Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 20

Building gates and fences for the ceiling

I just couldn't wait to start removing the study ceiling this week, so I started on Sunday morning.

It wasn't difficult. With three different pry bars the old hardboard sheets came down very easily. There was a lot a accumulated mess that came down with them, including four old and empty rats nests.

There were a number of the poison sachets which Mr Ratty had collected and brought home. Pity they didn't work!

With the loft flooring and beams exposed, I could work out exactly what materials I needed to build a framework for the new plasterboard ceiling. The old framework was fit only to be cut up for firewood. It had served a purpose - just - but was just rough bits of timber cut and nailed together. There was nothing worth salvaging.

First thing on Monday I was in Stari Grad at the builders merchants, ordering the four meter lengths of timber, all of which was delivered on Monday evening. 

Whilst waiting for the delivery, I dismantled the old framework and then cleared all the debris from the room, to leave a clear working area.

The easiest and best way to get the timber into the room was through the window that looks onto the courtyard. I assembled a variety of power tools and then strung some lines to establish a level for the new ceiling. 

The beams, which were hewn from tree trunks, were all different sizes and being former trees, were not especially straight. The lines ran along the four sides, then across the corner diagonals. The small suspended levels helped ensure that the lines were completely horizontal and also did not conflict with any of the beams that hold the loft floor up.

The good thing I found was that although there are signs of damp, it must have been quite some time ago, because behind the hardboard ceiling, everything is perfectly dry and there is no sign of any rot - wet or dry - which is a relief. You really never know what to expect when you take an old ceiling down. 

Next I installed 12 cm x 2.5 cm four meter long boards, so that they were just touching the lines. Once I was satisfied that they were level, I fixed them in place.

I calculate I have a discrepancy of two millimeters over a length of five meters
So I think the work will pass Cvjetko's inspection.

Another full day was spent in cutting the simple lap joints in the various pieces of timber. With 18 lengths of timber to be jointed, I decided to use production line methods. First I found the average size of the timber. Although it is purchased as a nominal 3 cm x 5 cm, even though I bought two sealed packets with ten lengths in each, they vary in all dimensions by up to 3mm.

I set up two fences on my bandsaw and with a mark across the fences, I pushed each length between the fences and cut exactly the same depth on each. This means that there is always one half of a lap joint which is a common dimension.

With the verticals cut, I put a sliding gate across my timber rollers and another fence on the bandsaw.

All I then had to do was slide the gate with the length of timber on it and the band saw cut the lap joint perfectly.

Where the pieces of timber cross along the lengths, I used a slightly different arrangement, with fences on either side of the joint held in place by screw clamps. 

All the lengths were positioned exactly in place and held with other grips and everything was fixed to a Black and Decker Workmate. I then simply had to run a router between the fences to cut the joints.

Whilst it doesn't take long to read the description, accurately setting up the fences was key and took some time. The cutting was very much easier. The last job was to pre-drill holes for wood screws to aid the fixing of the joints.

Finally on Thursday afternoon, I was able to start to fix some of the lengths of the new framework in place. It always seems as though you are making progress, when the demolition is finished and installation begins.

I realised that I needed to complete the wiring for the lights and wall sockets so Friday was taken up with cutting channels in the walls to take the conduit and creating the holes for the pattress boxes to be installed. As this is going to be very much a working room, I am installing extra power outlets to cater for future needs. By the end of Saturday, I have the lighting conduits in place and the feed cables positioned where the room lights will go.

Anyone who has checked my weather station website these past three weeks will have seen that there has been no wind speed or direction information. 

The wireless anemometer had failed, so I sourced a replacement which arrived from the UK this week. As I needed to get some bales of insulation out of the store for the new ceiling, I also took the opportunity to bring out my big ladder and fit the new anemometer.

Whilst I had the ladder out I also put the two additional covers over my solar water heater tubes because the pressure release valve started lifting again this week. 

Three quarters of the tubes are now covered. It really is a very efficient piece of equipment. As Cvjetko keeps telling me, I could supply hot water to the village with my system!

Whilst in the store, I found a Broad Bordered Bee Hawk Moth, Hemaris fuciformis.

It had presumably been hibernating inside but was then unable to get out as I don't keep the doors open, to keep the cats out. 

Seeing them flying and feeding, you do not get to appreciate the beautiful colouring of this small moth.

The summer temperatures have arrived, with day time high's of +28ºC gradually edging up towards +30ºC. Daily irrigation of the trees and vegetables is called for. Because of the lack of winter rainfall, the soil is dust dry as far down as you can dig. The underlying rock strata is Karst limestone so effectively there is no water table - everything just drains away.

I generally irrigate in the evening, once the sun has dipped enough so that whatever water I put onto the soil does not immediately evaporate away. This gives the plants an opportunity to take up moisture overnight, ready for the next scorching day.

The Day Lilies are in flower at the moment

And everywhere there is a profusion of wild flowers by the sides of the roads and paths, your eye being drawn to the scarlet poppies.

I have been able to harvest the first raspberries this week, and jolly good they tasted. There are not many ready yet, but sufficient to have some with breakfast cereal.

All the birds are nesting now and when I was in Stari Grad this week, there were flocks of Swallows scooping mouthfulls of mud from around the puddles, to take back for their nests under the house eaves.

I still have a lot of work to do on the ceiling and have just realised that I need to install some Ethernet cables before I start putting the insulation in place. 

I need to plan where to run the cables!