hope you all are still watching this space as there is still lots to
tell you on the ‘Never Ending Story of Castle Building’. It’s now
July 2011 and the build continues, how did I end the last episode -
I would hope to have the Tower completed and liveable by the Summer
of 2010 – Wrong, let’s re-word that to show 2012 – but keep watching
Some years ago I once read an article which ended with the following
are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make
them come true’. Reflecting on this build I can see the reality of
these words now and luckily for me I have a job that will allow me
to ‘Pay the Price’. Mind you my forecasted retirement date has been
pushed far to the right to allow for this.
I started March 2008 in a very buoyant mood, we were at last
starting to build the Tower, estimates were for a 40 week program to
Wind & Water tight. Contracts were taken out with a scaffold company
for 40 ton of scaffold, rental agreements were signed for a site
office and ‘Comfort’ room, toilet facilities were provided, dates
were pencilled in for hooking up and testing the Ground Saurce Heat
Pumps and under floor heating. A specialist Chimney Engineer had
been hired to design the flues for the Gt Hall fire place which
needed special consideration to allow for the 2.5 mtr W x 1.5 mtr H
fire place. The fabrication and installation of the spiral stairs
went to a company in Cornwall, I could not find another company any
further away from Turriff so I stuck with them..!! So there I was
looking to move into my ‘Dream’ at the end of the year. How wrong I
was, it’s now July 2011 and the Tower is still not complete, not by
a long stretch. I still have my Dream and I will finish it and one
day live in the Tower with my family, 2012 is now looking good..!!
So what has happened, what has gone wrong and where, as I said, have
those two and a half years gone..??
In a nut-shell, it’s been due to some of the wettest summers on
record, some of the coldest winters on record and added to this
fairly poor progress by the building contractor who I found out was
just using my build as a fill in job while he completed other
contracts in the area. Following a site visit on 28th
December 2009 a lot of ground rules were discussed in great detail
with the building contractor, and since then there has been a marked
improvement in progress, however, this has been hampered by
torrential summer rain and long arctic conditions through the winter
A knock on effect of all this un-seasonal weather has been frost
damage to quite a bit of the Cast Stone where the finished surface
to this stone has lifted off. This has meant that replacement stone
has had to be ordered with the associated additional costs. The
initial contract for the 40 week hire of the scaffold, which cost
£24K, has long past and I am now paying an additional weekly rental
for the scaffold to be on site, and it’s still there. Due to the
continual delays caused by the building contractor I advised him
that I would no longer pay the monthly rental for the site office
and comfort room and if he required this then he could supply at his
own cost. This he has done.
One major concern for me, due to these delays, has been worry that
the sub-contractors who have been paid to supply goods, going
bankrupt, or their companies failing which would mean that I would
not get the items I have paid for or their services to install their
items in the Tower. So far the only the Specialist Chimney
Consultant has gone bankrupt, but luckily we managed to obtain all
the items we had purchased from him and it has not held up the
So where am I now with the build and when will the Tower be
As of end of November 2010 we have completed the shell of the Tower
up to and including the 4th floor level (see photos taken
December 2010). At this point the snows started and just continued
on and on, it just kept coming down. This hold up lasted until
mid-March when work slowly started again.
Luckily, no damage was noted on the cast stone due to frost,
however, two of the open round corbel discs were damaged when one of
the brickies reversed the forklift truck into them – more delays
while these items were re-cast in Glasgow. Other delays were caused
when the next and last shipment of cast Stone arrives as it was
found that the colour was wrong, being considerably lighter in
colour and therefore could not be used. More re-casting started.
The up-shot of these problems and a feeling that the building
contractor was not only losing his grip on the build and possibly
becoming disillusioned prompted me to take time out from work and
get up to site in April and find out what was actually going on.
This visit and discussions on site prompted me to hire in a 3rd
party Building Site Manager who lived locally in Inverurie. This has
turned out to be one of the most positive moves I have made on this
build project. He has turned around the whole project with dedicated
and un-scheduled site visits, weekly site meetings, all fully
minuted, along with Project Time Line forecasts and monthly Project
Status Reports. Where he has been most beneficial to me is that he
has been able to ‘Cold Eyes’ oversee the site and manage all the
ordering of project materials and gain quotations for other items as
needed which up until this time I was trying to do from Offshore
Nigeria. The additional cost for the Site Manager has not been
cheap, but the cost to me and the night’s sleep I am getting now has
been worth every penny.
Even with the help of this Site Manager it has not all been plain
sailing, but at least it has been sailing on relatively calm waters.
The last couple of months have added more surprises in the way of
costs, I really mean under estimated costs in the form of reclaimed
oak flooring, three floors, required to be done which also had to be
suitable for under floor heating, £12,600. Estimates for harling
were sought with the view to using a cement based harle, however, of
the only four companies prepared to tackle the work none would
consider using cement based harle and all stated that they would do
the job only if they used a lime based harle. Quotes received to
date for this are £96K and £69K, this does not include the cost of
the scaffold towers. Still waiting on the other two companies to
quote. Some time ago I bought enough Ballachulish slates from a
reclaim material’s yard to complete the Log Store, Doocot (Garage)
and the Tower only to now find out that the local slaters do not
want to use these slates for the Tower as they are single nail
fixing and they wish to use double nail fixing. I am now looking at
the cost this will add to the project if I cannot find a slater to
use the on-site slates.
When will the Tower be finished, good question. I would hope that
by late summer, early autumn 2011 we will be at wind & water tight
with the spiral stairs installed and the harling completed, so that
during the winter months all the internal work can be carried out.
If all goes well with the 1st & 2nd fix we
could be looking to having the Tower completed by summer of 2012 and
thinking of moving in..!!
As time passes I will continue to send photos to John Buchanan Smith
so you should be able to follow progress, also, once the project is
complete I will do a 3rd and final chapter on this story.
As a point of interest for those of you who are wondering about
costs of this project, to-date I have spent the following amount GBP
£ 409,357.41, this is the all up cost which includes the cost of the
land. What do I now expect the Tower to cost to complete,
conservatively I would say £ 650,000. What was the original budget I
worked out to complete the Tower in those early days..?? It was £
250,000, funny how wrong you can be..??
On a lighter side a few months ago when the arctic conditions once
more covered Scotland, Meryl made the following comment to me while
sat in our nice warm home in the South of England. “Who in their
right mind would want to build a Scottish Fortified Tower House in
Scotland, when the South of France sounds nice..??” Mind you, Meryl
is a Gosport, girl, born and bred, who thinks everything north of
the M27 is cold and comes under the heading of Scotland..!! So not a
lot I could say to that..!!
I will end this Chapter as I did Chapter 1 -
I would hope to have the Tower completed and liveable by the Summer
of 2012 – Watch this space..!!