Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Lounge - window worms

A little bit of progress has been made on the inside of the Lounge, prompted by us noticing that the windowsill was severely rotten and pools of water forming on it whenever it rained.

I took a tentative hammer to the windowsill which it transpires was made of chipboard - one of my least favourite materials. As soon as I cracked open the surface of slick gloss paint, the extent of the rot was revealed. Inside the board were worms, woodlice and earwigs, all happily living off the gently rotting wood, which had lost all of its structural integrity.

I decided there and then to remove the entire windowsill. It was extremely easy, and revealed underneath a poorly finished stone surface. Whatever was there originally has long gone - perhaps it was wood which had rotted over time. There are, however, what look like original bricks under the windows (the windows are not original) which may clean up nicely. I suspect that we'll look to rebuild the window sill using quarry tiles or bricks, rather than in wood again.

Carried away by the ease of which the gypsum plaster underneath the window came off, I spent a good morning chipping it off, leaving only the original lime render in patches either side of the window.

This is a job that we had scheduled for the end of April when we plan to move out of the house and into a caravan because it is horrifically dirty work and murder on the lungs. This wall, however, was so damp that it created very little dust.

One pleasant surprise from excavating around the window was that the original oak lintel is still in place and in good condition, with no signs of damp or rocked or insect infestation. You can see that it has a natural split down its length, but this doesn't affect its structural integrity.

Tree culling

The cottage had been shrouded in darkness by the presence of 30 Lleylandii trees above and below it on the south side which served to block out most of the daytime sunshine.

We decided, for a couple of reasons, to have all of these trees chopped back. Mostly to let more light in to and on to the house to try and warm it up through summer, and also partly because some of them had roots which were making their way towards the main drains which run down the road outside the house. 

We contracted out the felling of 80% of the trees to a local tree surgeon who along with a couple of mates spent four days chopping them down. I have been using my chainsaw to cut some of the remainder into handy sized logs which we can leave out to season for a couple of years.

In all I think we now have somewhere around 10 tons of softwood which will form the basis of fuel for the house -  potentially as early as winter 2015 - and allow us to stop paying for the extraordinarily expensive oil which the current central heating runs on. We plan to get a wood-burning Rayburn cooker installed to run the central heating, along with a couple of wood-burning stoves in the Lounge and Sitting Room.

I asked the tree surgeons to leave the stumps of some of the trees in place so that I could form a stable woodstack of about 5ft in height. The stack is around 20m long and will form a semi-permanant wall behind which we'll keep chickens.

As a bit of a money saving bonus, the local power company came around to chop the tops off a further 20 trees which were growing underneath the overhead electricity cables at the back of the property.  Is has left us another couple of tons of soft wood which we're in the process of cutting. And we have around 6-7 tonnes of conifer chippings which we're using to cover the rampant nettle-beds at the back of the garden. That's a laborious task which will probably take several months to complete.