August at thetrevproject and Marler Cottage

August is summer, supposedly, and we were reminded that we live in a rural location when our neighbour drove past the house.

Here in Cornwall August weather has been a bit dodgy. You might be wondering what  happened to the last few weeks updates on thetrevproject, all about the cottage being finished. Were we too busy going to the beach? Or touring around holiday spots?

Well no – and the finish was delayed and we didn’t get into the cottage at the end of July. There was a touch of the builders living up to the stereo type. They didn’t hit the dead line, but there were mitigating circumstances, because the foreman was off ill for 3 days but they may not have made it any way, but who knows.

After having been promised the cottage would be finished by the beginning of August we took it over on Wednesday 9th at 3:00pm. It was cleanish but no professional cleaner came it was left to the builders to give a sweep and a mop down. Needless to say we had to do a bit more cleaning. This was highlighted by the twins crawling around and getting black hands and feet on the clean looking floor covered in dust and grime.

Kate and Josh and the girls didn’t actually move into the cottage until the Thursday.  So Thursday was bitter sweet – we got some space back but we lost Dot and Margot (one year old twins) as they moved out. We had kind of got used to having them and their parents around all the time.

Not having access to the cottage on time made life a little difficult as Mary can to stay for a week to celebrate the twins first birthday. She had to sleep on a mattress on the floor in a room with no lights or curtains.  We rigged up a blind and got a long extension to get light into the room where she was staying.

So here are a few pictures inside the cottage – I am putting together a collection of before and after pics for publication soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got our room back for Friday night and Mary moved into the room we had been in as well so we all had a good nights sleep Friday. Mary went back to London Sunday so we have a spare room again. Lucky really as we have guest coming this week and then the wanderer returns on Thursday – Esme is back from a summer in Trumpington, she is currently Leaving Las Vegas (I feel a Sheryl Crow song coming on) heading for Yosemite.

The cottage is great and it has  a few little quirks. The bedroom window opens inwards due to the fact that it is in a boundary wall – Building Regs. None of the walls are vertical or straight – apart from where the walls have been clad to give some straight lines in the kitchen and bath room. It is comfortable and has utilities (water is on a temporary pump pending a new pump going into the main house). We are jealous of Kate and Josh who now have a lovely drench shower whilst we are stuck with an old bath and using a saucepan to wash our hair.

The cottage has a few snags to sort out but we are now concentrating on the kitchen and ensuite in the main house. We don’t have blinds in the windows or bifold doors in the cottage, there are no splash backs in the kitchen or bathroom, but it is usable.

The time is coming for the big reveal of the colour of our cooker as the work top has been templated and is due to be fitted 5th September. The floor is down and the units are in position and the first fit of electrics and plumbing have been completed. The kitchen is going to be fantastic – having lived in flats terraced houses for 27 years having a large kitchen is going to be fabulous, we can hardly wait.

Late July update from thetrevproject

So what has happened recently. Well….

The Lions drew a test series in New Zealand

England won the World Cup (women’s cricket)

Chris Froome won a 4th Tour de France – will he make into Sports Personality of the Year, probably not.

Oh yeah and what has happened to the Trev Project?

We have a load more stuff in the house as Josh and I went up to Widnes, hired a large van and brought all their stuff back to Trev. Most of it went in the garage but we are certainly very short of space now.  We now have 4 adults and 2 eleven month old twins living in half a house with only one temperamental toilet and a single bath. Its fun but I hope we get some more space soon.

Good news is that some stuff has moved out of the garage – the kitchen for Marler Cottage ready for fitting  so it was moved into the cottage and we could shoe horn Church Street Widnes in to the garage. Yes that means we are starting to put things back together again. The kitchen is going in the walls are painted, we have door and we have ordered an oil tank. We won’t make the completion by the end of July but we are hoping that a week into August the cottage will be habitable.

