Category Archives: Building works

Carpentry and stuff

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I have always enjoyed working with wood, it is one of those materials which is easy to work with though it is unforgiving, make a mistake and it isn’t easily undone. I have made a few mistakes in the past when working with wood as I am sure many have but it is a rewarding experience making things in wood. My latest little project is manufacturing a wooden gate and installing it at the side of the house. My readers will by now have seen my progress with the brickwork if they’ve followed my recent posts. On Thursday (10 th) I began working with the wood and my first task was to cut and fit the two wooden posts for each side of the gate opening…..

The one on the right has to support the gate itself so I used large ‘Rawlbolts’  to secure it to the brick wall. Here is a picture of a rawlbolt for anyone who doesn’t know what they are,,,

As the bolt is tightened it draws the nut (on the right-hand end) into the body which expands inside the hole in which it is fitted. The bolt obviously passes through the timber first! The post on the left has no weight to carry and therefore I used long screws instead. I must remember to clean off the dried mortar on the wall on the right where I had been filling in some holes after installing the posts.The posts themselves do not stand directly on the ground so that they will resist rotting  when it rains. Wood standing on the ground will soak up water and eventually get wet rot. The timber was purchased pre-treated against the weather but I have given it more coats of weather resisting treatment too. After lunch I began work on constructing the gate itself and got this far with it before stopping for the day at five o’clock….

I have it standing in the garage as I write this. There is more work to do on it yet before I hang it in position though. Hopefully I can finish the work soon, it all depends upon other things, not least of all the weather.

Shirley Anne

Felt like twice

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Up early on a wet and windy August Thursday morning ready to venture out for a walk. One banana later I was outside in the weather. Though it was wet and windy it was warm, though when in the wind it felt that much cooler. I ate breakfast on my return home because it was still early enough to do that. On some occasions I skip breakfast if I am late getting back home and have an early lunch instead. E was still sitting at the breakfast table when I returned. She seldom asks how far I walked but I usually tell her anyway. It had been a short walk of just over four miles but it felt as if I had walked twice the distance because of the wind. On the outward journey I had taken a more sheltered route in the built-up areas through the town but on my return leg I walked along the promenade which is totally exposed to the west. The wind was blowing from the south-west and therefore directly in my face. I could have taken the coastal road instead as it would have made little difference. Between the promenade and the coastal road a quarter-mile away there is almost nothing of height, lake and gardens is all. I shudder to think what it would have been like for anyone out running but there weren’t any runners to be seen. Fair weather runners? I think not for I never used to deliberately run in the wind in exposed places either. I had work to do in the afternoon and the weather was to change by then, that is it would stop raining. I have been building the column for the gate at the side of the house in the rear garden and the weather has been fine whilst doing it. This is how far I got with it the day before…(centre in both pictures)

I gave up on the idea of working on the column in the afternoon for two reasons, one I was feeling tired and two it was still very windy though the rain had stopped. At the side of the house where the work is being carried out it was very windy indeed with gusts of around 35 mph, far too uncomfortable to be working in especially as there is no hurry to finish the job. Hopefully though by the time you read this it will be completed.

Shirley Anne

Getting further

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English: Bricks in a wall.

