Strawbale House

This blog is intended to chart our progress through the self-build process, from half-hearted plot-hunting through to completion of the build. The twist is that we're building the house from timber and straw (hence the blog title).

Click on the image at the end of each post to see that day's photos.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

July 31st - Roof & windows

I was on a half-day today, and by the time I arrived after lunch, Mal and Melvin had clearly been giving vent to their artistic urges. The west gable end is now looking much more "like a bought one", thanks to the spangly new barge board and finnial, made by Mal's fair hand on the table-saw.
I bashed on with the adjustments to the velux, chiselling out timber to make room for the recessed flashings, while Melvin dismantled the scaffold towers and moved them from the west end to the east.
Mal, meanwhile, set about the front wall with a hammer, and burst a hole through for the window in the middle bedroom. This isn't on any drawings, but it's become obvious that it would hugely enhance the room, as the only light otherise would enter above head-height through the ceiling, and the only view would have been of the sky. As the pictures show, there will now be an outlook over the front garden and the stream.
Met the buyer of the adjacent plot, a single man with chronic spinal problems, who spends much of each day on his back. I asked if he'd be installing under-floor heating so he can lie on the carpet. Friendly chap - Alasdair Main, I think he said his name was. He says that there's been no approval from SEPA regarding the drainage from the plots yet, which is a bit of a worry. Must chase it up. The good news is that he's building a bungalow, which will minimise the obstruction of our our lovely southerly view.
Had a delivery of timber from Doves in the afternoon. They'd sent a rookie driver, who had found the road a bit of a challenge. His hi-ab was broken, and he showed his inexperience by helping us unload the timber by hand. He'll soon learn to sit in the cab looking sullen!

roof & windows 310707

July 30th - Roof

A bit of a pain-in-the-arse day, when I couldn't get my act together in the morning and spent the afternoon undoing previous work. Started on the final few rows of sarking while Mal and Melvin worked below, framing up rafters under the velux units at the front of the house. We've decided to stagger the fascia line, lifting it to a much reduced overhang above the vertical windows to allow more light in and an unobstructed view out. Between windows the original fascia line will remain. My problem was that, as we were doing it on the hoof, I kept measuring and cutting sarking lengths to rafters that were about to be removed, then having to rework things. Earned several pillock-points in this manner, which were added to my tally on the wall.
I also realised that I hadn't made provision when were framing the velux last week for the drip-tray that sits downhill of the window and is recessed into the roof. To rectify this I have to remove each window from its frame, unscrew the frame from the roof and set about the sarking, trimmers and trusses with a jigsaw to take out the obstructing timber. It's an easy job, but it's time-consuming and a real pain to have to do it at all. By the end of the day I'd done the small units at the back of the house, and have the four remaining big units to do tomorrow.
Comic highlight of the day was when a visiting friend's dog made of with Melvin's stash of doughnuts. Well I thought it was funny - not sure Melvin did!

Roof 300707

Sunday, 29 July 2007

July 27th - Sarking and walls

No Melvin today. Worked on the front of the roof, sarking and laying membrane. Slow business doing it solo while Mal worked on the fascia at the back. Helped him on-and-off when needed, and installed a couple of the velux rooflights at the front in between. Got the fascia finished to his satisfaction by mid-afternoon, and fitted the glass in the velux at the end of the day. Have a sneaking feeling that a draught-proof polythene membrane should have gone up behind the fascia. Too late now for the back, but must check before we do the front fascia, and work out what to do at the back. Forgot the camera today, so just two pictures taken by Gemma during a 5-minute visit to site.

