I am the type of person who typically is apprehensive about how things will turn out and that is especially so with any of my projects. Throughout my working life in the electrical business it was never a problem, in fact I could always see the finished work in my mind long before I started it. To a point that has also been true when I approach a project I intend undertaking, I can see it in my mind’s eye already completed. The difference with my electrical work was I had the confidence of my ability. With my projects it should be the same as I have had plenty of experience with building work over the years but I often find myself wondering if what I do will turn out well. Now I have to say at this point I am not a professional builder and my work is almost never perfect, it is just near enough. Perhaps I am being too hard on myself as others tell me my efforts are great. Which ever way I can say this much, at least I try! On Tuesday (20th) it was time for laying the screed in the pit. The screed is made with three parts sharp sand, two parts of granite dust (fine chippings) and one part cement. I have been using this mix in building up the internal sides of the pit to effect a smooth but strong surface. The base concrete uses granite stones in place of the dust. It is more robust. I needed to purchase another bag of cement so soon after breakfast I went to the builder’s yard. On my return I got stuck right in with the work…
I had to fill the mixer three times to finish the work and they had to be mixed in reasonably quick succession to enable me to smooth out the whole area. I was surprised I had managed to do it faster than I had thought I would but it was at times awkward reaching over to do it. It would be Thursday and preferably Friday before it could be walked upon. Once the mixture has begun to turn white/grey as opposed to its wet green colour it will be safe to walk upon. The final stage will be sealing it and then painting where necessary.
The concrete had set by Saturday lunchtime and in a way I was grateful it was later rather than earlier in the morning for I had arisen quite late. I had been very tired the evening before after all the work I had done. I didn’t want the day to pass by without doing at least some more work on the project. I needed to erect some shuttering in preparation for pouring a finer concrete mix to form the sloping edge into the pit I was constructing.
A long length of timber was screwed to the pit floor against which I placed a length of plywood strengthened with timber and leaning toward the original floor edge. I fastened some timber to the original floor which acts to prevent the plywood from touching the floor at the top. This left an intended gap so that the concrete can be poured into the space and also to make a solid concrete edge along the complete top edge. It will be easier to understand when you see the completed work. After doing that work I began to tackle the removal of the concrete block at the end of the pit.
The yellow handle of the lump hammer rests upon the block. It was protruding out of the floor and we have no idea at the moment as to why it is there. Near to the end of the hammer shaft is a piece of steel tubing and another one a couple of centimetres further away (higher in the picture, click to magnify). They seem to be electrical conduits that have been set into the concrete block. Again we are not sure why they are there. The concrete block itself stands upon another block of concrete but it is of a different composition. The lower one looks like traditional concrete made using granite stones whereas the upper one, that which I am aiming to reduce in height, has been made using broken pieces of brick instead. It is as hard as nails and extremely difficult to chip away at. As I write this on Saturday evening I am almost there but it will take some time yet to lower it enough to be able to tile over it. Work will be resumed on Monday. Tomorrow, Sunday, I will be resting from work.
During the work of digging out the cellar floor I had been anxious about the stability of the remainder of the floor close-by to the pit I had dug. In yesterday’s post I wrote about filling the bottom of the hole with hardcore and propping up the side walls to prevent the loosened sand from slipping away. I felt a little relieved having done that work but by the afternoon of the next day, Friday 9th, I felt much better about it. I had spent the whole morning mixing concrete and laying it. After breakfast I made the trip to the builders yard to purchase some granite stones and cement. I didn’t need to purchase sand of course for I had bags of it! On my return home I set up the mixer outside in the garden and proceeded mixing the concrete. Rather than pushing the mixed concrete in a wheelbarrow to take it indoors I filled a bucket several times and took that inside instead. There are steps leading down into the cellar room and using the wheelbarrow would be too awkward and probably messy. I found it easier and quicker using a bucket but it took four mixing sessions with the mixer and several journeys with the bucket. I used the wheelbarrow to collect the mixed concrete and then shovelled it into the bucket. When doing this sort of work I get into a routine and it makes the work easy. This is how far I got..
