Half way up the stairs is the stair where I sit

Before I start this blog proper, I wanted to share with you how challenging it is to climb to floor 2 of the extension at the moment.  The old narrow stairs were removed a couple of months ago, and we are currently part way through installing the replacement set, so at the moment I have to climb a set of steps – not a problem – to scramble between two floor joists set 400mm apart centre to centre – a bit more problematical, being quite a snug fit.  Luckily, I don’t often need to access floor 2 at the moment.

Current stairs to the second floor

A couple of days ago, I needed to climb up since we had to raise the old floorboards (see below) because part of the old floor is where the new landing needs to be.  When the master builder didn’t need his apprentice trainee deputy under-builder, I nipped up to play with the wrecking bar and lift lots of boards so that we can better see what has to go.

Floor 2 that needs removing to make way for floor 2 landing

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Mike installed the second landing for this flight of stairs into the corner you last saw with the plaster drying off.

Second platform for stairs from floors 1 to 2 now complete

Having put the platform in, we next had to prepare the stairs.  First, we fitted the two newel posts (1 each at the top and bottom of the flight) which needed trimming to fit,…

Next flight of stairs taking a rest – waiting for the glue holding the newel posts to dry

…then glued the posts in place, and then lifted the flight into position, levelled it and screwed it in place.  Easy peasy (?!)

Second flight of stairs between floors 1 and 2

So we currently have 5 of 8 flights installed, which takes us slightly beyond half way which, as we all know, is the best place to be on a stairway.  This takes us to the end of today’s achievements.  In addition to the building work, we were quite busy in the cafe yesterday, with me acting as waitress and Mike having to drive to Llandudno for stocks for the Easter weekend.  It is somewhat ironic, then, that today was a lot colder than yesterday and rather quieter, so we still managed to push on with the stairs.

The stud wall visible on the right hand side, part plastered, now needs to be extended across to the left hand side

Our next challenge, which we probably won’t start until Wednesday, is to complete the stud wall above so that the floor 2 landing can link to it.  Looking at it another way…

This view was taken standing with my back to the view seen above.

for the other end of the landing, we will need to pull down part of the old floor (including the joist slightly left of top centre).  Once they are gone, we can fit new joists and joist hangers to support the platform of trimmers which will ultimately support the landing and thus the third flight of floor 1 to 2 stairs (the sixth of eight sets we have to install).  Only 3 flights of stairs to go before this part of the project is almost done – even thought these is quite a lot of serious building work to do before them.  I hope you are keeping everything crossed for us!

The secret of happiness is…a few more stairs

Last Saturday (March 24th) was something of a red letter day in that we managed to install another flight of stairs into our building project.   You can see the stairs below, having a rest on the trimmer which will support both these stairs and the landing to which they will lead.

Just checking the strength of the landing…

It took a little while to trim the newel posts to length, and then to check that the slots into which they fit are clear of rubbish, among other tasks at this stage. After an hour or so of faffing about, we glued the newel posts in place and screwed the stairs in their place – voila!

Flight 4 of stairs – the first from floor 1 to 2 – in place

I think their best side is their other side, so…

Same stairs, different angle

Ah.  So long in coming – so satisfying when finished.  For those, like me, who are impatient for progress, we moved straight on on Tuesday (having been on cafe duty Sunday and Monday) to considering the next landing.  This will have to be fitted into the corner showing (you can see all the additional noggins to support the weight of the landing) meaning we next needed to complete the wall.  Yesterday found us finishing the plywood and plasterboard combo in the morning, and Mike skimmed the area in the afternoon.

Now, to finish this wall…

I photographed the wall this morning, and you can see it is drying out nicely.  Today we are in the cafe, so assuming the wall has dried out by then, we will be able to start fitting the landing.

Wall completed (to a certain extent) and now skimmed.

There were phases yesterday when Mike did not require the services of his apprentice trainee deputy under-builder, even though I was wearing my snazzy overalls, so I skulked off to an adjacent room and (with a little help from the Master builder) fitted the plywood panel to block off a doorway that used to lead into an en suite bathroom.  I then practised my wall-paper removal skills so that the corner you can see is no longer sporting wood chip wallpaper, over-painted many times, complete with various over-painted decorative friezes previously at the top of the wall.

