It’s raining, it’s pouring…

Is it possible to grow webbed feet? Is Mr. Clooney the modern day ark? All answers on a postcard…

I can tell you it is a tad uncomfortable in South Somerset when the wind and rain announces itself. The days are disrupted as we are trying to finish the roof. The nights are difficult as Mr. Clooney rocks to the incessant beat of the downpour. Sleepeth interruptus occurred consistently last week. The only good point – at least I wasn’t there this weekend!

I guess that’s what you get for doing a renovation project in February. Ah well.

If anyone is thinking of doing property renovation I would still recommend it. It’s pretty interesting and certainly keeps me occupied. But I would issue a word of caution. Turning a commercial property into a residential property is so much more demanding.

Demanding = bigger budget.

The requirements are quite significant and only relevant because it was a commercial building. If this had been an old decrepid house that I was updating I wouldn’t have to do half the amount of work. About 1/3 of my total budget has been spent so far and much of it to comply with these commercial to residential regulations.

The bad weather has allowed us to move ahead inside. We have built the stud walls for the utility, both ensuite bathrooms and finished off a little brickwork here and there. The 4 new windows have been installed, but we are holding back on the new glazing for the existing windows (building regs) until I no longer need to use a hammer. Sensible precaution given my apprentice status and how many mis-hits I apply in a day.

We have also broken through the back wall which will eventually be the boiler room. At the moment its our toilet so its going to be ‘whistle while you pee’ as we no longer have a lockable door there.

So what next. We need 2 days clear weather to finish the roof and 5 days in the next 10 to do the rendering. In the meantime, we are inside insulating and it’s a big and expensive job. The sloped bedroom ceilings need 50mm between the rafters, then 60mm on top of that followed by battens and plasterboard. All of the outside walls get 60mm, then battens then plasterboard. The attic has 150mm between the joists and another 150mm on top. The bedroom floors get 100mm and each stud wall gets 75mm. The ground floor gets 100mm before the screed goes down.

I keep telling myself we are turning the corner. But it’s a long sloping, winding, uphill corner littered with hurdles and water features.

I am off to buy a snorkel and water wings…!

Reaching for the sky…

This building project has many challenges. I have done what I can to plan in advance and I constantly update my budget and timeline but I still get surprised either by things I hadn’t even considered or by the actual cost.

We joke about how much timber we have put into this house. Anyone would think I am developing a timber frame building…but alas, no. The old timber has either been eaten, has rotted from damp or has warped because it wasn’t installed properly the first time. New roof purlins and rafters, new ceiling and floor joists – all of it properly measured, cut and installed to Building Regs requirements. If I feel I need a walk in the woods I just pop into the building! All I am missing are the squirrels!

The external roof work started on 8 January and we have managed 5 days of active work in 2 weeks. That’s the problem of doing this in January. The weather plays a big part in how much progress can be made. The entire roof is receiving a new membrane and battens. We are retaining the tiles for one side of the roof, but installing new tiles for the other side. A bit of repointing around the chimneys and the addition of a new chimney pot should mean that the eventual new owners won’t have to touch the roof for 20 plus years.

On the rainy and/or windy days, we continue to work inside. Stud walls are going up and brickwork is being finalised. The power supply to the building has been moved and I have chosen a woodburner for the main lounge. This means the liner can be installed into the chimney whilst the scaffolding is in place.

The coming week looks good for cold sunshine so the roof should get some loving attention all week. My job…as always..is to keep the site tidy. My relationship with the wheelbarrow is steady.

I am not going onto the roof…that is one job too high for me. But I am slowly cleaning up the outside of the building in readiness for rendering and will be introduced to a high powered pressure washer this week.

Western Power have been in to move the mains electricity cable into the building. BT Openreach are popping by to remove some of their 1950’s wiring still attached to the building and I am having lengthy communication with the local authority about a street light positioned directly in line with 2 of the bedrooms. Watch this space!

Mr. Clooney (aka the caravan) has been treating me well. Cabin fever does strike occasionally. I have been pretty lucky so far. A few gales but no lightning yet. Lots of rain but no noticeable leaks and only one week of consistently freezing weather.

Have I spoken too soon…!

Is it a floor? Is it a ceiling…

A short week for me. Monday was supplier meetings so no physical work until Tuesday and am heading home on Thursday evening as off to the Big Smoke for a Friday night of loveliness with a scrummage of Penguin rugby players and supporters (is that the collective noun?).

But a short week doesn’t limit the amount of work that has to be done. So Neil and I have the task of levelling off one bedroom floor and putting in a brand new floor in another bedroom (happens to also be the ceiling for the boot room / guest toilet.

This requires much timber. I am becoming well versed in timber terminology. Here it’s spoken in old ‘money’ (6by2; 4by2 etc) but ordered from the merchant in new money (150×47) unlike plywood which is still ordered in sheets in old money (8ftx4ft). Over 140m ordered for the two rooms. Thankfully its cut to manageable sizes…though if you’d seen me (wo)man carrying a 4.8m length of timber from the carpark to the pub you would question the term ‘manageable’.

Then there’s the nails – 40mm galvanised clout nails in this case. Ordered by the kg rather than the hundreds or thousands. 2.5kg for this little job. Add 52 joist hangers, 5x 1m lengths of M16 threaded rod then cut to size; M16 nuts and washers and a tube or two of silicon and we are ready to go.

Neil does the calculations and measuring. No surprise there for those that know me well. I am after all just the apprentice on this job…but I am learning and spend my day watching and learning in between lifting, hammering and cleaning – with an occasional expletive when the hammering misfires.

It’s getting colder now too, although much of the work is still very physical so keeping warm is not a problem once the work starts. But first thing in the morning is a tad chilly and my “home from home” caravan is fighting hard to keep me warm in the evenings. Last night’s howling gale was an interesting experience. Once I reassured myself that the caravan was too heavy to fly away, and I got used to the swaying motion it was really rather soothing. Reminded me of sleeping in a yacht in a force 8 gale.

I was “rocked” to sleep whilst listening to some chillout tunes!

Oh the life of That There Builder Girl.

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!