Tiles and time trials

So this post was originally going to be an update on the roof that went up today but there’s quite a back story to be told first.  This tale starts last summer when I decided I wanted some reclaimed roof tiles rather than new ones; partly to save money, partly for aesthetics and partly because it seems a bit wasteful to buy everything new when there are perfectly good materials to be found second-hand.  I asked the designer for his opinion and he said it was fine to use reclaimed (it’s the membrane that keeps the water out).  So I started to keep an eye out and after a little while some came up for sale.  The seller had bought the house about a year previously and the surveyor had said a new roof was required but the bank had insisted it was a completely new roof (including new tiles) so all the old tiles were stacked up in his garden.

These red clay tiles are commonly known as ‘rosemary tiles’ but ‘Rosemary’ is actually a brand name and these were mainly ‘Acme’ although there were a few rogue Rosemarys and others in there too.  I’d thought that my roof was of the same sort of tiles which had just dirtied to a brown colour as you could see one or two red ones – but I discovered a few ‘Acme Sandstorm’ tiles in amongst the reclaimed ones and realised my tiles must have been originally brown and the red ones much have been replacements – this was confirmed when I later saw the original architect’s plans which specified ‘Acme Sandstorm’.

There are supposed to be 60 rosemary tiles per square metre so I’d estimated I’d need about 1200 plus wastage for my extension.  I have no idea how many I ended up with, except it was definitely more than that!

So back to last July – the guy was happy for me to take the tiles away bit by bit. The house was near the grandstand so most dry days I would drive there at lunchtime, take off my heels and load up the boot of my car with as many as I dared – I think it could handle about 100 at a time.  As each tile weighed about 1.2kg this was quite a weight in the back of a Yaris – you could feel every bump on the drive home.  After work, I’d go to my house and unload them all, sorting them into ‘good’, ‘seconds’ and ‘no good’ and piling them up the garden accordingly (as no driveway existed at this point it was quite a chore carting them up and down the path).  It would take me about 45 mins in my lunch break to drive and load plus about an hour sorting and unloading on the way home.  I once borrowed my Dad’s car to do the shifting and although that could handle double the number of tiles, the access at the house in Douglas was so narrow I couldn’t get Dad’s car near enough to make it worthwhile.  I figured the same would apply to borrowing or hiring any other sort of vehicle, therefore I had resigned myself to this ongoing ordeal with the Yaris.  As the task was very dependant on the weather, other commitments and whether the owner of the house was at home or not (he worked shifts and if he was home his car blocked the access) it wasn’t long before the nights started drawing in and I hadn’t moved all the tiles.

Walking past the van hire place one day I spotted a dinky pickup truck – it was a DFSK Big Cab Pickup.  I looked it up on the internet and it was actually narrower than my car, had a payload of almost 1 tonne and it was £34.80 to hire for one day (24 hours).  So it was just the ticket – I reckoned I could move all the rest of the tiles in one go with that.  By now it was November – I daren’t leave it any longer as the days were short enough but the forecast for the weekend wasn’t great – the Saturday was horrendous but Sunday was better.  The van hire place is not open on a Sunday and is only open until 4 o’clock on Saturday so the only way to hire it for use on Sunday (and only pay one day rental) is to collect it at 3:30pm on the Saturday – which means you have to return it at 3:30 on the Sunday.

So I picked it up on the Saturday – promptly stalled it and couldn’t get it started again (they had to come out of the hire place to help me) and then decided I might as well make a little use of it Saturday evening and went and got a load of loft insulation from B&Q.

Pickup truck filled with insulation

A note on the insulation.  I’d previously got a price from the builders’ merchant for EarthWool. I also encountered a very enthusiastic stockroom guy who, in answer to every question I put to him, irrespective of relevance, kept shouting “You need fields of insulation! Fields of insulation!” complete with the hip swinging and arm flailing actions of someone miming throwing rolls of insulation out in every direction, I was then dragged into the corner by his mate who said to me slyly “don’t listen to him – he’s old school, that’s not the way you do it these days”.  Right…  But I digress, the EarthWool is made by Knauf, who also make a product called Ekoroll, it appears specifically for supply to B&Q.  I looked up both the EarthWool 44 I’d been quoted for and Ekoroll on the Knauf website and they had identical properties, except the EarthWool came in a larger roll.  As B&Q had an offer on the Ekoroll, it worked out cheaper and being a smaller roll is easier for me to handle, so I went for that.

So back to November, the pickup truck and the roof tiles.  That pickup was a horror to drive, even empty it felt like driving a tin can, fully loaded it was all over the place and as the indicators were on the right-hand side instead of the left, so I kept sending the windscreen washers flying – actually that’s not quite true, what really happened is that I trained myself to use the right wand for the indicators so effectively that for the next couple of weeks I was constantly mistakingly sending the washers going in my car.

Well, the following morning, I got up as soon as it was daylight and drove the pickup to the house in Douglas, where had to wake the guy up to move his car as he’d forgotten I was coming.  It was quite obvious I’d completely underestimated the number of tiles still to be moved, it took me almost two hours to fill the pickup and there were still loads left.  Here’s the full truck and the remaining tiles.

Tiles in the pickup

So I drove back to Ballasalla, by which time it was 11am and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to manage to move all the tiles before the pickup had to be back at 4pm so I did whatever girl does when she’s got a problem and called Daddy.  Dad was 83 years old at the time and I wasn’t very keen on him moving tiles, so I asked him to come help sort them, if he could sort them into ‘good’, ‘seconds’ and ‘not good’, I’d do all the shifting. After about an hour or so, we realised we didn’t have time for the sorting and Dad said, “we need to pile them in the garden unsorted, go and get the next lot and then you can take the pickup back”.  So I conceded and that’s what we did, we managed to get the tiles unloaded, drive back to Douglas to load the next lot, then back to Ballasalla and unload.

