Saturday, 21 December 2013

Progress is Being Made on my Out of Season Work - Own Barn Conversion. By a Man in a Skirt

At the end of my last blog I mentioned I had a frustrating day with regards placing insulation ahead of a Building Control inspection. I also mentioned car problem. The problem on the car is not too serious. My theory of a clutch starting to fail was wrong, as to my mobile mechanics telephone theory of a possible prop shaft bearing starting to wear. It is a dry bushel between the gear box shaft and the clutch plate. My mechanic having heard the noise says it is nothing to worry about, only does it adhoc, it is causing no harm, more nuisance noise than anything else. A bit of grease will cure it but that means 4 hours work to take out engine and putting it back in again. Having serviced the car on the same day this adhoc "bur" has got much less, in fact I hardly hear it now and when my mechanic phoned a week ago to ask about it I told him that. In fact I am convinced that the car has a 'love affair' with him. If the mechanic does not work on the car within a 6 month period, the car generates a problem, all most always minor, then after a visit it seems happy for a few months. Just like this noise. Since the mechanic has serviced the car and been for a ride to hear the noise it seems to have dissipated! Herbie reborn in a Land Rover Defender? I hope not!

The Building control inspector came that Friday morning and looked at the insulation I had placed. I had done 8 lengths out of 44 to do. This 100 mm deep insulation was being placed between existing rafters on a barn built pre 1800's, before the days of machine cut wood to be all the same in all dimensions. On top of that to cater for the non-breathable insulation put on before breathable felt became industry standard I needed to leave 50 mm air gap between the to. This meant deepening the rafters by 75 mm with the use of roofing laths, timber 50 mm by 25 mm.

 Talking to this inspector on the phone I understood that I could not leave gaps between the insulation and rafters and that was my problem. I didn't have huge gaps but I did have a millimeter or two here and there. I often find it is best discussing face to face as email, tweets, blogs and letters can never explain clearly as it always leaves a degree of mis-interpretation. So I waited for the Friday meeting and did something else. The inspector was very impressed, in fact he said he wished many other professional builders did as good a job. He couldn't find fault at all. The millimeter gaps were fine where the rafter sides where not square. The problem comes if it is much wider or a cut around a corner is missing say 2 or 3 centimeters. Mitering the insulation from the roof angle to the vertical wall was also fine. Since then I have marched forward. The inspector was quite happy for me to proceed.

The barn conversion consists of two barns attached to the house making it a traditional long house. One is roughly 10 m by 5 m, the other, in between the larger barn and the house is 5 m by 5 m approximately. Over the last four weeks I have concentrated on the upstairs of the larger barn. Remember I am working on my own and I do not do this line of work day in day out and unlike professionals that generally specialise in one or two areas, I'm covering the lot except plastering. Although my wife wants to be involved, much of the work is beyond her physical abilities of heavy serious DIY and until such time as painting and decorating comes in, her work is limited. She helps by taking on all the house work, dog walking, bringing in coal and logs for our central heating system, which by the way I fitted for us some 12 plus years ago. This includes soldering the copper pipes throughout, placing radiators with one minimum thermostat and one maximum thermostat to turn the circulation pump on or off as and when the cylinder tank temperature drops too much, in other words the house is always warm and there is always hot water served by the log burner. Within this system I placed and electronic zoning valve. My wife has helped hold things, pass things etc in the barn and has learnt a lot about electrics, plaster board etc although she admits she never intends using this knowledge herself!

