What a difference a day makes…

Actually, make that a month. February has gone. March has arrived and we have just had two consecutive days without rain. The joy of it.

This means that the external rendering process has actually begun. Two days in and one long side of the property has been primed and also received a coat of render. Another long side and a gable end still to do and hopefully we can find another couple of days of sunshine in the next week or so. Pete the Plasterer, and his ever-so young sidekick Morgan, have done me proud so far.

Then its out with the scat gun (I think that’s what its called). The property cannot take a nice smooth finish. It would just highlight the oddities built into the fabric of the building. As such we are going dotty…a tyrolean render. Not my cup of tea, but it will suit the style and age of the building. The big decision is whether to pay for the colour stuff or keep it plain and then paint.

There is a cost difference but the budget has not had a good time recently. The last month or two should not be seen as simply a diversion of funds to unknown problems, but more as a full blown, unseen and unheard attack from behind.. a proper mugging.

The result is a financial hit delivering physical and mental torture. I know I will get over it. I will take another deep breath and rearrange a few things to get us on track but it still hurts.

Back to good news. The floor downstairs has received 100mm of insulation and a DPM layer. The underfloor heating pipes have been laid and the manifold fitted. This is to be finished off with the 75mm of screed in the next two days. I am really pleased with whats been done so far. I have been helped enormously by my friend Warren and the company he works for – Mec-Serv. Warren has held my hand throughout this process and provided expert knowledge and the reassurance needed at this stage of my big renovation. It is after all my first UFH experience. Love you my friend (and wifey Susie too) but you both know that anyway!

The flooring work has also meant there is no other work being done inside the building. Neil and Andy have gone elsewhere for the week (I hope they don’t like it too much) and I have spent most of my time with Mr. Clooney working out how to re-balance the budget whilst remembering all the things I forgot to include in the beginning – like skirting ! Who forgets skirting for goodness sake!!!!!

I try not to drink whilst I am down here but sometimes it’s simply not possible.

Anyone surprised…?

Six weeks in…

Many of us have done a bit of redevelopment. Upgrading the home we live in. Even arranging for trades to do a little more than a basic upgrade. That’s the category I fall into so this first 6 weeks has been a bit of a learning journey.

What we have learnt from demolishing the internal parts of the pub (the pros call it ‘enabling’) is that it was built in 4 parts going back some considerable time. We are trying to find out when.

This is evident because all the walls are now back to bare stone and we can see numerous old external walls, doorways and windows etc.

So what have we done to get this far? There is a process – not that I knew but there is.

We started with the ceilings, not because they are the hardest to bring down, but in an old property it is the filthiest of work. Not much plasterboard ceiling here – just straw, lath & plaster and dust and dust and dust. It’s difficult to take ceilings down without parts landing on your own head. Bear that in mind if you are thinking of doing it yourself. Once done you are left with bare joists. In an old property it is likely that some will have to come down due to rot, etc. But those that are left then have to be de-nailed. The job of That There Builder Girl in this property. Not hundreds but thousands of nails. This took me days of labour.

Then there is the clearing up each day. “Tidy workplace is a good workplace” quotes Neil the builder regularly. This too is filthy work, requires lots of shovels and wheelbarrows and skips.

When converting from commercial to residential it is a requirement that all external walls are insulated so there is no choice but to strip the walls bare. In this property this also proved to be filthy work as the walls were also made of straw, lath and plaster and even cob. Again, the wood framing that is retained needs to be de-nailed.

If you are knocking down walls, some will be taken down during the stripping process but those that may require an engineers eye may have to wait until the rest of the jobs are done.

Whilst this is going on , you can strip out electrical and telephone wiring and plumbing pipes. Hold onto them. Electrical wire has a value and can be sold by the kg bag. Copper also has a value as does other metal. Not a lot, but every penny counts!

The roof space next. A never ending load of dust laden insulation material. We found some metal bedframes, an asbestos water tank (needs careful removal) and all sorts of clothing. Not even a good wash could have persuaded me to recycle them. If you are afraid of spiders this is not the job for you. Eugh!

Then there is the floor downstairs. It is again a requirement to have the floor insulated and to ensure that there is a DPM (damp proof membrane). This means digging, digging and more digging. In our case removing over 70ton of flooring and going down through numerous layers – concrete tiles (easy), sand (easy), fibreboard (easy), flagstones (not so easy but sold on so who cares!), compacted dirt (not so easy) and rock (****hard). Hundreds of wheelbarrow journeys later and my arms now hang down by my ankles!

And then back to the solid walls and the staircase. The structural engineer has provided his instruction and we are taking them down in stages. Again, some walls are fairly new. Others have been made with handmade bricks. And we are back to where we started. Loads of dust and filth and wheelbarrows and skips.

And tools to use. Sledge hammers, crowbars, hammers and pick axe. Drill hammer and circular saw. Basher and breaker. Mini digger and steel props. Electric screwdriver, wire cutters and more.

Oh the joy for That There Builder Girl never ends. Joy indeed!

Don’t panic….until you have to!

Commercial to residential, in this case, also means lots of digging! Not just a little way either. We have to dig the floor out to a suitable depth and then put it back in but with all the necessary materials that make a modern building. Including a DPM (damp proof membrane) and the necessary insulation.
We knew this from the outset, so in Week 1 we broke into just one area of the floor to see what lies underneath.

Concrete tiling is what everyone saw – great for a pub. Easy to clean and hard wearing. No good for a residential property. That was the top layer. Underneath was dirt, then blue lias flagstones. Probably originals from a way back. Yippee. There is value in them there stones and if we can save them, we can re-use them or sell them on.

Then weirdly, a type of bitumen. Didn’t smell too good but nothing to worry about.

What was worrying was the next material we found. It looked like a type of insulation board. We stopped work, masked up and sealed the area. Both Neil and Andy thought it might be asbestos. That is one of the words you do not want to hear when you start a job this big.

I cannot tell you how worried I was. My first action was to find out what I had to do. The HSE has tons of information but it doesn’t help lessen the panic. We have to dig up an area of about 90m2 – and if it was asbestos the digging out programme was about to get incredibly expensive.

That was a tough week. I sent off the sample we had unearthed to Artisan Surveyors, a specialist business found online. The result came back negative.

What a lesson to learn. We do have some asbestos sheets on an outside toilet. We know we have to deal with them in time…but it never crossed my mind that some of the floor would be made of asbestos.

You might have seen me dancing in the streets that night under the influence of sheer relief.