thetrevproject at the end of March

We managed a short trip to west Cornwall in March. We visited the Lizard and Lands End Britains’s most southerly and most westerly points, staying in St Keverne overnight. Well at Lands End it was absolutely persisting down and the place was mostly closed and deserted. We went to Sennen Cove and the sun came out and we had a lovely afternoon driving from there to St Ives.

Well we passed the one year anniversary of thetrevproject on the 21st of March, or should I say the anniversary of the builders being on site. All that time ago they started building the bat house. I have to say I am a lot more chilled out about bats now but, I still think they are a pain. I am all for conservation but I am sure we have particularly cussed bats. They always turn up the day you want to do some work and then go away when no work is going on. It was raining quite a lot this time last year a well but the difference was that the rain followed a long dry spell. Also it has been a bit cold this year and it snowed here for the first time in 10 years then snowed again a fortnight later.

Back to thetrevproject. Not much going on in terms of building. We have had our joiner back to look at some leaking windows. The sash windows were thoroughly tested with a spell of torrential rain and easterly gales blowing straight on to them. They didn’t pass with flying colours. We had water coming through the windows in places so we had to call Dave back to seal the windows but I feel we are dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause. I think the windows are a losing cause and I don’t think we will ever be 100% happy with the windows. We will have to be content with keeping most of the wind and rain out for a few years.

We have had another go at treating the roof timbers for wood worm. Guess what, the flipping bat was there. I went up the day before with a spot light and couldn’t find a bat. When Old Tom and Young Tom the wood worm guys arrived the bat was fast asleep on the first A frame that needed treating. We only have about 2 hours work required but we can’t do it because the bat keeps turning up. The bat is a brown Long Eared Bat and you can see the woodworm holes behind him.

So we called the Bat Conservation Trust and they sent round a volunteer called Paul Diamond. He inspected the loft and concluded that there was an occasional visitor. The solution is to try again and if the bat is present call the volunteers if he is present to remove him.

In the house the progress is now very slow. Since the last blog I have scrubbed the walls in bedroom 5 and given them a coat of white paint. I have also removed the sink put down a 6mm ply wood and some floor tiles. Then re installed the sink and even managed to get it almost exactly level in all directions. The sink will have to come out again as the plaster on the outside wall has come away from the wall and needs to be re-applied.

The big news is that my Polytunnel has arrived. It is a lot more work to erect it than I thought. One of the issues is that it needs to be level from side to side. Living where we live the site of the Polytunnel is not remotely level in any direction. So there is a lot of fiddling about to get the anchor posts in. So far I have installed 6 of the 12 anchors in between the rain and snow.


The tunnel came from First Tunnels. We had a minor hitch in that it was delivered when we were out and when I counted only 21 of the 22 packages were present. I rang First Tunnels and they already knew and were chasing the courier for a delivery date. It duly turned up the next day. More about the tunnel another time.

I have also covered two thirds of my hard-core path (approximately 25 metres) around the veg patch with 20mm granite chips. It reminded me of doing fatigues at school – basically when you were naughty you had to spend Saturday morning pushing barrow loads of soil around at speed. It is very difficult to walk on the hard core path. The granite is a lot easier to walk on. The hard-core path is supposed to inhibit slugs from coming into the garden to eat our veg and the granite will hopefully do the same as they don’t like the roughness allegedly.

Any way happy Easter we are having a family gathering at the weekend – 21 adults and 2 toddlers to a sit down meal on Saturday. It will be a squash but that is what a lovely house like this enables.

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Beginning of March at thetrevproject

This post was written on the 2nd of March so it is slightly out of date as I am posting it on 12th – nearly time for the next update already! I will however start with a before and after photo of the entrance to our house. This is the first of the promised before and after shots. The trouble is that we have a myriad of photos and the right one often cannot be located, or, we didn’t take the photo we thought we had taken.

Ha – just wanted to get Fred into a post May 2015 to July 2017 saw a bit of a change.

