‘You’ve picked a great weekend to start’ Margaret grins from behind her hood, which is drawn tight around her face.
Its been raining consistently since Thursday and the wind has risen to around 30mph (according to the XC Weather website – by far the most reliable around here).
We’re in the process of demolishing the front extension. I’m standing on the ceiling joists, working between the rafters to dismantle the roof. Kate is working on the ground trying to salvage what timber she can.
The whole construction is much more robust than it appears at first sight.
It’s been slow progress up until now. We’ve had a succession of summer visitors whom the weather does its best to convince we live on a desolate grey rock. Of course generally once the visitors have left we return to something resembling summer. These visitors have been both an excuse to avoid the hard labour of our nascent building project or of great assistance to chipping away at its daunting rock face.
When the building warrant approval arrives in early August I realise I’ve been dawdling with completing the byre. We need the byre to store the materials, tools and furniture we are currently storing in the house.
I walk round the outside to assess the work involved. I’ve finished the stonework and topped it off with lime mortar to start the leveling for the wall plate. All the materials for the roof are here and I have a tonne of sand/aggregate mix and seven bags of cement. The thing is I’ve reached the point where I know what I want – I’m just not exactly sure how to achieve it.
I call Ron to see if he can help. He has 2 ½ days available between jobs.
Shortly after arrival Ron has all the wall plate down and the joists set out and pinned in place. I spend the evening securing them and fitting dwangs between them. In England ‘dwangs’ are known as ‘noggins’. We spend a tea break discussing the two words primarily to give us the opportunity to use the word ‘dwang’ repeatedly. I like the sound it makes.
The following day the plywood deck is down on the roof and covered in builders plastic (which will be the weatherproofing until we fit the green roof system at the same time as the extension to the house) and the first pour of concrete for the floor is down.
When Ron leaves I know what I have to do to complete the work but despite that it takes a couple of weeks. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly I seriously underestimate the amount of sand/aggregate mix that I need and end up going back and forth to Jewson in Portree four times. Not that the van could have taken any more than a one tonne bag at a time. And secondly, because the new floor slab is just below the bottom of the foundation stones I need to cast a concrete upstand to prevent the walls collapsing in over time, which makes the concrete-ing a bit more complicated than simply laying a level floor. It was going to be even more complicated, with drainage channels running round the edge and below the slab to take away any water that penetrates through the dry stone from the back. In the end I simplify it and decide to dig down to below foundation level on the outside of the walls, lay a plastic drainage pipe with slots cut in the top and back fill it with gravel (of which there is an abundance available locally). This should take the water away before it reaches the wall of the byre.
And so with the byre nearing completion, the building warrant approved, planning and building standards notified and the ground worker booked, we start the work of demolishing the front extension.