Saturday, 27 December 2014

Building cupboards in the bedroom

We wanted a whole wall of cupboards in Bedroom 3 as storage, and to blend-in the enormous water tank that now resides in there.
The first job was to get in some datum uprights to take other measurements from. It took a while because there's no straight-lines in the Cottage - nothing is parallel and there had to be some 'by eye' judgements to line things up with either floor or ceiling, wall or floorboards.

The next job was to clean up and replace the area of ceiling above the cupboards, but allow access to the complicated water tank system which is now up there. I decided that installing a large hatch would be easiest in the long-term.

Removing the old insulation, cleaning the access areas and insulating the tanks took half a day, and I put back in new insulation in all of the areas except for directly under the cold-feed to the tank, in an effort to use some heat from the house to stop it freezing in winter.

The hatch is held up on a set of wedges which will be blended in to the black oak beams, and a pulley system which is hidden in one of the cupboards. The idea being that in the event of a leak or needing access to the roof it is quick and easy.

A simple set of pulleys make sure the hatch is up and snug with the ceiling.

Removing the unsupported hearth

Long-term followers of the blog may remember my horror when I removed a register-plate from the ceiling of the kitchen where an old Rayburn flue had been run, to discover an unsupported set of breeze blocks which had been made as the base of a hearth in Bedroom 3. 

With no structural support whatsoever, we had sealed off the hearth in Bedroom 3 as a danger area in case someone stood on it and went through the floor. 

The time had come to remove the hearth completely.

From above you can see that it looks a lot less dangerous than you might appreciate. Original looking... but in actual fact an addition which we can date to somewhere around 1950.

Some very careful use of a 5kg electric breaker drill broke up the breeze-blocks in to removable portions.

And then it was just a matter of removing them and cleaning up.
The flat surface you can see here is a plywood board that I had screwed to the kitchen ceiling to stop the breeze blocks falling through.

Since the hole was going to be under a built-in cupboard in the bedroom, I wanted to make sure that there was a safe amount of structure over the void to stop anyone standing in the cupboard and falling through to the kitchen. A set of CSLs (wooden battens) should do the job.

Insulating the gable end wall

In Bedroom 3, where we had the disused chimney breast removed, the gable end wall is North facing and very cold. We wanted to insulate it to minimise the amount of heat lost through the large solid-brick space, but we also wanted to keep it as breathable as possible.

I looked around at options for breathable boards and insulation and one thing that struck me was the extreme difficulty in sourcing them due to lack of plain-English information and suppliers. 
Somewhat exasporated, I decided to ad-lib a method for breathable insulation and ordered some rolls of sheep's wool insulation (6cm thick).

I started by attaching 60cm spaced battens to the wall, which hover above the central-heating pipes.

The sheep's wool insulation simply slots in between the batons, and is held up by a couple of panel pins at the top, and friction to the bricks.

When it came to sourcing a breathable board to put over the top of the wool, I again hit a bit of a dead-end in the sourcing - having a choice between astronomical delivery costs or minimum orders of massive quantities. I wanted to use a wood-fibre board - which in itself is an insulating layer, but offers a nice surface finish - but couldn't find the right combination of cost and practicality.

In the end I decided that B&Q's finest wood-fibre underfloor insulation was much the same thing without some of the structural integrity (it breaks really easily), so I pinned these over the wool and it seems to work pretty well.

We can get away with this stuff as a wall covering on this particular wall because it will be behind a bespoke cupboard. You couldn't use it on a 'normal' wall since it flexes too much.