Roof & fascia 270707

Thursday, 26 July 2007

July 26th - Velux

We were joined on site today by the usual random gaggle of kids - who spent the day making a boat from a pallet and OSB offcuts, and also by nephew Mick, a builder from Wiltshire on strict instrustions from his missus not to work, as he's trying to sort out a bad back.
A full consignment of velux rooflights arrived from Rembrand Timber in the morning, and once we'd lugged them down onto the plot (where the driver was unwilling to drive), I set about fitting the five in the north side of the house. Melvin was doing sterling work installing the last couple of rows of sarking on this pitch, having to work from a ladder, which slowed the process enormously and made it a frustrating and pretty tiring day for him. In typical fashion, though, he stuck at it without a breath of complaint and remained cheerful throughout, and fitted the last board around 5pm. Mal was working on the east gable wall and framing up the window in the south-east bedroom, where I've done away with the "waterfall window" and opted instead for a standard velux rooflight and a small window in the wall. Mick pottered about making encouraging noises, cutting the odd timber to order and offering valuable titbits of advice.
Fitting the velux into pre-framed apertures was a very rewarding exercise. Progress is rapid and the results very nice to look at. The five frames went in in an hour or two (slowed a bit by one slightly undersized hole that need planing and jigsawing.)
Having installed all the frames I could then fit the breathable membrane around them. The last act of the day was to fit the windows in the frames with Mal.
The result was a dramatically different back of the house, as the photos show.

Velux & membrane 260707

July 25th - Roof & external walls

Mal and Melvin on site again, and about 120 children. I travelled over with Gemma (sister), who had her two boys in tow who combined with my four and three of Mal's to make for an unholy crowd.
I pressed on with sarking the awkward bits while Mal polished off the external frame on the north side and Melvin helped us both. A dry day, which was a big bonus for me on the roof, and for the kids, who ran riot all day with only the very occasional hint of dispute. It was pretty breezy, though, which made handling the rolls of membrane on the roof tricky, and a couple of rows had sustained damage in the night where I'd been a bit shy with the battening.
A delivery arrived from Doves, including the dressed timber for the barges and fascias. I ran grooves along the backs of some of them with the table-saw (an awkward business single-handed) and painted their backs to protect them from rot.
Melvin's long-awaited nail-gun and belated collated nails came with Anna in the afternoon. Its presence should speed things along on site, as until now we've been relying on Mal's alone.
Big scrum-like meal for 23 in the evening when nephew Mike turned up with his wife and four for a few days. He's a builder, and I intend to pick his brain bare while he's here regarding the plumbing and heating for the project, which still inhabits a very vague and mushy part of my head.

Roof & walls 250707

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

July 24th - External walls and roof

I arrived bright and early at the plot, knowing that I'd have to sneak off mid-morning. Rolled out and stapled two courses of membrane - one on each pitch of the roof before Mal and Melvin arrived, then carried on in the same vein with Melvin while Mal continued to frame up the external walls. Ideally this would have waited until the straw is in place to make their installation easier, but the framing is needed to support the windows and doors, which will be mounted in 18mm ply boxes, cantilevered out from the main load-bearing frame and supported by the smaller external frame. It will also help to stabilise the straw, which would otherwise tend to collapse outward or bulge in the middle when a certain height is reached.
The roof-work is now complicated by the fact that we've filled in all the empty rows of sarking, which we were using as foot-holds for climbing, but which are now covered by membrane. To work in any degree of safety on the roof, we're now having to nail temporary blocks to the sarking as fooholds, and redeploy them after each course of membrane. This obviously slows progress.
We've still to fit the bottom few rows of sarking, but have nothing to stand on to do it. Some of it can be reached from the velux apertures. The rest would be a lot easier if the entire building was surrounded by eaves-high scaffold. I was unwilling to splash out to buy or hire this much scaffold, and we don't want to move the scaffold towers from the east end until the barge-board and facia, which should arrive tomorrow, are in place.
I returned in the afternoon with all my kids, who immediately stripped off and frolicked in the stream with Paris and Boston. Ellie's just back from three weeks in London, and was exultant at the opportunity to play outdoors without the strictures of city-life.
Melvin had spent most of my absence cutting lengths for Mal. We worked together on the roof until 5, fitting about as much membrane as we can without the scaffold.
Melvin's in a fever of anticipation, waiting for the Paslode nail gun I ordered for him on Thursday. On the same order is a box of Paslode collated nails, which have been rechristened "belated nails".

