Thursday, 12 September 2013

Level Head

With the square clear it was time to dig the foundation trenches. It's a bit more important that the bottom of this trench is flat and level as any undulations or un-evenness will affect the thickness of the concrete footing. So we got the water level out to help us.

A water level is one of the oldest surveying instruments out there, its unbelievably simple to use and understand as well as being incredibly accurate (and cheap).  if the Romans could build the Colosseum using one then surely it will do just fine for my little garage. here's how it works:

The water level is basically two plastic tubes with a scale from -5cm to +5cm marked on them, joined by a length of pipe. You have to fill the pipe up without any air bubbles and then attach the tubes. Hold the the tubes so they are at precisely the same height and keep topping one of them them up little by little until the water reads zero in both tubes. If you lift one the tubes slightly, the water level in that tube will read lower than the other one, if one says +3 the other should say -3 (it isn't 6cm higher it's only 3).

Stake 1
I got two wooden stakes and marked them both with a pencil exactly 5 feet from the top. The building reg's guys had said they would want to see a 7 inch X 2 foot concrete footing so we dug  10 inches down in one of the corners and knocked in one of the stakes up to the five feet mark(stake 1). This hole is essentially the starting point for our footing trench, we set the bottom of it a little deeper than it needs to be so that any undulations in the top surface will not mean the trench ever becomes less than seven inches deep. Still with me?

Stake 2

We zip tied one end of the water level to the top of the stake that we knocked in so the zero mark was exactly aligned with the top. The other end of the level was zip tied to the other (free) stake (stake 2) so the zero mark was aligned with the pencil mark. In theory, the zero mark on stake one is exactly 5 feet from the bottom of our trench and the zero mark on stake two is exactly 5 feet from the bottom of the stake. all we have to do is keep checking the bottom of our trench using stake two to make sure the bottom stays level.

We checked every meter or so until we got back to where we started, we left a small section where we thought the drainage for the old outside toilet might be so when we were finished we had something that looked like this:

I Reckon there is no more than 20mm between the highest and lowest point of the floor of this trench. Not only is it of uniform depth but the fact we used water means we can be sure it is also perfectly level. What's even more important then the bottom of this trench is of course the top of our concrete footing. here's how to make sure you get that absolutely perfect:

Bridges, little wooden bridges, and the water level of course.

knock in a couple more small stakes on opposite sides of the trench, you can now 'bridge' these two with another length of wood. the top of this bridge needs to be exactly 7 inches from the floor of the trench (as specified by building reg's) and perfectly level side to side. We had also modified stakes 1 and 2 by now, another small piece of wood was screwed to the side of the stakes so a flat edge was facing down exactly four feet from the zero mark.

Once you've done the first one you can set as many more as you like to precisely the same height using the water level. The advantage of bridges over just using pegs or stakes is that you can use a piece of timber long enough to span the gap between your bridges to tamp the top of your concrete. This should result in the top of your footing being perfectly flat and level in all planes. I reckon the difference between the highest and lowest bridges is no more than 2mm.

The water level is a masterpiece of simple design. It's truly unbelievable how accurate it is. If you get your foundations wrong your whole building is ruined, it's cost me just 14quid to know that all 28 meters of my footing is exactly 7 inches thick and perfectly flat and level. Good old Romans!

It's probably worth mentioning how we dealt with the old toilet drain.

We carefully dug around it and then smashed it up. Pretty simple really. We've 'shuttered' the two sides of the trench where the pipe entered and left it with some planks for now to prevent the concrete running into it. We will make a more permanent solution for the remaining pipe at a later date but this will allow to pour the concrete as planned this weekend.

The guy from building reg's came round this afternoon to take a look at our trenches and duly signed them off. Also the first load (4 tons) of sand and gravel arrived for the concrete, the second load (another 4 tons) and the cement (nearly a ton and a half!) is due to arrive tomorrow. Finally we're getting somewhere.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The 'Holey' Trinity

James, one of my work colleagues and fellow petrol head is the offspring of farming folk from Launceston, he one again managed to broker the loan of his parents trailer so that I may cart all my surplus stuff off to Roger's. I cant thank these guys enough for all they've done to help it's saved me hundreds of pounds.

