I had been very busy almost every day during the week but come Thursday I felt so tired and weary and struggled to do anything. However I did work but at a more leisurely pace. I started a little later too but only a half-hour or so. The filling in between the paving slabs, the ones I had laid so far, had been done the day before but there remained a small area next to the new steps that I had left because I wanted to plan what I was going to do there. I had decided to add another course of bricks to those already there first so that I could maintain the thickness of the screed to match the paving slabs. It meant that on the paving slab side half of the height of the bricks would be covered leaving a few centimetres showing to enable me to fit some natural stone capping on top. On the other side of the steps I needed to build up the groundwork to enable a couple of extra bricks to be laid there for the same reason. First though I had to see if I could dig out some usable bricks, sixteen to be precise, from the heap of second-hand bricks we have lying about by the small greenhouse. Most of them were still covered with mortar or cement so I had to chisel that off. After some time I managed to get the sixteen bricks I needed. I broke up a few more and used them as rubble where I had to lay some concrete to allow the extra bricks on the right-hand side of the steps to be laid later. I chose to mix all the concrete I needed in the wheelbarrow because that much would be enough. I didn’t want to use the mixer and then have to clean it out just for the one mix. So I fixed some shuttering where it was needed and then laid the concrete, covering it up to protect it from the rain which was forecast overnight. I would be able to lay all the bricks and perhaps finish the laying of concrete that had been left undone. The following day, Friday, I had the time to continues with the work. Friday was a much welcomed cooler day. It had been raining in the early hours of the day but at nine o’clock when I started the work it was fine and sunny. I wanted to lay the extra course of bricks on both sides of the steps and then finish laying the concrete on the left of the steps. I managed to do that but just as I was smoothing out the concrete it began to rain. It was a light shower but it got heavier after a few minutes so I had to scramble and look for something to cover the area while I finished the work. I got drenched in the process but I was able to finish the work as best I could. Considering the situation I think I did well. Later and after lunch I returned outside and re-arranged the covering that I had hastened to set up as it was and as you see in this picture. I would leave it that way until Saturday morning just in case it rained again. So now the two walls alongside the steps are one brick higher and apart from a couple of small finishing off cementing jobs on the left of the flowerbed that side is complete. The next phase will be to level the ground on the right-hand side of the flowerbed and lay the four paving slabs which remain. It was around noon on Thursday by the time I had finished what I had to do on that day and to be honest I was glad I could rest for a while from the work at least. Before lunch I drove off to the place where I had purchased the natural stone slabs for capping the flowerbed. Some of my readers may remember that I had purchased three more than I had needed for that job although it was the guy at the depot who had made the wrong calculation but I intended to use them elsewhere and kept them. I will be using them to cap the bricks around the new steps and also on top of the small wall behind which I recently poured concrete to strengthen it. However I needed one extra slab at 600 mm in length and three others at 300 mm in length. I would then have four long slabs and three half the length to do the work. I bought an extra bag of cement at the same time to save another visit to the builders merchant. I needed fuel for the van so I made the detour to the filling station before driving home but on the way to the filling station I received a call for my electrical services from an old couple living in the next town. I got the fuel then dropped the materials off home before driving to the job. I was there less than an hour but it covered the cost of the fuel and the building materials I had just purchased with a little over too.
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. 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.
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…
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.
I had not worked on the Plot for some days but was determined to get something done on Tuesday when the weather made a change for the better. The forecast for the following few days looked promising too so I hoped to make the most of them. I had to take my van in on Tuesday morning to have a fault on the lighting circuits repaired but the repair shop didn’t open until nine o’clock and I had to wait a while. It was almost ten o’clock before I returned home. I walked the distance as it wasn’t too far away. It meant a late start for my project work but soon I was in my overalls and getting organized. I had put everything away after I had last worked on the job which was just as well because of the heavy rain we had in the interim. I spent about three hours mixing mortar and laying bricks. Not having a helping hand made the work tiring for I had to do everything myself. I laid about nine bricks to finish the outer walls and then began to build the inner wall on one side. This is how far I got..
