Tuesday, 22 January 2013

First steps with woodwork

Action on the rotten beam has been parked a bit. It ain't gonna fall over just yet! Our carpenter, Lutz, reckoned just replace the rotten sections, and leave the base-plate in place, as under the posts is still reasonably sound. In any case, I want to wait till the main electrical cable is moved to a new location, as it currently goes right through a part that needs replacing.

Since then, we decided to get the living room floor up, for installing cables, pipes etc, but also to make sure there are no more rotten surprises! First the back part, the beams under which looked relatively new. Well, newer than the ones towards the front of the house. Some small signs of damp damage, but not much.

This was the fist time we'd even seen the floor boards at the front part of the living room, as they were hidden under particle boards since we bought the place. It was almost a crime lifting them, as they're beautiful wood, with a reddish tinge, and clearly had been well looked after. But, warped, partially rotted in places, and sections had been cut out and replaced in the past, including the entire right side in the photo below. There was also a fair slope from back to front, so it'd be nice to have a level floor.

Under this was the usual sandy rubble, under which are slightly vaulted bricks between the beams.

Oh, and a few mouse skeletons, including one rather macabre scene in a nest with 5 skeletons.

Other things that need to be done before starting the wiring include building a couple partition walls and dry lining in the kitchen. I got a new toy in the form of a crosscut saw to speed this up, which I'm glad I did. I'd begun in the bedroom, where the original door was to be blocked. Having lifted the floor boards in the old hall on the other side of the door, I didn't like the look of the bottom of the posts holding it all up, so I added 16x12cm posts on each side inside the frame for some redundant support. I'm clearly not as fit as I thought when it comes to using a handsaw though!

Typically, one of these additional, recycled posts was warped, so the other new toy came into play to straighten the face. This planer is going to get a lot of use.

Anyway, with these in place, the proper studwork could begin. Lutz had ordered quite a bit of 6x12cm timber in 13m lengths, so plenty to cut.

By Saturday afternoon, I'd got the footer, header and side studs in place for the frame which will become the wall for the first floor guest bathroom, then it was time to head to a party. Some things are more important!

Of course, it's been pretty cold and snowy here the past few weeks, so I've been grateful for the lend of an old stove, which is the only source of heat in the house. At least it keeps the temp up to about 5C, which isn't bad, and it's a good way to get rid of off-cuts!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013


With getting the cabling done soon in my mind, I've been doing some pre-plastering prep work on the walls and taking up some floors over the weekend and the past few evenings. All quite smooth and boring, in general, with the floor up in the northeast room exposing beams that were replaced in 1980 along with foil-packed insulation. Ready for laying cables under the floor.

Then I diligently removed the layers of paint and loose plaster from the dividing wall, again ready for inserting sockets and plastering, when the first unpleasant surprise struck. While knocking plaster off the bottom, the wall wobbled, as if it was floating at that corner. And indeed, the crack visible on the left side of the photo to the right shows the wall, which is resting on floorboards (what the hell were they thinking?!) and a beam underneath those, settled at some time, so is more or less hanging against the post on the right. It wouldn't bother me too much, but the wall to the left of the crack, which forms the eastern side of the kitchen, is only 12cm thick and is supporting the big beam spanning the kitchen. Without the bracing provided by the wobbly part, it's basically a crap, thin, free-standing wall. One option is to pretty much leave it as it, but put a thicker oak post to take the weight. Not a major disaster, but something that'll need to be looked at, and something that thre my plans for the week off.

But there's always something else to do. More floors need to come up, so we lifted the boards in what will be the small, first floor bathroom. No nasty surprises here, but an interesting layer of what looks like slag, or clinker.Presumably to act as insulation from the cellar below, or to dissipate dampness. No idea! It's all coming out as we'll be laying a deeper base of boards over which a resin layer will be poured to create a sealed wet cell for the bathroom, keeping the beams underneath safe. Bit like a moonscape at the moment!

Moving into the living room, the remaining brick walls needed the cleaning treatment to prep them for a base coat of plaster into which cables and sockets would be set. The wall is a bit warped, meaning that if I try to plaster it perfectly vertical, there'll be layers of plaster 6cm thick in a couple of places, so I'm thinking of sticking fake brick panels onto these areas and partially plastering over them, leaving some exposed to break the monotony of a 5m long run of wall.

While preparing for plastering, I took up the floor boards along the wall, so I could plaster down to below floor level. At this point, we got a really nasty surprise, hence the title of this post - I couldn't repeat what I really uttered.

Parallel to the wall leading to the landing (see photo above), there are two beams under the floor, both resting on the cellar wall underneath. One just under the floorboards and the other acting as a wall plate under the wall itself. Both are in a bad state of decay, Each are about 20cm thick, solid oak, but I was able to pull big chunks out of them with my hands. The one under the floorboards is not too much of an issue. It can be taken out and replaced easily enough, though it'd mean rebuilding part of the cellar ceiling. The one under the wall is more serious, as the door post on the left, which rests on it, is a structural member, supporting the beam cross the living room which in turn holds up the floor and walls above which in turn... well, you get the idea. Luckily, directly under the posts seems firmer, as it does under the brickwork, but in the doorway, it's just a mess. A shortcut would be chop out this section and simply pop a short beam into it's place, but then the load bearing down from the post will not be spread evenly across the cellar wall underneath. I fear we'll have to take this wall out completely, replace the beam underneath and rebuild it, but we'll take professional advice.

 Just when you think there's some momentum building up again... Shit!