Friday, 29 July 2011

Spot the difference

We should be very happy. The heavy work has begun. But I'm not feeling the love. Having met with three of the firms last Monday, the brickies, who are to do the heavy demolition work, were to begin the next morning, between 8:00 and 8:30, we were assured. Nobody arrived, and there was no call, no explanations. On Wednesday, two experienced, mature men arrived, and by Thursday they had completely removed the extension at the back. Brilliant work! Having spent two days away for work, it was quite a sight to turn the corner at the back of the house have have a completely new view of the garden. So much space has been released behind the house, we now get a feel for what it might be like to sit outside the kitchen on a warm summer evening. Lovely

After. Rear facade, July 2011.
The only problem i had was the sacking used to cover the gaping hole where the extension roof was. But, it was Thursday, and they were to return on the morning to put some plastic sheeting over it, and to take the top off the left chimney. This has to be completed this week, as they go on holiday next week, and the chimney has to go before the roofer starts in just over a week.

Adding water to the general dirt is not nice.
Friday morning, up at 6:30 to go open the house by 7am. Nobody arrives. We don't have the boss's mobile number, for some crazy reason, so we call the architect who is told they had to deal with a gas pipe problem, and they'd send someone on Monday to cover the hole properly, and besides, the forecast was for no rain. Then, at 5pm, it rains. Heavily. Luckily I had put some small sheeting in the floor under the hole, carrying most of the water away, but no way could it hold back the torrent. Water literally poured in, and went through the floor into the kitchen below. In desperation we call the boss's home, and his wife calls him, and soon, the poor chap who had worked on this the previous two days, and who had been sent elsewhere for the day, left home and came over. I helped him put up the new sheeting. I don't blame him, but the management and communication is dismal and unprofessional. And I foolishly thought that German builders (or rather the management) would not conform to the stereotype!

That's more like it! Still only temporary.
Having punched holes in the plasterboard ceiling in the kitchen to release trapped water, I think I'll take the whole ceiling down tomorrow, as well as removing the corrugated iron roof on the machine room, which needs to go before the scaffolding goes up next week.

Still, let's think happy thoughts, and stop with a new vista of the barn.



I really hope things improve with this firm's attitude when they return for more major work in two weeks.

Monday, 25 July 2011

All Systems Go

It's hard to believe. After months of delay, we finally got the "Rote Punkt" a couple of weeks ago that means we can do what we want (well, within the bounds of the planning application). What's more, this morning we met with our architect and three of the firms who'll be doing the main works on the house. Tomorrow morning at 8:30, the general builders start with demolishing the extension at the back of the house. They have a week to do this, after which the scaffolding will go up next week, and the week after, work begins on the roof.

In a few days, this ugly thing will be gone.
Demolishing the extension is not a simple task. As the roof is made of asbestos sheeting, they need to do it with protective gear and bag everything. They must also notify the building department, as they might do a spot check to be sure it's all done according to the rules. What we'll be left with is an internal will acting as a thin outer wall, with the bathroom door acting as a temporary back door till the general builder returns from holiday to rebuild the back wall, as well as the other major jobs on his list. But more of that anon.

In the meantime, we have some decisions to finalise about roof windows and what kind of beam do we want to replace the broken one in the living room: steel or a wood composite. The steel will have a smaller profile, but the wood might look nicer if we do not clad it. Perhaps one of the easier decisions to be made...

Monday, 4 July 2011

Like pulling teeth...

Location of cellar 4.
...literally! You'll see why below.

There haven't been many blog posts on progress of our own work, but that doesn't mean to say we've been doing nothing. It's just slow, dirty work, and the place is a mess. But then that's part of the fun, so there will follow a few "in progress" posts, despite the piles of plasterboard lying around the place (we need a container soon).

Cellar 4, before work began, June 2011.
The first rounds of estimates are in, and we're finalising details to select contractors. First off will be the Mauerer (equates to a bricklayer, but I think of it more like a general builder) who will demolish the 1970s bathroom, dispose of the asbestos roof, knock through walls, build new walls, sort out drainage and, one of the bigger jobs, re-lay the floor in cellar 4, as this is where the boiler and pellet storage is currently planned.

The floor of this cellar is a patchwork of cobbles, concrete tiles and poured concrete. All of that has to come out to a safe depth (foundations are probably quite shallow) and layers of gravel, membranes and concrete laid to reduce the capillary action that is currently making this quite a damp room. When it's raining, the borders between these patches of different floor look damp, so much so, that we wondered how high the ground water might be, considering the house is built into a slope.

First job was to dig a test pit, about 60cm deep, after which it was ignored for a week to see if water would seep in. I was surprised it didn't, but then, there is quite solid clay, above which was a 12cm loose course of sand and lime followed by fairly deep limestone cobbles. There's definitely lots of moisture, but just not of the running water kind. If a cobble splits, it's shiny and moist inside, so definitely rising water issues to solve.

We want to keep the cobbles for further use, and that's monkey work I can do rather than paying someone to do it (every little helps), so this has been one of my tasks over the past couple of days (and after a week in Edinburgh, just what the Doctor ordered). Mostly, this has involved work with a lump hammer and masonry chisel to loosen the stone, then just lift. Not too heavy until two-thirds across the area where they are sitting, bonded in what looks like limecrete (I assume so if this goes back some time). This really is like pulling teeth, having to bash a gap between stones in order to then prise it out with a crowbar, leaving a socket behind. I had thoughts of lifting and re-laying the floor in cellar 1, which is completely cobbled, but that's now on the very long finger.

The stones are being stored in one of the cellars in the barn, which we now refer to as the Stone Room. All manner of reclaimed bricks, tiles and other stoney material are being stashed here for better times.

Part of the cobbled are remaining in cellar 4.

About a quarter done, with the easy stuff.

Where it starts getting hard. Literally.

There's been decades of cow and horse urine over these stones, but no treasure found under them yet!