EEC 25, 30th September 2005

Sunday and Monday I laid out some blocks around the foundation area, to make sure the foundation was the right size for the blocks. I'd said to Jean Pierre I thought 30 cms wide would be enough for the foundation, but he said 40 cm would be better. So I'd marked the outside line for the foundation 10 cms outside my planned line for the outer edge of the blocks, that would be for a 20 cm wide block with 10 cm to spare each side.

I've been brought up thinking in inches and feet and whilst I understand metric measures I don't visualise them as second nature. So it was only after the man with the digger had gone that I realised he had actually made the foundation 30 cms wide. Of course, I realised that before I ordered the concrete for the foundation, and ordered to appropriate quantity, but now it meant, working to my lines, there was 10 cm of foundation to spare on the outside, 20 cms for the blocks, then nothing to spare on the inside.

Now the blocks are nominally 50 cm long but when you hold a ruler up against them they are 49 cms. I can allow cm between blocks, but 1 cm is too much. So I laid them all out allowing cm between, smaller even than the minimum lines for the foundation. They fitted. Phew!

On Tuesday it rained. They delivered the 2 garage doors and 500 building blocks in a period when it wasn't raining. Here are the blocks. 10 tons of them. 20 Kg (45 lbs.) each remember.

Of course the lorry delivering them had a super crane to unload, but I didn't think to take a picture! The garage doors I put in Andre's barn.

Tuesday the man didn't come to level the piles of earth in front of the house. It rained.

Wednesday the man didn't come to level the piles of earth in front of the house. It rained. With all the rain the dug out area for the floor flooded and it was obvious that this area was nothing like level, there was a lake on one side.

Thursday the man didn't come to level the piles of earth in front of the house. I phoned Jean-Pierre. He said because of all the rain his machine had been stuck but it would be along next Tuesday, would I ring that morning at 0730 to make sure. 0730 is a touch early for me but what the heck! I drove in my car to Tarbes to Brico Depot and bought more stuff, including a wheelbarrow and a couple of electric heaters for the house, in case it gets cold.

When I got home I unloaded and realised I'd taken out the parcel shelf and left it propped up next to the wheelbarrows at Brico Depot. I hot footed it back, 50 km each way, found the shelf, and on the way back got stopped by the police in a random check. They couldn't find anything wrong, except I had left my driving licence at home, so I had to hang around while they wrote out a zillion papers for me to produce it in Mirande within the next 5 days.

Friday it stopped raining and the lake went away leaving lots of mud on the concrete foundation, I washed all this away, since I couldn't build on top of a layer of mud, and took accurate levels around the foundation. One side was 10 cm (4") lower than the other side so I built up some shuttering, and on Saturday set my concrete mixer to work and filled in the foundations level.

Sunday I set to work and laid the first level of blocks. Over the last few days I'd been gradually shifting barrow loads of soil to fill in some hollows in the garden, I'd probably moved about 20 barrow loads in total, and planned to move about the same on Monday.

However, Monday morning about 9 am a huge machine arrived to level the piles of soil. The one that was promised for Tuesday. I forgot to take a photo of the machine also but here's the result, which is pretty good. He pulled my telephone line off the wall but fortunately the line did not snap, so after he left all I had to do was fix it back on the wall.

I didn't do a lot the rest of the week. I collected my lawnmower from the repairer, now it's going brilliantly, got a new lease of life, so I cut the grass. I moved more soil around - there is still a touch too much in front of the house, and went to the dentist, twice. I've got a painful spot under a tooth, the dentist had to pull a bridge off to get to it, and had to break the bridge to get it off. With bits and pieces, a new bridge is going to cost me over 1500 Euros. Makes you fed up. I'm working like mad building a garage to save not much more than that, and a big chunk of the money I save just goes to pay for piddling little dental bridge.

I've filled in more hollows in the lawn, and thought a lot about how I'm going to put the floor in the garage. Looks like someone drove over the lawn some long while ago judging by some of the hollows I filled in.

One thing is helping keep my spirits up. Not that they are noticeably flagging. Over the years, with a couple of biggish houses, I've collected a huge drinks cupboard. I've been able to say to guests, what would you like to drink? Pretty well, whatever they wanted, I had it. Now, with a small house, I don't have the space for all this. Nor the visitors. So I'm having to drink it myself. Not all at once you understand, just for example a glass of real Russian Vodka as aperitif, I've no idea what it is called, the label is in Russian, but it's delicious. I've been keeping it for a special occasion. Well, that's now. Only 2 more bottles of Vodka and heaven know what else still to go. A tiny glass of Irish Mist was superb tonight as digestive. I'm not really having to force myself.

Because of the way the foundations were dug, my first layer of blocks will start below ground level. I've been thinking about this, and realise I can't just fill in the earth next to this first layer, the blocks will just absorb the moisture. So I will need to render the surface of this first layer of blocks before I fill in the soil. I've also been wondering what type of material to use under the concrete garage floor, and how to ensure that this is level. My first plan was to use to top of my first layer of blocks as the level marker for the concrete floor but on one side a couple of blocks climb a touch (about 1 cm) higher than the rest of the row. For the building this doesn't matter, I can level out in the next layer, but I don't want a bump in the floor.

So. 5 cubic metres of stones were delivered to make the base of the concrete floor to the garage. That's 10 tons of them, to be spread and levelled out. That's a lot of shovelling. Here I've nearly finished.

Each shovel full is, on average, about 3 Kg. That means about 3000 shovel fulls. After a while you think you'll never finish. But here I have actually finished. All spread, and level.

The strips are expansion joints for the concrete floor, they also serve as markers to make the floor level. The strips are different colours because I bought them at different times from different suppliers. You can't really see on this photo but on top of the gravel, under the plastic strips, there is a metal reinforcing mesh. It doesn't show a lot better on the next photo.

I've got the strips level, by propping them up with stones, but I need to make that firmer, so I plan to bed them in some puddles of concrete which I will mix in my mixer, before I order the ready mix concrete for the floor.

It's a little difficult estimating how much concrete I will need. If the stones were all flat I would need 7.8m x 5.3m x 10 cms deep which is 4.13 m3. But it is hard to tell how much will sink in between the stones. So I will order 5 m3. I need to extend the concrete path in front of the house by about 4 metres, so I have built up the shuttering for that, if there is spare that will absorb about 0.25 m3. Any excess over that I will just spill above the foundations outside the doors to strengthen the entrance. If there isn't any spare, no big deal. I'll just mix up more in my mixer.

Best regards

David Barker
Mirande, France

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