So what have I achieved in these last four weeks. On the 10 m barn, the upstairs ceiling is completely plasterer boarded out including a loft hatch for access. Flush mounting ceiling light holes placed with the lighting circuit in situ including the wiring for a time delayed extractor fan for the en-suite and shower rooms.
 This fan circuit incorporates RCD and isolating switch but does not affect the lights of the room if isolated. Ring main circuit is in place along with a duplicate ring main for the Rointe Electronic wall heaters. Pump wire is in place along with separate shower and immersion heater wiring. Upstairs alarm wires placed and TV aerial cable for both bedrooms and downstairs reception room. The frame work ahead of plastering is in place for the shower room which will eventually hide the cylinder tank and water pump. All the cabling as mentioned above as it comes down the wall side from the loft area has had its frame work built ready for plastering too. This will allow these to be boxed off in due course. All the individual backing boxes for light switches, single sockets, double sockets, wall light switches for lamps by bed sides, shaving points etc all in place. The landing staircase light switch is not the standard 2 way switch. I need to place a 3-way switch.
 The wiring is now in place. I have put in place bespoke oak door frames to coincide with solid oak door headers embedded into the walls. Due to space being a premium, these door frames are being placed so that the plaster board is butted up to them, 25 mm of extra space is important! All the oak was stained with Danish Oil by my wife ahead of plastering to prevent damp from wet plaster putting stain marks on the oak. The front and back walls of the stone barn latted with DPC behind. Although these inter walls of the outer barn walls are dry I believe in proactive work not reactive. This allows these walls to be dry lined with plaster board. The plaster board on the internal block walls are being placed via the UK term of dot and dab. Basically "glued". I can plasterboard although not plaster, but to help save time and having plaster boarded the ceiling (and the Dining Room back in 2004) it is a job I can do but have asked the plasterer to do for me - basically buying time.

With this barn being built pre 1800's nothing is straight or square. The horizontal purlins that support the perpendicular rafters between stone gables are not horizontal or level. The walls of the barn are not even thickness even though this barn walls back and front are 500 mm thick! The middle smaller barn walls are 750 mm thick as to the internal gable between the two. Putting plaster board in this roof space, abutting against the first row purlins is not easy and it doesn't help when you therefore need to cut around 2 main frames. Mainframes and purlins are usually above the ceiling or all below if the entire roof apex is incorporated into the room. We are going in between.
We do not like all roof spaces open as warm air rises so any heat in the room goes straight to the top. Our rooms and 2.2 m high and to achieve this upstairs and downstairs we are taking a bit of the roof space. On top of adhoc jobs on any major DIY work 4 weeks has passed by. I have to source my own materials and collect if not delivered. If I miscalculate or do not anticipate a required material then it is a one hour return trip to obtain! Because I am a domestic person working on my own house, i.e. not commercial waste can be deposited at our local waste recycling plant which is time out as a Land Rover Defender is bigger than a car boot but it's not a van. On top of this, because it is not a job I do on a regular basis I need to be constantly thinking ahead and planning. Forgetting something, and I have, costs time.

A couple of trips to hospitals due to my wife's Glaucoma inspections and possibility of Cataracts - the latter was negative, time has been lost. Also doing some jobs around the house, Christmas shopping in York etc is also time out.

We are both quite pleased with progress but the priority and dominating aspect of our lives certainly until May 2014 is the completion of this barn conversion with only the help of a plasterer.

By Sunday 22nd December I will be starting the upstairs of the smaller barn, the second bedroom with ensuite of the barn conversion. By the end of the 23rd December the plasterer will have completed bedroom one and ensuite and will after Christmas be able to start on the Landing and Shower Room which I will have completed by 22nd December. After Christmas my wife will start painting the completed bedroom. Firstly by blinding the plaster work before applying our specific colours.

Once the upstairs is finished and move/complete the two reception rooms downstairs, then I build 9 oak doors. This will be done by late February, for as soon as the weather improves, I need to finish pointing the top half of the West gable outside and put in place the septic tank.

I have placed a few photos on this blog but others are available to view in the gallery on my web site

Obviously this work is not done in a skirt but in trousers and clothing that you do not mind getting 'dirty'. I have been out and about though skirted in public. Each time my wife goes to hospital with her eyes.  and Christmas shopping in York. I've been to Northallerton and Darlington. We have had the occasional meal out in evenings. For convenience we have recently been doing our grocery shopping at Morrisons in Darlington rather than Ripon or Harrogate. I don't have any problems, the odd stare but that's it. Like today, skirted all day, firstly at Northallerton Hospital, then to Homebase to get some floor tiles to match left over of existing ones, then Morrisons. Passed hundreds of people and only aware of 4 making a noticeable point but as usual, not direct. People chatted whilst I waited in the hospital reception area.

Evenings over this last four weeks I have been quite tired. By the time I have finished, around 6 pm, washed and changed - skirted- helped washed up by 8pm I usually cannot be bothered. I have maintained the odd tweets, and defended men in skirts though.

Hopefully by the time I do my next blog about mid January 2014 the barn will be making good progress but some time in January I do need to do my self employment tax return. I do not have an accountant, book keeping and tax liaison is also down to me.

In the meantime Happy Christmas to you all and a happy new year.

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