Unexpected roofer in the living room area

There was a van parked in front of the house when I went down to feed the sheep this morning, so I went in and found Pete cheerfully sweeping out the living room chimney.  Despite Calum taking several full buckets of soot out of it when he swept it for me last year, there was about another bucket’s-worth sitting in the hearth after Pete’s efforts.

I hadn’t seen him for a while, so we had a good catch-up.  He’s been popping back every so often to keep an eye on the leak in the north chimney and had been up into the roof and tanked the chimney breast up there as well.  Today, after 48 hours of wind and rain, there was a small patch of water about the size of a 50p and since now the house is warm and we have an air gap between the outer wall and the insulation, he’s not worried about that and says we can plasterboard the gable end up.  He’s also going to put a coat of a different, thicker sealing gel onto the chimney, which he reckons should be the final step in getting it completely watertight.

His plan for the day was to clean the living room and bedroom chimneys and then go in search of some nice stone to dress the bits that had been patched over before returning tomorrow to take delivery of the new roof trusses for the barn, so I’ll catch up with progress when I feed the sheep tomorrow.

Men in brave pants

I was feeding the sheep this morning when the gate rattled open behind me and in drove Pete and James with their ladders.  I was surprised to see them because although they’d said they’d be here this week, it was pretty gusty and expected to get up to 60mph today.  Their thinking was that if they didn’t do it today, it wasn’t going to get done until after Christmas, thanks to storm Barbara, so they thought they’d come along and give it a go.

By the time I’d gone home, fed the dogs, done a bit of work and then decided to go back down to start tidying up anything that might potentially fly through one of my lovely new windows, they’d done the north chimney and were onto the south one.  The sealant they’ve painted on is very, very runny, almost the consistency of water, and Pete said it was running down all the stonework apart from that one problem block we’ve identified, where it was just sucked in straight away.

That was the second coat on anyway (they’d done the first yesterday but I’d been out), and it looks like its effectiveness is going to get a thorough testing over the next few days, as forecasts are now saying that people living on the north coast should prepare for gales of 100mph or more and heavy rain.  I fear Christmas lunch this year may be a pizza cooked on the top of the woodburner by candlelight!

I’ve picked up all the loose bits of wood and guttering and stashed them in the area between the house and the byres, along with the wheelie bins.  The pile of old plasterboard out front now has large breezeblocks holding it down and the cooker, small chest freezer and chest of drawers we turfed out of the hay barn over the summer have all been laid down on their sides.  I may lose my hay crate – I don’t want to lash it to the fence yet, because the sheep are tucking in well, but I’ll tie it down on Thursday, as I suspect the sheep will all hunker down in the gorse bushes.

Anyway, thank you to Pete and James, who definitely had their brave pants on today – I even got them to pose for a picture for the blog for me, though promising to put the Land Rover in it possibly was the deciding factor for James agreeing to do it 😉  Pete on the left, James on the right.

She’s making a list, she’s checking it twice…

…because she has a lot to do before the second week of January and she’s sure she’s going to forget some of it!

The Monday after we went to see the little gatehouse, I had a phone call from Derek the heating engineer.  “Small problem.  The supplier’s having a stock take and wants your system out of the warehouse before it happens.  I don’t suppose I could deliver it on Friday?”  Well, not to the annexe, no, as that’s still full of the Howdens kitchen!  So I said we’d clear out bedroom one for him and it duly turned up – it didn’t take up quite as much space as I’d feared.  Amazing to think there’s a heating system for an entire house packed into those boxes.

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I was going to help Derek unload it, but when he arrived it was to tell me that he’d already done it all and to drop off the invoice for it (which I was expecting, so the £3,840 wasn’t a nasty surprise just before Christmas!).  We talked about timings and he’s free the second week of January, so we agreed to aim for that as an installation date.

Of course, that meant panic mode on.  Before we can get the heating installed we need to:

  1. Fix the leaking chimney
  2. Get the framing for the internal bedroom walls done
  3. Finish all the insulation and plasterboarding
  4. Get all the tongue and groove in place around the upstairs walls

A few texts later and I had Pete on standby for a break in the weather, David booked over Christmas (and he’s said he’ll go into town and collect the tongue and groove so he can pick out good pieces rather than us just getting a banded load) and Dougie made aware of the installation date so he can be on hand for electrics as needed.

Part one is now underway after Pete and James turned up yesterday for further chimney investigations (in James’ rather lovely old flat-bed Land Rover after the van had an unfortunate incident with some black ice and a bus…).  Although they didn’t get the three-hour rain-free gap they needed to paint the sealant onto the chimney stacks, they did cap the two southern ones (they’re big 10″ pots, which isn’t helpful in terms of rainfall collection) and think they’ve discovered the source of the issue in the norther one.  Have a look at this crop from a photo from the summer, taken before the chimneys were picked and pointed.

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See that big patch of mortar on the chimney?  This is what it looked like after Pete had taken it off.

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And when Pete and James went up there on Friday, they had a look at that stone just above the roof, with the notch cut into it, and found that it was so saturated with water that if it had been a sponge you could have wrung several buckets’-worth out of it.  It’s a piece of sandstone, about the size of a shoe box, and it’s very porous, so rain is soaking into it and trickling down into the house.

The problem is that it needs to be dry before it can be sealed and at this time of year that’s just not going to happen, so the new plan is for Pete and James to go up there next week on a dry day with a couple of heat guns and dry out the surface of it enough to get the first coat of sealant on it.  I do love a good creative solution to a problem!

Mick is carrying on with the plasterboarding when he’s not at work and has now got enough done upstairs that David can put the internal bedroom walls back in when he’s here next.

