Since the 28th when we took the bio-aggregate equipment round, Ian has been helping the lovely Soren Jones on his hempcrete install so we have waited until now to tackle the bathroom ceiling. It has been two weeks since the bathroom ceiling collapsed & of course the cold weather had decided to kick in.
Despite this we seem to have a rather confused rose bush and a couple of brave foxgloves…
There is no loft space above the bathroom ceiling and no insulation at all, so it is almost like being outside.
Radiators were removed whilst renovating, so temperatures have been getting as low as 1 degrees Celsius in the bathroom on a fairly regular basis! Showering has become a feat of endurance – a pure necessity for the olfactory comfort of other people rather than being an enjoyable, relaxing thing in its own right. Even with hot water, you end up shivering and your core temperature starts to drop.
In an attempt to warm ourselves up, whilst quelling my anxiety about the rest of the bathroom ceiling collapsing on one of us, we decided to tackle dismantling the rest of the plaster from the ceiling.
We had been advised that whilst the artex was unlikely to contain asbestos, it might be prudent to be on the safeside and operate as though it did. We covered the walls and floor in overlapping layers of plastic and planned exactly what tools we would need before sealing up the door with plastic!
If nothing else, the black soot added to the plaster from blast furnaces etc is likely to be full of all sort things you really don’t want to be inhaling.
We donned our respirators, goggles and disposable suits, taped up our boots and wore impermeable gloves. Better safe than sorry! Our respirators are proper well-fitting 3M 7035 silicone types and we used brand new 3M 6035 P3 filters with plastic wipeable covers which are rated for working with asbestos. Please do not consider using those basic disposable masks that you can see – they are almost worse than useless since they fit so poorly to the face.
Look how shiny & clean he is! That didn’t last long.
One thing you don’t realise when embarking on a task like this, is just how frustrating it is trying to communicate with each other whilst wearing masks and having to constantly repeat yourselves.
It was one of the most exhausting, emotionally challenging physical tasks I have completed on the house so far. It was 9 hours without food, toilet breaks or removing our masks. We didn’t realise it would take that long and had assumed it would be more like 4 hours.
It was truly a feat of endurance, with thick black dust clouding our vision despite our best attempts to carefully dismantle the ceiling and damping everything down rather than pulling it down quickly.
There was one more alarming moment when a large chunk fell on Ian’s head/back whilst he was on a ladder… that stuff is heavy! Luckily he wasn’t injured but it’s always best to be aware of these dangers. His enthusiasm is often tempered by my cautiousness, which in situations like this is probably prudent.
The ceiling turned out to be made of a mixture of various things. Parts were still the original plaster and lathe. Other areas had been over-boarded with hardboard (probably in the 60s) followed by gypsum and artex – presumeably to fix original cracking. Of course the hardboard had become sodden through condensation and a roof leak and all the additional weight had made the problem much worse.
The ceiling was unpredictable with some areas coming off in worryingly large chunks and other sections crumbling into infuriatingly small crumbs or refusing to move at all. It had been suggested that we try to leave the lathes in situ in case they could be re-used in future.
After pulling everything down, we carefully double bagged everything and wiped down the tools and the outside of the bags. We treated it like a military operation in terms of cleanliness – being highly systematic to ensure minimal contamination.
I did my best to damp down the air to get the dust particles to settle, then finally we were free and able to take off our masks!
The shower I had afterwards was somehow one of the best I’ve ever had despite the circumstances and the surroundings. Just finally being free from the crushing of the multiple straps around my head and the claustrophobia of the suits was a huge relief and there was a very palpable sense of ‘we survived’!
However – this is how my face looked the next day :
Somewhat perturbed and with a lot of swelling, mask indents and a scrape to my head that I don’t even recall getting! I had a headache for the majority of the time spent in the bathroom due to my skull being crushed and not being able to breathe well through the mask. My nose was severely bruised and swollen from spending so much time under a mask.
It remained very sensitive and painful for several days until this happened which lasted two weeks :
Yes, it would appear I definitely do have strangely sensitive skin to add to my long list of sensitivities. *sigh*
Anyway, here is what the bathroom looked like after we had removed the artex/plaster…
On Saturday the 3rd December we took the 15 or so bags to the asbestos bin at the recycling centre. It is important to wear masks when doing this in case other people haven’t sealed and double bagged their waste properly.
On Sunday 4th December we got messy again, removing the rest of the plaster that remained above the lathes, wire brushing the walls, brushing up the dust, wiping down the bricks and bagging around 9 more bags of debris! This took around 6 hours in total.
We found several old wasps nests – this being the most intact one… presumeably it is a queen that hibernated over winter but never quite made it…
Unfortunately there is still some bits of debris that fall and scare me when using the bathroom – it is difficult to remove it all when the lathes are still in situ.
This is the main area of the roof leak which still needs to be addressed.
Ian is due to be helping Soren again from Mon 5th to around Tuesday 13th