We are still here but not in our house

I haven’t posted in over a year. This is because we had a lot going on involving the house that I couldn’t actually post about for legal reasons. I still can’t discuss the details but I can say that our house has taken extensive damage that we are not at fault for and that we can’t legally repair on our own.

The dry rot discovered in February 2015 is all over the back wall to the house. At the moment, it looks like something out of an episode of Doctor Who. We couldn’t treat it last year because the source of water ingress wasn’t remedied but we couldn’t repair the source of the water ingress because we aren’t legally allowed to. If we had treated it, it would have just disturbed it and it would’ve gone mad and grown faster. Because of the rot, we had to delay the render until we knew the rot was sorted. Well, the rot was never sorted so the render was never completed.

As the autumn and winter storms rolled in, the amount of water coming into our house from the back wall increased drastically. We had so much water coming in that we had to place buckets and containers to try to contain it. Over Christmas, we ended up with standing water in our kitchen. Water started appearing in rooms previously not visibly affected. Water dripped from the ceiling in our lounge destroying a stack of books and a speaker for our cinema system. Black mould started to appear on wall surfaces. Fungus started to grow on wall surfaces. The house was cold and inhospitable. It was starting to fall apart before our very eyes.

In February this year, our insurer and our surveyor advised that we move out of our home for health and safety reasons. We are now in a temporary house and our house sits alone and abandoned awaiting the source of water ingress to be fixed. We received some help in forcing the source of the ingress to be repaired and the works for that started in May but have now stopped. We are waiting for them to start again but can’t be sure that they will.

The render will be completed this year and I’m looking forward to sharing pictures of it when it is completed. We hope we will be back in our house by Christmas but right now, that all remains very uncertain.

I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet but there is the update. Hopefully more to follow soon, I hope.

Spring (maybe?)

I don’t have very much to report regarding the house but I figured I should give my readers an update as my last update was nearly four months ago! The weather has not been particularly friendly with spring feeling much more like autumn and rain and winds battering the area. We sorted out the ridge tiles quickly as we couldn’t wait for the weather to be right for lime rendering. It means paying for scaffolding twice but sometimes, that is just how it is! It just had to be done. Instead of reseating them, we opted to have a slate overlap, which is much more in keeping with the age of the house and is a much more appropriate fix for the roofline. This means that slate tiles extend over the wall by about 50mm. Ours extends a bit further at the moment as the render isn’t finished and it will need to go straight up to the slates.

However, the slates and wall were fetched off in lime mortar to seal the entire roofline and wall against water ingress. With all going well, we should be able to finish the render off in late summer/early autumn. As we are southwest facing, the height of summer wouldn’t be good for the lime as it would dry too fast being constantly exposed to higher temperatures and sun. We will wait until late August or September to finish the render. We only need about a week to do the final coat and window reveals. Most of the work is actually in the window reveals as those will probably take 6 days.

We are still awaiting decisions and steps forward in order to resolve the issue I mentioned in February. It isn’t something we have any control over so we are going through the proper channels with the hope that everything can be resolved before autumn and winter arrive again.

In the meantime, we are trying to enjoy what few sunny warmish days we have. I’ve taken up a couple of new hobbies. I’ve taught myself to quilt and am currently taking a pottery class with the Natural Building Centre in Llanwrst. Since the scaffolding won’t be going up for several months, I’ve moved my plants out of the drive (and building yard) and into the front paved garden. My husband made a little bench out of an old worn slate step we found and it is surprisingly comfortable. Also, my lovely stone wall garden is going a bit mad now. The daffodils have finally bloomed and the iris are sending up shoots. The wild strawberries have their first fruits just starting to grow. It is all rather lovely and makes washing up much more enjoyable!

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The shorter side of the wall with the daffodils in full bloom and the pansies just starting to send up green shoots.

The longer wall looking rather colourful.

The longer wall looking rather colourful.

