Building on an unstable foundation…

…is not a good idea, but it is turning out to be difficult to avoid at Plas. So before I get into the nitty gritty, here’s a glorious photo of someone enjoying the delights of north Wales, which is looking gloriously green…and its not even raining!

For those who are interested, I can confirm we are getting on famously with our Ukrainian family…but I think Freddie might want to reserve judgment. You can see below the result of the first night that the youngest child pottered in to our lounge to watch a bit of TV but decided the dog must be a bit cold! Shortly after this snap was taken, Freddie was unwrapped and seemed to have enjoyed the attention.

A couple of Sundays ago someone had a birthday, so those of us not in school went to Bodnant gardens to show off their beauty, and the laburnum arch was still out, so we hope you will enjoy seeing us all under this lovely spectacle.

In addition to helping our family settle in, we have been approached by a local artist looking for somewhere to paint. All of our bedrooms are now full, but as we chatted with her, we suddenly reallised that our attic might have just the sort of light she was looking for. To free up the space for her, we did need to move a considerable volume of boxes full of tools, consumables, and items being stored for our children until they are settled in their own homes. Here, you can see us about half way through the cleaning process!

On a more cheerful and definitely more relaxing note, our children bought Mike a ticket to the cricket for Fathers’ Day – three of them were able to accompany him, with one being too busy, and I couldn’t go as I had an essay deadline on the following lunchtime so was frantically trying to compose something whilst I had the house pretty much to myself!

Anyway, back to work. Since my last blog, we have made only a very little progress on the foundations, and it is our own fault! Having dug the 750cm required on the drawings, we decided to phone building control to ask when they wished to inspect our work. In conversation with them, Mike explained that the bottom of the trenches revealed quarry waste and random other materials which were not compacted. Building Control, not unreasonably, said this was not what they were hoping for and asked us to dig to a metre or more, until we find a stable substrate.

So our narrow trenches have slowly got wider as they get deeper (to stop them caving in)…

…and in some we have started to hit bedrock at the base…

…whereas for others we are now over a metre deep…

and still finding shale at the base.

Like this one -as we are digging the sides are so friable that they are dropping away…

…but we are now so deep we will be consulting Building Control tomorrow to see what we need to do next.

To end on a more positive note, I remind you below of how we left the steps outside the refurbished porch back in February…

…and how they appear now that Niall has had a go at tiling them.

Not quite finished yet, but hopefully they will be complete in time for the big event that will happen this September.

Digging deeper into our problems

This has been a very busy fortnight. A couple of weeks ago we welcomed a family of Ukrainians into our house so the building work has definitely taken a back seat whilst we fill in lots of forms on their behalf!

What we have managed to do includes: building a new fire surround, this time for the fireplace in the hallway which (now that Mike is an experienced builder of fireplaces) was completed within a day, moving from this…

…to this in very short order.

Moving back to the area where we have removed the roof, we found we needed to remove a little more as you can see here…

…and then we had further walls to remove…

…after which we needed to remove the wall on the left hand side of the shot below – which is a shame since, as you can see, the en suite was otherwise almost finished, even having a glass ready for use in the wall cabinet!

Mike lifted the sledgehammer to get to work…

,,,and with one or two whacks from Mike (and obviously the killer blow from me) we ended up with most of the wall demolished, but a stubborn ‘lintel’ remained.

At this point, we investigated carefully. We are guessing that the wall had once housed a window which was long since blocked up but, on inspection, the steel here (encased in a lot of concrete) continued on into the doorway of the next room along. It was therefore not a case of trying to remove it, but of needing to cut through it. For safety overnight, Mike put in the prop you can see because obviously, had an earthquake happened overnight, we didn’t want this lintel to fall, so a good stiff wooden prop is obviously a suitably strong support.

The following day we took a break from building work, and cut up a pile of firewood to try to clear the frontage a bit…

…and the day after that we took everyone to the seaside. Shame about the weather – it was miserably cold and kept threatening to rain, but the 3 kids ran full pelt into the sea and had a lovely few minutes before the cold really registered!

Back to work the following day, we are now excavating for the new foundations that need to be under the new front walls. This was partly done manually…

…and partly mechanically, but we are making reasonable progress. Clearly this is bit physical for me so I have turned my attention to…

…clearing away the rubble. We can see here I have removed the tiles from the walls of the en suite…

…after which I demolished the throne so we have a clear shot at redoing the floor at some point in the future and then…

… I started removing the plasterboard covering one of the old slate walls.

So its all a bit ‘bitty’ at the moment, but hopefully the next report will show the foundations fully dug and we will be preparing to restart building work. That’s assuming there aren’t too many more forms to fill in for our lovely visitors…

Some shocks, and my first forge-ery

The last thing we needed to check, before finishing our demolition, was the depth of foundations in one area of the building. Mike and Niall cleared around the walls concerned and began investigation…only to find that the front of ‘John’s bit’ of the building had been built directly on top of the asphalt carpark. No joking. Shockingly and scarily, the white wall above had no foundations at all and was sitting directly n the asphalt car park.

Just to double check their findings, they had a bit of a dig around but sadly found nothing to suggest that there wall could stay.

We thought it would be wise to mechanise the job so out came the trusty mini-digger and down came the wall.

The observant among us might notice that the wall being pushed over wasn’t tied at all to the adjacent wall sitting at right angles to it. I know I’m no expert when it comes to building theory, but…

Anyway, at least it made it easier to flatten everything! The right hand end of the front wall is now rubble, and next week we will remove the left hand end of the same wall (where we suspect the foundations are just as non-existant) and can then start working on digging proper foundations (after sorting out the drains, natch).

This week we are experieincing showery weather, so have turned our attention (during the wet spells) to preparing parts of the building for our Ukranian guests, but this end of the reception room still contains our sheet materials store, so might take a little while!

We are pleased with the new concrete beading on the turret which seems to be blocking the water ingress. I was even more pleased with my mothers’ day present this year from our wonderful children. It was an experience voucher for a day at a blacksmiths’ forge and…

…here’s the dragonfly I made earlier this week! You probably need to zoom in to see the detail, but this will be proudly planted in the Penaeldroch gardens just as soon as we have given it a coat of waterproof lacquer.

In the meantime, the building engineer and architectural designer have provided revised drawings made necessary by the foundations (lack of) issue, so now its back to Plas and onwards with the building work.