I had booked a week off work to get through my checklist of things to get rid of:

Item number one on the list was the huge pile of concrete and ceramic junk that was occupying the lawn. It was hard work but we saw it off in three or four trips.

Item number two was the huge pile of old mortar, lumps of cementitious debris and clay that had slowly but very surely formed in the middle of the 'island'. It took three of us (My bro and my mate Alan came over to help on Monday) the best part of a day to get rid of that. the trailer holds about a ton and we did about six trips that day.

Item number three: the island itself!

Just Al and I left now and we dug until we could dig no more, I started getting pretty bad migraine headaches toward the end of the day but we put a respectable little dent in the thick end of it and manage an impressive  5 trips.

By Wednesday I was on my own. The holy trinity of man, spade and barrow.

It's amazing how quickly a day passes when your digging on your own, bare in mind that every ton I put in the trailer is a ton that needs shoveling out again at the other end so you kind of get to move two tons for the price of one..........whoopie!

I did about three trips on Wednesday before the headaches got the better of me, two on Thursday and I barely managed one on Friday. I did some research and I think it's caused by bad posture (being stooped over all day) compounded in my case by the lifting element. The muscles in your back get so tense and knotted it actually begins to restrict the blood-flow to the back of your head. It was very frustrating because I wasn't injured or exhausted but it would get to the stage where I couldn't make three scoops without having to close my eyes for two minutes.

Anyway, we had so go and see Lou's mum for the weekend on Friday night so that was it for the time being.

I did a trip a night on Wednesday and Thursday after work the following week and went for 'the big push' on the weekend. Finally, by lunch time on Sunday I had turned this:

Into this:

550 square foot of hole in the ground.

The digging was still not done though, there was a pile of soil that the previous owners had made, against the wall just to the right of the garage 'door' that needed sorting that was another two and half trips but it was a joy to dig compered to what I had been doing, piled up high, no stones, light, dry and crumbly. Also the great big pile of soil I had put in/around/over the flower bed behind the back door needed doing. I managed to get through about half of that in another three trips.

I'm currently in Scotland with work for the week but my folks are coming down again on Friday so my dad can give me hand with the footing trenches. Once they're done and the last of the pile in the flower bed is gone the digging will finally be over.............until we start on the drive.

In other news we've had the confirmation of the planning application through so I've sent off my building reg's application. Confirmation basically means there was nothing wrong with way I filled in the forms or the plans I drew so it's currently being considered. The deadline for a decision is the 16 of this month. One of our neighbors objected on the grounds of noise etc so we attended the parish council meeting at which they were discussing the garage to reassure the Councillors that nothing untoward, antisocial or illegal would be taking place in there and also just to show our faces so that they can see we're nice people. They submitted their comments to the county council a couple of days ago and simply wrote 'no comments' brilliant! I'm quietly quite confident we'll get planning permission.

Sorry for the long delay between posts this time it's just that there's not a lot to write about when all you do in your spare time is fill up a wheelbarrow. I want to have the the concrete footings and maybe even the floor down by the end of the month so stay tuned.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Building Reg's and Digging

As pleasant as it may be sitting inside drawing pictures of  garages, sooner or later your going to have get out there and build it and as I touched on in 'Wall and Peace' if you intend to build up, you must first dig down. However, this time the down-digging needs to be on a scale hitherto unseen at 46 Wellington rd...........

You may be wondering why I've started digging without waiting for the planning permission to come through. Well, as stated in the last post the garage is permitted development with a flat roof (not needing planning), so hopefully, by the time we get to the roof we'll know weather we'll have planning or not. if not, we'll just finish it with a flat roof and not need to make any more planning applications. I politely but clearly pointed this out in my cover letter to the planning application, that if planning was refused I'll only build it anyway with a less attractive flat roof. It sounds a bit impudent I know but I think everyone prefers a nice pitched roof.

