I bought a lot of parquet for the ballroom floor and it’s been piled up in a corner for a couple of years.
The problem (other than too many other lockdown projects) was the floor concrete level which needs to be one parquet lower than it currently is. There was once parquet similar to the snug as evidenced by the remaining bits around the edge (the triangular bit in the photo) they concreted over in the 1970s.
I had been putting the job off because I thought I would have to replace the entire floor. But a trial dig suggests the base of the new concrete is much weaker than I imagined and the old concrete below seems quite strong. That makes the job much easier – I should be able to knock off the new stuff and get back to the old base.
I’ve been a bit slow getting into things on the house this year. I’ve spent time in the spring fitting a new chassis to my elderly van. Then I’m busy testing aeroplanes all summer. Autumn isn’t busy yet so maybe something will still happen on the house later in the year.
I’ve realised I never get anything done on the house over winter – there is always a 3 month gap in the blog. I keep planning to do work over the winter like the electrics, the kitchen, the floor in the ballroom but it never happens. Nothing ever happens over winter especially now I have Netflix.
This year I’m planning to out-smart the house by spending the summer getting on with all the winter jobs that have been building up. Apart from maybe when the weather is nice and I can be outside doing things…
(Photo 2017 when it snowed).
Lime season is Late April to late October apart from the middle of the summer when it’s too hot. Shrinkage in the new green oak gable timber frame needs some oakum to fill the gaps.
Linseed paint season is late July to early August and the front timbers need a coat of boiled linseed as they are dusting and shedding black pigment onto my limewash. And the front door needs another coat of yellow.
The flat roof toilet block extension needs to be painted in terracotta limewash. A bit bold but probably better than Magnolia. My strategy is to paint it in a different colour from the house so I can pretend it belongs to someone else.
It’s the indoors stuff that is really holding me up. It’s been a real pain finding trades. Trades are all very busy and quotes these days are 4 times higher than usual. This year I’m planning to do all the stuff I would have preferred to outsource. I can get on with everything else next year.
Also I’m thinking about buying an E-Type project to keep me busy over the winter. I’ll need a garage for that…
I bought a new wardrobe to stand on the wall adjacent to the existing wardrobe but that left a dead space in the corner behind and I don’t like dead spaces that will gather dust.
I hit upon the idea of buying a further single wardrobe and grafting it onto the end of one of the wardrobes to make the space more useable.
The single wardrobe is from the same range as the others but wasn’t quite the same size. It was too wide and too short. This is my first woodworking project this year. I’m out of practice and made a lot of mistakes. The fun with mistakes is figuring how to work around them so they don’t matter.
I did a few things I’ve not done before. The dowel holes turned out accurate enough but I didn’t get the cam lock fixing holes quite right so used angle brackets instead.
Of course it took longer than planned and it was getting late by the time I finally got everything sound enough structurally to stand it up so I could access the bedroom again for the night.
The new inaccessible extension to the wardrobe turned out handy for a couple of formal outfits that I don’t wear very often. I can slide the every day stuff to one side to access them.
A little bit of me regrets not just buying the larger wardrobe and doing an overlap.
I’ve got to the top of the piers and have finished them off with plinth bricks to match the existing pier that is still built into the barn wall. The plinth bricks are red but are a little sooty and look blue in the photo.
There are 2 courses to go before the coping and I still have no idea what the original coping might have looked like. But there is spalling in the top few bricks of the existing wall incorporated into the barn gable so there was probably never an effective drip overhang.
I’m using really rubbish early 19th century bricks that are very prone to spalling. I want an effective drip overhang and did some experiments with different methods before deciding on creasing tiles. It wasn’t until after I bought them I realised creasing tiles are a 20th century invention and have no place on this wall. Oops.
Creasing tiles only seem to be available for metric walls and are too short. I’ve cut them to give me a 40mm overhang. I did some testing with a garden sprayer and found they only dripped effectively when I got to a 1 in 8 slope.
I’ve made a start on the creasing tiles. I glued a bit of tapered wood to the bottom of my spirit level to set the angles and positioned the edge to a string line.
