Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: concrete

Opening day coming soon

Right now I am supposed to be making either a garden trellis for the honeysuckle vines behind the pool, or a wooden worktop for room one’s kitchen area. Too busy to write much, but I thought I should post some photos to keep everyone up to date.

Our big news is that we have our first guests coming in early May so it’s really important that everything works and that the place is looking presentable. Room two (the one we show you all the photos of) is now 99% finished, while room one needs a bit of work but things are progressing fast.

Room in close-to-final form

Room two in close-to-final form.

Other view

Another view.

Mini-kitchen done

Room two kitchen area done.

Bathroom done

Bathroom now has a vanity mirror.

Towel hooks

More welding: towel hooks for the bathroom.

With actual guests coming, we need to make sure the place is accessible. On a rainy day you would struggle to get a typical rental car up the hill, so we knew that the time had come to concrete the driveway. The preparation work takes the longest: compacting gravel in the problematic low-lying sections, building borders and formwork to hold the concrete in, laying and wiring up lots of steel reinforcement, etc. Then two very tough days of actual concrete pouring and it was done. (I am currently trying to block out the memories.)

Sirem the day before the concrete went in

Sirem checking out the reinforcement the day before the first concrete went in.

Lots of work went into this shot

Lots of work went into this shot. (And yes, the hillside is a mess: one more thing on the to-do list.)

The really urgent priority is getting room one into shape, but we also have to do some landscaping work so the place doesn’t look so much like the building site it still is. That means more garden beds and lots of plants, but we also need a path to get to the rooms, the pool, and beyond. Concrete was a good solution for the steep driveway, but obviously we didn’t want to lay it everywhere. So the path is going to be built with paving stones.

Crushed gravel to support paving stones

Compacted river gravel to support the paving.

Paving stones

Paving stones going in, drainage canal taking shape.

Koray and Berrin

Koray and Berrin working on a garden wall. Those steel structures will become concrete posts to support the entrance gate, giving the accommodation area  a bit of privacy.

For two guest rooms and the cafe, we need a lot of furniture. Tables, beds, sofas, chairs, wardrobes, and all the rest. Given that we already have a lot of woodworking tools, and that the budget is running low, it was an easy decision to make most of the stuff ourselves. (The one exception: we’re buying chairs for the cafe. Chairs are fiddly and take too long.) There’s some work in it, but it’s great to be able to build pieces in the exact size and style you want.

Bed being made

One of the beds being made.

Table, sofa

Front to back: an angle grinder used as a brutally efficient sander, a very hardworking router, a table, and a sofa.

Finished bed

A finished bed with two little bedside tables: we definitely have a chunky country aesthetic going.

A new friend came to visit a few weeks back, and we used that as an excuse to do a practice run of the breakfasts we want to serve to our guests. Hopefully the photo below helps to convince someone out there to make a booking. Speaking of which: we’re going to start by listing the place on Airbnb, but we’re just holding off on one or two little details first, like our final inspection from the council. We’ll definitely make a post when that happens though.

Breakfast

Breakfast on the veranda.

Very soon we will have to get out of the way and move back down to the old farmhouse. We’re going to miss the new room, of course. But the weather is much warmer now and the leaves are back on the fig trees and the grape vines, so the old house is a much more cheerful prospect than it was in mid-winter.

Spring morning in the olive grove

Spring morning in the neighbours’ olive grove.

The dogs and cats are being their usual helpful, dirty, lazy, beautiful selves, and they’re clearly as happy as we are to see the return of warmer weather. Here are some dog photos to fulfill our prescribed animal content quota.

Tito yawning

Tito yawning.

Zeliş goofing around

Zeliş goofing around.

Thanks for reading. I hope that next time we post it will be to announce that bookings are properly open. Now I have to get back to it — bye!

Deliveries

Let me warn you up front: this blog post, and probably future posts for a while, are going to be variations on the theme of “look at this thing we made!”