External walls & roof 240707

Monday, 23 July 2007

July 23rd - Sarking and membrane

The start of another week, and the three stooges back on site for another day dodging the rain-showers. Central and couth-west England have been flooded to the highest levels in living memory, so I suppose I shouldn't complain about the frequent dousings we're having to deal with, but I wish the bloody weather would sort itself out before summer ends.
Melvin and I worked together for much of the day, cutting and installing sarkig on the north pitch and, towards the end of the day, rolling out the first few rows of weatherproof membrane. I'd emailed Jim Jordan at Rembrand with an updated windows schedule, and he called to say that all except the big lounge array of velux are in stock, and that we can expect them, on Wednesday.
I spent yesterday morning researching solar water heaters, and am just about ready to order a system, but was unable to raise the suppliers all day.
Mal worked on the external wall at the east end of the building and installed a ring-beam around the outside of the ground-floor joists, having first trimmed them all to length. Makes that part look a lot more finished.
Quite a big week lined up. By Friday we should be weatherproof and I may have started on the slating.

External walls & roof - 230707

Saturday, 21 July 2007

July 21st - Rain, rain, go away

I'm glad today was a weekend and a scheduled down-day, because it rained without ceasing from 11am till after bedtime. No work scheduled for tomorrow, which is just as well, as more rain is forecast. I've managed to pick the wettest summer since records began to build a house, and what's more, using straw that will be unusable if I can't keep it dry. Hope the weather sorts itself out soon. I spoke to the farmer who's currently growing my straw today, and to the contractor who'll be cutting it, and the consensus was that if it's still raining in a fortnight, the spring barley crop will be ruined. The winter barley's already adversely affected, and its failure can only increase the price of straw. The spring barley should be harvested around the first week in September, which gives me a good firm date by which I need to get the roof finished and the walls ready for the straw. Wish me luck!

Friday, 20 July 2007

July 20th - External wall

I had to face reality this morning and pretend to do a bit of work. I also had to visit the bank to draw some cash to pay Melvin for all the work he's done so far.
I arrived on site after lunch and found them on a tea-break, looking suspiciously comfortable and well-settled in their chairs. They insisted they'd been hard at it all morning, but Mal's usual rapier progress did seem to have stuttered a bit!
We worked together for the remainder of the day on the external wall at the west end of the house. There's a surprising amount of work in it - much more than I had anticipated, although that might be because it wasn't supposed to be structural. In the event, I've been supplied with gable-ladders that sit on top of the wall, cantilevering over the edge by about 600mm (two feet in old money), so we've had to make it with bigger timbers than originally planned. Looking into the 500mm cavity between the walls you get a real feeling for the depth of insulation we're going to have, compared to the 100 - 150mm of fibreglass that's the norm in new-builds.
I discovered yesterday that the velux windows for the two big front rooms were going to set me back over £4000 including flashings (which Velux craftily omit from their catalogue!), and today we decided to scrap one set and replace it with a standard roof-light and a small window in the north wall, about 150mm above floor-level, which will make a nice perch on which to sit and read or watch the goings-on in the garden. Mal's getting into the groove of designing a house as he goes along, rather than working to a set of drawings. Much more fun, I reckon, with a lovely organic feel to it. Watching the house evolve with ideas coming in from various sources is exciting and fascinating, and the approach is absolutely made for someone like Mal, who's a born ideas-man, and a very analytical problem solver. At least, I hope he is!! It also suits me very nicely. Compared to this approach, working slavishly to someone else's drawings would seem awfully sterile. The flip-side, of course, is that it may not be as efficient, and there's always the chance that Building Control will take one look at it, laugh up their sleeves and tell us to knock it all down and build a proper house!
I paid Melvin at the end of the day, thanked him for his work and told him not to bother coming back. Apparently he thought I was joking, so it looks like we're stuck with him for the time being! In truth, though, he's been a revelation. He joined the project almost by accident, drafted in at the last minute when we were desperate for brickies. He's not a bricky, but I'd heard he had some ill-fitting jeans and a foul mouth, so he's two-thirds of the way there. He's a part of the furniture now, and his irrepressible good humour and physical strength are a real asset.