Disguising the old doorway begins

With the plywood in place, I then installed insulation to the other side of the gap being filled.  In due course (i.e. next time I can nag Mike to give me a hand moving the 8′ x 4′ sheets of ply (that’s roughly 2.4m x 1.2m for the modern folk – and pretty heavy whichever system you use to measure it) and trimming them to size) this side will be ply-wooded, and then we can add plasterboard and skim – I’m sure you get the picture.

and insulation in place

We are hoping to be making good progress this Thursday to Saturday, but then have a few days lined up in the cafe so who knows when the next runs of stairs will go in?!?  I love a good mystery…

One landing issue closes, and another doorway is opened…

Our magnificent project has moved forwards apace this week, with only the smallest of obstacles delaying our progress.

You see below the new trimmer in place, ready for the first flight of stairs from floor 1 to floor 2 to rest against the front of the structure (bottom of picture).  Once in place, we cut the stairs to size in the two places necessary and then offered them up to the trimmer . . . only to find that the landing ‘extension’ which Mike built the day before he went down with the ‘flu was too small!  Cue lots of measuring, reading of plans and scratching of heads.  We eventually realised that the first flight of stairs on floor 1 comprises 5 steps, whilst the similar flight on floor 0 has 6 steps, so the landing extension needed to be about 250mm longer than we had built.

Our new trimmer, in place

Next step – you can see below that we have removed the landing ‘extension’ floorboards, after which Mike had to dismantle parts of the substructure before rebuilding a bigger version.  This required us first to cut away the old floor (on the left hand side of the picture below) to give us room to work – which did then leave an uncomfortably large hole in the floor for us to work around.

The ‘old’ landing extension, being taken apart

Most of the time, I was helping Mike, cutting bits, holding bits, fetching bits, getting the tea, insisting we read the plans – all the regular trainee deputy under-builder tasks.  When I was released from these duties, I took my energy and any frustrations out on the wall you can see below, which in the fullness of time will form a doorway into an en suite bathroom…

New doorway being created

…and when I got bored with that, I returned to helping the Master as he lovingly re-crafted the landing ‘extension’.  Below you can see much of the substructure, including the noggins for increased rigidity….

The replacement landing extension, in production

…and further below you see it again with various angle brackets, flat screw plates and enormous bolts in place, with just a little bit of fiddling still to do before the floor boards can be fitted.  As this was happening on a day when we knew I would be needed on task for about 15 minutes in the hour, and as it was forecast to be a dry day, we lit the bonfire at the top of the hill behind us.

Nearly done

For some months, the site had been full of partly burned Rhododendron stumps along with random heaps of gardening detritus, onto which we carried out all the old floor boards we have raised recently along with various wooden materials we had removed which were impregnated with the distinct scent of rodent.  Being a well organised and conscientious worker, obviously I took a picture before I lit the match – it must have got lost somewhere in the processing routine (or perhaps I just forgot…) but I hope you are impressed that the 4 black objects towards the right of the shot are all that remains of this massive pile, and if these stumps continue to smoulder there may be even less tomorrow.  Once it all cools down and I have dug away the worst of the ashes, if all goes to plan, this will be a planted area by the summer.

Bonfire, what bonfire?

Back indoors, Mike had finished cutting and fitting the floorboards to the landing extension so tomorrow we hope to fit the next flight of stairs in place.  Once he had finished this, Mike started plastering the area that I stripped of wallpaper earlier in the week, so that it should be dry when we come to fit the third flight of stairs next week.

Ta da! New landing ‘extension’, on floor 1, now in place, ready to receive the first flight of floor 1 stairs

Tomorrow we will continue with the stairs, unless of course the cafe gets really busy what with the school Easter holidays being imminent, in which case Mike might lose his trainee deputy under-builder every now and then – but I’m sure he can cope.