Thursday, 6 August 2015

Wood, glorious wood!

We've seen enough TV property shows to know that renovating a house, especially when you've got no relevant experience, is ruddy stressful.

Chimney flues are sharp Incubator More
When this photo was taken I had just learnt
two things: 1) chimney flues are razor sharp,
and 2) I have no idea where the plasters are
And as the busiest period The Lodge has seen since we moved here draws to a close and the scaffolding finally comes down after more than two months, courtesy of a trio of grunting simians in human suits, I can say with certainty that this is true. Not a night has gone by in the past 11 days where I haven't sat bolt upright in bed - still 'asleep' - shouting and screaming about something or other: chimney flues; paint; red-hot metalwork; spiders; rafters; lime pointing, lead flashing, etc.*

But the stress itself is not important, so I've been told. It's how you deal with the stress when it arrives that counts.
So far I'm finding that the best way to deal with it when things get on top of me is to weep gently into my 18th coffee of the day while hiding underneath the hawthorn in the front garden, but I'm already concerned about the long-term effects in terms of both caffeine intake and permanently-puffy eyes. It spoils my charming looks.

So (gate woes aside) I suppose I need to recap a little bit, starting after my post about the bargeboards wot we made.

painting wood with linseed oil Incubator More
The usual suspects (spot the hoverfly).
I used Cuprinol on the purlins to stop any unseen rot
In that post I mentioned that the following days were all about oiling and painting our fancy new creations, and that is exactly what happened. It wasn't a glamorous job - I was balancing rafters, architrave and the bargeboards between two smelly wheelie bins and trying to look like I was having the time of my life whenever the neighbours drove past while listening to a stuttering digital radio app on my phone and picking kamikaze hoverflies off my tacky paintwork. But it got done.

The finer points of the paint job aren't terribly interesting but I'm going to explain them anyway because it took me three mind-numbing 10-hour days so I don't want to gloss over it. Gloss? Geddit? Hmmm?
Well you shouldn't, because not a drop of gloss paint went near the woodwork. Instead we decided to head down a more traditional and environmentally-friendly route with linseed oil-based products which protect (oil repels water, doesn't it) and add colour at the same time while, supposedly, lasting much longer than regular paint.

painting wood with linseed oil Incubator More
One coat down... three to go
First of all I applied a coat of linseed oil mixed with white spirit (3-1 ratio - the white spirit helps it dry and absorb faster) mixed in a former pickled gherkin jar to give the wood one of its five-a-day and a good base coat, ready for the colour later on.
I managed to do about half of the timber within a day of its arrival, which dried nicely during the couple of days it took to make the bargeboards, but unfortunately I had to rush the rest of the oiling a little because time was short.
I should really have let this first coat of oil sit for a good few days before I did anything else, but the joiners and roofers were due to arrive on site soon and as the oil needed time to penetrate the wood rather than air dry a lot of the remaining timber was still a tiny bit sticky when it came to applying the paint because it had only sat for a day or two, tops.
In the end it didn't make a huge amount of noticeable difference but I'm the fastidious type so it made me a bit fidgety.

replacing roof tiles and rafters Incubator More
Cowboy builder
(not really - it's just a silly hat)
Next came the messy job of painting the things, and for this Dawn chose a company called Linseed Paint Company which is a one-man-band type of affair in which the husband produces his gloopy linseed oil-based concoctions in his poor wife's Aga. It's excellent stuff but it makes a right mess of their Sunday roasts. 

We only bought a litre of the black paint (£40 inc P&P) but we were assured it would go a long way, and by crikey it did. By the time I had given everything a thin first coat (as advised - too thick and it would start to blister) and set it aside underneath a rather nifty 15ft x 15ft glorified gazebo to protect it from the rain, I had used less than a quarter of the tin and although the natural colour of the wood was still showing through in places there was impressive coverage which was well worth the wonga. 

By the time all of that was finished it was time to step-up the pace with the joiners, Roofer #1 and Roofer #2 due to arrive next day and fight-it-out for scaffolding space while removing tiles, whittling woodwork and setting the final two chimney pots in place.
It was all hands on deck and I tend to struggle being in just one place at once, never mind three, so I drafted in Terminator Trevor for help who, true to his unstoppable form, brought along with him a crippling cough that would have had a mere mortal walking towards The Light.