External walls 200707

July 19th - Sarking & external wall

With no Jack on site, I regained my natural role as the butt of most of the humour. Melvin and I worked on the sarking while Mal cut the lengths for an hour or two. The rain arrived just as we were finishing the top course on the north side of the roof. We rigged a temporary OSB ceiling above the saw to keep it and its operator dry and Mal and Melvin worked on a supporting wall under the west gable ladder and some rodent-proofing dwangs between ground-floor joists while I manned the saw.
Melvin got a fire going and cleared a load of debris from the site - old pallets and dog-ends of timber. Seemed like a slow day after the big stages of the last few days, but it was productive none-the-less.
Another delivery of timber came from Doves. The project seems to have an insatiable appetite for wood, which has sent it way over budget already. I'll need to try to claw some of it back somewhere, or at least try to stop future stages running so far over.The rain cleared in the afternoon. Melvin assembled my shiny new table-saw, which came in about 3000 small parts and I used it to rip down some OSB strips and flooring for use as packers in Mal's wall.
I took a sample slate from Doves up to my slater pal Davy Bev for his verdict. Seemed fine to him, but he warned me to stipulate that I want them all to be of that grade, as merchants are very fond of supplying lovely samples followed by batches of wildly varying quality. Dropped in on the larch and straw office Mal and I built last spring. It's not been visited for months, and I was delighted to find it bone dry inside after the freakish amount of recent rain we've endured. Bodes well for the house.
Managed to leave the dog at the site, and had a call from Neil, who had scooped her up and popped her in the back of his landrover! Retrieved her and headed home.

Roof 190707

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

July 18th - Gable-ladders

Started on the sarking with Mal, Melvin and Jack first thing, but were soon beaten back by the weather. Persistent drizzle set in, making the roof too slippery to work safely. Pottered around inside fitting joist-hangers until I had to leave to look after the boys while Anna conducted a funeral. Immediately called back to site by Mal because Mick had arrived with the telescopic forklift to help install the huge gable-ladders, and all hands were needed. Shoved the boys into shoes and took them with me. By the time I arrived the first ladder was in place, and the procedure had been "slick", according to Jack. The second was anything-but, and felt to me a little fraught, handling a very heavy and unwieldy timber structure on a wobbly scaffold tower and an aluminium ladder. Having missed the first one, I felt a bit out-of-the-loop and useless, but under Mal's cool direction the difficulties were overcome and the monster was secured in place.
My contribution to the second pair was to spend a bit of time making the scaffold at the east end a lot more stable than the first one had been, and this combined with the experience of the first pair seemed to make a big difference. The second two ladders were knocked off in a much more relaxed fashion. Mick had shifted a load of earth around so he and his marvellous machine were working from a level platform, which also made a big difference.
We all celebrated with a cuppa afterwards, by which time a horde of kids had arrived with Michele and Anna. The weather had improved and the roof was dry, but we couldn't really motivate ourselves to get back into it after such an epic struggle, and Jack had a bus to catch back to Penrith, so we packed up and left at around 4:45. It's been grand having Jack here. The kids love him to death and he's been very useful to have on site. A bit tentative at first, but growing in confidence as time went on, with some excellent contributions to the ceaseless banter.
I hope he's learned some useful skills, despite being left-handed!

Roof 180707

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

July 17th - sarking

Spent all day on the roof fitting sarking. Through the morning I worked with Melvin, calling dimensions down to Mal and nailing the cut lengths in place while Jack built a couple of scaffold towers at the end of the building in readiness for installation of the gable ladders. After lunch Jack joined me on the roof and Melvin worked inside on the roof structure with Mal. I felt surprisingly secure on the roof, although it looked pretty hairy from ground-level. At last the summer seems to have arrived in earnest, and it was beautiful all day. Felt pretty frazzled by knock-off. Six kids were with us throughout the day, but for once they played harmoniously and we hardly knew they were there. Oscar managed to smash a mug of water into my camera, which is now much the worse for wear. Hung it out on the roof to dry and by the end of the day it was working after a fashion.

