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Replacing the roof and building Burra a home!
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We have a couple of friends who are helping us replace our roof, so I'm taking a load of photos to share.

The first job is to get the old roof tiles off.

We ended up with a chain of us removing tiles and handing them along and down to the floor.

I think I have the job of moving that lot... Some of them are damaged and there are a few missing, but we can't find any that are exactly the same. Years ago there were many tile manufacturers, and each one had their own pattern, but now most of them are closed down so it's almost impossible to get replacement tiles that fit. We decided to buy new tiles and keep the old ones for sheds and donkey shelters.

The geckos aren't terribly happy at having their habitat disturbed. I hope they don't all move out - I've got kind of fond of them.

Now the tiles are off, it's time to get rid of all the old timbers.

Not a bad morning's work! I'm putting my feet up for a while.

More photos to follow over the next few weeks.
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We've had a delivery of sand, new roof tiles, and a couple of drainage pipe thingies. I think this is the biggest vehicle that has ever braved our track!

I think we're going to be busy for a while...
Thanks for the photos, looks like fun.

Were you living in there and had to move out temporarily, or just now rehabbing? I would love to have a structure like that to work with.

Joe Braxton wrote:
Were you living in there and had to move out temporarily, or just now rehabbing? I would love to have a structure like that to work with.

It was a bit complicated. We bought the farm then my old uncle wanted to move to Portugal with us and as he was disabled and pretty well bedridden we ended up blowing the last of our money on a little house in the village (a 'proper' one with 'mod cons' like water and electricity and separate rooms!) to look after him in, which we then duly did for the next seven years. Now he's gone we're picking up where we left off seven years ago, but we still have the village house we're living in (or at least sleeping in) until the farm is ready.

I can hardly believe it's all finally starting to happen. Kind of exciting, even after all these years.
LOVING these photos. How old is this structure?
When we bought it ten years ago, the seller, who was in his early nineties at the time, said that he was born in it and that his parents had built it. So it's over a hundred years old, maybe a hundred and ten.
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We finally got all the old tiles out of the way. And yes my back *is* aching! The thought of having to lift just as many new ones up onto the new roof makes it ache even more.

This is the 'name plate' for the farm. Joao Cardoso was the old man we bought it from. We promised him we'd look after his farm for him, and hopefully he would approve of what we're doing. Canapi Tosa means something like 'place of the canopy' - sounds to me like it wants me to get that forest garden going!

This is the back of the house, with a good view of the way the stones are laid, the old roof timbers, and the compost toilet in the background. We didn't really allow for people standing here when we sited the toilet...

This is a 'cross section' of one of the stone walls surrounding the farm. The walls of the house are built in the same way with larger stones to each side and smaller stones, rubble and mud used to fill the gaps in the middle.

This is one of the gable ends (is that the right term?) - all the small stones and mud need to be cleaned out.

Then a nice skim of cement put on top to stabilise the surface.

More later!

What a fantastic house!

So.......hows the roof looking?
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Joe Braxton wrote:So.......hows the roof looking?

We're getting there!

We've been concentrating on getting a solid, level layer of concrete around the top of the walls, ready to receive the timbers and hopefully enable us to build a nice, square roof that the tiles will fit well on.

Here, they are making sure the very top is level, ready for the central beam.

Then, with the help of the straightest of the old bits of eucalyptus that they could find, they are checking how much they're going to have to build the walls up. There seems to be quite a gap!

Here's the view from the 'inside'. They've had build it up quite a bit. You also have a good view of the 'notch' that will receive the smaller beams.

And a couple of rows of blocks to raise the front wall to the same level.

They put shuttering up to help with building up the wall at the other end.

The new roof timbers should be being delivered tomorrow. There are rumours that the lorry will arrive complete with some sort of device for lifting the main beams up into place, which is going to make things a whole lot easier!

If not, I'm really not too sure how we're going to get them up there, but I'm sure we'll figure something out.

Did the roof timbers arrive !! How is it all going ?

Looking forward to a coffee, chat and tour, once it is all done.
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They arrived! The promised device to help lift them into place turned out to be the timber-merchant's dad, but at least he had a lifetime's experience of how to manhandle beams into place.

