It was May 1 st, a dull and damp morning but there was hardly any wind at all, say 1 or 2mph. A fine rain was falling as I left the house five minutes before five o’clock to go for my walk. I had walked two miles before I could lower the hood on my jacket. It stayed pretty much dry after that and as the morning progressed it even brightened up for a spell. It didn’t last though and the rest of the day remained dull but at least it was warm. It didn’t matter to me for I was going to spend a few hours inside the room on my project. I had phoned my eldest son yesterday to ask if he could help me instal the concrete lintel as I couldn’t do it by myself. Unfortunately he couldn’t at that time but said he would call me later. However he forgot due to his work commitments (he is a police officer). I couldn’t call on his brother to help as he lives in another town, actually the city of Manchester over forty miles away. My eldest lives just less than three miles away. Anyhow I called him again this morning and asked if he was available on Thursday at any time. He would send me a message giving me the time he would be able to come which would probably be in the afternoon. So the work of installing the lintel was left on hold again. I wanted to do some work however and decided to fill in the ends of the cavity walls where the old wooden door frame had been installed. To do that I had to mix some mortar by hand in a large bucket and fill in the gaps with pieces of cut brick. A few years ago we had the cavity walls filled with insulation which was blown in through numerous holes that had to be drilled in the seams. However in this part of the walls the insulation hadn’t completely filled the cavity so I filled the cavity using polystyrene which we had stored up in the loft area in a bag. The polystyrene was in small pieces which had been used to cushion articles sent through the post and would be ideal for the job. Years ago polystyrene was used in cavity walls as insulation but new fire regulations prevented it from being used thereafter. As it is extremely unlikely to catch fire in this instance (at the bottom of a wall which is isolated and remote from any heat source) it would be alright to use it. Once I had filled in the gaps and relaced a couple of bricks on one side I rendered both sides with fine concrete. That is why I didn’t ask my son to call today as the repairs had to remain undisturbed whilst they dried out. The concrete is the dark section in each picture.
E had been busy doing other things so I decided to eat out for a change and then purchase some fibreglass insulation to go inside the ceiling spaces between the joists when I instal a new plasterboard ceiling. Whilst out I forgot to purchase the wood preserver to use on the ceiling timbers when I strip off the old ceiling. I will have to purchase it next time I am out. The guy came yesterday afternoon to measure up for a new plastic door and frame. He told me someone else would call next week to make a more detailed measurement by which time the lintels should hopefully be in place. The door would cost me £600 fitted.
…..to get out in the garden and do some work out there but there is still some work left to be done on the cellar hallway project. It is January 7 th as I write and the weather outside has turned cold, wet and windy after many days of warmer, dry and calm conditions. I shouldn’t complain about that so I won’t! According to the forecast it will turn dry again tomorrow for a further few days. Maybe. When I went for my early morning walk it was dry with a little wind and a warmish 8 deg C. It is still 8 deg C but doesn’t feel it. I have remained indoors except for a visit or two to the garage to mix a fine concrete for filling in the gaps, dips and holes in the cellar hallway floor. Yes that is what I was doing between five and seven this morning with three other visits down there to sweep the floor.
In the lower two pictures you can see where I have patched the second step up and filled-in the gap that was behind the wooden pillar between it and the step. The pale-coloured wood is the temporary shuttering to contain the concrete whilst it sets. I removed them just after taking the pictures. When the floor has dried completely I will be able to paint it but I might have to wait a couple of days until then. The floor will take two coats of paint. Following that or even before I paint the floor the steps will be painted. There is also some more retouching of the paint in various places around the room yet to be done.
During the last couple of days I haven’t been idle wondering what little project I can be involved with whilst making plans for bigger things. It is Saturday 8 th September as I write and the weather is beginning to get wetter more often as Autumn arrives. Rain has a habit of preventing any constructive projects outdoors but I have nevertheless been fortunate to be able to start one small task. When we moved here thirty years ago we became aware of some issues around the property regarding security. It is a sad reflection on today’s society that we have to take steps in preventing trespass on our property and attempts of burglary. We try to make things as secure as possible both inside and outside our homes. Over the years our house has grown steadily more secure as measures have been taken to that end. I remember one day seeing a couple of youths climb over the wall of our then neighbour’s garden at the rear of our property. They made their way across the long garden toward the house but we made sure they were apprehended before they could do anything. It reminded us that garden walls can be climbed and that our rear wall was vulnerable at least at one end where the ground was high. The only solution would be to increase the height of the wall at least at that point. We didn’t take any action then as there were prickly bushes in the corner making access less likely by an intruder. However since those days our garden has changed and the prickly bushes have gone. In the meantime the undergrowth on our neighbour’s side of the wall has become denser to the point of being a deterrent to anyone without a machete! Nevertheless we decided to add a few courses of brick to the wall in that area which is at the end of the wall.
