On Tuesday, the first working day of the week as Monday had been a national holiday, I was expecting the delivery of the bricks I had ordered but none arrived during the morning while I was at home. After lunch I received a call to do some electrical work and wouldn’t you know it the bricks were delivered not long after I had left the house! Just as well that E was at home though I had informed my neighbour who would have informed the driver where to drop them for me. I wasn’t away from home very long and on my return there was the pallet stacked high with the bricks all tightly wrapped in polythene and cling-film wrap. They had been dropped close to one of the front gates as I expected but they had to be transported through the garage into the rear garden and up a couple of steps onto the patio some 24 metres away, twenty at a time on a wheelbarrow. It took me about an hour. Fortunately it had stopped raining some time before. I discovered that they had supplied 280 bricks. I had ordered 250 but I guess they did that purposely for the bricks are what you might call second hand or reclaimed common bricks of the same type we used for building the patio which again was built in sympathy with the garden walls. However because some of these bricks were of doubtful quality and some misshapen it was reasonable to expect some extras. As it happens not all of the bricks need to look good as the ones on the inside of the flowerbed will not bee seen as they will be hidden by the soil/growing medium. It was tiring work loading then unloading the bricks two at a time nevertheless. So now I have all the materials to do the work and now the only things standing in the way are my electrical work and the weather. I can control the one but the other is out of my hands.
Over the last week or so I have been making plans to construct a flowerbed on the patio together with two smaller beds to spruce it up. There is plenty of space to do that for we had the foresight to build the patio as large as it is. As we have a couple of large plants and two smaller ones occupying basically the four corners of the space we would only be losing an extra space that would have accommodated a chair. Space isn’t a problem but before I could do any building work I first had to move the power outlet box that would have ended up partly under the soil level of the new flowerbed. I planned to do that on Monday morning. Monday was a UK Bank Holiday therefore I would be at home and be available should I want to do the work. I could have done it on Saturday but chose to make Saturday and Sunday rest days instead. However, I got called to a job on Saturday afternoon anyway. It had rained overnight and in fact was still raining slightly when I arose. The day needed to be dry for me to do the work. I concentrated on breakfast after which I spent some time reading emails and writing one to a friend in reply to the one she had sent me late the previous evening. By now it was approaching ten o’clock and I was keen to get on with the work. It had stopped raining and everywhere was almost dry. I wasted no time and collected the tools I would need and set about removing the power box after switching off the supply of course and finally I had the cable together with the fitted gland separated from the box. I then removed the light which was on the other side of the wall and which had been supplied from the same box on a different circuit. The cables I installed when the patio was under construction have enough cores within them to accommodate two separate circuits as power and lighting require different levels of protection for those who may be wondering. I wasn’t going to refit the light after the power box had been refitted. I may be exchanging the other two lights for ones of a different style sometime later and I can fit a replacement unit of the same type then if I decide I want one. The supply for it is inside the re-positioned power box ready for use. One of the other two lights can be seen on the high wall in the background in the lower picture. The light I removed was positioned just to the right and above where I have re-positioned the power outlet box next to the garden bench. Before I could fit that box on the opposite side of the wall I had to drill a hole large enough to be able to pass the steel wire armoured cable together with its fitted gland through it. Finally it was done and the power outlet box was ready for use. All I had left to do was to cement the holes and tidy up. By now it was twelve-thirty and lunch time. I was going to drill the holes that the drainage pipes will pass through but I decided to do them another day.