I have a mountain of photos to sift through and sort out into some sort of coherent story, but suffice to say that I think we're going to end up with a roof to be proud of
Burra, are the walls dry stacked stone or am I just not seeing the mortar in the photos?

Thanks, and looking forward to further installments!
No mortar, just a bit of mud to help glue things together, especially in the core of the walls, and a bit more to 'point' between the stones, with a few splinters of slate in the mix for good measure. It's been standing over a hundred years so I guess they knew what they were doing.
Bumpty, bump.........
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OK Joe, I get the hint!

Here's the lorry with all the wood on it.

The owner of the mill, Cesar, is up on the lorry. The wood is Douglas Fir, which I think is pretty well the same as Oregon Pine. It's grown in the Serra d'Estrelas, about fifty miles north, and very near to Cesar's mill. He was most insistent that I admired the colour of the wood, and assured that it would not only last me out, but also my son, and his sons. Technically, as it's a pine, it's classified as a softwood, but it's actually harder than a lot of hardwoods and is highly prized for roof timbers.

Cesar is lifting one end from on the back of the lorry, and taking the lead with the other end is the promised 'something to help lift the beams into place', otherwise known as Cesar's dad. He's well into his seventies and seemed to enjoy every moment.

Cesar and his dad are up on the top of the wall hanging onto some rope looped around the end of the beam, the rest of the men are on lifting duty, and I'm under orders to keep taking photos.

Woohoo! One end is up!

Now we have to maneuver it into place - it has to drop into the 'slot' further up the wall.

Like this...

Now we'd better double check the measurements - here you are dad, grab this...

OK, son.

I think he must have been doing this stuff all his life - I never saw a man look so happy dancing along the top of a wall...

It's a bit long - we're gonna have to saw a bit off. You gotta chainsaw?

Dad seems happy to show off his chainsaw skills, too!

We just need a few extra men to take the weight of the beam...

...then we can lift this end into place.

That's as far as we can lift - better climb up that ladder son and throw a rope round it...

...while we get a scaffold into place and push it up with a big stick.

Nearly there...

And she's home!

More to follow - have to sort through a mountain of photos!

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Gorgeous timbers! Mighty workers!

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For the second and third beams, we employed a different technique, involving sliding them up the front of the house and up into place. You need a rope looped around one end of the beam to help lift and guide it into place, controlled by at least one person on top of the wall.

Then a few more people to lift from lower down.

Once one end is high enough up, you can start to lift the other end up and onto the front of the wall.

We'd had to build the front wall up a bit and the cement was still pretty new so we used one of the sawn off ends as a cushion to stop the beam damaging it.

The walls are seriously thick and behind those blocks, we'd built up with a load of cement, which we'd put pins through into the wall below to try to persuade it to stay in place. The beams have to be lifted over the pins for now - we'll cut them off in a few days.

This is going to be the top beam so we need to slide it all the way up.

That's about it!

Apparently it is compulsory at this point to test the beam by walking along it. I guess he's been doing this so long I shouldn't worry. Cesar looks quite resigned to seeing dad performing. I guess he's grown up with it...

Right, it's time to tackle beam number three.

Up she goes, the same as last time.

Dad's shouldering more than his fair share of the weight - I think he really loves his job!

Gently onto the cushion...

There - that's safe for a minute.

Once we've got our breath back, life her over the pins...

Now get this end ready to drop into place...

Then quickly swap ends and drop this end into position...

Back to this end again and lower her down gently...

Is it all done?

Well done, boys!

More to follow!
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It's been a while since I've updated. Sorry about that, but my health seemed to plummet downhill and then I ended up with pneumonia. I'm on the mend now, and have even taken a week off from the book promotions to get my breath back. So I thought it was a good time to catch up with this thread.

Once the three main beams were in place, Cesar and his dad helped us unload, then left us to it.

The next step is to get all the cross-beams in place. These are smaller and shorter than the main beams, and are notched at the end to fit them into place exactly.

Here's a close-up of the notch.

We want short uprights between the cross-beams and the central main-beam, to help spread the weight evenly, and they need to be cut exactly to size.

Then the rafters can be put in place.

