The Summerhouse Story
27 AUGUST 2012
Despite posting a rather resplendent picture of my summerhouse in my blog of 6 August, the story is not yet complete. For as any interior decorator will tell you, no building can count itself finished until it has been properly kitted out. And I’m not talking here just about the window panes which last time I spoke to you had not been done, but also those important fixtures and fittings which turn an empty shell into a comfortable living space. We’re shortly going away on holiday to America (a trip that has been long in the making) and I am anxious to sign off on The Summerhouse Story prior to departure so this is the final chapter before I lock the place up and set off for The States.
You may remember that in the very first episode (11 July) I reported how the original kit of bits had arrived damaged and that I had been forced to seek replacements. Although this was an inconvenience at the time, it has turned out to be a blessing – the new parts came within days but the old (damaged) pieces were left with me. We had been looking for a table for the interior but finding one of the right shape and size was proving difficult. Ever the resourceful opportunist, I decided to try and construct one of our own out of the leftovers.
I’ve already mentioned my love affair with wood. I’m never more at home than when I’m in my garden, preferably in the sunshine, sawing up a bit of planking (much to the embarrassment of my wife and children, I’ve even been known to take my shirt off) and tinkering about like this is a pleasure rather than an imposition. So here I am, doing what I like best ...
But to get down to more practical matters. The damaged parts were actually flooring and having cut away the affected areas, the rest was ideal for a table top. I carefully broke apart what was left so as to leave usable battens to complete and strengthen the structure, then fashioned a set of legs from some old 3”x3” fence posts cut to size. The finished article comes in two sections which can be assembled together with a pair of chromium steel bolts and butterfly nuts. The basic section is meant for general use while the extension can be added when we have guests. The end result looks a bit rough and ready but is totally in keeping with the inside of the building and, being custom made, fits the space exactly. You can imagine how pleased I was to find some obsolete matching kitchen chairs in the loft over my garage ...
So much for furniture. As to fittings, we installed a set of bamboo cane blinds to the side windows then added some shelving (courtesy of some more of the leftover flooring). We thought about an electrical connection for a power supply but consciously decided against, preferring to rely instead on candles for lighting - which although sounding romantic, don’t actually give off much light. We looked in camping outlets for battery powered lamps but found them ugly and it seemed we were stumped until my wife came across this basket weave frame which takes a large candle and can be suspended from the ceiling – literally brilliant.
Our arrangements were put to the test last Monday when my brother-in-law and his family joined us. The weather was kind and we were able to eat alfresco on the patio. But at about 8.30 it began to get chilly so we took our coffee in the summerhouse. It had been hot during the day and when I opened the door we were greeted by a pleasant smell, not unlike that of a sauna. We lit the candles and the seven of us settled in for the evening. Warmed by the heat of the candles and the contents of a decent bottle of whisky, we were still there close to midnight ...
But now that’s just a memory and The Summerhouse is locked until we return from America. But I’m looking forward to coming back and re-opening it and enjoying that smell of warm wood once again. Technology willing, I’m even planning to take down The Alhambra as my banner picture and replacing it with a palace of my own ...
6 AUGUST 2012
GOING FOR GOLD – THE SUMMERHOUSE OLYMPICS
I see that in my last blog on this subject I casually mentioned that in the event of bad weather preventing me from working on my Summerhouse, I would be forced indoors to watch the Olympics. I made it sound as if it were a second rate option, something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Had I known then what the Olympics were to hold in store, I might not have been so off-hand.
I must confess that I had been indifferent about the whole thing. I think I had been determined not to be influenced by the hype that inevitably surrounds such affairs – I was not going to be dragooned into cheering my head off simply because we’d spent millions of pounds in order to try and impress the rest of the world. I have to say that I feel a little ashamed of that attitude now. On Tuesday I was lucky enough to attend an Olympic event (women’s football in Newcastle) and catch something of the atmosphere. The next few days may prove me wrong (disaster in these things is only ever a moment away) but after the wonderfully uplifting opening ceremony and the triumphs of Super Saturday, it would be churlish of me not to admit to feeling distinctly patriotic at the moment. Backed by the stunning performance of our competitors, Coe and company have done a brilliant job. I sincerely hope I haven’t spoken too soon, but if I were David Cameron I’d think seriously about calling a General Election ...
