Monday, 28 October 2013

The Restoration - Week Twelve

This week was a very busy week at Old Lawns Farmhouse (or OLF to those of you not familiar with this Blog).
  • The last four triple glazed windows were fitted.
  • The new timber back door with sidelight was fitted.
  • Grouting of the west stone wall was completed
  • Work began on repairs to the door jambs and reinstating the arch over the front door.
  • Much of the remaining brickwork repairs on the walls were completed.
  • Re-pointing continued and the scaffold was extended to reach higher areas.
  • The new boiler installation was completed.
  • The second fix on the electrical work to install extra kitchen sockets, extractors, lights and upgrades to some old wiring was started.
All these jobs meant that OLF was a congested place with 9 tradesmen working on the property at times this week but all these people played their part on accelerating the pace of our restoration.

So lets start with the windows. Four were fitted to complete the fitting of all the windows this week. The biggest change was on the North Gable where the bathroom window was fitted into the original opening opened up last week.

The last two windows were fitted in the North gable, including the bathroom (top left) reinstated to its original size.
Next came the replacement of the old UPVC back door. This door had a top light above it and always looked out of proportion with the building, so it was decided to replace it with something we felt to be more in keeping with the property. The door opening is very wide and had been infilled with UPVC side panels. Having come across a recent, very tasteful barn conversion during a summer walk in south Shropshire I loved the style of the door and sidelight which had been fitted to it and thought something similar might look good on our house. So, not being one who believes in "reinventing the wheel" I took a photograph and gave this to Wiiliams Homes of Bala who manufactured our new door and sidelight to an identical design..

First of all the old door had to be removed, along with a hefty door frame which was found lurking behind those UPVC side panels.

The door is almost ready to be removed and the brickwork above will be repaired and a new brick arch installed.

The door is out! 
Now to install the new door and sidelight, brick up the space above the door where the old top light was located and build the brick arch above the new door.

The new frame is in place and the brickwork repair can begin.
A few hours work and the brickwork and arch are complete and the door is glazed.
A nice feature of this door opening is the quirky, curvy brickwork on the left side. Although its not plumb, its all been repaired and repointed over the past few weeks. Of course we could have straightened this out by taking the wall down and rebuilding but we love the look of it and believe its yet another feature which tells the story of  the building.

Another curve which we think sits nicely against our new door.
Part of the work in replacing the door also involved rebuilding the brickwork above the door and below the bedroom window above. This was in a terrible state, most of the mortar having dissolved to dust below the cement render. The remedy was to strip the outer skin of bricks and rebuild.

The old  brickwork above the door was in a terrible state.

The brickwork is repaired, transforming the appearance of this area.
The removal of the old door, repairs to the jambs, rebuilding of the brickwork above, installing the brick  arch and fitting and glazing the new door took about 2 and a half days in total. We feel that this has immensely improved the appearance of the building, bringing the door much more in proportion with the rest of the house. 

The new door and sidelight,  installed and glazed.
As you will have seen in Blog posts over the past few weeks, there has been a LOT of work done to repair the west stone wall which was in a very poor state of repair when the render was removed. We didn't know what we would find when this wall was revealed although we suspected that it would need significant repairs. In fact this has turned into the largest single piece of work on the entire project. First it was completely raked out and repointed in lime mortar. Next, around 40 stainless steel Spiroties were inserted horizontally through the wall to tie together the stonework. Finally holes were drilled through the mortar at various heights up the wall into which a lime grout slurry was poured, starting at the base and gradually working upwards over the course of a couple of weeks. This week that work was finally completed with the last grout poured into the top of the wall.

John, the skilled mason who has been a big part of repairing this wall pours the last of the lime grout into this big wall.
The total amount of lime grout used was 4.8 tons, so allowing for the fact that the mix has been about two parts grout to one part water, this means that over 7 tons of material has been poured into the wall, filling all the voids and immensely increasing the strength of this wall. I have no doubt that it has NEVER been as strong as it is today and its good for another 400 years!  

What's been amazing at times is how the grout has "traveled" across the wall, leaking out a long way from where it is being poured. Even as John was pouring the last few hundred kilos, we had a few leaks inside and outside the house. Let's just say that if you are doing this kind of work in a house where you are living, as we are, then don't be too precious about your carpets!! 

Lime grout oozing through the newly pointed wall, clay was used to temporarily plug these weep holes.
Having fitted the new back door and sidelight, work got underway to repair the jambs on our front door. Once all the remaining render had been removed it was obvious that the existing door frame was too narrow for the opening and the gaps on each side had been packed with cement. So the solution is to rebuild the jamb on one side and fit a new larger door frame but reuse the existing timber door within the new frame. We also decided that we will eventually sand the existing door back so that it can be painted in Linseed oil paint from Allback in the same Lichen colour as our new windows.  

Ben gets to grips with removing brickwork on one of the door jambs, ready to rebuild it to the new frame size.
Next on the list were repairs to the outer skin of bricks below the north kitchen window. This looked like an area which had been poorly rebuilt at some time in the past. The cement render in this area was VERY hard and when Stuart the bricklayer started to remove the outer skin of bricks it was clear that extremely hard cement had been used. 

Removing the old brickwork was a tough job due to the very hard cement mortar which had been used.

Once the old brickwork had been removed, it wasn't long before this section was fully repaired.

Stuart completes the rebuild and has matched the pattern on the adjacent section of wall
This repair is one of the last significant areas of wall in need of repair and leaves only one section on the north gable still to be done. The weather remains on our side even in late October and temperatures are still OK for the use of lime mortar so we're crossing our fingers for a mild start to November! 

Two areas of brickwork which also need attention are the chimney stacks which will have the top 6 courses rebuilt. The scaffolders returned this week to provide access to higher areas of the south gable and they will eventually scaffold the chimneys sometime in the next couple of weeks once the bricklyers are ready to start work on the stacks.

Another level was added to the scaffold on the south gable. 
One reason for the higher level of scaffold is the amount of repointing still to be done on OLF. A lot of the lime mortar has been damaged or even dissolved away by years spent wet under cement render.

Gareth starts repointing the top of the south gable
Last but not least, as the autumn arrives we got our boiler installed and the heating system was up and running again. Having use an ageing, oil burning Stanley cooker to provide heating and an electric immersion heater for hot water, we are very impressed so far by the performance of the new 97% efficient oil burning, condensing system boiler which has been installed. We have our fingers crossed for lower energy bills at a time when most people are seeing an increase.

Still a "work in progress" but our kitchen is getting slowly back to normal and its cosy again thanks to our new boiler!
Next weeks work will include continuing repointing, replacement of some individual bricks, work on the front door jambs and arch and repairs on the remaining brickwork.

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