Demolition Carrie came to call

We hope you are all keeping well and making the best use of whatever time is at your disposal.

Last time, we left you with the tantalising shot showing a small hole in one of the walls taken from within the old larder…

… whilst this one is taken standing in the anteroom to what was the ladies, and the hole is now a little larger.

Just a little tap with the sledgehammer…

…and the jobs nearly finished! One more decent swing at it and…

… we got to this stage, where I couldn’t knock anything else over because the rubble was holding the wall up. Several trips with the wheelbarrows soon sorted that problem out and…

…the next thing I knew, the wall was gone.

A little bit of judicious tidying up and then it was time for something else.

Whilst I was destroying one room, Mike was forming another. The walls in the gents-to-be are all now in place, and after this picture was taken, Mike flowed a self-levelling screed over the floor which should dry well over the weekend and be ready for our next work session.

So after a lot of tidying up, and cutting logs (because the forecast indicated a cold weekend), we have had a weekend off. Yes, I know – how weird are we?! We will need to practise this time-off business more as we have both been rubbish at it!

Tomorrow we will be having a chat to prioritise work, given that it will be very difficult to buy consummables now. Luckily, we still have quite a lot of destruction to do…

Lockdown plus 1: progressing smoothly.

How quickly everything has changed. Shortly after my last post, the instruction to stay at home if at all possible was broadcast, which altered so much for all of us. Here’s hoping you are coping well. We managed one brief foray for food yesterday, and we have divided the dog walks so that Mike takes Lola out in the morning and I take her out in the evening to ensure we each only take the one exercise permitted. If Lola is lucky Phil will take her out as well, which is helping to distract Lola from the lack of visitors these days.

In an effort to take our minds off these difficult times, we continue with the building work (whilst we still have supplies) and I am hoping to post more pictures, sharing our stress reduction regime…

Mike has continued to focus on creating the new gents facilities. Two walls are now plasterboarded and today we finished one further wall.

My task yesterday and today was to empty the shelves above, and then destroy them.

I removed lots of tiles, smashed up the shelves, and then investigated the structure of the back wall of the larder. Turns out it was originally lath and plaster – so I stopped trashing it since we will need to replaster this wall in due course. Next, having removed the tiles, I had to try to break through the wall on the left, which turned out not to be stud partition as we had hoped, but a brick wall. I pestered Mike to start breaking through, just in case the building was going to fall on my head…

…which he managed with great aplomb. Tomorrow’s job for me will be to extend this hole to pretty much remove this entire wall, which currently separates the anteroom to the ladies from the larder.

Meanwhile my ‘treading water’ job – the task I work on whilst I am on standby to help Mike – was to widen this doorway into the ladies. The gap needs to become wide enough for two doorways, so first we needed to strip away infill walls which were put in 40 years ago to turn a window into a doorway.

When I removed the door and bashed through the plasterboard behind the tiles, we found this brick pillar, which just had to go.

It took a little while to loosen the top layers, but soon I was well into my stride and the pillar…

…learned who was boss.

The doorward is now considerably wider than it was, but I still have to remove more on the left hand side to re-establish the original window enclosure dimensions. Once we have recovered the original void, we will be better able to work out exactly where we need to place the new lintel, and what else can be/needs to be bashed away at that point.

If all of this leaves you feeling exhausted, join the club! After we stopped this afternoon I sat on the sofa… and the next thing I knew, Mike was waking me up to take my turn walking the dog. Maybe I’ll need to take it a little easier tomorrow… but it’s so useful to be making this terrible mess at a time when we don’t need to worry about anyone needing access to the facilities…

Working towards finding the new normal

We hope that you are all managing as well as can be hoped at the moment. In these worrying times it is astonishing how quickly our lives have been completely changed -and we presume the same for you. We have been working, for years, to get our guest accommodation open – but we never imagined that just before our first season was due to really get going, we would be closed down! Its funny to reflect that earlier this month we were tentatively proud of the burgeoning list of bookings…a mere two weeks later and the booking calendar is looking exceptionally thin.

Our grateful thanks, though, to all of our customers for their loyalty whilst we were open, and their understanding at this time.

Enough of this – we have our health and we have our family – somewhere out there – and the delights of communicating via electronic media – whatever did we do before mobile phones?

Back to Jack – we tried offering takeaway food over the weekend but there was no demand here . We suspect everyone here was climbing the mountains, judging by the local news. With the cafe fully closed, and with no one wanting to stay in the suites, Mike and I are having a day off today before returning to the building works tomorrow. With that in mind…

Once Mike had removed the toilets from the ‘old’ ladies, we studied the floor carefully and decided it had to go. Mike got out the Kanga to break it up and Phil asked if she could have a go…

… and she took to it like a duck to water. Once Phil and Mike had broken up the floor, we cleared out and prepared to start making good.

