Saturday, 29 January 2011

Introducing the Guest Bedroom and "Study"

Location of future guest room?
These two rooms, at the eastern side of the house, were previously used as a bedroom (the larger room) and a kind of small sitting room/study (well, the smaller room).

The floor, and beams underneath the smaller room have been completely replaced in the recent past (over cellar 4), as the timbers had rotted due to the moisture from the animals in the stalls below. The floor in the larger room may well be original, and are certainly solid timber, but carpets had been glued directly onto the boards, so it's going to be quite a job cleaning it down (see the grey covering in the photo below).

Large room. The door on the right leads to the smaller Northern room.
Location of future study?
The walls in these rooms have been dry-lined completely, and we'll remove this to assess to condition of the walls before updating the insulation, particularly the half-timbered front facade. Who knows what will be revealed?

Not much to say about these rooms, other than the large one in the south-east corner will probably be a guest room, and the smaller one may be another guest room or study. As shown in the previous post, we plan on turning one corner of the large room into part of a hall to link the rooms to the main landing, while the adjoining room houses a guest bathroom.

Today we had a nice surprise from the former owners, who gave us the original plans from various building changes, dating back to 1922. They answer some questions and confirm some suspicions. A history of the development of the farmhouse and other buildings will follow at some stage.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Introducing the Landing(s)

At some time in the past, the house was split into two separated halves. We're not sure when, exactly, but we were told that one half was used as a post office at some stage (and there were rumours of a guest house). The evidence shows that this split was most likely designed into the house, though it seems unusual to us. The layout is almost perfectly symmetrical, and the two central doors would have been the two main entrances to each half, with each hall containing a staircase to the living level, and a second level of stairs up to the first attic level. This is pretty clear from the truncated beams in the ceiling of the first-floor landing and the side-room (see photos below), which was once a landing. Above this room, it is also clear from the floor boards that there used to be an opening between these upper levels.

Main landing.
The current staircase from the cellar to 1st floor is "modern", and not to our liking, however it is not essential to change it at this stage. Our hard-earned cash is better spent on other things. The remaining staircase from the 1st floor to the 1st attic level appears to be original, and will hopefully retain its rustic feel after a cleaning down. The walls here have been dry-lined on all sides, and there is a metal cabinet for the electricity meter and trip switches, which we want moved to the cellar. The picture to the right just about shows the stairs down to the cellar level, at the top of which is the door to the kitchen.

The side room/former landing (visible through the door on the right in the photo above), is an odd room, playing no useful role in the current layout, merely being an antechamber to one of the rooms on this level. The walls bulge here, showing the tell-tale signs of the large timbers that form the supporting structure of the wall, layered with wallpaper over the colourful remains of paint from the past, and under that, thin plaster, just about covering the timbers and wattle-and-daub panels.
Former landing, future guest toilet?

Planned layout.
Quite a lot of work is planned here. We are proposing that the existing doors in and out of the former landing be closed, and new doors inserted to form a passage through from the main landing to the two rooms on the eastern side of this level. This would then leave the front part of the former landing to be used as a guest bathroom (in the American sense, otherwise a toilet/shower room). We weren't sure about this at first, but it was a pretty good suggestion from our architects, and would make better use of the space here. Other ideas had been to try to open up the wall between the two landings, but as the central wall supports the stairs, and other things, it was a bit impractical. In any case, this is subject to approval, and examination by a structural engineer.

Today is also a milestone, as we signed the planning application. It'll be dropped into the town hall in the morning, then it's time to wait (around six weeks, hopefully) and see how our plans go.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Introducing the Extension/Bathroom

Location of bathroom, January 2011.
At the rear of the house, connected to the former slaughter room, is an extension housing the current bathroom. The extension itself it utilitarian and a bit ugly, with only one small window letting in light to the current bathroom. We think it was built in the 60s or 70s, and the pitched roof has impacted the roof structure, in that original rafters have been truncated. Every cloud has a silver lining though.

While we originally played with the idea of keeping this extension, but inserting a door and a large window in order to crate a kind of porch, the plan is now to demolish it and restore the original footprint, while putting a new rear door and large window in it's place to bring more light into the proposed kitchen. This will also open the rear of the house up a bit, as the outbuilding, the former pigsty/tobacco drying house immediately to the North - you can just see the edge of the roof-line to the right in the photo below - is a little close if the extension remains.
Extension housing bathroom, January 2011.
We've joked several times about whether the bathroom itself is under protection, as it is  modern classic of design, and will probably come back into fashion in another 10 years or so.

