Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

The Building of Craigietocher Tower - Chapter 2

Craigietocher Tower drawings

Craigietocher Tower drawings

The Building of Craigietocher Tower - Chapter 2

See also: Chapter 1 | Chapter 3

I hope you all are still watching this space as there is still lots to tell you on the 'Never Ending Story of Castle Building'.

It's now July 2011 and the build continues, how did I end the last episode - I would hope to have the Tower completed and liveable by the Summer of 2010 – Wrong, let's re-word that to show 2012 – but keep watching this space..!!

Some years ago I read an article which ended with the following quotation 'Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true'. Reflecting on this build I can see the reality of these words now and luckily for me I have a job that will allow me to 'Pay the Price'. Mind you my forecasted retirement date has been pushed far to the right to allow for this.

I still have my dream and I will finish it and, one
day, live in the Tower with my family

I started March 2008 in a very buoyant mood, we were at last starting to build the Tower, estimates were for a 40 week program to Wind & Water tight. Contracts were taken out with a scaffold company for 40 ton of scaffold, rental agreements were signed for a site office and 'Comfort' room, toilet facilities were provided, dates were pencilled in for hooking up and testing the Ground Source Heat Pumps and under floor heating. A specialist Chimney Engineer had been hired to design the flues for the Great Hall fire place which needed special consideration to allow for the 2.5 mtr W x 1.5 mtr H fire place. The fabrication and installation of the spiral stairs went to a company in Cornwall, I could not find another company any further away from Turriff so I stuck with them..!! So there I was looking to move into my 'Dream' at the end of the year. How wrong I was, it's now July 2011 and the Tower is still not complete, not by a long stretch. I still have my Dream and I will finish it and one day live in the Tower with my family, 2012 is now looking good.

Craigietocher plot

Aerial View of Building Site at Start of Project - Land Cleared.

So what has happened, what has gone wrong and where, as I said, have those two and a half years gone..??

In a nut-shell, it's been due to some of the wettest summers on record, some of the coldest winters on record and added to this fairly poor progress by the building contractor who I found out was just using my build as a fill in job while he completed other contracts in the area. Following a site visit on 28th December 2009 a lot of ground rules were discussed in great detail with the building contractor, and since then there has been a marked improvement in progress, however, this has been hampered by torrential summer rain and long arctic conditions through the winter periods.

Craigietocher Tower

Setting 'Standing Stone' on what is now an island in 2nd lake

A knock on effect of all this un-seasonal weather has been frost damage to quite a bit of the Cast Stone where the finished surface to this stone has lifted off. This has meant that replacement stone has had to be ordered with the associated additional costs. The initial contract for the 40 week hire of the scaffold, which cost £24K, has long past and I am now paying an additional weekly rental for the scaffold to be on site, and it's still there. Due to the continual delays caused by the building contractor I advised him that I would no longer pay the monthly rental for the site office and comfort room and if he required this then he could supply at his own cost. This he has done.

Craigietocher Tower

Start of the build in 2008 - Ground Floor

One major concern for me, due to these delays, has been worry that the sub-contractors who have been paid to supply goods, going bankrupt, or their companies failing which would mean that I would not get the items I have paid for or their services to install their items in the Tower.

So far the only the Specialist Chimney Consultant has gone bankrupt, but luckily we managed to obtain all the items we had purchased from him and it has not held up the build.

Craigietocher Tower

Site shut down for winter 2010/2011, view looking South

So where am I now with the build and when will the Tower be completed..??

At of end of November 2010 we had completed the shell of the Tower up to and including the 4th floor level (see photos taken December 2010). At this point the snows started and just continued on and on, it just kept coming down. This hold up lasted until mid-March 2011 when work slowly started again.

