I wanted to do a little more on the outside toilet project but had to stop for a lack of assistance. It was approaching lunch time and I reluctantly downed tools for the day. I hadn’t started work until after eight o’clock and my first objective was to remove the outer door and its frame in order to fit yet another ‘Acrow’ support bar beneath the stone slab and in fact had to instal that before I could remove the frame. First of all though the door itself had to be removed so that I could safely remove the frame. Many years ago I manufactured the door and installed it together with the frame. It proved difficult when removing the frame for I had made sure it was going to stay there! Over the years the fixing bolts rusted and resisted my efforts to take the frame down but after a while it was done though I had to saw the frame in a couple of places beforehand. The frame was so stubborn to remove a couple of bricks came out with it on one side.†

You can see the spaces at top left. The next task was to chisel away the bricks on the left of the other doorway to allow the installation of the concrete lintel at a slightly higher position than it had previously been installed.

On the right in the lower picture about halfway down the bricks stop. They appear white in the picture. The lintel will sit on them on that side. On the opposite side you can see where the red bricks stop before the next one steps back. The lintel will sit ontop of that stepped-back brick. The one above it had to be chiselled to make it possible. The one beneath it will be filled in with a piece of brick. It was at that point I had to stop for there was no-one to assist me in lifting the lintel up and there was no way I could do it alone or even attempt to. Before the work around the doorway could continue that lintel would have to be in place. I could have mixed some mortar and done some patching up but that wasn’t worth doing. I would be mixing a lot of mortar later and it could all be done at the same time. Well I potted around for a time sweeping up and disposing of the old timber then I salvaged as much of the door furniture that I could, the hinges and the bolts which were all in good condition save one small bolt which I abandoned. I had phoned my eldest son for his assistance but he wasn’t available as he was at work that afternoon. I was expecting the guy later in the afternoon who would be measuring for a new door. It would have been better had the lintels been installed but I knew at what height they would be. Until I could get them in place I would have to start on something else like preparing for a new ceiling for instance.

Shirley Anne


Outside toilet project

Yes I know I have already written posts about the project but I thought I’d give the project its title this time. It was the last Monday of April and we had just gotten over the bad weekend weather courtesy of ‘Storm Hannah’ when we had very high winds and lots of rain. Now it was the opposite, calm, dry, warm and later sunny. None of that mattered to me at least until late afternoon when I took the opprtunity to relax in the sunshine after working on and off all day. First though I went for a walk since I hadn’t been able to for a few days. It made a change not getting blown all over the place and the walk was very pleasant indeed. On my return and an hour after breakfast I put on my working gear and a hat too for I was about to resume work on the project knowing there would be dust and debris falling. The work was to remove what was left of the wooden door frame, the top and the two sides then begin to remove both of the wooden lintels that somebody many years ago had installed. The door frame proved a little difficult at first as it had been held in place with cast-iron spikes deep into the brickwork but the crowbar was no match for them! The frame itself was showing signs of rot but was still strong and substantial. The two lintels however were in poor condition and the inner one had signs of woodworm which had spread to some of the ‘temporary’ ceiling covering nearby. Fortunately the main joists had not been infested. All the woodwork would be receiving preservative later and before the new ceiling would be installed. Before I could remove the lintels I would have to prop up the stonework above. I did that on my return from a small shopping expedition after I had removed the door frame. I purchased three downlights (recessed fittings) for the new ceiling when it is installed then visited the builders merchant to purchase the two lintels, one of concrete (for outside) and the othern timber (for inside)

Before returning home I visited Dobbies garden centre to browse and have a coffee. It was lunch time so I waited until after lunch to recommence work. Now before I talk about the lintels I will show you what they were supporting. There is a stone stairway at the rear of the house and a stone slab at the top with a stone step into the kitchen which is above the room I am converting.

On the left is the stone step beneath the kitchen door. Although it is there we seldom use it. Now that is one heavy step and one heavy slab. Below is a picture of them from beneath and you can see the two ‘Acrow’ supports I had to instal before removing the old lintels and the bricks above them supporting the slab and the step above.

They were supported to some extent once the lintels had been removed but only just. That is why I placed the Acrow bars there before removing them. They will remain until the new lintels are in place. I will need help to lift the concrete one into position. Here is a detail of part of the brickwork and the gap left when the lintels were taken out.

