Design

Current House Layout 3D Sketchup Model

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You can download a copy of my model from the Sketchup 3D warehouse if you would like to look at it yourself. Sketchup is a free program you can easily download and install – it is very intuitive and relatively easy to learn. Two key navigation shortcuts that are useful to know : hold down shift and left mouse button to pan, and click the middle mouse wheel to orbit. This will allow you to move around the model quickly and easily, whichever tool you currently have selected.

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The downstairs is a standard layout for a property of this type, with two reception rooms and a small kitchen in the rear ‘leg’ or annex of the terrace. This may originally have been the scullery. Beyond this there is a toilet in a single skin, brick ‘lean-to’ or outhouse (although the only access is from in the kitchen).

All partition walls downstairs are brick with the original black lime mortar. The wall between the two reception rooms is a single layer and bears the weight of the joists and wall on the floor above, along with the joists in the loft & potentially some of the weight of the roof (due to a an angled prop down from the centre of one of the purlins)

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The wall between the front reception room and the hallway is a timber stud type wall, with brick infill – with the bricks laid on their side, presumably to reduce material cost, labour cost & thickness of the wall. This does not support a wall above or any joists, but I have been informed that it may be providing some racking strength to the property.

The wall between the rear reception room and the hallway is also built with a timber frame with side-laid bricks as infill, although this supports the weight of what I believe is also a brick wall above – the one between the middle bedroom and the landing.

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The upstairs originally would have been three bedrooms, although at some point an upstairs bathroom has been added. This is north facing and cold, with the roof above making up the plaster/lathe ceiling – hence there is no loft or much space for insulation above here. It is a large family bathroom, with an awkward layout due to the angled roof, chimney breast, window and door location.

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The unused chimney breast takes up a reasonable percentage of the available volume, floor & wall space, the opaque window obscures one of the main views of the garden yet provides very little privacy, and the low eves height makes it impossible for anyone over 5’7″ to stand up and take a shower!

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There is a step down immediately outside the bathroom, which is awkward to navigate from the other bedrooms & for ergonomic reasons is not terribly safe, particularly for anyone with mobility issues.

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The middle bedroom is a good size for a property of this type with space for a double bed and the ability to walk around both sides of it. The front bedroom is a brighter, warmer feeling space due to it’s south-facing aspect.

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The sun never reaches the back of the house – except in summer when some warm westerly sun hits the kitchen window during the afternoon. There are many damp issues with the property that need a considered, holistic approach to solve. Much of the moisture inside is generated at the rear of the property in the kitchen/bathroom & this is also one of the coldest, least insulated areas.

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This has led to much condensation-related damage and subsequent damage to roof timbers above. Damaged guttering has also led to water ingress, and cold, hard cement render has been applied externally and in some places internally. Rather than tackling the root of the problem, has just temporarily trapped the damp, probably initially hiding the symptoms, but causing more long term problems.

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Solid-wall properties need to ‘breathe’ – ie. they are designed to buffer moisture levels – releasing it when humidity is lower. When impermeable materials such as cement or gypsum are used, they trap existing moisture behind, causing damage to soft bricks and mortar, whilst also providing a cold surface for moisture generation to continue condensing on!

Any inevitable cracks in external render will allow moisture in where it will percolate through the wall and be unable to escape again. Eventually these temporary fixes fail anyway, and unless a homeowner educates themselves in the building science principals at play – they will continue to repeat the same mistakes.

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In a subsequent post I will examine some of my thoughts and analysis regarding the layout of the property and it’s use by modern inhabitants, both from an ergonomic perspective and the health of the building, whilst taking into consideration the wellbeing of occupants along with the wider sustainability issues at play.

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