We are applying to replace this extension with a taller gable dormer, of sorts, in which the new bathroom would be housed in the level above the planned kitchen. This new element would be in line with the walls of the original façade, although the details may alter slightly from the planned image below. As the rafters have already been compromised at the upper level, this should be OK, however it does have to go through many other planning criteria, including the neighbours. In any case, we'll most likely knock the extension down, so must put a bathroom somewhere within the main body of the house.

Planned rear façade, January 2011.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Introducing the Kitchen and Slaughter Room

Location of kitchen (and slaughter room).
Yes, you read that right. At the back of the house on the first floor are two rooms linked by a door. The current kitchen (left) has a door out to the back of the house, as ground level is at floor level back here. There's one small window as well as the door, so it's a bit dark, compounded by being north-facing. The eastern wall has been dry-lined, while to the West, the wall paper has been removed from the opposite wall, exposing reddish plaster and the patchy remains of old paint. The same chimney that is in the living room can be accessed here, and until recently there was a range connected to it. There are no interesting features here really, unless you count the beam running across it, and possibly the floral wallpaper that was behind the former kitchen units.
Original kitchen, looking north, January 2011

The adjacent room was more recently used as a pantry and wash room, but was formerly used as a slaughter room. There's a pig sty at the back of the house, so there was a ready supply of victims (The Silence of the Pigs has already been mentioned). A wood-fired boiler/pot is still there, which was used for rendering meat and making sausages, or so we were told. I kept it as I thought it might be useful for brewing, but probably not. The floor is tiled, and we were told that underneath are the original red sandstone flagstones, with a hole that drops into cellar 3. The daughter of the previous owner said that as a child, they used to clean potatoes in the room and drop them down for storage in the cellar. A second chimney is present here, to which the boiler is currently connected. There are no windows in this room, as an extension was built on the north wall to house the current bathroom, a fine example of 1960/70's decor. More of that anon.

Former slaughter room, from NE corner, January 2011
The plan here is to open up the wall between the two rooms to create one large kitchen (in former slaughter room) with a dining area (in current kitchen area). The wall between the rooms is most likely solid, as opposed to being half-timbered like most of the internal walls on this level. The vaulted cellars are directly below, bearing the weight of stone construction. This will have to be checked with a structural engineer to be sure we can remove most of the wall. At the very least, some posts will have to remain, as the beam running across the rooms is load-bearing.

Door to current bathroom/extension
We'll be applying to demolish the extension  to restore the original footprint of the building, and put a new door and window in it's place as the main exit to the garden (there was probably a door here in the past). This should brighten up the place, and make a living connection to the garden, where a terrace/patio is planned, but probably not this year.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Introducing the Living Room

Living room, August 2010.
Up the rather ugly stairs, and on the left side of the house, is the living room. When we first viewed the house in August 2010, it still had furniture in it and felt a bit lived in, even if the décor was quite dated, and it had been empty for over half a year. A thin, modern partition wall divides the living room from a small dining room. There's plenty of light, as overall there are seven windows between the two rooms. Headspace is not quite what it would be in a modern house, with a ceiling height of about 2.15m.

This room has one original feature that has to be preserved in some way, the so-called Lamberie, or wood panelling. This is just about visible on the left of the panorama photo below, painted a light grey, and we suspected it was also behind the modern cladding under the windows of the gable end, in the centre of the picture below, which turned out to be correct after I removed the modern covering over the weekend.

Living room, January 2011.

Old panelling exposed.
The plan here is to remove the partition wall to create one room. The front of the house and the west gable are to be insulated from the inside, due to the front being half-timbered, and the west gable having other features that should not be covered by external insulation. This is slightly problematic for the panelling. We could leave it in situ and put insulation and dry wall over it, or remove it and reinstate it on the new wall surface. It is not known whether the panelling continues beyond the partition wall into the rear half of the room, which is fully dry-lined with Styrofoam behind the plasterboard (drywall). If left, it'll be hidden and presumably preserved as is, while removing, restoring and reinstating it will add to costs. It it damaged in places, presumably why it was covered up in the first place. I kind of like it, and with care, could remove and restore it myself, perhaps with some help to make replica pieces to replace the damaged ones..

While removing wallpaper, many layers of old paint and plaster were revealed, with one of the most recent having some really lovely stencils making repeated floral patterns. There's nothing that can be done to preserve these, but a record will be made by tracing and photographing what is visible.

