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!

Idle thoughts before we redouble our efforts…

After the very busy Easter weekend, we have been taking things a little more gently than normal, planning to return to full speed tomorrow.

More water anyone?

You may recall that we experienced very heavy rain one day last month, resulting in the river Conwy flooding. Since then until yesterday, we had had almost no rain, so the river levels were very low. Just in case any of you were worried, I can assure you that the 24 hour experience yesterday with Storm Hannah has restored the river levels! I am not surprised the cafe was extremely quiet – I wouldn’t have wanted to walk from the car to the cafe, let alone drive anywhere on local roads to get here!

A reminder of last weekend’s weather…

Lisa and family took this shot of us with Lola last weekend. We thought you might like to see it as it shows the grounds are beginning to respond to our tlc.

Aren’t we adorable?!

Anyway, back to this week. I have been producing a work schedule which now shows we should be ready to request sign off from the various official bodies for the fire stairs by around end July this year. Later than we had hoped, obviously, but at least it should still be (only just) in time for the Eisteddfod in August. To celebrate, Paul and Shaun took me shopping in Bangor for more bits and bobs for the rooms, and I just couldn’t resist these bath toys…

Something missing here, methinks

Mike has been working on the plumbing for the floor 1 bathrooms – which doesn’t make for interesting photos. Instead, above you can see the recess in the fire doors (of which we have a considerable number) into which the intumescent strips should be fitted. Yesterday I wrestled with these to fit them into the very close fitting recess, and managed to complete nine fire doors by fitting these strip so that the fire seal will be close, but so that the door will close under its own steam – or with the help of the door closer – depending on their location.

Carrie using a cross cutting saw (ha ha ha ha…)

The other thing we have finally got around to was cutting the base off this newel post. Because the stairs are narrower between floor 0 and 1 than floors 1-2 and 2-3, this particular newel post end appeared almost randomly in the sight line of people as they descended the stairs, and gave the impression they would hit their heads on it. In fact, the height above the stairs meant this was extremely unlikely, but the building inspector commented several months ago that it might hamper the role of firemen, should they ever be required. It was one of those jobs that never seemed to get to the top of the priority list, so earlier today I decided…

…that it just had to go!

Especially as I will soon need to finish off under the stairs and landings with insulation and fireboard, which is likely to be a lot easier without projections randomly dropping below the boarding line I plan to use.

I look forward to bringing you more news soon.

What a great week that was….

We thought that we were tired when we finished furnishing the rooms and making the beds. How little we knew!

Ten days later, we are now proper tired – but it was worth every minute of it. We have trialled the rooms with three different groups of people. We have completed two changeovers, and quite a lot of laundry. We have offered early (and not-so-early) breakfasts and up to 20 evening meals at a time. So if nothing else, we are now clear how many people will will need to employ to make this work.

We even provided entertainment for the kiddies…

—they built the canyouuseeverypieceofduplosaurus

The feedback has been really useful. Suggestions range from putting in hooks in various specific locations, through to installing a bird table and leaving binoculars around for people to see, hopefully, some of the local birds (red start, pied flycatcher, wood warbler and dippers, to name a few).

Giles in the cockpit

In the meantime, all the normal cafe duties continued. Here you see Giles leaving in his stylish old Ford, after enjoying a latte.

What with the test in the rooms, and holding the fort in the cafe on Easter Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, we haven’t been doing any building works this week.

Our new pot garden

I have been working with Alex to fill pots for the flat area outside the cafe doors. I had been hoping to break up the top of this slate-covered area, cover it with soil, and create a sort of scree garden, but turns out that isn’t possible. So, instead, we have filled various pots, and then Alex is spreading slate waste between the pots to hide the rather patchy crazy paving below.

