Friday, 29 August 2014

Ripping out the old oil-fired boiler

It didn't really need doing today, but I woke up in a mood which was annoyed by the enormous oil-fired boiler that sat in the corner of the porch and had loads of pipes going to it.
So, I decided that today was the day to decommission it and get rid.

I started by isolating the fuel at the oil tank in the garden. I'd watched and learnt about that when we had it serviced last winter, so knew how to stop the flow of fuel. It helped that the tank is slightly downhill from the boiler so there was no inherent flow.

Then, turning off the electricity, I removed all of its wiring and isolated it. 

Once the fuel and spark had been eliminated, it was simply a matter of carefully undoing and unscrewing all of the pipes which fed in to it, draining each in to a bucket, and releasing the flue from the external wall.

Shifting it was immensely difficult. It weighed far, far more than I'd anticipated and it was a real backache... but perseverance won out in the end.

Not sure what to do with it, I've popped it in the garden next to its tank. The tank has a little (guesstimate 100L) of kerosene still in it, so I might see if there's some way to fit it with a tap and we can fuel some kerosene lanterns to save on electricity costs through winter. Once it's empty we can get rid of the tank.

And I was able to remove all of the redundant pipework which fed the boiler quite easily, using a reciprocating saw and spanner.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Readying for plastering in the kitchen and lounge

It suddenly struck me this morning that we have a professional lime plasterer coming next week and we haven't finished the prep in the lounge.

So today was spent with an eye on filling any large holes and preparing the windowsill so that he can plaster up to and around it.

Some months ago we stripped out the old windowsill which was completely rotten and since then it has been a brick and lime and has dried out nicely .

I paid a visit to a reclamation yard and picked up 12 feet of green oak for £35, and set about cutting a piece to fit the windowsill. I love working with oak, and decided to use hand tools instead of electric ones, enjoying the smell in a romantic shed moment.

Offering it up to the window, and it transpired that a couple of millimetres of a protruding brick needed trimming but apart from that it was a perfect fit.

I decided to coat the bricks with a thin layer of NHL5, builders sand and sharp sand (1:2:1) to level them up and sit the oak directly onto this. I have no qualms about it sitting directly in contact with the lime because that is what the beams of the house are doing anyway... We'll oil the visible surfaces.

I roughly filled in the ends of the sill, readying them for the finishing coat which will be put on by the plasterer. 

And I added another coat to the large indentation in the lounge wall, bringing it somewhere towards flat.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Starting an upstairs shower-room

It may seem like we're doing things in a bit of an odd order - jumping about between rooms. But there's method in the madness because we're still living on-site (in a caravan). The current WC/shower-room has been an untouchable entity. I've pulled out the lights, and part of the wall, but we can still shower by torchlight after a hard day's graft which keeps the spirits up.

The plan is to keep that WC in place until we've fitted out a new upstairs shower-room, occupying the northern half of Bedroom 2. 

Since we're now moving on to plumbing in water, and we have a schedule for the installation of central heating - October - I can begin putting in place the structure to accept this new shower-room.

This is the corner of Bedroom 2, with pipes fed up from the speedfit run in the Lounge.

So today I measured out and erected the stud-work for the dividing wall in this room, and opened up an old doorway which the previous owners had blocked. The result is an interesting space that will become the shower-room.

Kitchen - various

Today started with a bit of an unexpected surprise when I removed the metal plate from the Kitchen ceiling which was surrounding the old Rayburn flue hole. It revealed that, above the 3mm steel plate, was a hotch-potch of breeze blocks and cement which was forming the hearth of the fireplace above. Nothing else, apart from the plate, was holding these blocks in, and standing on the hearth above would probably have resulted in a quick trip to the kitchen.

I went out and got a 9mm ply board, cut it to shape and screwed it back over the blocks to hold them up.

We've finished removing all of the limewash from the older bricks on the eastern wall of the Kitchen, ready for it to be lime rendered next week (by a professional who is going to simultaneously teach us how to lime plaster properly). This was a horrible, time-consuming job.

And so that we have some ability to wash - we're still living on-site - I re-installed the sink and washing machine to their new locations, plumbing them in to the speedfit pipes, and running drain pipes out through the exterior wall. The sink will be replaced by a ceramic one next month.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Re-plumbing, part 2

I've finished off the partial re-plumbing today. The speed fit piping is working a treat and was extremely easy to fit.

