Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Eaves, Ceiling Windows

November 5th. I've been working by myself for 2 or 3 days a weeks through October. There has been much finishing to do, and it's been slow, steady work. Now that the roof and walls are weatherproof, I have been allowing myself a few more distractions.

I have put sheep wool insulation in between the rafters. It's pricey, but very nice to work with. Softer and less dusty than mineral wool, and makes the whole building smell of lanolin. I have used 140mm thickness, and the width - 370mm - is perfectly matched to my rafter separation (400mm). I held it in place with bale twine (blue, in picture) until I could get the ceiling lining boards in place.

The ceiling boards are 9mm plywood. They needed very careful marking and cutting around the ends of the roof overhang lookouts.......

 ............... and it's quite an art to hold them in place and screw them up when you are working by yourself.

Then it's the same again around the walls to seal the gap between the top of the wallplate and the ceiling.

I've put some 50 x 75mm battens on two walls hung vertically, sitting on the floor and screwed to the baseplate and wall plate. I am going to need to fix extensively to these walls (counter, shelves, cupboards etc) so am giving myself lots of support options.

 I've had a problem with my roof design. In heavy rain, water drips from the front edge of the roof more or less where I expected it to. There will soon be a gutter in place to catch it. The problem has been that some water runs down the steel brackets that hold the edge boards in place, onto the rafter, to the bottom edge of the rafter and then along the edge until the wall plate, where it collects in puddles and drips. You might be able to see this in the photo below, where there is a small drop of water on the extreme right of the bracket.

I have been along the front edge repositioning the brackets to slant downwards, and I think this has cured the problem.

Clay: I have had a large excavation going on at the top of the garden to dig clay for the internal plaster. It almost passes the clay tests, and I might be able to use a proportion of it, but I have had to conclude that, sadly, it's just not sticky enough. So I have borrowed a twin-axle trailer and headed for a quarry in West Norfolk where they will sell you some. I've got about a ton here:

I've made a pond with tarps and bales.................

filled it up with clay, and covered it to keep the leaves out.

Windows. In the last few days, I have collected my dg units for the windows and got some of these fitted. Suddenly, the outside is beginning to look like a finished building. It's also much lighter inside without the tarps covering the window apertures.

This week, I have been working on the doors. These have already been hung, but I need to put a cross rail in , fit the glass units above and fill the panel below. The cross rail is made up of the 70mm section of door that I cut off the bottom when I was hanging them.

Final photo in this post shows the glazing completed and the bottom panels in the doors fitted. I expect to cover the door panels with thin plywood both sides for cosmetic reasons.The photo is a little dark, but you can also see a new fascia and boxing in of the eaves, which is complete to both sides and the front.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Lime Rendering and Limewash

October 4th. It has been difficult to keep this blog updated during the lime plastering. I have generally been leading with pictures and writing a little explanation; but the three coats of lime render and four coats of limewash all look remarkably similar, so I haven't been taking many photos lately.

Lime Render, Coat 1. The mix for this was 1 part lime putty to 2 parts sand. It used about 8 x 18litre pots of lime putty. Greg and I got around 2/3rds of it done in three days, and it was finished off on September 6th - the mass participation event.

Lime Render, Coat 2. I used a 3-to-1 mix with added chopped straw. After a certain amount of experimentation, I found that the easiest way to chop straw was to sprinkle it about and the run the lawn mower over it a few times. This coat was around 10 - 15mm thick. It took 18 to 20 pots of lime putty. We did around half of it on September 6th, and the remainder over the next three days

Lime Render, Coat 3. Same mix as coat 2, but without the straw. I was planning to make this about 5mm thick, but I think it came out thicker - perhaps as much as 10mm. There was a certain amount of hard-trowelling to level, but I finished the surface by hand. About 10 pots of putty, and about 15 person-days work. I finished the rendering with Chris on September 19th, 2 weeks and 2 days after starting.

September 12th - Jane & Harriet working on second coat

Jane and Tessa

Finish coat applied to scratched body coat.

Last section!


I spent the fourth week of September having a big clear-up around the site, and getting on with some long-neglected non-building jobs. This week, September 29 - Oct 3rd, I have applied 4 coats of limewash.

Second coat with raw umber pigment covering white first coat

Same colour! Wet on left, dry on right.

The limewash is essentially the same material as the lime render. You start with lime putty, but add water instead of sand. To apply a coat of limewash is really just to wet the surface with the limewash and let it dry. It's quite different to painting: there is no tension between the surface and the paint, so can be applied very quickly. My final coat was applied in under 3 hours.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Lime Rendering

September 8th. So, having only taken the punch-and-judy tarps off recently to expose the straw walls, I have been busy covering them with lime render. It's a great shame that this is necessary; it would be great to leave the straw exposed. I think a roof overhang of about two metres all round would be sufficient. It would also save a lot of work.

Luckily I have had a lot of help this week; new POOSHer Greg has been here all week, and I had 9 friends here on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. And dry weather all week. As a result, the exterior render is over half way done.

First job: stuff the holes.

Second job: trim loose straw with a hedgecutter. "Before" and "After" photos


It didn't look greatly different, but there was a lot of straw on the floor, and it would have needed more lime if it had been on the walls.

There is an inspiring quote on the POOSH site that goes: "If you're not sure how to do something, start!" So, I've read all I can about lime rendering, but I've only done a couple of hours before, and it kept falling off the wall. But there's nothing to be done now except get on with it!

First time I have mixed lime putty. It's wonderful stuff - much stickier than NHL mortar. Seems to be staying on alright. The photo below shows current POOSHer Greg adding a pot of lime putty to the mixer; the grid on top is useful for slicing a large block of putty up into strips.

POOSHers are sustainable building volunteers who come and help with a project in return for food, accommodation and work experience. It's a network similar to WWOOF that runs on the site . All our POOSHers this year - there have been lots of photos of them - have been absolutely wonderful: good company, good guests (cooking, washing up, etc.) and hard working - I wouldn't have got the building up without them.

However, I haven't been overwhelmed by people wanting to come and volunteer here. I think I've had 9 all counted - and that includes 2 who came for one day only, and one friend-of-friend who registered on POOSH after coming here. So on Saturday, I had a "Lime Rendering Party" and asked lots of my friends to come. There were 14 people here, and I think they had a good time slapping on some lime. 

My (gloved) hands were covered in plaster all day, so thanks to Jim Froud for the pictures:

and one video!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Made of Straw

I have been taking the scaffolding down this weekend. Whilst I was at it, I thought I would take the side tarps down to take a photo of the building in its finished but unrendered state. When it's all covered in render, I will want to remind myself of what it's made of.

This is three months work. At the end of May, there was just the stem wall here.

It looks a little miniature here, so here's one with me in it, for scale:

And a side elevation:

It's a great feeling to get the site tidied up. Here's the two-tons of scaffolding ready to return to Suffolk:

and the monster truck needed for getting it there.