Just a little bit

Over the last week or so I have been working on and off in the cellar storage room as you know but have not in the last couple of days been able to do much. There were a couple of reasons for this but the main reason was that I have been doing things for E who had been stricken with severe back pain and has been unable to fend for herself. At the time of writing (it is Monday afternoon the 23 rd) the doctor has earlier been to see her and I have just returned from the pharmacy with her prescribed medication. She is still struggling with her mobility but seems to be improving. All this means that I have been preparing her meals and drinks and generally assisting her when asked and have had to fit in the decorating as and when I can. This morning after breakfast I put on my overalls to begin work but had to attend to E first so was late starting. At the moment it is all painting but I managed to paint the left-hand wall before I had to stop…

The rear wall (behind the ladder) will need painting again at the bottom because the wall had evidently still been damp when I painted it a couple of days ago. I have since been using a fan heater to warm the room and speed up the drying process. There is still a little more painting to do…

…the raised part of the ceiling above the door area and of course the door itself. Incidentally in the top picture you can see the main water pipe and stop tap shown here in detail…

I point it out to show that the pipe entering from outside (underground) is made of lead and the pipes then on are copper. A couple of years ago the water authority replaced all of the underground pipes in the area using plastic ones as they had been both cast iron and lead. However though they had been able to use plastic pipe to our house they couldn’t get it all the way into the house without causing much upheaval. Above the point of entry a metre below the front doors are our stone steps…..They could only reach a point close to the white stone in the right of the picture so from that position to inside the cellar room it remains a lead pipe. In the picture above and about a third of the way along the pipe from the right there is a lump (showing bright in the picture). It marks the position where it changes to copper. Now why am I telling you this? It is because I did the work myself years ago. With the water turned off in the street I cut back the lead pipe and flared the end by tapping a cone-shaped piece of wood into it so that I could insert the copper pipe a couple of centimetres. I had already prepared the end of the copper pipe by cleaning it and coating the end with solder to make jointing the pipes easier. The difficult part of sealing the connection was in not overheating the copper pipe when building up the joint with solder. The lead pipe melts at a lower temperature than the solder so it had to be done very carefully. Had I not been used to doing this kind of work I doubt I would have attempted it. I am hoping the room will be completed soon for there are other jobs I am keen to start work on.

Shirley Anne

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Without the mixer

I write this shortly after twelve noon on Thursday 13 th having returned downstairs and dressed to dine out for lunch with E. She is presently doing the weekly shop and won’t return until one-thirty. It is a good arrangement we have as she likes shopping for groceries whereas I don’t. I only do it if I have to. Now as she doesn’t like doing many of the things I get up to, though she does like some of them, it makes sense. Anyway my aim this morning was to mix some cement render and begin applying it to the cellar storage room wall. Soon after breakfast therefore I went into the garage where the materials are stored and I began mixing two of the ingredients by hand in the wheelbarrow. I didn’t wish to use the cement mixer for this job as it will be done in stages, a little bit at a time. What I do is mix the two ingredients which are sand and granite dust (granno) and then add the cement only when it is needed. I then take a small quantity of the mixture and add the cement to it before adding the water. This way I only have to mix the amount I need each time without adding  the cement to the whole batch then having to use it all. This is as far as I got today

Each side of the wooden battens were cemented in. Once the whole spaces are filled and dry the battens can be removed and the spaces filled-in too. I applied a coat of oil to the wood before the cement was applied. This prevents the cement from adhering to the wood and should make them easier to take out. Yesterday I gave the ceiling a coat of emulsion though it will require another coat later and then I added a piece of architrave to the left side of the door as there wasn’t one there and it left a gaping hole along the door frame.Notice the door art has changed from the previous picture (ha ha). The door will get painted properly eventually of course. It is now getting near to E’s return and I am getting hungry.

Shirley Anne

Plenty to do

Progress on the cellar storage room is making headway but it is time-consuming. The main problem the room has is its location which is beneath the porch at the front door of the house. The rear wall backs onto the ground beneath the threshold and is prone to moisture ingress though it isn’t as bad as it could be. The only saving grace is the fact that the area outside the front door is covered with stone so the ground doesn’t get really wet.Now that the room is empty while work is ongoing the walls can be treated with silicon sealant which hopefully should solve any damp issues. Not all of the wall seems to be affected fortunately, just a few bricks. On Friday (6) after working in the room on and off for most of the day I gave the wall its first coat of sealant. I had started work in the morning concentrating on filling in some holes with bricks and later fixing timbers across the ceiling near the room entrance in order to strengthen it as it was necessary. 