: Bricks in a wall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was up and out reasonably early on Tuesday (1st) for my walk. The previous day saw me taking a backward route before continuing in my usual direction. It has the effect of adding an extra half-mile to any distance I might travel on my walk. Southport is an easy place to plan a long walk especially if you like walking along the coastal roads. However, Southport can be a windy place too and for that reason. For myself it is ideal as I like the refreshing and invigorating breeze when out walking. When I am not out walking I detest the wind! Is that strange do you think? Maybe not. Sitting on the patio is spoiled when the wind is too high. Anyway my walk ended up longer than I had imagined it would and it gets easier each time I go out but I know this from my experiences when running. Any exercise gets easier the more it is done. When I arrived back home it was almost noon and as I had little to eat before the walk I was hungry. After lunch E had to take her mom into town to do some shopping and I took the opportunity to lay a few bricks. ‘Few’ being the operative word as I didn’t wish to rush into it. I am building the column for the gate I plan to fit later. I decided to mix the mortar by hand in a large plastic bucket rather than use the mixer as getting out the mixer for such a small amount wasn’t worth the effort. In fact I have decided not to use the mixer at all as I build. The mixer has been a boon during the time we have had it because the projects I had undertaken required a lot of mortar. This column will use far less each time I add a course of bricks and will serve to slow the process down. There is no urgency to get the work done quickly as I have all the time in the world and can take things slowly. Normally a job like this would take me two days, not because I couldn’t lay the amount of bricks in a day to complete the column but because only a few courses can be laid each time. Too many courses being laid will result in the mortar being squeezed out between the lower courses and the structure may not hold its shape whilst the mortar sets. Sounds like a good excuse but in fact is true.

Shirley Anne

The Party’s over

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As I write this on a dull Sunday afternoon the party is over and I for one could not be happier. What party you may well ask? The Open golf championship event here at Royal Birkdale. Don’t misunderstand me here, many people love the game of golf but I am just not one of them.

The picture above was taken through the window in a lounge at home at around five o’clock on the last day of the golf event. Up until then the day had been mostly sunny. On Saturday there had been much rain but the previous days had been fine and sunny. I am not sure how that affected the play though I have a feeling it made little difference. For the last few days the whole town of Southport but especially Birkdale had been geared up for the event with many local restrictions having been imposed upon us all. It is something we all have had to put up with whether we like the sport or not. I can live with that. I steered well clear of the course which is very close to where I live and spent my time away from the house in the opposite direction! However during the time I was at home we had to put up with a light aircraft circling above every two to three minutes for hours on end which really was annoying. When I say circling it was doing just that, flying in a circle around the course and our house was under the flight path. On Sunday morning I went for a walk and on my return I emptied out most of the things in my van. E and I were to go and collect some bricks from her nephew which were stored at a place less than a mile from home. He had graciously allowed us to take what we wanted which was around fifty bricks. They had been dumped with other rubbish and needed to be separated but it didn’t take long to do that and we were soon back home for lunch. I stored them behind one of the garages and under cover to keep them dry until I wanted to use them.

Later E received a text message from her nephew who was asking where we were and why we hadn’t called to collect the bricks! E had thought he meant for us to collect the ones we had but it appeared he meant those stored at his own house a few hundred metres away. Those bricks had already been sorted and separated whereas the ones we took we had to glean from a general pile of other material. Although the ones we took were not stored at his house they still belonged to him. The reason he has so many bricks is that he is a builder. He asked if we wanted more as he was  trying to rid himself of some of them. We accepted his offer and he said he would drop them off later. Now I won’t have to worry about buying bricks for the projects I have in mind to do. The first one is to put a gate at the end of this passage where it meets the main part of the garden.

That is at the end of the side wall of the house on the right. Now I am not planning to begin that work during the summer though anything is possible with me.

Shirley Anne

Still……..

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Norman tees off at Royal Birkdale

