I have a lovely workshop which we had built in the garden in 2006/7. The site is tricky; the clue is in the name of our local area, Brooklands, and probably the house was built where there was once a pond when the area was fields. To comply with planning regulations with regard to the overall height, the workshop had to have the floor level about a metre below ground level, and it’s built on a piled concrete raft for stability.
However, it was a challenge to seal it against water ingress when it was built, and over time the bitumen seal inside the building failed, and in the heavy rains and flooding of summer 2019 I had repeated episodes of water seeping in through the walls, above the floating wooden floor.
Study of the internet revealed that techniques for waterproofing have moved on considerably since the workshop was built. We had a couple of specialist tanking firms to quote and chose Altrincham Basements and Cellars. They are pretty busy so we had to wait until early 2020 for the work to take place. In the meantime a little bit of the wooden floor had rotted so I was able to make a hole to get in a vacuum so at least I could keep the water below the floor no matter how much it rained.
My loyal builder brother Tony came to help me strip the workshop a few days before work was due to begin, and we loaded all the cupboards and dozens of boxes of wood and equipment into our garage, whilst rigging up a temporary workshop in the utility room. ABC began work on the due day and stripped the walls back to the blockwork and also took up the terrifyingly rotten floating floor. Once everything was cleaned up and some tanking cement applied to the walls it looked as if it was staying quite dry, but after a while more water seeped in from the back wall so a sump was installed in my storeroom, with the water pumped into the drainage system.
The walls and floor were lined with heavy-duty embossed plastic, and the floor had two layers of insulation. Then studding, plasterboard, plaster, floorboards, underfloor heating, flooring; everything put back together with more insulation and higher standards than I’d had before. Specifications have certainly moved on over the last 14 years. Two months from start of work it was ready for painting and refitting.
Tony came back for that on the very day that Boris Johnson announced the Coronavirus lockdown. We were terrified that we’d not be able to get paint or materials, but a search on the Internet in the morning established that Homebase was open, so we whizzed down there and joined the small queue waiting patiently on the one out/one in system. We picked colours slightly by potluck and I could have hugged the cashier for relief at being able to get everything we needed. Tony worked his usual magic with the paintbrush while I made endless cups of tea, and then together we put back all the furniture and shelving, and carried all those boxes back and unpacked.
It’s been a great opportunity to reassess what didn’t work as regards storage, and surprising how a few small changes have made more space and less clutter. It’s lovely to have a freshly painted, beautiful clean space again, and many thanks to all at ABC, Tony, Branagan Flooring, Door and Shutter Systems Ltd as well as my husband Richard. I’m so happy to be back in there again.
Tony as ever doesn’t let an occasion like this go unmarked, and made a banner to celebrate moving back in. He helped me kit out my first workshop at Staunton Harold in Leicestershire in the summer of 1980, nearly 40 years ago.
As I write in May 2020, still in lockdown, and the news talking of the coming biggest recession for years, I’ve been thinking back to the time when I started work. Every lunchtime news broadcast seemed to start with the latest company to announce huge redundancies, and it was a tough time to be starting working for myself. I’m so sad to think that history may well repeat itself for the young violin makers that we support through the RAB Trust who are starting out now.