I want to do the whole course without cutting tiles but 1mm short on the mortar gaps will leave a 10cm gap at the end. And I’m doing them by eye. I’ve placed every eighth tile along the wall so when I get to each one I can see where I need to adjust the gaps a little.
I cut the second course of creasing tiles a little shorter. They are angled more than 1 in 8 by accident but too much overlap with the coping bricks would have resulted in an excessively large mortar gap under the coping anyway.
The idea is to bed the half round coping on mortar in the cavity inside the creasing tiles to avoid too much mortar oozing out and staining the tiles. The gap between the coping and tiles can be filled during pointing.
I’ve started on the half round coping. I’ve found them really tricky and am only managing 35 a day. I’ve laid 60 so far. I found it helps to have the frog orientated to accept the next brick as in the next photo. The height of the coping varies so the string line is only a long term guide and the heights are set to the previous bricks.
The coping bricks are on edge so the first joint to get right is the vertical one, after that the horizontal joint can be adjusted. None of this was in my bricklaying book. I’ve got sloping creasing tiles to shed water so don’t need the ugly sloping mortar fillet that normally fails after a while.
At about halfway through I measured the brick plus mortar gap averaged over the last 50 coping bricks and used that to mark out the position of the next 95 bricks. Using the mortar gaps I was managing naturally made it easy to maintain the brick spacing to the end.
At the end of October the long stretch of wall is almost finished and it’s looking really good.
Got to post a before photo after this. It had been cement pointed so the bricks had spalled. Also a tree had pushed it over. And no nice coping to keep the rain off. It was worse than it looks in the photo. 6 inch lean increasing every year and quite wobbly at the far end.
The bricks are the same. I just turned them around. Still some spalled bricks to turn around under the barn wall but I thought it best to do the bricks under the corner first.
I left a short section at the back 6 courses low so I could climb over it rather than walk the long way around and that still needs building to full height.
But we’re into frosts now and lime doesn’t like frost. I’m going to down tools and finish off the short section at the back next year. The wall has taken all my time and there are other things to catch up on. Also plenty stuff to do inside where it is much warmer.
I’m still working on the garden wall and hope to get it finished this year. I took a week off work when the weather was suitably dreary and managed 3 courses on the 17m stretch. I’m averaging around 65 bricks a day. The bricks themselves go down fairly quickly – it’s the pointing, cleaning and setting out bricks, and cutting bricks for the piers that seems to take the time.
This weekend I built up the corner and I’m working on the 3m stretch at the back. I like the back. I can go up 4 courses over a weekend.
I’ve balanced some bricks and coping on top of the corner to figure out the height I’m aiming for. I’m aiming 2 bricks higher than the wall I took down but a brick short of the original wall height. I think I will have enough bricks but it is going to be really close.
I counted the remaining bricks and was short by 2 or 3 courses even if I clean off the stack of uncleaned bricks with very hard lime mortar that is very difficult to remove.
A road trip north of Birmingham to Cawarden yielded some more bricks to mix in. They are Bedford Clamps and match very well. I also bought the most expensive brick in the world – a reproduction half round corner for the coping.
I’ve been experimenting with Bebbingtons weathering tint on the corner. It started off bright orange but now it’s a deep red and matches the coping. That’s quite cool.
Towards the end of September the wall is 5 courses higher. I had another week off and had some help for a couple of days. We managed 2 courses in 2 days. There are only 4 courses to go before the coping.
I’ve built the corner up to full height and balanced the corner coping on top to get a feel for it. It’ll be the same height as the existing part of the wall that still forms part of the gable end of the barn. A brick higher than planned so I’m going to run out of bricks again.
I’ve had a lot of work this year and the weather at the weekends hasn’t always been good for garden wall building. But the wall is nearly at half height – there are already 1500 bricks in there and I budgeted around 3500 bricks for the whole wall.
The wall is high enough to backfill the trench and I’ll be sore tomorrow having moved many tons of earth. The wall looks a lot taller from the garden side now it is no longer hidden by big piles of earth.
There was some excess earth left over. I suppose there would be after putting 4m cube of concrete in the hole for the foundations. It was good exercise filling the skip.
