Demolition,  Walls

Front room – unblocking fireplace & more plaster removal

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Sun 29th 2 hours (2 people – myself & Ian) :

Removed picture rails. Removed plaster in right alcove and wall in middle of house between lounge/dining room.

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Dismantled bricked blocking up fireplace aperture. Found remnants of old tiles from fireplace & old slate surround painted to look like marble.

Bagged up rubble, plaster and lots and lots of dust. Some of it is magnetic.

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You can see the bowed nature of the floor in this photo although it is hard to document accurately since camera optics often distort things at shorter focal lengths anyway. It was initially suggested that this was caused by the boards being damp and buckling. However this never rang true – the boards were far too strong and stable for one thing. My own observations and deductions led me to ascertain that the soft soil in Easton, combined with shallow foundations and serious bombings in the area have contributed to historic settling of the property which means the external walls and central wall between the lounge/dining room (that carry the most weight of the house above) are now lower, in some places by around 4″ than the original level. This means that other walls, such as sleeper walls and the internal partition walls that run perpendicular to the front of the property remain higher & appear to be ‘bowing up’.

Mon 30th 2.5 hours (2 people – myself and Ian) :

Architrave was removed from the door surround, the rest of plaster was removed from chimney breast & wall between lounge/hallway. Bagged up around 30 bags of rubble/plaster/dust

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You can see here the damp ‘tide mark’ on an internal wall that I find very puzzling and disconcerting. This has been exposed to air on both sides for around 1.5 years so if it was going to dry out, it should have done already. I believe that rising damp is mostly a myth to sell expensive treatments to people  – however this one is quite perplexing…. what if it is that mythical beast?! It is incredibly unlikely, especially on an internal wall, so I suspect it may be something to do with the bitumin subfloor covering which is somehow pushing water underneath the house, or we may at some point discover a leaking lead pipe or some other water source causing the problem.

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Hallway wall is very loose and movable in places – it is a timber stud wall with brick infill – laid on their sides to reduce cost and space taken up. It may be providing racking strength to the house, although I wonder how much it is actually capable of doing that since it doesn’t currently seem very structurally stable. Maybe a replacement, suitably specified timber stud wall would still provide racking strength?

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There are so many air gaps in this wall! The mortar is very soft and crumbly.

Air was thick with dust and we could barely could see at times! This was mainly from the plaster – cut with clinker from blast furnaces. Yet again we looked like coal miners!

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Wed 1st February

I took some rubble to the tip

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Thurs 2nd February

Took rest of rubble to tip

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The brick around the fireplace shows excessive signs of damage from damp. This is an area that has previously been plastered with gypsum, (you can see in the photos behind the fireplace in this post) presumably to try and hold back the damp. Whilst to some extent it succeeded, it did so at the cost of irreversible damage to the bricks – most have ‘bubbled’ up and have a crumbly, powdery surface, many have chunks which fall away and some have completely turned to dust!

This is in line with the suggestion that there is a history of gas fires in the property (you can see the unused copper gas pipe in this post) that has caused excessive moisture due to the chemical reaction during the combustion of natural gas.

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It is so fascinating to look at the original construction techniques, such as the brick infill partition and the way this lintel slots into it. Note the shim next to the door jamb & the saw marks on the timber.

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Don’t try this at home kids!

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This is the original wooden corner protectors at the edge of the fireplace to prevent damageto the plaster. None of this modern metal nonsense! You can see the original dochen in situ – there are five per baton. I think I might consider using a router to round these corners slightly before cutting off the rotten botton sections then re-installing them closer to the wall for a thinner layer of plaster to be put on.

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