With that said… I am learning, too late in life, that a huge part of construction is just moving stuff around.  Here are three of our most recent deliveries, more or less neatly stacked.

Bricks

Bricks

Steel

Steel

Timber

Timber

That last one is not just a gratuitous night-time shot: the timber really did arrive late in the evening.  In fact it was delayed for a week or so longer than we were expecting.  The 10cm x 10cm pieces on the right are chemically treated to resist moisture, and those took a while to get hold of.

It wasn’t really a problem though.  We have so much to do if we’re going to hit our target of real guests by late summer, so we just worked on some landscaping instead of timber framing.  This next shot is yet another Sketchup model showing our plans for around the pool.  A steel railing to stop people falling off the terrace after one Tuborg too many, and on the other side a little pavilion surrounded by gardens and incorporating two built-in seating areas.  In summer we’ll hang some canvas or cotton at the front of the seating area to keep people in the shade during the hot afternoons.

Some of the planned landscaping around the pool.

Some of the planned landscaping around the pool.  The shadows are as they would be on the summer solstice at around 4pm.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that we haven’t really decided what’s happening at the back of the pool: probably a wooden fence with a lattice to grow climbing plants on.  It would be nice to have a rendered and limewashed brick wall but we’re thinking it’s a bit too close to the edge of the hillside for a heavy wall to be 100% safe.  Anyway, here’s the progress we’ve made in the last week on the seating area.

Poolside seating pavilion, under construction

Poolside seating pavilion, under construction

Koray, the guy you saw welding a door in the previous post, is now working with us full-time.  We really needed some more people power if we’re serious about opening the first two rooms this summer.   One of the first things he did for us was to install that door.

The door Koray was welding in the last post, now safely installed.

The machine room door, now safely installed.  (I did the twirly bits, honest.)

Koray has also done great work on building a stone retaining wall up the left side of the driveway, as well as a dozen other things.

Stone retaining wall on driveway nearly finished

Stone retaining wall on driveway nearly finished

Which reminds me, a big thank-you to my cousin Stephanie and her partner Mick.  They visited a couple of weeks back and helped carry a lot of the stones into position.  (We are officially becoming terrible hosts: “Had enough breakfast?  All done?  OK, great, now carry this 40 kilo rock.”)

At the foot of the stone wall there’s a concrete gutter.  Previously this ran into a large hole that connected to the storm-water drain.  Health and safety concerns suggest we shouldn’t leave a large hole lying around long-term, so I got to improve my bricklaying and rendering skills by building a drain cover.   We tried using powdered dyes to colour the rendering coat: two scoops of red, four scoops of yellow, and one scoop of black.  Not too bad a result if you like the Santa Fe adobe look.

Here's one I made earlier: drain cover

Here’s one I made earlier: drain cover.  Note modernist grille made by welding scrap rebar pieces together.

Here are a couple of photos of things we’re making with all those deliveries.  The bricks are for parts of the guest bathroom walls.  We’re still committed to straw bale, but we lost our nerve at the thought of the waterproofing needed to be sure that a straw bale in the wall behind a shower would never get wet.  So the external walls of the bathroom, and the wall between the two bathrooms, will be brick.  Still, they’re big 30 x 20 cm bricks with some air holes in them, there’ll be a double wall, and the 10cm gap between the inner and outer wall will be filled with polystyrene insulation.  It won’t quite be as good as straw, but should still be reasonably well insulated.

The first two guest bathrooms laid out with bricks

The first two guest bathrooms laid out with bricks.   Each bathroom is about 3 metres by 2 metres: big enough for everyone?

The steel is for pool terrace railings as shown in the Sketchup picture above.  They’re nearly done; they just need some twisty decorative bits (“ferforje” in Turkish) and a coat of black paint and they’re ready to go in.

Pool terrace railings under construction

Pool terrace railings under construction

And all this welding seems to be catching:  Sirem has now joined the party.  It looks like she’s been doing it for years, doesn’t it?

Sirem getting in on the welding action.

Sirem getting in on the welding action.  (Thanks to Stephanie for the photo.)

