Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Blog 11

By the end of February the weather came warm enough to paint the outside of the building. As we have used a lime render, it was important to use a breatheable paint. Normally one would use limewash, but this requires re-doing every two or three years – an inconvenient job right on the roadside. Instead we have chosen a mineral paint from Germany call Beeckosil which has a lime and silicate base. The paint actually bonds to the lime substrate through silicification. The process involves removing the alkaline "sinter" skin on the lime render with dilute acid followed by a coat of fixative, then two coats of the paint mixed with fixative.

In February the floor tiling was completed and the screen which encloses the front entrance lobby was installed. It was made by Grandfields of Nether Stowey from ash with full height glass panels. The display/storage unit under the front window was made and installed by Acorn Woodwork of Wellington. The electrical second fix was completed by Alan Manchip Electrical, including all the emergency lights, the fire alarms and the security systems. We have disguised the undersides of the steel beams that were put in to hold up the floors and walls above, by installing concealed lighting.

On 24 February we invited interested local artists to view the unfinished building. It proved to be a very pleasant and worthwhile occasion.

The fireplaces required repointing, so we raked out the joints and pointed with a lime-based mortar using red sand to attempt to replicate the colour of the original.

We cleaned up the wooden beams, lintels and bressummers and oiled them. The main beams and bressummers are of elm, but two sets of lintels are of oak, which is unusual for West Somerset. On the main bressummer we found rushlight marks. Rushlights were used in rural houses over many centuries and were made by soaking dried rushes in wax. They were held in holders at an angle, but didn’t last very long – probably not even an hour – so often burned right down to the holder when left unsupervised.

We also found a row of tally marks cut in the chamfer and two types of stamp. One constitutes the letters ES about half an inch across and the other the letter S made up of two double semi-circles about two inches in diameter put together.

These seem to indicate the possibility of some sort of manufacturing or trade which may have taken place. As mentioned in earlier blogs when we took the fireplaces out, we found evidence of hearths which may have indicated non-domestic use – possibly so0me sort of smelting. If anyone can shed light on this, please let me know.
So many passers-by and local people had expressed an interest in the building work that we decide to invite anyone interested to visit on March 16. We had a very positive response with about 60 visitors, some of who were able to talk about their knowledge of the building in past decades.

We have now thoroughly cleaned the gallery areas ready for opening, but there is still work to do in the WC and tea-room. The outside walls are painted, but the windows are yet to be done!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Blog 10

The long awaited road closure took place on 12 January and all went according to plan. Gas, electricity and water were all connected within two days and the back-filling and making good was complete by midday on 14th. It had taken a great deal of time and effort to get the three services to work in one hole! We now have supplies to the gallery, the flat, the barns and the future cottage.

The internal plastering was completed and we cleared the gallery rooms of all contents ready for the floor to be laid. For the first time we could get the feel of the new open spaces.

At the rear, we continued with the insulation and boarding of the walls and roof. We are using "Femacell" board which is much harder than plasterboard and will take screw fixings.

The floor tilers prepared the floor with a levelling compound.

They then started laying the tiles. I have chosen a hard-wearing low maintenance, non-slip porcelain tile which looks like slate, to be laid in a herringbone pattern.

Once laid, materials and equipment could be moved back to prepare for laying tiles at the rear. We could also set up the stereo equipment to listen to loud opera music in the resonant acoustic!

Ben started on painting the walls using a breathable mineral paint (Aglaia) which is harder wearing than limewash and does not dust off.

The electricians are now back doing the second fix and power is on in the sockets.
Planning permission to develop the two-storey building at the rear into a cottage has now been granted.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Blog 9

December saw the internal lime plastering of the gallery areas. After Ben had done the "dubbing out" to fill in holes and depressions, Ian and Daryl arrived to plaster. They first put on a "scratch coat" of 1:3 Chardstock sand to Hydraulic lime.

When this coat had hardened sufficiently, they put on a "float coat" of the same mix.

When that had hardened, they put on the “finish coat” – a mixture of silver sand with lime putty. This was then trowelled up to a fine finish. The lime plaster has been applied to follow the undulations of the old walls, and finished around features such as beams and fireplaces.

The use of lime not only replicates the original internal finish, but allows the walls to “breath”. This not only allows any moisture in the walls to evaporate, but also, helps control humidity levels in the building, taking moisture in when humid, and giving it back when dry. Accoustically, lime plaster, being less hard than modern gypsum plasters, gives less "echo" to the room.
I have started on the rubble wall to separate the new piece of land from the neighbour. I am building it with reclaimed stone from the site in the traditional manner with facing stones on each side and rubble in the middle. I am building it with a weak mix of Chardstock sand and cement as the weather is not suitable for lime. I shall, however, point up with a lime mix when the weather improves in the spring.