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incorporating New Life


In search of the right rope

The builders were back on site yesterday and quickly got down to work. Old rubble which we don’t want to send to landfill is being crushed for use as hardcore and a digger is on site preparing for the new electricity supply which is due on Monday.

It is not really a new supply but we needed it moved a couple of hundred millimetres further away from the gable end to allow for the external insulation. Power Networks decided that they wanted the supply put underground from the edge of the property. This involves a new pole on the edge of the land to replace the one close to the house, which it turns out was rotten anyway.

Because it was rotten we are not having to pay for the new one, thank goodness. But we were given a substantial bill and full instructions about digging a trench and burying a pipe as a conduit for the new cable. This pipe has to have a rope in place so the people from Power Networks can pull the new cable through.

It all sounded very simple until we discovered the builders’ merchants sold suitable rope in 30 metre packs. But we are set well back from the road and needed nearly 40 metres. None of the nearest possible suppliers could help.

With Google’s help I located what I needed at Tool Station in Ipswich. Faced with warnings that if everything was not ready there would be extra charges to pay, it was a relief to deliver the rope to the builders.

Power Networks have been a joy among utility companies to deal with. The shrouded the existing over-head wires for safety without charge. They are turn up when they say they will, are pleasant and helpful on the phone. On the other hand BT whose wires on on the same pole just seemed to make life difficult. They transferred me to a call station in India where I doubt the person I spoke to had an appropriate IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score. Both of us were frustrated and she demanded: “Are you saying I am not helpful.” My reply: “No. I don’t think you have the information to help me.” She put the phone down.

The only other way to reach BT Openreach is through a web form, something I hate because they provide no copy of what you have written, or evidence that you have written at all. Responses come from a “No reply” email address.

Eventually a BT based person in the UK called me — after Power Networks had sent them the information.

No builders today and my frustration is showing

No builders. A frustrating morning waiting and then discovering that they are not coming back until Monday. After venting my frustration I am promised a full team at the start of next week.

We have missed a good weather window with sunshine today and a light rain shower forecast for tomorrow. The forecast for Monday is heavy rain so how much will they be able to do?

Getting angry is not going to speed up work but I now have a slightly belated New Year resolution: to maintain constant pressure for speedy progress.

Raising the roof and related matters

When the builders restart work tomorrow (Jan 2) one of the first tasks will be to get the decks onto the three refurbished flat roofs and a small link to the extension. The firings (tapered piece of wood which give the roof a slight slope) were cut just before Christmas so there should be nothing to delay the job.

Often in a refurbishment things are less straightforward that we might have hoped. We had wanted to reuse the roof decks of the detached bedroom annex and the living room. It turned out that water had got in over the years and the sensible option was to make new roofs.  The garage where the roof is being raised to make a utility room was always going to need a new roof.

The living room was going to take a fair amount of work anyway as a four metre concrete lintel has been removed and replaced with steelwork to give the the room a continuous flat ceiling.

Once the decks are in place we will be hoping for a spell of dry wether so that the roofers can quickly get on with the job of adding the insulating and water-proofing layers. That will be a big step forward.

The main pitched roof has also turned out to be more work than expected. The plan was to remove the first half dozen rows of tiles so that we could get the eves insulation into place with a new membrane above. But it turned out that the existing roof felt was so brittle it could not be folded back  and then folded down over the new work. The whole roof had to stripped.

The builders have worked carefully even getting tiles back so that the patterns of lichen are much as they were. That combined with my visit to a reclamation yard to get matching 1960s ridge tiles  means it is hard to see what has changed.



Building has led to a weather obsession

The new year starts with rain after a rather dry Christmas. But tomorrow, when the builders return, is forecast to be fine, a sunny 8C in the afternoon which is good news as we need to get on with replacing the flat roofs.

Since starting building work I have become a bit obsessive about the weather. On the whole we have been lucky but some of the high winds have have been worrying. I had wondered whether the previous owners, and builders, had enjoyed a walk along the ancient Ridgeway path of southern England before they chose it as the name of their new home.

Perhaps they did. But Ridgeway it is a good topographic name as the place catches all the winds. We are going to keep the name. Years ago Lesley and I walked the Ridgeway from near Tring to Avebury, catching the wind and rain as well as sunshine as we went. It was a memorable tramp through beautiful England.

My growing interest in the weather led to my Christmas present from Lesley: an electronic weather station to supplement the beautiful 19th century wheel barometer she gave me years ago.

Setting up the new weather station has been a pain. We are Mac computer users and knew that the software that came with it was for PCs only. But I also knew there was suitable Mac software. Getting it up and running was harder than I expected. One candidate reminded me of setting up software in the 1980s and another was inadequate for what I wanted to do.

Eventually everything was sorted out thanks to fantastic help I have had from Boisy Pitre, developer of Weather Snoop which works as Mac software should. Great things, it seems, come out of the Cajun country of Louisiana.

Our current home is not  really ideal for a weather station. The small courtyard makes the wind direction and speed instruments effectively useless but I know that they are working and reporting to the console in the house. And for the wind direction I can look at the weather vane on the Market Cross in front of the house and for strength the large pine tree behind.

The barometer, temperature and rain gauge all seem to be reporting accurately.

In the long run I am hoping that having interior and exterior temperatures I will be able to evaluate the efficiency of the insulation and ventilation at Ridgeway. As we are aiming to maximise solar gain in the winter it will be interesting to see what happens in summer and whether we need shading.