One week one day and counting…

A quick reminder for those less focused on the work…we have days left before the stair carpets arrive. Eight days, and about eight+quitealot days of work to fit in. we will just have to prioritise very carefully!

Below you can see Mike fitting a threshold in place

who needs a floor, anyway?

…after which he installed the door frame (photographed from the other side, incase you are feeling a bit seasick viewing this).

One new door frame opened…
…and another is finished.

The above door is at the far end of the same corridor – amazing what a few coats of paint can achieve.

Mike has also moved on to plastering under the stairs between floors 1 and 2 whilst I was busy cutting and fitting the skirting board, and then priming and undercoating the woodwork… my, I will be glad to put my paint brush down for a while in a week or two.

Mike continues to plaster under the stairs…

Our biggest challenge for a while arrived on Friday. Once upon a time, people accessed the rooms we have been restoring via a fire door from the main staircase in the old house. The plans originally showed a modified set of stairs allowing this access to continue, but as they would lead onto the fire exit, they needed to have a particular tread and riser dimension. This was not possible in the space available, so our architectural designer redrew this space showing a doorway and a cupboard beyond.

On Friday, as we bagan work on this, we realised the plans were not clear whether the door should be a regular or a fire door, so we phoned the architect for clarification – only to find her phone number has been de-listed. (We thought this was a bit extreme as we only wanted to ask a little detail, but we have filed on the ‘must get around to this’ pile that perahps we need to find out if she is no longer available to do work for us. Shame.) So we phoned Building Control, who said words to the effect of ‘you can’t have a cupboard there’ which kind of surprised us as we still have on file their email approving this option…

Mike, being ever the practical kind of guy, said ‘stuff this for a game of soldiers’ and we have installed our own variant – a fire board lined alcove, without doors or access back into the house. Here’s hoping this will work (because if not, opening could be rather delayed).

The old access route is being blocked off.

And we have plastered it, to make it look pretty…

Nearly done now.

and are hoping against hope that this will be ok.

On a lighter note, we see a truce of sorts has been declared by the pets. We came into the lounge one evening to find Lola and Boyd lying pretty close together, and Boyd with a front paw on top of Lola. Here’s hoping this is a sign of things steadying down…

After all this pestering each other, is it any wonder they are tired out.

SO other than our little hiccup regarding the alcove, we are pretty steady as she goes. We now have Shaun helping with the painting so hope we will be in time for next week. We are working on recruitment, and are still harvesting strawberries, so life is pretty good here.

Let’s hope I can say the same next post…!

2 weeks and one day to carpets…

…not that we are counting, or anything. The hallway is coming along pretty well. Mike has been hanging doors this week, as we need to be ready for Shaun to return to do some painting soon and he likes to be able to shut the door, to keep out all the building dust we are creating…

The hallway is coming along…

Work has been delayed only slightly by a mysterious delay in getting some plasterboard delivered. Not that there was much we could do about it – our only car is a Citroen C1, which doesn’t really have room for 8′ x 4′ boards, so we were pretty much dependant on the builders merchants lorry electing to drive up here.

…but we still have most of the ceiling to put up.

So we put the insulation in place and moved on to something else!

A bit of light relief – our first haul of strawberries since moving to North Wales
The floor also needs some work, don’t you think?

The floor is quite challenging because, as you may recall, we need to install a sub-floor so that we can fill it with builders sand to act as sound insultation. It will be very helpful to complete this stage, as we can then get rid of the large number of bin bags we have lying around the place, containing sand.

Charley and her invisible bump

Now, onto other news. Charley, our eldest, came up for the weekend to give us a hand. I think she really came up so we could see her 8-month bump but her dog Morgan clearly felt she should be allowed some privacy!

Just to prove we really grew the strawberries…
…and the peas are coming on too.

And these shots are just here for anyone who remembers our Norfolk garden and its many plants. I don’t have time yet to seriously get to grips with gardening, but see – our first crop of strawberries is coming on; the peas are growing well; and we have already consumed our first crop of Welsh broad beans. Mike does a really nice bean and garlic combo that marks our first home made food most years.

So, now that the plasterboard is here, we hope to finish the hallway this week, leaving us next week to put in skirting boards and so forth, ready for the carpets. Will we make it in time – who knows…but we’re going to give it our best shot!

