Sunday, 2 December 2012

Missing mortar, an iron bar, a hidden concrete lintel, spalled bricks and a plastic bag damp proof course!

I started removing render on the big South wall of the house this weekend - this will be the last wall I will tackle and its certain to hide some secrets -the surface is very uneven and there are a lot of humps and bumps in it!

The big South wall which has taken a hit from a few hundred years of winter winds and rain
The first thing to be uncovered was not a surprise. This is the old "front door" of the house which we blocked up a few years ago when the entrance was moved to the other end of this lean to, away from the prevailing SW winds. Replacing these blocks with reclaimed brick will be quite a big job as there is now a shower room behind this wall!
The blocked up old "front" door, now with a shower room behind it! 
The south wall takes all the prevailing weather and as OLF sits about 750 feet above sea level it can get a bit wild and windy at times. So I fully expected that this wall would be the worst in terms of water penetration - I was not disappointed! There are quite a few places where the render was very wet - even 5 metres up the wall. The result is that there is quite a bit of erosion of the old lime mortar and a fair number of "spalled" bricks.
You could pluck this brick out of the wall if you wanted!
Loose bricks and an iron bar! 
Although its not obvious in this photo, the majority of the bricks below the bedroom window have almost no mortar left between them and a lot of them are "loose". A large iron bar (in the bottom right of this photo) was also hidden under masses of render and it appears to be connected to two iron ties attached to beams in the kitchen ceiling inside. Yet more brick arches above the kitchen and bedroom windows have been stripped out and will need to be reconstructed.
Badly spalled bricks near the base of the kitchen wall
In some places the cement render was extremely thick - up to an inch and a half - and in one of these spots it was covering a concrete linted, randomly located in the middle of a wall. Presumably this replaced an oak lintel above an old doorway or window but its not obvious exactly what was originally located here.
Concrete lintel above some kind of old opening in the kitchen wall.
 Towards the base of the kitchen wall I revealed what appears to be a botched attempt at a damp proof course, inserted at some time in the fairly recent past during some reconstruction of the wall. I'd lay money on this being old plastic fertiliser bags!  The wall ABOVE the plastic was wet for about 1 metre, indicating that any dampness in this wall is not rising but has come through the render and been stuck behind it. A feature of this south wall so far, at all kinds of heights, has been that a lot of the render is wet - proof that rainwater has been driven into the wall by strong winds, through fine cracks, over many, many years. Once in the wall the water is unable to evaporate because of the cement render and waterproof paint. This wall should now start to dry out!
A rather "agricultural" attempt at a damp proof course! 
 Good progress was made this weekend with about 10 hours of work and one more weekend should finish this wall, apart from the top of the gable.
About half of the south wall has been stripped - one more weekend should finish it, leaving only the high parts of the gable on this wall and the north side to be done from a scaffold tower .


  1. By seeing and looking to the photos of your house I would like to recommend that you do an acrylic rendering or cement rendering to protect your house.
    cement renderer sydney | acrylic rendering sydney

  2. Carol, sorry but that's the LAST thing I would do!!! No, thats a lie - I would NEVER do that, EVER!!! Have you actuaslly read my blog and the reasons I am doing this restoration work? Cement render and waterproof paint is what has been killing this house!!! This is a very old house with solid brick walls and lime mortar pointing. Cement or acrylic renders will simply trap water inside the wall. Ive just stripped cement render off because of this!! This kind of old house needs to breathe and will be repaired and repointed with lime mortar. If any walls are rendered they will be done with breathable lime render. PLEASE stay away from old houses with your cement and acrylic materials!! Lucky for me you're in Australia.