' the Woodlouse: 2012


Monday, 3 December 2012

A bit of sparkle (lime render and recycled glass)

With the photos below I think I've managed to get this blog back in sync with reality on site.  The top two coats of lime render have gone on and gone-off (dried and cured sufficiently to be safe - touch wood - from the winter weather) and are now protecting the bales properly from the rain.  The final coat was made with recycled glass aggregate (crushed and tumbled bottles), then scrubbed-up to strip the lime off the big bits of glass.  From a distance it has an off-white appearance, but as you approach an increasing amount of colour and just enough sparkle is visible.  We love it.  Much time has been spent staring at the walls with huge grins on our faces.  I have an obsessive amount of render-finish photos, taken in different lights and different stages of dryness to try and best capture the colour and sparkle.  It's really hard trying to resist showing them all to anyone who asks about the bungalow.  I've been selective below, in the understanding that one person's beautiful render album is another's endless close-up photos of a bit of wall.

The lime needed looking-after during it's initial setting: to cure/carbonate properly it needs moisture and air.  If it dries out before curing it has to be sprayed with water to keep it moist, and if the sun is directly on it and trying it too fast it needs covering.  Only the south wall of the extension ever caught enough sun to need protecting, and that was easily covered in hessian (which shades it whilst still allowing air and water through).  The sun was short-lived in any case - most of the time the weather has been quite mild and damp which is probably ideal lime-curing weather.  Each layer of render did still dry out quite fast though (it's quite a windy spot up the hill) and needed regular damping down.  It felt particularly perverse having built large roof-overhangs to protect the walls from direct rain to then be spraying the walls directly with a hose, sometimes while it was actually raining.

It's very satisfying to see the colour change in the render with each spray of water - initially it's all a bit creamy in colour, then lighter when dry, then back to cream after spraying.  Once the surface at least has cured it goes a cleaner white colour, which starts to hold even when wet again.

The other danger to fresh render is frost, but thankfully the mild weather held long enough for the lime to go off enough to be safe.  If it had frosted earlier we would have had to wrap all the walls in hessian to protect them.

The rendering was done by Lime Repair who have done a fantastic job, giving our home nice crisp lines and lovely gentle curves, and helped get me started with the scrubbing.

Tomorrow a huge delivery of thirty pallets and tonne-bags arrives, containing all the recycled foamed-glass aggregate for the floor insulation build up, and the the lime and other recycled aggregate for the limecrete slab that'll form the new floor base (from Ty Mawr).  Fitting it all on site around the tree at the front will be awkward but I think it'll just squeeze in within reach of the lorry's crane.  Also on that delivery will be wood-fibre insulation boards which will be used to insulate the remaining area of gable wall above the bale wrap, that corresponds to the vaulted ceiling indoors.  I need to get those up quickly so that I can finally fit the timber cladding to the top half of the gable and get that end watertight.

The first coat of render revealed a dodgy bit of bale-dressing on the front corner (annoyingly I'd seen it when trimming the straw and had meant to deal with it but forgot).  The render made the bulge in the middle of the corner more obvious - almost the first thing Sam the Plaster noticed on return to site - so I chipped off the render, pulled out a load of straw and retied the bale so that the corner could be straight.

Second coat of lime render (Float coat) going on over the scratch coat.

Sam the Plaster using a Straight Edge to put a straight edge on the wall

All trowelled on, but not yet floated up (rubbed-up with a plasterer's float once it's stiffened up)

After floating

For some reason I find this pleasing (it's actually horse hair to add to the render to strengthen it)

Woodlouse!  They love lime.  Somebody probably know why, but I don't.

Oak render stop sanded down, looking lovely after being limed (as well as lodging in the grain, the lime reacts with the tannin in the oak and darkens it)

The recycled glass aggregate (crushed and slightly tumbled bottles, supplied by Ty Mawr) arrives, causing much excitement with me and the plasterers.  We kept grabbing handfuls and letting it run out through our fingers and laughing like pantomime villains with their hoard of jewels.

The big sack of jewels

Cream together the butter and sugar...

Sam the Plaster trowels on the glass/lime mix in the back porch, the only bit where it'll be flat (though we like it so much we now plan to use it inside in a few places where the light will catch it)

Julie Lime-Repair (boss) escaped the office to come and play with the glass

Back with the sprayer for the roughcast coat on the outside walls

As before the sprayer covered everything, with the crunch of the glass underfoot part of my mind kept thinking it had snowed.  Here drip from the gutter has washed the lime/snow away to reveal the jewels within

It looked a bit toothpasty or softminty at this stage

Snowy wall

A small test, using the glass with clay plaster for the bathroom (also mixed with a little lime-putty to help it stick to the bricks and lighten the colour).

