Saturday (17 th) ended up being a busy day for me though it wasn’t all about the decorating down in the cellar. I wanted to complete the construction of the cupboard surround for the boiler but I didn’t get to work on that until after lunch. I surprised myself by getting up very early for after the previous day’s work I had been very tired going to bed and a sleep-in could have been a possibility. However, I didn’t rush into the work I promised I would do before continuing with the cellar job. For some time E had been hoping I would replace the fluorescent light in her workshop with a new LED unit and at the same time move it nearer to where she does most of her intricate work. I had purchased the new light a couple of days previously so I was obliged now to install it. That work took me less than an hour but most of that time was spent in preparation. Whilst I was doing that work I had put the robot floor cleaner to work in my bedroom. My next job was to vacuum the tops of the fitted furniture. I do this every few months for fluff and dust accumulates up there and if left can end up on the floor. It proves one thing, there must be a lot of dust floating about in the air. That work led to my cleaning the vacuum cleaner itself as I do that every few months too. I am not talking about just emptying the dirt but washing component parts and allowing them to dry before reinstalling them. I also replaced the 24 door and drawer knobs on my bedroom furniture.
After lunch I was finally able to continue with the work on the cellar. I completed the construction by cutting the plywood and fitting it to the sides of the boiler cupboard.……and then painting the whole unit with primer
I think I did enough for one day. It was five o’clock when I stopped work. After painting the unit with a couple of top coats it will be finished. I will then move on to the final construction work or rather I should say refurbishment of the room’s only storage cupboard. The only other task will be touching up on the paint work in various places and that will mark the end of the project unless we either seal the floor or paint it.
I am the type of person who typically is apprehensive about how things will turn out and that is especially so with any of my projects. Throughout my working life in the electrical business it was never a problem, in fact I could always see the finished work in my mind long before I started it. To a point that has also been true when I approach a project I intend undertaking, I can see it in my mind’s eye already completed. The difference with my electrical work was I had the confidence of my ability. With my projects it should be the same as I have had plenty of experience with building work over the years but I often find myself wondering if what I do will turn out well. Now I have to say at this point I am not a professional builder and my work is almost never perfect, it is just near enough. Perhaps I am being too hard on myself as others tell me my efforts are great. Which ever way I can say this much, at least I try! On Tuesday (20th) it was time for laying the screed in the pit. The screed is made with three parts sharp sand, two parts of granite dust (fine chippings) and one part cement. I have been using this mix in building up the internal sides of the pit to effect a smooth but strong surface. The base concrete uses granite stones in place of the dust. It is more robust. I needed to purchase another bag of cement so soon after breakfast I went to the builder’s yard. On my return I got stuck right in with the work…
I had to fill the mixer three times to finish the work and they had to be mixed in reasonably quick succession to enable me to smooth out the whole area. I was surprised I had managed to do it faster than I had thought I would but it was at times awkward reaching over to do it. It would be Thursday and preferably Friday before it could be walked upon. Once the mixture has begun to turn white/grey as opposed to its wet green colour it will be safe to walk upon. The final stage will be sealing it and then painting where necessary.
The concrete had set by Saturday lunchtime and in a way I was grateful it was later rather than earlier in the morning for I had arisen quite late. I had been very tired the evening before after all the work I had done. I didn’t want the day to pass by without doing at least some more work on the project. I needed to erect some shuttering in preparation for pouring a finer concrete mix to form the sloping edge into the pit I was constructing.
A long length of timber was screwed to the pit floor against which I placed a length of plywood strengthened with timber and leaning toward the original floor edge. I fastened some timber to the original floor which acts to prevent the plywood from touching the floor at the top. This left an intended gap so that the concrete can be poured into the space and also to make a solid concrete edge along the complete top edge. It will be easier to understand when you see the completed work. After doing that work I began to tackle the removal of the concrete block at the end of the pit.