I have a bag of top soil but it’s not accessible until the skip is collected. Also my wheelbarrow has a flat tyre. Grass seeding will have to wait.
The wall is progressing at a slow pace. I’ve built the back of the wall up to 9 bricks just to see how it will look. The stretchers are the original bricks turned around and look a bit white at the moment as they’ve had lime on that face. They should become more colourful and blend in after rain cleans the bricks.
The original bricks are Bedford Clamps – they have a distinctive raised line along the stretcher face where the bricks were stacked after moulding which adds texture to the wall. They are slightly curved which adds further texture. I’ve been setting out from the new bricks I’m using as headers as they are much more straight.
The bricks are the ones used in the original wall but they look very different because they have ben turned around and have lime stains on the face. Photos of the original wall in Starting the garden wall rebuild
The pointing is the same as the rest of the house. It is trowelled flat, then after drying for a few hours struck with a masonry cleaning brush, then lightly brushed. The brushing recesses the pointing exposing the edge of the bricks and some aggregate in the sharp sand.
I’m speeding up. My record is 120 bricks a day so far. But it’s been very wet at the weekends so progress is still slow.
The rain helped make sure the coping and drip tiles work on the test wall. I’ve picked up 260 half round bricks from a wall that had fallen over in Nottingham.
I messed up on the join to the old wall. I built the pier 1/4 brick too far along because I was working off foundation bricks that weren’t aligned with the wall. I spent a day measuring up and knew about this but forgot. No problem – I adjusted the third course to compensate.
I compensated in the wrong direction and that caused problems with the joint to the pier so I’ve removed one of the strange double headers from the original wall and now I’m 3/4 brick out on the fourth course which gives me a better bond with the (redesigned) pier. Most of the misaligned courses should be hidden underground so it should look like I messed up once not twice. The transition from the existing wall is now seamless.
Working 7 day weeks towards the end of May to help catch up on money from last year so nothing more will get done on the wall in May. I’ll post again in June. I like to have a post every month to remind myself I’ve done something useful. EDIT – Weather wasn’t great for garden walls in June but I got a week in. I’ll keep at it and post when it starts looking different.
This is the biggest build I’ve attempted by myself. I’m guessing it will take 6 working weeks (edit – turned out to be 12 working weeks). I have a couple free weeks so have started laying bricks in the two courses below ground level. Laying out and setting heights has taken some time, but things should speed up once I have a straight level run to build on.
I built the corner at a measured distance from the existing wall, then laid the bricks out dry using a brick gauge to make sure I don’t end up with an odd size space in the middle somewhere. That’s worked well – I can remove a couple of bricks to mortar them in, then check the spacing is still OK before removing any more bricks.
The hessian is to keep the sun off during the day and the frost off during the night. Perfect lime building weather would be much more overcast but I’m getting a good tan at the expense of a lot of covering and watering of bricks.
The old wall was very badly spalled and only half the bricks could be saved and even those will need to be turned around. No problem I thought. I bought the same again in reclaimed bricks. But they aren’t a perfect match. They look OK as headers, but headers only make up a third of the brick count. I can lose a lot of the new bricks in the foundations, and I think it looks OK if I keep using the new bricks one brick above ground. I made a spreadsheet to work it out and have been trying all sorts of ideas.
The wall has 4 piers on the long face sticking out by a quarter brick both sides to match the original. The piers go in last to avoid disturbing the string line.
I had guessed I could lay 100 bricks a day and managed 80 bricks a day on the long straight run. I will hopefully speed up on the next courses as bricks below provide additional reference. Each course has 190 bricks so it’s not going to be a quick build.
It’s useful to have a couple of courses below ground level. It took me a couple of bricks to get everything straight and level and most of the pier positions shifted very slightly while I found out what mistakes I could make with brick spacing. At some point they will need to go up straight.
The garden wall was delayed into the winter while a tree stump was removed and it’s getting warm enough to avoid bad frosts now. I spent a day figuring out levels and worked out that a 450mm * 450mm hole would be about fine everywhere. Planning 300mm concrete then a couple of bricks up to ground level. I don’t know exactly how tall my wall will be, but guessing I’ll run out of bricks between 1.2m and 1.4m.
