More slash and burn

Building work over the last four days has been slight.  Partly because we still await our plumber, but partly because we had a slightly embarrassing task to undertake.

We had put a couple of doorways in, that were not high enough.  Oh yes, we had put them in about 100mm too short.   So we had to take out the plasterboard and plywood, and raise the stud work to the correct height.  I am guessing that, like most people, this was just the sort of fiddly job that we kept putting off, and off, and off, until there really was nothing more we could do but mend this mistake.

Only a minor adjustment necessary
Adjustment finished

All better now!


Making progress

Friends Yvonne and Julie arrived on Friday, so we have spent the weekend with Mike and I running the cafe, and Yvonne and Julie playing slash and burn Rhododendron ponticum on the hillside.

Here we can see Julie getting to grips with the trimmings, expertly burning the waste whilst…

To give you a sense of scale, Yvonne battles on

…Yvonne gave it some welly with the loppers.  It is great that on the top level now we are beginning to reveal the lay of the land – so can start trying to recover pathways and plan the revitalisation of the woodland – but also uncover a wealth of native trees which have just about managed to survive and can now be helped to thrive having lost a dense surrounding of Rhodo leaf.

Slowing clearing the rhodo…

As you can see here, the worst of the growth has been removed, and it remains only to stem inject the stumps and rake the ground to remove any chippings or traces of Rhodo remaining.

Anyway, here’s hoping for tomorrow…keeping everything crossed.

One step at a time – even if you have a lump hammer in your hand…

Mike and I have returned our focus to staircases since last I wrote.  We have continued to extend and stiffen  the stairwell, as you can see below

The second wall of the stairwell is progressing

Just out of shot to the left of the above photo is the staircase you see in the photo below.  On Monday, whilst Mike tendered paninis, I took to the lump hammer to persuade the stairs below that their day has gone.

One staircase going…

I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle the task, so started with the wrecking saw and cut through the side rail a few times.  In an inspired moment, I gave the side bar a strategic tap with the lump hammer and chunks of it started to fall off in my hands, honest guv.  Once the side rail had begun to move, it was a simple matter to encourage the risers and treads, in turn, to give up the ghost.


This continued, basically, as far as I could reach without needing a step stool.  I decided against the stool as – and you may have already noticed this – there is quite a gap in the floor, and I didn’t want to risk toppling off anything into the void.  Oh, and just in case you think the Michelin Man has joined me in my overalls, you might like to know it is pretty cold in the building area, and it takes many layers of jumpers to make me look this way!

…nearly gone

Today, Mike was able to hand the apron to Jane and use his superior height and strength to demolish the quarter landing and short flight of stairs above – and you can still see their shadow on the plasterboard in the shot below.

Today, even the top steps have disappeared

I include the shot below as a curiosity.  Now that the stairs between first and second floor have been removed, we can see right up through the building to the ceiling of floor 2 from the ground floor.  You can also see the water pipes which we now need moving, even more desperately than before…

A view from the ground floor – but hopefully not for much longer!

Fingers crossed for tomorrow!

How green is our valley?

Whilst we were dismantling a bathroom earlier this week, we met what we presume was an (interesting) repair.  You may be able to see below that a piece of plywood is in place behind the shower controls, and this had been tiled just slightly proud of the other tiles.  Nice!  At least the tiles they used matched those already in place – we can assure you that this was not normal in this building.  The board behind the tiles was also worryingly black – our guess is that something has been leaking slightly for a few years….

An interesting repair

During the last few days Mike and I have taken a half day off, when we visited a series of garden centres to appease my need to get some fresh air occasionally.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Mike has worked out how to line up the frame of the fire door below with the structural wall we need to put in at 90 degrees to the back wall of the stairwell (towards the right hand side of the photo).

Door frame being reinforced …

To recap – the fire door was put in before the architect amended the plans to include a structural wall here.  We therefore have had to create a structural wall to the camera side of the fire door as it leads into the long corridor.  Below you can see we have now added plasterboard, plywood, and studs to create a strong structure, with a wooden lintel above, ready for us to install the rest of the structural wall above. more fortified

Earlier today, Mike and I installed studs above this doorway, followed by plywood stiffening, so that the wall extends through floor 1 and tomorrow we will begin to extend this wall onto floor 2.

