Christmas is a coming…

It took two of us to drag the hemlock up the hill for the old stairwell but, as you can see, the tree for the dining room is a relative lightweight, easily transported by the hired help.  More of this later.

And the hunter home from the hill

We spent most of the weekend in the cafe, where trade has been really quite quiet since the snow arrived.  As it is all gone now, we will ensure we leave enough time in the schedule for the catering, but are carrying on regardless with the building work at the moment.


Here you see the third floor where we need to extend the stiffening wall from the stairwell wall to create a hall wall in floor 3.  First we put in the base and top plates, then the ‘four be twos’


and then the noggins to stiffen it all.  After that,  we popped down to floor 2 to put in bracing pieces before we cut the joists.  Yes, 5 of the floor joists have now been cut through, and I will let you know in a day or two what happens next!

Photo of stairwell tree, taken from below (to try to get it all in the shot)

On a more festive note, the larger of the felled hemlocks can be seen above, partly decorated ready for the festive season.  And below you can see our second hemlock which we have placed strategically at the front of the house, as we suddenly realised a couple of days ago that all of our festive items were towards the rear of the house, and we suspect people were beginning to think we were not open.  We are hoping that the lights from this tree will be visible as people drive up…

Dining room tree

Oh, and we took Jasper to the vets yesterday.  He had had a wart above one eye for a year or so that wasn’t bothering him (although it bothered lots of people who thought it was a tick) but a few days ago he knocked it off and it kept weeping.  Every time it stopped, Jasper would knock the scab off, and we were back to weeping.  When Mike took him to the vets and received a list of possible alternative treatments, he decided that a ruff was just the fashion statement Jasper needed for the next ten days, but I’m not so sure that the dog agrees…

Guess who’s been to the vets recently

Snow news is good news? (sorry)

It has been snowing in North Wales.  To give you an idea of the scale…

Last Sunday morning, and the snow was still falling
Plas, looking rather ‘cleaner’ than usual
The up-river view from the bridge
To show that Christmas has come to the cafe
and Moel Siabod was looking glorious in the morning sun on Wednesday

Now I have got the pretty pictures out of the way, I will return to the work, as I can tell I have not managed to distract you.

On Sunday, I worked in the cafe whilst Mike continued to fit the joist hangers and then put the joists back in place to form floor 2.  Mike was quite busy but, oddly enough, with snow thick on the ground the cafe was pretty quiet for the top end of the week.  Some of you may know that we are just off the A470 which had been well gritted, but the minor road across the river bridge and up the steep slope to Plas was not so well tended, so we can quite understand people avoiding it.

The joists are being replaced at 90 degrees to the original joists.  On Tuesday, I had another destructive day (quelle surprise) as we removed the sanitary ware from an en suite, and I then removed all the remaining tiles, frames and so forth.

Woman in her element with wrecking bar…
…and now its all gone!

On Wednesday we needed our heads for heights.  We blocked off a redundant doorway, finished the joists for floor 2 and on Thursday we finished fitting the floor over the joists, created the stud wall to the bathroom and then advanced to floor 3…

Floor 2 taking shape
The stud work for the bathroom wall is complete
Floor on floor 3 being prepared for the new partition wall

…where we have to lift floorboards in order that we can continue our new stud wall from floors 1 and 2 up onto floor 3.

Felling the Christmas tree for the old stairwell

In the afternoon, we cut down two hemlocks (which we have been asked to remove from the grounds as they are regarded as weed species here) to serve as Christmas trees.  One has been lashed in place in the old stairwell and the second will be positioned in the dining room so that it can be seen from the front of the property.  So there’s only a little bit of decorating for me still to do then…?!?

Onwards and upwards!

We have made quite pleasing progress this week; or perhaps I should just say we are pleased with the progress -whether there is wider approval will remain to be seen.

To the left, stud wall into en suite. to the right, stiffening wall with centre panels removed, ready for demolition
See- no wall!

