Sunday, 22 June 2014

Dropping the level of an internal floor (Lounge)

We've decided to finish the Lounge floor in flagstones, and since we found that there is nothing except a mixture of sand and mud underneath the inch of concrete in that room, we've decided to dig it down a little and add a layer of insulation.

There was no avoiding the manual labour of digging, raking and harrowing out a cubic metre of old crud - which is now forming a nice spoil-pile behind the compost bin.

It was hard work, as the sand mix contained many stones that stopped a shovel going in smoothly. Eventually, however, we got down to around about the desired level.

I fashioned a basic level gauge so I could use the hearth stone as a datum level and try to get the rest of the room vaguely level compared to it. I set the depth of the upright at 150mm, which gave me 30mm for the flagstone, 20mm for the lime screed which it will be bedded on to, and 100mm for an expanded glass insulation material called TechnoPor, which is non-porous and thus will not wick moisture up from the earth to the flagstones. It will, however, allow natural evaporation as the temperature of the room gradually rises.

A good stamping and levelling with the side of a scaffolding board got the room to a rough sort of level - good enough to have 1.5cu M of TechnoPor poured on top of a geotextile membrane anyway. 
The advantage of TechnoPor is that, despite being glass, it can be compacted using a whacker-plate so that it forms a solid, strong, structural base for the lime screed.

You can see what's going on depth-wise here, and the angle we've left underneath the hearth stone. We've left the same angle at the edges of the room, since the foundations on the house are very shallow.

And here you can see the geotextile membrane in place, waiting for the TechnoPor to arrive.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

An archaeological dig, in the Lounge

Inspired by watching an episode of Time Team, I decided to make the most of having the floor up in the Lounge, and had a little exploratory dig to see if I could find anything to help date the house.

It became almost immediately apparent that the top 8 inches of dirt and rubble were laying on top of a much more solid layer, and I decided to dig out a trench to this depth to see what was happening.

It's very clearly the remains of an old stone floor, in what would have been the kitchen of the house. Intrigued by what looked like an edge (at the top of the above picture) I dug on to make a larger trench and see if the outline of something appeared. At one stage I wondered if it could be the edge of an older building's room, pre-dating the house.

The floor seems to get more higgledy-piggledy as I move away from my original trench - perhaps it was a flukey first location - and above the 'edge' I was able to dig a little further to see what it was all made from.

The dark stones are typical local stone from the nearby quarry and surrounding land. They're incredibly hard, black stones, and have been rammed down in a layer which appears to be between 5 and 8 inches thick, packed with chalk and lime. Factoring in the layer of concrete that we've already removed from this room, the old floor is some 13 inches below the current floor height.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Drying out the house

We've entered a period of calm after the storm of destruction, and we're letting the dust settle and the house start to dry out.

We're not doing anything particularly special except for having the heating on for a couple of hours a day, and keeping a nice draught through the house for air-exchange. And already you can start to feel the damp leaving.

There's clear evidence of the damp coming out on the outside brick wall of the Kitchen, (North facing) where a nice layer of moss and lichen is starting to form.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Caravan awning failure in the rain

The biblical storm mentioned in the last couple of posts claimed the life of our caravan awning this afternoon.

We've been living in the caravan to escape the dust of the renovations, and thankfully we only had a few possessions in there - most stuff is in storage.

The sofa took a bit of a drenching, and the carpet that we'd covered the awning space in is past the point of salvage - it smells horrible anyway.

The damage is in 2 places, so the easiest option was to just cover it up.

We lashed a tarp up and over the whole thing in about 30 minutes, and we'll see how that fairs.

Unused chimney flue leaking

We had a rain shower of biblical proportions this afternoon, and it exposes a leak from the capped-off chimney flue which leads to Bedroom 1. There was a regular, strong drip in to the fireplace.

I stuck a torch and video camera up there and it appears that the water is coming in through either the flaunching, or more likely the joint between chimney pot and pot cap (which is vented). I've sent the video off to the builder and the stove installer (who put the pots on) and am waiting for a reply.

Guttering failure - Heavy rain swamps the house

We had a heavy shower today, and I managed to capture why we need to pay some attention to the guttering, sooner rather than later.

The current guttering is a joke. It drains from one roof to another and then pours on to the floor. We don't have any storm-water drains, so we'll be looking to get some more sensible ways of diverting the rain away from the Cottage's shallow foundations over the next couple of months.

This one, on the roof of the Sun Room... well, it makes for a pretty waterfall!

And an ad-libbed bit of guttering, with the help of a car, takes some of the overspill away from the walls.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Where to buy period fixtures and fittings

We spent an enjoyable afternoon driving to Warwick to visit Wylie's - The Ironmongers, which is one of the finest retailers of period-property fixtures, fittings and treatments in the country.

