Snow news is good news? (sorry)

It has been snowing in North Wales.  To give you an idea of the scale…

Last Sunday morning, and the snow was still falling
Plas, looking rather ‘cleaner’ than usual
The up-river view from the bridge
To show that Christmas has come to the cafe
and Moel Siabod was looking glorious in the morning sun on Wednesday

Now I have got the pretty pictures out of the way, I will return to the work, as I can tell I have not managed to distract you.

On Sunday, I worked in the cafe whilst Mike continued to fit the joist hangers and then put the joists back in place to form floor 2.  Mike was quite busy but, oddly enough, with snow thick on the ground the cafe was pretty quiet for the top end of the week.  Some of you may know that we are just off the A470 which had been well gritted, but the minor road across the river bridge and up the steep slope to Plas was not so well tended, so we can quite understand people avoiding it.

The joists are being replaced at 90 degrees to the original joists.  On Tuesday, I had another destructive day (quelle surprise) as we removed the sanitary ware from an en suite, and I then removed all the remaining tiles, frames and so forth.

Woman in her element with wrecking bar…
…and now its all gone!

On Wednesday we needed our heads for heights.  We blocked off a redundant doorway, finished the joists for floor 2 and on Thursday we finished fitting the floor over the joists, created the stud wall to the bathroom and then advanced to floor 3…

Floor 2 taking shape
The stud work for the bathroom wall is complete
Floor on floor 3 being prepared for the new partition wall

…where we have to lift floorboards in order that we can continue our new stud wall from floors 1 and 2 up onto floor 3.

Felling the Christmas tree for the old stairwell

In the afternoon, we cut down two hemlocks (which we have been asked to remove from the grounds as they are regarded as weed species here) to serve as Christmas trees.  One has been lashed in place in the old stairwell and the second will be positioned in the dining room so that it can be seen from the front of the property.  So there’s only a little bit of decorating for me still to do then…?!?

Onwards and upwards!

We have made quite pleasing progress this week; or perhaps I should just say we are pleased with the progress -whether there is wider approval will remain to be seen.

To the left, stud wall into en suite. to the right, stiffening wall with centre panels removed, ready for demolition
See- no wall!

On Wednesday, we cut through and removed the stiffening plywood wall on floor 1, and then took delivery of the new studs and plywood ready to rebuild.  I managed the building work just fine, but moving 10 sheets of 8′ x 4′ of 12mm ply across an exposed spot and against the freezing wind nearly did for me, even if Mike was doing his share of the heavy lifting!

Perhaps you can see the extent of the destruction best here…
Moving out the sand from under the floor

On Thursday, we removed the floor, along with the builders sand which has been incorporated between floors – we assume for soundproofing.  We cut through the sub-floor to reveal a joist sitting on top of the steel girder, which is what we had been looking for.  As great good fortune would have it, the building inspector called round at lunch time and was able to look at the joist and agree a slightly off-plan solution with Mike.  In short, we will rest the new wall on a second joist bolted to the joist sitting on the steel, rather than having to remove this and go back to the steel.  (Non-building fraternity, feel free to ignore the last sentence).  Mike was justifiably proud that the inspector was content with all of the work we have done so far…

There is a steel down there somewhere…
Here we are blocking up the old doorway into the (now defunct) en suite
The new stud walls going up…

After my Welsh class on Friday, during which Mike had installed the new joist and bolted it in place, we started to rebuild the stiffening walls in their new locations.  The snow started to fall in the morning and whilst the landscape looked pretty, the roads stayed fairly clear.  However, late in the afternoon the snow began to settle on the roads, and the journey to Llanrwst for blood-doning was really rather slippery.  We thought this mornings view of Moel Siabod was worth a shot, though.

Siabod, under a dusting of snow
For those who want proof of the snowfall here…

Today we have continued the rebuild, and now have a new stud wall in place, lined with both plywood and fire-proof plasterboard, so tomorrow (if the snow is still settled and therefore people are less likely to be travelling to the cafe) we will start to fit the joist hangers and re-fit floor 2, this time with joists running in a different direction.

The new walls on floors 1 and 2, now ply faced, and photo taken before the plasterboard was fitted

I hope this is all clear.  To check, we will be offering a test to check comprehension any day now… but I must stop now and prepare for the deluge of snow expected any minute, which has Mike dancing with excited anticipation..