3 weeks to carpets…

..which feels really quite scarey just now. Time is running short, but the ‘to do’ list remains long. Please don’t let me mislead you – we are still having a great time, but we are both seriously over-tired at the moment, so we ask you to forgive us if our enthusiasm is harder to spot at the moment!

Just a little bit still to do…

We have been working to create the hallway on floor 1, but what with the floor and ceiling not yet existing, there is still plenty to do.

Shaun, practicing his balance exercises…

We are delighted that Shaun is back to give us a hand. As you can see, he is a dab hand at papering ceilings, which means I can start painting them tomorrow…

The ceiling still needs to be made

…whilst Mike is still working to create the walls.

Happy chappy is back – great times!

As you can see, the papered ceilings have gone down really well with Mike…

We still need to do a little work on the floor….

…who is still working on the floor in various places.

I can’t see you, so you are not a problem…

I met Boyd and Lola earlier, both enjoying the sun, and both pretending that they hadn’t seen each other. I seem to have temporarily forgotten what it’s like to just sit in the sun…

Who do we think has the upper hand?

…but I just turned my back for 5 minutes, and find they are at loggerheads again. At least Lola seems to hink all she has to do is exercise her collie stare and the cat will cease to exist or something…

A slice of rainbow cake, anyone?

And now, for something completely different… Jane has been working on her scrumptious rainbow cake which has deservedly been very popular this week.

On a more sobering note, I will be working out the schedule for the next three weeks tonight, and I strongly suspect I will find that we can’t fit everything into the time available for it. No worries though – we will do what we can, and be a bit creative about whatever can’t be done…perhaps I will tell you more of this in the next blog.

4 weeks today…

…is when the stair carpets arrive. I’m not sure we will be fully ready, but here’s what we have been doing in preparation.

Just a few bits to finish before we paint.

Mike has been re-establishing the floor, as we need this in place before we can fit the skirting boards.

We seem to have mislaid our mirrors….

For those old enough to remember, Mike suddenly randomly decided to be Harry Worth today. How we laughed…

Plumbing, anyone?

…but when you can see the spaghetti junction above, and realise Mike has to cut through some pipes and reconnect elsewhere, so that other pipes can be reconnected and…sorry, am I boring you? But I can sympathise with Mike when he needs a bit of distraction every now and then.

More of the floor back in place – which is a great relief to me as I have been wondering how we were going to do this ever since we cut through the floor to locate the pipes about two years ago. Every time we stepped on it, it has flexed and bowed…but now Mike has waved his magic hands over it and all is rigid and reassuringly stable again.

Back to painting…

The latest batch of intumescent paint arrived yesterday, so today I returned to my natural stance with paint brush in hand and spindles before me, starting at the top of the stairs…

…stopping at floor 0

…and ending at the bottom before stopping for cafe duty.

See – no gaps

Meanwhile, Mike continues to fill the gaps in the floor. As you can see, we know how to have fun here!

As we have only 4 weeks to go, we reviewed the schedule earlier this evening – which might have been a mistake as we have slightly more work to do than days available for it, but I’m sure we can work something out between now and then…

Well, it’s the first time that has happened…

For those of you who are counting, it is now 4 weeks and 5 days until the stair carpet, along with carpet for the first floor, arrives. We are still wading through building tasks to try to finish all the walls and so forth, which are kind of necessary before we can complete the finishing touches.

Mike, getting plastered, again…

First, Mike plastered the ceiling (and later the walls) of the last of the bathrooms, whilst I was painting the first colour coat on the stairwell betweens floors 1 and 2.

After I had painted that, I was invited to clean out the room (shown below) so that Mike could start plastering the ceiling and walls. Well, that was fun – not least because we are running out of ‘spare’ space to put things…

Just a bit of tidying up to do

…whilst Mike continued plastering, just in a different location.

…still plastering…

I took the opportunity to continue painting, this time in the main bathroom…

More painting for me.

… so that Mike can fit the sink and loo, and towel rail, in place when he has a spare moment.

Kilroy says “wot, no cakes?”