The holes in the following two pictures have yet to be filled and the wiring tidied up. They won’t be as easy as you might think for there is a void behind them being as they are between the ceiling joists. I was faced with similar problems when refurbishing the gym/boiler ceiling.

The next picture shows the storage cabinet that stood against the rear wall of the storage room. It is staying in its new position at the end of the workbench in the room we call the workshop as shown. This room could do with a face-lift too. At the very least it needs tidying up!

 So there is plenty for me to do if I get bored but for now there is plenty to do on the storage room project.

Shirley Anne

What a mess

How different things look after some tidying up! I have been enjoying some really sound sleep for quite a while now, all due of course to my being busy with my projects. I wake up feeling refreshed just as I ought to and it sets me up for the day, usually to do some more work! It may look as though all I do is work but it isn’t true, I do rest and do other things as well. What I prefer to do is to get the bulk of my work done in the mornings but sometimes I end up working through the afternoon too. I try to keep a tight rein on work for I will only wear myself out if I attempt too much. Yesterday’s post mentions a new project I am tackling with E’s assistance  now and then. It was she who suggested the work be carried out as I suppose she just got fed up with the state of the store-room and to be honest I agreed with that. So in yesterday’s post you will see just how untidy that small room was but after today’s effort it now looks like this

Empty! Behind the door is a work of art…..

One way to clean a brush after use I suppose. I am as guilty as the next person for doing similar but I usually do it on walls that are going to be painted later. I don’t think that door has seen a lick of paint on the inside for many years, certainly long before we moved into the house anyway. There was a free-standing unit at the rear of the room which I moved out and put into the adjacent much larger room we call the workshop which itself needs a thorough clean out. Most of what we took out of the storage room has been put in the workshop but much has also been scrapped too. Now the serious work can begin, replacing bricks, filling in holes in the brick walls and floor tiles, work on the ceiling and shelving, sealing the brickwork and of course painting it all. It will take some time to do but as I usually say these days there is no hurry.

Shirley Anne

The things I do

For one reason or another I felt so tired I went to bed early, that is just after ten o’clock on Tuesday (3rd) evening. Perhaps it was the hassle we had in getting the mortgage paid off. Anyway it served to get me up much earlier on Wednesday and I was downstairs before seven-thirty eating breakfast. E wouldn’t appear until ten o’clock! I began thinking of things I could do but first I had to bring up from the cellar some items of food from the freezer and some canned food too. The upstairs freezer was short on stock but I needed the canned food because I had decided to prepare a Bolognese Sauce for later in the day. That required canned tomatoes and mushrooms. I should use fresh foods for that but as I often make things on the spur of the moment canned foods are easier. It wasn’t long before the sauce was done. Whilst I had been downstairs in the cellar I noticed some of the pipe insulation I had fitted a week or so earlier had shrunk a little in length in one or two places. This can happen with new insulation until it is settled. It was easy enough to cut some small sections of insulation and squeeze them into the spaces to seal the gaps. This I did next before returning upstairs again. E still hadn’t arrived downstairs so I decided I would bake a cake and set about preparing that. This time I was baking another Family Fruit Cake. Easy to prepare and bake:
Ingredients:
1 lb self-raising flour
1/2 lb unsalted butter
1/2 lb fruit (sultanas, currants and some chopped lemon peel (if desired)
1/2 lb caster sugar
Small quantity of milk
2 Standard eggs

Method:
Put flour and butter in mixing bowl and mix together by hand to form a crumble.
Add fruit and caster sugar to the mixture then the eggs with a few tablespoons of milk. Using a metal spoon mix thoroughly until a soft paste is formed but not too moist. Add a little extra milk as you mix. The mixture should be firm enough to handle and not be dry.
Prepare a small baking tin (say 8 inches) by lining it with parchment paper and covering it with butter using fingers. The paper should stand an inch or so above the edge of the tin to allow the cake to rise. Scoop mixture into tin and level out leaving a small dimple at the centre to discourage it rising there too quickly. Bake in the centre of a pre-heated oven at 350 F /180 C for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Using a wooden probe test to see if mixture has baked through to the centre near to the end of the baking period. Don’t open the oven door before then or the cake may not rise! If it hasn’t set in the centre then leave in the oven a little longer.

Just as I was about to place the cake in the oven E came into the room. We chatted and we discussed what we would like to do in the cellar regarding a storage room down there. She has been asking for quite some time that she would like to as she puts it ‘sort it out’. Well it does need sorting out…..

