Are we building, or cake making..?

We have had a busy week in the cafe this week. As the weather is picking up, more people are around and about in the area, and this Bank Holiday weekend, more so than normal. This weekend, Mike and I have only just managed to keep on top of demand in the cafe and are thrilled that we will need to look to recruit additional help soon.

Can you guess where the doorway used to be?

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the building work continues. Last week Mike plastered several walls. As you can see here, the different rates of drying of the plaster clearly shows where the old door into the en-suite bathroom has been blocked off.

I think we should ask Mike to ice more cakes – it can’t be that different from plastering, can it?

Mike is continuing with one of his preferred activities, and has now plastered about half of the rooms on floor 1.

Carrie back on her favourite occupation, painting…

This enables me to return to painting and, again, I have mist coated about half of the first floor.

I think we should ask Mike to whisk up the cake mixes – it can’t be that different from mixing plaster, can it?

Here we see Mike mixing plaster – photo included just so I can ask the silly question in the caption above.

Carrie cutting a channel for the wiring –

I would love to ask a similarly silly question here but, sadly, I’m not sure that there is a similar activity involved in cake making on which to make a joke.

We are now one month into the three months we had left to finish the rooms, but we are not entirely clear if we are up to target as Mike has totally gone off piste and is not following the schedule! How dare he – I mean, anyone would think he was in charge of this project or something?!

Seriously, we still think we should be open by end July, but I do plan to gently persuade him (!) to work in a slightly different order soon, in order that we can better predict when we are likely to be ready. After all, there is no pressure here…

And another doorway opens

We started this week with a bathroom in which plywood was in place to receive wall tiles (see above), and floor tiles.

That thar plumbing just had to be hidden

First, we boxed in the waste water plumbing, and then started plaster boarding around it.

Tiles now cover the floor

Then we tiled the floor, after Mike had installed the shower tray, just out of shot top right here, and once the tile cement had properly gone off…

…and now the walls

…we installed the wall tiles for the shower surround. Once that had been done, and whilst the glue dried, we returned to boxing in the pipework.
Sadly, when Mike returned from the builders merchants this morning proudly bearing his 90 degree bend, we found that we were more tired than perhaps we had realised. We had previously carefully installed stud work to support the plasterboard, but now know we had not put the centre stud in a sensible place.

Deliberate mistake No. several

When Mike tried to fit the bend, it was not possible as the stud obstructed access. Oh well, nothing that a decent handsaw couldn’t resolve. As you can see, Mike cut through the stud to let the bend be installed, and later reinforced the stud work with additional pieces of wood…

…and now nearly ready for plastering.

…and plastered over so none of us can see it anymore.

Is anything in this place actually square or true?

Also this week, whilst waiting for things to dry, we have installed two doorways – one into the bedroom seen above, and one into what will become the sitting room behind Mike above,

Two doorways for the price of one photo

and visible here, through the bedroom door.

So, in short, nothing very dramatic this week on the refurb front, just steady progress. Our excitement this week came last night, when the village treasure hunt finished at Plas, and Mike and I were cooking for the all the brave souls who managed to follow the clues and find their way here. As far as we can tell, a great time was had by all and more money raised by the organisers for the Eisteddfod fund.

Getting plastered – again…

My carefully drawn detailed schedule, under which we should finish these rooms by end July, has been pretty much ignored this week as we got a bit distracted. Mike started plastering last week and because we need to spread the plastering out evenly, as it is pretty exhausting for the poor old bean, he wanted to continue plastering this week rather than plumbing the bathrooms on floor 1.

The old window, bricked up when Plas was originally extended

Here you can see Mike on the landing on floor 2. When originally extended, a large window was bricked up and this exterior wall of the Manor was covered in plaster board. We decided that the exterior wall is such a lovely feature we wanted to keep it visible, but the breeze block in-filling was so unsightly, we decided to plaster over it. Alex and I therefore stuck some beading on the wall to create a ‘limit’ for the plastering, which Mike then infilled…

…and after Mike has plastered the window ‘panels’/

and Voila – plastered panels ready for further decoration.

Can you see where Mike has been plastering?

Mike also plastered the ceiling under the floor 3 landing, and on down the stairs, so I will soon be able to get back to my favourite pastime of painting.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, here you see the right hand end of the rear wall of the original building, before the extension was added. We want this also to be a feature, but after we removed the old plasterboard, a howling gale was found to blow down through this gap.

…and during…

We decided to fill the gap with insulated plaster board – in three layers – to ensure that the gap was properly plugged. After I played jigsaws with our insulation off-cuts, Mike will come to skim this array in the next week or so.

The new fire door on floor 3

Whilst I was shuffling pieces, Mike was installing a fire door on the third floor. This will enable us to move between the two buildings, yet the staircase will still be a suitable fire escape.

…has now been fitted.

Smug, Mike? Never!