Norman tees off at Royal Birkdale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Work is still ongoing at the house two doors away, though that work is now concentrated on developing the grounds rather than the house itself which is completed both inside and out. The ground works seem to be taking far longer than I would have expected but of course it isn’t my house. E and I were talking about the progress of the work which has been slow from the start and how much longer will it be before our new neighbours can move in. They had been expecting to move in two months ago! We think the slow progress has been due to a lack of control over the work that has been done. A project such as this requires a site foreman to chase the various trades persons to speed things up and to maintain proper control of schedules as would be the case in any construction development. We are not sure proper control has been maintained in this case. Still the noise from the house continues each day as it has done for over seven months. More noise from both our next-door neighbours over the last couple of days as one is having the garage roof replaced/repaired whilst the other has a guy cutting down some very out of control Leylandii trees in her rear garden.which should really have been cut down years ago long before they got so tall and wide. For years the husband would prune them back as much as he could but he needed to use an extension ladder to do it and even then it was extremely difficult. Since he died, it will be four years come November, she has had other Leylandii trees chopped down and removed in both the front and rear gardens. A few months ago I myself chopped down an out-of-control tree in her front garden to help her out. It was a job her son should have done as he is fit enough and twenty-five years younger! One snag there, he just isn’t capable but that is because he was never encouraged or prevailed upon to do his bit at home. So life is going on all around us. It will be great when all the work is done and we can have our street back for a while. Speaking of streets, the local authority have placed notices on almost all of the street lamp posts to indicate a temporary parking restriction in order to prevent them becoming congested during the British Open golf championship being held here once again at the Royal Birkdale golf course a week or so away. The ‘Common’, which is common ground adjacent to the club and used by many to exercise their dogs will be turned into a car park during the event. A fee is levied of course, any excuse to squeeze money out of people as I see it. Still….

Shirley Anne

They’re all at it!

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Carry On Regardless

Carry On Regardless (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer brings with it dry and warm weather and the opportunity to get outdoors and carry out repairs to our homes. There are several houses near my own where scaffolding has been erected in order to carry out maintenance repairs or alterations. Since living here we too have had scaffolding erected a few times for such works. I was sitting in the garden on Wednesday afternoon having just eaten my lunch. I had been out for a walk earlier, this time covering over five miles. I was feeling hungry because I had missed breakfast except for one small banana. E was busy at the top of the house and didn’t eat lunch until an hour later. I was disturbed by the noise of metal on metal which seemed to be coming from the front of the house. Being as I am very inquisitive I simply had to go and investigate. It was just as well I did for soon after I entered the house the doorbell rang and it was a guy who’s crew had begun to erect some scaffolding at the side of our immediate neighbour’s house. Before he could speak I jumped in with, ‘You stand no chance’ and smiled. I knew before he asked what he was about to say. He was simply asking permission to place the stabilising/supporting bar for the scaffolding on our driveway. ‘Of course you can’, I said and ‘how long will it be there?’ About three days was the answer he gave and I said, ‘Oh well I’ll just have to leave the van in there until you’ve finished the work’. He asked if I needed to get the van out but I assured him that it was unlikely. It just meant that should I get an offer of electrical work I would have to postpone it. That isn’t a problem these days but had it been I would have asked him to stabilise the scaffold in a different way. He could have extended the scaffolding across the garage roof but that would be time-consuming and unnecessary. It appears that my neighbour was finally getting some loose brickwork attended to. Not before time I might add as it was beginning to look as if it would fall away if the wind strengthened. It’s not as if he is short on cash, he runs a business from home as a solicitor (lawyer) employing a couple of people and has no family commitments as he is single. I think he just can’t be bothered half of the time. Perhaps it was the work going on in the next property which prompted him to do something, who knows? Work has been going on there since the start of the year and will continue for a couple of more weeks yet.