In the main house we have a floor in bedrooms 2 and 3. The floor is nice new pine, we looked at reclaimed floorboards but they were too expensive and we couldn’t find enough any way. The boards were kept in the room for  a week to acclimatise before being used. I did not realise how much work is involved laying a floor. Every board has to be racheted into place to ensure a tight fit and clasp nails hammered in by hand, no nail guns. There was the odd expletive from builders as they hammered fingers.

The walls are plastered  in the ensuite and we have a nice heritage roof lite in there. Tiles have been ordered for the floor and we are getting ready for the walls to be skimmed.

Downstairs the kitchen walls are ready for skimming. The walls are ready for skimming and the first floor tiles have gone in ready for the Heritage Cooker to be installed on Wednesday.

In between all this I have been helping to remove the Maiden Bells of St Veep Church for repair. These bells are unique – we believe the only Virgin Peel in the country and possible the World. A Virgin Peel, in case you don’t know and I certainly didn’t, means the bells were cast and never tuned, they just had perfect pitch straight away. So all 6 bells were perfect pitch. There are many other maiden bells but no virgin peels.

Installing New Steel to Reinforce the rotten Wood @ TheTrevProject

Installing New Steel to Reinforce the rotten Wood

Since our last update there has been some significant progress although we are now in a bit of a hiatus. Due to illness etc. we are down to one builder on site the last couple of days.  We have been blessed with some fantastic weather with Britain (but not Cornwall) officially making it to heat wave status. We had the hottest summer day since 1976 at 35.6°C – hot by British standards but places like Singapore get that temperature about 7 months a year.

First major issue was to do the preparation for the installation of the structural steel. Basically we are a listed building so we are obliged to keep a much old structure as possible. In our case we have to keep some old joists and an old beam. The beam is severely rotted and damaged by woodworm etc.  So we have to fit steel beams either side of the main beam and bolt all of them together. The beam is approx. 300mm x 200mm, or at least it should be. In reality some of it is only 60% of that size. Surprisingly though the middle of the beam is still incredibly hard. It made it very difficult to drill a hole through the beam to fit large threaded rod between the steels.

So we lifted the steels up through the window.

     

We then had to clear the area where the steel was to be anchored and install a steel I beam lintel in the outer wall. The inner wall had to be hollowed out and a hard pocket installed to rest the steel on. To do this the ends of all the joists had to cut off. They were pretty rotten any way so it was a good move. But then as part of the LBC (Listed Building Consent) we had to retain the old joists and bolt a new one alongside each old one! This meant chiseling out a pocket in the inner beam as well.

Having done that the joists on the other side of the beam had to be cut and a steel place on the other side of the beam. Straight forward as we had already done it once. The difficulty was drilling a hole from one side of the beam through to the other side to tie the two steels and the wooden beam together. As the drill started in soft semi degraded wood and then hit rock hard oak in the middle it was kicked off of straight meaning it came out 10 – 20 mm off straight on the other side so it didn’t line up with the hole in the steel.

We had to put new joists alongside some every bent originals as you can see from the photo below. You can see also that some joists have been repaired up to 3 times before.

Then we discovered that there were issues on the wall side. A couple of joists were totally rotten so they had to be discarded.

 

The other issue was that some of the joists rested on a wooden lintel – which of course was rotten. With some well judged stone work we overcame the issues.

We are now ready to install floorboards in bedroom 2 and 3 but not bedroom 1 were we still have some steel work to install. Since we are an old listed building we have to try to install reclaimed floorboards. We have saved some but many of the floorboards removed were so rotten and riddled with wood worm that we had to burn them.

We also discovered that we have been very lucky not to have been burned down. There were numerous dead mice (desiccated) under the floor boards when we lifted the floor. We have now discovered that in a lot of places the mice had chewed the plastic insulation away and there were bare wires in several places.

 

Whilst this was going on the plumber arrived. He removed the old boiler (second-hand in 2014 and it was in excess of 20 years old), disconnected and drained the heating. A new element was installed in the hot water tank so we can be sure of hot water. We also removed several radiators.