And it's gradually starting to take shape!
Looks wonderful! and I like the windows too.
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Well I finally seem to have got my breath back after my 'pneumonia', so I guess I'd better catch up with this thread a bit and let you all know what's been going on.

Remember those pins? I'd misunderstood them. They weren't supposed to be cut off, they were for bolting the rafters down into place, like this...

Now all the rafters are in place, it's time to put a layer of sterling board - I think a lot of you call it OSB. I'd always loved this stuff since I was a child and it was a teenage dream to build a house out of it. Natural wood would have looked better, but this stuff was much cheaper and easier to put up so we compromised a bit. I rather like the look of it still, even though my tastes have changed somewhat.

There was rather a lot of cutting involved and we were glad of the circular saw.

It's starting to look like a real roof!

We put glass-fibre tape over the joints, and then painted bitumen over the tape to try to stop any leaks.

Then a layer of roofmate extruded polystyrene insulation. I would have liked cork, but the price really was a bit excessive, even in a cork-producing part of Portugal.

This is how it looked from the inside. We'd also decided to knock out those loose stones and make a window. I think it had originally been a door to the top part of the house. As far as I can tell, this house would have housed animals on the bottom and people up above. I think this was originally a door, but the bottom half had been filled in with stone at some point, and the top half rather roughly filled in later.

The boys are moving the tiles a bit closer, ready for putting up on the roof.

Did the roof get finished?
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Oh dear, I really am behind with this thread...

Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes, the tiles are all ready to go up on the roof.

My health had gone a bit crazy by this point, and we also just happened to have a couple of wwoofers contact us after being let down by a host, so the poor things turned up on a crazy hot day, collapsed in exhaustion in the caravan, and woke up to a day of learning how to tile an entire roof before sundown. I feel a bit guilty about that, but at least they had some real-life experience.

The edge tiles are drilled and screwed into place to discourage them from blowing off during heavy winds.

Some tiles have to be cut to get them to fit right. Angle grinders are useful for this job!

Let's see if the wwoofers know how to put scaffolding together...

Looks like they've mastered it!

And that's not a bad day's work. For some reason the didn't want to stay more than a day or two. I think we might have worn them out...

The ends need a bit of filling in to make them weather-proof.

And we invested in some guttering so we can start to catch water for use in the house.

We treated the exposed wood with linseed oil and beeswax. It really brought the colour out, too.

My son spent a few days overcoming his fear of heights doing that job...

By now I really should have done something about my health and I made what could of been the worst decision of my life. Suffice to say that not everyone who claims to be a doctor really is, so if you start to get chest pains don't necessarily believe the guy that puts you on a special diet and gives you some herbs and tells you that you'll be ok. Go get checked out by someone you know really is a doctor. But I'm kinda trusting and believed him. So we carried on with the work inside the house. At least, I popped over most days and had a peek. I was in too much pain by then to do much else.

We'd already rough-plastered the walls, and now they have another coat and a lick of white paint.

It's starting to look kinda shiny!

Clay floor tiles seemed the obvious choice for the floor.

Some more supports have gone up ready for a kitchen work surface.

A new base for the woodburner to bring it up to the most convenient height.

That actually looks like a kitchen!!!

And by this point I'd spent six weeks in extreme pain and finally summoned the last of my strength to insist that I didn't give a damn what I was told and I wanted to be taken to hospital. I then spent a week in intensive care as a team of real doctors worked some pretty hefty medical magic on me and managed to pull me through from near death and the biggest collection of blood clots in the lungs that they'd ever seen in anyone who survived. Then another two weeks learning to walk again, while the boys worked like crazy in an attempt to get the place ready for me to come home to.

The got the cooker fitted, and some shelves under the work surface.

Somewhere to hang some kitchen utensils.

They put the woodburner back in and bought a sofa so I'd have somewhere to sit or lie down when I got home.

And then a lovely touch - they got a made-to-measure granite window-shelf made for me. The bought me the photos of this while I was in hospital and I'd stare at it for hours wishing I could come home and stroke it.

It's local granite and they charged €60 for this, including all that cutting to shape. Worth every cent in my opinion!

Here's a close-up.