I thought my last job for the week was on Wednesday for after then I spent the rest of my time at home, that is until Saturday afternoon. I was sitting out on the patio enjoying the sunshine once again and my mobile phone rang. The call was from an older couple I had worked for previously though I think the last time was in January of 2013. I know this because at that time I installed a new electrical distribution board there to replace an old fuse board. Well the new board had proved its worth and had tripped because of a fault in the system. Unfortunately although one circuit was the problem all four circuits lost power. I tried to explain to the man how to reset everything and then test which circuit was causing the problem. It could be isolated for the time being if it wasn’t needed desperately. I might as well have spoken with a cat for he hadn’t a clue what I was saying. I drove to the house and discovered that one circuit breaker when switched on was the culprit and it only supplied a single twin socket in the kitchen. I reinstated the other circuits and removed the two appliances which were plugged into the twin outlet, one being the microwave oven and the other the ignition, light and timer in the gas cooker. The fault lay in the gas cooker and I left it unplugged. The cooker can be used by manually igniting the gas with a match or battery igniting device. As I do not carry out appliance repairs the customer will have to employ a gas engineer to repair the fault if indeed they do decide to have it repaired. Whilst I was at it I removed the wall socket and refitted it having been told that ‘a friend’ had fitted it some time back. It was fortunate that I did for it hadn’t been fitted correctly! I drove home a little better off financially shall we say and resumed sitting out on the patio for an hour or so. I have been sitting out on the patio a lot recently and whilst the weather and the opportunity has allowed. Earlier in the week I was sitting there in contemplation and formulated a plan in my mind. I had decided I would construct a flowerbed by building a brick wall in front of the space where we have two large Phoenix Canariensisplants in large pots shown in this picture.
The wall will be a little shorter in height, roughly the same height as the top of the power outlet box and will run the entire length from left to right almost as far out as the little wall that juts out at the left. The two plants will be removed from their pots and planted in the bed permanently. During the winter months those plants (and three others of the same variety) have to be protected from the cold winds.Although the plants can withstand temperatures as low as minus 8 deg C they suffer with wind burn if the wind is cold. The power outlet box, will be moved to the other side of the wall and the light on the other side at the same position will need refitting though I have it in mind to change that light and the other two on the wall behind the camera for a different style. On Thursday evening I searched the Internet for a supplier who can provide the same type of bricks to match those on the patio and found one selling them at a discount! I bought 250 bricks (which represents a pack) though for this wall I will need only 172) but the remainder I plan to use to construct two more, though much smaller, walls also on the patio to accommodate two more plants. The cost for the bricks including delivery was £201, very reasonable indeed! On Friday morning I went to my local builder’s merchant and collected bags of sand, cement and granite chippings in readiness, storing the cement in the boiler room in the cellar as I always do to keep it dry. The rest is stored in the garage. I have been working out the best way to include suitable drainage for each of the beds too. The small beds present no problem as they will be located next to existing walls the other sides of which are flowerbed and vegetable plot. The main bed needs a little bit of cunning to make the drain outlets inconspicuous as they will be over solid concrete or stone but I have come up with a solution. During the construction I hope to take some pictures which will show the details. All I have to do is wait for the bricks to be delivered. Well that’s the plan anyway.
I was again sitting at home on Thursday morning when I got a call asking for my services. The house was only three and a half miles distant and the job was simple enough to do. A couple had just moved into their house, they were about my age and asked if I could help. They had a courtesy light outside their front door which flashed on and off constantly, even during the daylight hours and they couldn’t get at the lamp inside to remove it. Another problem was their washing machine which seemingly had stuck on a particular setting and was therefore unusable. I drove there and reset the machine within seconds but the outside light would need a replacement. As neither of them had transport I offered to take one of them to the supplier a couple of miles away to buy a new fitting. The lady of the house opted to go with me. We were back at the house thirty minutes later and I got on with installing the new light. I had an extra job to do which was to install a control switch for the new light as the old light fitting didn’t have one! The job took me to lunchtime and I took the opportunity to dine at my local pub again. I returned home around two o’clock and spent the afternoon there. It is these little jobs that keep me going and I prefer doing them than having to spend hours on end doing larger ones. So what was I going to do during the afternoon? E had gone out shopping and I sat out on the patio for a short time before returning indoors to get a tape measure, pencil and paper. A few days ago I made inquiries about glass balustrades for I was thinking of fitting some on top of the patio walls. I sent off a picture of the patio (the only one I have at the moment which shows the whole patio in the same frame. It was taken during the patio’s construction) and some rough dimensions and I received an estimate to supply the equipment to install myself. They would charge £400 to fit it for me but as the girl told me on the phone in reply to my request, it was very simple and easy to do and I could do it myself. Well I know I can. At that time I told her that I would take some time to consider the estimate. They needed a more accurate description of my requirements before they could manufacture and dispatch the goods. I took some measurements and drew a rough sketch before returning indoors to draw a more presentable diagram………Well it is good enough for their requirements. You wouldn’t perhaps think I have good qualifications as a drafts person would you? I have though. Anyway I had previously sent them a picture of the patio so they can match the drawing to it. I am thinking it would have been easier to send someone to measure the site but then of course the price would be higher. For a half-metre high glass balustrade they originally gave me a price of £2400. I am wondering what the revised estimate will be. It is a lot of money to spend on such a thing I know I think it will be worth it, that’s if I decide to go ahead with the plan.