A man with a digger got the hole dug by lunchtime. Ripping up the old foundations made the hole a bit wider than intended.
The ground levels step down by a couple of bricks at the corner of the wall. I’ve put formers in to make the drop one brick at a time. They aren’t where I intended as it was easier to put them where there were banks either side to drive stakes into. There’s also a bit of shuttering at the side of the hole where the tree was.
The vertical stakes indicate the level of the top of the concrete which is a couple of bricks below ground level. They don’t look level in the photo as they go squint when you hit a stone, but they should be accurate for height. They all go into the ground more than 200mm which is useful as you can’t see them when the concrete is poured and they get knocked with the rake.
I used a mix on site concrete truck. They started off with some fairly firm concrete to dam the level changes and then filled the trench up with the normal runny concrete while I raked and tamped behind.
It’s mostly worked. The foundations start 1/8 inch high, then fall 1/4 inch low for a good length. Also one of the dams is leaking very slowly and one end has dropped by 1/2 inch. I’m hoping when the concrete gets around to it’s initial cure it will put a stop to that. We’ve been having light frosts so I’ve covered everything with hessian and can worry about it later.
The first bricks went in a couple of days after the concrete pour. The existing wall leans a little and I didn’t have a good reference for the new wall as it starts off lower down than it used to and there is a slight change in direction. The existing wall was awful to set out from.
The cunning plan is to build a pier after these bricks. I can set the wall out nice and straight from there and also blend the old wall into the pier.
2000 bricks arrived for the garden wall last week. I also saved 1500 of the original bricks. Now I have a lot of bricks.
I had planned to use new bricks but the lead time is too long at the moment so I went for reclaims. The bricks came from Loaded with bricks in Birmingham and just about all of them look useable which is surprisingly good for reclaims.
The size and colour of the new bricks match the original bricks well. The originals are Bedford Clamps and are rare these days. The texture doesn’t quite match. but once there is mortar in there nobody will notice.
I’m planning to use the new bricks as headers and the original ones as stretchers (as the photo below) so I can retain the stripe of Bedford Clamps and also hide their spalled side. I forgot that there are twice as many stretchers as headers so my brick buying maths doesn’t quite work.
Next job is organising a hole for the foundations and getting the concrete poured. After that I should have a nice relaxing job laying bricks for some time.
Once the gates were fitted I realised that there wasn’t enough space to drive a car in and then close the gates behind it. More space was created with the help of a grab lorry removing a big pile of unusable bricks from the garden wall.
3.5m seems like a good width for the gates. The lorry had no trouble getting through and had space to manoeuvrer to avoid the Renault 5 and the drain cover.
Spurred on by the extra space generated by removing the rubble I cut the pallets into firewood and ordered a skip for the big pile of rubbish that started building up last year.
I’m surprised it all fitted into the skip. I thought it was going to take 2 skips.
Sounds like a Swedish English translation but it is really true! The tower that has been there for the last year has been tidied away. I have a very welcome 3 month contract so progress is going to slow again. I’m having a tidy inside and outside and finding long lost tools.
Wiring isn’t done yet. I’ve given up trying to find an electrician. Job is awkward and they have plenty of non-awkward work they can do instead. Electrics will be down to me.
Christmas lights are still up. I’ll need a scaffold tower to take them down. 🙂
I put the posts in for a fence with gates on the driveway. I had hoped to put them a little further to the right but that area is full of services and there wasn’t a safe place to dig. I did try but found a gas pipe in an unexpected place. The posts holes are 3 feet deep and my arms are sore now.
The gates are quite wide with a 3.5m opening. I’m going to claim that’s so a skip lorry will be able to manoeuvrer so I get the skip where I want it. Actually I first marked out a smaller opening and it didn’t look wide enough so I made it a bit wider. Now the posts are up it looks huge!
A day later the fences are finished. Just the gates to make now. On the right the arris rails are mounted on brackets screwed to the existing post. On the left I’ve screwed a post onto the wall. Neither will take much load.
