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The Tower of Craigietocher
An Account of the Build as at Summer 2012


How did I end Chapter 2 - I would hope to have the Tower completed and liveable by the Summer of 2012 – Watch this space..!!

Well the Summer of 2012 has long past and the Summer of 2013 is fast approaching, and the build continues. Funny how we think of Summer as being the time to get things moving and the time of year when you see builders stripped to the waist toiling away under the blazing sun. Not in the Den of Gask, Turriff, during that very, very wet and dreich period from April to September of 2012 which we normally associate with Summer. For me and my team of ‘Castle Builders’, it was a time when we were constantly drenched in rain and the period of the year just before the snow and freezing conditions of October heralded the start of Winter, which then lasted through to mid-April 2013. It was also a time I learnt another Scott’s word, Drookit, meaning Soaked to the Skin. But have I let this inclement weather of Scotland dampen my spirits, never let it be said – the build continues and the Summer of 2014 is looking good for the grand completion date of Craigietocher Tower and a magnificent Castle Warming.

We have, even with the worst the weather could throw at us, made progress, slow and little, but progress all the same. I have continued to work offshore to fund the build, with Meryl, my life partner toiling away to keep a house and roof over our heads and a larder full of food. The word retirement has ceased to be used in our household and eventually turning 65 in October 2012 was pleased that the government started to pay me my Old Age Pension, as every penny has been needed to meet the ever escalating costs of this build program.

I did mention progress, so what have we accomplished since August 2011. I think it will be easier for me to list the work accomplished briefly by month so as to give you a flavour as to why things are taking so long. Strangely enough, I have during some of my off time in the UK, been watching Grand Designs and was please to note that every episode I watched that the project was way over schedule to complete and way over budget too, well may be not by 4 + years as in my case and not as much money wise, but the work ‘Over Schedule’ was used quite a lot, making me feel quite a bit happier and not so alone out there.

September 2011 – This saw the start of spiral stairs being installed. This was a great disappointment in that the way they had been manufactured and left a lot to be desired in the final fit up to the Stair Well. Thus leaving me with a lot to do to make the steps look like they are ‘Built Into the Walls’. This has yet to be completed by the now onsite plasterer.

October – November 2011 – Slating commenced and ran through right up to the start of December. After standing my ground and insisting that I would have no other slates on the roof other than the reclaimed Ballachulish Slates I had, I managed to find a Slater who would do the work, and what a pretty picture the roof looks with these slates. At this time I awarded a contract to a local window manufacturer to have all windows made and installed by Christmas so that the Tower could start drying out ready for an early start internally in 2012. The quotation was for 18,000 and as there was quite a bit of material to purchase initially I was requested to make an upfront payment of 5,000 which I did, only to have the contractor renege on the contract and produce nothing, my solicitor is now chasing this up, but basically that was 5,000 lost. Another window contractor was found, but no windows were installed until February 2012, meaning the Tower did not dry out fully as hoped.

December – January 2011/12 – Snow, snow, yet more snow and lots of ice. Site shut down.

February, March & April 2012 – Windows installed; commence some of the internal work removing the temporary floors to allow beams to dry out. Repositioning windows in the stair well due to the miss-alignment caused by the spiral stairs not meeting specification and best of all the last snow fell in April, Spring had officially started.

May, June & July 2012 – Construction work outside on the walkway and open rounds, capping out the crenulations and the chimney coping installed. Clearing out all rubbish from the Tower internal and preparing the beams for flooring and UFH to be installed.

August & September 2012 – At long last the scaffolding was removed; the Tower could at last be seen. What a wonderful sight that was, all the proportions were right. Internally work continued. The cast stone surrounds had suffered from lime scale staining that had leached out of the block-work so all had to be cleaned before the flooring could start as lots of water was used in this cleaning process.

November 2012 – Commenced trenching in the main power, communication, security and telephone cables from the Tower along the road way to the main entrance gate area. Started laying the re-claimed Oak flooring to the 2nd, 3rd & 4th floors and preparing them for the UFH pipe work. At this time we had and still have a big issue with water ingress at the point where the Crow Steps fit onto the gable ends. It seems that where we raggled out the cast stone Crow Steps to run in the lead flashing it went through the water proof layer and water was now seeping into the Crow Step cast stone and through into the garret. Due to the rain and onset of winter nothing could be done about it at this time, so we worked around the wetness and we are looking to try and remedy the problem in early Summer 2013.