Why now? Well having noticed the activity of the local fox(es) in our garden we concluded they were getting in at the easiest access point in the same corner. It was time to lay some bricks which was the small project I spoke of. It isn’t finished at this moment due to a lack of bricks but that is in hand and will be completed as soon as I get some more. So on Friday, yesterday as I write, I had some mortar remaining and I added some grit to it to make a cement render. I spread that over the brick buttress near to the little greenhouse which needed repair. Over the past twelve months or so I have been patching the buttress with left-over cement from other work but it needs covering completely. I will do that in time but I will have to move the sand in the bag on the right in order to do that side. If you remember the sand was removed from the floor when constructing the pit in the cellar. The other large bag was emptied into smaller bags and is stored inside the garage on the right of the pictures. It is slowly getting used on these projects when I mix cement. Also on Friday I arranged delivery for the stone cobbles which I will be using to surround the feature I am constructing on the lawn. After digging out the plot they will be the first things to lay before any further work is done.
It was Monday (16) again at last and I could get on with the work in the cellar. I must admit that this particular project seems to be dragging on a bit insomuch as I don’t feel I am making progress fast enough. First of all I had those large holes in both the walls and ceiling to contend with which took quite some time to complete when I filled them in. Unfortunately the holes couldn’t be filled in one go but had to be done in stages. The same principle applies with rendering the wall and that is why I say it is dragging on. Even though it has taken days for me to get anywhere with the rendering I have made progress and at the time of writing all that needs to be done is to skim over it in places. I took this picture soon after I had finished for the day.
It looks dark because it is still wet. If I am able to skim over it tomorrow, that is Tuesday, it will take a further two or three days to dry out, maybe even four or five. I will be able to continue with the decoration of the rest of the room while it dries and then I will be able to seal the wall and later on again paint it. That may all be delayed a little as I may fill in the holes in the floor of the room and carry on doing the same in the gym whilst I am working with the cement. If my readers will remember I did mention I intended doing something with the floor in the gym. We have decided to paint the floor in there so it needs some filling in beforehand. Monday afternoon turned out bright and sunny and all I wanted to do was sit out on the patio to enjoy it. That I managed to do for a while. As the weather gets better I will want to be outside more often though not just to sit about doing nothing, I have a couple of outdoor projects to keep me occupied in the months ahead.
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.
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.
Yeah, sure! I was lying in bed having just awoken at 8.10 when the house phone rang. I have an extension phone on my bedside cabinet along with my mobile phone which is plugged into its charger overnight. I refused to answer the call at that hour in the morning because I knew it would be from somebody wanting my services. I don’t know where people get the idea that I am available so early on a weekend day, or even available at all on a Saturday or Sunday but it doesn’t stop them trying. The caller left a message which I listened to an hour later when I was downstairs and after I had eaten my breakfast. I returned the call and asked exactly what the problem was and the woman, whom I had done a small job for a few weeks ago, explained that she had two floodlights both of which had switched on during the night and remained on even though it was now daylight. I thought it was odd that two lights would both be faulty at the same time. I told her that I would investigate the problem immediately because I wouldn’t be available later in the day as I intended to work at home for the day. As she lives less than a mile from me it was no imposition to call there. On arrival I asked her where I might find the isolation switch for the lights and she had no idea where it might be. You would think any normal person would make it their business to know more about their electrical circuits, at least where the switches are located. Many don’t even know where their meter is! She could have isolated the lights and called me at a more respectable hour had she known where the switch was located. Anyway we located the switch in an upstairs wardrobe together with two more similar switches, one controlling the gas boiler in the same cupboard and the other controlling some lighting in the loft area. The third switch was the isolator for the outside floodlights. I discovered that the two lights had been wired in such a way that if one was triggered or switched on it switched the other one on too. I had to separate the interconnecting wire to find out which of the two was faulty and duly found which one it was. By mutual agreement I will be replacing that light on Tuesday morning, weather permitting. I returned home and started mixing more cement render in order to finish patching up the walls in the bathroom. About ten buckets of mixed render later and a lunch break E and I completed the work and then tidied up. Aha, but there was more. I gave the high ceiling another coat of paint before retiring for the day. It was now almost six o’clock in the evening and time to prepare our evening meal. Day off work? No way, but tomorrow is Sunday when I will most certainly be relaxing!