Don’t you agree? It is one of those rooms where everything gets dumped and is almost forgotten about though we are often in there looking for tools and materials for use on projects. Looks like we will be busy again soon ‘tidying it up’.

Shirley Anne

One last look

It was now Wednesday morning and I hadn’t anything special to look forward to in the way of work or anything else either but there was one thing I had to do nevertheless. I had to tidy up the gym/boiler room and collect and put tools, paint and paint brushes away as well as cleaning them beforehand. Thirty minutes should have been enough time but I ended up taking two and a half hours! Minor touching up of paintwork and giving the rear door which leads out into the garden a thorough cleaning both inside and out all added to the total time I had spent down in the room.

Note the washing had been cleared from the line by E the night before so the room appears as it does for the majority of the time. Even if all three washing lines are full of washing none of it would interfere with the use of any of the equipment in the room but look at the open space now that we have cleared out the clutter that once occupied it. The project is for all intents and purposes now complete but as I mentioned in yesterday’s post I have yet to treat the floor. Already I have the next project in my thoughts but I will tell you about that when I tackle it.

Shirley Anne

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

A little more…..

……or bit by bit. It wasn’t that I wanted to get up early but I had a really good night’s sleep and woke up just after six o’clock. I was downstairs and ready for breakfast by seven but as I usually do if up first I unlocked the porch and front doors. It was then I noticed the free newspaper in the letter box. It must have been delivered very early for if it had been delivered late in the evening E would have seen it when she locks up the front doors way after midnight or even after one o’clock as she most often stays up that late. I took it into the lounge and sat to read it for a half-hour before going into the kitchen for breakfast. That meant I had finished eating around eight so I thought I would get some painting done downstairs. E had an appointment at the hospital and had asked me to accompany her for she was expecting to receive a steroid injection as part of the treatment for her foot. Evidently she was told it could cause her to be unstable on her feet hence I would be there for transport and support. I wanted therefore to get at least some work done in the day knowing it might be impossible later. The appointment was at eleven-thirty and after that it would be lunch time. I managed to paint the interior walls of the cupboard  with the white emulsion we have been using in the room by which time it was approaching eleven o’clock. I drove E to the hospital and we were there for nearly an hour. As it happened the injection had been put off til another day allowing other treatment to be tried instead. After we had paid a visit to the Post Office Sorting Depot E asked if we could visit Dobbies for a coffee. So after all that we didn’t get to eat lunch until two o’clock and then we relaxed for an hour watching catch-up tv. At three-thirty I decided to put on my overalls again and do some more painting.

The cupboard decoration would hopefully be finished the next day, Saturday though I may have to leave the floor untreated for a few more days whilst it thoroughly dries out. The only other decorating tasks in the room would be touching up the paintwork here and there. As yet we haven’t decided on what we will do with the floor but I think it will be simply patching up and sealing it.

Shirley Anne

The fat end

When we talk about the thin end of a wedge we are usually referring to the start of something big. Sometimes those things may be good and sometimes they may not. The wedge I am referring to is a good one, the project I have been engaged with over the last few weeks, the gym room. I am now at the thick end of that wedge where it all comes together as a finished work. There is still more to do but the major part of the work at least is over. It is now Tuesday 20 th and this morning I was busy at it again. I wanted to paint the doors of the boiler cupboard in the red colour we had chosen for the woodwork in the room. This I did first of all and I was going to give them another coat later in the day to finish that part of the work but I didn’t get around to doing that on the day. While the paint was drying I set about clearing out the room cupboard and began working on the inside of it. First of all I had to insert a brick in the wall where there had been a hole. I could feel a draught coming from the wall’s cavity. I cut the brick and mixed some mortar with which to set it in the hole (Top right beneath and above new ceiling in picture below). Next task was to remove the loose plaster from the exposed laths of the cupboard ceiling  and tidy up the mess. Finally I was able to construct a false wooden ceiling making the cupboard ready for a few coats of paint.

E had been to the hospital for treatment and returned just as I was finishing the work. I had agreed to pay for her computer repairs so I got changed and we drove down to the shop to collect it. By now it was approaching one-thirty so I decided we might dine out. E of course never declines such offers so we drove to a carvery and had a full-sized meal. On our return home we called in to see our neighbour who is chronically ill with emphysema. She struggles to breath at times and has oxygen cylinders to hand at home. She was happy so see us and grateful for the visit. As far as my working day was concerned it was finished but Wednesday beckoned!

Shirley Anne

At last

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.

Shirley Anne