' the Woodlouse: Some photos and some anxious thoughts


Monday, 19 March 2012

Some photos and some anxious thoughts

There's a written blog below but if you just want to look at pictures: here's some of the bungalow pre-works, with a couple of rough artists impressions of what it might look finished (the latter are full of errors but they give a good idea of the end plan).

The bungalow seen from across the road.  The sedum-roof, strawbale extension will be where the garage is

The Bungalow.  That bit sticking out at the front right will remain as brick, the rest will be wrapped with bales and lime-rendered.
Rough artists impression of finished view from the road
The back of the bungalow.  Extension will come out a couple of metres into the garden in place of the sun room.  Conservatory and back porch (still with sedum roof) will reach to end of those big doors on the right.
Artists impression of the back
The spider zone, with existing roof structure.  Those two trusses will be removed, with the new sloping ceiling of the living area coming up through the right hand side.
This will be the lounge/kitchen/diner (not much of the kitchen bit of the space visible as that's where I was standing)
Hallway, looking through into what will be the kitchen.

Having learned that we seem to have two different varieties of False Widow spider in the loft hasn't helped me come to terms with the 8 legged critters and their masses of webs (Steatoda family - search online for them and you'll find plenty of info - just don't look too closely at the photos, especially the close-ups).  I've read all the info assuring me that it is very rare to be bitten by these spiders, and that in theory it's no worse than being stung a wasp or bee.  I've also read comments from people who have actually been bitten by them who report that it's not that bad but it is worse than being stung by a wasp or a bee.  Scaremongering newspaper stories tend to refer to them as "the UK's most venomous spider".  However much of an overstatement this probably is, the bit that rankles with me is the "venomous spider" bit.  Until a few weeks ago I'd always assumed that the only venomous creature we had in the UK was the Adder, which I came to terms with years ago thanks to their occasional presence in the garden of the house I grew up in.

I'm going on a lot about these spiders lately, it's becoming a bit of an obsession.  Partly because I have never liked spiders - especially in dark, shadowy, confined spaces like the loft - and partly I think they've become the focus of my increasing general selfbuild anxiety which has been reaching something of a peak lately (at least I hope it's a peak).  Even without the chance of getting a face-full of thick matted spiders web and the venomous wee beasty that made it, there is so much to do that I have never really done before, and not very much time to do it it in.  The bale bit itself I can't wait for - strawbale building really is wonderfully straightforward and lovely.  It's everything that needs to happen to get ready for the bales, and in particular dealing with the changes to the existing roof structure, which are fraught with new, challenging experiences.  This is exacerbated by the fact I have given myself something of a bad back by launching through the sunroom roof just short of a fortnight ago.  I think it's knocked my confidence a bit.

New build would certainly be simpler.  Much much simpler.  But as I keep trying to remind myself, it's a really good thing to upgrade and re-use existing buildings.  In fairness, even that bit could be simpler.  The main complication is changing the roof structure to allow the front room to opened up through it.  It'll be lovely but my word it's giving me headaches.

The structural engineer has designed us a wonderfully simple finished structural solution; but achieving that simplicity is practically tricky.  Very heavy new beams need to be put in place underneath the existing roof structure (making craning them in impossible), and before that a load of padstones/lintels need to be set into the walls in various places to support smaller chunky beams which will in turn hold structure supporting the new ridge beam and purlin (Glulam beams - lighter and greener than steel).  I've persuaded the engineer to let me fit the beams in two halves and he's designing a join that'll be secure.  The longest sections'll still be around 4.5 metres and 100 kilos, but it is more doable.  I'm hoping to rope in some strong assitance for those bits, or possibly even a building firm.

The immediate task (starting tomorrow) is to remove all the old mineral wool loft insulation and gain access to the bits of ceiling that need to come down, and the walls where the padstones need to go.  As part of this the chimney stacks also need to come down.  All of this involves close contact with my spidery nemeses.  By way of at least avoiding the potential of the face full of web, freak out, stagger and fall through ceiling scenario I've vacuumed up most of webs and the nests that have started appearing in the last week.  For an arachnaphobe this was a deeply repulsive task.  I'm not proud: I wore a disposable overall with a hood so that nothing could drop down my neck.  And gloves.  And had to stop for regular wholesome daylight breaks in the garden.

Tomorrow my brother-in-law and his bright site-lights are joining me.  Yaay!

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