How to demolish bathrooms in one easy lesson!

On Saturday, Mike and I disconnected the water supply to the baths, sinks and loos to two en suite bathrooms on floor 2 and removed the fitments.  They will be featuring on a resale site any day now, as I am sure original avocado fitments with one careful owner must be of interest to someone!

Mike doing his Hercules thing…
… not sure where he put the bath but clearly he is ready to carry on…

I then stripped off any remaining wall tiles, taking only a small pause to help Jane when a large group of horse riders and their grooms stopped by for lunch.

On Sunday, after church, we decorated the cafe in preparation for Christmas.  Next weekend, we will fell the huge tree that will take pride of place next to the existing stairwell – anyone wishing to help decorate the tree will be welcomed with open arms!

Yesterday, I returned to demolishing floor 2.  The remaining tiles and plasterboard came down, and I began to cut through the ‘stiffening’ wall on floor 2.

Plywood stiffening wall in the process of being demolished

Long term readers may recall that our original plans had to be adapted last year when we found that some of the stud walls (usually non-load bearing) were stiffened with plywood (so bearing some load).  The plans were re-drawn to enable us to remove some of the stiffened walls and then rebuild them in a different location, allowing rooms to be remodelled.  Removing the plywood was slightly concerning as we know, temporarily, the building will be less robust.  We are thinking if we tippy-toe around very carefully, and avoid standing side by side on the higher floors until we have replaced the stiffening, perhaps everything will be ok!?!

Back to the wall – the in-wall insulation was removed and kept for reuse, and the plywood and studs were removed.

One reciprocating saw and a few hours later…

Mike, meanwhile, was cooking up a storm in the cafe.

Ta da! All gone!

Today we both returned to floor 2 and finished removing the plywood wall, followed by lifting most of the floor boards from the two en suites and removing the insulation.

Time to start lifting the floor boards

I then used a broom to push the floor 1 ceiling down (very satisfying!) whilst Mike cut through the joists because these all need to be turned to rest on the new wall, once we have built this in the desired place.  We also lit a bonfire to get ride of the plywood and old floor boards, and played target practice throwing the refuse sacks into our rubbish bin.

So the wall has gone, and the floor boards are up and the ceiling is down – I wonder what happens next…?
So, now you see the plywood wall on the floor below, ready for us to start all over again…
I don’t think we really need these joists – shall we just take them away for a little while?
Well that’s really quite a big hole – I wonder what we should do now?

Oh, and this afternoon we broke off for an hour or so to cut some firewood, as the weather forecast suggests we could be deep in snow by the weekend!



Back in harness and raring to go…

I am pleased to report that Mike and I had a lovely few days on Anglesey, and are returned rested and ready for some work.  I would fill in the details of our holibobs, but as we sort of read as read a book, slept, read a book, watched a film, slept…, it might be a bit too dull even for my updates!

Anywho, we rushed back so that I didn’t miss my welsh lesson this morning, and after I went shopping to replenish cafe stores this afternoon, Mike and I re-started the refurbishment work with a vengeance.  Having had no word from the plumber for a month now (who we are confident is working hard on people’s broken down heating systems, but we wish he would just let us know revised e.t.a.), Mike has reluctantly made a start on disconnecting pipes, with me as the faithful mate holding drip cloths and spare spanners…

Hmm – what are we looking at exactly?

Here we can see the hot water feed and return alongside the cold water mains feed and tank feed.  Mike turned off the supply and drained the cold water feed for the bathtubs, which we then cut, carefully collecting the drips in a mug (seen below)  via a cunning tin foil under-tray.  Cheered by this success, we cut through the cold water mains feed (toilets and hand basins) [I hope you are enjoying these gripping details] which dripped a little as one might have hoped.

Oh, that thing – of course!

Next, we cut through the hot water return but this pipe dripped rather more dramatically than either of the other two.  So dramatically, in fact, that we tried to hold back the tide with our thumbs, and when that -predictably – failed, we scratched our heads for a while,  On removing our thumb, the water arced high above the pipes so we used a cap to deflect the water downwards into the mug (using the dustpan as a saucer to catch drips).

