or feel ill, at times I do. On Friday I began to feel a little ‘under the weather’ as they say but I soldiered on and stuck it out. I had though I was suffering the beginnings of a cold for I was beginning to feel the symptoms, dull aches and pains in my upper body, arms and back. No headaches but a general feeling of being drained of energy. I plodded through Saturday, staying indoors for most of the time except when E and I were examining the leaking garage roof (see yesterday’s post) and effecting a temporary repair until Monday when her nephew would come and check it out. Incidentally, the guys who were supposed to return on Saturday to install the free alarm unit on the new garage door didn’t arrive. I received a call on Sunday morning from one of them who apologised. Evidently his brother, the other fitter, had been involved in an accident whilst carrying out work on the installation of another door elsewhere on Saturday morning and he had been taken to hospital. It was arranged that they would fit our alarm later in the day. The alarm would be fitted one day in the forthcoming week. Anyway my routine for Saturday evening was to simply relax and watch television then have an early night. However after a couple of hour’s sleep I awoke with severe stomach cramps. Trapped air. After some time of sipping water and burping I felt more at ease but couldn’t get myself off to sleep again. I finally did get some sleep after a toilet visit at six o’clock. That meant I didn’t arise on Sunday morning until almost noon! By the time I got downstairs it was one forty-five. I felt awful and didn’t want any food. E told me to take a pain-killer but the one thing I do not do is to take medication of any kind unless it is absolutely necessary. I would rather suffer a little discomfort than take a drug which only masks the problem anyway. Obviously I would and have taken acute medication in the past and will continue to do so for chronic illnesses. So Sunday was again spent relaxing indoors trying to get my body back into sync.

Shirley Anne

What’s going on?

Here in the UK we have been and are still being bombarded with advertisements concerning PPI (Payment Protection Insurance). Years ago people were offered the opportunity to protect their repayments on a loan should they become unemployed or lose part or all their income. However it was discovered in more recent years that the system was found to be illegal and consequently all contributions to such a scheme could be reclaimed. Of course there would be the need for legal representation to effect such reclaims and many solicitors (lawyers) companies offered such support and still do so through mainly television advertisements. One such company opens their current advertisement with a guy saying ‘What’s going on, I mean about your PPI? I could smack his face he is so annoying. In fact the whole PPI business advertisements bore me soft. I have never taken out PPI. Though I may have borrowed money in purchasing certain high-priced goods I have always had the cash in the bank to pay off the entire debt should it have been necessary. My attitude has always been if I cannot afford something I don’t buy it. That aside, I have digressed from the initial subject of this post but I used the point to show how annoyed I get with unsolicited and unnecessary attempts to put me under pressure when they don’t concern me. That applies to all forms of solicitation as far as I am concerned. If I didn’t ask for it then it should be obvious that I don’t want it! When I do ask for something however I expect it to happen and barring all minor mishaps along the way (for no-one is perfect) my requests should be delivered as requested. If that cannot happen when the right person is asked and takes on board my requests then what hope do I have? A few weeks ago now I asked E’s nephew, a builder, if he could elevate part of the garage roof in order that I could have a new roller-shutter door installed beneath it. The work was carried out quickly and it was sealed over with a fibreglass based compound rather than bitumen covered felt as the rest of the roof. He insisted and assured me that the new substance was superior and indeed it seemed to be, that is until I spotted a leak. I had asked him to carry over the covering to include the adjacent bricks but he failed to do so saying it wasn’t necessary. He was wrong. He returned and gave the surface an extra coat of what I thought was the same compound but it dried a different colour. He hadn’t placed some fibreglass sheet over the joint before painting it over with the compound as I think he should have but again it appeared fine and there were no leaks. I had the new door fitted on Friday (6th) and on Saturday E and I went into the garage to check out the door operation just prior to the fitters returning to add the alarm (see yesterday’s post). I noticed the roof was leaking where it had been elevated! I climbed the ladder to investigate and discovered the whole of the fibreglass covering was raised as if air had been trapped beneath it and indeed that was exactly right. It hadn’t adhered to the ceiling timbers and it appeared the gap between the bricks and the roof where it should have been covered was letting in some water. Two problems, why didn’t it adhere and why didn’t he do as I had requested? Needless to say the covering will have to be redone……at his expense. I mean, What’s going on?