Time for a new door, too. Here's the bottom half of my new stable door.

I just love it. It looks like it dropped in from a fairy tale.

And a distinct improvement on the old metal thing.

That's the top of the door under construction.

Then the boys went shopping and my son chose this bed for me. He was getting a bit overprotective by this point, and having done all that oiling of the woodwork he kinda knew that I liked nice chunky bits of wood in rich golden hues, so he insisted that this was the bed I was to come home to when they finally released me out of hospital.

And some matching cupboards, which double as a room-divider.

And so I came home. Probably not the way I expected to finally move into my little farm, but it was somehow the biggest relief and biggest accomplishment of my life.
BEAUTIFUL. And I'm so glad you made it home to this lovely little enclave.
Second biggest accomplishment. That young fellow seems to have turned out pretty well.

I had no idea you were so sick, physically I mean. Did you reduce your duties around here while in hospital ? You seem to be always posting something.
Back to the roof --- Douglas fir beams are the best. The thread title says it's about a new roof. It looks like a whole new house, with the beautiful stone preserved.
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Thanks for the updates. Glad to see both you and the house are doing well.
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Second biggest accomplishment. That young fellow seems to have turned out pretty well.

Yeah, he does seem to have turned out pretty well. I'm not sure if it's because of me or despite me though. He's been home-schooled and since the age of 14 my job was just to provide the materials and let him get on with it. He was 16 in most of those photos above and was just recovering after helping me with two and half years of nursing the old man. He had to help me with a lot of the heavy and unpleasant stuff (just let your imagination run wild and come up with the grossest stuff imaginable - it was like that!) and then had to help me clean and lay out the body at the end, so he's seen and experienced a lot of things that most kids are thoroughly shielded from. By 16 he was doing part time study with the Open University, helping us on the farm in the mornings and studying maths and computer programming at home in the afternoons.

When I got out of hospital he also had to take over things I was still to weak to do myself, including killing chickens and his precious ducks. He assures me that no matter how many video games you play, nothing prepares you for taking an axe to a duck you have raised from an egg. He was exceedingly glad when I got strong enough to take that job over again for myself. He's still adamant that we never buy duck or chicken from a supermarket though. He's not prepared to allow his meat to suffer like that even if he does have to kill it himself.

I'm sure all that experience must have been 'character building', but he's pretty awesome anyway. Though I admit to maybe being a touch biased...

I had no idea you were so sick, physically I mean. Did you reduce your duties around here while in hospital ? You seem to be always posting something.

Ah, well, yes, I am rather prone to not-so-physical problems, too, but that's a whole other story. While in hospital I did pretty well nothing. Then Adrien and Leila took over almost everything I'd been doing. I tried to keep going with the book promotions and failed miserably as my brain was simply incapable of concentrating for long enough at a time. Things that used to be so simple and straightforward became a near insurmountable task. All those buttons to press just looked confusing. All those posts to check for spam seemed like a never ending mountain rather than a pre-breakfast chore. Constructing a post is still a bit of a hit-and-miss affair that I'm not up to on a lot of days, and I have to forgo all other duties to even vaguely do a post justice. I can't review books because I can't concentrate long enough to read them let alone remember enough of them to analyze them. I can start up the Design Manual threads each week but don't seem to be able to put together coherent replies to the threads.

Thank goodness for resiliency in the form of other volunteer staff members who can take over when one of us fails!

I want echo many of the others here and say that you all have done a fantastic job with your home. I am very glad you are on the mend and out of the hospital and in the place that will continue to heal you. You have done a fine job with the lad as well, that is certainly something every parent hopes for with their children.

Just an awesome project done outstandingly well.
Wow....What an amazing renovation! very nice.
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Thanks for the encouragement guys!

I've changed the title of the thread so I can keep posting up non-roof related progress for anyone that's interested.

My other half made me this plate-rack, which fits above the sink so that I can put clean, wet plates in it without having to dry them or move away from the sink. I'm naturally very disorganised and untidy and washing-up tends to accumulate, so this was made just the right size so that the bare minimum of plates are kept in constant use instead of piling up unwashed. It's not obvious from the photo, but water can drain freely from the plates into the sink below so the just have to drip-dry, no tea-towels needed. There's a handy little shelf for bits and bobs on top, and a railing around it so that I can't knock things off too easily.

