Friday, August 15, 2008

Spiral stair central column - a once in a lifetime experiance

This was one of those challanges I like to prove I can do, but am glad I only have to do once.

The design calls for a central timber that the stairs can fix on to. BUT I wanted it to look good and so did Wendy. Therfore:

Thirteen slots to take the risers need to be cut in the square post 100 x 100mm at exactly the right angle. After much designing I made a jig to take my router, by unbolting and moving the matal slider frame round the pre-drilled holes I could get the right angles. The carrier for the router fitted both ways in the frame and was sized so that turning it through 180 degrees gave me the right width of slot. The frame was sized to give the length of slot with screws in the router carrier for fine adjustment.

It worked a treat.

Next I wanted an Acorn on the top to match the existing newels. None are available off the shelf so how to make one? and do really want to just stick one on the top.

NO make a 14 foot long lathe

By using a router to do the cutting I don't need to spin the timber fast. So one pivot on the garage door and another on the Workmate, a jig for the router and I'm all tooled up. Almost

Spining by hand is a little tricky while guiding the router so I made it into a foot operated pole lathe, with a motorbike inner tube as the return and tensioner a piece of rope and a bit wood for the treadle.

I was enjoying it so much I carried on and turned the complete newel.

Stairs - not the easiest design and harder construction

I set of spiral stairs has bee a fantasy of mine since childhood. So spiral stairs up to the loft conversionis was always on the cards. But bought ones would look naff in our house. The design brief was starting to come together.

Sprial Staircase, matching the existing stairs and meeting building regs.

This is first visual sketch after many elevations etc. prior to the final designs and full research into Building regs and a trip to library to consult the British Standards.

The regs and standard basically say its OK if you can get down it withou falling over and if you do fall, you dont fall far (and gives minimum measurements) and its not going to colapse. Ask if your intrested in more details.

The plan consits of a Sprial stair or you could call it four kite winders. Two sides having banisters and spindle matching the existing stairs. Two sides with streachers against the existing walls one side over the existing stairs panneled to match in timber. This gives us a cupboard space underneath to keep the wash basket etc.

The proper plans drawn up where aproved no problem.

Now to the building to the build of the staircase so it coinsides with the room being finished in time for christmas.

Electrics and negotions with Central Networks for a PME

This is a saga I'll condense, it could be useful for anyone else in the same position. I did loads of internet searching and found it crops up quite a bit. On this occasion I won and got the result I wanted.

The electrics for the loft have to be certified for the Building regs approval. The testing includes an Earth continuty reading at the consumer board - a ZE reading, this was too high to pass. Our system is a TNS, this relies on an earth supplied by the supply company. Ours had an earth strap bonded to the outer sheath of the incoming mains cable.
Two ways to rectify this
1. Fit a earth spike and have an RCB - not always reliable as the quality of the earth depends on the moisture content of the ground.
2. Fit a PME that uses the Neutral supply as Earth - The supply company has to fit this and wanted to charge £75.

Me not happy, my Electrician believed its the responsiblity of the supplier, and 17th edition regs backs his opinion.

Lots of negative/ blocking tactis from central networks lead me to get a case started with Energywatch. I then got escalated to specialist customer services team and my own very nice but not technically minded young lady to talk to.

After many calls and two visist from engineers I was still getting nowhere. The engineers just tested the supply and said its fine and I could apply for a PME to be fitted. I eventually got a goodwill gesture of a half price PME.

No Deal. I started getting tchnical again and explained they changed the wiring in road years back and fitted the rest of the street with PME, they missed us out and had left us with a potentially dngerous supply for the last 20 years. "Before privatization, thats not our responsibility" yeah that line didn't last long. I then got to talk to an engineering manager who understood the problem'ish.
He visted, had a look and without admitting liablity, fitted a PME in about twenty minutes to shut me up and close the case.

So persistance paid off, they could have done it earlier and saved us all alot of time and their expense.

Electrics where plain sailing after that, using a supply cable (from a previous shower instalation) to a two breaker box, one for sockets and one for lights. All works and up to spec.

The Finish Straight loft conversion

Not a sprint finish more of a fast marathon. As a result I didn't stop to take many photos. The only interesting bits where cladding the the wood between the double window and making the window ledge seat.

And the door to the storage part of the loft.

This is 50mm thick timber planed and edge glued to make a board. I fitted cross pieces on the back with slotted screw holes to acount for movement and keep it straight. It did fit beautifully, but it didn't 3 months latter. The timber has now shrunk across the width by over half an inch. Its still straight but I'll have to add some on at the hindge side so the latck will engage. Oh Well its all a learning curve, and now I've got piles of wood stacked up in the house to aclimatize and fininsh seasoning for the next prodjects.

Skirting Board, achitraves, door fitting, painting, varnishing and fitting flooring - all easy stuff but time consuming. Being a loft conversions there's a lot of angles.

Loft Electrics would have been simple - next post.

And some stairs and the room was habitable

Getting Plastered - Plastering the loft conversion

This is where I cheated. I now how long it takes me to plaster, so I asked around and found a local chap who would charge me £60 per day and take 2 days to do it. His other plus point was he could fit me in within two weeks.

To get that price I had to fit all the corner edge beading and buy all the materials. No problems.

For my loft conversion it took : 5 bags of Finish plaster , three rolls of sticky backed skim, many cups of tea and two days on the job. He did a great job for the price, so for a change I was happy with a trades man.

Plaster Boarding the Loft Conversion

I've not been abducted, I am still trying to finish this attic off, I have been doing bits - but slowly and I've not been keeping this blog up to date. In my defence I've started other projects and keeping busy.

So to plaster board. A pallet full delivered of the tail lift by Travis Perkins, in the road and rail, so I had to carry it all in and its heavy. Should be a two man job with the 8' x 4' sheets but I managed without it getting too wet and with little traffic disruption. I did enlist help getting it all up stairs to loft.

Fitting it is fun puzzle as I calculated quite precisely what I needed to have minimum joints. It eventually came together with very little scrap. Its fixed with plaster board screws 70mm on the loft ceiling to go through the insulation to the rafters.

TIP. Don't hold the screw with bare fingers whilst drill driving. Your thumb and forefinger will be full of tiny metal splitters.

Plaster board to the Loft conversion velux windows

Looking more like a room and getting neater all the time

Lots of screws - at about 300mm centres to hopefully avoid any cracks aphearing in the finished plaster . This pic shows the wiring in an labeled