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And finally a very specific tip for anyone who’s having a roof replaced and has sheep – the wooden crates that slates are delivered in make fantastic hay feeders!

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Stress-testing the roof

We’ve had a bit of Weather over the past few days.  Not as bad as it can get up here, but winds gusting into the 50+mph range and heavy rain with it.  By Monday morning we had one slate off, one slate lifting and a small puddle in one of the bedrooms.

Pete came over yesterday to investigate.  He’d noticed the slate that came off was loose when he drove past a few days previously and had made a mental note to come and sort it out, but it’s not letting any water in, so it’s not hugely urgent.  The puddle was a bit more of a worry.  Mick, by this time, had spoken to some of his work colleagues who’d said that everything in their garages was soaking with condensation as a result of the unseasonably warm weather, so I put that to Pete as an option, who said it might be, or it might be coming in through the chimney somewhere.  Mick phoned him yesterday night with some more information about what moisture he found where and they came up with a plan of action to get the framing finished ASAP so the heating could go in, dry out the air in the house and then put the insulation back in and see if it happened again.

Except this morning I went down to feed the sheep and found bone-dry walls apart from three very long dribble marks all the way from above the tanking down to the ledge the gable sits on and a small puddle on the ledge.  My theory is that the chimney has a leak somewhere, it’s run down the wall and pooled on the ledge, only spilling over the ledge for the first time when we had some serious rain, but the presence of water behind the insulation has caused condensation to form – i.e. the condensation is a symptom rather than the problem.  I’ve updated Pete and when we get a gap in the weather and he’s free, he’ll go up and inspect the chimney.  Quite a few of the houses around here have some porous stones used in their construction, so if there’s nothing obvious on the stack, it may just be a case of painting it with a clear sealant.

Lurching forwards

I had a fun time a week ago Friday being a chimney sweep assistant – two and a half tubs of soot were removed and Calum is very grateful that he’ll never have to sweep the kitchen chimney again.  Apparently it’s marginally less awkward without the Rayburn in front of it, but not much.  He ended up having to climb up on the roof and sweep downwards from the chimney and then went into it with a much smaller brush through the access hatch on the outside of the house, attached a drill to the end of the rods and power-swept it all the way down.  £70 for a job well done on all three chimneys!

I was away last week and hoped that David would have been able to start, but it’s all come to a bit of a grinding halt again and the only sign of progress is three rows of slates laid on one side of the roof and lots of holes appearing in joists and walls as Dougie tunnels his way through the structure of the house with his cable runs.  The roof can’t progress until the rooflights are resized and Dougie can’t get too much more done until the studwork is in.  However, we’ve managed to track David down and he says he’ll be on site probably Wednesday, might be Thursday (I’ve been told this probably means Thursday!).  If he can spend a couple of days sorting out the bits Pete needs him to do for the roof and putting the studwork in, then we can get quite a long way down the road before we need him back again – I think we’re then okay until we need him to lay the floor over the underfloor heating, as Mick is intending to do all the insulation fitting and plasterboard work himself.

It’ll be good for Mick to get cracking on it again, actually – he’s been loving working on this one so much, that he’s now gung-ho to do another.  And look what I saw online today…

203 Talmine

This is about 20 miles west of us, so not exactly just up the road, but it’s just over the road from one of the north coast’s prettiest beaches, Talmine.  It’s derelict, but someone has drawn up plans to turn it into a one-bed cottage and the asking price is £22,500.  I’m sure it’ll be snapped up by someone before we’ve finished this one and sorted out the finances for the next, but if I’m going to have a stable of holiday cottages, this would be a perfect addition.

I came in like a wrecking ball

So Pete the Roofer stopped by, as promised, and we now know what we’re doing with the roof.  It’s going to be done in 16×8 heavy slate (we have at least one storm that goes over 100mph a year and it’s probably the most exposed house in the village), capped with plain buff ridge tiles.  The velux at the front will be enlarged to the same width as the front door and made to line up with it (it’s slightly off to the right at the moment, which my slightly OCD husband hadn’t noticed until I pointed it out today and it’s now driving him nuts!), similarly the velux at the back will be enlarged and lined up with the bathroom window (ditto!) – although I’ve said that if doing that means it’s not evenly-spaced with the two new ones we’re putting into the other bedrooms, then I’d rather have them evenly spaced across the roof than vertically aligned!

After lunch we got started with the work.  Since the roof is going to get done first, we need to get all that panelling stripped out of the upstairs bedrooms.  This is what we started with:

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And three very enjoyable hours spent with a pry bar and a hammer later….

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Interesting things we’ve discovered today:

  1. That little cupboard (which I am so pleased I’ve been able to keep – the door is safely stowed away for reattaching later) is sitting on top of the house wall.  Everything above the level of its base is the gable end and the depth of the cupboard thinner!
  2. No fireplace 🙁  I was hoping we’d uncover a matching one to the one in the other large bedroom, but sadly not.
  3. There is a BIG wet patch on that wall – literally dripping water, which was slightly concerning, but as we got more of the panelling off we realised it was confined to the centre and a quick look outside confirmed that the harling is fine – so we’re pretty sure that the leak is coming through the chimney, which we’re going to get repointed while they’re up doing the roof anyway.
  4. Where the panelling changes colour to the dark brown in the third picture (there’s a bit of brown door, then about three painted bits of panel, then the darker) is the amount of length we’ve added to the room by taking out the two cupboards.  The mirrored door has been saved to go back on a little box cupboard around the hot water tank.

All in all, a good first day.