The weirdest experience this week, though, has to be the selling out of cakes. We have been selling Jane’s delicious cakes for about 30 months now, and have never run out before. Yesterday, I was manning the cafe at the end of the day, and still had 3 cakes represented on the counter, and a total of 5 slices of cake to offer. Normally, this would have been sufficient. At about 4.30pm a couple arrived, closely followed by their two friends, and a few moments later another couple walked in. I took the order from the first couple, which included 2 slices of cakes. The second couple ordered the last remaining slice of one of the cakes. Before I had time to do anything, the third couple ordered two slices of cake. Imagine my momentary panic – how can I tell them the previous people had ordered that cake… but miraculously, the two slices they had ordered happened to be the last two remaining un-ordered slices. So I was able to provide what everyone needed… and then we had three empty domes. It’s the first time this has happened since we opened.

Anyway, back to the building. MIke still plastering, me still painting…

Poor Mike is still plastering
…whilst I am still painting…

…and Jane, bless her cotton socks, has been baking. All cakes had been sold by 5.10pm yesterday: all three domes back in action by 1pm today. In fact, the third cake hadn’t even hit the counter before we had sold two portions. The chocolate and mint cake is, after all, a very tasty proposition!

Once again, we have cake!

We still have plenty to do, but are hoping – if the weather continues fair tomorrow – that I might get some respite from the painting tomorrow whilst I help in our busy cafe. Well, I can dream, can’t I…?

Five weeks, 2 days and counting…

…until the carpets arrive. The culmination of two and a half years of work is now almost in sight…

Walls around bath now part tiled

This week, we tiled behind the bath when, to our astonishment, we found we had run out of tiles! A quick break in proceedings to order more tiles – which, of course, are not available locally so we have to wait for delivery later this week – and then we turned our attention to the floor tiles…

The last of the floors (for now) being tiled

In between cutting the fiddly bits for the edges, I found myself looking around to try to assess how much more work we have to do. Carpets arrive on 24th July, and yet we have walls that still look like this.

Still a few bits and bobs to do…

Even worse, we have floors as above – you can just see the ‘double’ floor which we have had to cut through. In places, we still need to refinish the ‘lower’ floor which is then covered in builders sand (preserved in the bin liners you can see lying around) before the ‘real’ floor is finished on top, since the sand is a very good baffle against sound transmission.

The hallway-in-waiting#

In the hall, you can see walls and floors that still need a little attention.

Laid, and ready for grouting

On a brighter note, the floor is now tiled and, whilst the glue dried, we worked on the ceiling in the adjacent room.

We are still working on the ceiling of bedroom 1

We put more insulation in place and plaster boarded after Mike had fitted the wiring for the fire alarm system.

Finishing touch for the stairs

This last is my personal favourite from this week. I spent much of this week painting the stairwell and spindles between floors 1 and 2, so things are gently coming to completion. We have put fireboard under the stairs, but this left us with a rough plaster board ‘edge’ to disguise. Here you can see how we have finished over the joint with a piece of beading which I think has done the job nicely. Only a few coats of intumescent paint and then all will be ready for Building Control to consider and, hopefully, sign off!

Is this love?

My apologies for putting our laundry arrangements on display, but one of the real delights of this week has been watching Lola (on the right) begin to come to terms with Boyd (on the table) having the upper hand. Lola is incredibly insistent that she would really like Boyd to play with her. Boyd, on the other hand, is unbelievably restrained when he bats Lola away. Claws are rarely seen, so we suspect both parties are having a good time. Given how Boyd used to pester Jasper, our previous dog, to play, we can’t help feeling there is some karmic rebalancing underway in Plas at the moment.

Six weeks till remaining carpet arrives…

…so no pressure, then. As you can see below, we still have one bathroom to create, a room with little ceiling and missing floor, a hallway and lobby to make, a staircase to finish… but let’s not worry about all that right now.

Instead, let’s admire Mike, using the wrecking saw to cut through the remaining stub of the ‘old’ structural wall so that we can progress this room. We have all been walking around this stub for the last year or so, as the trimming seemed to move into the ‘too difficult’ box.

Mike, enjoying a good trim

But its all done now, which is brilliant. Mike and Alex then worked their fingers to the bone to strip out the one remaining avocado bathroom…

Bath and loo have gone; only the sink to go

..leaving the evidence on the balcony. Well, its so much easier to walk them down the external stairs and wheel them to their final resting place in a wheelbarrow than to try to person-handle them through the building.