I am almost there with finishing the render on the walls. I woke up rather late again on Friday after yet another difficult night trying to get to sleep. It isn’t that I am not tired when I retire to bed but my active mind keeps me awake. I had a quick breakfast then began working in the bathroom. E had snapped at me again and spent the rest of the day avoiding me. Why she is like that I have no idea but I do know she has been that way for many years. She finds it difficult to apologise and usually does her best to avoid it. I have often been left hurt as many of my readers will already know. I concentrated on the work in hand and left her to her own devices. I wanted to get some of the floorboards that we had purposely left loose finally nailed down. We were not sure how we were going to run the hot and cold water pipes to the free-standing tap (faucet) but now, after deciding that the pipes would run above the floor under a slightly raised cover I am yet to construct, I was able to secure the boards. There were some spaces between the floorboards and the wall under the large mirror that needed to be filled before I could apply the cement render to the bottom of the wall where we had ripped away the old skirting board some weeks ago, so I got on with that and with a couple of other woodworking jobs that needed doing too. I was then able to mix the render and apply it to the bottom of the wall. There is only a small amount of rendering to do now and a little levelling out here and there. I cut and fitted an extra support timber to the end of the new studded wall I constructed for the shower, something I previously hadn’t the time to do but was always on my mind to do at some point. Finally I skimmed a small part of the original ceiling (which remains at low-level) with plaster to see how effectively it will cover the rough ‘Artexed’ surface. It was too dark to continue covering the whole ceiling small as it is so I left it for another day. I am pleased with the progress of the work so far and the room is beginning to actually look like it might be a bathroom!I finally came downstairs and then prepared a chill-con-carne before taking an evening stroll for an hour.
The time-consuming rendering of the walls where they need it is taking up much of our time on the bathroom project. Two layers are required for most of the filling-in simply because of the depth of existing wall coverings of plaster and old tiles. We have endeavoured to leave those parts of the wall that have remained sturdy which meant leaving the old tiles intact. A better way would have been to strip everything back to the bare bricks and start again but that would have taken a much longer time than we are taking now and at a much greater cost. It isn’t necessary to do it that way fortunately but even so it is still taking time. I guess I am impatient to get on with the next part of the work. What makes the task longer is the cleaning of the mixer and tools and the general tidying up that has to be done each time we mix the cement render but it is necessary. It would certainly take us longer to do all the mixing by hand apart from it being too arduous to do it that way. There is just too much render to mix by hand. We are so pleased that we purchased the mixer last summer because it has paid for itself in cutting back the time it would have taken us to mix all the concrete we laid in the rear garden and the cement render we are spreading on the walls now. Aside from this work there is little else to report on the progress. There are one or two things yet to be done under the floor near to the entrance to the room before we will be able to lay a plywood covering but we feel that once the covering is laid we shall be able to speed things up a little for at the moment it feels as if we are at a standstill. We are not of course, it just seems that way. Naturally I shall keep you informed and updated as usual.
Following on from Saturday’s work which I wrote about in Monday’s post, I am now in Monday after a nice break on
Sunday and getting down to some more hard work at home. The job for the day was to fill in the holes left from removing all that loose plaster on Saturday. (See Saturday’s post). Of course it couldn’t all be done at once for the depth was too great for one coat of mortar or should I say cement render for it is essentially a cement render rather than merely a mortar mix. Even so it took a couple of hours to fill the wall that houses the two windows. The other two walls to the left and right have places that require filling too but nothing like as much as the window wall and it is all at low-level. Before we could do anything I had to drive to the builder’s merchant to buy some sand and cement so it was late morning when we made a start. We only had enough time to do the window wall even though we used the cement mixer to mix the mortar to speed things up. It takes some effort to carry a bucket full of mixed mortar from the garage, through the cellar and then up two flights of stairs half a dozen times and that is besides applying it to the wall! If only I could get the mixer up to the second floor! We finished for the day at around four o’clock. I hadn’t any electrical jobs scheduled on Monday but just before we were about to add water to the first mix I got a call to repair a light fitting and as it was close-by I went and did it. It turned out to be a replacement instead. I was back home twenty minutes later and E and I got on with the job. This part of the project seems to take an age to do but it is all necessary of course. I couldn’t do any further work on the project on Tuesday morning because I had a mid-morning dental appointment and we like to reserve the afternoon for dining out. As I write this on Monday I have no idea if my electrical services will be required during the week and this is often the scenario I face each week. This means I can only work at home if I know I will be free on any particular day. When I have plenty of electrical work I can schedule it and take a day or two off for myself to suit. It is all a question of balance.