A couple of months ago I bought several new radiatorvalves to replace those which have become worn or stiff or have simply stopped working properly. Changing the valves is relatively simple and straightforward. Is anything ever straightforward? For the most part though it should be a simple job. It all started with the radiator in my bedroom which had two faulty valves on it, the control valve and the lockshield valve. In real terms they are exactly the same. One, once set through balancing the whole radiator system, remains in a fixed position usually facilitated by removing the control knob and replacing it with a cap which cannot be turned and the other can either be left as a manually controlled unit or be fitted with a thermostatic control. As long as the correct tools are available then the hardest part of the job is in draining down the system and then refilling it and bleeding out the trapped air and that isn’t difficult at all. On Wednesday evening I noticed that the lockshield valve on the radiator in my bedroom was leaking water but I knew that already as I had wrapped the valve with a cloth to absorb it until I could get around to changing the valve. The leak had become too heavy so the replacement was now a matter of urgency but it was late at night and I was about to get into bed. I wrapped more cloth around the valve and closed it off. The following morning I arose early, that is six o’clock, and after breakfast I began the process of replacing the valves on my radiator. Up to the loft to valve off the header (expansion) tank water supply then down into the cellar to affix a hose pipe on the boiler drain point. I then switched off the electrical supply for I didn’t want the system starting up for the day whilst I was working on it. I opened the drain cock on the boiler then went upstairs to the radiator in my room to open the bleed screw and wait for the water to cease flowing before returning to the cellar to close the drain cock and stop the system from draining down completely. There was no need to drain off the lower floor once the radiator in my bedroom was drained. It took about twenty minutes to replace the two valves then I returned to the loft to open the water supply to the header tank. Slowly opening the bleed valve on the radiator I waited for the air to escape. Finally everything was done so I switched on the electrical supply at the boiler and raised the room thermostat setting to force the heating system to come on so that I could check the radiator was operating correctly. That was it, end of the work so I put away my plumbing tools. Now I could have replaced more valves and done some other planned work whilst the system was down but I didn’t want to tie myself down in case I received any electrical work as it was Thursday, part of my normal working week. If and when I tackle the remaining plumbing work I will probably take a few days off to do it. At the moment I have no plans to do that, or anything major at home.
I thought I’d get the opportunity to do some work out in the garden on Saturday but it began to rain in the morning and continued well into the afternoon. It simply wasn’t worth doing the work in such wet conditions so I started to think of alternatives indoors. Before deciding what to do I made my first attempt at making some coconut macaroons but alas made somewhat of a mess of it. Oh it tasted alright, I say it rather than they because the mixture was too wet and everything merged together in the oven! I realised that two egg whites were one too many even though the recipe called for them. Next time I shall use only one unless I double up on all the other ingredients. I shall also bake them in individual containers instead of using a large flat tray as instructed. I sometimes wonder if anyone actually cooks some of the recipes printed in the books. Once I cleaned up and cleared out the kitchen I gave the steps by the outside door in the boiler room down in the cellar another coat of masonry paint and also coated the other step across the room.
Looking at the pictures one would think the colours different but in fact it is simply the lighting. Each time I go upstairs to the first floor (the second from the cellar) I go into the building site that is supposed to be one of the four bedrooms on that level. The room hasn’t been used for some years but it is filled with all sorts of old furniture and some of the materials we had stored in there whilst refurbishing the new bathroom. It was a convenient place in which to cut timber and do other things but now it really needs emptying so that we can begin at some point to renovate it. It is a good-sized room and is the second largest bedroom in the house. Its renovation is long overdue and with that in mind I take something out of the room each time I go upstairs then bring it downstairs either for storage or to dispose of it. The larger items will require the assistance of one or both of my sons to remove them but in the meantime I can remove everything else. There is no immediate hurry to renovate the room but at least it will be ready to do so when the time comes. There will be plenty more rainy days ahead for my indoor projects I’m sure.