This the change in our entrance, before (May 2015);

Although technically that is not before because we had already done quite a lot of work clearing up. This is what it looks like now February 2017

Not a lot to report on the building side at the moment. The One great thing that did happen ws that we had some dry weather so the mud dried up (mind you the “Beast from the East” may have reversed that now). Anecdotal evidence suggests this is one of the wettest winters on record in Cornwall. I just hope that means a drier summer this year, but not too dry. Some pictures below of the track by our back gate shows how the weather has dried up.

Whilst on the weather we did get about 10cm of snow but it was dry and powdery so it blew around a lot. We have an old wooden sledge which we couldn’t really use as the runners just cut through the snow to the ground and didn’t slide well. We did get the twins on it for a ride round the garden being towed by Daddy. The biting wind meant that we didn’t stay out long. As it was Louise’s birthday we went back inside for birthday cake quite quickly. Later we walked down the hill to the river for a cup of tea with a neighbour. The walk down was easy but the walk up was harder than usual because of the snow.

The biting cold highlighted an issue with our house. The heating struggles in cold weather so we have had to use fires all day and I haven’t sawed enough logs so we are going to run out unless I brave the cold and sharpen the chainsaw and cut some more. Part of the reason the heating struggles is a total lack of loft insulation in much of the house. We are also still without 3 sets of shutters which would have helped keep the heat in.

Another issue is the lack of loft insulation in much of the house. This is partly down to bats. We were having the loft sprayed for woodworm when the contractor spotted a bat. Well bats are like asbestos – as soon as you see a bat you have to down tools and contact the specialist. Our bat consultant said we could continue to spray with bat friendly spray but only on very cold days when the bat would be hibernating and therefore not present in our roof. We have had cold weather recently but our contractor can only fit us in when he hasn’t got other jobs planned.

Work wise I have almost finished the painting in the bathroom and toilet. I still need to do some grouting and I have give half the walls in bedroom 5 a wash and a coat of white emulsion. Technically this is not quite right as emulsion has very low breathability and the walls are lime/mud but, the walls outside are bare, it is upstairs and the walls already had emulsion on them. This room needs to be made liveable by the end of the month for our “Trevster” event.

I purchased a chain saw saw horse for cutting logs into decent sizes. I have a lot of logs in the shed but they are all about 40 – 50 cm long so not suitable for a woodburner.  I now regret having gone for 12 inch blade rather than a 14 inch blade as the 12 inch blade is only just long enough to fit in the clamp and cut through the logs. The other thing with a 12 inch blade is the teeth on the chain are very small and difficult to sharpen well. They need sharpening every hour or so of cutting.

I have cut down some trees for burning in 2 years time. They are basically a hedge that has been neglected and turned into quite mature trees. They are shading an area of the veg patch which could have a poly tunnel installed on it. The wood is for 2 years time as I am allowing it to dry out naturally. Dry wood burns easier and has a much higher calorific value as you are not using part of your heat to evaporate the water in the wood.

 

Mid February at thetrevproject

Well we are mid February and the broad band hasn’t improved,in fact it has got worse. Plain white BT vans have been seen in the vicinity and the occupants claimed to be surveying for new fibre lines. This is not on our branch of the line but the surveyor thought we might be included in the upgrade, since we are literally the end of the line it will be a significant achievement for BT/Openreach to get to us.  You have to laugh though as this is all EU funded and Cornwall voted overwhelmingly leave.

Rant over what has been going on at thetrevproject. I continue as a multiskilled technician, or should that be Jack of all trades, we all know how that rhyme goes. Just in the last 2 days I have been painter, turfer and chain saw operator.

We have finally had a couple of dry days and a full day of sun.

Today for the first time this year I was looking for ward to going rowing in the sun, guess what, cancelled due to sea conditions . What we have had weather wise is a sprinkle of snow and a hell of a lot of hail – up to 6 hail showers a day. The photo is below is hail not snow.

One of the good things about rain though is occasionally you get fantastic rainbows.

We have had a couple of small updates in the cottage. Fitting a weather strip in the window in the bedroom. Its weird but we had to fit an inward opening window as the wall is our boundary (Building Regs). The trouble is that when the rain blew directly on it the water came in, hopefully now it won’t. We also fitted a fan heater in the shower room as it is freezing in the early morning in there and there is no room for a radiator or heated towel rail #compactliving.

