After living with what I can only describe as extreme draughts for a good few weeks, and keeping a keen eye on the ever lengthening (and newly appearing) cracks, we decided that this weekend we should put a hold to chipping off the cement render, and begin to stabilise the house. So we set off to the quarry bright and early Saturday morning to collect some of our stone and lime putty mortar.
The left hand side of the cottage is pretty much there in terms of removing all the cement render, so this was an obvious place to start. The most important thing to begin with is trying to re build the loose and crumbling sections of masonry to give more support to the building and roof. We can then move on to raking out the old lime and cement mortar, before pointing up with the new lime. We started at the bottom and worked our way up, firstly testing the new stone against the old.
There were a few stones crumbling at the corner of the house, behind the guttering where they have been exposed to water. It was a little awkward, but we removed these and all the mortar/rubbish (bricks cement etc) that is packed in behind them. Working with stone is slightly more tricky in comparison to brick, purely because they are not cut to one particular size, and every face looks different. So you must spend time working out which stones will fit in the space and on which face, whilst anticipating the size of the joints.
We eventually found the best stones for the job, and built them back in, trying to keep the joints as close to the original width as possible. We’re really pleased with how well the new stone matches the original. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to get a photo of this as we moved on to the next part so swiftly! I’ll add it on the end of my next post!
Following this little test, we became much more confident, and eager to pull a larger section out! The next obvious part for us to re build was underneath the lounge window.
As soon as we removed the render here, we knew this section would need re building. It’s badly cracked ( like many sections of the building) and the stones were all completely loose. When removing these stones, you could literally just lift them out by hand, no cutting was needed at all. The first thing we needed to find out was how the window was supported. Usually windows are fixed into the building on the sides, just screwed into place. Interestingly enough, after much wiggling, and poking around, we found out that this window is definitely not tied in at all. It has just been placed in amongst the stone, just sitting there. (We’re assuming this will also be the case for the dining room sash).
Normally, when removing/re building any parts of a supporting wall, you can’t just go in ‘willy nilly’ and pick and choose what stones/brick to cut out. You must make sure that the weight is evenly distributed. This section of wall however, by being underneath the window, is not actually supporting anything. As long as we propped the window up to stop any unwanted movement, and removed the stones carefully, we’d be ok. Before we did this, we had to number the stones. We needed to make sure that we’d be building them back in with the right face showing and in the right order, to guarantee the fit. We didn’t want to make it to the last course and find out that they didn’t fit! This also means keeping the joints as close to the original width as possible. It’s basically one huge, extremely heavy jigsaw puzzle.
By taking out this section, we found out why it’s so chilly in our lounge… This is the back of our window seat. There’s been no insulation added when it was built, and there are gaps all around it, creating even more draughts!
Getting back to the building… Once all the old mortar was raked out, we gave it a thorough spraying with water. We do this every time we work with lime, whether it’s building like this or pointing. It stops the lime drying out too quickly ( especially when the weather is warmer) and therefore avoids cracks forming in the mortar and weakening it. We were then ready to go! ( If we could work out which stones to put in first!)
Here’s a photo of the finished product, as well as the pointing that we did on the right hand side. It doesn’t look much in this photo, as it was taken straight after we finished. You can also clearly see the section between the lintel and the first floor window that will need rebuilding, and most probably the section between the door and bathroom window too.
We can’t believe how much it improves the look of the masonry. Here’s a photo a few days on, of the pointing almost dry. We love it, are very proud, and can’t wait until we can continue at the weekend!
The next step for us is to try and finish pointing up to lintel level, either side of the window. Once this is complete, we can replace the lintel above this window with one of our ‘new’ reclaimed ones. The lime will look beautiful against these, and we’re so excited about getting them in. More importantly, pointing and re building will give the house back the stability that it needs and will stop the excessive draughts. Once we’ve done all of this we can begin to think about getting the new windows in!
We will be celebrating our first wedding anniversary this coming weekend ( I know, one year already?) so we will attempt to prize ourselves away from the cottage for a couple of days. This means the next post may come a little late, but it will be there at some point, I promise!