We’re still some distance away from the straw bale and plastering stage, but we’ve done some more testing recently to decide between clay plaster (which has the benefit of basically being free) and lime plaster, which stands up to moisture a lot better.  I think we’ve decided on the lime plaster solution, but it’s a shame to have to say no to the clay as the texture is really nice.

Plaster testing: three coats of mud plaster

Plaster testing: three coats of clay plaster on a straw bale (second coat still showing at the top there)

Plaster testing: two coats of lime plaster on a straw bale

Plaster testing: two coats of lime plaster on a straw bale

The pool has been properly filled and we are pleased to report that it didn’t fall over or spring a leak.  There was even a warm day in late February when I was stupid enough to try a first swim.  The pool was very nice but the water needs a bit more sun on it, I think.

What the pool looks like now

What the pool looks like now

And finally, a few shots of plants and animals to show that it is not quite all-construction, all-the-time.

Spring returns: almond blossoms in the neighbour's garden

Spring returns: almond blossoms in the neighbour’s garden

Zeliş relaxing

Zeliş relaxing

Zeytin is in a good mood, as usual.

Zeytin is in a good mood, as usual.

Cezmi, Sirem's sister's cat, maybe now our  cat, who believes he is the construction site manager

Cezmi, Sirem’s sister’s cat, maybe now our cat, who believes he is the construction site manager

Thanks for reading!

Construction update

And now a quick set of long-overdue photos of the ongoing construction work.  I know I should have posted something weeks ago, but every time I was about to put some pictures up, I was tempted to wait for just one more development!

Our builders have done a great job.  They’re nearly finished, and soon it will be up to us to get some timber frames happening.

The concrete foundation slabs went down in four stages: first a rough layer of concrete directly onto the ground.  That makes a base for reinforced concrete beams that will go under the load-bearing walls .

Formwork for the concrete beams that will end up under the heavily loaded parts of the slab.

Formwork for the beams that will end up under the heavily loaded parts of the slab.

Lots of steel reinforcement going in.

Lots of steel reinforcement going in.

The slabs were big enough that it wasn’t possible just to dump concrete directly from the truck, so the pumping truck was called in as well for most of the pours.

Fortunately, concrete trucks get up our new driveway without too much trouble.

Luckily, concrete trucks can get up our new driveway without too much trouble.

Pump for pouring the concrete into the formwork.

Giant pumping truck for getting the concrete into the formwork.

The third stage was to dump heavy railway gravel into the gaps between the concrete support beams: this sets up a good base for the finished slab .  The gravel truck deliveries were dramatic, and the driver did well to get the truck into every corner where stone was needed.

About 30 tons of gravel arriving.

About 30 tons of railway-grade gravel arriving.

Gravel used as fill for under the slabs.

Gravel used as fill for under the slabs, and plumbing laid in.  Ready for the final pour.

Meanwhile our animal comrades have become very interested in the building process.

Zeytin approves of the work.

Zeytin approves of the work.

A range of different animals have been up to check things out.

Inspectors both large and small have been up to check things out during the night.

Sirem in particular has been really busy acting as site foreman, but we’ve also made time for a few other jobs.  Some neighbours invited us to harvest their pomegranate tree (long story).  It took longer than we thought — lots of standing up a ladder and getting scratched.  But the pomegranates are fantastic and make a disturbingly healthy-looking juice.

Pomegranates stored for winter.

Pomegranates stored for winter: if you hang them up with string so they’re not touching each other, they last much longer.

Ridiculously good for you.

Look at that vitamin C.  You could reach out and touch it.

We also put the finishing touches on our hügelkultur raised bed, which should make for lots of good vegetable options next spring.

Raised bed in the farmhouse garden is finally done.

Raised bed finally done.

And with colder nights coming in, I thought I had better build one more dog house for Tito (the dog who is not really our dog but just a stray who lives outside our gate and gets fed by us a lot).

Tito (who is not really our dog, he just lives on the street outside our place) get his own house.