You can see that I have cemented in the tiles which I used to support the opened side to prevent the sand pouring out. Naturally at this stage it is rough but it makes the finishing stage easier to do. The far edge in the top picture and the near edge in the lower picture, both the same edge, have yet to be worked on. That will begin soon I hope.
I didn’t think it was ever going to stop raining on Saturday morning though it wasn’t continuous rain just frequent heavy showers. I had made up my mind to get into the garden and dig a hole in which to set in concrete the small piece of plastic tubing that would house the new washing-line post I had purchased. Initially I had thought of setting the pole itself directly in the concrete but on reflection decided to use a tube in which to place it.
That way the pole could be readily removed should that be necessary in the future. I would use silicone rubber to seal the gap between the pole and the tube to prevent the ingress of water when it rained. Though it is a galvanised metal pole it would not be advisable having it sitting in a tube filled with water and that water would be inside the pole too. I spent less than an hour doing the work once the rain finally stopped falling. The weather forecast indicated a sunny afternoon ahead and indeed it turned out that way. I covered the new concrete with a plastic sheet just in case it did rain later. One thing which didn’t change much throughout the day was the strength of the wind, it remained blustery. There are other little outdoor projects to be undertaken yet but I didn’t wish to start any of them, I wanted the weekend to myself for a change. When the concrete sets I will at some point disguise it using some natural stone, similar to what I did after I had constructed the concrete base for the flag pole a couple of years ago. All that can be seen there are stones at the base of the pole. During the time I was out working on the project I discovered and removed several small Montbretia shoots that had appeared over the previous couple of days. My readers will remember my efforts early in the year in removing the Montbretia and Bluebells that had been growing profusely in the flowerbeds. I said then that it would be an ongoing problem for some time yet but have to say at least now they are far fewer. Still, I have to keep an eye on the beds and dig any out as I find them. There are always things to do in the gardens, always something to keep me occupied should I begin feeling bored!
Seems to be me at the moment. I did get the rest I needed over the weekend but since then it has been all go.
My previous posts reveal some of the things I have been up to so far this week. Now as I write this on Wednesday late in the afternoon I have just returned indoors after working in the garden on the lamp-post project. I haven’t uncovered the work I did yesterday, that is Tuesday because rain is forecast overnight and I want the concrete I laid then to remain dry so that it can itself dry out completely. It was 26 hours ago that I laid it. Today I concentrated on fixing both the connector box and the box with the isolating switch to the wall and then connecting the steel-wire-armoured cable and the supply cables to them. The supply cable had to be fed from the other side of the wall to a power box there but I had to remove a small piece of capping stone first. I secured the cable to the wall so that I could replace the capping stone over it. Of course that meant mixing some new mortar too. I didn’t make the final connection to the power box as it was getting late and I’d had enough work for one day and also because the power box needs some attention as two of its fixing screws had become loose. I might get the time on Thursday afternoon to finish that part of the work. I had been to work doing electrical jobs in the morning so essentially it had been a full day working. By Friday it may be possible to fix the lamp-post’s base to the concrete plinth and if so there would be no reason to prevent the post itself to be fitted. For the moment we will have to use the lamp that was supplied, an energy-saving lamp (miniature fluorescent) which has a built-in light detector. It means though that the lamp will be lit throughout the night. I am still trying to source a part-night sensor which will switch off the lamp for a few hours during the early hours after midnight. If I obtain one it will be fitted next to the connector box I have just installed to control the supply to the lamp-post and then I can replace the lamp with an LED version instead. Tomorrow, Thursday I will be installing equipment and wiring inside someone’s shed! They breed turtles…………..don’t ask.
