First Week in December at thetrevproject

Here are some of the neighbours walking past the house.

So this is the week we were due to finish phase 2 of the project. Well, you won’t need me to tell you that we didn’t finish I am sure you have already guessed.

This is the project that keeps on giving. We found yet another rotten lintel. This time in the landing window.

This wasn’t a surprise as the window sits under a gutter that sometimes over flows and it is also the oldest window in the house. The window was put in late in the “remodelling” of the house but it must have been re-used from somewhere else. It was properly old with a lead weight as well.

Of course it doesn’t end there not only was the lintel rotten but most of the widow frame as well.

Windows are a bit of an issue. We are currently missing  5 windows and the bathroom window needs to be completely replaced. This is one area of concern as I don’t anticipate a lot of dry weather before Christmas.

We had a slight hitch with the wood burning stove for the living room. When Jason arrived to install it he decided that the chimney needed to be swept before he fitted the new liner. To be fair to him I think he did mention it before but I forgot. As luck would have it I managed to book a chimney sweep for next Wednesday so by next weekend we should have 2 wood burners in the house. The installation of the wood burner necessitated the start of Phase 3 of the project – decorating. I painted the fireplace in Nutmeg White in readiness for the stove installation.

 

The main reason we didn’t finish was down to plumbing. The plumbers arrived on Wednesday with 5 days of work to do. This included fitting a bathroom, fitting a toilet, fitting a new pressurised hot water cylinder, fitting 6 radiators, drilling through a 1 metre thick wall to connect the heating flow and return and fitting a new tank and pressurisation unit complete with UV lamp.  To make life more interesting when we went to fit the dual fuelled heated towel rail in the bathroom it had no “T” for the electric heater. To cut a long story short Bathstore stopped supplying the towel rail I ordered 6 months ago but just sent me something similar with no “T”.  Basically we have already installed the pipes so we had to have a radiator with that profile. Fortunately I managed to find an exact replica and it was cheaper. The bathroom is starting to take shape now.

This was a week of two steps forward and one step back but we are confident that we will be moving in to phase 2 by the end of the week.  I think there will be quite a long list of snags to look at and I am not confident about the landing window being back in time. I have to mention the dust – it is every where and no sooner do you dust than more dust settles.

Any way at least we have a Christmas tree even if we don’t have any other decorations yet.

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thetrevproject end of November

Well theoretically at thetrevproject we are reaching an exciting time as the builders are due to be finished by the end of the first week in December.  The reality is stress levels are rising:-

Will the subcontractors turn up?😞

Will they / wont they complete😞

Christmas is coming and we want to decorate but nowhere is really finished😞

Mary is moving to live with us on 30th which means more stuff to store😟

Having said all that progress has been steady. All the areas is phase 2 have been plastered . All the ceilings are now painted as are the ceilings in bedroom 2  &  3 from phase 1 (Mary and Esme’s rooms).

The render on the outside on the south and East walls was completed. The job is not quite done though as the window reveals and porch need several coats and the weather has turned against us. You shouldn’t apply lime render below 5°C and we have had a few nights when the air temperature was 1 or 2 °C. The thing about lime is it doesn’t just dry there is a chemical reaction which occurs to adhere it to the substrate, basically it is carbonated and needs exposure to Carbon dioxide to set properly.

Did you know lime mortar was first used by the Egyptians 6000 years ago? Also there are many different grades of lime which give different hardness and drying properties. There can be different colours as well dependent on what kind of sane is mixed into it.

I love the creamy colour of our lime render. It goes a darker colour when wet as well.  We have no completion date for the remaining render as it may now have to wait until spring.

We have lost more windows to be repaired but we have got the new dining room windows back.

We also have a new back door without one inch gaps top and bottom to allow in weather and vermin.

Here we found a little structural problem – a very rotten lintel with evidence of death watch beetle infestation as well. We have inserted 3 concrete lintels to replace the old wooden one (very thick wall).

Speaking of vermin in October we were plagued by flies #rurallife. Basically the local cows attract flies. We thought they had disappeared but when we went in the loft recently we discovered they had all gone up there to over winter – where are those blooming bats when you need them. Thousands of dozy flies up in the loft is not ideal. I hope that when the loft is treated for wood worm the insecticide zaps all the flies as well.

Phase 2 was electricity free for many weeks with all electricity coming in via extension leads. This meant frantic scrabbling around at dusk to find an extension lead and lamp to light up the front door area. We also had no outside lights or lights in the laundry so torches were de rigeur. In the last week of November the “Sparkies” came and connected up most of the lights in phase 2 and the outside lights as well as the living room lights. We have no wall or ceiling lights in the living room but we have a 5 amp plug ring which is switched from near the door which allows standard or table lights to be switched on entry to the room. For some reason the switch had not been connected so we couldn’t use this system. Also 5 amp round pin plugs are hard to find which didn’t help.

