Above shows just how effective windblown rain is at eroding the mortar and dashing on an exposed site.
- large holes need to be cleaned out using a long screwdriver or thin trowel
- take back to sound mortar – dont over do it as aged mortar is soft
- brush out recesses
- first pile in mortar
- do not have deep holes full of mortar – fill with appropriate depth stone – big first and over lapping to knit everything together
- I use mallet with steel chisel to make a sound filler – do gently
- fill with smaller stone to outside
- now get thin springy trowel and work more mortar in
West facing gable – notice wall has only been repointed where mortar is missing – there is oold dashing above cleaned up part of wall so the mortar should be ok but if is in anyway soft I tend to take it off as it eventually will fail and drop off.
I filled all the holes on the outside of the walls – this adds to the walls integrity and prevents easy access by wind blown rain from coming inside.
This is the other gable and is facing east – so is much more sheltered then the west facing gable that takes the brunt of the weather and the hot sun in summer ( some years that doesnt happen though)
Dashing that I use is NHL 3.5 and mix is strong – 1:2.5 – for me it provides a strong bind and is similar in some respects to a cement mortar – not as strong but breathable.
I use this mix inside as well for inside dashing to provide a good grip for plastering over
So after 15 years perhaps I had enough of climbing through the trapdoor cut in the upstairs floor – this had been done as I thought due to the state of the chimney wall – where the new stairs was to go – I could be crushed if the wall decided to collapse such was its state. Also the wall was not top of my priorities and a staircase couldn’t be installed as that would hinder fixing the wall – so a real chicken and egg situation.
So I always like to start a new project at the beginning of each january – it has to be challenging yet not go on for too long otherwise I wander off both mentally and physically – so a new stairs it would be. Of course it has to be cheap so I bought 3 sheets of plywood – 3/4 inch and got out my router. The stairs will be scrapped once I get around to getting the house close to completion so it’s a trial run and will let me see what needs tweaking before I do the good one; also it will be abused no doubt so I don’t have to think about being too careful with it.
I have only built one staircase so far and no complaints – it is still standing.
If you look really closely you will see the top part of an old boot was used to patch part of it – bizarre. Rot has had its wicked way with it – helped along by woodworm and old age I will store it until it becomes invisible – yes all hoarders reach this spiritual level of denial and blindness. Just a pity our significant others dont have this super-power !!!
So from the above to the ensuing steps, no pun intended
To platform structure, angled turn of step
A satisfying stage
Sizing the steps
I just used screws and routed grooves for the threads – these are standard 9″ x 2″.
So all in all it probably cost just over 100 euros – still 2 years of use and counting , still serviceable
Fitting the risers
As I have said before how dangerous the roof was; well no pictures survive from the time of taking the roof off – we get alot of lightning strikes here and many computers have died taking with them the various stages of restoration. However with a limited budget and just having to seal up the building from the elements I had to put some sort of roof on the structure so I decided on a corrugated one – cheap and cheerful.
Another step in getting up there had to be addressed – all monies were going into the other house as we wanted our comfort so compromise came not having scaffolding around the house – it would have been there mind you for nearly 2 decades as not all outside work is yet finished – 2016. So once the roof was off you are in a race against time as water running from the top of the wall down has a tendency to collapse the structure this I was warned from the start – no bare wall tops.
So what to do ? well I decided to cover the wall tops with lengths of plastic – weighed down with water-filled milk bottles on strings either side of the wall – this kept the rain out for nearly 2 years until I got the upstairs floor in – then I would have a safe staging to work on in getting the roof up.
I acquired cheaply a light scaffold tower which is on wheels; I use it everywhere around the yard and houses, it has got to be one of the best buys ever. It can go to 18 feet high and with added stabilizers it has been invaluable as it can carry a good quantity of stone as can be seen from the above picture.
As you can see putting in the joists I wanted to stick with the original 5 by 2 inch joist so that I wasnt cutting out bits of wall but in hindsight I should have put in 9 by 2 inch and saved myself alot of hassle. The receiving sockets for the joists just needed to be cleared out and in alot of instances be fixed up – please excuse my lack of proper building terminology because I don’t have it and I expect this blog would appeal more to the amateur then the professional anyway.
So to make the walls safe I put in new lintels and with each stage of replacement I got quicker and more adept at building a solid structure so putting in the joists further knitted the building together – however for 2 years there wasn’t a roof on the structure due to time constraints, as in work etc . I had put down planking which I imagined I would be throwing away after sitting exposed ( well I did have plastic sheeting on it but after months of walking on it of course it is going to fail) so that I could put on the wall-plate , which is a 3 by 6 inch wood which acts as a topping on wall so that the rafters can sit level.
I had never done this before but it was very satisfying to get them level along the length of the outer walls – what was a bit disconcerting as the back wall is several inches lower than the front wall – 6 inches perhaps and of course the bow in the front of the building. Next step I had a local engineering firm make wall straps – these are flat iron strips with a 90 degree top to attach to the top of the wall-plate and a corresponding lower spike to go into the wall lower down to hold the wall-plate in place.
A friend at the time came in very useful having built houses himself and helped put the rafters up with me – putting the centre-board up which is the ridge at the highest point of a roof was the challenge after that hand cut rafters were put in at a leisurely pace. This was due to another baby arriving, bringing our brood up to 4, so added to 9 cattle, some pigs, hens, ducks, turkeys and the odd horse and donkey perhaps; the house had to wait.
I can still remember after the 4th baby arriving saying to myself; just put the tin roof on and you can walk away for a few years knowing the hardest part is done – so that is what I did a month or so after she arrived. It was a bit hairy without much scaffold around the house – well a 6 foot by 4 foot wheeled one worked well and I saved myself a fortune on not having to hire or buy scaffold.
At a time when the scale of the project dawned on me and doing it practically solo, I needed to be ruthless and conserve as much energy as possible by focusing on the core of the building not as in this case a poorly built rear extension that was more liability then anything else; it had to go. It had been the previous owners kitchen – very basic.
Also at the time the house was a low priority shed (with possibilities) on the edge of a yard – without any back garden there was no immediate plans to restore it into a livable house; that could be planned later should the garden ever be bought. In the mean time the bungalow was ever expanding due to our ever expanding brood so with a job, kids, animals and veg garden, time was an ever decreasing component of a hectic life.
The previous owner had retained adjoining land and what was the house garden became the neighbours entrance to his land so I didnt get fully into the project until the garden became part of the property many years later.
If you look at the level of the extension you will see that it obviously was made for a shorter person, the level of the roof line is already low as it is – of course people were shorter in those days. In the intervening years we had a pig living in the kitchen for a number of years – so the story of having pigs in the kitchen are true!
The walls of the extension were leaning and were made of rough stone and mud but heightened by a few concrete blocks – it had to be the most dodgy construction I have ever come across. A skim of concrete plaster kept out the elements but it must have been very damp as it was laid straight on the ground without any foundations.
It was satisfying taking the sledge hammer to this part of the building and was one more step towards a tidier house as this part of the house is very visible from the road passing close by.
The above picture shows the back garden newly acquired and area dug out as tons of soil had to be hauled to make it level and no ugly extension.