…..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.
I had a really good night’s sleep Saturday through Sunday interrupted just the once for a visit to the you know where. I had eaten quite late in the evening on Saturday so wasn’t feeling hungry when I awoke. Consequently I skipped breakfast and instead went into the garden to remove the temporary covering I had placed over the newly laid concrete the day before.
The concrete had set alright so it was safe to remove the covering despite the light rain which was falling. In fact it had been twenty-four hours to the minute since it had been laid. Now you must remember that this is only the first stage so the surface is rough and the shape of the slope has yet to be altered. That will happen when I apply the next and hopefully the last layer. For that layer I will use a finer concrete mix using granite dust instead of small granite stones. It should blend in with the existing ramp and path. However the work may be delayed for quite a while because of the weather forecast indicating rain for many days ahead. Whilst we are looking at the picture the remaining tree branches and trunks still need cutting. The bags shown at the bottom right with bricks on them contain the soil I had removed from the larger bag which lay on the path where the ramp is being altered. That soil will be disposed of around the gardens. There are other bags containing sand and soil behind the second garage which also have to be dealt with. Plenty of things to keep me occupied in the weeks ahead.
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.
I have just finished the next stage of the garden project which leaves me just three things left to do. Today as I write on 28 th September I have laid the membrane and set in the perimeter of it with concrete.
The cobbles dotted around are there temporarily to hold down the overlapping joints of the membrane which comes in a roll one metre in width. The next stage will be to lay some cobbles through the plot to form stepping stones but I will have to cut the membrane along the proposed route to remove a little of the soil beneath. I will then lay concrete in the bottom and set the cobbles in it. The concrete will also re-seal the gap in the membrane at the same time. The final stage will be to fill the area with pebbles and stones then clean the perimeter cobbles.
For about two hours on Wednesday it went very windy and although some rain was a possibility at the same time it remained dry. Around nine-thirty I decided to take a chance and carry on with the work in the garden. First of all I made a template with which to measure the depth of the trench as I went along filling it with concrete to ensure it was filled to the correct level. I pulled out the cement mixer with its stand and placed it near the small greenhouse where I usually place it when working with it in the garden for there is a power outlet close by. Taking stock of the materials I had in the garage I saw that I would need to purchase more but first of all I wanted to use what I had left of the cement. I was able to mix two loads of concrete before the cement ran out…
It enabled me to fill part of the trench on the right-hand-side which was almost a third of the whole trench. I tidied everything away and drove to the builders merchant to replenish my stock of cement (3 bags), granite dust (granno, also 3 bags) and one bag of 10 mm granite aggregate as I already had some in stock. The guy asked if I needed sand but of course I didn’t, I have a garage full of bagged sand (see older posts). I hoped to complete the concrete base the next day weather permitting.
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.