Finally we erected extra scaffolding so that the chimney can be lined in preparation for the installation of a wood burner in the living room. Also the chimney needs some re-pointing.

On a non building note we had the first egg from our hens.

And now the sun rises at around 8 am I can say I am up before dawn every day and we get some interesting sunrises.

Early November at thetrevproject

Anyone who follows this blog – I am sure there is someone – may have noted that we are becoming a bit jaded with the building works and reporting it. We have been living in a building site since April. People say “oh it will be worth it in the end” and it will but when will the end be? Even after the builders leave, hopefully in early December there is a mass of decorating, gardening, landscaping, maintenance etc. to do.

We know we are incredibly blessed and lucky to be living here but it is a bit wearing at times. Still we get occasional fantastic sunsets and the views around here are lovely even if the weather can be a bit challenging, its windy and rainy but not often massively cold.

So In November we took time off for some R&R and visited France. We took Esme with us to celebrate her recently turning 21 and stayed in the beautiful village of Montfort L’Aumary 40 minutes by train from Paris with Emma and Tom – Emma was our bridesmaid a few years ago! Their house is possibly even older than ours probably dating from the 14 the century.

France was freezing and shortly after this picture of Louise and Emma was taken we were drenched in freezing rain.

Back to thetrevproject. The first week in October was primarily occupied by first fix electrics, first fix plumbing followed by “replasterboarding” which continued into the second week. We had a couple of little incidents during this week.

Firstly whilst I was digging over a section of soil which is intended to be turfed I suddenly noticed frantic activity. A lot of buckets being run in to the house and the plumber rushed into the laundry to turn off the water. You guessed it a flood. One of the builders removed a bit of old lead piping which was still live. Fortunately very little damage and all confined to the area being stripped.

Secondly, there was a weird set up with a basin in the bedroom at the furthest extremity from the bathroom. It had been plumbed with a phenomenally long drain – about 15 metres. Needless to say the water didn’t drain well. So the builder drilled a hole in the pipe at the lowest point and released the foulest smelling water which kept dripping into a bucket for hours. I decided to try and mask the smell with Jeyes fluid, that became very pervasive as well.

Thirdly we had a modern life crisis. We came back from France to find no internet connection. A little detective work revealed that a builder had inadvertently snapped the telephone wire. I have to commend our electricians who had the service back up within a couple of hours of the call out.

During this time we also started the re-rendering of some of the outside walls. To date we have bag rubbed the north gable end and half the east wall exterior with lime.  A bag rub is what it says. You render with lime and then rub it with a bit of hessian to give it texture. It is a thin coat to protect the stone and mortar underneath whilst allowing the wall to be breathable so moisture will be removed by capillary action. It was recommended by Cornish Lime. So I asked how will I know if it is working successfully and I got the answer “wait a year or two and see how damp the walls are”. There is a slight problem with that in that the scaffolding will be long gone if we find it hasn’t worked. However the conventional wisdom is that it is good for this type and age of building. It looks pretty good as well.

 

Another thing that happened in this period is that some more windows disappeared to be repaired. So phase 2 is dark and drafty as the boards over the windows don’t fit very tightly.

We said goodbye to the old Aga which nobody wanted to buy. It was in a fairly sorry state it was a bit heavy though and all the insulation had to be removed before it could be moved too far. The insulation is a granular silica based product.

Phase 2 at thetrevproject 16th – 30th October

The builders returned on 16th October and set about removing the old kitchen and removing the fibreboard ceilings and walls  in the old part of the house. Fibreboard is a fire hazard and we need to insulate the ceilings. Added to that it is easier to remove soft fibre board ceilings than to lift floorboards to do electrics and plumbing. There is no heating in this side of the house. As you can see below the wiring was a bit of a mess.

First however they covered the floors with “Antinox” plastic floor covering and built temporary doors to prevent too much dust getting into the rest of the house. I had insisted that better precautions were taken after our cleaning debacle.

The good news is that we haven’t found any structural issues and we have an estimated completion date of 5th December – that is 2017. There have been some issues in the past though as there is a steel “I” beam across the floor under the bath. This suggests that there was some rot under the bath at some time in the past.

Stripping went quite well and the whole area was stripped in a week and the old toilet was removed and the bath disconnected. Its an old cast iron bath which I want removed in one piece which the builders are not happy about it going to be heavy.