Tito (who is not really our dog) gets his own house.  He is moving his head to make his face blurry which is part of his anti-paparazzi strategy.

The final part of the concrete work was pouring the 15cm-thick top slabs that will become the floor of each building.  The plumbing all seems to be in the right place so far.

Slabs all complete now.

Slabs all complete now (view from the top of the block).

And the swimming pool.  We know that in summer, life will centre around the pool for our guests, so we’re keen to do it right.  And the builders have been  fantastic.  (We’re happy to recommend them, if any Turkish readers are thinking about getting a pool built.)

Pool looking good.

Pool concrete looking good and being waterproofed.

Rounded steps in the south-east corner.

Rounded steps under construction in the south-east corner.

Tiles going in, and part of the deck area taking shape.

Tiles going in, and part of the pool terrace area taking shape.

Finally a couple of sunset photos so you can see what the winter light is looking like now.

Sunset with boots.

Sunset with work boots.

Winter sunset view from what will one day be the cafe terrace.

Winter sunset view (from what will one day be the cafe terrace).

 

 

Ground-breaking news

Since the last post a lot has happened. So many months of planning, waiting and worrying have finally started to bear fruit. Such a relief!

For some reason the council insists on the entire plan being printed on one long sheet.  This leads to much slapstick comedy when the wind is blowing.

The first job was heartbreaking but necessary: we had to cut down some fig trees.  🙁  We lost about fifteen of them and had to relocate three olive trees.  Olive trees, we were told, are very tough and will tolerate relocation as long as you prune them hard and give them lots of water afterwards.  Time will tell whether this advice is correct.

Looking up the block at some of the lost fig trees that had to go in order to make way for the foundation slabs.

The second job was improving the driveway.  With last winter’s rains we had some erosion and it had become more like a goat track than a road.

Our driveway: the “before” photo.

We needed to do something if we were going to get heavy machinery, cement mixers, and delivery trucks up there.

Starting to dig

Excavator starting on the driveway.  Jason really wanted a turn but was not seen as responsible enough.

Gravel to make a nice compacted base

One of twelve truckloads of gravel to make a nice compacted base for the drive.

The “after” photo: from goat-track to motorway.  We like it a lot and it’s so wide that it immediately solves some of our future parking problems.

A view from the top, showing how the drive curves around to allow access to the cafe.  This was about halfway through.  More truckloads of gravel were dumped on the right side of this picture.

Then the excavator moved up the hill to start digging out the soil for the three buildings’ foundations and the pool.

Digging out the base for the cafe and first two rooms.

We had mountains of soil that we didn’t know what to do with.  At first it just got pushed over the edge of our hillside, but there was so much of it we were in danger of causing an avalanche onto the road.  So we had about 20 lorry loads worth of soil taken away, and lots of neighbours turned up with tractors and helped themselves to a bit.  We did keep some, though, for the mud plaster.

“And you could have it all, my empire of dirt…”

Battling machines

Rise of the machines.

The guys worked incredibly fast and before we knew it they were putting formwork, steel reinforcement, and the first loads of concrete in.

Early layer of concrete.  This not the real slab, just a bottom layer to make a good surface for the concrete formwork.

Early layer of concrete. This not the real foundation slab, just a bottom layer to make a good surface for the concrete formwork.

Pool starting to take shape.

Pool starting to take shape.

Formwork for the second bungalow.  One day this will be rooms three and four.

Formwork for the second bungalow. One day this will be rooms three and four.

Underlay slab for our house, right at the top of the hill.

Underlay slab for our house, right at the top of the hill.

Solid reinforced concrete beams that will support the restaurant.  The step up in the slab is so that rooms one and two will sit a little higher and not cut too deeply into the hillside.

Reinforced concrete beams that will support the restaurant. The step up in the slab is so that rooms one and two will sit a little higher and not cut too deeply into the hillside.

Improvised tent so there's somewhere dry to store gear and make tea on rainy days.