Roof 170707

Monday, 16 July 2007

July 16th - Roof structure

A big day on site, when the project changed from a box to a house. Jack and I spent an hour yesterday erecting scaffold along the length of the upstaris spine wall in preparation for today's installation of the roof trusses.
Mal was relying on Melvin for a lift in today, so I knew that I'd need to be there for the arrival of George and his telescopic forklift. He was already there when I arrived at 8:10, and immediately informed me that I had 28 trusses. I asked if we'dd get them all in today and he pursed his lips, sucked in pensively and said, "Doubtful". I had him lift some sarking onto the upper floor while we waited for and Mal and Melvin.
As soon as they arrived We got stuck in and ploughed through the truss installation in a very slick fashion. One was broken in the process by the lifting frame, but other than that they went up without a hitch, with each truss braced to at least two others, and a couple of timbers braced to the frame of the house. A startled George was dismissed at 1:30, having completed in five hours what he'd expected to last him two days. Anna visited with the boys for lunch, and seemed very excited by the transformation that was taking place.
The sunny afternoon was spent trimming around the velux openings and fitting infill rafters, and bracing the trusses. We had a couple of courses of sarking fitted by knock-off. All-in-all, a very satisfying day.

Roof 160707

Sunday, 15 July 2007

July 14th - Upper floor and internal wall

Just Mal with me on site today, and Jack for the morning. Worked together on the laying of the remainder of the upper floor until I suggested that we should work in tandem on the long central wall. Measured up and sent Jack off to the big saw to cut studs. Dropped him home when he'd finished and headed back to site. I'd forgotten the food-box in the morning, meaning no "smoko" (tea-break), so lunch was a little longer and fondly embraced than usual!
One benefit of doing a self-build with mongrel pals is the number of unexpected skills you pick up. On this project, the main one is swearing. As an Aussie, Mal is world-class by birthright. Even his every-day non-profane chat is top-motch. "I say, old chap, do you think you might turn the generator on when you get a moment" becomes "Oi Jack, kick the genny in the guts, mate!". Bent timbers are "honeymooners" and less-than-perfect work (not that there has been much!!) is "good enough for a bush-job". Melvin has shown a rare linguistic talent, which he delivers in a gruff Calendonian growl and Dave (remember him) is a past-master at innuendo.
For the rest of the afternoon Mal built the wall and I laid the floor, through several rain-showers which threatened to leave the unpainted flooring soaking and ruined. After one particularly heavy squall I brushed all the water off, only for another to arrive five minutes later. I indulged in some colourful language of my own, which helped a bit. Later on the sun came out and dried it all, allowing us to throw assorted painty left-overs down to protect it till the roof's water-proof (see photos). Clocked off at 6pm, with everything ready for roof-truss installation on Monday.

First floor 140707

Friday, 13 July 2007

July 13th - Last of the external walls (and more bloody rain)

The four musketeers on site again, along with five children. Weather OK until lunch, when the rain arrived. It continued for the rest of the day, and scuppered the laying of the floor. Jack spent most of the day fitting joist hangers – a tedious chore, but at least he was under cover. I manned the saws and cut a multitude of studs, dwangs and sheets of OSB, while Mal and Melvin worked up top, making walls and dwanging respectively. Euan arrived from the Proctor Group with 150sqm of Roofshield, a breathable membrane that they’re donating in return for some photos of it in unconventional use. About £500 - £600-worth, which is a very handy saving. More flooring arrived from Rembrand - unfortunately not the same brand as the stuff we've already used, but it should match up OK, if we remove the tongue from the joint between the two different types. Dragged the ever-obliging Mick Gamble away from his lunch to unload and lift it to first-floor level. I'd rigged up a temporary prop under the floor to take the weight.
We finished late, around 6:30, with the last of the external walls standing. A big moment. Flooring tomorrow, weather permitting, and roof-trusses on Monday.

