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.
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.
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.
The cottage has yielded one or two interesting little trinkets, this is not surprising given the age of the building. here are our favourites:
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).
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.
It’s been a very breezy few days on the estuary this past week. However, the scaffold has performed brilliantly and whilst it was a bit noisy (under all the flapping monoflex sheeting), it was possible to get rid of all those modern concrete tiles that have been weighing so heavily upon the frame. The roof structure is now fully exposed and the simplicity of the construction is there for all to see. There was so much re-purposed wood used in the original construction. The aim is to reuse much of it again!