It's run by a chap called Charlie, who is an ironmonger with his own forge in the Cotswolds and an encyclopedic knowledge of period properties. This is Charlie:

We ended up purchasing a number of light-switches for when we re-wire the house. We wanted to have something a little special for that moment when you enter a room and touch a switch, so we chose a modern interpretation of the bakelite switches that we have in the Kitchen.

I spent about half an hour clicking it on and off. It really is a delightful thing.

I also spent quite a lot of time thinking about the ironmongery, and how we could use it in The Cottage. You see, it used to be a Blacksmith's cottage and we've found lots of iron parts in the garden, and I think it would be nice to celebrate that bit of history some how. I'm undecided how though, exactly.

All photos in this post are copyright of Wylie's - taken from their website:

Removing a radiator and finding concrete render in the hallway

The last patch of unexplored wall in the house that we'd flagged as an issue was behind the radiator in the Hallway. That wall was by far the wettest when we viewed the house, and the theory we've come up with is that it is the most porous wall in the house due to its all-brick construction and surrounding floors of solid concrete. It's essentially been acting as a wick for the moisture in the earth below the house.

So, what we revealed when we removed the radiator was a concrete render on the wall. Possibly the worst way to trap all that moisture in the lower courses of bricks and keep the wall stone-cold all year round.

You can see the position of this wall as completely internal a little better in this photo. The WC is off to the right.

Proof that the wall behind the concrete is sodden, and has been for long-term, can be seen in the state of the radiator brackets. Thoroughly rusted where there screws have penetrated the concrete.

It didn't take long to remove the concrete render and get the wall back to brick.

Removing radiators and exposing damp in the Lounge

After capping off the down-pipes (previous post) it was time to remove the radiator from the Lounge. 
This one had always bugged me - it wasn't centred on the window, and was unneccessarily large for the room.

Draining it in to a bucket took a short while. It's a circa 40-year old radiator and weighs a tonne.

Pulling it off the wall revealed what we knew was there - a thick coating of gypsum plaster on the stonework which was causing some damp problems. We'd already removed the gypsum that we could reach above the radiator.

As if the theory that Gypsum plaster traps damp in a solid wall needed illustrating, behind the plaster we revealed a number of critters living happily in the moist environment.

These woodlice were rather perturbed to have their little home demolished!

And with what is possibly the best illustration so far of how damp the walls have been, and how badly the modern plasters have trapped the damp in, we revealed that a plant had sent its roots up behind the gypsum to feed off the damp. Amazing.

You can see that there are holes drilled in the wall here, which is a joke of an injected damp-proof course. I actually feel quite bad for the previous owners - an old couple - clearly ripped off by someone injecting solid stone with... not a lot.

Removing the bulk of the gypsum was a doddle because it mostly just fell off the wall. And this is what we were left with.

Decommissioning the downstairs central heating

The central heating for the Lounge, Hallway and WC run down from Bedroom 2 and across the floor. There are two major problems with this - the first being the fact that the pipes run across the floor and can be tripped over. And the second is that they run through a solid wall un-insulated, and they're corroding. You can see the blue corrosion on the pipes (left) coming through the paint.

So first order of business was to drain down the entire system. Very handily, one of the lowest points (there are three, on separate circuits) is in the WC, which has a wet-room floor. So it was a simple matter of undoing the drain valve and opening all the bleed valves on the other radiators. It took about 30 minutes to drain.

I wanted to leave in the pipes coming down the wall of the Lounge, in order to give us options for when we put central heating back in, so I decided to cap the two pipes off just below the light-switch.

A scraping with a chisel removed the paint, and then a light brushing with a wire-brush and then a paint-removing drillbit brought the pipes up nice and clean. I applied some solder flux for good measure and burnt it off with a blowtorch.

I cut the pipes with a pipe-cutter to get a nice clean finish. The pipe on the right (below) continued to drip for a long time, so my first attempt at capping it with a solder-on cap failed.

The dry pipe soldered up a treat, and I decided to stick an in-line ball-type tap with compression seal on the dripping pipe. That worked well.

It was then just a case of removing the piping below the breaks and revealing what was behind the radiators!

Cleaning and piling the architectural salvage

We spent a few hours moving all the various architectural salvage that we'd found in the garden, and that was left over from the chimney project, up to what we're calling The Piggery.

At this stage I'm not sure what we'll need all these for, but I'd rather keep them than not. 
There's a possibility that we may convert the original 1840s stable in to a teeny-tiny pub.