Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Floor 3

Right the major timbers are in and the joists are filling in the gaps. Its not finished but you can see where I'm going:
Thanks to the help of Frankie and Julia (oh and Alison) I managed to get the 6m cross beams in and sistered up. The rest were straight forward; push them up to their balance point then climb up the ladder and drag them into place. Using the joist hangers does I have to say make things a whole lot easier, not least because you can balance the joist on the edge of the joist hanger while you swap ladders and position the other end.
I've done about 2/3 of the floor in about 3 evenings, which is not bad. This week I've been working in the mornings, marking exam papers in the afternoon and then doing the house between 6ish and 11 or sometimes midnight. We are eight years in from buying the house and most people end up taking 10 years to fully renovate a house like this. I reckon the reason is that after around 8 years they either loose the will to live and go back to England or "spit on their hands and take fresh hold". Well I don't feel like going back to England so....... One thing I am  going to do is blogg every day and use it as motivational tool. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Floor 2

Started installing the joists in the floor yesterday. I've used joist hangers where I can, these are bolted to the new sections of wall which is easy enough. Trying to put joist hangers on a stone wall is a pig, since unless you are lucky and have a really big stone, all you do is shake all the mud from around the stone and end up with a loose stone. I say mud of course because the house essentially is a dry stone wall. There is no mortar to "glue" the stones together, it works on gravity to stay upright. The material between the stones was a mixture of clay, straw and cow dung and is there simply to stop the wind blowing through. The outside skin was pointed with lime mortar to stop the rain getting into the wall.
 Elsewhere the cross timbers go into sockets in the wall; and yes I know that eventually the ends of the timber will rot out, but the wood is treated so they will outlast me at least.

 Around the fireplace is a bit more of an issue. There was a corbel that held the joist end as witnessed by the hole centre frame. This as you can see is a bit low now the main timbers have been moved up to raise the ceiling height. Where the new timbers want to go the stones don't fall nicely and the stone in the centre that would have to come out goes behind the fireplace. Since the fireplace is a little on the fragile side I don't really want to go hacking out stone willy nilly. What I've decided to do is use the original holes and build a frame to bridge the gap; I can do it in oak and make a bit of a feature out of it.

This is the old corbel and as you can see, after 300 years sitting in a stone wall its pretty well gone. It should be about twice as thick but over half the thickness has rotted to dust. Interestingly though its only the sapwood that goes, what is left is the heartwood of the tree and it is in perfect condition. Top tip then if you want a corbel to last longer than 300 years; use heartwood.

And this is the new replacement in place. Well its not new wood its a bit out of the centre of an 300 year old joist that had the ends rotted out. The centre bit was perfectly OK and much stronger than a new piece. I'm pretty sure that its cut from the same piece as the corbel above as its the same section and has the same adze  marks where its been worked by hand. When the house was built the wood was split and then trued up with an adze since sawing wood joists by hand was very time consuming. They probably would have given their right arm for a Makita table saw (come to think of it I would give my.......)

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Carpe diem baby

Today it's 23 years. I was sitting in the queue waiting for the ferry crossing over to France and I was reading a copy of Bike magazine to pass the time that I had purchased for the crossing. I had my engagement ring in my pocket and the world was good. I was 22. I remember sitting there with my feet on the dash board of my black mini clubman with the oh so cool white roof (I had repainted the car at my friend and mentor Geoff's house). When I got to France my then girlfriend had to tell me my dad had been killed, the poor girl. Its funny but that one event changed my life forever. At first you carry on, but after that the stress like a cancer takes its toll and things start to fall apart. It took me a long time to recognise and then deal with his death. Now I have a lovely wife and two great kids the loss is still there. 23 year on I still miss him every day. I spoke to Geoff a couple of years back, now in his sixties (once my dads apprentice) and he said the same thing, it funny how someone can touch you so deeply. I don't know why but this year it seems different, probably because this year my dads been dead longer than I knew  him when he was alive. My kids never knew my dad but when they were little I used to tell them bedtime stories about my dad and so I hope a little of his spirit lives on in them. Its a short ass life so "Carpe Diem" or seize the day because you never know when your number's up.