Also, notice the water coming out of the tap!

It didn't look quite so impressive behind-the-scenes, but hey, it made the washing-up a whole load easier!

At first, the water just drained out of a pipe through the wall and into a bucket, but we soon upgraded it. It now flows out of the wall, into that grey pipe, and then along a channel...

...under the path...

..and down towards the garden.

We still have the keys for the back-hoe that we are baby-sitting, so we thought it was time it had a bit of exercise, just to make sure that the battery stayed charged and the hydraulics were still working.

I think it needs a nice big hole right about here for the grey water to drain into.

My son got busy filling the hole with smashed up old roof-tiles.

While my other half made sure the pipe drained properly into the rubble-filled hole and then covered the pipe up.

I think it's all starting to look rather nice.

We ordered a new water tank so we could make use of the rain that falls on the roof. This seemed the most sensible way to get it down the track, though it involved me walking in front and singing so he could follow my voice and not keep wandering off and bumping into trees and stone walls and things.

We changed tactics for the last bit in case he fell into the pond.

We built a little tower at just the right height to allow water from the gutters to drain into it, and then gravity feed into the kitchen.

Sorting out the plumbing.

And here's the system up and running, complete with another tank which catches the overflow.

We also have another tank to catch the water off the back half of the roof and we are hoping that between those three we will have enough water to get us through the dry summers. The plan is to add another tank every year if ever we run out of water until we have enough, so this year will be a bit of an experiment.

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Of all the good babysitting jobs on earth, looking after a backhoe must be near the top. I'm letting my brother store a giant grinder that could mince a horse, bones and all. My tenant has an excavator.
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Wow.  What an endeavour.  Looks amazing!

Now you've lived with it a couple of years, how do you like it?  Would you do anything differently?
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R Ranson wrote:Now you've lived with it a couple of years, how do you like it?  Would you do anything differently?

I'm absolutely loving living in it!

I think there are a couple of things I'd have done differently though, in retrospect.

First, the order of doing things.  I should have had the electric put on first.  When the house was obviously abandoned, we could have had an agricultural supply brought just to the boundary of the land, and then connected it to the house ourselves, in our own time and at our own expense.  But because we'd modernised the house, we had to bring the electricity supply right to the house, which had to be wired to standard and certified by a qualified electrician.  It would have been substantially cheaper if we'd managed to dodge that step. 

Also, we have finally put a veranda up along the front of the house.  This time it was just me and my other half doing the work, so it was a long, slow job and involved lightweight roofing sheets rather than heavy beams of wood and climbing all over the roof fixing clay tiles into place.  This has made a fantastic difference to the comfort of the house during our hot summers, and also keeps the area in front of the house dry during heavy rain.  We should have had this done at the same time as the rest of the roof, and made it out of the same materials so that it matched. 

Here are a few photos of the veranda going up.


We used much lighter weight wood this time.


We bought a lightweight rechargable screwdriver/drill for helping us put the sheets on.  My other half is nearly eighty now and his wrists aren't what they used to be.  He insists on doing all the climbing-up-the-ladder stuff himself, and I get to hover around standing on the bottom rung holding the ladder in place and passing the tools and screws and things up to him.


Finally, some shade!


Great place to hang garlic, too.


And to work on the bikes, which he seems to prefer to actually riding them these days.


We also put a table out there so we can have our meals outside, but in the shade. 

I think he's enjoying his retirement!


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Oh, and a rocket mass heater with a heated bench in the corner where the sofa is.  Having put the woodburner back and bought a new sofa, we never seemed to get the momentum up to build one, and now my other half is constantly looking for excuses to not make one.  Maybe next year, now the verandah finally got done.  I think that he's basically so comfortable here now he doesn't want to disturb things too much.

This thread is four years old! I've never seen it before - I have no idea how I missed it. You have a wonderful home. Such a great project.
Hey, sticks and stones baby. And maybe a wee mention of my stuff:
It's like binging on 7 seasons of your favorite netflix permaculture show

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