The yellow handle of the lump hammer rests upon the block. It was protruding out of the floor and we have no idea at the moment as to why it is there. Near to the end of the hammer shaft is a piece of steel tubing and another one a couple of centimetres further away (higher in the picture, click to magnify). They seem to be electrical conduits that have been set into the concrete block. Again we are not sure why they are there. The concrete block itself stands upon another block of concrete but it is of a different composition. The lower one looks like traditional concrete made using granite stones whereas the upper one, that which I am aiming to reduce in height, has been made using broken pieces of brick instead. It is as hard as nails and extremely difficult to chip away at. As I write this on Saturday evening I am almost there but it will take some time yet to lower it enough to be able to tile over it. Work will be resumed on Monday. Tomorrow, Sunday, I will be resting from work.
During the work of digging out the cellar floor I had been anxious about the stability of the remainder of the floor close-by to the pit I had dug. In yesterday’s post I wrote about filling the bottom of the hole with hardcore and propping up the side walls to prevent the loosened sand from slipping away. I felt a little relieved having done that work but by the afternoon of the next day, Friday 9th, I felt much better about it. I had spent the whole morning mixing concrete and laying it. After breakfast I made the trip to the builders yard to purchase some granite stones and cement. I didn’t need to purchase sand of course for I had bags of it! On my return home I set up the mixer outside in the garden and proceeded mixing the concrete. Rather than pushing the mixed concrete in a wheelbarrow to take it indoors I filled a bucket several times and took that inside instead. There are steps leading down into the cellar room and using the wheelbarrow would be too awkward and probably messy. I found it easier and quicker using a bucket but it took four mixing sessions with the mixer and several journeys with the bucket. I used the wheelbarrow to collect the mixed concrete and then shovelled it into the bucket. When doing this sort of work I get into a routine and it makes the work easy. This is how far I got..
You can see that I have cemented in the tiles which I used to support the opened side to prevent the sand pouring out. Naturally at this stage it is rough but it makes the finishing stage easier to do. The far edge in the top picture and the near edge in the lower picture, both the same edge, have yet to be worked on. That will begin soon I hope.
No walk for me on Wednesday morning, I wanted to get on with some work in the rear garden. For some time I have promised myself I would do something with the remaining long length of natural stone we had discovered buried with all the other stone a few years ago whilst we were digging out the ground behind what is now the Mound.
We had found such a large amount buried we were able to use it in various places around the garden as you might know if you’ve read my posts over the last three years or so. I decided to construct a stone seat in the area we now affectionately call The Secret Garden, once The Plot. There is a space immediately behind the garage which never sees the Sun. It is a great place to sit for a time to cool off when the weather is hot and sunny but the location isn’t exactly what you might call romantic though the view forward is pleasant sitting close to a water-butt and a compost bin which looks like a ‘Dalek‘ I would think isn’t.
A plant or two either of which prefer total shade or a couple of artificial plants might make it more attractive and perhaps that is what I will consider later. The work involved constructing the two small brick pillars and setting the stone slab on top and I had it done in an hour.
My next job will be to lower the drain pipe to below seat level and maybe construct a back rest fitted to the garage wall which shouldn’t take long once I decide to do it. Whilst I had some mortar I cut the stone cap and fixed it to the top of the brick pillar which I had built a couple of weeks ago but hadn’t been able to cut the stone at that time.
Finally I mixed some fine-grained concrete and set the stones around the base of the recently installed washing line post to complete that job too. I took the afternoon off and lounged about on the patio in the warm sunshine with E. Yes, it turned out much warmer than Tuesday had been (see yesterday’s post).
