A week of rather dramatic progress with barn 2. It is still coming down brick by brick but with some extra help it has made a big difference. The roof was taken down initially leaving just the big beams which were rather precariously held up by the crumbling walls by just a few centimetres of overlap. I think they came down with a bit of a clatter when pushed! The roof is piled up on the bonfire ready to burn (after the scavengers with log burners had taken their pick!). The pallets of cleaned bricks were moved by the big yellow forklift so that it could get to the stone steps to take them down. The steps are now in our back garden with plans to eventually make raised beds out of them. One day we will be gardening rather than demolishing buildings and cleaning bricks. The remaining walls are extremely wobbly and the bricks are cleaning up really easily. I can attest to this because I've been doing it all weekend. Next week we are hoping that the rest of the building will come down and work will start on the footings for the replacement building.
It's taken some time to get there but the walls on plot 1 are almost at roof height with the window lintels just being fitted. Meanwhile the laborious work taking down plot 2 continues with the bricks being cleaned as they are removed to save double handling. Any worries about taking the walls down completely rather than repairing them are allayed when so many of the bricks come away from the wall with barely any mortar on them. It makes for an easier cleaning job as well, though there are thousands of bricks to do and it is so flipping boring. Even I can attest to the utter tedium of it all and I only do it at weekends.
The void underneath the stone steps has been intriguing me ever since we bought the barn site. It seemed such a waste of space as there is no access into it. Could be full of buried treasure or dead bodies! The mystery has finally been revealed and it is full of nothing. Rather strangely it is in two separate compartments with a stone lintel over a small opening between them. It's a shame that there is no treasure, but I'm pleased that there are no skeletons.
I don't have extensive experience in cleaning bricks but this is how we are doing it. That was very much the 'royal we'! It's a bit of a laborious process which starts with digging through the piles of brick and rubble to pick out the whole bricks. These are then transported by wheelbarrow to a pile next to the 'cleaning station' which is a stack of old breeze blocks covered in plastic. The bricks then have the mortar chipped and scraped off using a builders hammer or if it is really stuck on, by hammering a cold chisel and hoping that the brick doesn't break. Then the dust and remaining mortar is brushed off, the brick is graded - we have a range of brick sizes (65mm, 70mm, 75mm depth and a variety of lengths) and then the brick is stacked on the appropriate pallet. It's all very labour intensive, but the resulting rebuilt walls are all so reassuringly sturdy compared to the original buildings and of course re-using the original bricks is cheap and eco friendly. In fact we checked on the internet and reclaimed bricks cost £1 to £1.20 each so bearing in mind that approximately 6000 bricks have been cleaned so far it is a significant cost saving as long as we don't place a value on our time - our labour is free!
Well, it's beginning to look like a building, the sub floor was filled with concrete and then the brickwork began. The demolished walls are slowly being transformed into sorted and cleaned bricks and then back into new brick walls. It looks really nice but it is oh so slow. We only have one bricklayer and whilst he is doing a lovely job, we can see time drifting away. Our contractor has so many jobs on at the moment I think we are taking a back seat. It could be worse, at least we have 1 brickie gang on site.
Brick sorting and cleaning is a major task which is largely being undertaken by Richard and friends and family and even I cleaned a few bricks at the weekend (I'm recovering from an op so have a good excuse.....for the moment anyway). They are keeping ahead of the brick laying so obviously that is a good thing, and we are all free which of course is great for the budget. However, it's all dragging on a bit more than we would like.
Now we are in March and the brickwork is up to window and door level on the first floor and the interior block work is catching up. It's really looking like the building on the plans, although I popped up to the site after work today and noticed that one of the last changes to the plans hadn't been incorporated and so the downstairs WC wall will need to be moved tomorrow. It's an 'Oops', but not a major disaster and has only just been built so should come down quickly.
We have been following up with some of the paperwork, of which there seems to be an awful lot. We are close to signing for a supplier for the pellet boiler district heating system and MVHR, the first order of windows and doors is close to being signed, a deposit for the slate supplier has been paid, and a holding deposit for the kitchens has been paid. An expensive month all round. At least the nice bit has been choosing the work surface and doors for our kitchen, although that was a bit fraught when you are faced with such an array of choice. Hopefully it will look as nice in real life as it does in my head.
Today was a busy day. On site we had meeting with the builder, plumber, architect and district heating system engineer. Additionally, Dan the digger and the brickies were also there working away in the background. Lots of questions were answered and a few more were raised with answers yet to be determined. For example, the position of heating pipe runs and heat exchanges for all plots were decided, as well as the position of the water cylinders. We still need to pin down the mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system plans, so that has been left with the heating company for a quote, along with a quote for the fitting of the log burners and also for the pellet silo changes and the solar pv panels - I think he is going to be a busy chap. I just hope he comes up with the right numbers at the bottom of the quotes. This is not as last minute as it sounds as we already have quotes from other companies, but it just made sense for everything to be provided by one (local) company.
The working drawings are also well underway with a few changes being made due to the badly warped walls being replaced with straight walls. We have also taken this opportunity to make a few minor changes as well. We have been waiting a long time for the barn conversion work to start but this has given us plenty of time to reflect on our original designs especially as we have the plans pinned to the wall around our dining table so we frequently find ourselves gazing contemplatively at our original choices. This week I had fun designing the sauna room so this can now be incorporated into the working drawings. I just hope we don't run out of dosh near the end of the build or it will just be a dream sauna.
At last we have a building site where actual building is taking place. A flurry of activity at the beginning of the week with deliveries of blocks, sand and cement, has culminated in the first few blocks being laid. It was interesting to see how the building lines were determined with laser sites and string, but they looked as if they knew what they were doing :)
Meanwhile, the pallets of cleaned bricks are growing and the (first) pile of demolished bricks has diminished. All in all, it is great to see something happening!
Whilst the skilled work is done by the builders (see the blocks for the sub floor in the background?), we have been very fortunate to have family and friends who have volunteered to help clean bricks. Here we have Rob and Val mucking in on a very cold January day. It looks sunny on the photo but they have also had fog, cloud and rain. It's not a lot of fun cleaning bricks, but is much more bearable with company.
The courtyard was becoming a quagmire with the digger, dumper and concrete lorries coming and going so a layer of stone has been laid. This instantly brightened the place up and made it look tidy. A bit like when you mow the lawn and the garden looks marvellous. I think all the foundations for plot 1 have been set and are ready for brick laying to the sub floor level so that the concrete floor can be set. In the meantime there is a mountain of bricks to clean so that they can be re-used. This is a bit of a tedious job which I'm secretly pleased that I can't help with due to the daily 9-5! I do miss pretty much everything else so I get a daily report with photo's and videos to keep me up to date. Below is a video landmark moment in the life of barn 2.
More progress with barn 1 means a bigger pile of bricks as the unstable walls fall down. The remaining section of barn (which then turns into barn 2) is largely supported by some breeze block towers on the courtyard side where the walls are very bowed. In the photo above you can see the green area on the wall which is a very inappropriate yet interesting wall garden of ferns and violets.