See, I told you they had gone…

Once the room had been completely stripped out…

Bathroom has been fully emptied…
…now we start the refit.

…Mike fitted the bath. Today we lined the walls around the bath with plywood (ready for tiling) or plasterboard.

Carrie cutting and fitting the plasterboard

Oh look, someone has captured me at work! I cut the plaster board to size and then packed around the waste pipe with insulation, to mask the sound of water gurgling through the pipes, before screwing the plaster board in place.

The plaster-boarding is almost finished.

We stopped at this point, to enable Mike to fit the last bit of electrical cabling for the bathroom, whilst I put the second coat of paint on some of the fire escape spindles and banisters. We need to prioritize the painting as we need to order more of the eye-wateringly expensive intumescent paint, so we need to be very sure exactly how much needs to be ordered. Along with the handrail. And the electrical bits and bobs. Oh, and the beds, and bed linen… We have taken delivery of one television, so that we can check it for size in one of the rooms, but it still sits in its box, waiting for one of us to make the first move. Perhaps we will have our answer for next time…

Normal service resumes…

I start with a huge mea culpa / mae’n ddrwg gen i. My sincere apologies that I haven’t updated the blog for about two weeks. For those who want to know how the gods have conspired to add to our normally minimal workload, please just keep reading…

Not avocado, I hope you noticed

Mike has now installed the china in the en suite on floor 1, leaving us only one more bathroom to refit for this phase! Oh joy, oh rapture…

Skirting, any one?

Meanwhile, Carrie and Alex have been fitting skirting board and architrave in two rooms on floor 1 and in the stairwell, which we have then started to prime and undercoat.

Mind the gap!

We have also started working seriously on ‘finishing’ the stairwell, which requires us to close the gap between some flights of stairs and walls. The gap is particularly noticeable where the slate walls run behind the stairs, since these slates sit proud of the surrounding wall, creating a considerable void in our otherwise lovely handiwork. I finally got around to insisting that we addressed this issue and (after I had purchased a variety of edge mouldings from the local builder’s merchants) we have found a way to achieve closure, of which more later.

Last of these avocado bathrooms ready for removal

Mike then turned his attention to stripping out the last of the bathrooms needing our attention in this phase…

Preparing to throw the switch

…whilst I stripped and twisted the twin and earth cables, ready for the sockets to be fitted…

Plaster boarding the stud walls

…before turning my attention to the stud walling. After Mike ran the cables through the walls, I was permitted to insulate the voids and fit the plasterboard. So far, so normal, but then…

Just what we all want to see when we turn our computer on…

… last weekend, we found our computer said ‘no’. In fairness, we had experienced some unusual activity for a day or so before hand, so fortunately had an up-to-date back up ready to be reinstalled. So on Monday night we travelled to the wilds of Llandudno to acquire a new computer, only to discover that our emails wouldn’t reboot properly. Without the emails, I cannot email photos from the phone to the PC, ready to use them in the blog. Such fun! We are still waiting for a friend to come and help get the emails properly sorted, and hope normal service will be fully returned by early next week.

Trying to make the balcony look more cared for.

In the interim, we are very grateful to a cafe customer from Liechtenstein who visited last week. Over the past couple of years, a number of customers have peered around the cafe door to ask, very tentatively, whether we are open. We have tried to work out what – of, let’s face it, many possibilities – makes them feel we might not be open, without managing to narrow this down. Our Liechtenstein visitors think it is the balcony that is the problem – that it gives the impression that no-one is looking after the building. They suggested we take a leaf out of Bavaria’s book and trail our clean linen over the railings, but in the high winds often here thought this an unnecessarily high risk strategy. Instead, we hope you can see the pelargoniums now in place, ready to trail artfully through the railings to let people know that someone is still working on the place.

Finishing the stairs

Mike has put a fillet between the stairs and the wall, and we are ready to continue to finish further flights…

Intumescent painting begins…

…whilst I have started to paint the banisters and spindles with the intumescent paint that will enable this to be a fire exit as well as a stairwell.

So I hope this brief scamper through recent activity has you feeling that you have been brought bang up to date with our activities. I look forward to reporting more progress next week, as I hope that the magnificent technology at our disposal will actually play ball again!

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.