I have capped off outlets for the kitchen sink and upstairs shower room - which we are yet to create - and managed to connect all our outside water to the same system. So I'm quite pleased with that.

I still have not found an external stopcock for our water supply but taking a closer look at the internal main stopcock it isn't in a great state.

The junctions all seem quite sound and I have given the stopcock itself a rubdown and an oil making sure it works okay.

I have added in a second stopcock immediately above it as part of the speed fit system just in case it should fail. Long-term I will trace back the plate that connects to the house and see if there is a stopcock somewhere in the garden that we haven't found yet.

Eventually I want to remove all of the copper from our water supply so that we can do away with the supplementary bonding.

In order that we could maintain the current WC and shower room I have had to add a temporary supply which branches off to that area of the house.

I cut back as much of the old copper pipe as possible and connected a speed fit spur at the point where the copper pipe vanishes off into the walls and I can no longer trace it. That copper pipe appears to serve the WC and shower but we have yet to remove the full squalls in the WC to expose what happens to the pipe once it enters that area.

I have now been able to get the washing machine into its final place so I can line up a hole through the wall and start putting in drainage for the washing machine and the new kitchen sink. Today has been a great balance of creating new things rather than knocking out old ones.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Re-plumbing the cold water main

Today we embarked on the re-plumbing of the house.
We decided that the current configuration of pipes throughout the house was too much of a mess to salvage, and that starting from scratch was going to be easier.
We have a cold-water main pipe coming in by the front door, which is just about the most useless place it could be sited, but we don't want to excavate it to move it around the rear of the house... instead we're putting in a Speedfit system from that point, around the ceiling (hidden where possible) and branching off to the kitchen, bathroom and soon-to-be shower room upstairs (in Bed 2).

The whole lot came to £180.

There are only 2 places where I need to drill through the 2-foot thick stone walls, and mercifully my SDS drill found its way through some soft-pockets of lime and dirt and the job took no more than a few seconds.

The pipework is about as attractive as a black-eye, so we'll be concealing it behind false fronts for beams, and attempting to blend it in elsewhere. There's not a huge amount we can do to hide it all because the stone walls don't allow for chasing, and we've exposed every wall.

What was massively cathartic was ripping out the shoddy pipework in the kitchen. And in a massive stroke of luck we discovered a previously uncovered stopcock in the bathroom which meant that we could isolate the toilet (and keep it functional) whilst in the interim build period between new and old pipework.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Prepping to lime plaster the Kitchen

We had a specialist lime plasterer around to quote on covering the eastern wall of the kitchen and the entire lounge.

His quote came in at £750, but he warned that the Kitchen would be impossible to lime plaster because it had been lime washed... Counter intuitive, isn't it?

But, I sort of see his point. The limewashed bricks are flaky, dusty and dry, and this is bound to have a detrimental effect on the new plaster.

So, we've been filling large gaps with a 2:1 building sand to NHL5 "muck" (to vaguely level the wall) and painstakingly removing the limewash... Brick by brick.

The large holes were filled with brick ends and lime mix. Then scored to take a top coat.

The whole wall comprises a mix of thermal blocks (left), old bricks (middle), and we've just discovered a bricked-up doorway to the bathroom (right) which uses incredibly dense engineering bricks and concrete mortar.

Stripping the limewash off the bricks is horrendous. The worst, most filthy job so far. We've called this phase "peak nasty" because the house is now a no-go zone without a mask and goggles. We've also pulled out the kitchen.

Those engineering bricks are covered in a sticky, thick vinyl paint that won't come off with paint stripper. Only a steamer is having an effect - and that's turning it to a rubbery glue.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Removing redundant electrics

Pulling down the kitchen ceiling exposed a variety of redundant wires which seemed to have spanned the decades. I set about tracing and removing any wires which aren't currently in use, to simplify the job of rewiring, and tidy up the walls. You can see here, the thick wires which were the original feed in to the house from the electricity board. 

It was made less easy by the fact that many wires had been plastered or concreted in to wall coverings, and it became necessary to remove - very carefully - the plasterboard covering the west wall of the kitchen (on to which the consumer board is mounted).

You can see here that the main 'to ground' earth wire is connected using a choc-blok, and has been plastered in to a wall. 

Removing the plasterboard without yanking wires off the consumer unit took some time.

But eventually I got there and was able to cut out anything spurious.

Here's the remnants of what was removed. I've managed to salvage most of the servicable junction boxes and switches.