Whilst we did this, we had someone working on the wilderness behind the building.  The first two photos below give an idea of the cover on the rock behind the premises – generally Rhododendron ponticum along with bramble and the occasional hemlock along with other random plants.




We have employed someone to come along and remove the Rhododendron top growth (ready for us to stem-inject the stump) and any hemlock, and you can see in the two photos below the net result.

In this shot, you can still see the smoke drifting across from the bonfire.  You also see part of the wonderfully decorative (!?!) fire escape which we can radically amend once the fire-rated staircase is installed.  My apologies that these photos (taken in diminishing light this afternoon) do not really capture the enormity of the task of clearing these rock faces, nor how much progress has been made, but we hope they do convey that we still have much work to do here!


But it does feel really good that we are continuing to slowly inroads on this hillside.  Perhaps the photo above shows the most important element of this clearance: before this afternoon, we had no clear idea of the lay of the land, as it was not possible to see through the layer of Rhodo leaves to the land below.  Now we can see that the slope is relatively gentle and continuous, so once we have raked the loose debris away, it should be possible to mark a walking path and then plant shrubs into the remaining land/rock, in order that we can – in the medium to long term – create a gently undulating planted space that could be walked through fairly confidently without customers risking life and limb – once we have managed to kill off the persistent weeds.




Back to work – sort of

Jane has had two days back since I last wrote, so we are slowly getting back to our construction work, as well as all the other things we spend our lives doing!

In these two days, we stripped off the pink plasterboard on the wall side of the fire door into the main corridor

I didn’t like this shade of pink anyway…
…back to the studs and insulation, ready to rebuild the wall

as we need to modify the line of the wall here, following the new plans for the stairwells (see blog entries passim.)  We now need to replace with a different plasterboard; then a sheet of plywood, then further plasterboard.  I hope that is clear to all.

Meanwhile, Mike was working on the joists upstairs.  He and I had already put plywood and then plasterboard onto the new stud wall (visible in centre of the picture below) which enables Mike to add the joist hanger, into which we can now sit the new joist.

Mike is replacing the joist

and after he was happy that the joist was sitting properly, he then bolted the new joist to the old joist stubs (big bolt about third in in the centre of the shot).

Bolt ready to go in

As various parts of this procedure were essentially a one person job, I occasionally had to keep myself occupied.  As you can see below, I spent my time standing innocently in a bathroom where the tiles kept spontaneously leaping off the walls.  Very strange.

Tiles are throwing themselves off the walls

Tomorrow we will continue with joists and walls so perhaps a bit more of the same, but doing things with stairs should be only about a week away now….



Progress is slow

This will be a very brief update, as this has been a strange few days for us.

Jane has the lurgy.  We know that the winter cold doing the rounds this year is very nasty, so are happy that Jane stays away so we don’t contribute to spreading it about and hope normal service can be resumed as soon as Jane is feeling better.

We have this winter’s cold on board…

We have therefore spent the last four days manning the kitchen, doing some spring cleaning when circumstances allow.  In addition, earlier today, we took some shots of the scones so that we can include this on the next edition of our menu.

Scone anyone?

Today, Mike declared that he really couldn’t leave it any longer and needed to do some veneer cutting.  As you can see, he sweated and strived all day – but as this end of the building is much colder than the cafe where I was working, I was happy to see he could still smile despite the lack of heating!

This veneering lark is a tough gig

Here’s hoping we will be able to return to construction work before next posting is due.

Woman power, with sledgehammer!

Storm Eleanor has certainly left her share of windy days in North Wales this week.  It has been really rather blowy so we have pushed on with the indoor work as we didn’t fancy finding ourselves on the other side of the river against our will.

On Wednesday, my destructive urges were given full reign, and I wielded the sledgehammer on a set of walls on floor 2 that used to define the edge of a shower cubicle, the staircase and door into a room.

the shower is nearly gone…

These walls have been reduced to rubble sack contents, but I (and later we) had to be very careful when swinging the hammer to ensure our momentum did not tip us into the void over the staircase which opened up in front of us.