With the fence in place the opening is looking smaller again.
The gate frames were positioned in place using clamps and spacers and the feather edge boards added later. I had to remove the diagonals and adjust the gates to account for the sloping site.
The lock isn’t in place yet. I’ve found one that can be unlocked from both sides of the gate. Gate open stays aren’t in place either. I’m using a bucket of water to hold the gates open.
It’s ended up looking quite neat from the outside. The fence is not straight as it has to follow the shape of the driveway, and there is also a 20mm tip up in the middle of the gates to allow for settling as the wood dries out.
The diagonals are also removable for later adjustment in case I run into trouble. The wood was supplied soaked through so I’m expecting shrinkage issues.
The walls are not in perfect condition. They were thoroughly mock tudored in the 1970s and removing the mock tudor resulted in a lot of damage. The lower 5 feet were wood panelled in the 1920s then plastered in the 1970s. The next few feet have textured paint, then the parts that were above the false ceiling have been knocked around by electricians and plumbers.
In the photo above the left of the doorway and to the right of the doorway is some basecoat plaster I’ve applied directly on brick. It will need a second coat to get a couple of millimetres shy of surface level when I’ll switch to the lime repair plaster.
The brick was really thirsty having been inside for 100 years. I could hold the sprayer in the same spot for some time and the water would be sucked in rather than run off. It’s best to pre-dampen bricks so the water isn’t sucked out from the new plaster before it makes it’s bond.
The other side of the room is a little further along. The larger holes have been repaired using the repair plaster. I shape the plaster using a steel rule which gets the level just below the surface. The final coat is a filler which has the advantage of being sandable.
The original plaster on those walls is still reasonable smooth and straight so there is a chance I’ll get away with filling the many holes people have made and then then just paint over. At worst I’ll need to use lining paper. I don’t think I’ll need to skim
The dining area was re-plastered in the 1970s and has accumulated fewer holes – mostly just where the mock tudor was nailed on. I’ve found filling to just above the plaster level then a quick once over with a drywall sander is a really quick way to make the walls perfect.
I finished filling a couple of walls and put the first coat of paint on to see how it would look. The repairs aren’t noticeable and the walls look flat.
I felt it took a long time to prepare the walls, but it was only 5 days ago that I painted the ceiling. I think it’s just boring, and a couple of weeks plugging on with it should have all the walls finished.
Not everything is finished. The textured paint came off with some effort with a paint scraper after softening using Zinsser BIN wallpaper stripper. The resulting surface looks worse than it it.
The last bits of loose plaster in the room have been knocked off the fireplace and the wooden former is in position to make an edge for the new plaster before I figure out what sort of trim or shelf I might eventually put in it’s place.
It’s a big area with more than one room and takes ages. I’ve been scatting around the place doing bits on everything because drying times. Here’s the chimney again after 2 coats base plaster, 2 coats repair plaster, then a bit of filler to tidy everything up.
At the time of edit I’m wondering if I can get it all finished and painted in time for my Christmas photo. Get the fire burning and lean nonchalantly on the mantle that isn’t there yet. One day left. Sure to happen but the paint might still be wet.
Bits of wood are excellent to use as corner formers. Removing mock tudor had pulled the corners off the weird box in the ceiling that hides the top of the stairs. A bit of thin ply marked with the line of the ceiling, cut to shape and screwed to the wall was fab for quickly forming the corner. The plaster pushed into the gaps also made the edges for the remaining plastering.
I doubt I’ll get all the walls painted for Christmas, but the lights are up!
The ceiling ended up with quite a lot of plaster and filler in the repairs and cracks. As the filling neared the end the thing that took the most time and effort was moving the scaffold tower around. It’s been good exercise.
I finally measured the ceiling height – it’s about 4.5m and quite awkward to access. That probably explains why it has only had 2 coats of paint over the last 99 years. The first coat was a purple-red which must have been very dark. The second was an off-white which has become brown due to tobacco smoke.