The following few days are all a bit of a blur now but they went something like this:
    chimney flue Incubator More
    Feeling a bit fluey
  • I made roughly 1,623 cups of tea for a grand total of eight people
  • The roof tiles were removed from the gable ends of Bedroom 1 and Bedroom 3
  • Old rotten rafters and laths were removed, allowing me access to sections of original timber that I hadn't been able to reach before so I could scrape and hurriedly repaint them
  • Three new rafters were cut to size, installed and given a second slap of paint by the chippies who went way beyond the call of duty while I was busy elsewhere
  • Two sections of rotten purlin were cut away and replaced with new (painted) timber
  • The bargeboards and architrave were fitted, which were then given a second coat of paint partly by me and partly by the tea-and-cigarette-fuelled chippies
  • The final two chimney pots were set on the west stack
  • The register plate in the Dining Room fireplace, which turned out to be totally over-the-top foot-thick poured concrete reinforced with thick steel bars and cross-hatched metal grilles, was painstaking (and painfully) removed with an angle grinder, uphill sledgehammering and brute force
  • All four flues were dropped in to their respective fireplaces, complete with modified cowls which, incidentally, fit like proverbial mittens
  • The gables were rebuilt with all new tanalised laths above Bedroom 1 while some of the original ones were kept over Bedroom 3. We could paint these black or box them in, but Dawn and I quite like the contrast with the bargeboards, so they're staying as-is (I oiled the original laths to protect them, though)
  • The tiles went back on both gables, this time using 'tile-and-a-halfs' at the edges where a roofer many years ago had simply used roughly-chipped and ugly mismatched half-tiles
  • I oiled and painted the purlin ends on the east side of The Lodge while the scaffolding was still up
  • A handful of damaged roof and valley tiles were replaced, as were a number of incongruous red tiles that had been used around the Bathroom Velux window
  • An ugly sheet of thick corrugated plastic under the Velux window was faced with scalloped lead flashing to hide it
  • The gates were constructed and fitted... then repaired a few days later
  • Everybody on-site, at some point or another, had a minor meltdown about the overabundance of thrips the area is playing host to at the moment
  • I gave all the woodwork that I could get at two more coats of paint... climbing stepladders on top of scaffolding is no fun whatsoever
  • The verges of both gables were re-mortared with a part-lime/part-cement mix
replacing roof tiles and rafters Incubator More
...and suddenly the second roofer disappeared in a puff of smoke...
This final point, much like when the chimney was rebuilt, goes against the pure lime ethos that both Dawn and I have, as inspired by our surveyor Pete from, and I ended up having a tetchy squabble with Roofer #2 about it (he's the main contractor for most of the other work) which involved lots of rude words and almost ended in fisticuffs, hair-pulling and him petulantly walking off the job.

angle grinding Incubator More
The Dining Room register plate was a challenge
This is probably the subject of a different blog post altogether, but we're finding it very difficult to find tradesmen who can not only do what we want but also agree to a job that they actually carry out as specified. They start off with "yeah, I can do lime... not a problem" but when it comes to doing the work it's "well, I can put lime in but it needs cement too or I'll be back to repair it all in three months".
And with time constraints and limited options because many specialist tradesmen won't travel far we're being forced into a corner that we don't want to be in. It's very frustrating and probably the main reason I'm hollering in my sleep lately because I feel a little bit like we're being walked-over.

Anyway, Roofer #1 has been back in the last two days to finish off a couple of jobs including looking at the flashing around the chimney and tiling on the porch and bay window roofs, and when his van rolled out of the gates this afternoon I realised that that was it: job done.

making your own barge boards Incubator More
This major phase in The Lodge's history is now complete and we can sit back and relax.

Hahahahahahaha (ad infinitum)... who am I kidding?
I need to get back in the Living Room and Bedroom 1 so we can work towards getting them ready for us to move in to before the cold weather comes. That means gypsum removal, expensive lime plastering, ceilings, floorboards... and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

* All of this really happened, including the spider-based night terror which was prompted by a cellar spider ambling nonchalantly across the quilt cover, past my delicate and vulnerable face, as I was reading my Kindle in bed one night. I didn't move a muscle. I don't think it saw me although it could probably smell my fear. I know I could.
And the lead flashing thing was just last night. Apparently I started getting a bit antsy because Dawn wouldn't measure the lead sheet I was trying to mould around the chimney base. That was probably something to do with the fact that it was 4am and I had neither a lead sheet nor a tape measure.

renovating a Victorian house Incubator More

renovating a Victorian house Incubator More
It might not look like it, but there's a lot going on here

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