Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Restoration - Week Seventeen

This was the week of the cill board - or should that be sill board? (Either is ok apparently!) Regardless of the spelling ours have been expertly made on site by the carpenter working on our project, Ben Hughes. Ben has used kiln dried oak planks which he has had to join together to cope with the depth of the cills in OLF. Apparently using wide planks is a bad idea as these inevitably warp over time. The oak planks firstly have a central groove routed out of their edge so that small wooden ovals (called biscuits) can be inserted into the groove at intervals to bridge the joint between the edges in what's known as a "biscuit joint". The edges are also glued and then clamped and left until the bond is set.
The planks are prepared, biscuits inserted and glued before being clamped together.

Ben has joined these planks with such skill that you literally can't see the join in many cases where the grain matches. Once the boards were ready, each one was cut to fit, every cill being a unique size, just to make it a bit more of a challenge for Ben! Once fitted a couple of coats of Danish oil really brought out the beauty of the oak grain.

The first of the 14 bespoke oak cill boards are in place.

We had hoped to have the large chimney stack rebuilt this week however a bit of a debate over the final choice of chimney pots has delayed this until week 18. Nevertheless there were other small finishing bits and pieces of brickwork and pointing to get on with.

The last remaining render was removed from the east gable above the roof of the lean-to. Like the rest of this gable some of the brickwork was in poor shape and there was also quite a bit of repointing to be done.

The repointing of the roof verges in lime mortar is complete and repairs are started on the remaining brickwork on the east gable.

Repointing of the bases of the brick walls was completed this week and, as everywhere else, this is a two stage process with the mortar roughly applied at first before being scratched back and consolidated when partially dried to give the final finish. The drill holes from an old chemical injected damp proof treatment (unnecessary and useless) will be filled with lime mortar and should disappear once limewashed next spring.
Repointing the bases of walls is complete with only some old drill holes to fill.

After 17 weeks, the end is in sight. Next week the chimneys should hopefully be rebuilt and repointed. Other than that a few bits of brickwork require repointing or replacement bricks, a few rows of tiles will be lifted and relaid to meet the guttering more effectively and the ridge tiling will be replaced. Once these jobs are complete, the scaffold can come down and we can see what this old house really looks like at last after almost 5 months of highly skilled and painstaking restoration work.

Inside OLF there are still cills to be made and fitted, reveals and soffits to be made good and all kinds of patches and larger areas replastered where plumbing and electrical work has been done and where dry linings were removed during the grouting of the stone wall. The plasterers are booked for the start of week 19 and all of this will be complete before Christmas!

It'll not be long before the scaffold comes down and we get a closer look at the "new" Old Lawns Farmhouse!


  1. I've just been completely distracted by your amazing renovation project having found you via Heritage House website. I'm in the process of buying a tiny Grade II listed C15 city terrace and was getting slightly cold feet about the potential pitfalls of an old property but your blog reads like a voyage of discovery and I think I feel excited all over again now! Your house looks great, very inspiring! best wishes, Sandra

    1. Thanks Sandra, it so nice to know that our experiences might help inspire others to take up the challenge. I think the most important things to keep in mind are;

      You should be prepared for the unexpected.
      Find a good architect or surveyor with a track record on heritage properties.
      Ask for (and follow up on) references and research any companies or individuals you are thinking of using.
      Whatever budgets or estimates you receive treat them as estimates and be aware that costs might be considerably higher.

      I found this site useful as a source of info and answers to questions. Good luck with your project if you decide to go ahead.

  2. Firstly Well done you! Really great seeing this project in so much detail so thanks for sharing!

    Like most I'm just about to start on my project and would really appreciate any knowledge you can share!

    I have a 2 up 2 down cottage built 1750 (solid brick walls, no insulation) and a poorly made extension built 1980's (cavity wall, some insulation). I am pretty sure I'm about to start removing all of the external cement render from the old part of the house, to allow these bricks to breathe.

    I haven't read enough about new building properties but think its ok to have cement render on new builds (if you disagree please say). The old part also has internal cement render on the external walls. It is incredibly thick, easily an inch and is very difficult to remove, even with a drill which then destroys the bricks beneath. I know it would be better to remove but if I added vents to improve ventilation would this still be ok for the bricks to breathe?

    Did you increase ventilation within the house, vents or positive air systems?

    I noticed you insulated the kitchen walls which I presume were solid brick, what product did you use and why? Is it breathable/moisture proof and most importantly have you noticed a difference with the warmth on those walls?

    What final external finish did you go for, repointing or repointing and lime render? Would be lovely to see a new pic.

    Thanks again and wells done!

    1. Hi Cara, first of all many thanks for your kind comments. Let me start by saying that I am NOT a builder or an expert so please check your questions with someone more expert than I am. A good place to look is on if you have not already looked. Their forum is excellent and people will be happy to give you advice.

      Now to your questions:

      1..Cement render on a modern wall should be fine, so long as its not a solid wall and it has a cavity.

      2..Are you sure its CEMENT render on the inside walls, that'd be a bit unusual so I'd have that checked out. Maybe you can post a photo of a chunk on the periodproperty forum. People will give you an answer on there.

      3..Ventiliation in the form of air bricks will help but if the internal finish is not allowing the wall to breathe you will still have the fundemental problem, so I would try to find out what the wall is finished with and sort it properly. You may be living with that wall for a long time!

      4..Yes, we installed an extractor in the bathroom upstairs. It is humidity controlled and runs constantly at low speed, speeding up when the internal humidity increases. We also installed a fan in the kitchen which constantly draws air IN from outside (warmed when the outside temp is below 15C) and then extracts when the internal humidity rises. So we now have a constant air exchange through the house. Having fitted modern sealed triple glazing, this is really important. We have also fitted an air brick in the gables to each of our three loft areas to ensure some air movement around our old roof timbers.

      5..We insulated the internal kitchen walls with woodfibre boards which are 100% breathable. They are fitted to the wall with special fixings and the wall itself needs to be fairly flat and also breathable, so no gypsum plaster inside or cement render outside.The woodfibre boards are then finished with lime plaster and I have just painted that with Earthborn clay paint which is 100% breathable. Don't EVER apply "normal" emulsion paint to lime plaster even if it claims to be breathable!!!! Is the wall now warmer???!!! The difference is phenomenal, we are really happy with the end result.

      6..We opted to apply white limewash to the bricks as an external finish. This was done in Spring this year once the weather warmed up a bit. We are very happy with the final result and feel that it really looks nice with our new windows. I've been very lax in posting on here since Christmas last year but I PROMISE I will make a post soon to show the final stages of the project. Meantime you can see one photo of the finished house on the Philips and Curry website, here:

      Good luck with your project!!

      Best wishes, Stuart

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