And the next phase begins…

At last, after three months of snagging and being busy both in the cafe and with the suites, we have been able to start the next phase of the refurbishment. We think this should take about 6 months, and will mean: re-roofing the long corridor; insulating and replacing the ceiling; creating one doorway and widening another in the back wall of the old Manor; relocating the ladies and gents; and creating an accessible toilet. In case you were going to ask.

The first item on the agenda was to add a fire door between the old manor’s stairwell and the long corridor. This was planned to improve fire security, and was bumped higher up the priority list as it might also keep the part we are living in warmer, and shield us a little from the dust-storm we will be creating!

Mike and I installed the door frame, with a little help from Alex…

…and now we have separation.

…then the door, and finally the door closer. Part of this involved Mike sucking through his teeth a lot and muttering to himself whilst he tried to work out how to fit parts. I have learned through years of experience not to bug Mike when he is in that zone so, with a little help from Alex, I set off on my favourite task – a little light demolition.

Here you see the interior wall ‘attached’ to the back wall of the old manor. Just as we have done in the stairwell, we want to expose the slate wall, so with a little help from a hammer I pushed through the plasterboard and pulled…

…and pulled a little more…

…and kept pulling. It felt so good to un-bury the radiator which Mike had been mithering about for ages, as it was clear the wall had been plastered ‘over’ the radiator. The other useful thing was that in exposing the wall, we have also revealed cracks in the plaster which align with a cupboard on the otherside of the wall (see below) so we now know precisely where to knock a hole through the wall when the time is right.

This is the rather strange cupboard in one wall of the ladies toilets. I removed the shelves, lifted the ceramic tiles from the floor, and then had a careful look at the back wall, because it won’t be with us much longer! Mike had to hold me back with some nonsense about it not being time yet, but perhaps whe will let me tackle this with a decent sized lump hammer – maybe next week?!?

Our little steps continue

This has been quite a busy week for us. It started before our guests arrived for Saturday night. All three suites were booked out to the one extended family, and there was quite a party atmosphere as two of the guests had recently become engaged so we decorated the cafe…

…and were kept busy preparing and serving food. We hope that the guests enjoyed themselves, because we certainly enjoyed their company!

When we were finalising some of the suites back in April, we invited a few friends in to test them. One group of friends suggested we should install some bird feeders, but I have been dragging my feet as I was concerned about attracting unwanted wildlife. Over the summer then we had a customer in the cafe who talked me through the different feeding options and which one was best to avoid stray visitors, and so we have taken the plunge. Yvonne and Julie installed the feeders last week, and it has taken a day or two for the birds to trust them, but we are now enjoying lots of flying visitors.

On the work front, I have been doing a lot of paperwork this week and Mike has been moving lots of things around in preparation for the next phase. He has also finally completed the last item on our ‘snagging’ list for the three suites. The suite on floor 1 opens out onto a balcony at the front, but the stairs from the balcony to the ground were very slippery. Our previous attempts to make these safe have been washed away by rain, so we decided we needed something more effective. On Thursday, Mike and Alex fixed wire matting in place to make the treads safe- not the most elegant, but very secure and no more slip.

So, now that the last of the snagging has been done, we can turn our minds to the next phase – yippee! We have guests in this weekend, but come Monday let’s see what presents itself as the next item on our production schedule.

A tale of two ceilings

I hope you haven’t been too worried since I last showed you the damp spot we found on one of the newly refurbished walls.

Now how on earth did that happen?

Mike spotted this last Friday morning and so, on my return from Welsh classes, we investigated further…

It looked much worse within the bathroom

…and found that this wasn’t just the result of someone being too enthusiastic in the bath. Having scratched our heads a bit, and noticed a smaller but definite water stain on the floor below all this, we realised surgery was required. Mike took Stanley knife in hand, took a deep breath, and…

That first cut is definitely the deepest…

…cut below the point where we suspected something was amiss. And we were right (and in the right place, which was even better!) One of the very few plastic joints we have used in the plumbing had sprung a leak. We think the leak had started relatively recently, but it was dripping enough that there was plenty of water on the woodwork as well as in the plasterboard and down the wall…

One drip or two?