The really big thing from a builder perspective was the removal of the rubble. This took a couple of days and was achieved with a digger and a tractor and trailer, cheaper I believe.

The rubble was taken somewhere an hour and a quarter away. We can now park beside the road on some hardcore and NOT on the mud. It is across the road from the house but we only have about six cars and a tractor a day past here. Its not actually clear who owns the land we are parking on but I think it probably is part of the high way, but then who owns the highway?

I had to call the builders back to replace three more rotten lintels. Two of which had been painted over by the joiner doing the windows. He says its not part of his job but I still think he should have flagged the issues.  The third one was down to the builders they changed a door upstairs in the garage and failed to spot a lintel which was as hard as a sponge. It was a freezing day when they did it but still they should have spotted it.

We had a force 8 easterly gale this week which blew the rain directly on to the sash windows which weren’t brilliant at keeping the rain out. So our joiner had to make a visit to do some modifications.He claims that part of the problem is the lack of render in some areas of the window reveal (see previous posts for explanation of why the render has not been completed).  We still only have 1 set of the 4 sets of shutters required but there is a dispute going on about payment for these. I wont pay until I get the shutters and he wont deliver the shutters without payment.

I have  decorated the bathroom and toilet with the exception of the woodwork. It was tricky painting round pipes etc but I love a challenge. I started in the 2 smallest rooms because I want to be able to say I have achieved something.  The rooms are a bit of a contrast – walls in cheap Wilko paint and woodwork in Dulux Eggshell Timeless which is not only not cheap but is very difficult to get hold of. Most places only sell Pure Brilliant White Eggshell and if they do sell Timeless it is only in 750ml tins.

I have also turfed the other half of the entrance way. It was fun, the turf arrived on Wednesday and it rained ALL day and was windy and cold. As and aside the turf man cannot find any young people who are prepared to work as turfers because it is too hard. The latest young recruit started Monday but called in sick Wednesday – the weather maybe. I laid the turf Friday but couldn’t lay it all first thing as some rolls were frozen solid. I had to wait until midday to be able to roll it out – but Fred loves it and supervised the laying.

I will just finish off with a picture of a fire burning up all the rotten lintels. You can’t beat a good fire to cheer you up.

 

Christmas and New Year @ thetrevproject

It was weird to have a period of no builders on site at thetrevproject but one thing didn’t change the weather – plenty of wind and rain and hence mud. The mud was started off by loads of builders vans parking on the side of the road. This was supplemented by the fact that our farmer neighbour having cows in the adjacent fields requiring daily big bales of hay or silage. The teleporter fork lift churns up the mud when it goes off road and then it sheds mud on the road as it returns for the next load. Its just country  life.

Mud has consequences in the house – mud every where and you have to be very careful to change shoes every time you come in side and the dog’s feet have to be constantly be wiped down with an old towel which gets very muddy and smelly.

Since we didn’t have along build up to Christmas with only a week to put up most of the decorations we went to see the famous Mousehole (pronounced Mouzal) harbour lights. Brilliant they were but we struggled to find a fish and chip shop on the way home. That is  another feature of living in a tourist area – many businesses only run when there are tourists around  so out of season and d especially January many places are closed.

We decided to have a housewarming drinks party on 23rd December on the basis that the building would be finished. Well the builders left site on Monday 18th December but work is not finished they are due back on site in January.  The landing window was returned on Tuesday 19th which we were rather relieved about as we had our doubts. We did have the majority of the house usable and we had a great day and were able to share our home with lots of our new local friends. I was able to wash some of the mud from the road and put down some sand to minimise the mud.

Living in a house gets you to recognise the good and bad bits of the house but we won’t go into that now.

 

We had a wonderful Christmas with our 3 daughters, son in law and granddaughters then on 27th we headed up country to visit relatives and friends. We managed to meet up with all Louise’s family and all my direct family in the UK. We stayed in Bishops Stortford as our base to visit friends and family in Essex and Suffolk and slip in a murder mystery evening with our Braintree friends for New Years Eve. We were greeted in Bishops Stortford by 2 inches of very hard frozen snow. By the time we left it was almost gone.