December & January 2012/13 – Work on the Tower slowed down due to the cold, but we took the opportunity to repair the road which had suffered from continually heavy use and all the rain washing down from the high side banking causing the road to erode. At the same time I installed a French Drain along the full length of the road which has been a huge success in removing all the excess water from the site. Foundations were put down for the Main Entrance Gate at this time too.

February 2013 – Work inside the Tower was now moving at a faster pace with Plumbing, Carpenter, Electrical and General Building trades working away with the 1st fix work.

March 2013 – Snow at last departs the Den of Gask. Floors, walls and garret are being insulated, the Gt. Hall Fire Place Surround is started and the window manufacturer starts installing the windows. Things are starting to move on at a pace now.

April 2013 – A traditional plasterer starts using an amazing mix of lime, sand and horse hair to do all the internal walls which will eventually be finished with a white lime wash. All windows are installed and looking very good. 1st fix is well on the way and discussions taking place on how to make the ground floor kitchen and dining room ceiling vaulted. We are still working on this but we think we have it cracked now. Jennifer Merredew visited the site and we discussed the painting of the Gt. Hall and Laird’s Room ceilings. I think this is going to be a centre point of the internal decoration. Jennifer is hoping to commence her work in July 2013.

May 2013 – The master bedroom and the Laird’s Room all plastered and ready for the final lime wash. Start installing the domestic water pipe work to all floors. What seems like miles of electrical cabling runs everywhere, an amazing spaghetti mix it seems. Suspended ceilings in halls and hidden spaces between the walls – the start of the ‘Secret’ passageway, but where will it lead too..??

June 2013 – Central Vacuum system arrive and tie to commence boring the holes through the concrete floors for the whole house ventilation system ducting. A nice surprise visit from Ian McIver of Strathendry Castle and David Kerr the Blacksmith who fabricated the top to my well. Even more electric cabling installed and the completion of the plastering of 2nd & 3rd bedrooms and the start of plastering the Gt Hall. Work at last starts on trying to resolve the gable water ingress with sealing the crow steps with a coloured mastic, fingers crossed it will fix the problem. Sorted the 10 year Build Warranty Insurance with Build Assured after supplying them with every scrap of documented paperwork we had – Thank you john and Colin for all your work and to Graham for recommending the company to me.

That’s where we are at now. Looking back over the past nearly two years I can reflect on the both good and bad times, the near tears of hopelessness and the tears of joy. So what were the highs and lows of these years..??

Highs:

Seeing the Tower for the 1st time without any scaffold.

Walking into the Gt. Hall and seeing the Fire Place Surround in position – boy was that impressive and I must admit my eyes watered at the sight of it.

Seeing all the windows in place and knowing the Building Inspector was happy with them, even though they did not meet 21st century lighting levels..!!

Watching my Site Handy Man introduce 20 Brown Trout to the pools and seeing a wild duck raise her young on the island in the centre of the pool.

Seeing the Rhododendrons flower this spring for the first time and the frogspawn in the pools.

Lows:

Seeing the rain water running in at the gable ends and not being able to do anything to stop it.

Losing 5,000 and not being able to do anything about the loss.

As you can see the Highs outweigh the Lows and as long as that continues then I am happy.

I finished Chapter 2 outlining costs and I will do the same here, as of 17th June 2013 I have spent a total of 688,242.34 on this dream. What do I think it will take to complete, well, my best guess is another 150,000. Sort of along the lines of ‘Grand Design’ – Somewhat Over Budget. I do though want to say a very big ‘Thank You’ to Meryl, my life partner, for allowing me to spend every penny I earn on this dream and for keeping me fed and putting a roof over my head during my time in the UK. Without her I don’t think I would have been able to keep this project going.

I will end this Chapter as I did Chapters 1 & 2 - I would hope to have the Tower completed and liveable by the Summer of 2014 – Watch this space..!!

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