I have almost completed the right-hand-side now and have also started building the inner wall at the front (out of sight in this picture). Part of the left hand inner side wall was built last week but hopefully I will get to finish it tomorrow, Wednesday as I write. I may have to find some more bricks to be able to complete the inner walls though I haven’t done a brick count yet to verify that. Hopefully I will be able to use some of the old second-hand bricks we have lying around if it comes to their need. I did no more work in the afternoon having finished tidying up at one-thirty to have lunch. I was also waiting for a call from the repair shop letting me know the repair had been done.
………..especially at my age! Retirement, semi-retirement, couple of days a week or even a couple of hours a day should be my lot at my age. Somehow I can’t manage any of them. There are times though when all I want to do is well, nothing but I soon get restless doing that. I did one small electrical job about twelve miles from home and returned by ten o’clock. I had a larger job scheduled to follow but it was cancelled at the last-minute and at the time of writing I am not sure whether it is a permanent cancellation or not as they didn’t explain in their text message. A bit naughty I thought for not informing me one way or the other but that’s the way some people are I suppose. It didn’t matter because I could do some work in the plot. I donned a pair of overalls and boots and began cleaning out the small internal annex to the garage which stands next to the plot and followed that by clearing the pathway and the large pile of root balls that had been stacked in the corner of the plot which can be seen in a few recent posts. I then took the cement mixer stored in the other garage and put it behind the garage next to the plot for use when I had the time to begin laying bricks. The next thing was to stack some of the bricks recently purchased on the plot in readiness to build. Both the mixer and the bricks are covered with plastic sheets just in case it rains though that is unlikely for a few days. By now it was one o’clock and time for lunch. I had not long finished lunch and someone called asking if I would do a couple of small electrical jobs in a town twelve miles away. It was after two o’clock but I decided to take the work. It was too hot to work in the plot and too late to start mixing mortar anyway. It was an old lady for whom I had worked before and she wanted an extra power outlet installing and her bathroom towel heater checking over as it had ceased to work. It was five o’clock before I left after completing the work. So much for part-time working! After my evening meal I spent an hour watering the front and rear gardens! I don’t know how I do it all but thankfully I can.
That would be yesterday as you read this and as I write on Wednesday afternoon it has just begun to rain. Since exposing the hidden wall in ‘the plot’ and doing a little digging on Tuesday I have done no more work there but maybe I’ll get the opportunity on Friday. Thursday was forecast as a miserably wet and windy day but Friday everything would change. I have just returned indoors after moving 400 house bricks from the front drive to the rear of the garage, not the garage behind which stands the plot but the one in which I park my van. The minute I had finished and swept the drive it began to rain. Good timing or good fortune, either way I benefited. That is a handy concrete base and has been used to temporarily store all sorts of things on it over the years. It actually forms part of the garage floor and the wall you see was originally to be built further forward. However because there is a drain grid behind the wheelie bin the whole wall could not have been built further out. The easier option at that time was simply to build the wall as shown. That work was carried out in 1989 or 1990 by my late father-in-law and his friend also now departed. The whole garage was built by them. I was responsible for building the other garage, that is extending what was already there, a small stable. If you’ve been reading my posts for a few years you will have read about my other building projects with bricks, mortar and concrete. What makes you think I like bricklaying? I ordered the latest batch on Friday last week and they were supposed to be reclaimed common bricks but they sent me new bricks though of a lesser quality. They are one-third holes and not solid as I imagined! For the application it doesn’t matter too much but I will have to ensure the holes get completely filled as I lay them to give the walls more strength. Out of the 400 only two were delivered broken and you can see them being used to hold down the temporary plastic cover which will keep them dry until they are needed. If you click on the picture and the click on it again you should be able to see the holes in the two bricks at the rear. Anyway for the time being I need to concentrate on laying the concrete base and I’ve got the feeling that the weather this coming week will not be all sunshine and dry. It may take me therefore some time to make much progress. I’ll have to try to keep my electrical work for rainy days!