On Wednesday, we cut through and removed the stiffening plywood wall on floor 1, and then took delivery of the new studs and plywood ready to rebuild.  I managed the building work just fine, but moving 10 sheets of 8′ x 4′ of 12mm ply across an exposed spot and against the freezing wind nearly did for me, even if Mike was doing his share of the heavy lifting!

Perhaps you can see the extent of the destruction best here…
Moving out the sand from under the floor

On Thursday, we removed the floor, along with the builders sand which has been incorporated between floors – we assume for soundproofing.  We cut through the sub-floor to reveal a joist sitting on top of the steel girder, which is what we had been looking for.  As great good fortune would have it, the building inspector called round at lunch time and was able to look at the joist and agree a slightly off-plan solution with Mike.  In short, we will rest the new wall on a second joist bolted to the joist sitting on the steel, rather than having to remove this and go back to the steel.  (Non-building fraternity, feel free to ignore the last sentence).  Mike was justifiably proud that the inspector was content with all of the work we have done so far…

There is a steel down there somewhere…
Here we are blocking up the old doorway into the (now defunct) en suite
The new stud walls going up…

After my Welsh class on Friday, during which Mike had installed the new joist and bolted it in place, we started to rebuild the stiffening walls in their new locations.  The snow started to fall in the morning and whilst the landscape looked pretty, the roads stayed fairly clear.  However, late in the afternoon the snow began to settle on the roads, and the journey to Llanrwst for blood-doning was really rather slippery.  We thought this mornings view of Moel Siabod was worth a shot, though.

Siabod, under a dusting of snow
For those who want proof of the snowfall here…

Today we have continued the rebuild, and now have a new stud wall in place, lined with both plywood and fire-proof plasterboard, so tomorrow (if the snow is still settled and therefore people are less likely to be travelling to the cafe) we will start to fit the joist hangers and re-fit floor 2, this time with joists running in a different direction.

The new walls on floors 1 and 2, now ply faced, and photo taken before the plasterboard was fitted

I hope this is all clear.  To check, we will be offering a test to check comprehension any day now… but I must stop now and prepare for the deluge of snow expected any minute, which has Mike dancing with excited anticipation..



How to demolish bathrooms in one easy lesson!

On Saturday, Mike and I disconnected the water supply to the baths, sinks and loos to two en suite bathrooms on floor 2 and removed the fitments.  They will be featuring on a resale site any day now, as I am sure original avocado fitments with one careful owner must be of interest to someone!

Mike doing his Hercules thing…
… not sure where he put the bath but clearly he is ready to carry on…

I then stripped off any remaining wall tiles, taking only a small pause to help Jane when a large group of horse riders and their grooms stopped by for lunch.

On Sunday, after church, we decorated the cafe in preparation for Christmas.  Next weekend, we will fell the huge tree that will take pride of place next to the existing stairwell – anyone wishing to help decorate the tree will be welcomed with open arms!

Yesterday, I returned to demolishing floor 2.  The remaining tiles and plasterboard came down, and I began to cut through the ‘stiffening’ wall on floor 2.

Plywood stiffening wall in the process of being demolished

Long term readers may recall that our original plans had to be adapted last year when we found that some of the stud walls (usually non-load bearing) were stiffened with plywood (so bearing some load).  The plans were re-drawn to enable us to remove some of the stiffened walls and then rebuild them in a different location, allowing rooms to be remodelled.  Removing the plywood was slightly concerning as we know, temporarily, the building will be less robust.  We are thinking if we tippy-toe around very carefully, and avoid standing side by side on the higher floors until we have replaced the stiffening, perhaps everything will be ok!?!

Back to the wall – the in-wall insulation was removed and kept for reuse, and the plywood and studs were removed.

One reciprocating saw and a few hours later…

Mike, meanwhile, was cooking up a storm in the cafe.

Ta da! All gone!