Shirley Anne

At last

For a couple of weeks now we have been waiting for the garage door to be replaced. After the initial survey we had to make alterations to part of the roof in order to accommodate the door housing, the box which houses the rolled-up door. We, that is I, had to install the necessary electrical supply and to generally clean up the area. We spotted some dampness on the interior of the wall after all that work was done so I had the added task of effecting a solution which meant I had to do some external pointing around the affected area and then seal the bricks and mortar with a proprietary sealant. All is now well. Having done all the preparatory work we were asked if we wouldn’t mind postponing the installation for a day. We didn’t object and so finally the work was carried out on Friday (6th). As it turned out the weather turned out better that day than it had been on Thursday but only as far as it wasn’t windy. The old door…We had been told that the fitters would arrive sometime during the morning, that is eight til midday but nobody came. I received a call just after eleven o’clock letting me know the fitters would be with us in an hour or so but again nobody came. E wanted to phone their office but I asked her to wait a while longer. She called them at two because nobody had arrived even then. There was only an answering machine at the office but she left a message. Fifteen minutes later the fitters arrived. They apologised with the excuse that one of them had to walk fifteen miles to collect another van as theirs was out of action! Why he couldn’t take a cab I have no idea. I didn’t question him, I was just glad they had finally arrived. They immediately got on with the work but it was around six forty-five before they left. I was asked if I would like to pay for a nine year extension to the one year guarantee for the added fee of £145. I knew I had this option as the guy doing the estimate had told me but it wasn’t necessary to take the option until the work had been completed. I took out the extension. New door from the inside… As I had taken the option I was then informed I was entitled to an alarm system for the installation fitted at no extra cost plus a remote control which could be stuck on the wall anywhere in the house or garage that would operate the door too. This picture shows the safety feature which cuts off the supply to the motor should anyone step close and disrupt the beam.

The beam is projected from the tall black bar to a similar bar on the opposite side of the opening. The next picture shows the bar, the power supplies and the eyelet at the top of the door housing for use when mechanically operating the door in the event of an electrical problem. There is a long operating handle supplied which can be fixed to the wall for storage when not in use.

I will be tidying up the cabling using mini trunking when I get a moment free. The last picture is the new door shown from the outside. The fitters would return on Saturday afternoon to install the alarm and check all was right with the installation.

Shirley Anne

A teething problem

It was Thursday (14th) and a bright and sunny day. I was up early enough to go for an early morning walk but decided I was in need of food more than rushing out for a walk. If I eat breakfast I don’t go for a walk until an hour later and that is what I did. E asked if I could post a couple of letters so I took them with me. On the routes I take there are posting boxes along the way and not too far from home so I don’t have to carry the envelopes for very long. By the time I had reached the coastal road half of the sky had turned very dark and out on the sea I could see that it was raining. The other half of the sky was almost clear of clouds. The wind was blowing almost directly 90 degrees on shore and I was walking along the coast toward the clearer sky. I glanced back a couple of times to see that it was now raining heavily where I had been a few minutes earlier. I managed therefore to completely avoid getting wet. Soon I was on the return journey home, stopping on the way to chat for a brief moment with one of the staff at my local pub before walking the short distance home. After lunch I was going to sit out on the patio for an hour but E had other plans. Thursday she does the weekly shopping and was expecting the delivery of a parcel. I had to stay indoors to wait for it. Before she left we both took a peek inside the garage we are working in because I feared it was leaking in rain in a different place from that which I had dealt with a few says earlier. She sent a text message to her nephew explaining the problem and he said he would call in an hour or two. I had to remain indoors for that too. I had asked him to cover the top of the wall over the door opening with the same covering he had used for the raised portion of the roof he had constructed but he failed to do so. He explained that he didn’t think it would be necessary. Well I thought otherwise but went along with his decision. He called just as E had returned with the shopping and I asked him if he would cover the top of the wall when he had the time. He did it straight away and didn’t levy a charge, though the work was quite minimal anyway. At the time of writing this we are hoping that there will be no further teething problems before the guys come along to fit the replacement door. Speaking about the door, the sooner it gets fitted the better for the existing one has started to give me plenty of mechanical problems, like jamming, reversing when it jams and slipping out of the track occasionally too!