For quite some time now E and I have been considering a re-build of part of the long perimeter brick wall which over the years had become unstable. Part of the problem was the mound of soil, stone, bricks and builder’s rubble that had been buried beneath it. The top of that mound reached almost halfway up the wall from our side and over the years had pushed the wall from the vertical by a few centimetres and forcing a gap between the wall and the wall it was joined to. Many of the top bricks could be moved and removed by hand and there were plants growing through it, in fact there were a couple of large roots from a bramble coming from deep inside. Something had to be done especially after seeing the extent of the damage when we levelled the area last year and constructed a pathway and new mound away from the wall. Over the last couple of weeks I have been involved in the construction of the flowerbeds on the patio as my readers will know. The floor of the patio was never completely level and puddles of water would remain on the surface in some areas. The main area for this happening was where I built the large flowerbed and that was automatically resolved when the bed was constructed as it stood over the area but not all of the area was covered. Added to that problem was that fact that part of the floor surface had become rough through erosion. I have been skimming the affected areas during the past week or so and on Wednesday I finished that work first thing in the morning and sealing the surface the following day. I spent an hour laying some stone at the end of the pathway around the mound where it joins the concrete path. It should have been done months ago but it wasn’t urgent and I had been busy doing other things. Just as I was finishing that work E joined me and together we set about dismantling the rear brick wall, cleaning the bricks and storing them. E’s nephew or one of his crew will be rebuilding the wall hopefully within the next few weeks. E’s nephew is a bricklayer/builder so we know the work will be done professionally. Anyway by the time we had finished for the day it was six o’clock. I had started work at nine-thirty and was now very tired. At the time of writing this on Thursday morning there are still a few courses of bricks left to remove but today, Thursday we are taking the day off. Here are the pictures
In the last picture you can see the jungle that is part of our neighbour’s garden. It shows only a very small part but in this mess are brambles (blackberry bushes), ivy (it is everywhere) and worse of all Japanese Knotweed. Having told our neighbour last year about the necessity of removing the Knotweed they have done almost nothing about it. Knotweed is a very invasive and destructive plant and has to be removed by specialists. It is a notifiable problem and as such E has been in contact with our local authority who will pursue the matter. There is a large plot of land about two miles from our house which stands close-by the regional hospital and where a new housing estate was to be built. It has been cordoned off because Knotweed has been discovered there. No-one knows as yet what the authorities have planned to do about clearing the area. We hope our neighbour will see sense and do something about their garden as it could prove financially crippling for them otherwise. He might be forced to take action if he doesn’t respond.
The start of this week has been very different from my usual schedule. The weather changed for the better and at the end of last week I decided to get on with the patio flowerbed project whilst it remained fine and sunny. The work started on Saturday as my recent post showed and Sunday was a day of rest. So on Monday I had the opportunity to continue with the work for I had no electrical work scheduled. Again I emptied out the van and drove off early in the morning to the builder’s merchant to purchase more sand and cement. I had laid some concrete over the drain pipes on Saturday but I needed to lay some more in order to increase the slope of the concrete toward the drain outlet boxes. So my first task was to do that and then begin to build the brick wall. The first course had been laid on Saturday to allow me to lay the concrete inside. I built a further three courses of the double-brick wall not being too fussy about the inside course as it will not be seen. I am using the misshapen and poorer quality bricks for the inner course but will still have to fill in all the gaps before filling the bed with soil. Three courses doesn’t sound much but there were 78 bricks in those double courses. I worked at a slower pace on Monday but was just as tired when I had finished for the day as I had been on Saturday! At the time of writing there are three more courses to lay making seven in all. I should be able to lay them in less time as I won’t have other work to do beforehand. I intend to cap the wall with natural stone in the same way the other walls on the patio are capped. The picture shows this. Much of the work involved is preparation, mixing the mortar and cement, cleaning up and hosing down afterwards. Bricklayers have labourers to do that work but I have to do it myself. E does help where she can and it is appreciated but in reality she is limited to what she is able to do. Nevertheless any help is better than none. The wall should be finished on Tuesday except for the capping stones which I have yet to purchase. That stone can be laid at any time and will not hinder filling the flowerbed ready for planting once the mortar is fully set.