Between floor 0 and 1, the stair case widens, leaving this ‘excess’ to fill

We then turned our combined efforts to a few twiddly bits. Here, we decided to make a shelf in this area…

Filling the gaps under the window board

… so after I trimmed the window board and Mike and I installed it, I rescued bits of dressed slate to ensure the board will lie level…

Void between floors 1 and 2

…whilst Mike fixed plasterboard off-cuts into the above gap in the plastered wall of the staircase, so that this can also be skimmed next week.

Our pattern seems to have changed from working on the bathrooms to us working on the walls, which means Mike will be able to plaster in a clean sequence coming down the stairs. I don’t think this can carry on much longer though as we will need to get back to doing the bits Mike is trying to avoid – perhaps by next time we will have changed our approach…

What a find!

The last few days has seen us cutting and fitting plywood / plasterboard /flooring chipboard to the walls/ceiling/floor of the en suite bathroom-to-be.

Remind me now – how does this thing work?

The more exciting news is that we finally managed to get airborne on our helicopter flight! For those who don’t know, my siblings very kindling bought us a Snowdonia helicopter ride for our wedding anniversary 19 months ago, and on the eleventh time of booking we finally had good -enough weather for take off… The route initially followed the A470 so…

Plas Penaeldroch, seen from quite a long way up

Dolwyddelan, also at a distance

…and the blue pool above is in Portmeirion

…we flew over Plas P., then on to Dolwyddelan and over the Crimea pass to Blaenau Ffestiniog. At BFF we steered right to the coast (which is astonishingly close by area as opposed to by road) and looped over Portmeirion back up to the Ogwen valley and home via Swallow Falls in Betws y Coed. All in all a really good sightseeing trip which we both thoroughly recommend.

One curtain…

On a completely different subject, I am now going to confess to some pretty shabby housework – you have been warned.

Above, you can (just about) see the inside of the enclosed porch beyond the site of the original front door to Plas. Some years ago, two upholstered benches were installed in here, and a second exterior door was fitted making easy access from the outside impossible.

Since we arrived, we have wondered whether the plywood panels in the porch replaced original glazing, but-if so- assumed this was changed when the benches were installed, to prevent fading, or water ingress, or some such.

Anyway, on Saturday, I was walking in and out of the porch to trim panels of wood, and at one point got slightly caught up in the curtain. I confess that in nearly 3 and a half years occupation, we had not once moved these curtains (oh, the shame) to dust or clear around them… so you can imagine my surprise when I tweaked the curtain to get it out of my way and…

Four, or possibly more, leaded panels, wedged at the end of the bench

…found a stash of glazed panels. These look of a style to have been original. Unfortunately, I cannot work out how to move the panels for a closer look, as they are firmly wedged in place at the moment. But we definitely look forward to changing this entrance porch in due course and returning these panels to pride of place.

After all, only one more little job to add to quite a big list…!

Back in the saddle

Now that the Easter break is well behind us, we returned to our refurbishment work proper. Mike connected up some pipework for the next bathroom, and when we turned the water on, we had ourselves a little indoor shower! You can see below that where Mike had resolved, with due emphasis on frugality, to reuse old piping, he hadn’t noticed that one pipe had been neatly pierced by a nail or similar (you can see the pin hole in the photo below…)

So we had a short pause whilst he repaired the leak, and then all felt we had done enough plumbing for one day. We decided to try something slightly revolutionary – to have all three of us working on the same project at the same time – and elected to try fitting the fire board under the stairs and landings in this experiment.

Before we started…

One of us measured, one cut, and one stood around scratching their chins through their metaphorical beard…

The first piece of fire board in place

…and progress was pleasingly swift. We completed the floor 3 landing, then began working down the flights of stairs. Here you see Mike under the platform between floor 2 and 3…

Coming down the stairs now…

…and here we see the stairs below that platform, complete with insulation to help deaden the thunder of feet pounding down the stairs.

…adding a central strut for rigidity

Here you see Mike and Alex fitting a centre strut – as we didn’t want the fire board to fall under its own weight…

…which is something of a two person job…

…and here you see Mike completing the underside of the platform between floors 1 and 2.

Mike at full stretch

We worked as a single team for two days, and now have only the stairs from the ground floor to floor 1 to fit with fire board.

The view from floor 0 show that the stairs can soon be plastered

We decided to have another change today, partly because installing the fire board was very heavy physical work, and partly because it was Friday so I was in Welsh class all morning (after a very early trip to the cash and carry in Llandudno).

Today we returned to creating the new bathroom

We started with a bare room into which Mike had installed the plumbing…

We insulated the external wall…

…we lined the external wall with insulated plasterboard, some of the internal walls with plasterboard…

…and then put plasterboard on the ceiling.

…and then the ceiling was plaster-boarded also. Mike seemed to find it necessary to practice his ballet twirls in the middle of all this, but we forgave him.

Tomorrow, we will have to find something more to do – fortunately, we have quite a range of possible options!