I stopped cutting up the waste wood into kindling and Mike and I put studding into two new infill stud walls, one to fill the doorway into the back stairs and one to fill the archway into the anteroom to the ‘old’ ladies.

Above you can see we then plasterboarded the stud walls (here between the toilets and the anteroom). Once that was finished, Mike got out the trusted dob-and-dab to attach the plasterboard to the walls from which we had removed the tiles. As this removal had made the surface of some pretty rough walls even rougher, we used quite a lot of dob-and-dab. In case you are wondering, the grey material to the left in this photo is the plasterboard, cut and ready to install as soon as the glue has been spread evenly (but slightly stuck as we tried to move it past the light fitting).

On Mothers’ day, we declared a day off for me. So obvs, I chose to spend it in the garden. The weather here has been gloriously sunny for the last few days, albeit very cold overnight. Below you can see a thicket of cornus stems mixed with hazel and other tree branches, which I have been itching to hack into for the last two or three years. Armed with secateurs and a pruning saw, we went in and razed it all to the ground.

You can see how my re-directed destructive streak was being satisfied, and the hope is that next winter, we will have a line of bright red stems to replace that unruly woodiness.

Next week’s pictures might be slightly less lovely since the work we have in line is visually relatively dull, so apologies now.

Having said that, we will soon be putting in a new lintel into the back wall of the manor, which will require us to prop walls up with Acros to ensure the whole building doesn’t fall down – maybe the photos will be more exciting then? We also hope to hear about our planning application for the next phases in a few weeks, so I will let you know as soon as we hear anything on those.

In the meantime, please remember the 2 metre rule and we look forward to sharing more news soon.

Covid 19 update

We hope everyone is keeping healthy and coping well with the current restrictions.

The cafe will be closed from 21st March 2020 following government instruction. We are trailling a take out service, to see if there is local demand – please see Facebook for further details.

What a difference a week makes…

At the risk of making a facile observation, what a different world we are living in today! Here’s hoping everyone reading this is and remains healthy.

Mike and I spent the weekend in the cafe, which was quiet but steady. Since the PM suggested people should avoid restaurants and pubs, we have moved into more interesting times. The cafe remains open but is now very quiet. Cancellations for room bookings are coming in thick and fast. We are waiting to see what advice comes this weekend but expect to have to make some drastic decisions next week.

Anyhow, enough of that – on with the refurbishment fun and frolics…

Whilst Mike nipped to Cambridge on Tuesday to pick Phil up for the Easter vacation, Alex and I set about the ladies toilets with lump hammers and bolster chisels. We first took out the wooden structure that locked the tops of the cubicle walls together, and then removed most of the wall tiles.

With Mike back on Wednesday, we had the necessary three pairs of hands to continue the destruction. One person on the Kanga hammer and two moving blocks rapidly made quite a difference…

…and soon the cubicle divisions were no more. Next the water was disconnected…

…and then Mike heroically drained and removed the loos.

We then looked carefully at the floor, which turned out to be tiles over skim over tiles over concrete, so today Mike set about removing several layers of floor so that our layer of tiles are properly stuck (pictures to follow next time).

Whilst Mike was on the plumbing, Alex was removing the wooden structure the used to surround the hand wash basins…

…whilst I repaired to the garden. We had a dry day so I set to to remove the weeds in the bed above.

When I had finished the weeding, I started to empty the larder. I am so sad that in moving here I finally had a larder (which I have always thought a perfect store for kitchens) – but it has to go! This space is needed in the toilet refurbishment so needs to be emptied. I had already removed one set of shelves (out of picture), but those on the right needed to go. Having carefully emptied them, we found that they had been glued in place when constructed, so we had to demolish them in situ.

We were fascinated to see that the space in which they had been located, and which we thought might have originally been a window, now looks to have been where French doors were sited. We will leave the space like this for a while since the ‘back’ you can see separates this space from a room with a leaking roof, so we will leave this backing board in place until we are ready to deal with it properly.

Tomorrow will bring more building work, but who knows what else. Here’s hoping things are looking a little less scary next time I write.

Toodaloo to the loos

Last weekend, we hung up our building tools for a couple of days so we could have a joint celebration of our hitting our 60’s. Mike passed the milestone back in February, and I will pass it next month. Most of our close relatives kindly made the trek to North Wales and helped us celebrate by decorating the cafe…

…and leaving heartwarming messages for us. We took the many dogs for lovely long walks, or visited the local shops, and we partied with friends on Saturday night, and then we stood around outside Plas for some reason…

… and then the mass exodus began, but only after we took a snap of Julie and Yvonne who had spent the weekend with us and then taken the group photos.

