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!

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