So one false step through the studs and you would fall down the stairs

On Thursday, after a shopping trip to Porthmadog, we turned our attention to lifting the floor so that we could see how the joists ran…

So the walls are coming down, and the floors are coming up

…and then as Mike lifted the floor in front of and to the right of the toilet room,

… I removed the studs so that we could walk through to the room visible at rear left, giving us a path through behind where the boards were lifted

Now the reason for some of this is just about visible in the picture below.

On floor 1 now, evidence of woman power (and a little help from electrical gadgets)

On floor 1, there was a stiffened wall which you can see now resembles a strange honeycomb of gappy plywood.  About 20cm behind it, you can see a new stud wall.  The new stud wall will form part of the left hand side of the new stairwell but, in order to clad it with plywood and then fire-resistant plasterboard, we need to remove the old wall to the front.  We therefore needed to support the joists which had been resting on the now-honeycombed wall, which is why we needed to lift the floor on the floor above.  I hope this is making sense to you all!  So, on Friday, whilst Mike was wearing his chefs hat, I was carrying a wrecking saw whilst wearing a safety helmet and a big smile

The same pair of wall viewed from the other side

It was surprisingly difficult to cut away the old wall with the new wall so close in front, so I have left part of this until we can both be on site on Sunday.  Some of the pieces still needing removal are pretty large and heavy, and I wouldn’t want them to fall in an uncontrolled manner.

I’ve left a bit of work for Sunday, when Mike will be available to give me a hand.

Today we have been on cafe duty but also storing away all the Christmas paraphernalia for future re-use.  Tomorrow, according to the weather forecast, should be a sunny day so we will be taking a day away from construction to complete some pressing tasks in the grounds.  More details next time!


Blwyddyn Newydd Dda pawb (that’s Happy New Year Everyone)

I can’t believe it’s two weeks since I last wrote.  Or perhaps I can – I last wrote on 19th December; Jane had Christmas holiday from the 22nd onwards, so Mike and I have been enjoying a break from construction doing the cooking and waiting in the cafe.  We have met some wonderful people over the Christmas break so wouldn’t dream of complaining – but as Jane is back in harness today we are now able to get back to construction work.

First, though, I will share one of our more fiendish Christmas presents.  Charley gave us the 500 piece jigsaw you see below – yes, 500 pieces, all in shades of blue/green, with no picture.  The whole family got stuck into putting it together and it took us about 2 days to get the top and bottom thirds finished.  We then had a lovely American family arrive and whilst Mike and I showed the parents around the property their three children, working in an almost zen-like trance, completed the remainder!

No prizes for guessing what kept us busy over Christmas!

Yesterday, Dick and Jean popped in with John to show off the latest car on which Dick has worked.

John’s new toy – a Singer of some sort.  I’m sure I should know which model but…
John and Jean are being driven away by Dick.  Dick waves cheerio.  “Pip pip”, he calls.  Can you guess who got some Ladybird books for Christmas?

So today we rushed back to floor 2, where we need to destroy parts of a room which overhang an existing stairway which will – eventually – be incorporated into the fire-rated stairwell.  Whilst Mike worked out exactly what needed to be demolished, I set about dismantling the doorway to a toilet, and then began to knock down the left hand wall seen below.

One door liner coming away from its doorway

Mike lifted floorboards until he could track where the water pipes were running, and then put on the freezing kit so that he could cut through and cap the pipes whilst the ice plug seals the water.  Twice this worked brilliantly.  On the third attempt, we found we had created quite a jet of water as the water hadn’t quite frozen .  I had to kneel in the puddle and do my little-Dutch-boy trick whilst Mike dashed around trying to find a suitable stopcock to turn off the fountain.

Pipes in the process of being frozen

We then spent the rest of the morning bashing down the last remnants of the old shower cubicle (left hand side) and wardrobe (right hand side) which I had knocked apart a month or so ago, so that I could bash out the wall you can see on the far right below, which is the inside of a bulkhead over the stairs (if you see what I mean).  When we stopped for lunch, the cafe was gratifyingly busy so I had to change to help Jane whilst Mike returned to the demolishing.  He spent the afternoon re-routing an electric socket so that tomorrow, when I swing the lump hammer at the wall, I won’t need to avoid any electrical fittings as they are now on the floor.

The shower is no more

I can’t wait!