Thursday, 22 December 2011

A Christmas miracle

They fulfilled their promise. Windows in before Christmas. 28 windows and two doors fitted in two days. Some small stuff to do in the New Year, but we're really pleased with how this looks, and the fact the house is now sealed.

It's hard to get a good photo with the scaffolding still up, but this should give an impression of the shiny newness.
South (front) facade.
West gable.
 As the window openings on this side were open to the elements overnight, I'd covered some with plastic. Forgot to take it off after the windows went in!

Living room, looking at the west gable from the inside.
North (back) facade.

The way out to the (distant future) patio.
I'll try to get better photos once the excitement of Christmas has passed.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Having a blast

Corny, but literal.

We borrowed a rather ancient-looking sand blaster on the advice of a neighbour, even though every instinct screamed against using such a thing on wood. Having done some research, we got fine-ground nutshells as the blast media, as well as fine sand to use on stone walls. The reasoning was that sanding every beam by hand is an extremely slow process, and it's difficult to get old plaster out of cracks and pits. So, only one way to see if the neighbour was right.
I never knew this is what a sand blaster looked like.

 Suited up with a disposable overall and a full face particle filter mask, it felt rather Ghostbuster-ish, but dirtier. A diesel-powered compressor provided ample power, but regulating the flow of blast material from the old device was quite tricky. However, the first results on the beams in the kitchen were really good

Six-metre oak beam spanning kitchen, before.
And after cleaning with ground nut shells.
There is some fine stippling on the surface, but I think it did a fine job at clearing off smoke stained areas, old plaster and dirt. The other beams cleaned up well, but they aren't the smoothest to begin with, so we're considering plastering over them, as it was in the original design. I'll do some work with the brush sander to see if the surface can be improved.

After this success, I collected and sieved the material to reuse on the beams in an adjoining room. Maybe not the smartest, as the now dust-loaded material basically created a smoke screen that was neigh on impossible to see through. Well, that and blasting parts of old clay plaster. The results were ok though.

The next test was to use fine sand on the exposed stone wall in the living room. This had been proving difficult to clean by hand, with large chunks of plaster on an uneven surface. Visibility was dreadful while doing this, at times being less than a metre, so some spots were missed, but it was considerably faster and, well, better! I'm not exactly happy using sand due to the risks of silicosis, so am hoping the P2 filter on the full mask is sufficient!

Left: before. Right: after.
Almost complete.
I tried the sand on a painted beam in the living room, but I'm not happy with the results as it ate into softer parts, leaving a surface I didn't like. I'll consider solvent-based strippers to finish it.

In other news, the guys are back putting paper lining inside the roof as preparation for the cellulose insulation getting blown in.

And after rerouting some piping at the back of the house, the water issue in the cellar seems to have abated, while the roof water issue has been discovered and will be soon resolved (it was driving rain getting behind flashing, as the dormers are not plastered yet.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Rising tide

Our shiny new concrete floor in the cellar was finished a couple of weeks ago. I'd been meaning to take some photos, but not under the circumstances I found tonight. For the past three days we've had rain for the first time in over a month, following the driest November since 1920. While doing a quick inspection tonight, I found that there is water rising around the walls of the cellar, getting over the damp proof membrane, and coming out onto the surface. Not good!

Photo is a little poor, as auto-focus doesn't like the dark.

I'm hoping this is temporary, as there is a rainwater down-pipe on the other side of this wall that is not fully connected. I'm hoping this is contributing, and not that the lower level of the new floor has somehow gone below a water table we were as yet unaware of. It is over a metre below ground level at this point, so it could well be, and the fact there is now hardcore, topped by a membrane and then 15cm of concrete might just be fording water up the wall more than before, when it was just clay and stones. Frankly, I'm worried, as this just cannot be good for the foundations or the walls.

Small pools of water at foot of wall, coming over damp/proof membrane.
 In the same cellar, towards the front, one of the walls is completely wet, not just damp, even a metre up. It's possible that a broken gutter on the adjoining barn is splashing onto the outside wall and it is coming through and down, rather than from the ground, but it's a lot of damp.
East gable, south end, and a big patch of wet wall.

See? Wet, not just damp.
Meanwhile, this is the first real rain test the finished roof has had. The inside is still not finished with paper and laths for the insulation, so we can see the back of the fascia boards, insulation boards and everything still. Which is good, as it can be seen that just below the small downpipe from each of the dormers, there is water somehow getting under the tiles and flowing down the inside of the fascia boards. Definitely localised to each of the four downpipes. From the outside, it can be seen that water has come out from under the eaves. I'm pretty sure that at least this is fixable, but not sure if it's a problem with the flashing or the tiles, or splashback from the main gutter (unlikely). Tomorrow, I'll ask for the tiles to be removed to we can see where it's coming in. This definitely has to be fixed before cellulose insulation is blown in in the next couple of weeks!

Water coming down under the tiles, and over the fascia board.
Really don't need these issues now.