As I might have consumed a bevvy or two on Saturday night, we took it gently on Sunday and Monday, but on Tuesday we got back to work.

Firstly, Mike made sure one of the upstairs toilets was available to become the ‘ladies’ facilities for the cafe, for a month or two – new carpet and everything! Meanwhile, below you can see the ‘lobby’ to the downstairs ladies toilets, which will soon become our accessible toilet. Note the door on the left hand side of the shot…

…which is now the door you can see just to the right of the mirror, as we look at the long corridor. Watch carefully and you will see that the radiator…

…has been taken away by the radiator removal fairy (aka Mike) along with quite a lot of plumbing…

…and then that the wall removal fairy (aka Carrie) paid a visit. I started with the tried and trusted lump hammer and bolster chisel method to remove the render and much of one block. But this was very time consuming, and also hurt my wrist, so I got mechanised. Out came my old friend the Kanga hammer, which I find works better with two operators – one to work, and one to let her/his arms recover from working. Alex and I broke out the first breeze block, and then the first row of blocks. We then used the Kanga on the next row down to remove the centre block and then I wielded the sledgehammer to remove those blocks to left and right of the gap. In this way, we cleared the gap you see below in about an hour. We then started working upwards at which point…

…Mike offered to help us as he could put a little more oomph behind the hammering. Shortly thereafter, we had a gap where the wall used to be. In case it isn’t immediately obvious, our expectations were fulfilled – this part of the wall was formed in front of a blocked-up window in the old manor which you can see below because the top window frame is still in place.

A little light vaccuuming later, and we were ready to start removing the tiles. You have no idea how much I have been looking forward to this. Some of the tiles, frankly, were clinging on by their fingertips and it required little more than a well directed sneeze to have them falling to the floor. (Not, you understand, that anyone here has the remotest suspicion of a cold or sneeze.) Careless talk… anyway, back to Jack.

Armed with the necessary equipment and PPE, I happily chipped away at tiles yesterday afternoon.

Mike spent this morning chasing down and removing some electric cables so that I can return to this work (if you can call it work!) tomorrow after Welsh class. Whilst he was doing that, I took advantage of our first dry day for what feels like weeks to weed four of our seven raised beds. The onion sets and garlic have been planted, and our rather tardy broad beans will be going in tomorrow. It was really lovely to spend a little time outdoors, even if the cross wind was fiendishly cold. Afterwards, we planted a couple of fruit trees given to Plas by a couple of friends, and had a lunch when I tried to warm up by the fire.

I wonder what I will have managed to destroy by the next time I write?!?

It’s all becoming clearer now…

As I promised last week in our ‘refurbishment summary report’, here is the photo I managed to take of our new roof. It may not look much – as we have reused the old slates, and deliberately included odd tiles so that it doesn’t look outrageously new – but it’s watertight, and likely to stay in place for a little longer than the last one.

Now that we have a fully functioning roof, it was time to make sure it was fully insulated. Below you can see the double layer of insulated board required between the timbers, and then we continued insulating in some places just to make sure there can’t possibly be any drafts.

When we got to the far end of the corridor, we found a couple of lightly rusty RSJs within the ceiling. On investigation, we found these lie just beyond the roof we have refinished, and clearly the part under which they lie is still leaking. As we will be pulling that roof off entirely in about 6 months, we have slapped some insulation in here, and expect to pull it down, rather waterlogged, later this year.

Occasionally, taking a break from working on the ceiling, we continued replacing the double glazing panels. Since we moved in, this corridor has felt kind of grimey, as all the glazing panels were misted up (see left and right of the panel Mike is working on). Now, it’s astonishing how much more light comes into this hallway.

Back to the ceiling, and you can see we also finished off pulling down the plasterboard on the old back wall….

…and then removed the glazing from the two doors (which all but fell out, as it was only held in place by beading), cleaned them thoroughly, and then reglazed these doors – this time actually using mastic to hold them in place and make them watertight.

Julie and Yvonne are staying with us for a couple of days, and they have very kindly put a priming coat onto the beading.

Back to the ceiling: this time we fed the electrical cables through the ceiling before inserting the insulation roll and replacing the plasterboard with, as you can see, many hands making light work…

…both at the beginning and at the end of the corridor.

By the end of the week, we had pretty much finished one half of the ceiling. Only half is being plaster boarded because we need to do major work on the slate wall in the next couple of weeks and want have a clear view of what we are doing!

In the middle of all this, Yvonne and Julie’s dog, Fos, found possibly the warmest place in the building to make her temporary bed…

Now it’s time for a quite weekend off, of which more news next week.

