PUMPING THE POO and an Historic Discovery

PUMPING THE POO and an Historic Discovery

We have kept slow but steady progress this week. We have had few builders on site due to a back injury to our foreman. Shifting all that steel was harder work than we thought.

Monday kicked off with the delivery of the kitchen for the house. Since we are a couple of weeks behind schedule we don’t have anywhere to put it so we have stored it all in the lounge. We weren’t using the lounge really any way. We have freestanding units from Fired Earth, due to Listed Building Consent we had to preserve some panelling so we couldn’t have a fitted kitchen. Delivery had to be now as we bought the kitchen in the Christmas sale and the build was delayed as long as possible (they are built in France). We managed to delay delivery twice but if we delayed it again we would start to incur storage charges.

On Monday the floor joists in bedroom 2 and 3 were completed with a bit of heavy lifting. The weather was fantastic – not quite the heat wave experienced up country but nice and hot. Louise and I sneaked off to  Penzance in the afternoon to experience the  famous Jubilee Pool. I don’t know what happened but Tuesday morning there were no builders present – Adrian the foreman had back problems so the other guys were diverted elsewhere.

 

We had a major job done Tuesday. The septic tank was emptied  for the first time for 15 years plus.  Two old boys and a tanker arrived late morning. They looked down the grassy lane and debated whether or not they could get the tanker down and back up the lane. After much debate and chin rubbing they decided to give it a go. Mike jumped in the cab and drove carefully down the lane to the point opposite the septic tank. Then with a lot of revs and wheel spinning he reversed up the lane almost flattening Stan on the way. Stan survived by clambering on to the bumper of the tanker.

Turned out the guys were much more competent on the emptying of the septic tank. We discovered that our two chamber tank was well built and working well. The sludge was a little thick but in good condition – probably in better condition than many tanks emptied far more regularly.

The thickness of the sludge meant that the sludge had to be removed and pumped back to the tank a couple of times to make it more liquid so it could all be removed. Well actually you don’t take all the sludge out you have to leave a little sludge behind to seed the continued fermentation of the sewage. We have been advised not to leave it quite so long to pump it next – ever 2 – 3 years is the suggestion. You can see the twin black holes of the empty septic tank below.

Back to the house and another unexpected discovery. We removed the boarding behind the boiler and found a Clome oven. Initially I thought it must be very old but I have since discovered they were manufactured until the 1930’s in Truro. It is almost certainly a lot older than that but who knows? You can see a little bit about Clome Oven here, Google isn’t particularly useful in providing a lot of detail about Clomes. The Clome will be concealed and left in place when the new kitchen goes in.

 

 

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.

Mud, a big hole and May 19 update

Mud, a big Hole and May 19 Update

This week we ran out of luck with the weather and it rained all day Monday and Tuesday.  Well you know what that means with builders – muuud. Actually it is very muddy but being in Cornwall the soil is loam so its not like sticky Essex mud we have known before. It is muddy but not as messy as it could be.

An early victory was the removal of a huge root ball. This was a potted bay leaf plant that my Grandmother planted in the flower bed in 1952. It had grown to over 30 feet tall with multiple large trunks. The trunks were removed by a tree surgeon in early 2016 as it was causing massive damp problems. The leaves were also falling into the gutters and blocking them – bay leaves don’t rot well so they form good plugs. Unfortunately due to access restrictions he couldn’t get his big stump grinder close to the stump and we hadn’t managed to kill the stump. It took two days of labour and a digger to remove it and we reckon it weighs over a tonne. When it finally came away there was much whooping, hollering and tooting of the digger hooter. There were no major roots just millions of little tiny roots bonded to the wall.

Luckily there were inside jobs to do. In the main house we have hit a hiatus though. The structural steel arrived Tuesday, Wednesday morning the builders prepared for beginning the job and we were out Wednesday afternoon.  When we returned we found the dodgy beam lifted by a few inches and some stone work removed. The builders had revealed that the dodgy beam was supported by a wooden lintel over the ground floor window not the expected granite so we need a structural engineer to sign off proposed replacement lintel. This is our hiatus we can’t get hold of the engineer but we were able to leave a message with his wife to which he hasn’t responded (#Cornwall life ). So we are at a halt and most of the work in the house depends on getting the structural support into the floor.

The beam and ceiling are all supported by Acro Props ready to go and amazingly the room looks bigger as the ceiling in the middle of the room is now about 20cm higher. Being a listed building we need to keep the lathe and plaster ceiling which is now probably a bit unstable so we are going to fit a plaster board ceiling below it. This achieves two things – it secures the historical ceiling in place and it ensures a flat ceiling so we can have flush ceiling lights.

We had to go to Truro to confirm our choice of work top for the kitchen in the main house on Wednesday.  We are using Fired Earth in Truro for our kitchen as we need free standing units due to the listing issues – they have been great and all the people who work there have been really helpful and knowledgeable. We went to Topps Tiles choosing  flooring  etc. I can recommend Topps Tiles Truro its massive and there is so much choice it is quite confusing, and the staff are very helpful.

In the cottage a lot of progress but not very visual. The walls are battened for installation of insulation. Electrical first fix is done and electric supply cables are laid in the trench. We have most of the insulation laid on the floor. That place is going to be so warm. Several drainage pipes were also laid and we began re-filling some trenches.

The big excitement cam on Friday afternoon. We used the digger to move the large lump of concrete over the old rain water tank. Only it isn’t a rain water tank but and old well – 21 metres down to the water and possibly another 4 metres after that. The hole is big as well approximately 2 metres by 2 metres!  Its only 1.5 metres from our  front door and we were oblivious to is existence but we do have a borehole drawing water from the same source a couple of metres away. We are now considering making a feature of this with a glass cover and some  lighting. That will be for another day after the end of the main project.