Shirley Anne

Fireworks

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I had a lousy night’s sleep on Thursday to Friday morning, tossing and turning throughout the eight hours I had. I had gone to bed at eight-thirty but didn’t actually nod off until just after nine. I was up and out of bed several times during the night until I decided I’d had enough and rose for the day at five-thirty. I remained in a sleepy state all day long and it was all I could do to stop my eyes closing. I had to go to that job I mentioned in yesterday’s post, no power to the downstairs lighting circuit. It was in the next town over seven miles away and I arrived there before nine o’clock as arranged. It transpired that the problem was a blown fuse and it had supposedly blown because one of the light bulbs on the circuit had blown. The lady’s son had previously rewired the fuse but it blew again. I could not find a fault so had to assume the fuse hadn’t been rewired properly. It can happen that if the fuse wire is too taut or has an indentation or even a loose connection causing an arc that the fuse gives up and blows under any load, especially if a light bulb has short-circuited. I repaired the fuse and all was in order. I was back at home just over an hour later. As the weather forecast was for rain early in the afternoon I decided not to do any work in the garden. I had been thinking of going to the pub for lunch yet again but thought the better of it as there was food in the refrigerator that needed to be used. E would be doing the weekly shopping and restocking the larder so to speak. She had been out all day on Thursday so switched to Friday to do the shopping. She even went out before noon which is a first as she usually goes out after two o’clock, even three o’clock sometimes. I digress. I prepared myself an early lunch because I’d had an early breakfast. When I had eaten I was looking out of the window at the rear garden, just pondering at first but then I went out and trimmed back the dead stalks on some plants so that the already sprouting new foliage could grow. Whilst doing that I noticed three or four bluebell plants growing in the flowerbed that runs in the front of the greenhouses..greenhouse-flowerbed-5

…..the one I had worked in late last year where I had fitted the stone edging and repopulated it. I knew there would be some popping up as is the case elsewhere. They were all located in the right-hand half of the bed where there had been a number of bluebells growing before I removed them. Just as I was finishing that small job I was shaken by the sudden loud bang of a large firework being let off followed by three or four more. They were exploding rockets being set off by workmen working at a house two doors away. The new owners have employed builders to renovate the property before they themselves move in, probably in a month or so. The noise was unbearable and I was showered with the debris which floated down over my house and garden and my neighbour’s garden too. I went upstairs and shouted as best as a woman can for them to refrain from setting the fireworks off whilst also telling them that they should be working. The noise abated, they must have heard me. I went to one of the front bedrooms and looked out of the window. I saw a couple of the men chatting and one of them walked past my house on the opposite side of the road towards his vehicle. I drew his attention regarding the fireworks telling him that there are folk in the area who work at night and they would be finding it difficult to sleep because of the noise. At first he tried to deny any knowledge of fireworks. I couldn’t believe his impudence. He apologised after I had told him I would be taking action if their inconsiderate behaviour lasted. It was only a few days ago I had to walk to the house to complain about the very thick smoke from a fire that was affecting several neighbours as well as myself. They had actually poured diesel on the fire to help it burn! Just then my next-door neighbour phoned and was wondering where the noise had been coming from. I went round to see her and explained what I had been obliged to do. She was answering a call from yet another neighbour who wanted to know the source of the noise too. Workmen can be so inconsiderate when there is no-one there supervising operations. Anyway it was around two o’clock and still there was no rain. As I walked up the path alongside this flowerbed I saw something that infuriated me…..No 2 Flowerbed 10

…bluebells! Now this was the second of the two front flowerbeds I had revamped last year and I had thoroughly sifted the soil from one end to the other. I was confident that there wouldn’t be any bluebells left as there are in the other bed  where I hadn’t been as fussy. If you magnify the picture you will see a shrub at the far right end of the flowerbed, a Fuchsia which I didn’t disturb when working the bed but did remove some bluebells from beneath it at the time. Now there were bluebells growing deep inside and among the stalks, impossible to remove unless the Fuchsia was taken out too. I was so annoyed but made it my business to remove it there and then. It took some time but eventually I got it out and then it was time to get at those bluebells too. I removed a bucket load of them! I didn’t really wish to lose the Fuchsia but on reflection it is a plant that grows vigorously, producing more and more stalks which get out of hand. For the time being therefore I am going to concentrate on the two front flowerbeds, especially the right-hand one which has many bluebells needing removal…Front flowerbed redesign 1

This is a picture (above) from last year. The rose has since been pruned right down and is going to look far better this year I think. Does it never end?