Today we both returned to floor 2 and finished removing the plywood wall, followed by lifting most of the floor boards from the two en suites and removing the insulation.

Time to start lifting the floor boards

I then used a broom to push the floor 1 ceiling down (very satisfying!) whilst Mike cut through the joists because these all need to be turned to rest on the new wall, once we have built this in the desired place.  We also lit a bonfire to get ride of the plywood and old floor boards, and played target practice throwing the refuse sacks into our rubbish bin.

So the wall has gone, and the floor boards are up and the ceiling is down – I wonder what happens next…?
So, now you see the plywood wall on the floor below, ready for us to start all over again…
I don’t think we really need these joists – shall we just take them away for a little while?
Well that’s really quite a big hole – I wonder what we should do now?

Oh, and this afternoon we broke off for an hour or so to cut some firewood, as the weather forecast suggests we could be deep in snow by the weekend!



Back in harness and raring to go…

I am pleased to report that Mike and I had a lovely few days on Anglesey, and are returned rested and ready for some work.  I would fill in the details of our holibobs, but as we sort of read as read a book, slept, read a book, watched a film, slept…, it might be a bit too dull even for my updates!

Anywho, we rushed back so that I didn’t miss my welsh lesson this morning, and after I went shopping to replenish cafe stores this afternoon, Mike and I re-started the refurbishment work with a vengeance.  Having had no word from the plumber for a month now (who we are confident is working hard on people’s broken down heating systems, but we wish he would just let us know revised e.t.a.), Mike has reluctantly made a start on disconnecting pipes, with me as the faithful mate holding drip cloths and spare spanners…

Hmm – what are we looking at exactly?

Here we can see the hot water feed and return alongside the cold water mains feed and tank feed.  Mike turned off the supply and drained the cold water feed for the bathtubs, which we then cut, carefully collecting the drips in a mug (seen below)  via a cunning tin foil under-tray.  Cheered by this success, we cut through the cold water mains feed (toilets and hand basins) [I hope you are enjoying these gripping details] which dripped a little as one might have hoped.

Oh, that thing – of course!

Next, we cut through the hot water return but this pipe dripped rather more dramatically than either of the other two.  So dramatically, in fact, that we tried to hold back the tide with our thumbs, and when that -predictably – failed, we scratched our heads for a while,  On removing our thumb, the water arced high above the pipes so we used a cap to deflect the water downwards into the mug (using the dustpan as a saucer to catch drips).

But this thingummy here seems to be dripping a bit more than expected…

Mike  left me in charge of a couple of mugs and a large bucket into which these could be drained, whilst he disappeared to try to work out where on earth the water was still coming from.  After he fiddled with some more taps and valves, Mike worked out what hadn’t yet been turned off, and we then managed to contain and finally stop the deluge before fitting the stop ends (or whatever they are known as by the plumbing fraternity) to the third severed pipe.  After this, we cut the hot water feed.  We were pretty confident this one shouldn’t be too much of a problem because when Mike turned additional things off due to the large drip, this pipe changed from being uncomfortably hot to the touch to rather cool, so we kind of hoped that the feed for this pipe had also been turned off.  This final pipe cutting turned out to be satisfyingly tame.


This nail file doesn’t seem to be as sharp as I thought…

On the plus side everything was watertight when the myriad of stopcocks were turned back on!

During the work, I might have had a word with the boss-man about how I had found the hacksaw very difficult to use.   Obviously, I have blamed the saw not functioning on my relatively pathetic strength but I suspect the sharpness of the blade might have been the real issue and I am hopeful that before we try this sort of task again, we might check how sharp the tools are first.   I should further note that we have also agreed that this is the last time we will undertake major tasks such as plumbing work when Mike is recovering from a migraine the day before, as we both noted that the rate of progress was not dazzling under the circumstances and rather more eventful than expected.

We remain delighted to report, though, that we are back in harness and looking forward to returning to proper progress now we are re-energized!