Still working on our stairway to heaven

When I left you last time, it was with pictures of a corridor-to-be on floor 3 which was looking a little sad and neglected.  For the avoidance of any tension, I should let you know it still does.  Instead of addressing that directly, this week we have installed the banister rails to the stairs.  After months of negotiating these with nothing more than hazard tape to keep us in place, we bit the bullet on Tuesday and started work.

First, fixing the bottom rail in place…

My secondary job was to use the chop saw to cut the rails and spindles to length, and Mike’s was to fit everything together into a recognisable form (which is why the thrilling action shots all show him, not me).  Below you can see our first banister and spindle combo.  This seems a good photo to mention my primary role, which was to do the maths.  At this stage, it was simple enough.  Take the width between newel posts and divide by 130mm (being the width of one spindle and one standard spacer) to calculate roughly how many spindles will fit.  Once you know this number, accurately divide the width by ‘that number minus one’ times 130mm; add 32mm (for the last spindle) and divide the remainder by two, so that the spindles are evenly spaced between the newel posts.  This calculates the horizontal spacing, which must be not more than 100mm apart, noting the heights are defined on the drawings.  Still with me?  OK, let’s move on then…

…a few spindles and a top rail later.

We used the same mathematical logic for the remaining horizontal banisters…

Then the next section…

…and now have a much better sense of the corridor paces we still need to finish – but can now work on them with rather more robust safety rails in place.

…and the next


Is this a better view?

Then we started on the sloping banisters.  With the enthusiasm of the novice, we launched straight into this and quickly discovered that my maths abilities had temporarily failed the task.  I managed to measure the sloping length and the horizontal length, and correctly calculated the number of spindles necessary, but completely forgot to increase the length of the spacers that are placed between the spindles, so our first installation looked more like close packed prison bars than a staircase.  Fortunately, this was spotted by Mike after about 5 spindles, so we were able to rescue and replace most of the materials (as you can see) and then add the banister top rail.

Now we begin to descend the stairs…


..and then the next flight of stairs

After three straight runs and two sloping runs, we realised we hadn’t done our normal check of our methods against YouTube postings, so Wednesday night found Mike and I huddled around the computer to check our technique.

Attempting an arty shot…

On Thursday and Friday we used a modified technique on the sloping rails, whereby we fitted the bottom and top rails, and then cut and fit the spindles, but for straight runs we continued to use our original methodology.

Just look at that furious concentration

By late this afternoon, we had reached the bottom of our staircase.  We still have some areas to complete, such as a couple of interesting junctions that will need creative solutions, and a banister across a long section on the floor 1 landing for which it is not clear where the three additional newel posts need to go – but otherwise we are nearly ready for me to start painting the fire-resistant paint onto all of this new woodwork.  It feels just like Christmas has nearly arrived.

And finally we reach the ground floor…


…and can look back at all our hard work!

I can’t believe I nearly forgot to show you the change to the external appearance, so below is a shot taken tonight as the light was beginning to fade.  We hope you may agree with us that this will be a better appearance than the old brilliant white facade.  This snap was taken at about 4.30pm – makes me realise that the clocks will go back this weekend and usher in the darker evenings in front of a roaring fire…

The extension in its new livery

SO who knows what we will do next?  Probably a couple of days in the cafe, and then…

Securing floor 3

Our refurbishment continues apace.

On Friday, we finished painting the window surrounds on the front face of the four storey building.  Sadly, we have not remembered to take a photo, so that will have to follow in my next post.

We have managed less refurbishment than usual this weekend because Jane has enjoyed a long weekend away, leaving Mike and I to run the cafe – and a busy weekend it was too  On Saturday, we were so busy that neither of us managed to have any lunch, which was wonderful!  It helped renew our faith that the crazy idea we had had to create a cafe in the middle of nowhere might actually not be so crazy.  On Sunday, to ensure this couldn’t happen again, we sat down for lunch at 11.30.  A couple of customers arrived…then another two…then more, so I left Mike to finish his lunch whilst I served the customers, and finished my lunch around 3.30pm.  We are both feeling very buoyed by this increased footfall!

Mike left me running the- rather quieter- cafe today, whilst he and Alex started fitting the additional newel posts delivered last week to the staircase.  We need some extra newel posts as the staircase was originally designed to run to four floors, but about a year ago we decided against completing the fourth floor.  This has changed the stairwell design somewhat, leaving a small walkway that will enable us to add some storage on floor 3 as well as an access route back into the manor from the stairwell.

The third floor ‘platform’

This leaves a platform of floor which we had stiffened, but as we add the newel posts, we have bolted the tall one directly to a purlin (one of the main roof timbers) and now there is no wobble at all in this small piece of floor!

Most of the newel posts now in place

Here you can just about see how a passage is retained to get back into the manor.  There will be a fire door (to ensure the stairwell is fire rated) but the access will make servicing the rooms much easier in future.

And again from a different angle

Here you can see that all five additional newel posts are in place.  Tomorrow we can start to fit the spindles and banisters which will be a great relief as the area will then be properly secure for us to walk around.  Once it is secure, it will be easier to finish the insulation and plaster boarding on the corner you can see above.

Tales of those plucky Nor-folk

We are now 2 years and 10 months into Project Penaeldroch.  Sometimes it feels like we are making slow progress, but then I only have to have a quick look back in the blog to find how much progress has been made to date!  This week, we must extend a huge thanks to Yvonne and Julie, and also Alex, who have helped us make great strides this week.

Yvonne and Julie worked with Alex as Mike’s assistants this week as I have been tied up with other bits and bobs.  They managed to finish plywood and plaster-board lining the last of the stairwell…

The top of the stairwell wall now insulated and boarded

…and helped cut and fit the insulation board to two of the rooms on floor 2.  Below is one of the bedrooms…

First bedroom on floor 2 now insulated…

…and here we see the sitting room.

…as is the sitting room

Of course, if I look in the other direction, you can see that we still have a little bit of work to do before we are ready for guests.

Still a bit to do though

The insulation on floor 2 is mostly complete in the walls now, although there remains some to replace in the ceiling cavities (once we have recreated the cavity by fitting the plasterboard ceiling back).

The other side of the stairwell wall, showing the insulation in place

This morning, we thought we should take a souvenir photo of Team Norfolk, but Lola was quite insistent on wishing to join the party.  So you can see Yvonne and Julie, holding Foss, the true members of Team Norfolk, along with myself and Lola, the impostors from Wales.

Team Norfolk lined up for a parting shot

Today Mike and I had a day in the cafe, whilst Alex worked on a small outdoor task.  A couple of years ago, we lifted thousands of paving blocks and stacked them in piles, as you can see.  Having offered these on local websites, some have been removed to other homes, so the remaining stack had become a little . . .disorganised, shall we say, to be charitable?  I asked Alex to neaten this up a bit…

Alex’s mission, which he chose to accept

…and am delighted with his progress.  After we move the wheelbarrow to its home, and use some of the blocks visible towards the right hand end, we should have a lovely tidy heap, ready for us to offer them again to anyone who can use them.

We invite you to judge his success.

Now, if all goes to plan, and it is dry tomorrow and Friday as forecast, we hope to finish painting the front facade by the weekend.