Due to the fact the garage is going to be over 30sq meters we are also going to need building regulations approval. Building reg's are different to planning in that they don't really govern what you can and can't build but they do make sure that if you are building something of any size you do it properly and safely. There are two types of building reg's application you can make:

Full Plans:
The fee is cheaper, £286 in my case, as I'm over 40sq meters but you need very, very detailed plans, way more in depth than I could draw at home, way more in depth than I could draw full stop actually. so that's ruled this option out as I can't afford for to have these types of plans drawn for me.

The other option is a 'Building Notice':
I spoke to the guys in the building reg's office on the phone the other day and they said that considering I was only building a single skin, detached garage this was the option to go for. The fee is more expensive, £342 but it's a much simpler way of doing it. You basically start building and they come along and sign off the work you have done at various key stages along the way. The first visit they make is after you have dug your trenches but before you put the concrete footing in. They want to have a look at the soil type and various other things and make sure your trenches are deep enough and wide enough. Once they've signed off your trenches you can put your footings in and move onto the next stage. It's more expensive because of all the extra site visits but you basically get walked through it, which it ideal for someone like me.

It helps to give the buildings control guys a reference number from your planning application but I haven't heard anything back from them yet so I'm holding off making  my building reg's application until I hear back from planning. In the mean time I've just been out there digging so that when the confirmation of the planning application comes back I can make my building reg's application and have the trenches ready for them to come out and take a look at. Phew! Now I know why people pay a project manager!

Anyway, moving on.............

The biggest challenge facing us is getting through the topsoil and down to the clay beneath. This shouldn't be too problematic on the right hand side of the garden, however the left side is at least two foot higher. That's a lot of soil to remove just to get down to the stuff we want to dig our actual footing trenches into. The first thing to do is mark out where the walls of the garage will be with string and the most logical wall to start with was the back as this runs parallel to the rear boundary wall for it's entire length. We knocked in two steaks, one at each end of the back wall, exactly 1 meter away from it as stated on the plans and tied a string between them. The gap between the steaks is way more than the 7 meters the wall will be as this allows us to dig out the trench without needing to move the steaks or mess with the string-lines because if you do this for all the walls, it's the point's at which the strings cross that give you your corners rather than the steaks themselves. This wall was now our datum, if you like, so we made a large wooden setsquare using the 3-4-5 rule and began knocking in the steaks for the remaining walls. It takes a while to get it perfect but once we were finished we had something that looked a  bit like this:

Time to start digging, cue heatwave. 

I went for a trench that was about three feet wide at this stage as the guys at buildings control said they would probably want to see a two foot wide footing trench. I just kept going down until I started scraping the clay and then began digging along the line of the string, keeping the sides parallel. After about three days I had got the first side finished.  Once I'd hit my stride I was getting about half a side done a day but it was unbelievably hard work, I was drinking pints and pints of water, about 1 every three barrow loads! You basically chop a chunk off the top end off the trench and push it in with the spade. That's when you encounter what landscapers refer as the 'fluff up'. When that compacted lump of earth hits the ground it breaks up into loose soil and 'fluff's up' to about four times the amount that you just chopped off. That's why it takes so long to clear it all away again. I was pilling up the good soil at the other end of the lawn and chucking all the clay and junky stuff into the middle. Thankfully the final side only needed a few inches taking off the top

Eventually I got back to where I started. I had been using a Roman style water level so keep the bottom of my trench level and was delighted to be pretty much spot on. I'll get some better pic's of how to use this magnificent piece of kit in coming posts but it's definitely the best 14 quid I've spent so far.

 Deary me that was hard work! but I'm not done digging yet, as heart breaking  as it may be the bottom of this trench just represent the top of the actual foundation trench so the next job is to mark out and dig that one. Here's how.......

Drop a plumb-line off the string at one end of the the trench, this will obviously represent the strings position relative to the ground, take a tape measure and knock in a small steak/peg 1 foot either side of it. drop another plumb line off the string at the other end of the trench an do the same. Tie some string between your pegs and there's the outline of your trench. Repeat for all the other 'walls'. And that's where I'm up to so far, I can't really do any more until I have got rid of all the concrete, soil and junky stuff as I've just run out of space to put stuff. I've put the top soil on freecycle and Roger was true to his word and brought his trailer round, but it was just too big to park outside the house, so until I can get my hands on another trailer I'm going to have to put the digging on hold. 