This past weekend, my husband and I took the dog to a nature reserve near us. It was completely empty with the exception of a few sheep and birds. The tide was out so we enjoyed looking out to Puffin Island and the Isle of Anglesey whilst the Snowdon mountain range was behind us. We had a great time and one very tired and muddy dog.

A panorama of the nature reserve last Sunday.

A panorama of the nature reserve last Sunday taken with our backs to the sea.

Happy dog with a muddy nose trying to co-pilot as my husband drove home.

Happy dog with a muddy nose trying to co-pilot as my husband drove home.

Restoration at risk

I write this post with an incredibly heavy heart.

The house has survived much of the winter. We’ve found that our ridge tiles need to be reseated and sealed. No major damage from their movement but that will be completed when the scaffolding goes up to complete the render. However, we have a larger problem now.

We have discovered extensive dry rot in one of the third floor bedrooms on the opposite side of the house. It has rotted the floorboards and is already attacking the joists. According to our surveyor, dry rot is like a cancer. The best cure is to cut it out. The top bedroom and the attic space above will have to be completely gutted back to the stone walls. The floorboards and joists will have to be destroyed, the walls sterilised, and new joists, flooring, and plaster installed. We also have to treat everything within two metres of the last evidence of rot, which means we are likely to have to do the same thing to the bathroom, which is located below that room, and the adjacent bedroom on the same floor. We potentially may have to gut the entire house to remedy the problem. In order for this to occur, we will have to move out of the house for at least 3 to 6 months and possibly longer. This problem has arisen from something that I can’t discuss right now in a space so public but what I can say is it is something that is completely out of our control. The dry rot did not exist in this house when we bought it in 2013. It also is not down to the many issues that we have been working so diligently to put right. However, it comes as a heavy blow that is wrapped in a lot of emotion. When you restore a home, you become very emotionally invested in the process and the home itself.

The expense itself is mind-boggling but we have no choice. However, my readers will benefit because you will get much more interesting content! The interior of the house will now be changing in addition to the exterior. I will document how the dry rot is removed and what is involved. So, bear with me. This should be an interesting year for the house and for this blog.

A renewed frontage

I’ve been quiet but things have been happening and we now have a renewed frontage. The wall is complete and the paving in the front garden is in.

Let’s start with the walls. The pointy dragon-teeth like protrusions are now gone and a nice straight wall has been revealed. It will help frame the house when the render and window reveals are finished. The walls have also been planted. They look a bit sparse but come spring, we will have loads of beautiful plants cascading over the wall. There are also hidden drain holes so that the plants don’t sit in loads of water.

The longer wall once the tops stones had been reset.

The longer wall once the tops stones had been reset.

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The longer wall showing the space for the soil and plants to go.

 

The long wall planted (and a glimpse of the old bad paving and mud).

The long wall planted (and a glimpse of the old bad paving and mud).

The shorter wall planted (and another glimpse of the horrible muddy front garden).

The shorter wall planted (and another glimpse of the horrible muddy front garden).

The front garden used to consist of paving stones and slate chippings. Unfortunately, the slate chippings became smaller as they were trod upon and the paving stones were set more like stepping stones. As a result, mud, slate, and grit found its way into the house causing havoc to our lovely slate and wooden flooring. The other issue was that when it rained, the water wouldn’t drain away from the house but sit in various puddles in the front garden.

So, cement pads were laid down and french drains installed that allow the water to drain into the street. Then autumnal coloured sandstone was laid and will be a beautiful contrast to the paler render that will be the final finish. The drains were then covered in pea gravel to assist drainage and make the area more attractive. Once the render is finished, we will plant the drains with rockery plants to make the space greener and prettier.

The shorter side of the front garden with the cement pad laid down and the wooden battens forming the french drain.

The shorter side of the front garden with the cement pad laid down and the wooden battens forming the french drain.

The old slate front step.

The old slate front step.

