Sunday, 21 September 2014

Reinstalling the kitchen, part 1

The lime-plastered wall in the kitchen is no longer cold to the touch, so I decided that it was time to re-install some of the kitchen cupboards in their new configuration.

I hung the wall cupboards first, which was quick and easy since they were already assembled. I just took the opportunity to clean them up and tighten all screws whilst they were accessible.

We had planned to dig a trough around the perimeter of the kitchen, in order that some of the damp which is trapped under the floor could escape before it hit the walls. I've spent many days pondering this, and decided to not do it in the end. The main reason being that the kitchen floor is considerably higher than the outside ground level, and since we've exposed the external brickwok, and much of the internal brickwork has been stripped and recoated in breathable lime, it is worth maintaining the floor as it is.

One concession I did make was to put the cupboards on high (15cm) legs, and install them with a big air-gap behind them. There'll be plenty of air-flow to take away any moisture coming out from that wall.

I wanted to emphasise the juxtaposition between the smooth, rendered wall and the stone wall, so spent some time cutting the worktop (new) to fit the profile of the stones.

And since the doorway to the Lounge comes wider than the worktop, I spent some time putting a curve in to the end - part for safety and part for aesthetics.

Unfortunately (schoolboy error) I bought laminate worktops (3mm of walnut on top of particle-board, so had to carefully apply a curved edging (supplied by IKEA) and match up the edges so it wouldn't catch or let in water.

I need to make a door for the built-in fridge at some point, but that will wait.

And we have a camp-stove in place where the ESSE 990CH range that we're having installed in October will go. The range will run the central heating and hot water, as well as be a stove.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Making it look less like a building site

We had the local police advisor around today after daily visits from the region's scrap-metal "dealers" this week. There are only so many shoddy old Transit vans you can put up with before you get paranoid that you're on some list somewhere...

The police advised three things:
Conspicuous cctv and lighting
Don't leave anything outside
Stop it looking like a renovation project

So we got some cctv installed. 4 cameras which record to a hard disk and can be accessed remotely if they're triggered.

These went up aling with PIR lights pointing at all of our gates.

We've also stowed all tools and scrap in to locked outbuildings. We're having the skip removed, and storing any rubble away down the garden. And we're going to dismantle the caravan awning and move the caravan so it looks less like a home.

And we've moved back in to the lounge, making efforts to make it appear lived-in. 
It's actually quite cosy.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Knowing when to quit

I hit a metaphorical wall yesterday evening.

I wanted to dig out the floor of the Sitting Room to a depth of around 7 inches so we can put in an insulated Glapor and Leca Limecrete floor. But it's absolutely back-breaking. 

Unlike the floor of the Lounge, which was earth and stones, the floor of the Sitting Room is thick, hard yellow clay and stones. I can't even drive a garden fork in to it.

So I've given up for now. It can stay that way for a couple of months until I need the body-heat in Winter, or I throw in the towel and hire a micro-digger to do it.

Lifting the concrete floor in Sitting Room and Hallway

We had a layer of old, dusty, poured concrete in the Sitting Room and Hallway which we wanted to remove. We have a skip here at the moment and it was the right time to do the last big dusty job. So we cracked on with it.

Breaking it was very easy. It varied between 5 and 10cm thick and it was falling apart.

It had been laid on a plastic membrane which was trapping moisture under it, and the immediate smell of damp which came up from the broken floor was a sign of the house taking a deep sigh of relief.

We had the floor broken up and removed from the Sitting Room within a couple of hours.

I had a moment of anticipation when we discovered a pattern underneath the concrete. Could it be that an old floor was still under there?!

Brushing it off carefully brought more initial hope, and clear evidence of a brick or tile floor (which could well have been original). But, alas, it transpired that the pattern was the cement/lime mix that the bricks had been laid in to. The bricks themselves were long gone. 

What's really interesting is just how damp it is under this concrete. You can see how there's so much moisture that it makes my gloves wet to touch it. 

We'll leave the rooms to gently evaporate and equalise for some months before laying any new floor.

Ancient oak windowsill removal

We're having new central heating installed in October. And one of the radiators needs to go under the window in the sitting room. That wall currently has no plaster on it, so we're looking to get it plastered in the next couple of weeks.

We took a closer look at the two long pieces of wood which have been used as fillers in this area. They were knackered, rotten, had insect infestation and would have needed some serious treatment if we were to build over them.

The photos don't really do the state of these bits of wood justice. They were horrible.

So, we pulled them out! 

I wanted to replace them with bricks which were taken from other areas of the house, to keep the age of the building 'in keeping', so after removing any rubble and dust from the underlaying course of bricks, we thoroughly wet the area down (to reduce suction on the new NHL5 lime mortar) and set about adding in a new course of bricks to bring the level up.

On top of these bricks we'll put the layer of green oak as a windowsill, to match the one we have in the Lounge. But more importantly, this wall is now OK to plaster.

Lime plastering

We decided to pay for a plasterer to come in and lime plaster walls in the kitchen and lounge. He did it over 2 days, with a 2-day gap in between to allow the scratch-coat to dry.

The scratch coat was applied with a mixture of goat hair and pre-mix from Lime Green, at a thickness of between 1 and 2 cms, depending on the flatness of the wall below. Where it went over non-porous bricks in the kitchen, we bolted a stainless steel mesh to the wall to help with the adhesion.

It required spraying with water twice a day to keep it from drying out too quickly and cracking.

Watching the plasterer at work was a joy. He spent time teaching us how to put on the scratch-coat properly (which we had to admit to being rubbish at). You can see below that he used a plastic (pink) mesh to help stop the cracking which might occur as the lime went from porous brick to engineering brick.

And here's the finished, flat and smooth wall in the kitchen.

Feeling all of a sudden isolated...

A couple of weeks ago we ripped out all of the copper central heating pipes and put them in an old shed. They weren't visible from the road, or indeed at all unless you wandered in to the garden.

And we've had a visit from the local scrap-metal thieves, so it's now all gone.
In fact, we've had daily visits from different unmarked Transit vans, casing the place. Some have approached us and asked for scrap, and some have just done a drive-by. 

Suddenly, the idea of having no near neighbours has taken a different twist.