What a difference a fortnight can make!
Last Wednesday morning, less than three weeks ago, the cottage consisted of completed foundations, a block and beam floor, and a single course of block-work marking out the internal and external walls.
This was a little frustrating, as we had been anticipating that the wall panels would arrive on site and start to be assembled on Tuesday.
The walls in question had in fact appeared, as scheduled, on the back of a lorry on Tuesday morning. But despite the hauliers promising that their lorry would definitely fit through our narrow entrance and over the cattle grid… Well, it didn’t – and wasn’t going to, at least not without us demolishing our neighbour’s fence. Late in the afternoon one of our friendly local farmers kindly came to save us with a tractor and a bale handler, and at least the panels were finally safely on site.
As it happens, on Wednesday I was due to be on a train back from London. So it was with some trepidation that I sat on the train struggling to keep an eye on the site webcam via First Great Western’s rather ‘special’ on-train WiFi service.
First of all, I was delighted to see the team arrive on site, on a lovely sunny Cornish morning. Startlingly quickly, there began to be walls. By the time I got home, and after just a single day, all of the main wall panels were already in place.
On Thursday, the scaffolders arrived and left us with what can only (my apologies) be described as a sizeable erection! On Friday morning, they finished up and the carpenters came to start preparations for building the roof structure.
Our carpenters came back on Monday, and by the evening the roof trusses over the bedrooms were all in place.
On Tuesday, they set about getting the enormous, over-sailing top beam installed. This huge glue-lam beam, the only ‘out-size’ piece of the build, really, will carry the roof over the living area, allowing this to be open to the cathedral roof, which we hope will help maximise the feeling of space and light in the cottage. The beam rests on the dividing wall at one end; the building’s only significant steel component, a vertical post, carries the weight of the beam and roof at at the front, and allows it to over-sail a further almost six feet to provide a large covered veranda at the front of the cottage.
Raising the beam into place was a bit of a struggle – generally speaking a crane would be hired in for this job but our access restrictions, along with the overhead electrical cable, made this impractical. Thankfully, our lovely neighbouring farmer came to the rescue again and was able to give the guys the extra lift they needed.
On Tuesday evening, we had a cheeky climb on the scaffolding with an ash bough and a bottle of Cava to toast the installation of the beam. Dave the dog was a little confused about what we were up to!
The trusses for the main living space had to be created on site, as to allow the open plan space these need to be ‘cut in’ individually, leaving appropriate gaps for the roof lights and the flue for the wood burning stove. The carpenters also constructed the feature king trusses, which will be visible from within the living space. After this, roofing work moved on swiftly, first with a covering of OSB (fancy weather-proof chipboard) to provide additional rigidity to the whole structure, then with weatherproof membrane and batons, before the slates finally started going on just this Thursday.
It’s remarkable the difference that having a roof on the structure has made to it feeling like a house. I think we’re both enjoying climbing in and walking about inside it, and while there’s still a long way to go before we’re finished, the tangible spaces make it a lot easier to imagine what the cottage will be like when it’s finished. Much to Nigel’s perplexity – he is sensibly focusing on the next important steps, installing the insulation into the wall and ceiling panels, and the underfloor heating pipes – I’m already planning the finished décor and have even bought the bedroom curtain fabrics!
In the coming week, we hope to see the finished slate roof, complete with skylights, and perhaps even the arrival of the rest of the windows and doors, which will make the structure fully watertight and really let us crack on with the internal work. Stay tuned!