Hopefully I'll get a trailer by next weekend and things will be back on track, plus it's raining loads at the moment anyway so there's not a lot to be done even if I had the space. Well that's you up to date so stay tuned for the next installment.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Planning Permission

Having some down-time every night with my dad gave us chance to sit down and bounce some ideas around about what this garage is actually going to look like.

I had already done some research on weather we will need planning permission or not and this is what it has to say on the planning portal website regarding garages:

outbuildings are considered to be permitted development, not needing planning permission, subject to the following limits and conditions:

1. No outbuilding on land forward of a wall forming the principal elevation.

2.  Outbuildings and garages to be single storey with maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres and maximum overall height of four metres with a dual pitched roof or three metres for any other roof.

3. Maximum height of 2.5 metres in the case of a building, enclosure or container within two metres of a boundary of the curtilage of the dwellinghouse.
4. No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
5. No more than half the area of land around the "original house" would be covered by additions or other buildings.
6. In National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites the maximum area to be covered by buildings, enclosures, containers and pools more than 20 metres from house to be limited to 10 square metres.
7. On designated land buildings, enclosures, containers and pools at the side of properties will require planning permission.
8. Within the curtilage of listed buildings any outbuilding 
will require planning permission.

It's Rule three that's the only one of any real concern to us as we are well within two meters of the boundary in places. The long and the short of it is if we want to pitch the roof, we need planning permission, but if we do a flat roof, we don't. I think everybody would think it would look better with a pitched roof so I decided to apply for planning. A bit more research revealed I was going to need various types of plans, no problem, I'll just get my architect to draw them up..............Oh yeah, I am the architect!

There are some great forums and websites out there to help you draw up your own planning permission plans and put together an application (Diydata is a great one), all you need is an A3 pad, a scale ruler, a set square, a tape measure, a pencil and a fine-liner pen.

There are Four types of plan you need to submit with your application: a site-plan, a location plan, a 'elevations' plan and a 'floor-plan'. The two plans that were going to need the most work from me were the elevations plan and the floor-plan.

The elevations plan is basically a head on view of each side of your building, I drew mine at a scale of 1:50. We knew it was 7x7 sqaure and the eaves needed to be 2.5m (as stated in the rules). The apex of the roof we decided to set at 3.5 meters to keep it nice and low for everyone and run the pitch across the garage (rather than lengthways), one quarter of the way back from the main door. this would coincide with the pillars that would be built into the walls. My boss donated the windows that came out of his place when he was doing his house up a few weeks back so we knew how big they would be, a big double door is about 14ft wide and I measured up our back door to get a size for the side door. After a couple of hours I had something that looked like this

Floor-plan next:

The best advice I read about drawing your own plans is 'don't assume any detail', mark or write absolutely everything on your plans It's all the guy who's looking at it has to go on and your never going to get to talk to him.

These pencil drawn originals are your 'masters' so don't go over them with your fine-liner as you may need to make amendments to them depending on what the council say. I took mine down to the library and took a photo copy of each one, then sat down and went over the photo copy's with the fine-liner.Now they looked like this:

Now you can photocopy these as many times as you like.

The 'site plan' and 'location plan' are both basically maps of your site at different scales, you can buy them (as PDF's) from the websites recommended to you on the planning portal website. they need to be between specific scales and show your property and the proposed development edged in red. You can use the drawing tools on the website to mark the boundary's etc on your plans before you buy them, that way you don't have to get the red pen out afterwards you can just print them all off ready to go. I did get the red pen out though to mark on the drive and some trees just to be on the safe side.

Location plan:

Site Plan:

One thing I thought I'd better be double sure about is rule 5, 'No more than half the grounds of the 'original house' can be covered with new buildings'. This basically means the area of the whole plot, minus the footprint of the house when it was first built, so not including any extensions etc. You take that figure then half it, then you subtract the area of any extensions you or any previous owners have built and that tells you how much you have available for development, hopefully it's greater than the area of your garage.