Shirley Anne

Got to clean it yet

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I arose very early on Wednesday morning and after breakfast I was outside just before eight o’clock fully dressed in my overalls and ready to work. There was a bit of a chill in the air and everywhere was damp because of the high humidity. About an hour or two after I began to work I had to return indoors to remove some of the clothing I was wearing beneath the overalls as I became uncomfortable in the high humidity. Late in the afternoon on Tuesday I had decided to dig out the remaining soil behind the small wall where I had earlier begun to fill in behind with concrete. I found some spare wood sheets in the cellar that I could use for shuttering and set them in place ready for filling behind with concrete on Wednesday. I had not been able to do any other work in the Plot on Tuesday as you will have read in yesterday’s post. So the first thing I did on Wednesday morning was to mix some heavy duty concrete. Two mixer loads would just about do it and I had very little left over. Even so, that didn’t go to waste as I used it elsewhere. I poured it in behind the shuttering (see middle right in picture). I switched from mixing the heavy duty concrete to one using granite dust or granno for I was using it to fill in between the paving slabs. Even though I had mixed two full mixer loads there wasn’t enough to do all of the work but by that time I was beginning to get very tired. I would need to clean up the area later when the concrete had hardened. plot-29 I stopped working at just a little after one o’clock but then had to tidy everything away. It was just as well that I couldn’t finish all the work I had intended to do because I needed to plan what I was going to do in the area around the new steps. I made those plans a little later in the afternoon but to do it I would need some more old bricks. Now there are some old bricks in the area behind the other garage but many of them are covered in either concrete or hard mortar. I would have to see if there was enough of them that I could reclaim to do the work, though I could manage with fewer if I had to. At this stage I wasn’t sure what I would concentrate on doing the following day but I wanted to do as much as I could while the weather was good. I have yet to start work on the right-hand-side of the flowerbed but that work is mainly laying paving slabs and filling in with concrete.

Shirley Anne

Nothing is straight

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Nothing is straight but it really doesn’t matter. Nothing is altogether parallel either but again it doesn’t matter. Working on the project I have called the Plot it has become apparent that alignment with other structures is a little way off perfect. It is due to a couple of things, the rear wall of the garage is not perfectly built at right-angles to the perimeter wall and the small walls at the path alongside the house are not built parallel to the perimeter wall. I ‘discovered’ the discrepancy whist constructing the new steps. I was actually aware of the problem, if indeed I could say it was a problem, when construction began. On Saturday morning my work was to level the ground to the left of the new raised flowerbed and lay six paving slabs. plot-26That in itself proved a little awkward because I had to lay them so that a gradual slope was formed as I reached the pathway wall. Existing slabs to their left do not form a slope so I couldn’t simply follow their line. Now because I wanted the front edge of the last paving slab to sit upon the small pathway wall it meant that by the time I reached the perimeter wall the slabs were not parallel with the flowerbed. The alternative would be to have them parallel to the flowerbed but not parallel to the existing slabs next to the rear wall of the garage. In the end it won’t matter as I will be filling the spaces with a fine concrete mix which will disguise the errors. If you study the picture you will see what I mean. Had everything else been built squarely none of these problems would have presented themselves. It only takes one or two minor errors from previous building projects to cause problems with new construction projects. The only thing that has been built truly square with the perimeter wall and which also is parallel with the patio wall to the right is the new raised flowerbed! It should all look well when it is finished though despite the problems. I have yet to lay some paving slabs on the right-hand-side of the flowerbed too when I get around to it. There will be little left of what was once open ground in the Plot when the work is completed but that was the whole idea.