A huge difference with solar spotlights to light the steps. The sandstone looks dark here as it was wet. It is much lighter when dry.

A huge difference with solar spotlights to light the steps. The sandstone looks dark here as it was wet. It is much lighter when dry.

The next post will be more focused on some internal works for storage and more of a boot room. After those works are finished, things will be in hiatus until spring.

Winter Works

Today, the works on the wall and paving got underway! The wall will be transformed to also hold a kitchen garden and pretty trailing plants. Since it is a sun trap, my chives, rosemary, thyme, raspberries, strawberries and the like should be very happy there.

First, we had the delivery of the paving, aggregate, mortar, pea gravel, and brick rather early this morning.

Early morning delivery of the bits needed to make the kitchen garden wall.

Early morning delivery of the bits needed to make the kitchen garden wall.

Next, the stones on the top of the wall had to be removed. This took most of the day. Only a small section have been replaced (horizontally instead of vertically). I wasn’t able to get a picture as the sun has already dropped and it was too dark. However, I did get this shot showing what the left side looked like after the stones were removed compared to the right where the top stones were still in their original place.

The left is the wall after the stones have been removed and the right is the stones still in place.

The left is the wall after the stones have been removed and the right is the stones still in place.

However, we did get a good look at the size of our future garden now that the skip has been removed, the scaffolding is down, and my car isn’t parked there.  Right now, it looks like a building site, but it will eventually have a new shed, grass, and trees. We will still have a parking space, which will be where the raised area covered in various bits of construction stuff is now (the right side of the picture below). It is also a sun trap so I’m looking forward to summer evenings spent enjoying the space. It is pretty exciting as this was a project that we wanted to do since we bought the house (but the other more urgent works got in the way)!

The future garden, which is currently acting as a builder's yard (and much more tidy than it was last week!).

The future garden, which is currently acting as a builder’s yard (and is much more tidy than it was last week!).

Next week, these works continue, but Ray from RJA Joinery arrives to sort out the utility room and kitchen. Exciting times!

Bedding down for the winter

The Welsh weather has stuck to its inevitable autumnal pattern. Rain, wind, more rain, and rain and wind combined. Since we live at nearly a thousand feet, we were unsure what we would be able to accomplish before the freezing temperatures set in. Lime doesn’t go off well below 5 degrees. Once the second coat was on, the weather misbehaved and we lost a few bits of render. The sections that we lost were small and easily repairable, thankfully.

Last weekend, we got lucky with two good weather days in a row.  The sun was shining and the temperature was a rather autumnal 9 degrees. The goal was to get the final undercoat complete, which was the third coat overall.

Meics and Jonny putting on the third undercoat, which is the smoothest coat thus far. The first two coats were to fill the hollows between the stones and to create a good base.

Meics and Jonny putting on the third undercoat, which is the smoothest coat thus far. The first two coats were to fill the hollows between the stones and to create a good base.

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Meics joins the wall over the extension and the main face together. The wall above the extension takes a lot of weather so rendering it will protect it.

After the weekend, we looked at the long-term forecast and decided that it was best to stop works until spring. The window reveals and the final coat are all that remain. However, they are the most sensitive parts of the job and would suffer in colder wetter weather. The temperatures are beginning to fall to 5 degrees and below at night and wind-driven rain is becoming more common. We are at a good point right now. The house is fully prepared for the final coat and the previous coats will have a winter to bed in and settle so if any weak points exist, we will know before the final coat is on.

Today, the scaffold came down as we don’t need it up over the winter and we will need less of it in the spring. It is a bit odd seeing the house without scaffolding but also quite freeing. The windows and doors are uncovered and light is flooding into the house again, which is lovely. I’ll spend the weekend cleaning up around the outside of the house and cleaning the lime off of the windows (scaffolds are messy and leave lime dust everywhere). Even though we have more to do in the spring, it will be nice to have a break and to live in less mess.