The walls emerge from the plastic for the first time in weeks, finally complete.

From a distance the render appear a bit mottled, off-white.  As you get close it shows the glass and sparkles a bit.

To strip the thin surface layer of lime off the glass I scrubbed it down with diluted brick acid (not very eco - but very small quantity used) and a churn brush.  Thanks to Sam for helping figure out the best system.  Eventually the system settled down to: spray the wall with water (once the render has gone properly hard), brush on the dilute brick-cleaner, scrub, gently spray with more water, scrub some more, then thoroughly rinse the wall down.

The flat section in the back porch, scrubbed up with a sponge.

Conservatory base-level finally set to the correct height, with compacted scalpings, ready for loose-fill recycled foamed-glass insulation.

The lovely sparkly render.  I'm so excited by this.

Light doing nice things through the living room rooflight.
The brush on the right has just been used to scrub down all the walls to reveal the glass.  Before that it was more like the brush on the left.
Glassy roughcast lime, with newly-oiled oak render stop

Sunroom structure just had it's first coat of oil too (using Osmo UV protection oil, which will leave a fairly matt, satiny finish once it's soaked in and dried, and will allow the wood to breathe).

The main eaves beam still awaits its first coat.  It was getting too cold and damp in the late afternoon to risk carrying on - a problem with trying to do outside finishes in late November.  That and the fact it's dark just after 4pm.  Still, very satisfying to have got this far.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Suddenly there's an indoors

Still playing catch-up with this blog and frankly, on site too.  The schedule went the way of the faeries a long time ago, but then I did always expect it to (I've seen Grand Designs enough - when asked the frequent "when will you be moving in" question I did say "we'd like to be in by Christmas" but always added "but realise it's unlikely to actually happen".

It could happen quicker if we paid a lot of money for more contractors to do more things, but as much as possible it will still be me and whoever I can persuade to help.  I can only do one thing at once so it will take a bit longer that way.  So we'll have to spend another winter in the cold, damp and mouldy bungalow we currently rent which is a shame but not that bad.  That bungalow is in the process of being sold which is a whole other saga but hopefully one nearing a resolution that allows us to stay in it.  The buyers want to continue to let it out for the time being, thankfully without using the obstructive and overly bureaucratic agent that recently suggested we'd need to move out for a check-out report to be done, and then move back in again (but relented after everyone else involved pointed out how ridiculous that was).

In real time: windows and doors are in, all the external walls are now full height (so there's no draughty gap beneath the sunroom/rear-porch roof overhang and the rest of the bungalow anymore), the inside of the bale walls are now stuffed and strimmed, and the final coats of lime render are on.  I'm aiming to get the gable end of the bungalow finished by the end of the week (the top half of this is to be timber clad) so we can get rid of the ugly and surprisingly noisy flappy plastic (recycled silage wrap) that's currently protecting it.  I'll post the final render pictures in the next blog. 

Having the windows and doors fitted was another transformational moment.  Suddenly the extension is an enclosed space, and the whole bungalow is a unified indoors!  It's also far more secure now than it has ever been.

In preparation for the windows and doors to be fitted, naturally I had to take the old ones out first.  At this point the bungalow became very cold.

Lime-spattered old Crittall windows (glavanised steel frames) awaiting collection by scrap dealer.  They're cold windows but I'm impressed at how well-built they are. 

The new windows arrive!

First new window (timber frame, triple-glazed with aluminium trim in the places most likely to collect water)

This is the exciting view from what will be Anna's studio.

Tony and Wayne fitting the window brackets ready to hold the window in place.

Only slightly posed action shot

Render and windows, all within a few days (the big end-gable wall was being sprayed with render as this window was fitted)

Fold-aside door (the sunroom windows/doors are coming shortly - I hadn't built this when they measured the main windows so they measured it up when fitting phase 1).

Shiny new keys, to doors that actually lock properly

South wall of extension wrapped in hessian to prevent the lime render drying too quickly in the sun

Cutting out render and straw prior to fitting external window sill of reclaimed slate

Finished slate sills

Clay-straw plaster onto reed mat, closing the gap between sunroom and bungalow

Clay-straw plaster from the back

The mix - mostly long straw.  Later coats of plaster will use chopped straw.

Bale-wrap strimmed within sunroom.

Newly-widened doorway into extension.  Thankfully the existing lintels here were oversized, allowing me to widen the opening and still have the required overlap of lintel onto brickwork.

Stuffing straw into gaps between bales inside the extension.  Mostly this was done as the walls were raised, but a few gaps slipped through the net.  This was a big one.

Timber trim between window and render, treated with Osmo natural woodstain

Trimming the walls generates a lot of dust