Sunday, 28 April 2013

Underfloor construction and more stone walls

Been quite a busy week, putting in quite a few after-work hours as I started the underfloor construction in one of the second floor bedrooms. I really should have been doing this for the first floor rooms, our main living level, but I've ordered spruce timber for that level, to better withstand the slight dampness we might get from the cellars, so that'll have to wait.

I have to admit, it took a lot longer than expected. Getting the 4x6cm laths, onto which floorboards will eventually rest, perfectly level as they span over 6 or more totally uneven oak beams, meant a lot of planing of shims, checking levels, adjusting, ad nauseum. I've set them at 400mm centres, which should be fine for 20mm hardwood boards, and set them as low as I possibly could, to maximise the already low room height. As a result, we'll have a step at each end of the room, as the main beams rise at each end. One of these steps will be incorporated into a wardrobe, and the other end will be a small sub-level, only 5cm higher, within the room. This will probably be a recurring feature throughout the house, at least where unavoidable.

The back step, later to be hidden in wardrobe.
Still have the other end to do...
The previous week, I got a bit further with the first floor wiring and marking out sockets for the kitchen, as well as taking out the last floorboards (well, almost last) in the main bedroom, so we can plan the level of the new floor. No nasty rotten beam surprises, but the battens between the beams have rotted out in places, giving us a nice shortcut into the cellar. We're now considering putting a laundry shaft in the bedroom, so some inspiration from deathtraps in the floor.

And while I've been doing all this easy work, my wife has been busy in the cellars, knocking off old clay and lime plaster off the limestone walls.

Instead of plastering these walls, the idea is to leave them natural, and re-point the blocks, after first giving them a good clean with a wire brush on an angle grinder.. They are really held together with clay, instead of mortar, and damp rises from the subsoil under the house pretty easily. The idea is that leaving them natural and open will allow them to breath better, and besides, plaster and paint would look pretty shoddy after a while in those damp conditions.

We know this, because in the entrance hall, where one wall was plastered and wallpapered, the wallpaper was clearly damp around the base of the wall. We decided to remove this plaster, which turned out to be about 50mm thick, and backed with a plastic damp-proof membrane. I reckon it is because of this, dampness climbed higher, contributing to the rotten beam in the living room, which rests directly on this wall.

She removed all of that this past week, revealing not just the fairly uneven stone wall, but another sandstone frame around the doorway leading to cellar one.

Our "new" sandstone door frame

Not the prettiest, but it'll clean up.
I think with some nice ambient lighting, we could have a very nice entrance hall. Well, once we do something with the ugly 1960s floor and stairs and, of course, do all the horribly dusty work of cleaning them down properly, not to mention the days it will take to re-point everything... It'll be worth it!

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