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.

Getting plastered – again…

My carefully drawn detailed schedule, under which we should finish these rooms by end July, has been pretty much ignored this week as we got a bit distracted. Mike started plastering last week and because we need to spread the plastering out evenly, as it is pretty exhausting for the poor old bean, he wanted to continue plastering this week rather than plumbing the bathrooms on floor 1.

The old window, bricked up when Plas was originally extended

Here you can see Mike on the landing on floor 2. When originally extended, a large window was bricked up and this exterior wall of the Manor was covered in plaster board. We decided that the exterior wall is such a lovely feature we wanted to keep it visible, but the breeze block in-filling was so unsightly, we decided to plaster over it. Alex and I therefore stuck some beading on the wall to create a ‘limit’ for the plastering, which Mike then infilled…

…and after Mike has plastered the window ‘panels’/

and Voila – plastered panels ready for further decoration.

Can you see where Mike has been plastering?

Mike also plastered the ceiling under the floor 3 landing, and on down the stairs, so I will soon be able to get back to my favourite pastime of painting.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, here you see the right hand end of the rear wall of the original building, before the extension was added. We want this also to be a feature, but after we removed the old plasterboard, a howling gale was found to blow down through this gap.

…and during…

We decided to fill the gap with insulated plaster board – in three layers – to ensure that the gap was properly plugged. After I played jigsaws with our insulation off-cuts, Mike will come to skim this array in the next week or so.

The new fire door on floor 3

Whilst I was shuffling pieces, Mike was installing a fire door on the third floor. This will enable us to move between the two buildings, yet the staircase will still be a suitable fire escape.

…has now been fitted.

Smug, Mike? Never!

Between floor 0 and 1, the stair case widens, leaving this ‘excess’ to fill

We then turned our combined efforts to a few twiddly bits. Here, we decided to make a shelf in this area…

Filling the gaps under the window board

… so after I trimmed the window board and Mike and I installed it, I rescued bits of dressed slate to ensure the board will lie level…

Void between floors 1 and 2

…whilst Mike fixed plasterboard off-cuts into the above gap in the plastered wall of the staircase, so that this can also be skimmed next week.

Our pattern seems to have changed from working on the bathrooms to us working on the walls, which means Mike will be able to plaster in a clean sequence coming down the stairs. I don’t think this can carry on much longer though as we will need to get back to doing the bits Mike is trying to avoid – perhaps by next time we will have changed our approach…

What a find!

The last few days has seen us cutting and fitting plywood / plasterboard /flooring chipboard to the walls/ceiling/floor of the en suite bathroom-to-be.

Remind me now – how does this thing work?

The more exciting news is that we finally managed to get airborne on our helicopter flight! For those who don’t know, my siblings very kindling bought us a Snowdonia helicopter ride for our wedding anniversary 19 months ago, and on the eleventh time of booking we finally had good -enough weather for take off… The route initially followed the A470 so…

Plas Penaeldroch, seen from quite a long way up

Dolwyddelan, also at a distance

…and the blue pool above is in Portmeirion

…we flew over Plas P., then on to Dolwyddelan and over the Crimea pass to Blaenau Ffestiniog. At BFF we steered right to the coast (which is astonishingly close by area as opposed to by road) and looped over Portmeirion back up to the Ogwen valley and home via Swallow Falls in Betws y Coed. All in all a really good sightseeing trip which we both thoroughly recommend.

One curtain…

On a completely different subject, I am now going to confess to some pretty shabby housework – you have been warned.

Above, you can (just about) see the inside of the enclosed porch beyond the site of the original front door to Plas. Some years ago, two upholstered benches were installed in here, and a second exterior door was fitted making easy access from the outside impossible.

Since we arrived, we have wondered whether the plywood panels in the porch replaced original glazing, but-if so- assumed this was changed when the benches were installed, to prevent fading, or water ingress, or some such.

Anyway, on Saturday, I was walking in and out of the porch to trim panels of wood, and at one point got slightly caught up in the curtain. I confess that in nearly 3 and a half years occupation, we had not once moved these curtains (oh, the shame) to dust or clear around them… so you can imagine my surprise when I tweaked the curtain to get it out of my way and…

Four, or possibly more, leaded panels, wedged at the end of the bench

…found a stash of glazed panels. These look of a style to have been original. Unfortunately, I cannot work out how to move the panels for a closer look, as they are firmly wedged in place at the moment. But we definitely look forward to changing this entrance porch in due course and returning these panels to pride of place.