Shirley Anne

Problems

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Again on Wednesday I was busy during the morning and up until one-thirty working on the Plot taking advantage of the warm, even hot weather. The only drawback was the humidity which was rather high and it made working in overalls pretty uncomfortable. Now and then a breeze would blow but it made little difference. The plan for the day was to lay the top of the three steps having laid the hard-core and concrete on Tuesday and also to decide what I would be doing about the surrounding walls. Before I did anything else I sorted out what old bricks I had with which to work. The twelve new bricks left over from building the flowerbed wouldn’t be suitable as they didn’t match the bricks in the old walls. Part of the old buried wall would have to be demolished anyway and the bricks removed would just about give me enough with what I had already to rebuild the walls. I mixed enough mortar with which to lay the final step and spread it out over the prepared concrete. I then had to manoeuvre the paving slab up onto the second step and on to the two bricks I had placed there to make it easier to ease the slab down into position, Did I say ease? You can only lower such a weight so far before gravity takes hold and it slops down onto the wet mortar. Not having anyone to assist me I have to devise alternative ways to move heavy objects around. Once the slab was on the mortar it was exceedingly easy to slide it about and tamp it down until it was in the desired position. It was then that I noticed that the rear edge of the slab was not exactly parallel with the end wall of the flowerbed but I knew that would be the case. The reason being the wall at the pathway had not been built parallel to the main garden wall which separates us from our neighbours property. So although by build was parallel to the wall it could never be parallel to the wall at the pathway. The only solution would be to rebuild that small wall but it simply doesn’t justify doing it. I plan to fill in the space at the rear of the top step with a fine concrete anyway so the discrepancy, small as it is, won’t be noticeable. That was the first problem. I will insert the picture here so you can see.plot-24     The right-hand-side small wall alongside the lower two steps gave me the most challenging problem because the pathway wall at right angles to it is the one which isn’t parallel to everything else and consequently the right angle abutment wasn’t parallel with the steps. I had to knock most of it down and rebuild it but in doing so I had to make the front edge slightly wider in order to get it aligned with the steps. I call it an unavoidable manipulation of an original cock-up. I mention here again that I didn’t build the original wall. The opposite small wall on the left of the steps presented me with a different problem as I had to demolish part of the double-brick buried structure to make use of the extra bricks but someone had topped that wall with a very strong concrete and it looked as though they had used concrete instead of mortar in places. I managed to do both walls as you can see. The next problems are rearing their heads as I move along with the project. One is how to align the paving slabs in a reasonable way to make it presentable but I can see I will need to fill in a lot of spaces with fine concrete to make that possible. The other smaller problem is being able to fill in behind that pathway wall on the right which adjoins the patio wall. I have decided to use mainly concrete to do it. My next task will be to level the ground in preparation for laying the other paving slabs. I have nine left but I think I may have to purchase a few more.

Shirley Anne

Sandwich

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It was a funny week, a bit like a sandwich week, a week where my electrical work was done at each end and where my domestic project was done mostly in the middle. Friday though was a bit of a sandwich day itself. In the morning I had an electrical job and later in the day another one and in between I worked on my project, redesigning the Plot. With September’s arrival came more rain so I had to plan my outside work accordingly. The week has been dedicated mainly to the construction of steps and on Friday I had to mix and lay some concrete for the second of the steps having done the first step on previous days. It was important that I got the concrete laid as early as possible in order to give it time to set in case I wanted to finish the step on Saturday. So off I went to the first electrical job and was back home before ten o’clock when I set about doing the concrete. It was whilst I was doing that when I got the request to do the other electrical job which I arranged to do after lunch. Having done the concrete I had to cover the area with some plywood sheets because rain had been forecast late on Friday and into Saturday morning. Plot 18It actually arrived around 9 o’clock in the morning and carried on for the afternoon. Ordinary concrete will not set properly if it doesn’t get the chance to dry out first. Once set I could lay the paving slab on top on a cushion of mortar the following day. Rain however would continue to fall until the afternoon according to the forecast so if I wanted to lay the slab it would have to be late in the afternoon. I have taken every opportunity possible to plod on with the work but it is slow progress. That doesn’t really matter as I have no deadline to meet and the enjoyment I get is from doing the work itself and not in rushing and pushing it along. For anyone not familiar with building and construction and what is entailed in carrying out such work you would be forgiven for not knowing how hard it can be. In my posts it may seem that everything is quite simple and easy and perhaps I have been taking too long doing the work but I assure you it is very taxing. What surprises me is the fact I am still able to do it! It looks as though this week may be warmer and brighter at least for a few days so I will try to make the most of it.