Roofing, despite storm Dennis

Following our return from Thailand, we have had to wait until the forecast showed a couple of days sufficiently still and dry that we could finish the last section of roof. What with Storm Ciara and then Dennis passing through, this has been a longer wait than we would have wished.

Meanwhile, we worked on inside the building.

The ceiling, before I was unleashed on it

The ceiling on the long corridor was in a bit of a state.

A close up, to show what we were facing

It had clearly leaked, in various places at various times, so there were many pits and cracks in the finish which was far from level, so we decided it all had to come down.

Ceiling part removed…

So I wielded my faithful wrecking bar and, over three evenings, managed to pull it down – along with a surprising volume of rubble, very damp insulating mat and bits of broken Christmas decorations which had obviously been housed in this roof space at some point.

…and now totally removed.

I’m not going to admit in public to some of the materials that descended on my head as I finished this task, but suffice to say I made sure I had a hot, deep bath each night.

We are also clearing the plasterboard from the internal ‘external’ wall

We have also continued to clear the plasterboard and battening from what was the back wall of the old manor, ready for this to become a feature in this long corridor in future.

The last section of the roof needed completing

Last Tuesday, we finally had a forecast for a day with only a few isolated showers, so the building team turned its attention outside. Tuesday saw us strip the slates from the roof (above), and the battens, and then replace the waterproof fabric and re-batten.

On Wednesday, the forecast was (accurately) for only one hail shower, so were able to reslate the roof – I will provide photographic evidence next week. To show off this roof, I need to walk over the rock behind the building to take a proper photo, and as we now have Storm Jorge whistling around us, and the rain lashing down, I will wait until the weather improves. I would love to picture you holding your breath until then, but I strongly suggest it won’t be that exciting! except of course that the next item on the list is to put a new lintel into the old exterior wall – now, do you think they show how to do that on Youtube?

Half term is upon us…

..which means Mike and I, very happily, are busy catering to guests rather than bashing the building about. On top of which, the weather here has been so wet and windy, it hasn’t been safe to even think about doing the roof. So instead, some more photos of our lovely break in Thailand….

Here we are in front of the view from one of the Thai restaurants that Carrie’s brother and sister in law took us to…

…and here we are at the same restaurant, after our visit to the elephant sanctuary, but with the coconuts growing on the tree behind us.

Back in the real world, and despite the very wet and windy weather, Teg has continued to come with his owner to give Lola her extra walk each day, for which we and she are most grateful.

Just in case you want to check out the family resemblance, above is my big bruvver Mike (centre) with his twins Max and Emma…

…and here we have my sister in law Yuko with their youngster, Mia. All of them are fantastic hosts to whom we send very grateful thanks for a magnificent holiday!

Great memories – but probably back to normal properly next week….

Into each life…

…a little rain must fall, but storm Ciara brought us more than just a little water. For anyone concerned about us, Plas took a little damage from the wind but nothing serious. Less lucky was Betws y Coed which we understand lost the Miner’s bridge, and parts of Llanrwst were well under water. Cars in the Co-op carpark in Llanrwst and in the Siabod cafe car park were bobbing around in the floodwaters.

At least the bridge is still standing…

Given the general wetness and the high winds, we decided to work inside rather than on the roof. I know – how pathetic are we?! We cleared out the corridor below ready to replace all 17 windows on the left hand wall (part of which is not in view, in case you are counting).

The long corridor aka the cloister

As we have replaced glazing a few times before at Plas, this is now quite a polished activity. We clear off the exterior putty; remove the brads; lever the window out from the inside; clear the margins of old putty; apply silicone sealant; insert window; add sealant and beading, and then tack beading into place.

Most of the double glazed panels are misty

See – it’s simple. This week, we have replaced 10 of the 17 panes, and (even though the windows need cleaning) this is already letting a lot more light into this corridor. I hope you can see that the right hand pane below is more like a window should be than the panes on the left.

…so the clarity of the replacements is great to see

It has not been our most productive week, however. This is partly due to jet lag still working its way through our systems, but mostly because Charley dropped by with our grandson, Teddy. Mike has insisted that I include the photo below, which I would normally have found a reason to exclude due to its unflattering nature, but as a dutiful partner, what was I to do? There had been much rocking and pacing and cuddling to encourage Teddy to drop off to sleep, but once he had dropped off, I didn’t dare move his head so needed to sit down with my forearm propped on my leg. What you can’t see is the laptop screen I am reading as I check emails (how is it that emails are still taking over my life?!?) which might explain the slightly strange expression…

Which one is the more tired, I wonder?

…so I thought I would share a better shot of the delightful Teddy so you can enjoy his loveliness more fully.

Hey gorgeous!

We are not sure what we will be doing next week, given storm Denis is due in and our rooms are due to be quite busy during half term. We will let you know next time.