At last

At last the weather has begun to cool down a tad. Today (5 th) it is 21 deg C, down 8 to 9 deg from what it has been lately. With the humidity down too at 43% relative, it feels much fresher. It still has yet to rain but at least the ground is staying wetter for longer after I have hosed the gardens. As is stands today the forecast is for rain later next week! Still a long time to wait and even then they say it only has a 60% chance of raining on one day with lesser possibilities for the following days. Ah well, we have to endure it all for now. I am now in a better position for doing a little more work around here but not too much! Today, this morning, I did the weekly shopping again and it looks like it is going to be my responsibility from now on if things don’t change. E hasn’t done the shopping for almost three months now. It’s just another chore for poor old Shirley Anne to add to her pile. One of our next-door neighbours is currently having the whole exterior of his house re-pointing which means scaffolding being erected. For the past two weeks it has been covering the front of the house and the work has progressed well. Yesterday the scaffolding crew returned to erect more scaffolding to the side of his property adjacent to ours. They asked for access to fit a couple of bracing poles onto our rear pathway. As his section of the space between the two properties is far smaller than our own it would be dangerous not to have bracing poles in place. Had they needed to use the garage roof  I would have had to erect a couple of supporting columns beneath. Fortunately I do possess three of those and have had to use them when we had scaffolding on our garage roof. The only problem with that is the vehicle can’t be housed in the garage when they are in use. It isn’t before time that our neighbour is getting the work done for his house’s brickwork has been in a very poor state for quite some time. He has been getting bits done here and there but it wasn’t enough by far. It isn’t that he couldn’t afford the work being done, we think he has just been reluctant to fork out the cash. It will of course improve the house’s appearance and sale ability. Perhaps he is thinking of selling it on. While the scaffolding guys were here I had some good banter with them and discovered that one of the crew had actually been part of the team that had erected scaffolding around our house way back in 2010. He must have remembered all the cups of tea and coffee that came his way.

Shirley Anne

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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

Carpentry and stuff

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

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

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

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

Shirley Anne

Still……..

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

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

Shirley Anne

They’re all at it!

Carry On Regardless
Carry On Regardless (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

Shirley Anne

Fireworks

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

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

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

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

Shirley Anne

Nothing is straight

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

Shirley Anne

One step at a time

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

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

Shirley Anne

Surprised myself

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

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

Shirley Anne

Waiting for the rain

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.Plot 12    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.

Shirley Anne