After all, only one more little job to add to quite a big list…!

Back in the saddle

Now that the Easter break is well behind us, we returned to our refurbishment work proper. Mike connected up some pipework for the next bathroom, and when we turned the water on, we had ourselves a little indoor shower! You can see below that where Mike had resolved, with due emphasis on frugality, to reuse old piping, he hadn’t noticed that one pipe had been neatly pierced by a nail or similar (you can see the pin hole in the photo below…)

So we had a short pause whilst he repaired the leak, and then all felt we had done enough plumbing for one day. We decided to try something slightly revolutionary – to have all three of us working on the same project at the same time – and elected to try fitting the fire board under the stairs and landings in this experiment.

Before we started…

One of us measured, one cut, and one stood around scratching their chins through their metaphorical beard…

The first piece of fire board in place

…and progress was pleasingly swift. We completed the floor 3 landing, then began working down the flights of stairs. Here you see Mike under the platform between floor 2 and 3…

Coming down the stairs now…

…and here we see the stairs below that platform, complete with insulation to help deaden the thunder of feet pounding down the stairs.

…adding a central strut for rigidity

Here you see Mike and Alex fitting a centre strut – as we didn’t want the fire board to fall under its own weight…

…which is something of a two person job…

…and here you see Mike completing the underside of the platform between floors 1 and 2.

Mike at full stretch

We worked as a single team for two days, and now have only the stairs from the ground floor to floor 1 to fit with fire board.

The view from floor 0 show that the stairs can soon be plastered

We decided to have another change today, partly because installing the fire board was very heavy physical work, and partly because it was Friday so I was in Welsh class all morning (after a very early trip to the cash and carry in Llandudno).

Today we returned to creating the new bathroom

We started with a bare room into which Mike had installed the plumbing…

We insulated the external wall…

…we lined the external wall with insulated plasterboard, some of the internal walls with plasterboard…

…and then put plasterboard on the ceiling.

…and then the ceiling was plaster-boarded also. Mike seemed to find it necessary to practice his ballet twirls in the middle of all this, but we forgave him.

Tomorrow, we will have to find something more to do – fortunately, we have quite a range of possible options!

Idle thoughts before we redouble our efforts…

After the very busy Easter weekend, we have been taking things a little more gently than normal, planning to return to full speed tomorrow.

More water anyone?

You may recall that we experienced very heavy rain one day last month, resulting in the river Conwy flooding. Since then until yesterday, we had had almost no rain, so the river levels were very low. Just in case any of you were worried, I can assure you that the 24 hour experience yesterday with Storm Hannah has restored the river levels! I am not surprised the cafe was extremely quiet – I wouldn’t have wanted to walk from the car to the cafe, let alone drive anywhere on local roads to get here!

A reminder of last weekend’s weather…

Lisa and family took this shot of us with Lola last weekend. We thought you might like to see it as it shows the grounds are beginning to respond to our tlc.

Aren’t we adorable?!

Anyway, back to this week. I have been producing a work schedule which now shows we should be ready to request sign off from the various official bodies for the fire stairs by around end July this year. Later than we had hoped, obviously, but at least it should still be (only just) in time for the Eisteddfod in August. To celebrate, Paul and Shaun took me shopping in Bangor for more bits and bobs for the rooms, and I just couldn’t resist these bath toys…

Something missing here, methinks

Mike has been working on the plumbing for the floor 1 bathrooms – which doesn’t make for interesting photos. Instead, above you can see the recess in the fire doors (of which we have a considerable number) into which the intumescent strips should be fitted. Yesterday I wrestled with these to fit them into the very close fitting recess, and managed to complete nine fire doors by fitting these strip so that the fire seal will be close, but so that the door will close under its own steam – or with the help of the door closer – depending on their location.

Carrie using a cross cutting saw (ha ha ha ha…)

The other thing we have finally got around to was cutting the base off this newel post. Because the stairs are narrower between floor 0 and 1 than floors 1-2 and 2-3, this particular newel post end appeared almost randomly in the sight line of people as they descended the stairs, and gave the impression they would hit their heads on it. In fact, the height above the stairs meant this was extremely unlikely, but the building inspector commented several months ago that it might hamper the role of firemen, should they ever be required. It was one of those jobs that never seemed to get to the top of the priority list, so earlier today I decided…

…that it just had to go!

Especially as I will soon need to finish off under the stairs and landings with insulation and fireboard, which is likely to be a lot easier without projections randomly dropping below the boarding line I plan to use.

I look forward to bringing you more news soon.