Saturday, 30 April 2011

Naked walls in the living room.

Things have been going very slow on the house. Much slower than planned, mainly because we are still waiting on the planning application, which we expected to be through at the end of March. It's basically through, just waiting on some formalities and paperwork, so we're in the process of finalising working plans to get quotes.

In the meantime, I've been doing more clearance work in the living room, slaughter room (I really should start calling it the kitchen now) and one of the bedrooms on the first floor.

In the last post, I showed the first steps in the living room, removing the partition wall and revealing the oak beam which was cracked. Since then, an engineer paid us a visit (well, we'll be paying him) and said it could either be replaced with a steel beam, or can be left in situ, though a post would have to remain to support it. I'm assuming replacing it with a steel beam with be costly, although we won't know for sure how it might be done until I take down the ceiling.

Dry lining removal continued over last week (I had an enforced break from heavy work after falling and bruising my spine a few weeks ago, which also delayed our own works), so the walls in the living room are now plasterboard-free. You can do a before and after using the first living room post.

Living room, April 2011.
In the room to the rear, I was surprised to find bare stone walls behind the plasterboard. In all other areas there was still old plaster with layer upon layer of old paint, often with wonderful stencilled patterns still remaining. There are still traces of clay-based plaster between the stones, so presumably plaster was removed before sticking the Styrofoam-insulated plasterboard onto the walls. More on that below.

I like the idea of leaving one of these walls exposed, cleaning it up and re-pointing the stones. The back wall will be insulated from the outside, but unfortunately the west wall (left in the photo to the right) will be insulated from the inside.

The opposite wall was clearly scoured before the plasterboard was "glued" to the wall with blobs of plaster. Several layers of paint and thin plaster have been exposed, with some of the earliest showing as turquoise, with brown, geometric flowers stencilled on. The brighter patch on the right, as seen in the photo to the left, is not wallpaper, it's actually a white or cream base with a stencilled pattern. At the top left, the underlying bricks are exposed, which don't exactly look ancient. This part of the wall is thinner in plan (see the floor plan at the top of this post), and it is possible that there was formerly a door here that was later bricked up.

Section of the fuchsia pattern.
In the southern part of the overall living room (the large room before the partition was taken down), there was no plasterboard, so once the wallpaper was removed, the old paints were exposed. There are six or more layers, probably, thogh only the most recent can be seen to any great extent, the rest are only exposed in small, enticing sections. As it happens, I think the latest one was very pretty and delicate, being a stencil of what looks like fuchsia in five colours. This was rendered in repeating patterns, spaced about 80cm apart, with geometric patterns of circles of radiating lozenges and wavy lines between.
The fuchsia stencil.
Next step in this room, take down the plasterboard ceilings to make sure there are no surprises hidden above.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

First steps with a crowbar.

The living room.
We're still waiting on the planning permission to come through, about two or three weeks longer than expected, but we know it's now just waiting on one document to be signed by the neighbours. It's time to get things moving, and get more detailed plans for specific works ready, and start getting quotes.

In the meantime, we've been getting the vegetable garden out back into shape, and over the weekend I began taking out the thin wall that has been dividing the two rooms on the west side of the 1st floor.

A reminder: the living room, January 2011, taken from the southeast corner.
Use of hammer and crowbar to reveal innards.
We knew this wall was "new", all things being relative. It was about 5cm thick, and on the north face of it, there was clearly a large post within the wall, supporting a beam running across the room. After taking wallpaper off, it was confirmed to be plasterboard, put up on the 8th of June, 1998 (the date was written on it!). On Saturday, I took the plasterboard down from the south-facing side I expected to see a partition frame and the back of the plasterboard on the other side, but was faced instead with paneling, that looked like it had been salvaged from elsewhere. The most exciting part of this was exposing the beam, which can be seen on the top-right of the photo to the right. It's seriously bowed, hence lots of spacers to level off the plasterboard it was covered by, but the painted decoration was nice to find, so looking forward to exposing the whole length.

Painted decoration on previously hidden beam.
Wall mostly gone, bow in beam clearly visible.
 Once the paneling and other side of the wall were down, it was clear that a more substantial wall had previously been here, There are mortice holes in the under-surface of the beam, but I can't explain why more substantial oak beams were removed and replaced by a relatively flimsy partition. Or can I?
We assumed the post that we knew was in the middle of the span was there as part of the wall, as the span is relatively short, and there are longer spans unsupported, even in the same room. However, it became clear that it was supporting the beam, which is heavily bowed (and not unusual for such buildings). However, it also became clear that the beam has a rather large crack, so this support is essential.
First clue about cracked beam.
This beam is anchored to the gable end of the house, and the other end into a supporting internal wall. It seems that the lower part of the gable wall settled some time in the past (one assumption is when modern drainage was run alongside the house, possibly causing the foundations to shift a bit), forcing the gable to tilt. This caused a gap that can be seen in the ceiling in the cellar, but clearly also put this beam under considerably more tension that it could deal with, so it snapped. It's worrying, insofar as a part of the house has moved, but it would seem that this movement was in the last 40 years (and none apparent after June 8, 1998!). At least the architect (for whom I have great respect) said not to worry!
Crack confirmed on the other side.
As it happens, we will meet with a structural engineer this coming week to talk about what walls can be broken through. This beam, and the crack in west gable are now going high on the list of things to talk about.

I like the crowbar. I even had my Gordon Freeman work glasses on while wielding it!