Sunday, 15 January 2012
Banging up the floors
The noise levels rise on Wednesday when the boys break out the hired kango hammer. The concrete floors of the hall, dining room and kitchen are uneven so that they would not sensibly take a lino or tile finish and are, anyway, not insulated, so they are cold and damp, especially the kitchen where we have not been lighting the daily fires and range. In the kitchen this is partly because the gutters round the house outside are so arranged that a downpipe drops water into the small 8' by 8' garden 'gap' between the dining room and the original cottage with no where for it to drain away, so the clay and peat soil is saturated, the wet quickly leaching through under the house wall to make the clay under the kitchen floor wet too. Our mission is to 'break out' all this concrete and then dig down till we are 17 inches below the original floor level. The floor will then be backfilled with two layers of a crushed rubble 'sub-base' which builders call "804", the first 4 inches being stomped down with a whacker-plate before the 2nd 4 inches is spread over and whacked down. Over this will go a thick layer of modern insulated sheeting followed by self-levelling concrete.
This, you will appreciate, is a big job; possibly the worst part of this renovation. Breaking out the floor with the kango is probably the easiest bit. It's a big heavy tool which does all the work itself. The driver merely has to hold it upright and pull the trigger. He doesn't even have to listen to the infernal racket as he has ear defenders on. After each drilling he lifts it out and back towards him 6 inches or so ready to crack away the next small chunk of concrete, leaning the hammer down to prise the bits up a bit to make then easier to pull out by hand. It's hard to start when the unbroken sheet of concrete has nowhere to go, but once you've started an edge it's easier to bite bits off the sides.
The hard bit is the digging out. We have two barrows, one new one, one an old rusty whangy thing left to us by TK-Min. We have two Irish style, pointy shovels. These are 'pointy for a reason', says Sparks. When trying to shovel rubble, a broad ended straight English shovel jars on every stone and is impossible to work. Your Irish one slips in between the blocks, nicking them up onto its face with no jarring. The new barrow is brilliant. The old one is a total pain in the a***, flopping around trying to break off its handles when loaded. The boys decide to scrap it and buy a 2nd new one. It joins the scrap metal pile.
These are brutal, hard work days, just lifting this much broken concrete into a barrow and barrowing it out to the rubble heap, is a killer. The pulling up the loose rubble underneath by hand or shovel is as bad. Some of the boulders are big ones, over a foot long and get carried out singly, saved for some kind of garden rockery use. This gets us down about 9 inches to the clay. We need 17 inches, so the boys must then start shovelling sticky moist clay. It seems to take for ever. They can see where they have been but progress is slow. Dad comments that they load a barrow, take a breather, move the barrow, take another breather. He is feeling like the 54 year old, rather lardy ex computer systems manager he was, rather than a ruffty tuffty construction worker he needs to turn into.