The dark coloured timber is part of the wooden door frame for the temporary outer door which will be removed after a new door is installed to the room. Speaking of that I arranged for someone to come and measure up and give me a quote for a new plastic door and frame. They would be coming the following day. I don’t expect that will be cheap! Anyway the timber above needs removing at least at the nearest end for now so that the new concrete lintel can be installed slightly higher than the old one was. So there you have it, progress is being made slowly.

Shirley Anne

Forgotten room

As you know if you’ve read my latest posts I have begun to start work on a new project, ‘The forgotten room’. It is actually the room in the cellar which is beneath the kitchen. As I know what I intend to do with the room I am now calling it the ‘outside toilet project’. I had made a start on it a couple of years ago and on Saturday last returned to start the work in earnest. It is Monday 15 th April as I write and early this morning I went for my walk. It was quite cold and the easterly wind was relentless making it feel even colder. I was glad to be back home. An hour after breakfast I put on my overalls and boots and set about the task for the day which was to remove some of the sand from the floor of the outside toilet. Unfortunately it wasn’t all sand, there was rubble mixed-in with it. The idea was to lower the floor so that it could receive a thick layer of concrete and a screed later on. I was on my knees most of the time shovelling the sand mixture into a large bucket through a garden soil filter. This removed most of the brick rubble but not the smallest pieces. There were lots of large broken pieces of brick in there too. It was as though the builder had used the area for dumping all the building waste before covering it with sand. If I were to dig out the whole cellar flooring I am sure it would all be the same. When digging out the pit in the gym I came across rubble too so I know it is down there. I’ve worked on too many building sites not to know how they do things! Here is what the floor looked like after I had finished for the day.

The dark band around the bottom of the wall is the exposed brick after the sand level was dropped. I may have to remove a little more before I am satisfied it is deep enough. Once it is I plan to cover it with a plastic sheet to form a waterproof membrane before covering it with the concrete. The sand is actually very dry except near to the outside walls (right-hand-side and in the right corner at the bottom in the picture) where it is slightly damp. This is because there isn’t a damp-proof course on any of the walls. It was the way they built them in Victorian times when the houses were built on sand. The membrane will cover the base and will rise to the finished floor level along the outer edges. That will prevent any water rising from beneath or through the walls to the floor. Anything above ground level stays dry anyway. I removed enough sand to fill two large bags….

…..and a number of bags of rubble which I had to store down the side of the house out-of-the-way for the time being until I need them. They will probably go back on the floor to form a hard ‘crush and run’ base for the concrete. The membrane will be laid on to the hard base before the concrete is poured.

In the last picture you can see the soil pipe top centre to bottom right. This will be the pipe the toilet waste connects to. It rises to collect the toilet waste from the main bathroom above the kitchen. In the picture you can see the long horizontal pipe I installed and connected to it when refurbishing the bathroom a few years ago.

During the day the temperature rose quite a lot and the sun came out. I was able to sit out on the patio for a while to relax later in the afternoon. I was rather tired at the end of the day I can tell you!

Shirley Anne

I wasn’t sure……

…..if the promised respite from the dull wet and windy weather was going to happen on Tuesday morning (5 th March) because when I arose nothing much had changed. No it wasn’t raining at that time, around six o’clock so there was some hope. The reason I wanted a break from the poor weather was because I wanted to add some more base concrete to the ramp behind the garage I am in the process of altering. I got dressed and ate breakfast and about a quarter after seven put on my overalls and boots and decided to give it a go. First I had to get the van out of the garage in order to remove the large panel of plywood I would use to cover the work once done. While unpacking the mixer and setting everything up there was a light falling of rain and I began to think it pointless to continue. Nevertheless I plodded on regardless and filled the mixer with sand and gravel followed by the cement. The rain began to disappear and the sky started to brighten up. I added the water to the mixer now that everything had mixed together and poured out the contents into the wheelbarrow. One full mixer load fills the barrow to the brim which under normal circumstances would spill out if it was moved too far. Fortunately the job was only two metres from the mixer and I soon had the concrete tipped onto the ramp. I have an old stiff plastic yard brush which comes in handy for tamping down thin layers of concrete and I spread and levelled the mix. Normally I would use a spade to tamp down and remove any trapped air but this was only a few centimetres deep. By the time I had finished the sun began to shine though not where I was working which was still in the shade that early in the morning and time of year. I had thought the first stage would be enough before applying the top screed but changed my mind after checking the contour once it had dried and the covering had been removed. When this second stage has set and dried I will be able to finish with the screed. That may not happen for a further few days until the weather has settled. I covered the work with the plywood in case it rained but it wasn’t necessary, it stayed dry all day.