We have created a new door in the old kitchen wall. The heritage consultant was worried about removing historic fabric but as I expected it is a block wall so not really old. This part of the house could be as old as 1640’s but the block wall is probably 20th century.

We also have a heavy old Aga to dispose of. “Webuyanyaga.com”  (which is areal website) and similar are not interested in buying our old aga. Apparently there is no demand for really old Agas these days. Also with all the rubbish going on about diesel nobody wants an oil burner these days. (Dont get e started about the environmental damage done mining the stuff that goes into electric car batteries or child slave labour in the mines.) I believe the Aga was second hand in 1951 so its done its duty ok

We had  another hot water issue as well. The electricians came in for the strip out ad first fit and ripped everything out including the supply to the immersion heater. So a new emergency temporary supply had  to be fitted. We also lost the supply to borehole pump switch which required some detective work to find the right wires to connect together.

We can now start having visitors again so Rupert and Sara came to stay for a night along with Lola the beagle who instantly made herself at home on the kitchen window seat.

The second week of the strip out, well actually the start of the refit as we were installing battens and insulation, coincided with or anniversary of moving down to Cornwall. Right on cue our first visitors to Cornwall came to visit a year after our arrival. Mark, Clare, Kezzy and Jake Heasman came to visit on my first day in the house before the removal men or Louise arrived. They came again during half term by coincidence on the exact anniversary of last years visit. Needless to say they noticed a big change in the house.

Our first six weeks in the house the weather was idyllic – extremely warm for October. This year the rain has finally abated and we are starting to dry out. Lets hope for a dry autumn.

 

 

 

Change over at thetrevproject

The first week in October was a finishing off of phase 1 with only a couple of guys on site. We were expecting  the two windows back and a clean of the areas completed ready for us to move in. The plan being to move from one side of the house with 2 bedrooms and the old kitchen and bathroom to the other side with 3 bedrooms and the new kitchen and ensuite bathroom. So in theory more room.

The first two windows came back on Thursday 5th of October but minus the shutters. So the windows went away on 22nd of August and returned  5 weeks later refurbished and ready to go. They came back minus shutters but that wasn’t critical. We were so pleased to be able to see out and get daylight into the living room and kitchen.

The new Heritage Cooker was commissioned on the October  5th . So we now have heat in the first phase and a new controllable cooker. The Heritage will eventually do the hot water as well but currently we are using an immersion only. The Heritage is an Aga type cooker but uses a modern controllable burner and electronic controls. This means you can turn all the burners off  if required and save fuel. Also you can get from cold to cooking temperature in 20 minutes only which is close to the time of a conventional oven. Plus it is made in Cornwall just down the road in Liskeard.

The immersion heater was a funny story. The day the Aga was switched off we had no hot water. So we panicked and called in the plumber to replace the immersion, when he arrived he said it has a new element – to cut a long story the switch is wired back to front so off is on and on is off! We had hot water all the time but we didn’t realise the switch was back wards

The cleaners arrived on 5th October. Two really nice ladies and to be honest I didn’t supervise what they did trusting that out builders knew what they were doing. Well, lets just say there was a gap in expectation between what we expected and the builders specified. We hadn’t been strict on the use of dust sheets etc. as we knew there was a clean at the end. Basically we thought the more mess they make the job of the more work for their cleaners.

There were no builders on site from 9/10 for a week to allow us to move  from one side to the other. In our eyes we were expecting nice clean rooms to move into.

It took me 4 days to clean 4 rooms. The process was:-

  • Hoover with industrial vacuum cleaner to remove loose dust
  • Chisel off plaster, paint etc.
  • Hoover with industrial vacuum cleaner
  • Hoover with Dyson and brush down.

Then of course we needed to move over the bedroom furniture and the mountains of shizzle stored under the beds in cupboards etc. I concentrated on Mary’s room first as she was coming to stay for a couple of weeks. Also I got the living room cleared so we could move from one “living room to the next”. One slight problem was that we had no TV signal in the new living room but that was sorted fairly quickly and the terrestrial tv connected. We had to retire to the “snug” or old living room to watch satellite or recorded programs. We arranged that we would move the satellite dish so that in future Sky/Freesat will be in the min living room.

So the position at 15-10-17 is that:-

We are in our new room is all but complete the bedroom has no window it is boarded up.

The ensuite is all but complete (bath and shower available but water pressure is still a bit low we haven’t yet installed the booster pump)

Mary is in her room but the window is boarded up

Esme’s room is ready for the transfer  but the window is boarded up

The old bathroom and toilet are still in use

New kitchen is up and running.