Calculating the area of irregular shapes is quite tricky so it's best to split your plot into regular shapes, triangles to be exact. You calculate the area of a triangle like so: 1/2 Base X Height. you don't do this in the garden with a a tape measure either you, you can use your site plan and your scale rule, It's not an exact science but it will tell you weather your going to be marginal or not. Here's mine:

I was very conservative with my measurements but as it turns out I was well within my allowance due to the fact that I've knocked down the old garage and the coal-store. The total grounds were about 270 sq meters, so 135 available for development, minus 15 for the kitchen extension leaves 120. The garage is only going to be 49sq meters so definitely no problem there.

You also need to consider the type of planning application you need to make. As far as I understand it, unless you're planning to build an entire new house from scratch 'householder planning' will be fine, as this covers additions or alteration to a house that already exists. You can get a pre-application advice service but it costs well over a hundred quid so I decided to take my chances without it, I think as long as you do plenty of research and read the forms properly you should be able to find out everything you need to do. The application form also comes in pretty handy for letting you know what you need to mark on your plans. Once you've filled it in you make four copy's of everything (I also wrote a short covering letter) and send the whole lot in with a cheque (£172 in my case, there's a cost calculator on the planning portal). You can do it online too but you need your plans to be in PDF format.

And then you wait. I haven't had anything official back yet but they cashed my cheque the day before yesterday so I guess that's a good thing.

Seeing the garage come to life on the plans is a great feeling after it's been little more than vague imagining for so long, it's starting to feel like real progress is being made

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Wall and Peace

There's a lot to bring everyone up to date on so I'll start with the wall.............

First thing to do was break out the cement mixer! At £325 it's the first major purchase of the build but we've got so much to do there would be no point in hiring one.

Also my parents had come to stay for a couple of weeks so my dad could give me hand, I've never built anything out of stuff that wasn't Lego before so I was going to need all the help I could get.

To build up, first one must dig down, so the first thing to do was dig a trench alongside the existing concrete block wall. we decided building in front of it was a far easier and less disruptive solution than knocking it down. The trench was about two spades wide and  deep enough to get down to the clay beneath. It quickly revealed that the existing wall was sitting in about 6 inches of top soil with very little other than luck and it's own weight holding it up. during the course of our digging we came across what appeared to be an old water pipe passing across the trench so we built a bridge out of old bits of block from the garage so that no weight was transfered onto it and began mixing up the concrete for the footings.

Mixing concrete is pretty straightforward, you go to B&Q and get yourself some 'balast' and you throw that in the mixer with some cement (it tells you the ratio on the bag) then you keep adding water little by little until it becomes wet enough, getting that right is the tricky bit but you get the feel for it. Once it's ready you tip it into your barrow and tip the barrow in your trench. We set the concrete about four inches deep.

Once it had all gone off a little we could lay the biggest of the foudation stones at roughly regular intervals using a string to keep the faces in line.

Then you've got to stop for the day and wait for it all to set.

Once the top half the trench was set we got started on the bottom half. While we were digging we came across a part of the wall, close the kitchen, That for some reason had a very substantial concrete footing that was interfering with where our trench needed to go, so we got started on chipping it away. As we were chipping it appeared a large cavity had formed beneath this concrete and seemed to extend toward the house. we assumed it was caused by the large amount of water that runs through the garden so we kept chipping away so we could get a better look at exactly how big it was.

We had been told by the neighbours about a well that was buried in our garden somewhere but no-one seemed to know exactly where it was................... Well know we knew (pardon the pun). Stone sides and all, it was a proper well and whoever built the kitchen extension had used the side of the it as a part of their foundation! We filled it, and the surrounding area with concrete once and for all and repaired the foundation of the kitchen. My dad did this while I was in work so I don't have any good pics but suffice to say it just looked like a smooth concrete surface once he was finished. Once the well was capped we could lay the big stones for this half of the wall and we were ready to go.

We started at the back and worked our way towards the the house, we knew there would be very little space between the garage and the wall so we built the wall at the back only a foot or so high to maximise the distance between next door's fence and the garage by allowing you to walk along the top of the wall to gain access to behind the garage.

I must admit I thought the whole wall would be done in a weekend but just this one small section took two or three days. It takes a long, long time to build a stone wall, mainly because of the time it takes to find just the right stone, you can look for fifteen minutes or more before you finally give up and move to a different part.