When we returned to Cornwall the weather was – windy and rainy. So we set about drawing up a list of outstanding works and arranged for the builders to return on 15th January

First Week in December at thetrevproject

Here are some of the neighbours walking past the house.

So this is the week we were due to finish phase 2 of the project. Well, you won’t need me to tell you that we didn’t finish I am sure you have already guessed.

This is the project that keeps on giving. We found yet another rotten lintel. This time in the landing window.

This wasn’t a surprise as the window sits under a gutter that sometimes over flows and it is also the oldest window in the house. The window was put in late in the “remodelling” of the house but it must have been re-used from somewhere else. It was properly old with a lead weight as well.

Of course it doesn’t end there not only was the lintel rotten but most of the widow frame as well.

Windows are a bit of an issue. We are currently missing  5 windows and the bathroom window needs to be completely replaced. This is one area of concern as I don’t anticipate a lot of dry weather before Christmas.

We had a slight hitch with the wood burning stove for the living room. When Jason arrived to install it he decided that the chimney needed to be swept before he fitted the new liner. To be fair to him I think he did mention it before but I forgot. As luck would have it I managed to book a chimney sweep for next Wednesday so by next weekend we should have 2 wood burners in the house. The installation of the wood burner necessitated the start of Phase 3 of the project – decorating. I painted the fireplace in Nutmeg White in readiness for the stove installation.

 

The main reason we didn’t finish was down to plumbing. The plumbers arrived on Wednesday with 5 days of work to do. This included fitting a bathroom, fitting a toilet, fitting a new pressurised hot water cylinder, fitting 6 radiators, drilling through a 1 metre thick wall to connect the heating flow and return and fitting a new tank and pressurisation unit complete with UV lamp.  To make life more interesting when we went to fit the dual fuelled heated towel rail in the bathroom it had no “T” for the electric heater. To cut a long story short Bathstore stopped supplying the towel rail I ordered 6 months ago but just sent me something similar with no “T”.  Basically we have already installed the pipes so we had to have a radiator with that profile. Fortunately I managed to find an exact replica and it was cheaper. The bathroom is starting to take shape now.

This was a week of two steps forward and one step back but we are confident that we will be moving in to phase 2 by the end of the week.  I think there will be quite a long list of snags to look at and I am not confident about the landing window being back in time. I have to mention the dust – it is every where and no sooner do you dust than more dust settles.

Any way at least we have a Christmas tree even if we don’t have any other decorations yet.

thetrevproject end of November

Well theoretically at thetrevproject we are reaching an exciting time as the builders are due to be finished by the end of the first week in December.  The reality is stress levels are rising:-

Will the subcontractors turn up?😞

Will they / wont they complete😞

Christmas is coming and we want to decorate but nowhere is really finished😞

Mary is moving to live with us on 30th which means more stuff to store😟

Having said all that progress has been steady. All the areas is phase 2 have been plastered . All the ceilings are now painted as are the ceilings in bedroom 2  &  3 from phase 1 (Mary and Esme’s rooms).

The render on the outside on the south and East walls was completed. The job is not quite done though as the window reveals and porch need several coats and the weather has turned against us. You shouldn’t apply lime render below 5°C and we have had a few nights when the air temperature was 1 or 2 °C. The thing about lime is it doesn’t just dry there is a chemical reaction which occurs to adhere it to the substrate, basically it is carbonated and needs exposure to Carbon dioxide to set properly.

Did you know lime mortar was first used by the Egyptians 6000 years ago? Also there are many different grades of lime which give different hardness and drying properties. There can be different colours as well dependent on what kind of sane is mixed into it.

I love the creamy colour of our lime render. It goes a darker colour when wet as well.  We have no completion date for the remaining render as it may now have to wait until spring.

We have lost more windows to be repaired but we have got the new dining room windows back.

We also have a new back door without one inch gaps top and bottom to allow in weather and vermin.

Here we found a little structural problem – a very rotten lintel with evidence of death watch beetle infestation as well. We have inserted 3 concrete lintels to replace the old wooden one (very thick wall).

