Category Archives: Repair

Crittall Frame Restoration

Following on from the last bay window post.  It seems a bit mad to be restoring Crittal windows in a building that isn’t listed and I don’t have to.   The reason is I like the faceted effect of the leaded glass and don’t want to replace it with double glazing.   I am under building regs instruction to improve thermal performance so will have to fit secondary glazing however I mount the leaded glass.

I’ve had the Crittall frames sandblasted.   BBS of Bedford did a super job.  Anyone planning to do this should first remove the handle first as it turns out to have brass fittings under the caked on paint.  The hinges are also brass.


The windows have a fascinating construction.  The frames themselves are brazed together, then the brass hinges are screwed on, then the bars to the right of the photo which create a flat external mounting face screwed from the inside of the frame.

The frames weren’t that bad – only the bottom rails were starting to get a bit thin in places.


The frames from 1910 are mild steel so can be welded.  I built up the edges with MIG then ground down to create the original profile. I think the edges need to be welded as they will be sensitive to knocks, but everything else can be done in car bodyfiller.

I’m using Bilt Hamber Electrox primer which is 90% zinc by weight.  I keep nearly dropping the pot as it is unreasonably heavy.  It offers some cold galvanising protection which I have found to be very effective on previous car projects, but it does need the shot blasted surface to stick well.


The screws holding the windows together are 1/4 inch Whitworth.I bought some old stock screws from eBay still sealed in 1945 packaging.   Some had become a little rusty but there were enough good ones for what I needed.


The leaded glass was rebuilt by Fraser of Tempsford Stained Glass who did a fantastic job.  Most of the edging needed to be replaced, a couple of glass panes were changed, and he soldered in some new wire ties to attach to the glazing bars.


The frames and glass are going up to Sheffield and a replica wooden frame and bay window timbers will be built around them. (Because I liked the original frame profile too.)

The handles and catches are nice too, but I was missing one of each.  Rather than do any lime on the hottest July day on record I’ve started to make up some new ones. The handle isn’t finished yet but I’ve done the tricky bit.


Later here is the (nearly) finished handle.   I’m quite pleased with it.


Drain Flaunching

The damp in the kitchen walls is off the scale of the damp meter I am using. One of the many causes was that the flaunching in the drain outside the kitchen had failed due to water falling through misaligned pipes wearing the mortar away.

The sink drains via a tortuous route into the grey outlet at the top left of the photo, then the water falls in the gap (just to the right of the spade) and back through the kitchen wall just underneath the sink.


The builder next door suggested a strong mix of 1:1 cement and sharp sand, and tapping the cement to bring the ‘fats’ to the surface to make the cement smoother and stronger.  He gave me half a bag of cement and some sharp sand.   It occurred to me later that flaunching around drain pipes without much access wasn’t necessarily the easiest job for my first time working with cement (I’ve never owned a house before).  But it turned out OK.  It was splashed with water shortly after it was done which is why it is a bit blotchy.


I still need to re-align the drain pipes.  The modification to the kitchen sink drain will be temporary.  Kae has decided to move the kitchen into the barn.

Paint Stripping From Brick

Quite a few of the walls have been painted in the past.  There are at least 5 layers of paint, and the top 3 are modern plasticy waterproof paints.

Waterproofing a brick wall is probably a fabulous idea so long as the paint finish is perfectly applied and then never damaged.  In the real world you miss a bit, then want to screw a light on the wall and nail a few wiring clips in.  Also it starts failing after a couple of years with weather and sunshine.  Water gets in and can’t get out so the bricks and mortar are damaged by frost. It isn’t sensible to re-point lime mortar on top of waterproof paint.

Worse, in the modern world people dry line the inside of the wall and fit insulation.  Imperfectly waterproofing both sides of the wall would cause all sorts of trouble, yet that’s exactly what building regs want me to do in order to insulate to the latest regs.  I’m going to be bad and make both sides of the wall breathable.  So I need to remove the waterproof paint.  Here is work in progress:


What a pain!  I did some tests last year and decided on Solvistrip from Stippers of Sudbury.   It works well on my masonry paint but is slow work.  The trick is to trowel it on as thickly as possible with a paint brush, then brush the drips flat after about half an hour,  Never let the outside face of stripper dry out – it always needs visible stripper on the outside else you will be trying to get rid of sticky gum.