 

Mid June Building Update TheTrevProject

Building Update at TheTrevProject

We have had a lot going on in the last couple of weeks since the last update – at least that is what the stage payment request tells me. There isn’t much visual to report on though but that might change for next week’s update.

So up to the beginning of this week we had the walls in the cottage completely insulated and they are basically ready for plastering now. You can see Alfie checking out the cladding below.

We finally got a response to our structural queries (to be fair Peter was on holiday and we did get a response from him so that is quite good). So the concrete lintel was removed from the cottage and a steel one installed higher up so we can now fit in our bifold doors.

  

We also have an answer to structural issues in the main house so that work is progressing as I write. Lost more to report on that next week.

Another step forward is the erection of scaffolding for the “heritage conservation roof light windows”. Basically expensive Velux type windows for the cottage kitchen and ensuite bathroom.

What has been highlighted though is how much lighter and more airy our front entrance is now. Below are two pictures showing the current light open access compared to the overgrown dark oppressive access in 2015 (we had already done quite a bit of cutting back of plant life when the photo was taken). Quite apart from the darkness all the vegetation is not good for the walls as it encourages damp. The dead leaves also block gutters which leads to damp and even wall collapse.

You can see also that the vegetation has been massively reduced by looking back into the building.

First June Update on the Trev Project

TheTrevProject update

Just a short update today as it is a only a couple of  days since the last update. I noticed that we have very few humans in our blog so here is a little video of the inside of the cottage.

There is a bit of progress in the cottage this week we were away including first fit of the plumbing. We also had a large eucalyptus tree removed. I was sorry to miss this as it was quite a technical removal. The crown was removed using ropes and pulleys without touching the building below despite half the tree overhanging the building. The trunk was left long and then removed by a block and pulley system using a 4×4 vehicle 30 metres away. I can thoroughly recommend our tree surgeon Richard Heyward (http://www.treesurgeoncornwall.com/) he has done several jobs for us and always done a very good job.Where the tree once stood is now a plinth for the oil tank for the cottage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The very large root ball was also cut in half and removed, you can see Fred sitting the next to the two halves of the root ball below.

There is also a plinth for the oil combi boiler which will be outside. This is for safety (no carbon monoxide risk in side the building) and space saving.

We are still slightly frustrated by being held up by structural engineering requirements . The engineer is currently on holiday so we can’t expect any progress for a while.

 

The Trev Project Bank Holiday Update

Bank Holiday Update

It is a bit late due to us being away for most of the week but here is the update for Bank Holiday week. A few interesting things happened during the week running up to the Bank Holiday.

Firstly we had a delivery of sand in a 27 tonne tipper. We didn’t think we could get such a big lorry down our road.  Not only did he arrive safely but he came up the hill from Penpol – anyone who knows that road will tell you it is steep, narrow and there are no passing places for 600 yards or so. A lorry this size will fill the whole road. Now we know practically any lorry can get to our house so we can order almost anything we want for delivery.

The sand was required for the screed floor in the cottage which was duly laid on Wednesday and needs to be left to cure for a week or so. It’s difficult to take a decent picture of the new floor but laying the new floor means that next week the walls can be insulated and plastered.  We are hoping for big progress this week including a plumbing first fit. I have had to bring forward the delivery of the shower tray so that we can have it fitted ready for plaster boarding around the shower.

The next interesting occurrence was that we uncovered the septic tank. As we suspected  there is no man hole on the tank which is about 3m x 3m. We were able to remove one of the concrete slabs and reveal inside a 2 chamber system. The solids chamber is almost totally full with sludge and worms. We know it has not been emptied for at least 15 years  so it does work ok. We now have to find a contractor to empty it before it starts backing up in the pipe. Unfortunately whilst revealing the tank we damaged the pitch fibre sewage pipe. Whilst carrying out a repair we also discovered a cracked inlet T so that was also repaired.