Finally a photo that isn’t completely brown. I’ve painted the centre panel with Earthborn clay paint. I took the photo before covering up the last little bit just to show the coverage. Two coats should be enough for the ceiling which is handy as around 30 moves of the scaffold tower will be required for each coat on the whole ceiling.
So far the repairs aren’t noticeable through the paint. But I have found a couple more cracks and a bit of lifting paint that I missed. Overall it’s looking pretty good so far.
It’s starting to look smart with the rest of the ceiling painted. Some salts have come through from a bit of plaster that got wet before the roof was replaced. It’s dry now so a bit of primer should block the salts.
The white paint has changed the light in the room. It is becoming much brighter in there.
A bit of paint is quite motivating. The plan is to repeat the process on the walls, but I’ll likely do one or two walls at a time and then paint them for a sense of achievement rather than wait for all the walls to be finished.
The were a lot of holes in the ballroom ceiling and they are slowly being filled with plaster. The walls have been damaged quite extensively and will probably need a skim, but most of the brown coloured ceiling above is in good condition apart from a few holes. The ceiling wasn’t brown originally – the colour is from a century of tobacco smoke.
Once the plaster on the ceiling is finished I’m planning the first coat of ceiling paint to brighten up the ballroom. I’ll do the second coat when I start decorating.
The walls below can’t be completely finished until the electrician has been, but I can save time later on by making them straight and getting some plaster on them.
For base coat directly on bricks I’m using a lime render similar to the one I used outside. It goes on much more thickly and smoothly than the white lime repair plaster which is more of a skimming plaster. I realised while applying this bit that small bit of (modern) plaster above doesn’t line up with the door jam. Oops – will knock that off and extend the new plaster to the original a little higher.up.
I found some rotten parquet at the bottom of this bit of this wall. I’m hoping the rest of the concrete floor in the ballroom wasn’t laid over parquet because that would be really annoying. But it is good to find out the main room was once finished in parquet like the snug.
For the lath I’m using St Astier R50 Ultrafine lime plaster because I panic bought a few bags before lockdown. It’s a skimming plaster intended to go over plaster or paint or whatever is there. It is strong, sticky, and has a chemical set so it doesn’t crack. It’s not exactly the right stuff for base coats as it can’t be applied thickly with any neatness.
Most of the repair plaster repair is now close to the surface and just needs finishing. This one was a fiddle as the picture rail had been cut away. I spliced in a a bit of picture rail recovered from the chimney and the join isn’t noticeable from the ground.
I’ve decided to clean the ceiling using sugar soap before the final coat of plaster on the repairs. I had thought the paint was gloss, but it seems the gloss was just the muck on top.
Applying the soap with a sponge on the ceiling overhead and scrubbing was physically exhausting and the next day was a recovery day. I’ve been adjusting the process – spraying and soaking the surface, letting the sugar soap soak, then just wiping off to reduce the effort and that has sped things up.
The entrance vestibule now has a roof. the ceiling of the vestibule was once part of the false ceiling. I cut the joists back but the ceiling is weak and the vestibule made the corner of the vaulted ceiling above inaccessible by scaffold tower.
I had imagined throwing a few loft boards on top would have been a minor job but it took a whole day. The odd shape was one thing but a lot of time was spent routing joints to make the most of what I had after I found my stock of loft board wasn’t all the same thickness.
The new roof provides a good platform for painting this corner of the ceiling.
There is not much plaster repair in this post because I find it really boring. It’s day after day. I’ve been building up repair plaster to just below surface level then doing the final skim with filler and using a great big drywall sander to get things level for paint.
It’s almost finished. I’ve tried a bit of paint over the repairs and the repairs are not noticeable. One day more and surely I’ll be able to at least paint the ceiling.
The beautiful vaulted ballroom ceiling has quite a lot of big holes caused by the false ceiling, and then by plumbers and electricians fitting things above the false ceiling. I’ve been filling the holes to get ready for plastering.
My favourite method is to use bricks. This is a corner of the chimney which had been cut away to install a beam that supported the false ceiling. There is no need to be neat as the bricks will be covered.
In the middle of the ceiling there was a big square hole which seems to have been made by an electrician for some reason. It lent itself perfectly to a square of woodwool board screwed to some 2 by 2 attached to the joists.