Mike tweaked the pipework first, to see if we could stop the leak, but all that did was move the leak to a different part of the joint. So as you can see below…

We never liked that particular joint anyway

…we cut away part of the plastic and inserted a new piece of copper pipe with a proper compression joint. We left it for several days to dry out fully

Ceiling nearly repaired

and earlier today Mike patched the ceiling whilst I was once again learning my new language (new to me, anyway).

But this was not the end of our ceiling adventure. You may also recall a large chunk of the library ceiling fell down a month or so ago. We had planned to mend this one day, but when we had a very cold day last week, we really noticed how much cold air was dropping into the ground floor through this hole.

One thump or two?

Mike set to with hammer (and in some places lump hammer) to remove the lose pieces at the edge of the hole whilst I draped the lower area with old sheets (can’t think where we got those from?!)

and after it was plasterboarded, Mike spent a happy few hours skimming the board, so we now have a functional but undecorated ceiling.

We will decorate it at some point, but we need to remove all the ceiling and wallpaper in the library first, and that is not at the top of our ‘to do’ list. So we dismantled the scaffolding tower and prepared to return to the next job, which is installing the next fire door (if weather is wet) or completing the last bits of the external balconies (if weather is dry).

Our money is on Boyd, but Lola is still trying to pursuade him to ‘play’.

As the photos are not very pretty this week, I include one of the pets for your enjoyment.

Our other news this week is that last night, Mike and I watched a documentary on BBC4 entitled ‘Climategate: Science of a Scandal’. I was working in the Environmental Sciences school at UEA (the focus of much of the programme) when the crisis hit and it was interesting to see what long terms effects it had and also to realise how time has flown over the past 10 years!

I wasn’t expecting that!

It’s November already, and we are still pretty occupied with the cafe and hotel combo, but not so busy we can’t enjoy Lola.

Lola playing at being the centre of attention

Whilst the weather is still pretty good, we decided to cut back the plant rampaging across the front of Plas. I rather like this hydrangea, but it was looking pretty straggly, so we declared it to be time for a quick trim.

Our Hydrangea petiolaris has got a little out of control..

We set to at the lower levels with loppers and secateurs…

..so it’s getting a little hair cut

…and then got out the ladders for the higher stuff. You can probably see our biggest concern was towards the top high hand side where the plant was running up under the roof and hosting many creatures that we didn’t want to be able to climb into the building.

Short back and sides ok do we think?

We then set Alex up with a job he could complete in our absence. Behind the building, in the part we will be working on next summer, there is a slope that runs across the back of some rooms. Obviously, this touches the rendering and is therefore holding water against the building, which is showing serious signs of damp inside.

Who put all this up against an external wall?

We set Alex to uplift the blocks, to see what he could find underneath. As we had thought, removing these revealed slate chippings on top of builders’ rubble, just as we had found under the blocks at the front of the cafe three years ago. We left Alex digging this out, down to the ‘original’ ground level around here whilst we…

starting to remove it…

… nipped off to see Teddy, our new grandson. As the North Walian Granny and Grandad, we will be known as Nain and Taid respectively.

Proud Nain with Teddy who has just dropped off…
…and proud Taid taking over the baby sitting.

We had a wonderful couple of days with this part of our family, made possible because Julie and Yvonne heroically moved into Plas to keep things going in our absence. We are hugely grateful for this as, even in this quiet part of the year, they not only had to run the cafe but had guests staying over one of the nights we were away. Gold stars all round.

On a less cheerful note, Mike was showing some cafe guests around the building this morning when he spotted a slightly damp patch on one wall. After I returned from Welsh lessons at lunchtime, we both went to investigate the small damp patch and found, on the other side of the wall, a distinctly worrying patch on floor 2 (photograph below) and a smaller one on floor 1.

A quick but thorough investigation left us in no doubt that the plumbing was leaking somewhere…

oh dear – whatever can be causing these water stains?

… which I will tell you about next time. Feel free to relax – it is all sorted already – but I didn’t want to miss the chance to build up a bit of dramatic tension to make sure you return to read next weeks blog…