Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Restoration - Week Twenty

Its almost Christmas and after 20 weeks, 6 more than originally planned, the building work on OLF has been completed - well - apart from a few small jobs which will be finished early in the New Year.

Early in week 20 most of the work was focused on finishing the roof repairs before the scaffold came down on Wednesday. In a race against time this meant Mike and Jack working on the roof by starlight on Tuesday evening! Earlier on Monday, Tim had completed the re-tiling of the west side of the roof where the wall plate had been replaced and the corbelling course re-laid.

Early in week 20 Tim worked on completing the repairs on the west side of the roof and relaying the ridge tiles.
Corbelling re-laid and tiles replaced on the west side, following the curvy line of the gutter and the ridges are re-laid

The early part of the week was pretty frantic with 3 or 4 working on the roof as well as plasterers finishing off inside the house on the window reveals and patching walls.

Early in week 20 and its a busy site at OLF - but the end is in sight - even though it didn't feel like it at the time! 
OLF has been scaffolded for almost 5 months, making it difficult to fully appreciate all the work which had been done in the meantime but on Wednesday, within 3 hours, the scaffold was gone transforming the look of the old place. 

The scaffold is gone and OLF is revealed for the first time in 5 months
The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that there's an issue with the lime render on the end of the lean-to! That had been completed on Wednesday but gale force winds and driving rain on Wednesday night managed to wash the finishing coat clean off the wall. So that job will have to be redone in the Spring once the better weather returns and before the lime-wash is applied.

Having got rid of the scaffold, Thursday and Friday were clear up days to return the place to normal after months of rubble, builders vans, mud and general clutter. The guys did a great job and the first step was getting rid of the last (4th) skip from the site late on Thursday.

The final skip is uplifted leaving the site clear for the finishing touches on Friday morning
Early on Friday morning 10 tons of local stone were delivered and the team from Phillips & Curry got to work spreading it and making the place look like a home, rather than a building site.

10 tons of local, Gonsal stone arrive for the yard and driveway.
Its really hard to describe just what a difference 10 tons of stone and the removal of the scaffold have made to the appearance of our house - so take a look at the pictures below and judge for yourself. We think it looks great and it will hopefully look even better in the spring when its lime-washed. The volume of work done over the past few months has been enormous and thanks to the skill of all those involved I believe we have safeguarded the future of this old house for another 400 years. There are certainly some more jobs which would be advisable to do over the next 5 to 10 years like relaying the roof and insulating more internal walls with breathable systems but for the moment we are happy that the house is now in much better shape than it was back in October 2012 when I chipped the first lump of render off the lean-to wall.

The new face of OLF - next job, several coats of lime-wash in Spring 2014
As I have mentioned many times the skill of the guys working on this job has never failed to impress me and its great to know that there are people around with the traditional skills necessary to undertake this kind of restoration work - and much more complex jobs than ours. I plan to continue blogging about the house and after Christmas I will post a list of the names of all those who have been a part of this project. If anyone out there would like contact details then you can send me a message and I will pass on details with pleasure.


  1. Hi Stuart
    I have a 200yr old rubble stone farmhouse in the west of Ireland which was entombed in cement outside and inside 12 years ago and now has serious damp and humidity problems. I've been having trouble locally sourcing advice from someone experienced in traditional building techniques. This had been leading to frustrating inaction but I've been inspired by your blog to be brave and crack on and remove the external cement. I can later decide on the details of what follows. I've already removed a few sq feet and exactly as you described the stone underneath is sopping wet and drying as soon as it is exposed.
    I wanted to ask you what tools you used to remove your cement? Having tried with hammer and chisel I think I will need to use a drill but want to avoid damaging the underlying stones or pointing.

  2. Hi John. Glad to hear you've found some inspiration in reading the Blog. Apart from a few VERY stubborn areas where I used a hammer drill with a chisel attachment, all of the render on our house was removed by hand using a hammer and chisel. Generally speaking wherever the hammer drill was used, the damage inflicted on underlying soft brick in our case meant that the bricks had to be replaced when the restoration work started. The render on our stone wall was ALL removed by hand with a hammer and chisel. So I'd strongly advise you to use only hand tools unless absolutely necessary to resort to power tools. I found that using a lump hammer and a broad chisel was the best option.Make sure you keep the chisel sharp too. Good luck with your render removal - I can guarantee that you will see positive benefits as the walls get a chance to dry out!

  3. Hi Stuart, amazing blog the transformation of OLF looks great. I'm sorry if I'm about to go over old ground here as I'm sure you've been asked loads of questions already.

    We bought our semi-detached cottage two years ago (our first house), similar story built in the 1800's, covered in cement render, damp everywhere and a proper DIY disaster zone! What can I say we loved the location. I was wondering where to start with the house and was hoping you might be able to point me in the right direction?

    I live in Shropshire too, so was hoping you had a list of the trades people you used? Sorry to be a pain were guessing there's lots of surprises in store for us but that's the fun of old houses I guess! But any help would be great, first steps, things to watch out for.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated and thank you for your time and the blog.



    1. Hello Jon. Good to hear that you are finding the Blog useful. If your cottage dates from 1800 then it certainly wasn't designed to be covered in cement render. However, like OLF its possible that this was mistakenly applied to "improve" the property sometime in the mid 20th century, and probably like OLF to cover up some horrors hiding underneath. I'd start by getting out your lump hammer and chisel and having a chip away at some of the bits where you are experiencing the worst damp inside. Then you can see what is hiding underneath and you might already get some clues about the rest of the building. Is it stone or brick below the render? I'm guessing brick based on the date of construction. I assume it will be pointed in lime mortar and this is likely to have suffered due to the chemical reactions taking place with damp cement render. As you will have seen our big stone wall, though much older than 1800 was a rubble wall pointed in lime and was very unstable when the render was removed, so if you find something similar go carefully. Of course I will be happy to pass on names etc to you (I will also publish a list on the Blog soon) but rather than post details here, drop me an e-mail to and I'll reply to you directly. Some of the guys only have mobile phones so I don't want to put that data online. John Grange was the mason who worked on our stone wall and he is a very skilled guy who will be able to sort out any issues on stone walls. The two main brickies on our project were also excellent. I'll send you some contact details when I get your E-mail.