First floor 130707

Thursday, 12 July 2007

July 12th - Upstairs floor joists and walls

I was supposed to be driving to Lincolnshire today, and spent a chunk of the morning preparing equipment. Loaded the car up, and dropped in at the site on the way. Couldn't drag myself away. Tossed a coin, which said I should go. I was so upset with this outcome that it was obvious I should do no such thing, so I strapped on my tool-belt and got stuck in.
The long-awaited 220 x 75mm floor-joists arrived first thing, and by the time I arrived at around 11am they were all cut to size and installed. Very impressed, but disappointed that it was all done without me. Still - I got over it fairly quickly!
Mal's picturesque wife made a surprise visit and took her three kids away. This pleased Melvin, who struggles badly when he's not allowed to swear.
Fitted the rest of the joist clips while Jack cut dwangs and Melvin nailed them in place. Helped Mal frame up a couple of wall-panels then had to shoot off. The lads arrived at the house around 6pm with the following photos...
First floor 120707

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

July 11th - Tinkering

No Mal or Melvin today, and I had to prepare for a work trip, so Jack and I didn't get to the plot until late afternoon. Tested the various saws and leads I'd repaired last night, then Jack finished off some OSB sheeting and I set about one of the douglas fir support posts with a plane and a belt sander. Came up a treat, and I think they'll be lovely after a bit of oil or wax. Hamish (we'd taken the three boys along) found yesterday's paint tins, and made himself up like a Red Indian chief, or an Aussie cricketer with the thick, gloopy oil-based floor paint. Gave him a mild bollocking in anticipation of a telling-off from Anna for my negligence.
Floor-joists coming tomorrow (apparently!), so the lads will have plenty to do in my absence, and we should be ready to start on the roof at the start of next week.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

July 10th - Flooring and north wall

A much more satisfying day. Jack and I were on site first, and had the power run out and saws set up by the time Mal and Melvin arrived. Jack set about cutting a shed-load of studs for all the upstairs external walls, while the rest of us installed the first of the four big (6” x 6”) Douglas fir posts to support the main beam. Pretty slick operation, once again seamlessly directed by Mal. From there we moved upstairs and started the flooring. Mal and I spent the next few hours on this, and the other two fitted the rest of the joist hangers - a tedious and slow job. Boo was on site, as always, and for a few hours before lunch he was joined by my three boys. They’re drawn like a magnet to the scaffold inside the house, which is terribly dangerous, with open floor-joists below. To divert them, I had Jack build a scaffold climbing-frame outside, which occupied them for a while until Oscar took a nasty fall. Erring on the side of caution, they all went off to throw rocks at each other.
By mid-afternoon we’d knocked off all the flooring we could do without the big floor-joists, which I have been promised will arrive tomorrow from Rembrand Timber. They’re costing me £150 more there than the quote I had from Doves, but it doesn’t look likely that Doves will deliver any time soon, and I can’t afford to have the job held up any longer.
We all got cracking on building the frames for the last two sections of the north wall and sheeting them with OSB. I managed to split my thumb open yet again with a hammer. Horribly painful, but I knew from last time tht it soon subsides, and so it did. Much messier this time, with plenty of blood (or “claret”, as Mal calls it) spilt on my nice new floor! Walls finished, erected and braced by about 5pm, when Mal, Melvin and Boo left and Jack and I stayed behind to paint the floor to protect it from rain until the roof goes on. Jack's fitted perfectly into the team, picking up on jobs to do without being asked, and using the tools with much more assurance than yesterday. A quick learner!
Mal and Melvin off tomorrow, so Jack and I will spend just a few hours there. I need to prepare for a two-day trip to Lincolnshire to drum up some work.

First floor 100707

Monday, 9 July 2007

July 9th - Moving upstairs, slowly

The first work on site for three days, and in weather terms, it could be a different season, or a different continent. Baking all day, and unbroken sunshine. Melvin had a kilt-fitting (with an extra-long tape!) in Edinburgh, so Mal and I were joined by Jack, my nephew who’ll be around for a couple of weeks. A productive but strangely unsatisfying day. Most of the work was more-or-less invisible, a huge amount of dwanging and fitting of joist-hangers and clips, all of which will be hidden in the floor. Right at the end of the day we erected the first of the upstairs walls, a windowless section in the north elevation.
Jack spent a large chunk of the morning on the big saw, cutting dwangs and all afternoon on a ladder fitting joist-hangers.
Jack: yeah, cutting bits of wood to measurement which were almost certainly all wrong! And fitting 10 joist hangers all afternoon, something Damon or Mal probably would have done in half an hour! I’m a great help.
Nonsense – he’s just being modest! Mick Gamble answered a plea and turned up just before knock-off with his telescopic forklift to lift all the upstairs flooring onto the upstairs joists.
Arrived home feeling pretty frazzled. Must remember a hat tomorrow, and more to drink. Hamish used most of our water in a water-fight with Boston!