Improvised tent so there’s somewhere dry to store gear and make tea on rainy days.  The workers were sceptical of Jason’s plan to build this out of scrap wood but so far it is holding up.

Panorama from the top of the orchard, looking west.  Click for full size.

Another big job that is now done was to lay 66 metres of concrete pipe in the ditch next to the main road and then cover it over.  The idea is to carry away the rain water that comes down the hill, and also to stop our new driveway from acting as a dam.  Each pipe section was 1.5 metres long and 80 cm in diameter.  I am so glad that this job is over now as it was the scariest and most dangerous of all the work done so far. Watching the excavator lift and swing a very heavy concrete pipe in the air, hanging from a chain,  44 times in succession while traffic was still passing on the road was very nerve-racking!  I don’t think we remembered to take a photo of this job because we were so busy watching it nervously.

“Before” photo, taken in March 2014.

After: you can’t see it, but there’s 66 metres of 80 cm concrete pipe buried on the right-hand side of the road there.  Smoothing it over afterwards makes more handy parking spaces.

During these exciting times we had my parents and Jason’s uncle John and aunt Marg staying with us.   In the evenings one or two drinks were had in order to celebrate the start of the building work.

John and Marg inspecting the site.

Jason tells me I have to add cat photos to a blog post or people will complain.  So, here they are.  The kittens are getting bigger every day.  They have names now, but we are still trying to adopt them out.

Panda.

Panda.

Pablo.

Pablo.

Panini.

Panini.

Coco.

Coco.

All together.

All together.

And finally, a big thanks to JP who sent us a wonderful 24mm lens that took most of the photos above.  Cheers, JP, we love it!

Concrete is cool

Bear with me. I know concrete may not sound like the most exciting subject in the world. I also know that Portland cement is not exactly the most environmentally friendly building material around. But we’ve been blown away by how useful it is, and how easy it is to do small jobs around the house with it. I confess that for years I assumed concrete work was something you had to pay a professional to do, but that’s just not true.

A man and his wheelbarrow. (Thanks for the shirt, Paul.)

A man and his wheelbarrow. (Cheers for the shirt, Paul.)

Our first job was pretty modest: after the work on our new bathroom, the trench through the yard had messed up some of the garden borders. So we made a new one. It’s not going to win any awards for style, but it works.

Lime-washed concrete garden border. Our very first job!

Lime-washed concrete garden border. Our very first concrete job!

Then we really got started. In the courtyard, the stairs up to the garden had a strange first step that was twice as tall as it should have been, making the stairs very awkward. So we built a new step, out of formed concrete with wire mesh for reinforcement, and tiled it to look like the others.

That bottom step didn't use to be there. Much more comfortable to walk up now!

That bottom step is new. Much more comfortable to walk up the stairs now!

We also made a new curved concrete ramp for the door to the barn, and a new sill for the kitchen window (the previous one had crumbled when they took the old window out).

This used to be a sudden step down to the barn floor level. Curved ramp makes it easier to roll things in and out of the barn.

This used to be a sudden step down to the barn floor level. Curved ramp makes it easier to roll things in and out of the barn.

New window needed a new window sill. Further plasterwork needed around the edges...

New window needed a new concrete sill. Further plasterwork needed around the edges…

We’ve even started on some bricklaying, adding a few courses to a wall at the front of the house to help with privacy. No photos of that yet, though.

Concrete is of course a bit grey, so I thought I should add some photos of more colourful stuff. Here’s another insect visitor to our garden: a praying mantis that  helpfully sat right next to one of our outside lights one night and watched us as much as we were watching him.

Praying mantis wants in on the photography action.

Praying mantis wants in on the photography action.

And some shots of local places, thanks to our visitors Berkan and Sofie who dragged us out of the house for a bit.

Harbour at Güzelçamlı.

Harbour at Güzelçamlı.

Evening street scene in Eski Doğanbey, a conservation village nearby.

Evening street scene in Eski Doğanbey, a conservation village nearby.

 

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