Shirley Anne

Time slot

Following on from yesterday’s post it turned out that the weather was favourable on Saturday after all. I am referring to recovering the top of the garage wall with a concrete mix. When discussing the work with E’s nephew the builder he assured me that the seal between the fibreglass and the brick walls would not let in water. Well he would have been right in that assumption had the joint been against a smooth and flat surface but brickwork as you might guess is far from that, especially if the wall is aged and the mortar has given way in places! I checked inside the garage for any leaks the following day and sure enough there were four of them, though one was not associated with the new roof alteration work. They were all but one very minor and that which was worse wasn’t too bad, just bad enough to do something about it! Any leaks are undesirable, especially after new work has been done. Part of the problem was due to the top layer of bricks not keeping out the water because the mortar had cracked and some weeds had found a home in them. I had suggested all the bricks have new mortar or be repaired but nothing was taken on board. Any builder worth his salt would have ensured the wall he would be securing something to was solid enough to take it. Seems our builder didn’t think it was necessary. At the end of the day it didn’t matter because I could carry out the repairs to the brickwork myself. All I needed was a time slot in which to do it. The weather forecast hadn’t been promising and rain was said to be on its way to stay for a few days. There was just the one slight opportunity after lunch on Saturday when it would remain dry for about the next sixteen hours. It was raining when I arose and it didn’t stop until about ten-thirty. We knew that marked the beginning of the short dry spell so I took the opportunity and began the work. Here is the result…

The topping is a fine concrete mix, that is sand, grit and cement rather than just sand and cement in order to give it durability and strength. The same mix is used when laying a footpath and at the rear of our house there is a footpath constructed using the same mix. It has been there for 28 years and is as good as the day it was laid. Not only have I put a layer on the top (where it was needed) I have put some on the sides too as that was where water was getting in mostly. That should have been done by the builder before the new roof seal was applied so that the fibreglass could be placed over it. That can still be done should there be any more problems but I have a feeling it won’t be necessary. The rain held off until well after the concrete had set. Timed to perfection. The work had taken about thirty minutes to do.

Shirley Anne

Extra work

After E’s nephew and his crew had finished their work on the garage roof alterations I finally got the opportunity to finish the electrical work on Friday morning. The task was to wire-in the new power outlet from the existing circuit in the garage but before I could do that I had to remove some now unnecessary lighting cabling and tidy up what remained. In the picture below all that work took place at ceiling height on the left above the ladders and scaffolding stored there and toward the door out of sight on the left. It would have taken far too long to shift everything to gain better access but the ladders and scaffolding were actually a benefit as I could climb them to reach the ceiling!

Once that was done I set about fitting a little extra support beneath one of the timbers. In the next picture it is the piece on the left flat against the wall at ceiling height. Let me explain. When the garage was built not all of the joists had been inserted into the house wall (the wall in the picture). Some had been supported by another joist which had been secured between two that went into the wall. It sounds complicated but in essence some of the joists could not be inserted in the wall where there is chimney stacks, and there are two of those along the length of the house wall.  

In the picture above two of the three joists had been inserted into the wall whilst the middle was supported by the timber lying flat on the wall. The left-hand joist of the two which were inserted into the wall had to be cut and removed.  It ran alongside the steel beam you can see top left. Now that short piece of timber on the wall was only secured to the outer timbers. Although the nails are intact and still in place the timber had been moved and it left a gap as you can see. My task was to fit a short length of timber to the wall beneath it thus giving more support (not shown in the picture).  It probably would be fine without it but I never take chances when it comes to structural integrity. At the opposite end of the now removed joist the crew had kindly left the hole unfilled. In the picture below it is immediately adjacent to the steel beam (top right).

It was awkward to get at and it needed much filling. I used a fine concrete mix and a brick. When bricklayers build double-thickness garden walls, which in fact the wall in the picture above is, they never bother to fill the gaps fully between the two bricks. Saving mortar I guess. The wall we reckon is as old as the house (1877). Later in the day I went to the top of the house to see E who was busy in her workshop  and I looked again at the roof…

…and noticed something that needs attention. In the picture above on the far side of the roof the top of the wall can be seen and it was capped with a layer of mortar when the garage roof had been constructed. Some of that mortar needs to be replaced, about one-third of it toward the front at the right-hand-side. When the weather permits I will do that work myself but I won’t be using just mortar, I will use a fine concrete mix instead, it is much stronger and less prone to cracking in the heat of the sun.

Shirley Anne