In this week’s West Highland Free Press there was a small piece about the price of getting things delivered to the Highlands and Islands. The delivery charge quoted was £11,998.80 on an item that cost £19.99. No matter how much this item might weigh this is clearly ridiculous. It does however clearly illustrate one of the difficulties of undertaking a building project on an island like Raasay which, unlike Skye, is separated from the access to the mainland by a 25 minute ferry journey.

As we’ve found out very quickly it’s not so much weight as length that escalates the price exponentially with longer commercial vehicles costing over ten times the rate of a car or standard transit.

Our transit has become accustomed to carrying an eclectic range of building materials from the scaffolding we bought down in Ardvasher to the one tonne bags of sand and gravel mix.

When I sit down to work out the amount of concrete we need I realise it equates to a lot of trips in the transit to get sand, gravel and cement. Fortunately I’ve got a plan – and it’s not ready mix.

The problem with ready mix is that you have to order a defined amount allowing for some tolerance and whatever’s left over has to be disposed of there and then. Or worse there’s not enough and you need to order another load.

So our plan is to use the volumetric lorry.

The volumetric lorry mixes exactly the amount require on site, works out much cheaper than a ready mix and can leave the spare (unused) material behind for use on other parts of the site.

It basically has three compartments – sand & gravel, cement and water. By far the largest of these is the sand and gravel. This is drawn out on a conveyor belt passing under the cement hopper which dispenses the amount required to achieve the specified strength. Water is added just before the mix enters the auger chute where it is dispensed. All this is controlled by the driver either from the back of the lorry or more commonly via a remote control unit.

It is a brilliant invention.

The first load we get I ask if they will come fully loaded. This means that after the 5m3 of concrete that is required for the foundations we are able to take delivery of 11 tonnes of sand and gravel. That’s 11 return ferry trips saved.

When he comes back to mix the concrete for the floor slab he brings the 2mx4m sheets of reinforcement mesh on the top of the rig.

With our founds and floor slabs poured we’re now starting the timber frame and roof refurbishment. This involves a small amount of steel and a number of glulam beams some of which are up to 6.5m long.
It looks like I’m going to have to come up with another plan to get these here……….

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