First floor 090707

Friday, 6 July 2007

July 6th - First-floor

Arrived on site a few minutes after Mal, who was sitting disconsolately in the van with Boo, looking out at the rain. Melvin had already been, collected the mixer and legged it before we could persuade him to stay. Not that staying was particularly high on Mal’s list, or mine. We came very close to aborting the day because of the weather – the first time it had really affected Mal in this way, but after a cuppa we girded up our loins and got stuck in.

Still waiting for the big first-floor joists from Doves, but still found plenty to keep us busy. Worked out the stairwell details and built the snug wall, finished the wall plate and fitted the shorter joists above the snug.

A Doves lorry turned up with the replacements for yesterday’s wrongly sized joists, and shortly a load of chipboard flooring arrived from Rembrand. When I went to scrounge a forklift from Neil I found him kneeling beside a 10-minute-old calf who’d had part of its innards pulled out through its navel by its mother pulling on the umbilical. Neil gently fed them back up the tube (like sausage-meat in a skin) and put a tight rubber ring around it to contain it all, and left it to stitch later. Enlightening insight into one of the lesser-known tasks of a beef farmer.

Right at the end of the day the scaffold arrived, jumbled in a disordered heap in the back of a truck. It had to be unloaded piece-by-piece, and we had a line of ant-like children ferrying the frames down to the plot-side.

I noticed with alarm that some of the timbers seem to be starting to rot in the filthy wet weather they’ve been sitting in for the last fortnight. Surely it has to stop sometime!

First floor 060707

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Thursday July 5th - First-floor joists

A day off yesterday for me to catch up on work, Mal to attend to a prior engagement and Melvin to have a lie-in. Back on site today to start on the first-floor. By the time Mal and Melvin had constructed the load-bearing utility-room wall on which the big beam will sit and I'd finished the ground-floor OSB, a Doves wagon had arrived with the beam and a stack of wrong-sized floor-joists. Sent them away (but kept the beam), then nicked out to summon Mick Gamble and his telescopic fork-lift to unload the trusses, which arrived from Donaldsons Timber on an artic driven by Bob Hoskins. They look bloody enormous, but seem to tally with the measurements!
Quite an operation lifting the beam into position in two sections, very skillfully co-ordinated by Mal, with Melvin's brute strength and my impressive collection of ladders and less impressive collection of biceps completing the team. Once the beam was in place, on temporary posts and bracing, we set about installing the upper-floor joists. I'd tweaked my back during the beam-lifting (ah, diddums!) so assigned myself to cutting the joists to length. Even that was pretty painful, with my lower-back in spasm, but by the end of the afternoon it had eased a fair bit. Will need to give it kid-gloves for a day or two.
Hamish, Buggy and Boo played much more happily today, constructing a den with timber offcuts and a tobogganing slope with a rubble sack.

By day's end we had all the floor-joists in place for the northern half of the house. We're still waiting for the bigger (220 x 75mm) joists for the longer span on the southern half, so may have to spend the next couple of days dwanging until they arrive. Scaffold coming tomorrow, which will be very welcome, after all today's tricky ladder work.

First floor

Tuesday July 3rd - Ground-floor walls

The three musketeers on site again, plus faithful Boo. battered on through crappy weather (incessant rain) to complete the ground-floor load-bearing walls. I had to leave mid-afternoon, so no end-of-day pictures.

Monday, 2 July 2007

July 2nd - Ground-floor walls

Mal, Melvin and I cracked on with the ground-floor load-bearing stud walls, with help from Boston and, briefly, Toby and Oscar. Another day of sudden downpours punctuated by short periods of warm sunshine. Very annoying. Hammer-humour included my hitting my thumb so hard that it burst, and Mal missing a nail-head by several inches and putting a hole through the wall.

By close of play we had two sides completed, and plan to start upstairs on Thursday or Friday. Must get some scaffold organised...

Ground floor 200707