But this thingummy here seems to be dripping a bit more than expected…

Mike  left me in charge of a couple of mugs and a large bucket into which these could be drained, whilst he disappeared to try to work out where on earth the water was still coming from.  After he fiddled with some more taps and valves, Mike worked out what hadn’t yet been turned off, and we then managed to contain and finally stop the deluge before fitting the stop ends (or whatever they are known as by the plumbing fraternity) to the third severed pipe.  After this, we cut the hot water feed.  We were pretty confident this one shouldn’t be too much of a problem because when Mike turned additional things off due to the large drip, this pipe changed from being uncomfortably hot to the touch to rather cool, so we kind of hoped that the feed for this pipe had also been turned off.  This final pipe cutting turned out to be satisfyingly tame.


This nail file doesn’t seem to be as sharp as I thought…

On the plus side everything was watertight when the myriad of stopcocks were turned back on!

During the work, I might have had a word with the boss-man about how I had found the hacksaw very difficult to use.   Obviously, I have blamed the saw not functioning on my relatively pathetic strength but I suspect the sharpness of the blade might have been the real issue and I am hopeful that before we try this sort of task again, we might check how sharp the tools are first.   I should further note that we have also agreed that this is the last time we will undertake major tasks such as plumbing work when Mike is recovering from a migraine the day before, as we both noted that the rate of progress was not dazzling under the circumstances and rather more eventful than expected.

We remain delighted to report, though, that we are back in harness and looking forward to returning to proper progress now we are re-energized!


Time for a break

This week has been a quiet one on the building front.  This is partly because I went to Cowbridge (slightly to the left of Cardiff) last weekend to go shopping with our daughters; partly because we have pretty much run out of things to do before the plumber comes; and quite possibly mostly because we are both exhausted.

Last Saturday, whilst I was drifting around the shops, Mike and Jane were looking after a walking group who parked in the morning, went walking, and arrived for tea in the afternoon.  I believe Mike and Jane coped admirably, but I suspect they might have had to have a quiet sit down afterwards.

Top car park
Lower car park

We have continued to work on clearing and improving the landscape, and I have potted on many seedlings and planted bulbs out on the hillside which we hope will be remodelled by next Spring, assuming the stairs are in place, enabling us to remove the wooden slope.

Given the stalemate we have reached, we have decided to get away for a few days.  We will stay in North Wales so that, should we hear that the plumber is coming, we can whizz back if necessary but otherwise plan to spend a few days doing absolutely nothing, leaving the building in the loving care of Jane and Tom.  When we return, we hope that normal service will be resumed!

Cleaning the green

It’s been pretty cold here this week…

First snow on Siabod of 2017/18 captured on camera

We are waiting for the plumber who we are expecting any day this week, so continue to find jobs to do that don’t need the pipes to be moved.  We have replaced the last of the 6 Velux window panes, so no longer have a view like this from the third floor.

Last of the old Velux windows

and we have completed various other totally un-glamorous tasks around the property.

View towards Rhodo between building and river

Yesterday, we decided we needed a break from indoors, and set out to do some Rhodo bashing.  In the photo above, you can see a line of Rhodos around the centre of the shot which are holding up our attempts to clear the view down to the river.  In the shot below you may be able to see how steep this bank is, with the river flowing gently at the bottom of the slope.

Rhodo to deal with

Here we show the view from the road, so you can see the extent of the Rhodo infestation (hint: most of the green stuff you can see is either ivy or Rhododendron ponticum)

View from across the road

and that remains true further down the river bank, much of which we will need to eradicate over time.

Looking further down the river

Mike was clipping the top growth away and passing this to me before treating the stumps.

Mike, carefully balanced…

We had hoped that the photo below would show just how much we had achieved, but maybe not!  We will try to take a shot from the road tomorrow to show you next time…

Unfortunately, I’m not sure this photo shows quite how much Rhodo has been removed

Quiz, anyone?

This week we have been somewhat distracted by other events – I have had a string of appointments and meetings which took me away from the refurbishment work, so I hope you will understand why progress has been slightly dented as a consequence.

Below you see one of the two Velux windows we have re-glazed.


and this is the view from the window that was previously filled with polycarbonate.  We were pleasantly surprised to see just how lovely the view can be, but we noticed that there was something of a damp patch on the floor both before and after re-glazing.  We think we have tracked down the problem, and Mike and I will be trying to rectify this in a week or so.

Just a quick record to remind me where the drip is….