After an hour or two gently remove it with a jet washer, taking care not to point the jet washer towards anything you don’t want to be splattered with paint.  Point the pressure washer at a slight angle downwards and work down and the paint is pushed off towards the ground.   I don’t think a hot water pressure washer is necessary, though it would probably be much faster and reduce the number of stripper applications.

It comes off without too much effort (too much effort with a jet washer will take the surface off the bricks), but only removes a few coats at a time. I’m getting better at it and removing it in 2 applications.

I’ve been on the job for 4 days now, but only recently found a way of doing it that works for me.  More stripper on order and another 4 days should see the gable done.  Once that is done I can start rebuilding the chimney which has a triffid growing out of it.

Never again for paint stripping – I got someone in to do the rest of the house.

Retail Therapy

I went through a bit of a low point recently.

Building regs treat a change of use much the same way as a new build.  I’m looking at over £40k of insulation, secondary glazing and fire doors and that was half my budget for the whole project.

Secondary glazing and nice fire doors cost money, but it’s at more than the same again for knock ons like removal of failed waterproof paint on the outside and lowering ground levels to make insulation feasible that make it expensive.

But I’m fine now.   I spent £3500 yesterday on shiny things.  The first arrived this morning.  A 9.4m scaffold tower!


I only have it up to 6m at the moment.  If I get braver with heights I’ll go to 8m to sort the blocked off chimney that is splitting due to damp from not being vented.

Just at the moment I’m removing waterproof paint with a paint stripper to allow the walls to dry out before adding insulation.

Ivy on Barn Roof

Clive was around this week and removed the ivy from the barn roof.  The tiles were generally in good condition, though the 50 reclaimed ones we bought were all used up.  The gable of the barn has been built on top of the garden wall.  I think the ivy was originally planted to disguise this.

We nearly had to withdraw the planning application last week when it looked like we would have to pay a second Section 106 tax plus associated legal fees (maybe £10K total), Fortunately that seems to have been resolved now.  Being officially a commercial building causes a lot of problems so we’re aiming to push to start making the place residential under the existing plans.



This is how it looked before:



We didn’t get to speak to the Conservation Officer in the end, but the Planning Department seemed generally happy about our application so we’ve updated the plans with their recommendations, had the dates changed on the various surveys, and have put in a proper planning application.

It was helpful to have the extra time to think about the design – the pitched roof replacing the flat roof looks much prettier, the barn/function room will now be a medieval banqueting hall instead of a garage, and Kae has grabbed some extra space for the kitchen.  I’ll post plans on here when they are scanned.

Meanwhile I’ve been busy on the exterior woodwork.  The windows haven’t been painted for years and the steel shuttering didn’t do them any good.   I want to paint the windows that we aren’t going to replace before the winter.  They are in a state and are taking a lot of time to prepare, but the oak is still reasonably sound.


I’ve been putting this window off – it’s the big one at the front where the double height room used to be.  It’s 10 feet wide by 7 feet high and is fiddly.  (For metric conversion see how small the front door is by comparison.)  The bank holiday weekend should hopefully have it finished.


Rot in the Snug

Kae is in France this week, and in the absence of anyone sensible around I decided to do some decorating. Though one thing leads to another…..


The problem was rot.  Initially the term dry rot was bandied around but it seems it was good old-fashioned wet rot. Under the carpet in the Snug there was some lovely 1920s oak parquet flooring. Unfortunately the ground level outside is about 12 inches above the floor level inside and the far end of the room has been damp for years. The parquet floor and the later wood panelling had crumbled away and needed to be brushed up.


The rot appeared to be confined to the area around the end wall and fireplace. I had intended to remove all of the parquet but moving further into the room the parquet floor appears to be in reasonable condition (apart from maybe the bay window area). I’m in two minds whether to restore the floor or recycle it on eBay. Before I keep it I’ll need to find a solution for the damp problem. For now the rotten bits are on my skip pile and I’ll rest the carpet back on the good bits. The missing bits will leave the structure exposed to try to dry it out.


The roof isn’t lined, so water backing up behind the moss in the gulleys had been finding it’s way inside. The upstairs room fronting the street had some water damage. Clive removed the moss with a broom taped to some waste pipe.


Burst Pipe

We had the heating on full with some windows open to try to dry the building out. That worked well, but then a couple of days later we came home to find a burst pipe and a flood downstairs. The VAX carpet cleaner we bought for the beer smell sucked up the water and we removed the underlay. There’s not too much damage and the place should be dry in a week.