Going back to basics – literally!

We have made great strides forward this week in our longterm project to refubish Plas. Part of the 1970s extension needed underpinning as cracks had developed years ago on the back wall, suggesting that the foundations were insufficient. Follwoing consultations with the building engineer, we called in a contractor to dig an trench, and here’s what he found…

…about 6 inches of concrete beneath the building, and the material below that appeared to be soil, and not even compacted soil judging by how easily it was removed.

Its very difficuolt to see from these photos, but the trench was about 2.5 metres long either side of the corner, and Alastair kept on digging down until he scraped rock. Once we heard that glorious sound, we knew we could procede with Plan A. First, we created some shuttering, so that we could direct the wet concrete to the appropriate places (rather than let it fall where it wished)…

…and lowered this carefully into the trench, restraining its fall via a rope paid out from the corner of the roof of the building (thanks to Yvonne’s clever idea). Once it was securely in place, we started mixing quite a lot of concfrete, and then barrowing it into place.

You can see here how we have started putting the concrete into the trench…

…and that we were not only very fortunate in having Yvonne and Julie – our friends who regularly pop over to help – here, but also Charley to give us the benefit of her considerable wisdom and supervisory prowess, captured well in her stance, I feel.

Mike meanwhile had the plumb job of raking out the contrete into position before…

…fixing the rebar (that’s reinforcing bar to you) in position, so that everything is suitably reinforced.

You can see here that we used a shoot for delivering the concrete into the trench (thanks, Julie)…

…and here you can see that Yvonne womanfully worked the mixer whilst Julie barrowed the mixture around.

Here you can see Mike finessing the concrete into place…

…as well as taking delivery of the next batch from Julie,,,

…before declaring the project complete for the day – as storm Arwen was due the following day and we felt it was safer to stay indoors!

We did a few other things last week as well, but this is the really important stuff: now that we have concrete between the building and the rock about 8 feet below, we know the building is stable, and it should be possible for the designer to produce the plans to enable us to progress our work.

I would point out, by the way, that I was working in the concrete gang too – strange how no photos exist of my contribution though….

How busy have we been this fortnight?

To update you on my injury: most of the bruising has now come down, and what remains are twinges as I use both the knee and ankle, so I think I will close that chapter to spare you further detail. You may also recall we had been clearing out one of the outbuildings, ready for it to be destroyed…

Above you can see that Julie and Yvonne (who are back for some hard labour) have removed the outbuilding sides….

…and here it is, all gone!

We let them start on the bin shed which needs to be moved whilst we work on the single storey extension…

…so they removed panels, followed by the lid…

…and then took out the supporting structure…

…until that too was all gone!

Because Yvonne and Julie were visiting, we closed the bookable rooms so we would have time together, so we also asked Shaun to refresh the decoration of the cafe and kitchen…

…and are also, when its wet outside, working on the dresser that we brought with us from Norfolk. It had suffered water damage which we didn’t quite get around to repairing before we moved to Wales, so are working on it with furniture reviver, brushing french polish and wax to bring it back to its former glory.

On the less wet days, I have been doing a little gardening. My apologies for the photos as the light has not been good for photographing our progress this week. Here you see the bed outside the cafe from which we have removed an over-sized black elder…

…and replanted with plants that had to be moved from another site…

…which also freed up some box plants, so we have backed the bed below with what will soon be a lovely box hedge.

Here is Mike with his least favourite tool, the jack hammer, needed because three very large rocks lay in the way of our building plans, so he gritted his teeth and got stuck in. Below is rock A which submitted quite easily…

…whilst here you see rocks B and C which didn’t – so we slightly modified our plans.

The plan was to level this piece of soil adjacent to our oil tank, so we extended the retaining wall on one side…

…and then shovelled the soil out of the way before installing a retaining wall this side as well.

A now vaguely level plot is in place with only a small section of one of the rocks remaining (visible just beyond the left hand extreme of the metal section above), but low enough that we can ignore it.

Whilst we were here, we had a quick check of the oil tan level, and realised we needed to place an order!

All we clear out places before we destroy them we are finding quite a lot of junk, and Julie has very obligingly had a quick bonfire with the combustible parts which were too minging to go into the wood burner.

Its been quite a busy couple of weeks, one way and another, so tomorrow is definitely a day off before we start all over again…

Footnotes and further progress

Let me start with an upate on my ankle: I want to assure you that the questionable colour is not dirt, it is bruising!

There is still quite a swelling over the ankle bone, but the swelling on the rest of the area is slowly reducing, and my mobility is getting back to normal, with occasional twinges. I am thrilled that I managed to hobble around during half term, when we were very busy with guests, and was still able to be reasonably effective when we managed to return to the building work.

We are continuing to prepare for the underpinning work which we hope will start sometime this month. Below, you can see what remains in the garden shed standing just outside the back door to the property. It had been used as a tool and chemical/paint store by the previous owners, and a wood store and store for Mike’s bee equipment by us. I spent a day or two removing most of the contents, and it is now awaiting demolition, one day, when the mood is upon us…

Below here, you can see where I had deposited the panelling that was removed from above the hall fireplace. On a reasonably dry day last week, I cut this all down to firewood whilst Mike was…

…working around the side of the building. At the far end of the wall as you see it here, the ground beneath the building is gently subsiding, leaving the wall unsupported. In order to prepare to deal with this, Mike has removed 10 metres of armoured cable which we are told was used by previous owners who tried to tap into the mains supply bypassing the electricity metre. We understand that it didn’t end well (the fire brigade were called out) so we thought it was time to remove the temptation.

After removing the cable, we then started lifting the pavers and moving them to the far side of the car park. As we clear these away, the feet of the polytunnel that used to live here are being revealed, so we will be liberating these as we go. The plan is to lift all these paving blocks because, in a week or two, a digger will be arriving with a trenching tool to help us begin work on the underpinning.

We will need to dig holes, so we want to remove anything that would make this difficult. We also realise that after we have dug the holes and back-filled them with concrete, we will then want to scrape down to the ideal level (as plenty of materials has been buried under these paving tiles) ready for working on this end of the building. Not much to do then…