Shirley Anne

One step at a time

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Quite literally too. I remember the time it took to construct the other steps in what we now call the Plot and you can see those is many of my previous posts. The reason they take so long, if they are to be constructed in a robust way, is that solid foundations need to be laid for each of the steps in turn. For the smaller projects, as this one is because there will only be three steps and the top one will simply blend in with the paving slabs I propose to lay in the area. As such the body of soil beneath it will be enough for support as it is compacted. Having to lay a foundation not only makes the construction solid but it is a great way to dispose of old bricks and rubble. They serve as a base for laying the concrete on which the paving slab steps can be laid. So the method I use is first dig out the ground, next fill the area with hard-core (bricks and rubble) and tamp down until solid then lay concrete on top. When the concrete is set lay a thin bed of mortar on it then lay the paving slab on the mortar making sure it isn’t perfectly level for when it rains you’ll want the water to run off the step! On this project I have to do all that twice as there will be two steps needing a solid base. On Thursday morning I laid the first step on a bed of mortar then I laid four bricks along the rear edge. The front edge of the second step will rest on them. Next I filled in the space behind those bricks with more hard-core. I had placed some old bricks at the rear to form a retaining wall for when I pour concrete on the rubble. It all sounds easy and in fact it is but it is also hard work. This is how far I got on the day…Plot 17

The opening is wider than the paving slab I laid so each side was filled with a concrete mix using the granite dust or ‘granno’ instead of the stone chippings in order for it to blend in with the paving slab. In this picture you can only see the far edge where that small brick nib juts out. For some time I have been thinking of making the small single-brick wall which connects with the patio at the top right more solid. If I can dig out behind it I might be able to lay more bricks or I may simply shutter it with timber and pour in some concrete instead. Either way will ensure a more solid construction. With all that weight of soil behind it I am amazed it hasn’t been pushed out by now. I might add here that I wasn’t responsible for building it in the first place. Although the remainder of the wall at the bottom left of the picture is also of a single brick construction there is less weight of soil behind it due to the hidden wall which separates the area left of the new steps from that on the right. It is the same wall which runs to the boundary wall and on which I built the left-hand wall of the new flowerbed. You may have noticed that the whole area is slowly getting cleaner as I remove or use the old bricks and rubble that was scattered about.

Shirley Anne

Slow start

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You can tell that Autumn is not far off, it is beginning to cool down a tad and there seems to be more rain lately. Mind you I am not sure you could use rain as a measuring stick here in the UK. So it was that Wednesday began wet and it stayed wet all morning which meant there was little I could do toward making anymore progress in the Plot. I knew I needed an extra bag of granite dust or ‘granno’ as they like to describe it in building circles. It is basically the fine dust and chippings which is produced when cutting granite. It is used to make smooth lightweight concrete for paths and places where the traffic is very light, though it can withstand much wear. Trying to get a smooth finish with a normal concrete mix is more difficult because of the stone chippings it contains. Where I need to fill in places between the paving slabs I use  granno in the mix, it is basically how the slabs are made themselves. Incidentally there is a path running the length of the rear of our house which was laid about twenty-six years ago and it is as good as the day it was laid. As well as the extra bag of granno I also needed one bag of small (10 mm) stone chippings for making the sturdier concrete mix I will be using for certain places, especially beneath the proposed new steps where it will be used to hold together the foundation materials. So I drove to the builders merchant and purchased the bags. Bags of materials these days come in 25 Kg quantities and the reason for that is to prevent injury to those who have to man-handle them. Even so that weight is still heavy but most burly men can handle them. I have to resort to dragging them and manoeuvring them on to a trolley or a truck. It was approaching eleven o’clock before I could put on my overalls and do a little work but after three mixer fills of concrete I reached this stagePlot 16

Alright, it doesn’t look much but it hides all the hard-core I had to break up by hand and place beneath it, that was after I had dug out the soil first! That soil I had to put over on the right of the new bed. That concrete base needs to be extended just a few more inches but I didn’t wish to do it all at once. When it was dry, the next day in fact, I could do more. Most of this work will be hidden once the project is complete so it is better that I take pictures at each stage to show how much work was needed to do it all. I cannot put the mixer away just yet, there is much more to do.