Location of living room.
There's a chimney running up the east side of the room where a stove can be reinstated, and the oak beams running across the room can be cleaned down to the wood. We don't know what is behind the ceiling, which appears to be plasterboard. It's possible that there is original plaster between the ceiling joists, so that needs to be investigated. Under the hardboard covering on the floor should be decent floorboards, as are still visible in the partitioned area (just about visible through the door in the panorama shot above).

And that's the living room, for now.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Introducing the Cellars

Door number 1!
The house is a so-called Kellerhaus, or at least someone mentioned that name once, in the historical sense, meaning the entire ground level is cellar and stalls, hence the four doors on the front.

Door number 1 and door number 4, on the far left and right respectively, still have sandstone posts and lintels and lead to former animal stalls. The leftmost, cellar 1, we'll call it, is still floored with cobbles and was more recently used as an oil tank room. The cobbles are uneven, and between them is a rather unhealthy looking orange residue that reminds me of the Red Weed in War of the Worlds. A stone feeding trough is still here, in fairly good condition, but the plaster between the ceiling beams is coming out a bit. The plan for this cellar is just to use as a store room, or perhaps put the washing machine in there. For now at least.

Cellar 1, behind door number 1

Cellar 4, behind door 4.
The other, on the far right, behind door number 4, was more recently used as a storeroom, and some of the beams have been replaced due to the wood rotting from the dampness from the animals that were kept there in the past (cows and horses, I believe). This cellar has a general damp problem anyway, that I really only noticed this week, after all the snow melt. While the cellars are at ground level at the front of the house, they are under ground level at the back of the house, and being at the bottom of a hill, there's some water pressure coming from behind the house. In general, it's probably not bad for the house, as at least in the past the materials were breathable. However, in cellar 4 (and 3), parts of the floors have been laid over with concrete, so dampness is "exuding" in specific areas. This will have to be addressed to bring back some balance, but this room is critical, as the plan is to use this as a "technical room" for the heating equipment (probably a pellet boiler), and a store for wood pellets. This will have to be kept as dry as possible, so we'll have to think of ways to let water and moisture escape easily.

General plan of cellars, January 2011.
Each of the centre two doors originally led into two small halls each with a staircase up to the living quarters on the first floor, as at one time the house was divided in two (we're not sure was this an original feature, or was it split later, but probably the former, which feels unusual). Behind these small halls are a pair of Gewölbekeller (vaulted cellars, but also fairly small).

The leftmost of these two centre doors is the main door with stairs immediately inside. The vaulted cellar behind it has what may be the original earthen and partially flagged (red sandstone) floor. It's pretty damp, but not wet. The stairwell in the other hall was removed quite some time ago, and the hall and cellar behind it were more recently used as a workshop, while the vaulted cellar, cellar number 3, had a concrete floor put in. I'd like to reinstate a more natural floor, or at least a breathable one, perhaps with lime and earthen tiles on top. This one would make a good beer cellar.
Cellar 3, the best preserved Gewölbekeller.
While we were told the house was built around 1800, only today I found a possible date inscribed in the sandstone lintel over the entrance to cellar 3(inside the house). It seems to say 1840, with what looks like a B to the right of it, but whoever did it was clearly not a professional. It was painted over in the past, and  some things about its positioning make me wonder if it is original, but there's no real reason to doubt it. We'll have to see what proper records we can find.

The date over the entrance to cellar 3.
One of the "problems" with the layout of the cellars is you can only get to cellar 1 and 2 from within the house. To get into cellar 3 and 4, you have to come out so, in the case of cellar 3 at least, it's not the best arrangement. We'll be applying to open up a door between the halls behind door 2 and 3, and reinstating a door between cellar 3 and 4.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Bauernhaus

Really not sure how to introduce this blog, so here's a brief history. August 2010, after a couple of year faffing about, began house hunting in earnest, and looked at several old buildings in the region around Mosbach. Finally settled on this one, a farmhouse (hence the Bauernhaus), built sometime around 1800, as far as we know, complete with barn (which has been extended possibly twice), pigsty/tobacco drying house (built in 1927) and chicken coop (date unknown). The house itself is in need of serious renovation and modernisation. Think central heating, for one. By December we owned it, and are currently in the last stages of planning what to do before submitting a planning application.
The Bauernhaus, December 2010
The whole complex is listed for protection, so planning and works have to go through due process, and certain things must be done in certain ways, which, having worked in archaeology for a number of years and having an archaeologist for a wife, is just fine.

This blog is intended to record the stages of work, discoveries, joys and, most likely, the frustrations in trying to build a family home.
The Bauernhaus, October 2010
Planned front elevation, January 2011
Coming soon, a look at the inside as it currently stands, which will give a better idea of how much work really has to be done.