Down stairs loo is up and running  minus the fairly crucial extract fan, there is no window in the room. We have gone from one very temperamental  loo to having 3 loos in one week.

The builders are due back on site 16th October.

 

 

Phase 1 of thetrevproject is complete – well sort of.

We are feeling quite bullish about our project at the moment.

 

This week we discovered  nice wooden floor in the living room which was a nice surprise. We were expecting to find a chipboard floor like the one in the new kitchen when we removed the old carpet. The fact that we found it is an indicator of progress, it means we are starting clear up.

We were promised that phase 1 would be complete by the end of September. Well it is  and it isn’t. Today the 2nd of October we have 2 builders on site clearing up and phase 1 is sort of finished.

Just a reminder about phase 1 and 2. The house is “L” shaped and phase 1 is the major part of the work which is the foot of the L. Phase 1 involved renovating 3 bedrooms, 2 reception rooms and an ensuite as well as the creation of a new downstairs loo. Oh and the repair of 5 sash window (listed building consent requirement) and the small matter of some major steel work to run alongside rotting or wood worm infested beams (again listed building consent requirement).

So where are we:-

Structural work – completed

New ensuite almost there – we just need a drain in the basin

Bedrooms complete – just need decorating and windows

New kitchen – complete apart from commissioning of range cooker booked for Friday

Downstairs loo – complete apart from extract fan

Windows – all still outstanding

 

The plan is, plumbers come today,  we get the first 2 windows back on Wednesday, cleaners come in Thursday and we move in Friday – that will be only a week behind target.

So we completed on time, well sort of yes, but really no. We still have to render two outside walls and we took most of the decorating out of the spec. This is an old house built with mud as mortar in one of the wettest parts of the UK only about 2.5 miles from the sea so we plan to leave the walls bare and dry the house out, once the heating is commissioned on Friday, for several months before we apply paint etc.

As a taster for what we are looking at there is a short video tour of the kitchen here (this video is unedited and one take so forgive the quality please):-

Also this week I have made progress with the slug barrier in the veg patch by almost completing a hard core path around 2 sides of the veg patch and laid some turf in the entrance from the road.

Phase 2 doesn’t need much in the way of structural work (so far as we know) so it will hopefully be a bit quicker than the first phase. Lets hope so we would like to be builder free by Christmas.

 

 

Slugging it Out at thetrevproject

Firstly living in the country has some advantages, one of which is that you can have a good bonfire without annoying your neighbours too much.

Ok so this has got very little to do with the house but part of our plan to live in Cornwall was to grow our own fruit and veg.

So, I spent hours in the late autumn digging over 3 reasonable sized vegetable beds. The plan was to make raised beds. I soon discovered there wasn’t much top soil in the veg patch. Also it had been fallow for many years resulting in masses of weeds, grass, ivy, nettles etc. So no need to go to the gym I just got stuck into clearing the veg patch.

I duly cleared and double dug 3 raised beds, Well they were ground level with timber borders with the plan being to practice “no dig gardening” for a year or two (basically just top up the bed with 10cm or so of top soil each year).

We trotted off enthusiastically to the garden centre and bought loads of seeds, planted them up on the window sill. Its great having 3 foot thick walls as there are large window sills. Our seeds were slightly mixed in how successful they were. We then bought seed potatoes and planted them in the soil and in potato bags.

After planting out the seedlings we discovered that there was a very significant challenge to gardening in Cornwall – slugs and snails. Being a moist mild climate the little slimy buggars thrive most of the year. So wanting to be “green” and organic I set about using some nematode slug control which was not really successful. Collecting slugs at night and putting them in salt water. Beer traps were deployed (they prefer cheap continental lager to bitter). Both the last two methods have the downside in that you have dead slugs to dispose of which if not done regularly can be very smelly.

These photos don’t do much for scale but these guys are about 12cm long.

So the slugs and snails decimated our crops. We tried again with bought seedlings – again devastation. Some plants are slug resistant, young peas (they do attack mature plants), fennel and maybe more.

Did you know that there are 40 different species of slugs in the UK? Most are vegetarian but some are omnivorous. You can find out more here http://www.slugwatch.co.uk/?page_id=13.

I have been asking around about how to control the slimy creatures. There are many things to try but no one method is 100% successful. I asked the gardeners at the Eden Project, where there are extensive slug free gardens outside the biomes, and the answer was a firm “slug pellets”. I am reluctant to use anything that would harm dogs or wildlife though but I will try them next year along with nematodes and here is the building bit – surround the veg patch by a hard-core path. Luckily enough I have plenty of hard core to get rid of so that is what I have started to do. The fact that I have to dig up some topsoil is serendipity.