I went to the job I had arranged to go to on Monday but foul weather had prevented me from doing it then because the work was all outside. Tuesday was a much better day though there was some drizzle. I had been busy installing replacement floodlights using ladders so I had no choice but to put the work off until it was dryer. The work itself wasn’t completely problem-free but that is often the case, The original wiring was connected directly into the existing lights but the new fittings came with an attached flex which meant installing connector boxes as well as the light units. The work kept me employed almost until noon and when I returned home I prepared lunch and ate it. Meanwhile E, who had spent a couple of hours up at the top of the house in her workshop remained up there and didn’t come downstairs until I had finished eating. I wanted to do some work in the garden and that is why I ate lunch early though breakfast had been early too. The lamp-post had been delivered on Monday morning which meant I could then see how to secure it to the ground. It also meant that the cable I had installed the previous week could now be measured and cut to length and the gland fitted, which is what I did. I also secured it to the concrete base I had made a few weeks age with the now shortened cable pointing upward where the lamp-post base would cover it. I then decided to get the mixer out and prepare some more concrete to pour over the existing concrete and cover the cable. I made some makeshift shutters to use at the front and side to contain the concrete whilst it set. The other two sides of course were brick walls, ready-made shuttering! The afternoon was gloriously sunny but the weatherman had forecast the possibility of a slight shower in certain areas. I wasn’t going to take a chance on it not raining so I covered the area, can you see it? I will take a close-up picture when the area is uncovered
If you click on the picture a couple of times it will magnify. Look near to the top dead centre where the two walls meet. I took the picture from the kitchen window which is one floor above the garden. The patio greenery looks nice. It is now a far better view from the window than it was this time last year before I had built the flowerbeds on the patio. Whilst I was mixing the concrete someone called me about an electrical job. It seems that whenever I mix mortar of concrete people want to speak to me about electrical work. The same thing happened a few days ago if my readers will remember. Just before I went out into the garden I received another call asking for my electrical services. I would be doing those jobs on Wednesday and Thursday which allowed the concrete ro pretty much set and be ready for me to erect the lamp-post if I wanted to. I would also have some time to work on the other end of the cable connecting into the patio circuits. The weather forecast looked favourable for a few days which is good for the time of year.
I had one small electrical job to do on Monday morning in a local property a mile away but it turned out a little bit more difficult than I or the customer had assumed. I did the work and got back home around eleven-thirty and I really wanted to work in or on the Plot laying the last of the concrete between the newly laid paving slabs on the right of the flowerbed. I wanted to make the most of the fair weather while it lasted. It was a little too early for lunch so I went outside to set everything up and to put in some pieces of wood for shuttering where it would be necessary. It was twelve-thirty when I went indoors for lunch but I was back out again at one ready for work. I mixed a full load and then another half load in the mixer to fill-in the spaces and I had about two spoonfuls of concrete left over. A pretty good guess I thought and better to have that much over rather than being short of the amount. The hardest part for me anyway is the leveling off but that is only because of the grit in the mix. It takes a light handed touch to get it smooth. This is what it looked like on Tuesday.. Once I had finished I covered the area in case of overnight rain though the forecast was for dry weather. I started to clean up and pack everything away, including the mixer and stand which had been left outside for a few days. Any more concrete or mortar, and there would be for the work was not quite complete, would be mixed by hand. At last the major part of the work was finished and I could concentrate on other things. I started the project on 9th August but have not spent all day and every day working on it because of the weather and my other commitments. Considering what I have achieved I think I’ve done well. It has been hard work at times but that’s what drives me forward. Apart from the lamp-post project I have no other major projects in mind to do, at the moment that is!
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.