Over the winter, Phil will reappear to sort out the wall in front of the house and the paving. He will also help us reclaim our garden (he already has some pretty grand designs for that and I’m looking forward to enjoying next summer in a beautiful garden). Ray will then work his creative magic and sort out the utility room by adding much needed bespoke storage. I’m rather excited about this as the utility room is a bit of a headache and is always in disarray. This should pretty much sort that out (and provide a home for all of my husband’s climbing gear).

So, big changes still happening here at Ty Capel. Even during the winter months, we will find things to do!

Kinder weather equals progress

A few breaks in the weather this week have led to more work on the rendering. On Wednesday, Meics was able to get the second coat on the top two floors. On Friday, he was able to trim back some stone to prepare for today’s completion of the second coat.

Second coat on the top floor finished and Meics in the process of rendering the bottom of the middle floor.

Second coat on the top floor finished and Meics in the process of rendering the bottom of the middle floor.

One more thin coat will go over the entire face in order to even and flatten everything. It is in that coat that the bricks will disappear. Once that is on, we will be ready for the final coat that contains the pigment and for the window reveals that will help bring everything together.  We may or may not make it before winter.  Everything is very much in limbo at the moment because of the weather but it was nice to have a really productive week. Continue reading

Renovation Exhaustion

I’ve been very quiet for the last month, for which I apologise, but the weather has not been working in our favour.  We have had a lot of rain and wind, which is not good for lime rendering.  However, we have been able to sneak in a couple of days worth of rendering and are hoping to sneak in another day tomorrow, if the weather holds.

The majority of the front of the house is covered in its first coat.  The ground floor needs to be finished and then the second coat can start. Just in the first incomplete coat, we have used 1.5 tonnes of lime mix.  That is a huge amount of lime and my garden is now full of about 4.5 tonnes for finishing the first coat and completing the  second coat.  After that, we can move onto the final coat, which will hold the colour, and the window reveals.  However, if the weather doesn’t hold and starts to get colder, all rendering will have to stop until the weather improves or winter is over. It is all a bit hit or miss at the moment.  Continue reading

Exciting times for this old house!

Over the last week, some really exciting changes have taken place at Ty Capel!  The end-game for the external renovations is coming ever closer and we are getting glimpses of the building’s new facade.

The week started and ended with a lot of noise!  The week started with Daf of Gwynedd Sandblasting (the website is new and still being constructed but his contact information is on that page) removing centuries of dust and grime from the side wall that we are leaving exposed.  He did it using a method called saturation blasting or sat blast, which is still loud and dusty but far less so than the traditional sand blast.  It is a gentle method where water is added to the medium at source cushioning the impact of the blasting medium on the stone surface.  Since water is added, the dust associated with blasting is greatly reduced and less damage is done to the substrates as a very low pressure can be used. The colours and types of stones revealed are a sight to behold and we are really pleased! Daf did a brilliant job in just an afternoon and the colours will become more vivid as the remaining sand that is clinging to the stone gets washed away by rain.

The wall before sandblasting.

The wall before sandblasting.

The amazing colours after the sandblasting!

The amazing colours after the sandblasting!

Continue reading

A quiet week with big changes on the horizon

It has been a quieter week regarding works here at Ty Capel, which was mostly due to lots of rain not allowing works to continue.  However, on the planning side and life side, things have been ridiculously busy!

Early in the week, our surveyor came by to have a look at how the works were progressing and he was very pleased and eager to see the final finish.  We also had a surprise visit from Ian, who is our glazier.  He was a bit worried about the size of the windows and how they would be installed but after a site visit and a chat with Phil, all worries sorted.  I was sorry to see him stressed but happy to know that he cares enough to do the job really well.  He will be here on Wednesday morning to create some more dust, noise, and havoc but by the end of the week, hopefully, we will have our lovely new sash windows and proper doors installed.  Hurray! Phil will be pottering around during those days to sort out any sealing in of the windows and doors as needed.

Continue reading