Another busy time last week. After doing two jobs on Monday and Tuesday I thought that would be the end of my electrical work for the week and indeed I had earned enough to be satisfied by then. However things changed and I found I had two more jobs come my way on Friday which I naturally took on board. I had plenty of time on Wednesday and Thursday as well as Saturday (as I write this) to carry on with work at home. Currently I have been altering the steps in the boiler room by the door which leads out to the garden. I had completed the other step which leads out of the room to the cellar hallway a few days previous. The two steps leading out into the garden are being converted into three steps to make the risers less high and therefore easier to use especially for E who has to use a walking stick most of the time. The first thing I had to do, which I did some days ago, was to construct another step using bricks as a wall and filling the space with rubble and concrete. On Thursday morning I made a wood frame to surround that step and poured or rather trowelled a screed mix (concrete but using granite chippings in place of stones which make the mix smoother) onto and around the step. I removed the wood frame on Friday afternoon to allow the screed to dry out completely so that I could carry out the same procedure on the step above, the original step that was too high, to make it longer and to top it off. This would make the dimensions of both steps the same. The final step is the threshold itself which didn’t need altering. You can see in the picture the now dried out step at the base and the top step levelled out with still wet screed inside the woodenshuttering. I have used bricks and stones to keep the shuttering in place as there isn’t a great deal of pressure on it from the cement screed. For larger works I would have screwed battens to the walls and floor to contain the wooden shuttering and in fact whilst I was constructing the round step across the room I held the screed in place with stiff plastic that had been held in place with battens at each end. This work is very simple to do, the hardest bit is mixing the concrete or screed by hand! When I constructed the round step I had to use a lot of concrete and screed so I employed the use of the mixer but for this smaller set of steps that wasn’t worth doing. You can see the concrete step that forms the threshold under the door. That simply needs facing off in places to fill some holes that are there, especially near the bottom but I can’t do that until the screed is set hard, which will be tomorrow, Sunday afternoon as I write this. E wants to paint the steps when I have finished. I have yet to make up my mind about what I am going to do with some of the drain pipes but I think I will be choosing the easier option! My next major project is to level the floor in the room we hope to convert into a garden toilet but I have to remove half of the existing floor tiles first. They are laid directly onto compressed sand. I have already done some of that work some weeks ago but as you know other things have taken precedence. No rush though.
What a day! On Thursday morning directly after breakfast I went down into the cellar to see what extra materials I would need in order to continue with constructing the steps in the boiler room. E had just returned upstairs to have a shower and wash her hair. She generally has breakfast before getting dressed. I on the other hand am washed and dressed before breakfast. I went into the garage and unloaded a few items from my van so that I could buy some sand and granite chippings and have it placed in the van rather than have it delivered. It was such a small quantity it wasn’t worth having it delivered, besides which they would charge me £10 for doing so and I wouldn’t get it delivered until the following day. Unless I am buying large quantities I tend to fetch it myself. Anyway I got the two bags of sand and the one bag of what I thought was chippings out of the van and onto the garage floor. The bag I thought was chippings was in fact grit and the bag had partially opened because the guys had thrown the bags into the van whilst I was at the counter paying for it. I had deliberately left a clear space for the bags to lie flat but they threw them over an extension lead drum and cable I had stored in there instead. I immediately returned to the builders yard with the grit and complained to the guy at the desk who apologised on behalf of the other two guys and replaced the grit with a bag of chippings laying it flat in the space I had made. Finally I was back home for the second time and made myself ready to do some work. E was still in the bathroom and didn’t appear until much later. I was a little annoyed with her for not even asking if I wanted any help with the work. She can only do a limited amount but even that much is of great benefit and assistance to me. She usually does help whenever she can. It meant I had to do everything, get the mixer out and