Tomorrow Mike is having a day off. I know – does the man have no sense of urgency at all?!? On the other hand, he has been slaving away pretty hard recently, so I guess he deserves a little time off…

The clock is now ticking again, though. We really hope to be open for at least part of peak season this year (i.e. the school summer holidays) which gives us about 12 weeks to complete floor 1 and the staircase. No pressure there, then…

A new era dawns…

Many, many apologies for the delay in updating you all. Words cannot express the exhaustion, but also the excitement, that we both feel having gone through the last week!

As you may recall, we now had some carpets down, and needed only to furnish, because we had friends due to stay and test the suites this weekend. Yes, as in, right now…

So between early and late last week, the above scene could be seen over and over again. We took delivery of furniture, beds, sofas and bed linen in surprisingly large quantities. Obviously, all the bed linen needed washing, and I have had to re-discover the delightful art of ironing after a 3 year hiatus. I don’t know, the things I will do for Mike’s dream…

Eventually, we managed to co-ordinate things enough to achieve scenes like this…

…and this. Sorry this duvet is unclothed – I was still ironing the cover at this point.

On Thursday, I was taken shopping by a couple of friends (who deserve medals for their help) who also have a keen eye for interior decor. After an exhausting morning, we had a car full of cushions, curtains, crocks and objects to create this look…

Some of the bedrooms were looking like this.

…and this. See, we even have pictures on the walls (courtesy of Shaun).

One sitting room almost finished…

…and here it is again, seen from the other end of the room.

We are now in full test mode. Some friends are trying out the rooms for the weekend, in exchange for detailed feedback of the comfort of the rooms, and the provision of evening meals – so that we can test our systems with a (hopefully) forgiving party. So far, so good (I think.hope). More of this in the next post…

Screwdriver anyone?

How I wish I was alluding to something alcoholic! This week, we have started putting together huge quantities of furniture, ready for the rooms.

Charley and Morgan finishing the woodwork

…and Will sporting the ‘I have been emulsion-ing’ hairstyle.

As I mentioned last time, we brutally involved our children, home for Mother’s Day last Sunday, to give a hand.

What a view!

We had a couple of very cold days, including one with enough snow that as I drove to Porthmadog for shopping, I was not 100% sure I would be able to drive back over the Crimea pass, which is frequently closed if we have poor weather.

Floor 3 lounge

So by Wednesday, we had two floors of rooms looking a bit like this…

Floor 2 hallway

…or this. Floor 2 was fully painted except for the doors which I need to gloss over the weekend.

Yesterday the carpet fitter arrived and now we have…

Floor 3 lounge

Looking into hallway of floor 3.

Floor 2 main bedroom

We now have carpets in most rooms on floors 2 and 3, and the carpet fitter still awaits some carpet from his supplier. Friends Yvonne and Julie have fitted most of the wall lights and I am still painting – but now in the stairwell, well out of the way of the carpets!

Sorry, can you tell me again how I put flange f into slot d?

Yesterday, whilst the carpet was being fitted, Mike, Julie and Yvonne began making up the furniture. After a lot of thought, we have chosen to buy the majority of the furniture for the suites from a local charity that offers professional support for adults with learning difficulties. Here’s hoping we have put sufficient pieces together by the next time I blog so that you can see the finished rooms.

If the general finishing work hadn’t been bad enough, constructing the furniture has required the use of many and varied screwdrivers so we might need to find something different to do tomorrow, to give people’s hands a chance to recover!

Happy Mothers’ Day

Here’s hoping that all mothers (and fathers) have had a lovely day today, and that all their children enjoyed making the day that little bit special. I count myself very lucky that most of our children managed to make it to North Wales for the day, but confess that it wasn’t the most relaxed Mothers’ Day I have enjoyed. Instead, Mike and I shamelessly dragooned our young adults into helping undercoat the woodwork in the floor 2 lobby, painting a couple of ceilings, and moving various items to another floor. After all, the carpets arrive on Thursday…no panic here….

We started to mist coat the floor 2 lobby

Earlier this week, the lobby to floor 2 was skimmed, so once this dried out we began the mist coat painting.