I later tried screwing some woodwool board behind some lath on a smaller hole but the screws didn’t hold in the woodwool so that’s a poor approach.
It doesn’t matter much as it’s only a very small hole and the plaster itself will provide enough strength to hold itself up. For a bigger hole there would be a need to attach some actual wood behind the woodwool to provide something to screw in to.
The edge of the false ceiling had been cross nailed to the lath supports using very big nails. Removing the ceiling caused a lot of damage to the lath and plaster. On this occasion after removing the loose plaster the supports were mostly exposed so I could just replace the broken laths with new ones the same way they were installed originally.
The lath is original to the house (it mostly came off the big I beam) and I soaked it in a bath for a few hours to make it expand before fitting it. That way it hopefully shouldn’t expand again when it is wet by the new plaster which might otherwise cause the wall to bow.
I have of course been botching too. There are some awkward holes which would need to be extended significantly to get back to the joists.
I’ve tried exposing a couple of inches of the ends of broken lath and then attaching new lath to the old lath by cross nailing using lots of stainless brad nails. The result seems secure. But I’ve only tried it in one place.
I’m doing quite well with the ceiling and have been doing the first plaster coat as I go along. It’s been years and I’m starting to remember how not to apply plaster. First rule I forgot for lime plaster or anything lime is to put as little water in the mix as possible. Of course I started on a ceiling and I made a mess.
The lean in the garden wall seems to have been caused mostly by a Leyland Cypress tree removed in 2014. The tree made the wall lean over by 6 inches and also pushed the foundations sideways by around 8 inches. If we are going to have a straight wall there will be some stump removal needed because the stump is in the way.
It’s been a nightmare to try and organise the stump removal and work has stopped on the wall now. The tree folk are really busy after having been stuck at home earlier in the year and despite promises nobody seems to want to actually turn up to remove the stump. It is too close to frosts to start re-building the wall this year.
More than a month later the tree guy turned up with a stump grinding machine and (very professionally) removed the stump.
Now the awkward stump is just sawdust. There is quite a lot of sawdust but November 5th isn’t too far away and might provide a good excuse for a bonfire.
I’ve been measuring the lean of the garden wall every year. The lean has been increasing by about 1/8 inch every year, and it’s reached 6 inches now. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason for the wall not falling over, and given the lean is over a footpath it’s probably time to do something about it.
It’s an old wall built with Bedford Clamp bricks in Flemish bond. The gable end of the barn was built on top of the wall, and the barn is from around 1850 so the wall is probably earlier. Bricks are a funny size (around 71mm) and I’m guessing Georgian. The wall will be rebuilt using the original bricks. It’s been repointed in cement so the bricks are horribly spalled and will need to be turned around.
I’ve been sensible for once and installed some temporary orange fencing. I feel it says ‘stay well back – there are some highly trained professionals doing serious stuff here’. Also it’s nice to have some sort of fence while the wall is missing and when the foundation hole appears. Though the first couple of days will be vegetation clearing on the other side of the wall.
The poor wall is looking less well now. Nominally the wall is straight but has been pushed sideways and over by a Cypress tree. If it falls over now it will result in ankle bruises rather than squished children so I’m feeling a bit better about it now.
The bricks were very badly spalled. We’ve been cleaning up the bricks as they were removed and where the wall hadn’t been repaired in cement the bricks can be turned around and used again. But many of the headers are spalled at both ends and are too short to be useful.
There are 1000 bricks in the stack so far. The wall had been repointed in white cement which is probably what caused the spalling. The top couple of courses and parts of the piers had been rebuilt in cement and not many bricks were salvageable from that. I’m going to be 1000 bricks short.
It will be a happy wall again, rebuilt in lime mortar that will last for hundreds of years.
At the rear of the house facing the 1970s bungalows a large stretch of wall was replaced with fence in the late 1980s. It turns out that the bungalow site was levelled to below the wall foundation. The bricks don’t reach the ground. The foundations were 6 inches thick so did make it to the ground, but they weren’t designed to be exposed and went crumbly.