Putting the shoes in

You join us, still trying to enlarge a single doorway in the building enough to accommodate two doorways. We have cut through the dressed slate wall and then cut away both this and the undressed wall to create the correct sized void. Now we need to make the padstone on which to rest the steels.

We cleared away the rubbish and then laid the first bricks just so…

…before continuing, tying the bricks carefully into the slate wall every now and then…

…until we had a wall of bricks, topped with engineering bricks, which we left to go hard and then the next day…

…we (Mike, Pip and I) put the four RSJs in place, packed slate in above and then mortared all in place to form the new lintel.

My what a big doorway we now have! We have widened this gap by 50% and we will start fitting door frames soon. There will be a slight delay, though, whilst we locate a door wide enough for the accessible toilet.

As a result, we worked outside yesterday and today, so that we could enjoy having the sun warm our backs. Our neighbour has finished welding the fire stairs back together, so they are ready to be installed between the cafe level and the lower level garden. Yesterday we realised we had perhaps picked the wrong day for working with the pickaxe – my, was it hot…

Over the two days we cut seven holes for post shoes and then concreted these in place. Mike wielded the pick, whilst I made and shovelled the concrete.

When these have hardened off, we can start fitting the fence, which we thought would be a useful safety feature to finish before guests start to return. In case we haven’t told you, we now know we can plan to reopen the rooms for 13th July but, with no date yet for reopening the cafe, we have very reluctantly decided that the cafe will have to remain closed from now until 2021.

A new doorway opens

I start with a brief Covid-19 update. On Friday it was announced that holiday accommodation in Wales like ours can plan to reopen from 13th July, assuming the infection rate continues to decline. With a new hotspot on Anglesey that links into North Wales, this may yet be unachievable, but at least it gives us something to work towards.

Last week we hung the door into the new toilets…

…and then we returned to cutting the double width doorway. Mike and Niall used a stone cutter to cut a guide line into the dressed slates facing the corridor, and then began to cut away the rough slate wall on the inside. The acrow props were strategically positioned, one supporting the stone lintel over the original window, the other supporting the four inch thick wooden beam above this.

This cutting away took several days, with Mike and Niall each operating different breakers…

…whilst I was occupied, partly on paperwork and partly on removing all the waste materials. One reason I wasn’t using the breakers was because they are heavier than I can really manage, and the other was…

…I didn’t fancy looking like a chimney sweep after a few hours work.

We carefully removed some slate intact, but most of it had to be crumbled away, which explains why it took so long.

Softly softly catchee monkey, as people say when proceeding carefully, and eventually…

… we got to the end of the job. Three feet of slate wall two feet thick has been cut away, and tomorrow we will build the brick wall on which the steels will rest…

…which is why we had to move the acrows. Two of the four steels are supporting the wall above through being braced across a piece of 4″ x 4″ so that they could be moved outside the area in which the wall will be built.

A week or so ago, we put the new oil tank in place, having dug over the area near it. On warm days during the week I planted this up with bits and bobs, either grown from seed, or cuttings, or provided by kind neighbours…

…and hope that in a week or two, it will begin to look the business.

Now that we need to be ready for 13th July, you might find the progress slows somewhat, but here’s hoping we manage to keep things going at a reasonable rate!

Let’s cut to the chase

Before I start on this week’s blog, I wanted to let you know this might be the last post that focuses solely on the refurbishments. The Welsh First Minister is due to make an announcement this Friday (June 19th) which is widely expected to say when hospitality businesses in Wales might re-open. We find more and more people in England talk about life having moved to a new normal, so it feels very strange to be in still-firmly-locked-down travel- only-5-miles-to-see-people Wales. If we are given an opening date, we will need to stop making so much dust and start clearing up!

At the end of last week, we finished sanding the windowboards and top coated them. This meant, at long last (from my point of view), widening a doorway came to the top of our ‘to do’ list.

Above you can see the gap where the door to the ladies loos used to be. The space is wider than it used to be, as we have also removed bricks that had blocked up what used to be a window space to make the old doorway. We had to neaten up the vertical edge, and then remove bits of the infill wall behind…

…to clear space into which we could build a brick wall.

This wall, which will be topped with engineering bricks, will be strong enough to carry the weight of 4 RSJs (that’s rolled steel joists to you and me, specifically 4 off 152x152x23) to form the new ‘lintel’ supporting the wall above a pair of doorways. OK, so if you want me to be strictly accurate, then I should say the walls need to be strong enough to carry the weight of the RSJs plus all of the wall above these lintels but I thought it might be simpler to envisage them carrying the weight of the RSJs…

… hopefully that little diversion made it seem as though it only took a blink of an eye for us to build this wall. Whilst the mortar went off, we turned our attention to the rest of the wall.

We are looking here at the right hand side of the ‘doorway’. You can see a pair of black marks near the top of the wall. The longer mark shows where the edge of the doorway needs to be, and the shorter mark shows where the top line of slate needs to be cut away to make room for the RSJ to lap at least 150mm into the wall on each side.

To cut through these slates we need to get mechanised, so we employed a man with his van to bring his stone cutter to bear on the problem. This will mean vast amounts of dust so we have sheeted everything, and closed all internal doors to try to contain the mess.

Whilst we waited for the hefty work to began, I insulated this doorway (at the base of the old back stairs) and fire-boarded it…

… whilst Pips (now on summer holidays, having finished her first year exams) has decided to paint the first floor landing in the old building. By the way this carpet, which has only done about 40 years of service, may not last much longer – since Pips hates it with a passion!

Back to the wall. Here you can see that the stone cutter has made a lovely straight line incision in the dressed slates forming the old exterior wall of the building. The blade cut about 4 inches through these approx. 6 inch thick slates, and so next we need to clear away the infill wall behind to give us access so we can finish cutting through on the same line in a day or so.

Above you can see what I called the infill wall. This is about 18″ thick and is made of undressed slates sandwiched together with lime mortar – and some of these pieces of slate have surprised us with their vastness. Before we started removing any of this, we drilled and fitted an Acrow tine to give extra stability…

…and began to pull matter away under a very substantial horizontal slate. Hopefully you can see from the picture above that more than 50% of the slate above the gap is supported to the left hand side of our new cut line, which gives added stability. Mike and Niall have cleared away a lot more of the infill wall, and assure me this is strong and stable.

It had better be! (Can you hear my nervousness from where you are?!?)

We need to continue to cut away so that we clear a space for the brick wall to be built, roughly in line with Mike’s left hand side above, and once that is in place we can fit the RSJs and I can breath again. Here’s hoping I am not leaving you on tenterhooks until I next write.