Alex busy painting the edges

Whilst that was drying, we painted the first colour coat onto the walls of the rooms on floor 2 – I wielded the roller, and Alex painted the edges.

Now the first coat is on the walls in the lobby

Bedroom 2 floor 2, with ceiling papered and painted

Shaun has papered the ceilings. People will be walking around on the floor above so we all thought the ceiling needed a little reinforcement. In two rooms, the ceiling paper has now been painted once…

and this papered ceiling awaits the first coat.

…and in one room the paper was installed today so it needs to dry out fully before I paint it tomorrow. We still have a surprising amount to do before Thursday, when painting needs to be finished before the carpets are fitted…

One of our planters is maturing nicely

In between all this frantic busy-ness, we took a moment this afternoon to enjoy the above planter. The Pierises (Pieri?) in the front are clearly enjoying themselves. Mike gave me a couple of Garrya eliptica last year for my birthday present, one of which is in this planter, and it had magnificent tassels all winter. I am hoping that it will put on a bit of a growth spurt this summer, so that it can begin to clothe the walls of the manor.

Smoke from the Siabod fire, visible from Plas

and, if you look carefully, you can see the flames at the crest slightly to the left of the house over the road.

On the less lovely side, the fire that we had reassured some friends was on the far side of Moel Siabod, and thus no danger to us, has crept around to our side. In the picture far above you can see the smoke Mike noticed whilst he was walking the dog. When we went out to photograph this, we could see flames (just about visible in the shot above). The grass fire apparently started near Betws y Coed around 4.15pm on Friday, and it would seem it has burned through the moorland near Llyn Elsi to our side. It was thought it was under control on Saturday, so we have notified the fire brigade to be sure someone knows about this, and let’s hope this is put out soon.

And then there was light…

After last week’s deluge, we have mostly been working inside to give the water time to recede. Those of you who saw the photos of Llanrwst and Maenan on the national news last weekend will know what I am talking about. I understand that the committee have starting discussing what they would do if there are heavy rains when the National Eisteddfod is due to be in Llanrwst this August…

First the priming…

Anyway, back to the mundane. I am still painting the rooms on floor 2…

Look, actual floor!

… whilst Mike is working to complete the electrical circuits on floor 2. Now that the wiring has been embedded in various newly-built walls, we were able to complete the flooring in the hallway. The piece of chipboard above may not look much, but it replaced an undersized piece of plywood that was here for the past year – so that we could work around it as necessary. I cannot tell you how good it feels to be able to walk here without being able to see down to the floor below as you place your foot.

Consumer unit, now partly wired up

As you can see, the consumer unit (the modern fuse box) is partly wired -because the local electrical wholesalers has sold out of connectors just before Mike arrived. As this was being connected up, Mike was trying out all the lights. At first this was fun: a ‘light switch down – lights on; light switch up – lights off’ sort of thing. Then we tried the master bedroom on floor 2 and the lights didn’t obey the commands of the switches. What? What?? What on earth will we do now? (Catastrophise, catastrophise…) Arrrrrrrrrghhhhhh!!!!! Only a slight over-reaction, I think, under the circumstances. We will admit to a slightly uncomfortable moment or two, until Mike worked out which of the many possible cables had been left out of the loop. I am delighted (and mightily relieved) to be able to report we were well illuminated in more ways than one when it all ended well.

I wonder what he has recently sat on…?

Here Mike is filling in the gaps in the wall around the door frames with plasterboard that I had been cutting off-camera. He hopes to be skimming these walls next week. No pressure – carpet will be here the week after…

Doors and all woodwork now undercoated

By yesterday evening, the woodwork on floor 2 has been primed and undercoated. Next week, ceilings and walls can begin to take on some colour

Mike and I will be taking some relaxation during our cafe days today and tomorrow – making Hungarian mushroom soup today, since you asked, and lemon and lime marmalade tomorrow. Yum!