Craigietocher Tower

Site shut down for winter 2010/2011

Luckily, no damage was noted on the cast stone due to frost, however, two of the open round corbel discs were damaged when one of the brickies reversed the forklift truck into them – more delays while these items were re-cast in Glasgow. Other delays were caused when the next and last shipment of cast Stone arrives as it was found that the colour was wrong, being considerably lighter in colour and therefore could not be used. More re- casting started.

Craigietocher Tower

Lifting and setting Open Round Corbells

The up-shot of these problems and a feeling that the building contractor was not only losing his grip on the build and possibly becoming disillusioned prompted me to take time out from work and get up to site in April and find out what was actually going on. This visit and discussions on site prompted me to hire in a 3rd party Building Site Manager who lived locally in Inverurie.

Craigietocher Tower 06

This has turned out to be one of the most positive moves I have made on this build project. He has turned around the whole project with dedicated and un-scheduled site visits, weekly site meetings, all fully minuted, along with Project Time Line forecasts and monthly Project Status Reports. Where he has been most beneficial to me is that he has been able to 'Cold Eyes' oversee the site and manage all the ordering of project materials and gain quotations for other items as needed which up until this time I was trying to do from Offshore Nigeria. The additional cost for the Site Manager has not been cheap, but the cost to me and the night's sleep I am getting now has been worth every penny.

Even with the help of this Site Manager it has not all been plain sailing, but at least it has been sailing on relatively calm waters.

Craigietocher Tower

The last couple of months have added more surprises in the way of costs, I really mean under estimated costs in the form of reclaimed oak flooring, three floors, required to be done which also had to be suitable for under floor heating, £12,600. Estimates for harling were sought with the view to using a cement based harle, however, of the only four companies prepared to tackle the work none would consider using cement based harle and all stated that they would do the job only if they used a lime based harle.

Craigietocher Tower

Quotes received to date for this are £96K and £69K, this does not include the cost of the scaffold towers. Still waiting on the other two companies to quote. Some time ago I bought enough Ballachulish slates from a reclaim material's yard to complete the Log Store, Doocot (Garage) and the Tower only to now find out that the local slaters do not want to use these slates for the Tower as they are single nail fixing and they wish to use double nail fixing. I am now looking at the cost this will add to the project if I cannot find a slater to use the on-site slates.

Craigietocher Tower

Cap House Corbells at Wall Head

When will the Tower be finished? Good question. I would hope that by late summer, early autumn 2011 we will be at wind & water tight with the spiral stairs installed and the harling completed, so that during the winter months all the internal work can be carried out. If all goes well with the 1st & 2nd fix we could be looking to having the Tower completed by summer of 2012 and thinking of moving in..!!

Craigietocher yett 01

Making the Yett the traditional Scottish way

As time passes I will continue to send photos to John Buchanan-Smith so you should be able to follow progress, also, once the project is complete I will do a 3rd and final chapter on this story. As a point of interest for those of you who are wondering about costs of this project, to-date I have spent the following amount GBP £409,357.41, this is the all up cost which includes the cost of the land. What do I now expect the Tower to cost to complete, conservatively I would say £650,000. What was the original budget I worked out to complete the Tower in those early days..?? It was £250,000, funny how wrong you can be..??

Craigietocher yett

Yett in position behind the front door at 1st floor level

On a lighter sid,e a few months ago when the arctic conditions once more covered Scotland, Meryl made the following comment to me while sat in our nice warm home in the South of England. "Who in their right mind would want to build a Scottish Fortified Tower House in Scotland, when the South of France sounds nice..??" Mind you, Meryl is a Gosport, girl, born and bred, who thinks everything north of the M27 is cold and comes under the heading of Scotland..!! So not a lot I could say to that..!!

I will end this Chapter as I did Chapter 1 - I would hope to have the Tower completed and liveable by the Summer of 2012 – Watch this space..!!

more images below (click to enlarge)

See also: Chapter 1 | Chapter 3

Article by SCA member Phill Plevey

Added: 20 Oct 2012 Updated: 15 Sep 2020
See also: Phill's Story
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