Sunday, 28 June 2015

Starting the surface-run mains cables

As well as preparing the lighting circuits, I've started fitting the wooden conduit to the walls, in which we will be running the surface-mounted mains electrics.

We've been working with the manufacturers of a braided covering for electrical wire, and have sourced some brass buckle clips. 

I created the wooden channelling myself, and have used a combination of screws and adhesive to put them on the walls. They show up where even the flattest walls in the house bend and curl over the underlying stone!

The buckle clips have been spaced at 15cm, and are individually tacked in to the wooden conduit. The channel in the conduit is 1mm wider than the braided wire, which keeps it almost straight, but allows for the clips to sit comfortably.

To be safe, and meet wiring regs, I've ensured that the wire sits lower than the conduit's sides - so it can't be rubbed by furniture or passing feet easily. I've also positioned it at 25cm above the floor to avoid feet.

And you can see a short section of the finished article below. The braided wire catches the light and shimmer softly whereas the juxtaposition between the wood and metal clips makes for a statement about the old house and something more contemporary.

Planning and starting the lighting circuits

In order to place and fit a lot of the new pattresses and light switches, I had to remove and patch up a variety of old, disused switch locations.

For some of them it was easiest to cut a new piece of board to fill the hole, rather than cover it with a pattress or filler.

Then it was just a matter of patch-plastering over the holes to make them sound.

Where we are fitting the pattresses to wooden frames, I've mounted them already. You can see below that I've decided to keep the pattresses a lighter shade than the switches and woodwork, so they're easier to locate in darkness.

Woodwool breathable insulated walls

We're now looking to get the mains and lighting electrics installed, and so we're looking at all the jobs which need doing in order for that to happen smoothly. One particular job which I've been stalling due to lack of local supplies is finishing the boarding of the two cold stone walls in the Lounge. 
They have been battened and wool insulated for some months - which has made a noticable difference in the room - but to preserve maximum breathability when we've plastered them, I sourced these WoodWool boards. They were quite difficult to find online, and even harder to find a reasonable shipping price, but I happened upon them at LimeGreen when I was collecting the floor mortar.

They are construced from shredded wood, mixed with lime to give a firm (but a bit crumbly) board that can be screwed to battens and then plastered.

You can see why they needed to be done before the electrics, because this is our only boarded wall and the only place we're having hidden wiring.

This gives some context to their location in the lounge.

Lime-Mortaring between flagstones on a floor

After a nice couple of weeks' holiday and far too many calories, I decided to crack on this weekend and get a few jobs completed. The first was the remainder of the mortaring (pointing) between the flagstones in the hallway and sitting room.
I sourced a pre-coloured strong (NHL5) mortar from a place called Limegreen in Shropshire and spent a good few hours spooning, squashing and levelling it in to all the gaps.

Because it's quite sunny and warm this weekend, I've been re-wetting it twice a day, and have finished it by bashing with a hard brush - which gives it a matt effect, and increases the surface area to help it dry more evenly.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Installing a Limecrete floor in the Living Room -part 2

We continued digging out both the Living Room and the Hallway to a depth of around 18-20cm below finished-level, slightly sloping upward at the edges of the room, and slightly deeper in the areas where we knew it was particularly damp.

The finished excavations were then levelled, and any sharp stones removed

On top of the bare earth we laid a geotextile membrane which will allow any dampness in the soil to rise upwards and escape - as vapour - through the limecrete. On top of that membrane we poured Glapor - expanded (or foamed) glass insulation which does not wick water upwards. This compresses by a third when you use a compression-plate on it (aka whacker plate, vibration plate), so we got through well over a cubic metre in filling just the Living Room and a strip across the front of the Hallway.

Once the Glapor is compressed, another layer of membrane was added - mostly to stop the insulating clay-bead and lime mix which we were about to add from falling down in to any small gaps in the Glapor.

The mix for the clay (LECA) layer was done by volume (not weight): half- a bag of LECA, half a bag of lime (12.5kg) and a full bag of Sharp Sand (20kg). This was mixed over 20 minutes with water (the quantities varied) until it formed a sort of lumpy Humus.

The lumpy Humus was then spread out over the second membrane to a thickness of around 8-10cm (thicker in high-traffic areas like doorways), and levelled using a plank.
At this point the levelling started to become more important, but since the house itself has no straight lines, and the floors were never level, it was all done by eye rather than spirit level.

The LECA/lime mix takes a couple of days to dry, and a couple of weeks to set properly. You shouldn't really walk on it whilst it's setting, so I rigged up a series of suspended boards for us to navigate around the house on during this time.

Once the LECA layer had set sufficiently, it was time to lay the flagstones which will comprise the final flooring. We bought in more Indian stone in a grey to match (ish) the local stone colour. Local stone was cost-prohibitive.

Before committing to final laying, I put the flags down in the pattern I'd envisaged and set about playing with the spacing between them. Once I was happy, I made up a bedding screed mix of limecrete as follows:
1 part lime
1 part building sand
2 parts sharp sand
enough water to mix it to a fairly moist Humus state.

The mix was simply poured on to the Leca layer, levelled vaguely with a plank and then the flagstones placed back in the correct position.

Because the flags themselves are not a uniform thickness, the process of levelling them so that there were no prominent trip-hazard edges was a case of manually pushing down on any raised areas until they became closely-level.

4 days after the flagstones were put in place, it seemed OK to walk on the centre of the larger stones and start the process of adding the premixed, precoloured lime mortar between the stones. 

The temperature has dropped, so we decided after a further week to make our first foray in to the room and light a little fire - take the edge of the chill in there and help the drying process along slowly.