The new windows are ready

Whilst we’ve been repairing the frames, our joiner has built the replacement sash windows, replicating the originals exactly in terms of visible profile detail. I’ve had the box frames and sashes all sprayed utilising a micro-porous paint system than enables the joinery to breath, expand and contract without (hopefully) damage. The glass is to be ultra-slim double glazed units

Making the building strong again

Having straightened the frame by lifting its south west corner, the serious business of putting structural rigidity into the structure could commence. In line with my proposals for a fully “breathable” and vapour-open fabric, finding a bracing board that had both vapour permeability and the structural capacity to brace the structure was an important first step. I chose Elka Strongboard from Ecological Building Systems to form the initial cladding to the repaired structure – all the details are here:

Frame repairs

New sole plates, scarfed frames and new window frames ready to receive the replacement windows.

The big lift

The frame has been repaired and the sole-plate largely replaced on account of large quantities of unseen rot within the heart of the beams. Three RSJs spanning the width of the cottage were inserted immediately under the sole plate. Beneath the ends of these beams, a simple pot-jack was positioned on wooden chocks within the masonry wall. This allowed for controlled and incremental raising of the entire frame, up to six inches in the south west corner. The entire process took two hours.

new sole plate and scarfed frame!

The chimney hearth at ground floor takes shape

The proposal is to incorporate a double fronted wood-burning stove in the chimney stack at ground level. This has involved knocking through from front to back of the chimney. Before that, we undertook repairs to the stack within the building, reinforcing it with helibars set into resin within the lime mortar coursing of the brickwork. This is now complete and starts to give a real feeling of connectivity between the spaces at ground level.

Problems with rot!

It’s been a while since we last posted, that’s because there’s been a lot going on, particularly in the way of frame repairs. We always knew the sole plate was going to be an issue, and so it has proved to be. There was considerable hidden rot within the sole plate, much of which has been caused by water ingress leading to wet-rot and beetle infestations. Where possible and where more than 75% of the sectional area of frame remains intact, we’ve been saving the wood. Where rot is extensive, we’ve carefully supported the frame and scarfed in matching timber.

Problems with the chimney

The chimney stack has been something of a worry. On closer inspection, the top of the stack was found to be structurally unsound and in need of urgent repair and restoration. We couldn’t face the idea of the stack falling down through the rooms below.

The chimney has been pointed in the past with cement. This has badly damaged the brickwork. Historic settlement and the subsidence in 2015 has opened some alarming cracks, especially in the west elevation (see above). The cement flaunching has cracked and made matters worse by enabling water ingress down the entire flue. The state of the flue also suggests it has smoked a lot in the past, the soot being evident on exterior surfaces and within the roof void.

We chose to carefully dismantle and rebuild the chimney using the existing bricks. Dismantling proved to be much easier than expected, the old lime mortar being rotten and now devoid of any strength. The coursing of the bricks and the structure looks as if it was build by a carpenter!

We’ve taken the chimney down to a safe point below the roof line where the mortar is reasonably sound. The bricks have been cleaned and set aside for reuse.

Interesting Artefacts

The cottage has yielded one or two interesting little trinkets, this is not surprising given the age of the building. here are our favourites:

We found this buried beneath the floorboards on top of the wall-plate adjacent to what used to be the first floor workroom/loft space. This had me thinking it was something to do with
fishing and nets, until the obvious was pointed out to me – it is the carpenter’s gauge for setting out the external weatherboarding to a consistent overlap! So simple. The metal top would have been attached by a lanyard to the carpenter’s belt whilst he hammered away at the nails securing the boarding to the frame. We wonder if this belonged to William (Chippie) Thorp. Over the past few months we’ve removed a good many of his rusting nails!

Grubbing around in the Thames Estuary you might find any number of the hollow clay stems associated with the traditional tobacco pipes – we found this almost complete clay pipe when clearing out the debris from the larger of the two sheds. We wonder if this belonged to Fred Joscelyne the blacksmith (see pages 5 and 11 of the Heritage Assessment).

This beautiful little enamel and cast bronze badge, was clearly intended to be fitted to the motor car the oil was intended for. We found this one tucked into the bricks of the smaller ground floor shed, close to the old work bench and remains of some old lead-acid batteries. This is the second such badge found at the property, an identical one was discovered by the previous owner and gifted to the Leigh Society. There is no trace now of Beresford Grand Garage, but according to the Leigh Society, “Leslie Beresford died in 1937 and it looks as if his garage was on the site of the Overton’s Garage now the car park” behind the Grand Hotel and next to Henry’s Burgers.

The anatomy of a building II

There has been a lot going on and so there’s been a bit of a delay with posts. I think we have gone backwards as far as we can, though the top of the chimney stack remains a serious concern and is likely to undergo a surgical rebuild to ensure its future safety. This will also rid the structure of the unhelpful cement mortar.

The cladding has now been removed.. Where it wasn’t rotten, the cladding simply shattered and split when removed. De-nailing was a task and a half! The frame is now exposed in its entirety. The sole plate, as expected, is pretty well rotten all around, in places it has rotted away altogether though in other parts some of it is salvageable.

Now the the entire frame has been exposed we can get down to the serious task of repairing it, surgically scarfing in new timber to match the original form of construction, starting with the sole plate, the corner posts and the first floor wall plate.

Next week should see some propping and adjusting of the frame to straighten up the cottage prior to insulating and applying external structural re-cladding.

There really isn’t too much that’s complicated about the structure. it just needs TLC.