Saturday, 26 December 2015

Replacing the ceiling between oak beams

Since we pulled down the false-ceiling in the Kitchen about 18 months ago, all that has separated the Kichen from the Bedroom above has been the gappy floorboards. Great for having conversations through the floor, but less good for draughts, dust and smoke from the range cooker.

You can see below, in the lower half of the picture, that the floorboards needed covering, and in the top half of the picture the solution. 

I thought long and hard about installing a lath-and-plaster ceiling between each beam in order to stay true to the original build of the house, but I'm afraid that practicality and cost won out in the end.

I cut modern plasterboard to fit in between each beam, leaving a gap of between 3-7 mm (they're not straight) so there's limited physical contact between gypsum and oak beams. Each board is held up on a set of tacks hammered in to the beams, so that it floats a few mm beneath the floorboards above. I've then sealed around the boards using acrylic caulk. 

I realise that last bit isn't great in terms of preserving the oak, but with the air space above each board and a gap around each edge, there's still plenty of space for each beam to breath above and below the thin line of caulk, and we won't get smoked out by the range cooker in the bedroom above any longer.

Chalk paint for damp solid walls

In the Kitchen we still have a big damp problem, which is managed through a combination of having the range cooker in there on constantly, good air-flow, and stripping the walls back to bare brick (or stone). The damp is being caused by the solid concrete floor, which sits on thick clay. All the moisture that wants to come up through that floor is being sucked up by the nice soft bricks and lime pointing, and wants to find its way in to the atmosphere. 

So, we wanted to put a finish on one wall which still allowed it to breath, but made the room a little more homely. Due to the myriad different finishes of limewash, milk paint, filler, lime filler and old brick, we plumped for a Chalk Paint from Authentico which was said to adhere to anything.

Before applying, I tidied up any features we wanted to keep on show, including an oak beam above the doorway, which I stripped back and used lime filler around so it can breath properly. 

The chalk paint is amazing! It goes on to any surface with ease, has incredible coverage over previous surfaces, doesn't smell, and a little goes a long way. Most expensive per litre, but also the best and thickest paint I've ever used.

A single brushed coat on to bare rough brick has given a lovely matt, textured finish.

Update April 2016: The wall is SO damp at the bottom that the paint, and underlying brick, is flaking off in tiny dust-like chunks. 

Planning to replace the staircase

We've saved up enough money that we can now start to properly plan the replacement of the staircase. The current flight has been bodged over the years to create the Stair Of Death (below) from the Bedrooms, and it currently descends in to the Sitting Room. We want to replace it with an L-shaped winder flight that starts in the downstairs hallway and comes up to give a small landing space where the Stair Of Death currently sits.

I've already put in place the 6x6in green oak support, which our friendly joiner is happy to use as part of the new staircase and has worked out a configuration that fits the Building Regulations, and should look like it belongs in the house.

We're going for European Oak, and will leave it un-carpeted.

Building a porch canopy

Winter's arrived in the form of endless, miserable dampness again, and the back door has swollen so it won't open or shut properly. The front door is the same - but we don't use it so it can wait. 
The time had come to offer the poor door some protection from the weather, and a simple porch canopy seemed to fit the bill.

Form followed cost on this little project, so a few lengths of C24 treated CLS wood from the local timber yard were chopped and routed to soften the edges, and then built in to a frame.

The tiles were taken from a derelict outbuilding we have on our land, which match some of the old roof tiles - including the lovely pitched ridge tiles.

It's not particularly fancy, but it does the job well.

Beeck breathable sealant for solid walls

We had some of the walls of the cottage sandblasted a while ago to remove paint/sealant which was still trapping a fair degree of moisture in them. We're going to leave these walls unpainted, but they are pretty dusty to the touch even since they've been vacuumed and wiped down with damp cloths. So, we looked to source a breathable sealant to reduce any fly-away dust in the air.

A lot of sealants claim to be waterproof - and they probably are - but our circumstances, especially in the Kitchen where the walls are dealing with a lot of water trapped under the concrete floor, we wanted the MOST breathable one. And a friend found it after some research for a similar project in the form of BEECK Fixative.

It comes in massive 10kg (10L) canisters and is used as a fixative for their range of paints in its undiluted form. For creating a breathable sealant, you water it down to 15% solution and spray or pait it on. For our uneven walls I chose to spray it on using a garden mister.

The first thing I noticed was the colour coming out of the stonework. Where the dust had created a fairly uniform grey wall, the fixative brought out browns, blues and flecks of black to make a much more vivid wall. In the picture above, the extreme left-hand side has dried, and that's the finished colouring, compared with the middle - wet still - and the right - not yet sprayed.

The effect on the bricks is really nice. It's brought out a deep orange/red colour and highlighted where different firing times have resulted in odd colours here and there.

The fireplace in the Sitting Room is especially nice. It could be overbearing (it's a big brick monolith which is completely out of scale with the rest of the room), but in the evening it's a warm and cosy room. The odd coloured bricks - including one white one - look really interesting.