Meanwhile, after Super Saturday we have a mundane Monday and following these momentous events it seems rather flat and anti-climactic to be talking to you about building a Summerhouse, but I promised I would finish what I’d started. Over the course of the last two Sundays, in-between running in and out of the house to dodge the showers and keep up with the sport, I have managed to complete the structure and we now have a habitable building.
The first task was to prepare the roof panels and we decided to tack the roofing felt into position before erecting them. The idea of clambering onto the roof to do this afterwards seemed rather daunting. The instructions told us to keep the felt flush to the left hand side of each panel and overlapping on the right. Having done this, we were then able to fit them into position clockwise (there are eight panels in all).
We don't have any photos of us doing this unfortunately as it's definitely a two-man job.As you can see, once all the panels are in place and screwed together, it leaves the overhanging felt to be trimmed off and battened down.
The centrepiece of the roof is a square wooden cap surmounted by an acorn finial (very classy) but I wasn’t happy with how watertight this arrangement would prove, so I made an extra piece of felt out of scraps and fitted it below the cap to provide additional protection. With waterproofing firmly in mind, I then sealed the joints in the roof felt with a bitumen based mastic – this accounts for the vertical black lines you can see on the finished roof.
My wife (bless her) initially objected, saying it would look like a circus tent, but I think the outcome is actually pretty neat and unobtrusive. It’s a small price to pay to keep the place dry inside. As to whether it works, we’ll have to wait for the first serious downpour to find out ...
Then it was a question of tidying up a few odds and ends and getting down to the job of completing the painting. The picture you see below is not quite the finished article (if you look carefully, you’ll see I’ve still got to install the glass panels in the window frames) but we’re pretty much there.
The original colour theme of my blog was Blue. Now it’s time to change that and I think we should borrow unashamedly from the Olympics. So, how does it rate so far? Does it get Bronze, Silver or Gold? Let me know via the contact page.
Personally, I’m going for Gold ...
27 JULY 2012
FIFTY SHADES OF (SUMMERHOUSE) BLUE
The last few days have been hectic as I have prepared for and then implemented my 2 day KDP Select Free promotion for Feria. At times I’ve felt as if I’ve been strapped to the chair in front of my computer and that I would never escape. But I’ve survived to tell the tale – which I will do in full on Monday when I’ve had a chance to assess the results. In the meanwhile, I promised I would update you on the progress of my Summerhouse project so I am taking a welcome break from Twitter and returning to something less frenetic.
I’ve entitled this post 50 Shades Of (Summerhouse) Blue – not because things have gone wrong, in fact I’ve made reasonable progress this week – but it seemed a natural progression from Summerhouse Blues and Summerhouse Bluer. I find there’s something of the journalist in me and I certainly wasn’t going to let the truth stand in the way of a good headline.
If I’ve been frustrated in any way, it’s because things take so long to get done - although that’s partly my own fault. The Summerhouse project is a Sunday job, something I’m supposed to relax into after the demands of the week, and I have no desire to rush at it. It’s not a chore, it’s something I enjoy so I want to savour every moment. I must confess to a certain fascination with working with wood. I love its touch, its feel, its smell and I find I’m never happier than when I’m out in the garden, in the sunshine, building something out of it. In my pending drawer I have a synopsis I wrote seven years ago for a novel that’s based on this – one day I’ll fetch it out and start work on it.
But I mustn’t detain you, let’s get on to matters in hand. As you will see from the picture gallery, I’ve managed to erect the frame. It’s quite important to get this done in a day in order to ‘tie’ everything together and create a rigid structure – you don’t want to leave the sides flapping about if there’s a strong wind. The panels are quite weighty and awkward to hold so this is a job for two people and I obviously had help (thanks, son). We began at the back and worked our way forward and I’ve repeated the photo of the base so as to give you the complete picture. Although you can’t tell from the photographs, I had actually pre-painted the panels at the back before assembling them, knowing that once they were in position they would be difficult to get at. Each panel took an hour to paint. That’s why it’s all so slow.
This weekend, I’m going to try and put the roof on. Fingers crossed we get some good weather – if not, I’ll be stuck in front of the Olympics ...
19 JULY 2012
Hello and welcome to Episode Two of The Summerhouse Story, the continuing saga of wood and woes.