position it on its stand, empty out the wheelbarrow so I could pour the mixed screed into it and thereafter shovel it into a bucket to carry it into the cellar. Of course I had to move the bags of materials outside and shovel the necessary amounts into the mixer and mix them, adding water until it was ready for use. That was the easy part, I had to tip it onto the step I was constructing and level it all out. I had to fill the mixer twice and then had to shovel it all into a bucket several times to relay it indoors to the job. Whilst I was levelling the mix to form the final screed coat of the new step I had to ensure the mixer was filled with water and left rotating, the wheelbarrow was filled with water and any cement covered tools were left in water until I could clean them all. E would normally have done the cleaning using the hose pipe and attended on the minor things that needed to be done allowing myself to concentrate on actually doing the job. Afterwards of course I had to return everything back into storage and whist doing so received an invitation to do an electrical job. I made arrangements to do it the following day. It had been a warm and humid day and I was feeling it whilst working. The job was indoors in the boiler room so it was warm in there and I was wearing overalls too! I had to wash my feet before I could return into the house via the front door as I couldn’t return via the cellar. Before I left the boiler room and after everything had been cleared away I filled in the new step by the outside door in the room with some hard-core material ready for it to be concreted over as with the step I had just completed across the room. I will probably do that on Saturday and at the same time remove the temporary support from around the new step. After a late lunch E went out to do the shopping with her mum and I wrestled with my computer. I have been experiencing a problem with the Firefox browser during the last twenty-four hours in that it keeps stopping whenever I am on this site (Minkyweasel) but is ok otherwise. I have had to resort to using Chrome to write this in the meantime. Maybe it is an issue with WordPress. Whilst writing I got a call from an old lady living some miles away who wanted her kitchen fluorescent lights replacing but insisted on telling me the whole story about her escapades in trying to get replacement tubes which didn’t fit and about her local stockist and what they had told her. She didn’t stop there either and she began nattering on about things totally unrelated to her electrical problems. I could not get a word in edgewise for she just wouldn’t stop talking. I asked a few simply questions to ascertain what I would need if I went there to do the job and it took me about ten minutes to get a reply. I was glad I wasn’t paying for the call. Eventually she decided she would call me next week as it was her birthday and she didn’t know what her daughter had planned for her. What that had to do with the job I have no idea. I don’t expect she will ring again, especially after I had told her how much it would cost. I think she thinks we are still living in the 1960’s. About ten minutes later someone asked if I could wire his three-phase walk-in fridge for him. I straight away asked him if it was a commercial premises and knowing he would say yes he duly said so. I told him that I only take on small domestic jobs these days. My advertisement reads, DOMESTIC ELECTRICAL SERVICES, small job specialist! Are they blind? A few years ago I would have taken on the work but no more, I am after all working part-time and I am semi-retired. In any case I do not have the necessary equipment I might need for such work as it may involve installing steel conduits and fittings. I have never owned such things even though I have worked in industrial situations many time in the past. I worked for companies who supplied the tools so didn’t need to have my own. Had I been free-lance from the beginning it would have been a different story, I would have had to purchase these things. Almost immediately after that call someone else called asking if I would wire his new boiler. It wasn’t however a simply case of connecting it to the mains but he wanted me to wire and connect pumps, zone valves, thermostats and controllers too. No thank you. Too involved, too time consuming and all for little remuneration. I can pick and choose so I do. The previous evening a lady called me to ask if I would work at the weekend for her and when she told me she worked full-time all week I replied, ‘So do I, that’s why I don’t work the weekends’. Aside from the fact she lived way outside my catchment area, I could tell by the Liverpool telephone number, I think she had a cheek asking. Why couldn’t she take time off to have work done? The phone continued to ring all Thursday afternoon. Some of them were ‘cold’ calls and I was getting a little annoyed with being pestered by the telephone all the time. I just wanted to escape, I’d had enough for one day!
