Gazing at my lovely, neat new joists in the extension, it’s very tempting to pointedly ignore our reno-hell-section but those ignoring days are coming to an abrupt end as we start to get to grips with the old bit of the house. Here is my living room prepped for the forthcoming festivities:Suffice to say that as you all deck trees and hang baubles, we won’t *quite* be ready for Christmas here and the image on the right below of how things used to be is a dim and distant memory! Ah well, at least that chimney breast on the left is nice and clear ready for Santa, I’m hoping he brings a stove down with him 😉The big job we face this week is taking up all the floor boards in this living room to get to grips with the structure below. We knew the internal brick walls above floor level were pretty poor but omg, when the first boards came up to reveal the walls below floor level, it became apparent that it was only pure luck that the weight of that lovely black Chesterfield chair hadn’t taken it straight into the sub-floor!
None of the joists were properly fixed in place. Can you see the odd one out below on its side, well, joists are not supposed to look like that! It means they are not secure in their pockets in the wall, made all the worse by the fact that at some stage since the house was first built, they’ve been exposed and wrapped in black plastic membrane to protect them from damp, but not fixed properly back in place – a very poor job by past builders.
The ones in the bay were even worse, flapping around in mid air and the header beam allegedly taking their weight and in turn that of the entire living room just sort of fell to one side with a slight push and literally fell out of the wall when we touched it. At times like these, it’s a good job my background’s in damp proofing and not cushion plumping. Panic not an option. The internal leaf of brickwork was collapsing, crumbling mortar, broken bricks and missing sections where air bricks had been poorly fitted. Rubbish!Nothing else for it but to get stuck in, clearing all the crap from the sub-floor, cutting back the flapping joist ends to create a neat line and building up a brick dwarf wall where the old header joist had been to properly take their weight. Combined with rebuilding the inner leaf of brick work and filling in holes, this should give us back some much needed stability. I used engineering bricks for strength and as they are better in damp sub-floor conditions, and made sure I tied in the brick courses and different areas using steel ties. Wasn’t great when we realised we could actually see through the outside, no wonder this room had always been bloody freezing in winter!!Talking of cold, it was a big deliberation, whether and how to go for UFH in the old sections of the house, but with super high ceilings and little wall space, it’s the more sensible and contemporary option. At first I wanted to fill all the sub-floors with concrete to stabilise the house, give us better foundations and allow a ‘normal’ UFH system but it soon became clear this was an awful choice for both our bank balance and carbon footprint.
I considered concrete beams with an insulated block fill, but this would still have involved huge expense and building loads of sub-floor walls to take the weight of the concrete beams as our internal walls were so weak – a common problem in old houses.
So eventually we’ve decided to do the following:
- Keep the original timber joists, repositioning and re-securing them all.
- Strengthening the sub-floor walls, rebuilding if necessary so the joists are solid and don’t move
- Add ventilation for good air-flow to keep the timber joists free of damp
- Properly insulate using rigid board insulation to make the house much warmer
- Use either tray or chipboard system under-floor heating on top of the original joists then either use floorboards or a floating timber floor as a final finish.
Of course, I have help and no, she’s not just after the ham in that sandwich at all, oh no not al all….
Here’s a little video of some of the things we’ve been up to in the past two days, whilst, you know, you’ve all be Christmas shopping 😉