' the Woodlouse: pleasedon'tfallonmyneighbourshouse


Sunday, 22 April 2012


It's been a busy and exciting week.  We've had some proper builders in to speed things up and get vaguely back towards schedule, and most importantly to get in the giant glulam (glue-laminated) timber beams that will now support the roof, allowing us to open up the ceiling for the living space and have a wide of spread of light from roof windows there.  The beams are very strong, lighter than steel, have much better environmental credentials than steel, and are easier to deal with than steel in terms of fixings etc.  But they they are still pretty heavy (about 200 kilos each for the big two I think), and blatantly more than could be wrestled into place at the top of the roof by just me and a couple of friends.  Ever since the structural engineer presented us with his proposal for a wonderfully simple roof structure it's been preying on my mind that it would only be simple once finished: getting the beams in place underneath the existing roof looked anything but simple (actually I didn't think that far at first, it was Anna who first posed the crucial "how do we get it them in there?" question).  The builders have the experience, the equipment, and perhaps just the blind confidence to be able to get them in.

It's only fair to give them a plug as they've been brilliant, working really quickly but very precisely  and with great attention to detail and patience with my inexperience of building.  When they haven't been sure of how something is meant to be they've talked it through with me so that we can find the right solution (it's been gratifying for me to find that I really do know the plans and the bungalow very well now, so I am able to explain where things are meant to be, what they should look like, and how they need to link up, even if I don't know all the building lingo yet).  So: Winters Ltd Building and Carpentry, headed up by Mark Winters.  Before starting work he came and talked things through with me on site, helping to resolve and couple of technical issues and making sure he understood what was needed.

The next few days will (weather permitting - of course the much needed rain has waited until we're working on the roof to arrive...) see the carpentry works move outside, to extend the roof over the gable and to put strong new timber wallplates in the eaves overhang against which we can compress the walls of the strawbale wrap later.  Fingers crossed, touch wood, roofers come in on Thursday to start putting the roof covering back together, starting with felt and batten (vapour permeable "breather" membrane).

Building site chic (plan table)

Some bricks, reclaimed from the garage

Working platforms and cut-away rafters, in preparation for bringing in the big beams

Holes knocked through gable wall to receive the big glulam beams. Note "birdsmouth" cuts to rafters at ridge above gable; these were cut into each rafter along the ridge to ensure tight fit for new ridge beam and that rafters couldn't slip off it once it was in in place

The beast arrives

Glulam No1: new purlin

Doubly terrifying moment - danger of weight of the tele-handler cracking my neighbours drive, and the much more worrying possibility of 200 odd kilos of glulam crashing through her roof.  I am very grateful to her for allowing us to use her drive for this.

Kit checking the clamps

Slid across existing trusses into rough position.
Seagulls keeping watch

Glulam No2, ridge beam

Me, looking on anxiously.  The beam wobbled worryingly on the way up

Two on the scaffold, two of us on the inside.  When too much of it was inside for two of us to hold the outside two joined us inside, finally joined by Mark, the highly skilled driver of the machine.

Anna on the trestles

Chunky.  The roof will be extended 400mm over this gable to cover the strawbale wrap.

Wedged in place

Hallway opening up

Wall bricked back up.  Builders bought concrete bricks when I wasn't concentrating.
Aside from helping get the monster beams in, while the builders have been working on the roof structure I've been using the time to clean the all the roof tiles of moss, lichen and spiders, ready to go back on.

The brush that cleaned a thousand tiles (ish... about 800 tiles I think).  The brush was new when I started.  This was the most tedious job so far.

The light coloured rafters at the back show the position/angle the new sloping ceiling will follow.
Smaller glulam lintels providing backup support.

Temporary support for the new purlin, with neater permanent support just showing behind, on the end of a glulam lintel

Now it's not holding up the ceiling or working platforms I could finally take out the glass wall (with timber support beam above it) that separated the hall from the living room.  Still a bit of brick wall to take out, just behind the lower trestles.

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