' the Woodlouse: It's nearly straw time


Sunday, 29 July 2012

It's nearly straw time

Volunteer bale builders arrive tomorrow.  We've ended up with slightly more than planned, plus a reserve list.  Yaay!  At some point I didn't think the site would be even remotely ready for them but I got all the plinth walls finished at the end of the week, adding the reclaimed-slate damp-proof course yesterday.  Darren Crane (brother-in-law and excellent carpenter, www.dcwoodwork.co.uk) has constructed the timber base-plate in his workshop, ready for us to fit with the volunteers tomorrow afternoon.  This will spread the load of the bales across the foundations and hold the hazel stubs that the first row of bales will be pushed onto, preventing the walls form sliding off the base-plate.  I got my first glimpse of the baseplate sections this evening during a workshop meeting with Darren and Kuba (www.jakubwihan.com, architect of the project).  They're an impressive bit of carpentry - it seems a shame to be burying them under the bales!

Kuba arrived today after a long coach journey from Prague, arriving in London 3 hours before the tubes started running.  He's now catching up on sleep, ready to run the site and supervise the building for the next week or so.  The volunteers are coming from all over: some local, some significantly less so.

Anna's been buying on-offer biscuits on sight for the last few weeks, ensuring we have ample supplies to refuel the workers at tea breaks.  She's also somehow managed to drag home on her mobility scooter a good stock of  second-hand plates and mugs, so everyone has something to have tea in and eat off.

Brick laying in the unexpectedly intense sunshine that came in the wake of the floods has left me roasted, with a deep tan between the bottom of my T-shirt sleeves and the top of my work-gloves, back-achey, stiff-fingered but deeply satisfied.  Finishing all the brick work mostly on my own was something I'd always wanted to do, but thought would be impossible given the need to claw back the schedule.  I would have liked to have got more done by now, but I'm happy that by Tuesday at the latest we should be ready to lay the first bales.

I accidentally bought myself some more time by leaving it a bit late to try and book the cavity insulation installation.  It turns out they're very busy and unable to install before we wrap the bungalow, so suddenly I didn't need to get the new doorway openings finished immediately.  They'll install later, and from the inside of the bungalow where necessary.

Article in the Bridport News, designed to drum up some local volunteers.  Seems to have worked.

Inner-wall of foundation plinth taking shape around the doorway from bedroom to outside covered area by conservatory

Walls growing.  The insulating, recycled foamed-glass black blocks are lovely to work with.  Very light, cut like butter when needed, and huge so large area of wall built very quickly.

Eric, my retired-builder neighbour lent me a pair of these wonderful gadgets.  They slot over the brickwork at each corner, held in place by the tension in the line that runs between them.  Build the brickwork following the line and you know it's straight and level (provided you've built the corners well and set up the line correctly).  So much faster after I started using this.

Gloves and bailer twine - we're ready!

The bales for the wrap only need to be half-width.  This is a test to see if a sawmill bandsaw can cut them for us.  Worked beautifully and swiftly.  This is good, because plan B was sketchy.

Slimline bales
Reclaimed slates cut up ready for the sustainably-sourced damp course.  It felt a bit sacrilegious hacking into quality Welsh-slate with a diamond-disc angle-grinder, but it got the job done.  Cheapest source of slate was a crate of random sized reclaims.

Assorted hazel, ready for stubs, pins, staples and various other bale-containment measures.

Finished extension plinth.

It inserts into the wall to prevent the bungalow gable wall drawing heat to the outside.

Finished wrap plinth.

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Foamglas and brick walls tied together with stainless steel ties.

A test clay-plaster mix to find out how well our clay broke down in the cement mixer.  It mixed up well very quickly, another great relief.

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