Out came the cement mixer, wheelbarrow, spirit level and a host of other tools and implements. It was a sunny Saturday morning with promises of fine, dry and probably sunny days ahead, at least until mid-week anyway. It was a golden opportunity to get started on the planned patio flowerbed. The first task was to temporarily re-site the large pots containing the Phoenix Canariensis plants then drill the holes for the plastic drain pipes. E and I started work at ten o’clock though for an hour or so she went into the front garden to prune some overhanging branches alongside the driveway she uses for her car. Later she assisted me with mixing mortar and concrete and generally helping out. I had donned my overalls for the work as I knew it warranted wearing them. It took some time to drill the two holes for the drain pipes as one of the chosen spots was particularly difficult for the bricks were very hard. Following the drilling of the holes I cut and fitted the tubes with an end box on each and secured the pipes to the floor with saddles whilst ensuring the boxes were higher than the holes I had drilled in the walls. This was done by fitting a small slab of flat natural stone beneath the boxes. In the two pictures below you can see one of those pipes which had yet to be covered with concrete. The other had just been covered.
You can also see the first row of bricks I had laid soon after fixing the pipes. In the next two pictures you can see where the two pipes emerge from the wall. Naturally we poured water into the two boxes to make sure it would flow out of the pipes. You may be able to see the two boxes in the centre of the bed. They had been filled with plastic bags during the laying of the concrete and would be the only visible evidence of the drains when the concrete had set hard.
So the next task was to lay the first row of bricks, those which would be on the outside and visible when the wall was completed. As the bricks are reclaimed I had to select those of the best quality. For the inner bricks I picked out the worst of the pack as they will never be seen when the bed is filled. Once the two rows had been laid I could mix the concrete and begin laying it as seen in the two top pictures. The concrete has to be sloping from the retaining outer walls down to the top of the drain boxes and achieving that with wet concrete that wants to level itself takes a little time. I kept the mix as dry as I could to make a gradient possible. By the time E and I had cleaned the site and packed everything away it was after six o’clock. Once the work dries out, which will have been Sunday, there would be nothing left to do but build the wall. Sunday however is a day of rest and we took it! Hopefully I will get the opportunity to finish the work on Monday and Tuesday.
Well not strictly true as the previous ‘hole’ is now no longer there. See yesterday’s post. By the time you read this the rear side of what was once the doorway may be built up too. I spent quite a few hours on Saturday mixing mortar and laying more bricks. I will just about be able to build the wall on both sides with what we have in storage and what we have salvaged over the past few months. Some of those bricks we dug out of the ground when we were working on the ‘mound’ a couple of months back (you can see and read all about that episode in my posts submitted in June and what we dug out of the ground). Naturally they have been drying out under cover and have been cleaned of debris and old mortar since they were dug out a couple of months ago. I talked about re-arranging some of the power circuit wiring in the laundry yesterday and I did most of that work in the afternoon after I had been laying the last bricks on that side of the wall.
Once I get going there is no stopping me! We had a long weekend this week as here in England it is the August bank holiday when most folk get the day off work. I had forgotten that but it gave me an extra day for working at home, though I can take days off whenever it suits me being as I am self-employed. In past years I have worked on these ‘special’ days whenever asked. It makes no difference to me. I am already planning my next moves but before I get too carried away with work in the now isolated little room in the cellar I may take the opportunity to get the pipework insulation fitted and I have to disconnect and remove some water pipes and some electrical wiring in the little room and supplying it. One of the jobs I have in there is to remove the patchwork ceiling we originally fitted. It comprises various miscellaneous pieces of plasterboard and plywood and at the time we were not concerned with esthetics so it looks a real eyesore. The room was basically used to store gardening equipment and junk of all kinds, you know, the stuff we keep thinking that one day it will come in useful. So it didn’t matter what the ceiling looked like. We could have left the joists exposed but the kitchen is directly above and it served to keep the floor warm, to a point. Once the ceiling has been stripped away I can assess what is required to be done before the new doorway is cut out of the wall. Of course the other remaining old doorways need to be filled in too. Plenty to do but hopefully I shall get help if I can find the services of a reliable bricklayer. E’s nephew hasn’t been in contact since we asked him to give us a quote for the work some months ago. So there it is, for now!