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…!

An unexpected turn…

There is no doubt that the big unanswered question on this project was going to be about the roof. How much work and what was it going to cost? What would show up when the tiles came off? Would it make me weep openly or simply be the cause of even larger quantities of alcohol to be consumed? Or both?

Once the tiles, old batten and felt were off we realised that one side of the roof had to be fitted with new rafters all the way along due to a massive dip about one third up. We knew (sort of) that something was amiss. I am pretty sure I saw a load of squirrels using the roof as a ski jump one night – or that might be another one of my dreams!

We sorted the dip. I was not expecting the same problems on the other side of the roof. I don’t know what I was thinking! Just a 9inch dip from one end to the other again at about 1/3 of the way down.

Oh well. It is what it is I say to myself each night as I empty another piggy bank.

But the roof has thrown another little surprise at us. Actually, not the roof but the felt that we used or to use its proper term – ‘breathable membrane’. With the new rafters sorted, the felt went down and new batten was nailed into place. First side done and so we gleefully moved onto the second side.

But no. This felt stuff is supposed to be waterproof. Even during the first few nights it started showing leakage. Drips inside the property. Rob the roofer spoke to the supplier. Then we had a night of frost and the inside of the felt froze…and when it defrosted the resultant water rained into the property – literally. Puddles and all.

A word with the product rep resulted in an immediate ‘not our products fault’. Very helpful. Thanks for listening.

Thankfully, our building materials supplier is a little more reactive. We swapped out 3 rolls for another batch of the same product and some of it has already been installed on the other side of the roof. So far it is bone dry. The original is still soaking wet. We think the first lot was a dodgy batch. The product rep – yes the one who is so helpful – says its impossible…! Didn’t expect that response…!

So…now we wait. The product rep is coming to site on Tuesday along with the building materials man. We probably need to rip out what we have done which not only means additional labour and material costs but extending the scaffolding hire – and I don’t intend to pay for it.

Rob the roofer has never seen this before. Neil has never seen this before. Andy has never seen this before and I have never seen this before. But to be fair, I have never seen breathable membrane up close and personal before so I don’t think I count in this regard.

In the meantime, a skip arrived which means only one thing.

My ongoing relationship with a wheelbarrow and spade continues.

There is no rest…

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…!