Re-Roofing the Cottage

Ever since Croydon Caving Club started to use Godre Pentre, the roof has always left something to be desired. While it didn't obviously leak, there was always an insidious seepage at various points, not helped by the average 200 inches of rain per year. So when three years ago we were given the opportunity to have 2 tonnes of artificial slates courtesy of Steve Goodall, the offer was gratefully received.

I arranged to have these picked up by a haulage firm for delivery to the cottage for a cost of œ120 (which was cheaper than hiring a lorry). In spite of three sets of clearly written instructions with a map of the destination, they failed to turn up at the promised time. Inquiries revealed that the haulage company manager had decided that a place with such a preposterous name couldn't possibly exist and that the obvious thing to do was to deliver the goods to the place with the nearest name recognisable to him which was the Godre Pentre Working Mans Club in Ysterfera! The slates eventually however arrived and there followed a hair raising unloading session using Nigel's hydraulic arm and stretchy SRT ropes. By this time it was too late in the year for anything to be done with them, so they were left in the garden covered with a plastic sheet.

During the early part of 1991, I persuaded about 6 people to spend a week re-roofing the front half of the building and arranged for the scafolding and materials to be delivered. Unfortunately, some of the people later found that they had inadvertently booked holidays in exotic locations on exactly the same date and couldn't attend. We also decided, on stripping off the old slates, that the rafters should be renewed. However, after a very hard weeks work, the average 3 people got the job done, and it was generally agreed that the end result was indistinguishable from getting a professional builder in, which was surprising as none of us had any previous experience of this type of work.

Having completed the front sucessfully, the obvious next step was the back part. This job wasn't just twice the size, but the existing roof line was incorrect, there was no wall plate, and a decent sized window was needed for a fire exit.

The main problem was to be able to do the job in a week. Fortunately, substantially more people offered to help, so inspite of a few drop outs, at least 6-8 people were available all of the time. The other problem was to be able to set the rafters without having to wait for the cement in the wall to set. I eventually hit upon the idea of setting the new wall plate on concrete blocks while the new wall was built up underneath. This worked very well, so inspite of a mega deluge one afternoon, we just about managed to get the job done with the ridge tiles being put on on Sunday. We still have the lining of the roof to be done, so if you happen to have 2000 feet of 'tongue and groove' you don't want, please let me know!

The total cost to date has been about £1,600, most of which will be paid out of cottage income. As usual, the skip fairy was kind to us and provided a suitably sized window complete with intact glass.

The end result looks very good and we would have had to pay a professional builder at least another £6,000 for a job as good. I can't say that I regard the two weeks I spent doing the job as some of the most enjoyable I have ever had, as most of us were trying to do things we had had little or no prior experience of (not to mention the midges). Anyway, thanks to everyone who helped. I hope not too many people didn't have anything to do/too much to do/the wrong thing to do/things they couldn't do/things they didn't want to do, and special thanks to Colin Grange who arrived just at the right time to do all the things he knew exactly how to do! The thing that really matters is that the task got done sucessfully with the potential to last 50 years plus, and the cottage now looks like a proper building.

PS: Does anyone know what has happened to my geological hammer (Estwing - all steel with a rubber handle)? There were also some other tools left over - please contact me.

Jobs for the future: fit and install gas/oil central heating system, injection damproof main cottage, refurbish shower and kitchen, build extension with toilets/showers/workshop/ storage/library/dining area to replace shed!

Chris Crowley