Christmas 2006 and the New Year

7th January 2007 . Sorry about the long delay but a lot has been happening, including Christmas, and finally I get to do some useful work in the house.

In the Slates & Windows page you may have worked out that the slating started on the 6th of November and had it taken the 2 to 3 weeks I was led to believe it would then the builder could have returned before the beginning of December to do the drive and drainage. It is now the 7th of January and he should be back on the 11th. How did we lose 9 weeks I hear you ask.

It's like this. The two slaters that arrived on the 6th of November were reminiscent of the welders on the Dounreay site in the mid 1970s. They would arrive in their own time and sit in the van till 9am. Given that sunrise was about 8am and sunset around 4pm that was about 1 hour down the tube.

After a strenuous hour, as long as it wasn't windy or raining, they would retire for a cuppa which would take another half an hour. In that time they would also look at all the pictures in the day's tabloid press offerings and maybe phone a friend - more later. After another hour and a half, weather permitting, it was time for a leisurely hour's lunch break. Suffice to say that by the time they left - invariably before sunset - they had done a storming four and a half hour day. The galling bit was that they told their paymaster a subtly different story and he believed them. Friday was shorter still as they left at lunchtime - roughly a two and a half hour day.

The phone calls were initially to negotiate a higher rate for the job as it turned out they weren't retained by the company that I had contracted and they had only quoted for slating and not lead work, fitting the breathable membrane or assembling scaffolding. On day one this meant that they stopped work at morning tea break and awaited a response from the paymaster. By mid afternoon there was still no reply (or that was what I was told) but they did a token hour of scaffolding before going home for the day.

By Friday of week 2 they were off to check the cash machine at mid-day to see if they had been paid; they hadn't so they sat around till 1.30 and then left.

By early the next week things were changing. One day, Wednesday, the crew were completely replaced by another one, 3 men this time, and I started to think that things might at last start to happen. That they didn't arrive till 8.45 should have been a give-away and the line up was different the next day and again on the Friday but back down to 2 men.

Slaters will tell you that they can do umpteen square metres per day; in fact if the first crew were to be believed they could have done the whole roof in just over 2 weeks. We were now at 3 weeks and roughly half the roof was done but not much more had been fitted with the membrane and the windows were being deluged every time there was a decent rainfall. In fact what membrane was on the roof was fitted from the top down but often omitting the lowest strip. This made sure that all the water was transported down the roof to just above the windows before it was allowed to pour through the sarking.

Eventually the slaters finished on the Wednesday before Christmas when I wasn't there to check their work and didn't discover that they hadn't finished off the skew courses until too late to have anything done about it before the holidays. It seems that it isn't only the guys on site that have short Fridays but as it was the 22nd of December maybe it's understandable.

Suffice to say that the first (correct) dummy skew looks like this

and the others look like this

- or they did till the wind blew and now one looks like this


And you know the one about "the job isn't finished till you have tidied up". This is tidied up


Tomorrow slating head office re-opens and I am hoping that the whole lot looks rather tidier by the end of the week!

At least the water isn't coming through the roof to any great extent so now we can see where it is coming through the BECO and prejudicing the windows. There are a couple of places but they may be due to skew courses not being fitted properly yet; we shall see.

N.B. the drip!

N.B. the bucket below the drip. There are now 2 buckets under these windows.

The guys fitting the windows had been trained to fit them to BECO or so I was told. The lead guy's first words were "I've never seen this stuff" and now I wonder whether the cause of the leaking is an inherent problem in the modular BECO lintels or something to do with the fitting. Just as soon as we get a decent sunny day we will get a load more sealant of some kind into some strategic gaps to see if things can be improved. Meanwhile I read the instructions for the expanding polyurethane foam and discover that the optimum temperature for using it is 24 degrees Celsius - in Caithness!

At last a work contribution from me! Thank you Tony for selling me the orange spider thingy below. Having never seen one before I suddenly found the very same one in a tool company flyer the week after. I used to have nightmares about fitting insulation and plasterboard above my head but this creature makes it a doddle. Shame it can't put in dwangs as well - translation - a dwang is a piece of wood that isn't a batten and a batten is anything from 10 by 10mm to 150 by 150mm. That should keep you thinking. In this context the dwangs are the series of bits of wood running down the left hand side of the roof insulation in this photo. They have to be a tight fit and hammered in with 75mm nails so my old shoulder troubles have resurfaced with a vengeance but after about 4 days (including one with David the very fastidious and professional joiner. Nice to know I have good words to say about at least one tradesman!) 4 rooms have most of the insulation fitted. The immediate target is to cocoon the workrooms/utility/pantry/wet rooms in the hope that we can produce a relatively clean and warm bit in which to base ourselves for the next several months of hard work.