By now we were getting bulk deliveries of sand and cement, believe it or not, by the time we had finished we had got through at least three tons of sand and probably 20-30 bags of cement.

The best way to go about building a wall is carry over a load of stones to where your working so you have a good selection of small, medium and large ones to choose from, you also want a good selection of pretty ones and ugly ones as the ugly ones will come in very handy for filling in between the pretty ones and the old wall. Then you mix up some cement, we were using 5:1 sharp sand and cement, with water and a touch of washing up liquid to make it 'fluffy'. You definitely don't want to get it to runny this time as it becomes difficult to form it and the stones end up sinking into direct contact with one another, but not wet enough and it drys too soon, again, you get a feel for it quite quickly.

Take time to stand back and look at each stone you lay so you can see it in the context of the wall as a whole, keep checking everything with your string line regularly and it's pretty hard to go too wrong. I was building from the ground up to the last layer, then my dad was using all the small flat stones and a spirit level to get the top right. You build as much as you can for then day then you go in and have some tea (supper to you southerners), just before it goes dark you come out again to 'point' it. Pointing basically refers rubbing back the partly dry cement with a small wire brush to expose as much of the face of the stone as possible, I rubbed until the cement was about 5mm recessed from the face, then you kind of dab it with dry paintbrush to make it nice and smooth.

After about a week it looked something like this:

The plan was to knock off the top row of blocks but the neighbors wouldn't let us so we'll put some nice deep coping stones on top to finish off the top and bring it up to meet the block wall on slightly more equal terms.

I reckon, all in, the wall cost somewhere between £250 and £300 not including the mixer, but what a great skill to have learned! As you can see a bit has been happening since the completion of the wall and this picture being taken, I'll try to write all that up shortly.............

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Garage Gone

Well the recent run of good weather means I've been out nearly every evening and weekend it hasn't been raining so I haven't that much time to do much blog posting. but the old garage is indeed gone so lets bring you up to speed on how that went.

The first thing to do was get rid of the asbestos roof. Your local household waste recycle center will take asbestos as long as it's not broken and it's double wrapped so the problem was how to get it off without breaking the large 6x2 panels. They were nailed down with spiral shafted dome head nails so a claw hammer wasn't going to do it as we would of cracked the asbestos trying to lever out the nail against it. My dad had a good idea when he suggested hitting a chisel into the roof beams so as to split them down the middle along the line of the nails but that didn't really works either so in the end I went and bought a Dremmel so I could cut the tops off the nails and the panels could be easily lifted away and laid on the floor.

Once they were off I ran them down to the recycle center and got on with removing the roof beams, the doors and the windows. all that was now left to do was  break out the hammer and start swinging.
Saturday afternoon

Later Saturday afternoon

Tea time Saturday

Sunday morning
Hang on a sec, haven't we been here before? Oh well, once you've cleared away one massive pile of rubble what difference does another one make? so that's what I spent the remainder of Sunday doing. and by the time my bro turned up just before tea time I was pretty much done. I had been putting all the broken ones on the pile at the back of the garden and all  re-usable blocks to one side, so he gave me hand piling them up in the front garden and then we had a sweep up and that was that. all gone in two days, time to light the fire with all the roof beams and put the kettle on.

Tidy indeed but not for long.............

One more massive pile of rubble to shift. All the rocks from the coal-store now needed putting where the garage once stood and they weren't going to put  themselves there so that was evenings last week and last weekend accounted for. I managed to organize them into three rough sizes, massive, large - med and small to make thing easier when we need to use them again.

And that was me done in, I've never been so broken, everything ached, arms legs, hands, core muscles I was kind of glad when it finally started raining

The last thing we need to knock down is that concrete block wall on the left hand side so we can build a nice new retaining wall out of the stone from the coal store. The little wall at the front of the house is also going to be re-built out of the coal-store stone and any thing that's left over will be used to tidy up the 'Cornish hedge' in the far right corner. Then we can get the digger in and pile all the topsoil in the back half of the garden in the front half of the garden and find out what level we're going to be building on.

