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!!!

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.

 

 

Planning Permission Planning and TheTrevProject

Why do we need Planning Permission for TheTrevProject –

Planning law is complex and evr changing. You can find out more about planning permission at the Government Planning Portal

In summary you will probably need planning permission if you want to:

  • build something new
  • make a major change to your building, eg building an extension
  • change the use of your building eg. If you want to convert a farm building.

To find out if your project will need planning permission, contact your local planning authority (LPA).

We decided that we would probably need planning permission since we were planning to convert an empty out building into accommodation. To quote the famous Fawlty Towers character “We no nothing”. To get the house up to scratch and to comply with the regulations we decided we needed help.

Disused building to be converted

We needed someone to help pilot us through the system and the local council procedures. We appointed an architect by looking for someone local who had done this kind of project before. Our architect was working on a bigger, higher budget job in the same village so we felt he would be sympathetic. He has been invaluable in helping us navigate our way through the system and in preparing the necessary documentation and drawings. He also guided us through all the required pre-amble.

Planning is administered by the council Conservation Officers. At the time we took over the house the county had 2 conservation officers one was off long term ill and the other was due to go on maternity leave. Originally each district had its own conservation officers but the ravages of local Government cuts meant this was reduced to 2 officers for the whole county.

We were advised to create a planning pre-application which the Council would assess and advise if planning permission is required. We duly filed one with the help of our architect. It is worth noting that you have to pay for a “pre-app” and, it is assessed by the relevant planning officer. Getting your pre-app approved is no guarantee that you will get your planning permission/listed building consent approved when you submit it. It does however give you a good steer as to what if any modifications you might need to make and it is usually significantly less expensive than the final application.

Along with our pre-app we submitted:-

Bat Survey and mitigation plan

Heritage report

Drawings of the existing buildings and proposed changes

Structural engineers report

Design details

Building regulations compliance

Topographical Survey

Environmental report

An example of the standard of drawing required

The planning application was submitted in tandem with the Listed Building consent (see previous post) and all the accompanying documents. We received provisional approval subject to conditions mainly around the bats.

We started working on the planning process in January 2015. Our  planning application was officially received by the Council 28/07/16 and approved subject to conditions 15/09/16. The application is submitted to the County Council but has to be approved by the Parish Council as well.

We submitted our revised application with mitigation plans 5/12/16 and planning permission subject to the issue of a license from Natural England was granted on 15/2/17. We could not apply for the licence until we had been granted Planning Permission. To find out more about the licence see the Totally Flipping Batty  post.