I arose very early on Wednesday morning and after breakfast I was outside just before eight o’clock fully dressed in my overalls and ready to work. There was a bit of a chill in the air and everywhere was damp because of the high humidity. About an hour or two after I began to work I had to return indoors to remove some of the clothing I was wearing beneath the overalls as I became uncomfortable in the high humidity. Late in the afternoon on Tuesday I had decided to dig out the remaining soil behind the small wall where I had earlier begun to fill in behind with concrete. I found some spare wood sheets in the cellar that I could use for shuttering and set them in place ready for filling behind with concrete on Wednesday. I had not been able to do any other work in the Plot on Tuesday as you will have read in yesterday’s post. So the first thing I did on Wednesday morning was to mix some heavy duty concrete. Two mixer loads would just about do it and I had very little left over. Even so, that didn’t go to waste as I used it elsewhere. I poured it in behind the shuttering (see middle right in picture). I switched from mixing the heavy duty concrete to one using granite dust or granno for I was using it to fill in between the paving slabs. Even though I had mixed two full mixer loads there wasn’t enough to do all of the work but by that time I was beginning to get very tired. I would need to clean up the area later when the concrete had hardened. I stopped working at just a little after one o’clock but then had to tidy everything away. It was just as well that I couldn’t finish all the work I had intended to do because I needed to plan what I was going to do in the area around the new steps. I made those plans a little later in the afternoon but to do it I would need some more old bricks. Now there are some old bricks in the area behind the other garage but many of them are covered in either concrete or hard mortar. I would have to see if there was enough of them that I could reclaim to do the work, though I could manage with fewer if I had to. At this stage I wasn’t sure what I would concentrate on doing the following day but I wanted to do as much as I could while the weather was good. I have yet to start work on the right-hand-side of the flowerbed but that work is mainly laying paving slabs and filling in with concrete.
Apathy. The day started well enough considering it was Monday, back to work day and the fact that I’d a restless night’s sleep. I had one electrical job to do at nine o’clock but I left the house much earlier in order to pay a visit to the builder’s merchant. I needed more materials. In my last post I mentioned I might have most of it delivered whilst carrying some of it home in the van but as I was going to work the van was full of my electrical gear so I arranged for all of it to be delivered the next morning, Tuesday. I did have some materials left over at home. When I arrived at the house where I was to work and assessed the customers requirements I decided against doing it explaining to them that it was too much work for me to do because of my age. I had gotten the impression over the phone that the work was much simpler but like so often people get you to their homes and then begin to expand and add work to the original request. Much of the work involved lifting floorboards and chiselling out walls and the house was carpeted and furnished. I knew I wouldn’t get much help from the customer in moving stuff around which made the prospect even more daunting. I seldom carry out installation work these days unless I know it will be easy. I was feeling a little tired too and weary of it all. Apathy had set in. I needed a break or at least a good night’s sleep but the day was young and I couldn’t simply sit around doing nothing. I telephoned a younger female electrician friend and offered her the work and she arranged a visit that morning. I drove home and put the van away. I wanted to strengthen the small wall of the Plot at the pathway as part of the general work I have been doing there so I decided that was to be my work for the morning.
However, I couldn’t complete it as I didn’t have enough materials. Nevertheless I made a start by digging out the rear of the wall and putting some shuttering in before mixing the concrete and pouring it in the space. I used some scrap plasterboard as a sacrificial shutter for I wouldn’t be removing it later, it would be pointless. Had it been timber then I would have removed it once the concrete had set. I started at the point nearest the patio where the last Laurel bush stands for I knew there would be roots to contend with and sure enough there were. Part of the wall nearest the new steps has already been partially concreted , done when I was working around the steps earlier. Had this wall been left as a single brick structure it may have been subject to being slowly pushed down because of the Laurel. I will take the concrete to the height of the existing bricks and top the wall with natural stone later. At the time of writing there remains more concrete work to do behind this wall but it will be easier to do away from the main roots of the Laurel. After lunch I was beginning to feel better so I got my drill and screwdriver out and installed the steel-wire-armoured cable for the lamp post, when it arrives! I called the supplier regarding the delivery date but they were unable to tell me at that time. Anyway here are two pictures of the cable which runs from the patio to the corner of the garden where the lamp post will stand.
The cable runs down the wall behind the washing line pole to a spot on the other side of the patio wall in the foreground. The electrical connection box and sensor will be fitted there as it is the north (almost) side of the wall. The cable is hardly noticeable even close-up as you can see because it is under the lip of the capping stones.