We should have the wall built by the end of this weekend, weather permitting so stay tuned

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Murder Is The Easy Bit..............

...........getting rid of the body is where it gets complicated.

Not so much complicated as just way, way harder. It took my mate Gideon and I less than an evening after work to 'kill' the coal store but moving all the stone (I reckon at least 15 tons) took me most of the evenings the following week and all of the weekend to get it from one end of the garden to the other. Here's a quick vid of the coal store's final moments, I can honestly say I've never seen any thing as heavy as this wall hit the floor, the ground visibly shook

Gid's was not there by chance, he's a very accomplished landscape gardener I'd called him over to pick his brains about the best way to proceed with all the earthworks we need to do before we can start building the garage. Gideon was quite startled by how much earth I was proposing to get rid of in order to level the garden out and advised that if I was going to forge ahead with my plans the old garage needs to come down asap so we can get the digger in and deliveries etc as close to the project as possible. After a couple of nights to think about my chat  with Gids I decided that putting in a retaining wall down the left hand side of the garden would allow us to smooth everything over rather than get rid of it all and would also mean we wouldn't be undermining next door on the right quite so much.

Oh yeah and we pegged it out for the first time.........7m X 7m is the biggest we can go and not need planning, 530 square foot, pretty sick eh?  Unfortunately where I now plan to build this retaining wall is where I just piled up 15 tons of rock which leaves me with two problems, the first of which is I'm going to have to move it all again and secondly I don't have anywhere out of the way to put it unless I knock down the old garage. I had been trying to put off knocking down the garage until it was absolutely necessary as it's destruction represents what I consider to be the the point of no return. I need my man-space.

But it is what is and the old garage has got to go so the project can proceed. My mate Alan and I smashed up the remaining concrete pathways after work last week (that pile in the back corner) so all that remains is to carefully remove the asbestos roof and do a Fred Dibnah on the old garage. I'll get the old garage down and move all the rocks (again) then I'll take a good few wide shots of the back garden and do a post explaining exactly what we have in mind for it.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Did you ever hear the one about the barista trainer, the racing driver and the duck farmer?

Well the barista trainer and the racing driver turned out to be the same guy, but the duck farmer was a total legend.

'Why's the duck farmer such a legend?' I hear you cry.

Here's why............

There are a mere two downsides to the house we bought:
  1. The bottle-neck in the drive
As you can see our drive is badly bottle-necked by the corner of our house and the fact that next door's rear access is ramped. It's not a major issue, it's just a major bummer as it means I'll never be able to get my trailer into the back yard, so will have to find somewhere else to keep it.

   2.   We don't own the end of the drive!

That's right, no-one seems to know who owns the end of our drive. Our solicitor discovered this during the buying process. This very nearly was a major issue and we almost didn't buy the house because of it but everything else was just what we were after so we bit the bullet and went for it. Basically you can draw an imaginary rectangle of no-man's-land if you set the sides as next door's wall on the right hand side of the picture over to the that little grey line coming from beneath the middle of the 106, and the top by drawing from the corner of our house (on the left) through the end of the wall that divides the two properties over to next door's side wall, the bottom is the road the Audi is parked on. It's not very big, about the size of two dining tables. One dining table should belong to us the other should belong to next door, but the one thing we now know for certain is it doesn't belong to either of us.

That's our two big issues, both linked to next door and that's where the the duck farmer comes in, he owns next door. Up until Friday last week we had no idea the guys who live there are only tenants.

So, We had applied to the land registry to register our half of the no-man's land as part of our plot, we didn't know but the land registry had sent a letter to next door explaining what we were doing, asking if they had any objection and advising them that any objections must be made by noon on Friday last week. The poor duck farmer, whose name is Rodger, received the letter, got completely the wrong end of the stick and thought we were trying to steal the end of his drive off him! His wife eventually pointed out to his amazement that he didn't own the end of his drive either. He eventually knocked on our door 11:30 last Friday, mobile in hand, wife waiting by phone at home ready to call the land registry and object should we turn out to be total arseholes.