We completed the removal of the render from the east  wall of the house. So we have no more “Polperro Ripple” and only one wall is currently rendered. The west wall has an unknown render on it but it will remain for now. The stone work we have revealed is of mixed quality. Some is quite good and attractive and some is not in very good condition and has quite a lot of slate in it. We still have to decide what to do with it leave it natural or re-render with lime plaster.

The render/finish on the walls of a house of this age is very important. You should not have an impervious outer layer as the walls are designed to breathe. This breathing allows moisture to migrate through the wall and escape thus preventing damp issues. Our house has had two walls with  impervious cement render which is most likely a contributory factor in the amount of rot and wood worm we have encountered. Both the wood worm and fungal rot prefer damp conditions (even so called dry rot needs damp). Wood worm requires a humidity greater than 60% and wood moisture content of greater than 12% to thrive. Fungal rot generally requires greater than 20% moisture in the wood to survive. Moisture contents of between 8 – 16% may be found in a ‘normal’ dry domestic dwelling wood.

 

This week also saw the mowing of the main sector of the lawn. Cutting a large area with a small electric flymo is quite time consuming but it looks good. The so called lawn is mostly meadow grass and weeds and I had left it un-mowed because I though the builders van would be parked on there a lot. We managed to arrange access through the farmer’s yard so we have hardly had any traffic on the lawn. The neater lawn is going to be nice when the building work is over and we look out of our new kitchen.

Also in preparation for a life after builders we have purchased and assembled a chicken coop. We plan to have our own fresh eggs and vegetables. Gardening at this house will be a challenge as there is very little topsoil and it is very windy. Many plants show signs of wind burn on new leaves when they are produced.

May 15th Update

This week was the time we turned The Trev Project into a proper building site.

First of all the digger arrived on site and started – well digging. We are digging trenches around Marler Cottage (the outbuilding we are converting) for drains, power supply water supply, oil pipeline and a French drain. Why oil I hear you think. Well as we are an isolated rural property there is no chance of getting gas so we are using an oil combi boiler.

As you can see this has turned our lovely courtyard area into a a load of holes and piles of shale dug out of them. A feature of the area is that there is very little topsoil and about 10 to 20 cm down you find rocky shale stone. this will be a challenge in developing the garden in years to come.

One thing we have done is tried to recycle some of the bushes dug up. So I have replanted a couple of lovely Weigelia bushes in the hope that they will recover and grow again. One is planted to hide and old tree stump (see picture) and another is planted in the vegetable garden. Bees love Weigelia flowers so we hope to attract bees in the future to our veg patch.

Another way our project is transformed is that we now have loads of scaffolding around the house. This will help in re-rendering the house and the removal of windows for repair (It is a condition of listed build consent that we repair not replace or upgrade the windows. This is bad for insulation and the environment due to the increased CO2 production required for heating. In the world of preserving old buildings keeping the old stuff trumps looking after the planet for our descendants.) There is also scaffold up the chimney which will be required when the flue liner is installed for the new modern, efficient Heritage cooker/boiler which will replace the old very inefficient Aga. Sadly even though the Aga is over 70 years old it has no second hand value, I would have thought it was an antique!

The inside of Marler Cottage has also made some progress with internal stud-work progressing. We have had to make a minor design change following the building inspector’s visit as he insisted on having damp proof membrane up to 1 metre so we now have to batten the walls before installing celotex insulation to the internal walls. This will make a minor change to the size of the inside space.

Undaunted by the upheaval we had friends to stay over the weekend. We still have 2 bedrooms and one working, if slightly temperamental, toilet so it worked OK and we had a great weekend. We did manage some stress relief.

Another interesting thing this weekend is that we had a wildlife incident in the house. A swallow looking for a nesting site came in the open front door flew up the stairs  into the bathroom and then back down and out. Not much of an issue except that it left its signature in multiple places as it flew around. Luckily nothing too critical was signed.

The coming week is likely to see more disruption as the structural steel is due to be delivered and installed so it should be all go inside the house. The weather forecast good for farmers and growers this week but not so good for builders so if inside jobs are available that will be good.

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