Shirley Anne

 

Main part done

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Although I have lots more work to do in the Plot the main construction is complete. In a previous post I showed the natural stone slabs placed temporarily on the walls of the new ‘flowerbed‘ for want of a better description as there won’t be any flowers in it, not at this point anyway. The two slabs nearest the high wall had to be cut short by a few centimteres so it is fortunate that I have an angle grinder in my possession. The main object for having the raised bed there is firstly to give that extra height to anything grown in it. Secondly it will allow the sun to shine on the plants for a longer period in the year than if they were planted at ground level. The reason I needed to do this is because the garage blocks the sunlight from anything near to its rear wall. For instance in the month of June when the sun is at its highest anything within a metre or so of the garage still remains in the shade. No good for plants except those which prefer the shade. Plants growing in the bed will be bathed in sunshine for around three months or more. When this picture was taken it was late in the day so the sun wasn’t shining on the bed but earlier the shadow of the garage lay in the middle of the rear natural stone capping which meant the plants were in full sunshine for a few hours. The picture was taken on 29th August about a month and a half after the solstice. Plot 15 The space behind the bed will be paved and will be used for other things. Watch this space. Now I can concentrate on doing the steps, the paving and the landscaping. I had just finished the work for the day and it was after two o’clock. I had lunch then went out on the patio to join E who was already toasting herself in the sun! I was only there for ten minutes when I got a call from a guy who had asked me a few days previously if I would install his new cooker hob on Monday. As I had agreed I drove to his house which was fifteen miles away and did the work. It took me about fifteen minutes to do the job and soon I was on my way back home. I did return to the patio though by this time the sun shone on only a small part of it. It was enough and I spent fifteen minutes relaxing then I decided to get out the hose and water the garden before going indoors to prepare a meal.

Shirley Anne

Surprised myself

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As Friday was to be a warm and sunny day and as I had no electrical work scheduled I had the opportunity to do more work on the Plot project. First though I had to pay a visit to the builder’s merchant to purchase more sand and cement. I didn’t have to empty out the van completely because I wasn’t intending to buy much, Even so I still had six bags to take home. Whilst there I purchased twelve large paving slabs too but they will deliver them for me on Tuesday. I may need more depending on what I decide to do on the Plot.  That done I set everything up apart from the cement mixer which I have been leaving outside overnight. I have to cover the motor and bearings though just in case it rains. It means I don’t have to waste time having to get it out of the garage and setting it up each day. The plan was to lay the final course of bricks to the raised bed I have been busy constructing, point the inner brickwork where necessary and then begin to fill the structure with soil a little later. After mixing a huge amount of mortar I discovered there wasn’t enough to lay the last two bricks! I knew I would need more anyway in order to fill in the gaps inside so I mixed more in a large bucket by hand. All I can say is I am glad we have a cement mixer for mixing large quantities! Once upon a time I used to mix everything by hand but it is extremely hard work if a lot has to be mixed by hand and I am no longer a young person. So I got this far at the end of the day……Plot 13

I didn’t begin putting the soil inside immediately but waited a while until the mortar had become firm. I guess I must have filled the bed to about half-way then I had lunch at some time around one-thirty. I was planning to resume filling it afterward but just before I sat down to eat I got a call from an old guy who had recently moved to the area and was having problems with some fluorescent lights in his garage. He lives just over a half-mile away so after lunch I went there and sorted it out. Easy money and it went part of the way to offset the cost of the materials I had just purchased. At the time of writing I may have to put off doing any further work for a few days. It all depends upon the weather.

Shirley Anne