22 May 2011

Plastering etc.

I have rediscovered that I’m quite immodest on occasions and extremely good at plastering.

The infamous ‘Barry’ having decided to not turn up as appointed earlier in the year, to destroy the old wall and put up the new, so the windows company could come and graft their wares into the gaps left; did eventually turn up. (The construct of that sentence is not good - sorry).

The end wall was eventually rebuilt, with openings for large fixed frame window and equally large opening french windows. Each equipped with triple-glazed coated glass of the exciting kind that contains heat within the house, stops vast solar gains and making the room like a greenhouse, is made of lacquered softwood frame with powder coated aluminium cladding on the outside. I was told SPECIFICALLY that the outer dimensions were to be adhered to exactly. Width and height + 10mm on each for the gap into which it must sit nice and snug. Barry’s dithering and procrastination and eventually making it so the windows company could not fit things in time, left me with an unbuilt end wall and the gap covered over with 15mm plywood held in place with planks leaning against on the outside and bags of cement and wall blocks stacked up at the bottom. Making this lot airtight was next to impossible but we had a good try with rolled up old curtains and rolls of loft insulation. Warm it was not. Neither was it secure and it looked like a builder’s yard where plywood and planks were cunningly poised to be shown to the waiting public. Oh the romance of self-construction, man against the elements, pitting himself against the wind and weather (and in this case recommended but nonchalant builders). Freezing temperatures and days later the window folk turn up with a merry whistle and sealant gun, only to find the exact dimensions that had been supplied for the door and window opening were in fact both wrong. Nothing wrong with the height of the doorway, the ruler seems to work that way, spot on in fact, to the mm. Nothing wrong with the width of the window, that too was fag-paper accurate (if you are from the USA and you read that last bit, ‘fag’ is slang and common parlance for ‘cigarette’ and nothing else) down to the mm yet again. Now the other two dimensions being width of doorway and height of window opening, were not as requested or expected... the door was 20mm too wide (bit of a gap there Barry) and more annoyingly the window opening was too small by 15mm. Both these are correctable by the intrepid window fitters, for whom no opening is ever the wrong size for long. They have hammers; they have chisels and in the case of the doorway, I had a 20mm strip of wood that would neatly fit.

After many moments of trying to fit things and saying “Shit” and “Bollocks” rather too much (these are engineering phrases that have become common language - the original meanings have probably become distorted as time has gone by) the frames were both fitted and ultimately the glass was made to fit, with big levers, spacing pieces, gasket strips, rubber sealing strips and the cunning use of the ‘glazing shovel’ (I kid you not). A final squirt from the sealant gun and the frames were comparatively airtight, upright, all right and shiny bright.

Inside the room looked like a builder’s yard. Outside it looked like a half built building containing a builder’s yard. Ultimately I clad the outer walls in York stone, both thick and thin layers of the stuff. This is like crazy-paving but verticalIMG_0193IMG_0220 as can be seen in the PIX.
The window and doorway we are talking about are on the left and the PIX are obviously ‘before and after’,I did any outside stonework.

Next was the internal plastering. Seems like I’m quite good at this after only 31 years of having done it before. Old thatched cottage in Watchfield near Swindon, that’s another story altogether. I had to shape the window sills first from 18mm MDF and hold them in place with super expanding foam glue. This seemingly will stick anything to anything else, so MDF to an internal cavity wall full of fluffy paper insulation was not a problem. I sculpted the window sill to a pleasing curve around an internal support wall and then gave it a coat of white undercoat. This makes it waterproof, which is very much needed when plastering, which is basically playing with mud. The rough plaster, not super smooth finishing plaster, has now dried to a salmon pink colour and has made the room very much brighter and quieter, with the small gap around door and window now plugged up.

Meanwhile, the wiring in the house has not disappointed me with its unknown horrors and booby traps waiting to be sprung. All my power went off at the weekend and it is not anywhere else in the neighbourhood, it is just me! Some blasted earth leak fault in the cooker circuit, it would seem.

Cold food for the next day eh?

This continuing tale will no doubt tell of my exploits with the switch panel and ancient fuse board.

Oh, BTW, more TCs have been coming in and my delivery time for new 2TB drives has drifted into next month! Sorry for those waiting. Really.