Of course Lou answered the door and charmed the socks off him, needless to say the phone call was never made. Further-more Rodger turned out to be sent down from heaven to provide a solution to every major problem I have concerning the garage build. The three BIG problems are:
  1. The amount of earth that needs removing
  2. Finding something to remove it with
  3. Finding somewhere to remove it to

All potentially very expensive problems. He basically said he was also thinking of building a garage at the back of his plot, much like I am, as he likes the idea of the value some off street parking would add to his house. So not only was he keen to remove the dividing wall and bring both driveways onto the same level as far as possible but he also has:
  1. A mate with a JCB
  2. A 10 Ton tipper trailer
  3. A tractor to pull it with
  4. A farm full of mine shafts that need filling up
It's not every day you get that lucky..............

It would mean sharing the drive to a certain extent and not getting in each others way as far as parking is concerned but it's win-win really, currently my drive is severely restricted and his is little more than a footpath, bringing them onto the same level would mean we have nice, wide, useable gap between the two houses.

And it's all thanks to 'Rodger the duck'.

Sorry, I was dying to get that one in.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Little Pig, Little pig, let me come in............

I can now confirm that just as the nursery rhyme would suggest, structures built from stone are indeed harder to blow/knock down than those built of wood. Maybe it was because it didn't contain any tasty swine but it took a whole afternoon of huffin' and puffin' to bring down less than half the old coal store and the entire next day to clear away all the remains and dig up the foundation stones.

This was the first bit of proper work we have done so far, once again my bro and Naomi showed up to give me a hand knocking it down on Saturday but I was on my own on Sunday, and I can tell you it was tough digging up those rocks on my own, never mind moving all the mortar to the other end of the garden, I went into work on Monday with some achy hamstrings and shoulders but it felt good.

We're starting to see some real progress now, here's a time line of shots from the back corner of the plot. Click to enlarge.

Apart from the obvious pile of rocks in the foreground you can see the ever-growing pile against the fence in the background, that's this weekends mission, to get all the concrete blocks, slabs, mortar, earth, and ash off to the skip. My bro is back down to help out once again as I don't think I'll manage  it by myself, there must be at least a ton or two by now. I have decided to keep all the rocks and use them to put an outer wall around the breeze blocks of the garage to give it a nice stone-built look and help it blend in with the other houses and gardens in the area, the mortar binding them together basically turned to dust as we were knocking them loose so they are perfectly clean and ready to go again. If I had had to spend days and weeks chipping off old cement it wouldn't have been an option  but they are way to good to throw away as they are.
The greenhouse is on ebay so that should be gone by next weekend, we even put the bush on ebay so that should be gone soon too. Once they're out of the picture it's just the remains of the coal store to get down and we can start some proper building work.
Here's a another time line from the bedroom window:

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Shed Heaven (get busy livin' or get busy dyin')

It's a slightly strange feeling taking somebody else's life to the skip car-load by car-load, or just chucking it on the fire but I suppose somebody will be doing it to all the stuff in my shed and my life one day when I'm dead and gone, and i'm pretty comfortble with that but I still can't help feeling................well, I dont know really, iv'e got nothing to feel bad or sorry for, it just feels a little, well, weird.

I guess it just reminds you that there is very little stuff you aquire during your stay on planet earth that wont fit in a skip or burn on a fire so you better get busy building something that's alot harder to knock down than a corrugated steel shed.

That is exactly what I intend to do and I have some friends to help me. My bro and his girlfriend Naomi came over to give me hand last weekend so we made a start on taking down the old shed.

Nomes gettin' her wreck on
It was tough to get the steel sheets off the good timber but parts of it were so rotten you could pretty much just pull them off by hand. By tea-time it was just a memory, Lou and Nomes went off to get some fish and chips and we had us a burn up with all the wood.

On Sunday I basically just lifted up all the concrete slabs and pathways at that end of the garden and around the coal store and made yet another trip to the skip with what was left of all the stuff I cant take to the scrap yard. All in all a good weekends work, the back of the garden is looking alot clearer and I had a very satisfying five minutes marking out the corners of a 6 X 7mtr rectangle on the ground.

 Coal store next,this provides a much tougher proposition but I have 14lb sledge hammer called progress and very little can stop it. Click the pics to enlarge as I seem to have lost the ability to do it from here.