Monday (28th) here in the UK was one of those days we call a Bank Holiday, traditionally a day when bank employees took a break from, well banking. Banks closed for the day and therefore it limited trading activities. Nowadays banking takes place on-line for the most part but the holiday remains in place for everyone to enjoy or not as they wish. Today the holiday is referred to as the August Bank Holiday, there are others. Anyway it never made much difference to me when I became self-employed back in 1997. I would work if the opportunity presented itself, and it often did. The day still makes little difference to me now that I am retired, well retired from electrical work in a full or part-time capacity. I find work to do at home which pretty much keeps me active. I am not alone in being one that works over the holiday, I know many people do the same and if you go down any high street it is business as usual for many. As I said, banking is carried out over The Internet and much commerce follows suit. The Country can’t close down for the day can it? We were expecting someone to visit the house at my request to assess some work I want carrying out. I have decided to replace the garage doors on the garage I use to park my van. This one…
From the picture it looks fine and indeed the door itself is fine even though it is around twenty-eight years old. That is because it is made of fibreglass and aluminium. However it had always been opened and closed manually until a couple of years ago when I had it converted to electrical operation.Now again, there is nothing wrong with that set-up either but what is a problem are the mechanical components that had to remain after the conversion. They comprise the two side tracks in which the door runs, the wheels which run inside the tracks, the two large heavy-duty springs one each side which assist in the raising of the door, the pulleys and the steel wires either side which form part of the spring mechanism. All of these, especially the steel wires which need replacing regularly, require constant maintenance and of course that involves cost! It was high-time I replaced the door with a roller-shutter variety similar to what we had installed in the other garage though more streamlined.
That roller door is more like an industrial type than a domestic one though it doesn’t appear anything like that to look at it. It is a very efficient door and very robust. So the guy came along to measure the opening and requirements as did E’s nephew, a builder who was at hand to discuss any alterations that might have to be undertaken before the installation takes place. I agreed on a price for the work (£2250) which hopefully will take place in around a month’s time. As it is a bespoke unit it will take time to manufacture. Unfortunately as the opening is non-standard a door from their stock cannot be used. I paid the £600 requested up-front now all I have to do is raise the balance and carry out some electrical alterations for the installation.
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 stage
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.
Up early again on Wednesday to do more work on the Plot. Wednesday was an ideal day for working outdoors being as it was slightly cooler than of late. After an early breakfast I was outside at a little after eight o’clock and was soon working. I didn’t have to set up the mixer so I was pretty much able to get straight to work. My main object for the day was to finish building the walled enclosure, its inner walls. I managed to do that but I may take the structure up one more level of bricks as I have discovered I have sixty-three bricks remaining and to lay another course will take forty-eight bricks. As it stands (Wednesday) there are seven courses of bricks. Of course I will be topping the walls with natural stone in keeping with the patio brickwork. In this picture the work has been temporarily covered because rain was forecast for Thursday and I wanted the walls to remain dry. Now then, I had finished with mixing mortar for the day as it was approaching lunchtime and I wasn’t prepared to carry on working into the afternoon. Rather than do nothing I chose to remove part of the wall alongside the path and dig out the soil behind it as you can see in the bottom right of the picture. I then laid some old bricks and rubble as a base for some concrete upon which I will lay a paving slab later. Eventually there will be three steps to match those I constructed a couple of years ago shown on the left in the picture. The plastic sheet standing there covers what is left of the four hundred bricks I had delivered for the work. There are sixty-three of them as I mentioned. Before I can fill the structure with soil I have to ‘point’ the internal walls, that is fill in all the gaps in the joints. Later I will have to do the same with the outer surfaces of the construction. I had my lunch and then spent a few minutes on the patio but was disturbed by a phone call from the auto-electrician who had been repairing the fault of my van’s lighting switches. I walked to their workshop about a mile away and collected the van. The guy had to replace the whole mechanism which slides over the steering column and to which the control stalks are fitted. The cost for the replacement and fitting it? £246! I knew it wouldn’t be cheap but I didn’t expect it to be quite as expensive. I’m going to need a couple more electrical jobs to offset the outlay. Fortunately the work is still coming in.