I paid a visit to the builders depot to collect more sand (yes I finally ran out of the stuff) and ‘granno’ or granite dust. Later in the day I had an appointment with the dentist.

Shirley Anne

Whilst I could.

As I write this on March 2 nd the weather is turning a little unpredictable with rain threatening to fall every few hours. It is however dry at the moment but could rain at any time. It appears it is going to be the best day out of the next four or five in respect of the rainfall. I made it my business therefore to get some work done outdoors at the rear of garage one, or the one in which my van sits and now the new lawnmower too. Obviously there are many other things in there some of which have wheels and need to be pushed out through the rear door for use occasionally. When I purchased the new mower I wanted to see if I needed to alter the concrete ramp behind the door to make it easier to push those wheeled items into the garden and especially the new mower. When it arrived yesterday I was able to see how difficult the existing ramp might be unless it was altered but I always had the feeling the ramp needed altering anyway. Immediately after breakfast I brought out the cement mixer and its stand together with tools with which to begin the work. First I set up the mixer and then using a heavy lump hammer broke into pieces several of the old used bricks I had to make rubble. Doing that had two advantages, first I could at last dispose of them and second, I would need less concrete too! I was extending the existing ramp with a view to making it less difficult to manoeuvre when wheeling out the mower and the other things. It took two full mixer loads to establish a base with which to follow up with a finer screed covering a few days later or when the weather permitted. Because rain was set to fall I covered the finished concrete with some old pieces of plywood temporarily.

It would only take a few hours to set enough to prevent any rain from affecting it. The old bricks I had used occupied the space on the raised concrete platform on the right in the picture. This base layer of concrete was left deliberately rough to enable the next layer to adhere better. I covered the mixer to allow it to remain outdoors for a few days.

So that was my Saturday morning taken care of. I wouldn’t be doing any more work until Monday.

Shirley Anne

A new mower….

….but first… is now March 1 st as I write. The day started off dull, cool and misty with rain threatening to fall and according to the forecast will do before nightfall. It is now the afternoon and a little warmer but still dull. I went for my walk before six o’clock so that I could return early and eat breakfast before the delivery of the new mower I had purchased on Monday. I wanted to get on with finishing the job of removing the moss from the roof which I had started yesterday but had to wait for the delivery. The guy delivering it arrived later than I had expected but still within the time slot between nine and ten o’clock as arranged. When he arrived he reversed onto the drive and proceeded to unload the mower. I had removed my van from the garage so that he could wheel it straight in. He instructed me on how to use it and then we pushed it through the rear door mostly to see if it would pass through. I have to say there was little spare space each side. I am thinking of ways to widen the doorway and also to lay more concrete outside to make the existing slope more gentle. Here is the picture of the mower standing inside the garage…

Here is the picture of the slope outside showing the doorway also…

We are not disposing the other mower which is in the shop being serviced but will keep it as a standby.

Once the guy had gone I plugged the mower into the power supply to charge its battery as he instructed I should do. Then I put on my overalls and set about finishing the moss removal before then dismantling the tower and storing it away in the garage. It was approaching one o’clock when I had finished and time for lunch. If the weather allows I will begin work on the concrete slope but first I will need to buy more materials though it will only be granite chippings for I already have enough sand and cement. Looks like the concrete mixer will be in use again. That must be one of the best things I have purchased in the last ten years for helping me do all my construction work and there has been plenty of that!

Shirley Anne

Walking through the day

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

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

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

Shirley Anne

All out of sync..

Out-of-Sync (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

Shirley Anne

What’s going on?

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

Shirley Anne

A teething problem

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

Shirley Anne