Firstly, the good news. Since my last blog post on the subject, I’m pleased to report that the replacement parts have arrived – just as promised, only this time delivered as a huge Fedex parcel rather by way of a lorry and a crane. Hats off to the suppliers who have done exactly what they said they would do. One of the signs of a good company is not that they don’t make mistakes – that’s impossible to avoid from time to time – but how quickly they put them right. This is in stark contrast to the providers of my new combi microwave/oven which has broken down for the second time in eighteen months and no engineer in sight for three weeks. Needless to say we won’t be buying or recommending their equipment again. Meanwhile, back at the Summerhouse ...
So Saturday afternoon was spent unpacking the parcel, carefully examining the parts and re-checking everything against the (now corrected) parts list. The idea being that with a bit of luck we could commence the assembly work on Sunday. To start with, things looked promising – a clear blue sky, a light breeze – although the ground was sodden from previous downpours (this was the week the Great Yorkshire Show was cancelled because of the weather) and we were obliged to use the cardboard packaging as ground cover to stop us ruining the lawn.
We began by figuring out how best to assemble the floor (see the pictures above). We needed a flat, level surface and decided that the best place would be upside down on the concrete base we’d already had constructed. My next picture shows this and gives you an idea of the size of the plot and the location of where we were working. You might notice how I’ve dismantled part of the back fence so that once the Summerhouse is in position (we won’t be able to move it once it is) I can gain access to the back for maintenance etc. I may also have to do something about that overhanging tree ...
Now the bad news. Having reached this stage and completed our initial objective, in a self-congratulatory mood we broke for a cup of coffee. We returned half an hour later, only to find that the sky had darkened in our absence and it had begun to rain. Taking our cue from Wimbledon, we rushed to get the covers on (in our case a piece of old tarpaulin from the shed) and went back inside to wait for the weather to clear. It’s now Thursday and we’re still waiting. To be continued ...
Meanwhile, if there's anyone out there with a Summerhouse story or pictures they'd like to share, post a comment in the box at the bottom of this page and we'll see what you've got.
11 JUL 2012
Those who have read my Twitter profile will know that I’ve been intending to build a Summerhouse. At first I simply put the thought out there just as an aside but the idea seems to have attracted some attention and I have been asked to provide photographs. I don’t do Twitterpics (it’s a skill I have yet to master) so I have decided to incorporate the project into my blog so that the full story can be told.
The original intention was to add an interesting feature to our pretty but otherwise bland garden. It was also meant to act as a refuge from the incessant stream of phone calls and emails that beset occupation of the house and give us a haven of peace. Up until a few years ago, I had a shed that served this purpose but with the growth of family and children, it gradually became a storehouse for bikes, garden furniture and the detritus of modern life that could not be accommodated elsewhere. The children have left home now but their legacy remains and it has ceased to fulfil that function. So when it was suggested that we invest in a Summerhouse, it seemed like a good idea.
We began by having a base constructed of concrete slabs. Had I known then that photos would be required, I would have taken some - but I did not and you’ll just have to use your imagination for the time being. You can build straight onto grass but you would need to mount the job onto wooden bearers to avoid the floor lying in any standing water and rotting the timbers. This is fine provided the ground is level but it does allow vermin to bury into the soil underneath. When we were told about this, we naturally opted for the concrete ...
We then ordered our preferred building from an online supplier. Even though I say so myself it struck us as rather magnificent – an 8x8 ft octagonal beast of a thing complete with double-fronted French windows and a sloping roof topped by an acorn finial. It arrived as a flat-pack on Monday morning. I say flat-pack (it’s self-assembly) but there’s not very much flat about it – it must weigh a ton as it came on a lorry and had to be off-loaded onto my drive with a crane.
Yesterday afternoon I got round to unpacking it, only to find that some of the parts are damaged. These I do have pictures of (see below) in case there’s a problem with the supplier. I’ve phoned them and they’ve promised replacements by the end of the week. Not only that but they’d also enclosed a parts list for an 8x6 ft oval shaped version ... But heigh-ho, such is life.
So now we have to wait a few more days for the bits to arrive - by which time the weather might have cleared up and allow us access to the garden. In the meanwhile, it’s like the song says –
Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do
There ain’t no cure for the Summerhouse Blues ...
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