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The Grimscote Manor Hotel

Lichfield Road, Coleshill, Birmingham, B46 1LH

Tel: 01675 464 222


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Improvements at the Grimscote Manor

Have you ever wondered why you would decide to do something that is clearly beyond what should be possible? That is exactly what I was thinking when I started this project!

No-one would ever believe that it is possible to achieve a project of such magnitude with only myself and two labourers, but that is precisely what we are doing. At Grimscote Manor Hotel we are extending our already magnificent buildings to incorporate not only 10 extra bedrooms but also a new Reception, an Orangery and a larger commercial kitchen – and all of this will be achieved on an extremely tight budget. So in April 2014, armed with credit cards, our savings, an extremely helpful builder’s merchants and (our saving grace) a very good friend of mine, Kevin Piri, we began.

We started off by exacting the ground area around the swimming pool, then knocking down the swimming pools old walls in order to be able to sufficiently lower the ground level for us to be able to dig out the building footings. Unfortunately it was at this point that it became too expensive for us to continue to employ Kevin, however he once again came to our aid by suggesting a friend of his Paul, who is an excellent labourer. I also decided that it would be ideal to redistribute the labours of our trainee gardener Matt Jones, which meant there would be an extra two pairs of hands to help me.

As we began to dig out for the drains, it seemed as though the weather was solidly against us. It was soul destroying to have neatly dug out the front footings, only to have them wash in on themselves because of bad weather. This happened several times which led to us having to use twice as much concrete as we had originally planned to. However, we persevered and managed to build the front damp course and bay area without too much more hassle from the elements!

By this time we had reached the near height of the summer, and we were all getting a good farmers tan in the process! We finished off the rest of the footings, and lay the reinforced floor, using 33cube of concrete with a further 28cube in the back footings.

As you can imagine the hours which we work are extremely tough, working 14-16 hours a day (while the weather is good) can certainly start to take its toll. However, thanks to Matt and Paul and the support we received from the Gill and the girls running the hotel, we have moved from strength to strength and are now back on schedule despite the many time consuming problems which have been thrown at us. One element of this build which is possibly the most time consuming is my personal need for perfection, and this includes me insisting that the new building brickwork exactly matches that of the existing building. This entailed a type of masonry known as a ‘flemish bond’, along with decorative brickwork above, and along the large five-sided bay to match. This took a lot longer than our planning had allowed, but we can see that it was definitely worth the extra effort.

Moving on to the day which we poured the concrete into the reinforced outside wall – this is a day which neither myself, Matt nor Paul will forget in a long time! To give you an idea of what we were aiming to achieve; the wall has a total length of 35m and is 3m high, with a 180mm cavity that needed to be filled with 30cube of concrete. One side of the wall is lined with a high-tech tanking gas membrane (which is similar to a self-adhesive flashband used for a temporary roof repair) and the other side is a simple 4” concrete block construction. Once the concrete wagon and pump arrived the operator expressed concern as to whether the wall would be able to take the weight of the liquid concrete. We decided that the best way to progress would be to pour the first meter of concrete all the way around the cavity first and then to allow that to set before adding anymore.

Unfortunately, this was not what took place – for some reason, unknown to us all still, having poured approximately 2 meters of the concrete the pump pipe (which is a solid steel tube) hit the inner wall in three different places with concrete still flowing from it. The third hit caused an almighty bang, and a crack to form on the inner skin. I assessed the damage and although it didn’t appear to be too serious, I decided the safest option would be to call out the building inspector. Thankfully he agreed with me and informed us that as long as we stitched the crack before we poured the rest of the concrete, there would be no lasting damage. We did this, but went back to basics, mixing the remaining 30 tonne of concrete by hand and pouring it using wheelbarrows and buckets – this took us 4 days, the original method would have taken us ½ a day.

After we had finished the concrete reinforcing, things went smoothly for a while. Building up to the first floor with block work was relatively straightforward; the problem arose when the concrete beams arrived – they were 45 in total which measured 6m in length and weighed ½ a tonne each. Then came the bombshell, the crane could not get in to lift off the beams, as anyone who has been to the hotel would no doubt understand as we do have very limited access in a lot of areas. Fortunately we had bought an all-terrain forklift and with the help of the lorry drivers we managed to unload the beams relatively close to the extension site. However we still had to get the beams into position, and after several crane companies telling us that it could be done it appeared we had hit a dead end. Then the idea came to me, we would have to modify the forklift and also have a 4m jib made. This worked a treat, and with the aid of two large genie lifts on the inside of our structure, we lifted the beams into position one by one. This took all three of us working solidly for two weeks to complete, but to our great relief we finished it. Once we had completed this we realised we were past the halfway point in our seemingly impossible project.

We will keep you informed with our progress throughout the different phases. Watch this space!