As I watched my white-haired father stooping, bending and lifting all these tiles, I remembered turning 10 years old and my aunt informing me, that I wasn’t allowed to let Dad (at 62) carry me home from school on his shoulders any more as he was getting too old for it. Two decades on, I was feeling at lot more guilty.  We worked solidly, as fast as possible, without lunch or tea breaks.  After the second load, we took the pickup home to hose it down, then I took her to the petrol station to fill her up and returned it with 15 minutes to spare.

This is what the garden looked like at the end of that day.

Acme / Rosemary tiles in my garden

The good ones are stacked up against the house at the back.  The ‘seconds’ are in the foreground (you can see the wooden stick dividing them from the others).  The rest are all the unsorted ones. The ‘not good’ (aka broken) ones are not in the photo.

I reckoned we shifted between 1.5 and 2 tonnes of tiles that day.  Twice (into the pickup and then out of the pickup).  Even after all that there were still a couple of boot loads of tiles to be shifted in the following days and, theoretically, all the tiles to be sorted (I never did sort them).

Well, I was wrecked.  Absolutely wrecked, aching all over and bear in mind, I’d been moving these tiles for weeks so it’s not like I wasn’t in practice.  So how was Dad?

“I could have done another load” he said, as he pranced around making tea.
“Oh,” said I, “you’ll know about it tomorrow.”
First thing the following morning, I tentatively and sympathetically asked, “How are you?”
“You’re a gutless wonder!” was his only response.  He was, needless to say, absolutely fine.


Building Work (Weeks 10 to 12) – Extension

As I’m three (almost four) weeks behind on the building work updates and there are lot of little things changed all over the house I thought I’d split the posts by topic rather than chronologically – this post is for the extension.

Finishing off the front wall – here’s the window appearing. Window appearing


Did you ever make lego houses as a child and after a couple of rows realise you’d not left the gap for the door or window.  I’m glad that doesn’t happen to the pros.

Brick work up


The holes left by the needles have been completely filled.

Filled needle holes


The holes at the front were also filled and the brick sill put in.



Brick Window Sill and filled holes


They installed Type E Cavitrays which are to stop damp coming down the wall when an external wall becomes and internal wall.  Here’s a thrilling installation animation.  Also bits of wood for the roof (I have no idea what this is called).

Type E Cavitrays


Roof trusses up and cavitrays finished.

Roof Trusses and Type E Cavitrays

Trusses from rear

Roof trusses from side

Building Work (Weeks 8 & 9) – Plasterboard, Niches and Corbels

So I’m getting lazy and lumping two weeks into one post.  It’s also going to be quite a short one as, although work has been happening at the house – it’s not stuff that makes for interesting photographs for example – pipes!

Pipes and back of barbican basinThese are the pipes going upstairs for the central heating, the hot and cold water (I think) and the waste for the shower and the basin (that’s the back of the Barbican basin)

At the start of week 8 a whole load of blue (moisture resistant) plasterboard appeared and my open plan house started to get segregated up.  

Here’s the downstairs loo.

Boxed in WC Boxed in WC with propped up Barbican basin

After visiting all the tile shops again and getting many tile samples delivered, I found the tiles I wanted and called up to ask for a delivery price to the Isle of Man – £130. Yeah, so instead I decided to go for some discontinued ones that one of the showrooms had priced at £10/m2. I had to decide the tiles now because I’m having a shower niche put in and Dave (the builder / joiner) said it should be perfectly lined up with the tiles, so perfectly that I had to decide how many mm of grout I was going to have – arrgh, decisions! The tiles are 248mm by 398mm and ideally I wanted them laid vertically but I measured out all the surfaces and it just wouldn’t have worked as well as horizontally (ironically the tiles I actually wanted were large format 100mm by 300mm matt flat metro style tiles which would have been laid horizontally). Anyway, for the niche, I was just going to have it one tile high (and accept I was not going to be able to buy the ‘bulk saver’ shampoo bottles) but by the time it was tiled inside, it would have been quite a bit smaller and so might not have fitted even the regular shampoo bottles, Dave suggested making it two tiles high and putting in a shelf – which sounded great until I then couldn’t decide if it should be positioned a tile higher or a tile lower. So he suggested three tiles! At this point I probably didn’t need to shout ‘yeah, let’s go wild!’ – but at least a decision was made and three it is!

Here we go, carefully modelled by some shower gel left by the previous tenants and a foam gun.

Shower niche

N.B. I opted for the moisture resistant plasterboard (painted with waterproofing sealant) rather than the uber waterproof stuff – as the niche is likely to be the point of failure anyway.

The rest of the bathroom got boxed out at the same time. The previous bath was an imperial bath (1675mm) which had been channelled into the wall to fit in the space (which was 1650mm). The one 1650mm bath I liked was made of steel and therefore the tap-holes (which I needed as you can’t wall mount taps in a solid wall) had to be drilled by the manufacturer into the enamel – which meant the lead time and the cost were pretty excessive. So, as the walls were in a terrible state after I’d removed all the tiles, it was decided to box it all out to make it 1600mm wide (a slightly more standard bath size). I didn’t really take any decent photos of this (it’s pretty hard now the room isn’t open plan) but here you can see the boxing in around two of the windows (as well as the new pipes for the basin and bath).

boxed in bathroom

In Week 9 the brickies returned and the extension started to grow. On Friday, I got there after work to see they’d got creative and put some little corbels in to emulate the ones at the soffits 🙂

Extension half up

Rear Corbel

Looks ace, doesn’t it?