Having almost completed the roof insulation, I have continued to insulate the stairwell, and then fix the insulation in place with chicken wire.  The wall below is on floor 3, which means we have almost completed one of the stairwell walls.  Yippee!

Stairwell on floor 3 now insulated

Having got to the top floor, we would really like to complete the wall at right angles to this, but we still need the plumber to arrive to move some pipes.  Mike therefore decided to start building the internal stud walls that will complete floor 3 so that we can work on them whilst waiting:

New wall has been started



The wall in more detail – for those who are interested…

We may have to move on to something else now, as it is virtually impossible to move 8′ x 4′ plasterboard sheets up to floor 3 at the moment, which requires us to walk up a very steep, very narrow set of attic stairs, until the stairwell is complete and the new staircase in place.  I’m sure we will be able to find something else to do if we look hard enough…

In the meantime, I have been using some of my spare time to create a fundraising sheet in aid of BBC Children in Need.  If you are fond of Dingbats and live locally, pop into the church, the Spar or Plas Penaeldroch and your quiz sheet is available for a small financial donation to the charity.  If you are more distant and would like to join in, please just drop us an email and we will see what we can do!

Quiz sheet in aid of BBC Children in Need – available on request!

We’ve seen the light!

What a long time it seems to be since I last wrote, which might be because I have a lot of photos to share.

Having made suggestions to Mike for a year or so, we have finally parked some of our bigger tools in somewhere dry.  Clearly, we were spoiled in Norfolk – when it hardly ever rained – and left large tools outside all year, but we have now parked many of them in the single storey end of the building.  When we found that Mike couldn’t un-freeze the gear box on the sit-on mower, we both agreed that that would have to stay outside a little longer, as we didn’t have time to offer the full service on moving day.

Just a small adjustment required before the digger could be moved…
..whereas Big Max (the blue wheelbarrow) moved happily, even moving a load of logs indoors
Here you see the space we cleared to garage the tools

Once that was completed, I returned to cutting and fitting the between-the-rafters insulation on floor 3.  Whilst this is not the most cerebral of jobs, it has the advantage that I can leave it and return at will, and also don’t need Mike’s help, so it is a great in-fill job in several senses of the word.

Still insulating the third floor
Are we nearly there yet?

As you can see, it is coming along nicely.

Aha! One wall out of four now pretty much finished!  Anyone fancy an avocado hand basin, only slightly used?

Whilst much of this was happening, Mike was in the cafe as Jane had a few days holiday last week.  We also have another distraction from work in that (Uncle) Tim has dropped by to stay for a week or so, and so we have been doing the entertaining thing as well.

Today, we decided it was time to start the next big task.  The six Velux windows on the third floor were all in pretty poor condition – one broken into several pieces, one housed a polycarbonate replacement; and the remainder were fogged up.  We had purchased the replacement glazing some months ago, but had not been entirely successful understanding the instructions.  The Scandinavian images no doubt mean something to someone, but we still be questions.  We checked on YouTube and saw several people replacing windows, and today – yes, today – we decided to give it a go, which might have had something to do with there being an additional pair of hands at our disposal whilst Tim is around…

I believe this was once a window
No need to worry anyone -Mike and Tim are on the job

So Mike and Tim worked to release the pane from the frame and happily wrestled it into submission onto the work bench, where the pit-stop team removed the restraints, cleaned the sides with meths, removed and replaced the glass, and generally reassembled the window.


Viola. Velux window removed, renewed and ready for us to return…

We then had to replace the window in the frame which is only very slightly wider than the window.  This took a surprising number of attempts as the window had to be put through the frame on a diagonal and then pulled back square, but by this time most of the weight of the window is hanging out of the frame and became very difficult to control.

I’m sure this must fit back here somehow…

Eventually we found a way to get the weight in the right place and slip the tongue and groove fitment back together so that the window could be secured in place,

Mind your head a moment – I just need to twiddle this bit

and then we experienced that delightful moment of knowing the task had been completed without us releasing it by mistake and allowing it to plummet 3 floors and shatter into a gazillion pieces.

Oh yes, finally…

Once we had it in place, we stopped for coffee and then returned to check that the window was still in place.

A rather improved view – which will be even better once we work out how to remove the old blinds!


After coffee we replaced one of the larger windows, and after lunch we re-glazed the polycarbonate window and have now half finished this task.  Here’s hoping next time I can show you further evidence of progress!