I had a golden opportunity to do some work at home on Wednesday, not having any electrical work to do. I had paid a visit to the bank the previous day and made a deposit which left me with just enough spare cash to take E out to lunch. This time I had to do the driving because she was still in pain after the previous day’s incident. Anyway I had no further spare cash at my disposal and I wanted to mix some mortar and screed to continue with the small project I have going in the boiler room, constructing some steps. As it happened we did have some sand, grit, and granite chippings in the garage and cement in the boiler room to keep it dry so I was able to continue with the work. First of all I laid some bricks as part of an extra step I am constructing next to the existing steps which lead out into the garden. The space created will be filled in with hard-core material as before then cemented over but there is more work to be done to the existing steps too. Once that job was done I searched in the workshop room for something suitable for placing around the already constructed step leading into the room which I started on last week. I found an old fluorescent light fitting diffuser and cut it to length then placing it behind a couple of wood battens I had fixed to the wall to keep it in place together with some bricks and stones to prevent it springing out. I then mixed some screed using sand, grit and cement and filled in the space behind it to cover the face of the bricks I had laid when constructing the step. When that has set I can mix more screed to cover the rough concrete that forms the step which will also cover the screed I have just laid. Hopefully when the ‘diffuser’ is removed later all we will see is a smooth step! We’ll see……………
After E and I had cleaned the mixer and put it back in the garage I receive a call to do a small electrical job some ten miles away. I offered to do it the following morning but the guy insisted it be done immediately if it was possible as he couldn’t guarantee anyone being at home thereafter for a few days. I agreed to do it after I had eaten my lunch. I was glad I went along as he paid me more than I had asked and he and his wife were such pleasant people to work for. Not everyone is. It appeared she had ‘burnt’ her eyes by accidentally replacing her contact lenses which had been cleaned with a chemical she had forgotten to rinse off with water. She nearly lost her sight but the medical staff at the hospital assured her no permanent damage had been done. E was going to take her mum to the shops so that she could return a pair of shoes but she couldn’t leave the house because we were expecting the delivery of the battery I had bought for our son’s car. I didn’t get back home until three o’clock and apparently the battery had arrived twenty minutes prior. E still had the time to go to the shops with her mum albeit a little later than she had wanted. So another busy day for me but at least I had some spare cash to spend on the materials I will need for my projects. Speaking of projects, I haven’t forgotten the garden toilet project which has been on hold whilst I was waiting for that survey to be done. I wrote about this a few days ago. I will continue with that in due course.
It was always going to be inevitable that having constructed an extra step in the boiler room at one entrance that I would turn my attention to the other entrance leading out to the garden. As I write this on Monday afternoon I have as yet not completed the first step, that is applying a screed over the rough concrete base. I plan to do it tomorrow, Tuesday instead. There is a reason for that which I will explain. I had every intention of completing the step on Monday morning but first I had to search the Internet for a suitable replacement battery for the Lexus car my youngest son is trying to sell. He has decided to sell it by auction but it has to be in working order. He is struggling a bit financially so I told him I would get the battery and pay for it myself. Having found a supplier who will deliver it inclusive of tax and postage for £88 I informed my son for his approval. Just now I am awaiting his reply but I expect it will be alright. The next thing was that E took a turn for the worst and she was struggling to get downstairs because a severe pain in her back almost incapacitated her completely. She is already suffering with the early stages of Spina-Biffida which itself makes moving about awkward at times but this added problem was making things impossible. She was experiencing breathing difficulty and had a tingling sensation in her left arm. She made an appointment to see her doctor and I drove her to the surgery. The doctor put her mind at ease by telling her that the complaint was not serious, unpleasant as it was and that her strange feeling in her arm was due to too much oxygen in the blood. I take it by that she had hyper-ventilated with the pain. Whilst I was waiting to take her to the surgery I collected her washing from upstairs and put it in the machine down in the cellar, then it was time to go. We were away for over forty minutes and by the time we had returned it was almost time for lunch. It was after two o’clock before I was available to start work at home so I decided against it and deferred starting my project until the next day hoping I would have the time to do it then. Whilst I was in the cellar with E we talked about carrying out alterations to the steps which lead out into the garden because they too are awkward to negotiate, especially for E. The main problem with the steps are that the risers are too deep, that is the depth of the steps were made too high in the first place. To correct the steps leading out to the garden will necessitate the construction of an extra step and the alteration of an existing one to make walking in and out much easier. It sounds complicated perhaps but is in fact simple to do. We had a similar problem at the rear of one of the garages we have whereby the steps were all different making walking over them a challenge at times. E and I bought the cement mixer when we decided enough was enough and set about altering them last year. See picture we took at the time…………………
So altering the internal steps will not be a problem. It is just setting and getting the time to do it as usual. I should have been a builder as well as an electrician! Strange as it may seem to some of my readers I actually love construction work, I always have and even if I say so myself, I am good at it. Nothing I ever made fell down afterward.