Speaking of vermin in October we were plagued by flies #rurallife. Basically the local cows attract flies. We thought they had disappeared but when we went in the loft recently we discovered they had all gone up there to over winter – where are those blooming bats when you need them. Thousands of dozy flies up in the loft is not ideal. I hope that when the loft is treated for wood worm the insecticide zaps all the flies as well.

Phase 2 was electricity free for many weeks with all electricity coming in via extension leads. This meant frantic scrabbling around at dusk to find an extension lead and lamp to light up the front door area. We also had no outside lights or lights in the laundry so torches were de rigeur. In the last week of November the “Sparkies” came and connected up most of the lights in phase 2 and the outside lights as well as the living room lights. We have no wall or ceiling lights in the living room but we have a 5 amp plug ring which is switched from near the door which allows standard or table lights to be switched on entry to the room. For some reason the switch had not been connected so we couldn’t use this system. Also 5 amp round pin plugs are hard to find which didn’t help.

Finally we erected extra scaffolding so that the chimney can be lined in preparation for the installation of a wood burner in the living room. Also the chimney needs some re-pointing.

On a non building note we had the first egg from our hens.

And now the sun rises at around 8 am I can say I am up before dawn every day and we get some interesting sunrises.

Early November at thetrevproject

Anyone who follows this blog – I am sure there is someone – may have noted that we are becoming a bit jaded with the building works and reporting it. We have been living in a building site since April. People say “oh it will be worth it in the end” and it will but when will the end be? Even after the builders leave, hopefully in early December there is a mass of decorating, gardening, landscaping, maintenance etc. to do.

We know we are incredibly blessed and lucky to be living here but it is a bit wearing at times. Still we get occasional fantastic sunsets and the views around here are lovely even if the weather can be a bit challenging, its windy and rainy but not often massively cold.

So In November we took time off for some R&R and visited France. We took Esme with us to celebrate her recently turning 21 and stayed in the beautiful village of Montfort L’Aumary 40 minutes by train from Paris with Emma and Tom – Emma was our bridesmaid a few years ago! Their house is possibly even older than ours probably dating from the 14 the century.

France was freezing and shortly after this picture of Louise and Emma was taken we were drenched in freezing rain.

Back to thetrevproject. The first week in October was primarily occupied by first fix electrics, first fix plumbing followed by “replasterboarding” which continued into the second week. We had a couple of little incidents during this week.

Firstly whilst I was digging over a section of soil which is intended to be turfed I suddenly noticed frantic activity. A lot of buckets being run in to the house and the plumber rushed into the laundry to turn off the water. You guessed it a flood. One of the builders removed a bit of old lead piping which was still live. Fortunately very little damage and all confined to the area being stripped.

Secondly, there was a weird set up with a basin in the bedroom at the furthest extremity from the bathroom. It had been plumbed with a phenomenally long drain – about 15 metres. Needless to say the water didn’t drain well. So the builder drilled a hole in the pipe at the lowest point and released the foulest smelling water which kept dripping into a bucket for hours. I decided to try and mask the smell with Jeyes fluid, that became very pervasive as well.

Thirdly we had a modern life crisis. We came back from France to find no internet connection. A little detective work revealed that a builder had inadvertently snapped the telephone wire. I have to commend our electricians who had the service back up within a couple of hours of the call out.

During this time we also started the re-rendering of some of the outside walls. To date we have bag rubbed the north gable end and half the east wall exterior with lime.  A bag rub is what it says. You render with lime and then rub it with a bit of hessian to give it texture. It is a thin coat to protect the stone and mortar underneath whilst allowing the wall to be breathable so moisture will be removed by capillary action. It was recommended by Cornish Lime. So I asked how will I know if it is working successfully and I got the answer “wait a year or two and see how damp the walls are”. There is a slight problem with that in that the scaffolding will be long gone if we find it hasn’t worked. However the conventional wisdom is that it is good for this type and age of building. It looks pretty good as well.

 

Another thing that happened in this period is that some more windows disappeared to be repaired. So phase 2 is dark and drafty as the boards over the windows don’t fit very tightly.

We said goodbye to the old Aga which nobody wanted to buy. It was in a fairly sorry state it was a bit heavy though and all the insulation had to be removed before it could be moved too far. The insulation is a granular silica based product.