Another busy time last week. After doing two jobs on Monday and Tuesday I thought that would be the end of my electrical work for the week and indeed I had earned enough to be satisfied by then. However things changed and I found I had two more jobs come my way on Friday which I naturally took on board. I had plenty of time on Wednesday and Thursday as well as Saturday (as I write this) to carry on with work at home. Currently I have been altering the steps in the boiler room by the door which leads out to the garden. I had completed the other step which leads out of the room to the cellar hallway a few days previous. The two steps leading out into the garden are being converted into three steps to make the risers less high and therefore easier to use especially for E who has to use a walking stick most of the time. The first thing I had to do, which I did some days ago, was to construct another step using bricks as a wall and filling the space with rubble and concrete. On Thursday morning I made a wood frame to surround that step and poured or rather trowelled a screed mix (concrete but using granite chippings in place of stones which make the mix smoother) onto and around the step. I removed the wood frame on Friday afternoon to allow the screed to dry out completely so that I could carry out the same procedure on the step above, the original step that was too high, to make it longer and to top it off. This would make the dimensions of both steps the same. The final step is the threshold itself which didn’t need altering. You can see in the picture the now dried out step at the base and the top step levelled out with still wet screed inside the wooden shuttering. I have used bricks and stones to keep the shuttering in place as there isn’t a great deal of pressure on it from the cement screed. For larger works I would have screwed battens to the walls and floor to contain the wooden shuttering and in fact whilst I was constructing the round step across the room I held the screed in place with stiff plastic that had been held in place with battens at each end. This work is very simple to do, the hardest bit is mixing the concrete or screed by hand! When I constructed the round step I had to use a lot of concrete and screed so I employed the use of the mixer but for this smaller set of steps that wasn’t worth doing. You can see the concrete step that forms the threshold under the door. That simply needs facing off in places to fill some holes that are there, especially near the bottom but I can’t do that until the screed is set hard, which will be tomorrow, Sunday afternoon as I write this. E wants to paint the steps when I have finished. I have yet to make up my mind about what I am going to do with some of the drain pipes but I think I will be choosing the easier option! My next major project is to level the floor in the room we hope to convert into a garden toilet but I have to remove half of the existing floor tiles first. They are laid directly onto compressed sand. I have already done some of that work some weeks ago but as you know other things have taken precedence. No rush though.
I have never used a mixer in the kitchen though we do have one. I have never had a reason to use one, always mixing by hand instead. I have the same attitude when it comes to washing dishes too, I always prefer to wash by hand though E generally sticks everything inside the dishwasher but not all of the time. Perhaps the reason I prefer doing things by hand is that it is only relatively recently in my lifetime that I bought a dishwasher. Probably two-thirds of my life has been spent without one. I also like having my hands in water! In my early years as an adult most all of the mixing I have done has been by hand but certain things done manually can be very exhausting aside from being time-consuming. When E and I talked about laying concrete some time ago when we decided to reconstruct the steps behind the garages and the need for a ramp behind one of them it meant that we would need a lot of concrete to do it all. When I was younger it wasn’t a problem to mix concrete or mortar by hand as I was then much fitter than I am now and could do much more in the time given. Not so these days though I can still do many things by hand. So it was we decided to buy a concrete mixer to mix the concrete to do the steps and the ramp and to mix the mortar for laying the bricks and paving slabs we worked on behind one of the garages last year. Over the last couple of days I have been constructing a large step to lessen the height of the existing step into the boiler room and yesterday, that is Friday, I filled the space within the brick containing wall with hard-core material ready for laying concrete on top. Today, Saturday, E and I dug out the concrete mixer from the garage and set about mixing the concrete. Once everything was set up it didn’t take long to mix the amount we needed, in fact one mixer-full was all it took and soon I had it laid over the hard-core. A few minutes later we were cleaning the mixer and returning it to the garage. The whole job took a mere forty minutes or so but would have taken much longer had I done it by hand and I would have been quite tired for a while after doing it! As I write this on Saturday evening all that needs to be done is to apply a smooth concrete screed to cover the rough layer of concrete we have laid and to cover the bricks containing it too. A bit like icing a cake only bigger! Mixing concrete or mortar is very much like preparing the mix for a cake. It is simply done with different materials that’s all but more of it. Whilst we were outside and clearing everything away I suggested we gather the leaves that had gathered around the back of the large greenhouse and the path we had built earlier in the year and there were plenty of them. We were joined by our friendly little red-breasted Robin who seemingly was waiting for the opportunity to eat whatever we had disturbed when clearing the leaves. Every year is the same, the price we pay for living near so many trees. Ideally we could do with a large vacuum cleaner though E tells me that the leaf ‘blower’ she won a couple of years ago (she’s always winning prizes) can be used to suck as well as blow. I somehow forgot she’d mentioned that.