Hack Hitchin

Making a Hackspace, part 6: Work in Progress

10th Apr 2018

Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? This isn’t because we’ve not been doing anything, but because we’re in the middle of lots of things and nothing is quite done yet.

Progress

Last time, we were knocking down walls and getting rid of waste. Since then, we’ve also knocked down half of the ceiling. But, we have also done quite a bit of building and fixing up, on one side of the building at least.

Using the divide between “office” and “workshop”, we’re currently focussing on getting the office side up and running. Once we do this, we can move into the building permanently, using it for the same sort of things that we currently do over at Ransom’s Rec (light crafts, laser cutting, electronics, drinking tea). We’ll then switch attention towards completing the workshop side, which should be a lot faster.

Floor

Starting at ground level, the floor has received some much needed attention. Where the walls were removed, this left gaps in the floor that we needed to fill, some of which were quite deep. There are also the sewer connections for toilets which had been removed, and drains for toilets and sinks that we’d taken out. And, as the urinals were below floor level, removing them left two deep, long gaps in the floor.

While taking out the unused toilet connectors, a brief moment of excitement occured when we realised the original connections to the drains had lead seals. But a quick scrap price check soon dashed our dreams of riches, as it turns out lead is only valuable if you have the sort of quantities you can pinch from an old roof.

As we started clearing out the holes where the walls and urinals had been before filling them, we noticed that some of them seemed a little damp. As a precaution, we laid a liquid damp-proof course down before screeding over the top.

With all the holes filled in (on the office side, at least), the floor is now reasonably level, albeit not terribly attractive: it’s a mish-mash of concrete, cement, tile and self-levelling floor compound, so we’ll eventually put a nice floor covering over it.

Urinal trough filled in and brought up to floor level

Because one of the walls we removed was between the office and workshop sides, which are at different heights, we had to build a step where the wall used to be. A ramp will eventually be placed here for access.

Step step step step steppy steppy step step

Step between floors where a wall was removed

Walls

The main thing we need to do to the walls, other than make them look nicer than they do at the moment, is to build up the disabled toilet cubicles on both sides so they meet the ceiling. In the workshop side, the cubicle is a “dirty workshop” where anti-socially noisy, smelly or noxious activities can be carried out, so some way of containing the sounds and smells is needed. The office side cubicle will be used as a toilet, so the requirements are broadly the same.

For the office side, we have started extending the long wall to the ceiling with bricks left over from demolishing the main walls. Once this is completed, a stud wall will be built over the doorway, and a door fitted.

Ceiling

We knocked down the old ceiling, which was made of metal mesh and plaster. This is mostly because it was starting to fall down by itself. The original plan was to overboard it, covering up the damages/missing areas (such as where walls had been removed) but it quickly became clear that given the state of it, ripping it down and putting up a new one was going to be much easier.

As well as taking down the ceiling, we also had to build one, with a nice big loft hatch, in the void where the cistern room used to be. This has been done with new joists.

The old ceiling joists are quite uneven in places, particularly around the old loft hatch. In order to make putting up the ceiling easier, we have fitted battens to the joists, packing them (or trimming them, in a couple of places) to give a more level end result.

The plasterboarding is almost finished (except for a couple of bits near the loft hatch).

Old ceiling taken down

Plaster dust all over the floor

Battening in place ready for new plasterboard

The (nearly) finished new ceiling

Lights

Continuing our upward journey, just above the new ceiling is the new wiring for the new lights which will be fitted. The original plan was to use some donated light fittings, along with possible re-using some of the old lights. However, we found some lovely, bright and very inexpensive LED panel lights from CPC. Fitting the new wiring from below while the ceiling was down was considerably simpler than fitting it from the loft.

The original lighting circuits have been removed from the office side and loft, and now only supply lighting to the workshop side (until they are also replaced).

In order to keep everyone safe in the event of a power cut, we’ve also installed emergency lighting.

Roof

Unfortunately, since we took over the building, we have discovered there are several leaks in the roof. One of these was especially serious and caused considerable damage to some roof timber above the workshop.

On the office side, a leak was noticed when it started dripping on the floor after we’d removed the ceiling. All over the outside of the building, we could see missing and damaged tiles, though fortunately they hadn’t been serious enough to cause more leaks.

Using some salvaged roof tiles, we have replaced most of the missing and broken tiles, though a few more remain to be done. Following the advice of a roof repair company, we have been able to remove the rotten timber, and stabilise the remainder. When the workshop ceiling is removed, we’ll be able to complete the repair of the roof.

Roof repairs in progress

Repairing the roof

What’s next?

The next steps in completing the office side of the building are

  • Ceiling – fitting the last couple of bits of the ceiling, jointing and painting it, and putting the lights up
  • External doors – we have external doors (a main door and a fire escape); they need to be fitted
  • Walls – the walls are generally sound but unattractive, being about three-quarters tile and the remainder painted and quite grimy. In order to get rid of the “public toilet” vibe, we’re going to overboard the walls
  • Tea area – sink, worktop, cupboard for the tea and biscuits, and a kettle. We also need to box in the electricity meter/fusebox.
  • Toilet – the logical counterpoint to having somewhere to make and drink tea
  • Internal doors – at the very least, we need a door on the toilet. Additionally, doors to separate the office and workshop, and the workshop and dirty workshop are much desired.
  • Windows – the current windows are in a poor state, so we’ve started exploring the cost of getting them replaced
  • Electricity – the lights are already wired in, but the next thing we’ll need is sockets. Lots of sockets.

Join us

If you’re interested in helping, or even just like the sound of what we do generally and want to get involved, pop down to Ransoms Rec Pavillion on a Monday evening and say hello. We have tea, and probably biscuits.

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