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.

Spaced out at thetrevproject

We are just about to enter a very exciting phase in the renovation.  By the end of next week the cottage should be occupied so there will be some exciting photos next week.

Meanwhile we are spaced out  or  more correctly out of space.

One of the things about living in a house while it is being renovated is the mess but the biggest issue is space. Where do you put everything??? We have a 5 bedroom house with only 2 bedrooms usable – we have cleared 3 rooms as the floors had to be replaced and the walls had to be skimmed. Add to that we have Kate and Josh’s 2 bedroom house to accommodate as well. And we have toys for one year old twins so our living room looks like this.

Plus we have 2 kitchens and 2 bathrooms to accommodate as we ordered them based on a building schedule that had to be put back several weeks due to structural issues.

So what do we do with all that stuff? Basically we cram is in where we can so the garage is stuffed to the gunnels. This includes several boxes we brought from Braintree in October which we have never opened. The video below gives some idea of what the garage is like – after we have removed the cottage kitchen and bathroom fittings.

This created a challenge for the delivery of our new Heritage Range cooker. You can see below that the guys had milimetres to spare in some of the gaps between the new kitchen which is currently stored in the hallway.

They were amazing, their system of boards and rollers enabled them to wheel in the cooker in just a few minutes. The first floor tiles are down for the cooker to stand on. They are Fired Earth Orient Travertine tiles which is a kind of limestone – we wanted a stone floor which isn’t as dark as slate.

The cooker is now in place but you will have to wait for the big reveal to see what colour it is. 😜

 

 

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.

The Trev Project First week in July

This is the beginning of July update. It’s a bit late but here is the first week of July update any way.

After a quiet week last week some visible progress this week despite the rain.

First of all the heritage roof light went in to the cottage on Monday. What you may ask is a heritage roof light – well basically an expensive one that is supposed to look in keeping with the period of construction. It was specified due to the Grade II listing but why we needed a special one who knows. It is incredibly heavy so we do get something for our money  and it does look very good.  It goes in the kitchen which is in the middle of the cottage and gives a nice lot of light in the middle of the building.

Unfortunately on Tuesday the heavens opened and the roofers disappeared. We couldn’t open up the roof while it was pouring with rain.

We installed the 4th window as well and the internal sills were installed on all of them. We were therefore able to finish the internal insulation and plaster board and we are ready for plastering . Then we are able to get on to finishing  – well we still need glass in the windows and the handles etc.

We have ordered the floor tiles as well for install after the plastering is complete.

In the main house we made the decision to go for new floor boards. There were not enough reclaim boards around  and we need to make progress. We have bent over back wards and further to preserve joists and beams despite the fact it would be cheaper and easier to have replaced the lot. There is still a lot of rotten wood worm riven timber in place. It has all been treated but rot is a fungus and spores are notoriously difficult to kill so you can’t be sure it won’t recur at some point. We just have to try and avoid damp conditions (see and earlier post) and hope we are ok. The picture below is the new floorboards acclimatising – they need to be stored for about a week in the place where they are to be installed to prevent shrinkage or expansion etc.

The structure in bedroom 1 & 2 complete we turned our eyes to bedroom 1. Visually much less rotten but a nice surprise awaited. The wooden lintel above the living room was totally rotten – see picture below. We were already going to install a steel to support the window but now we have to install a second concrete lintel to replace the rotten wooden one. You can see below the very rotten one which should have been as big as the slightly rotten one next to it.

The pictures below are a bit dark but you can see the supports and steel work required to keep the living room ceiling together while the steel reinforcement is installed

 

Another big step forward was the arrival of electricians for the first fix in the main house. This is all the underfloor wiring in phase 1 (the foot of the “L” i.e. bedroom 1,2, & 3 ensuite lounge and new kitchen) off the repair. This is anticipation of new floor boards being laid in the next week.

The collateral from this is that we are very short of space for storing things and our kitchen is taking up a lot of space in the hall way.  This makes it very difficult to check the new kitchen which has arrived but we have identified that a sink is missing so there is a lot of backwards and forwards going on to find out why and where etc.

Another big change is that we have more residents now. Kate and Josh have arrived with the twins so we have even less room for storage. They have only brought one car load of stuff with them and we will collect their belongings in a few weeks.

Also there is a bat house update – the swallows have moved in and the chicks are doing well. I reckon these little beauties are worth about £1000.00 each!!!

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.