Injecting some fun into our project

This will be a quiet build week for us as Jane is on holiday, so we will be in the cafe.  In the meantime, just a few pictures I wanted to share with you:

This one is of Mike’s careful bracing of the ceiling in floor 2, necessitated because the joists on the floor above are being cut and re-attached to the new stairwell rising through the building.  Of course, we weren’t planning on walking on the floor whilst the joists were un-attached, but there is no harm in the belt and braces approach.

High tech bracing…

How you might have laughed, though, if you had seen us with the plywood.  We recently took delivery of plywood sheets 8 foot by 4 foot, which we needed to get onto the third floor.  The new stairs do not yet exist; the old stairs only travel to floors 1 and 2, with the third floor accessed via a very steep and narrow set of stairs.  We therefore had to bring the boards up to floor 1 balcony and in through the door; post the boards up through a gap in the ceiling on floor 1 (to the right of the area you see above); then turned through a right angle and manoeuvred up through the gap at head height (visible in the photo) and then we ran up to floor 3 and pulled the boards through.

Last Thursday we declared a different day (as it was not raining) and decided to spend a day weed-killing the rhododendron ponticum.  As you can see, we were armed for the task with a power drill and a small syringe

Tools of my trade

which we filled with magic gloop and injected into the rhodo stems, after removing the top growth (so that we could see what we were doing).

Approx 15 minutes in, and the waste heap is looking like this

The timing is important.  We have been advised to stem inject in October, perhaps November, as at this time of year the sap would be ‘retreating’ to the roots and so the weed killer is drawn back to the roots which we hope will prove very effective in weakening the plant.  During the day, we managed to clear one bank of approx 12 large plants which we trust will die off over the winter.

Me? Tired? Surely not – this is such fun!


We have one further stand of perhaps 20 plants that I want to treat this winter as it will clear the top path on the river side, leaving the top path on the road side to next year at which point (I hope) we will have cleared the higher ground and be ready to start the slow descent to the lower garden.  Or perhaps we will have another dry day soon and I will find my syringe finger twitching!

A couple of old lags tell their story…

You know what they say about a change being as good as a rest?  Sometimes I think they fibbed.  We keep changing jobs – partly to keep things fresh, and mostly because we keep finding we need to complete job ii before we can continue with job i and so on….

Anyhow, two sets of stairs went in a couple of weeks ago, noting that the third set cannot go in until we have installed the trimmer against which they will rest.  The trimmer needs to go where there are currently 4 or 5 large pipes feeding hot and cold water supplies to the bathrooms – and the cafe – so the pipes need moving.  We therefore needed to pull down the ceiling (completed about a week ago) in order that we can see what we are doing.  In the shot below you may be able to make out the pipes on the right hand side of the light fitting, due for movement.

Entrance hall minus ceiling


We have decided, given that swift movement will be crucial to minimising any disruption in the cafe, to employ a plumber to move these and he has asked us to remove various items which had been stored in the loft through which he will gain access to the pipes.

Mike and I popped up into the loft space and were rather surprised to see considerable quantities of old Christmas decorations here, which had been left behind by the last owner – so far, so normal.  What really surprised us was the volume of decorations underneath the glass fibre lagging which had been used to lag the pipes!

One loft space (above the long corridor)

The eagle eyed among you may notice the bricked up window (we think) near the front on the left hand side.  We are hoping that this will line up with a new doorway we will need to create when we update the toilets next year…

So we cleared this all out, and vacuumed through, and then started lagging the pipes (modesty requires we whisper it) properly.  First we had to get some light up here.  After the flood light failed, and then the torch, we made do with a table lamp….

Mike practising his scary routine for the end of the month…

and then we played the ‘to me, to you, to me’ game a bit, with me passing Mike the pipe lagging, and then pieces of duck tape, as the crawl space is really quite narrow and we were, obviously, looking for optimum efficiency of operation whilst we made it up as we went along.

Loft space with pipes now mostly lagged…

Other than this, we have spent our regular two days in the cafe.  I have also spent a couple of hours trying to gloss paint one set of external doors before the winter arrives.  We carefully checked the weather forecast to find the only dry day forecast this week,… and it still managed to rain before I finished painting.  Oh, the wonders of moving from the driest part of Norfolk to North Wales!

Let’s hope we can find something more exciting to write about next time….