Residential Design series

June 26, 2018


Brightening up the Old!

Restoring the inside of your little terrace or cottage is the type of work most able-bodied people can attempt and succeed at.

By restore I refer to fixing cracks, repainting walls and ceilings and in some cases replacing the floor. I will follow this subject over a few months so as we can explore the nuances of the work involved.

If your home is in a sad state with cracking or crumbling walls, cracking paint or ceilings that sag under the weight of 100 years of paint then some restoration work will help the house and the occupiers.

All of this work is labour intensive. This means you can save money by doing it yourself!

Choosing where to start is the difficult bit. If the project involves the front three or four rooms, then you will need to be able to create the space to work. One room has to be completely empty for you to work quickly and efficiently; therefore you may wish to consider storage for six months. It’s certainly easier than moving furniture and boxes every time you change rooms.

In most pre-war homes the mortar in the brickwork is a lime and sand mix. The render is also lime and sand. The ceilings if of the old decorative plaster type are from my experience as tough as old boots and look sensational when restored even if they are a little rough around the edges.

If the walls have cracking then you will need to make a judgment as to whether you need a structural engineer to access the situation.

Most minor cracking is caused by contraction and expansion in the soil, particular reactive soils, after excessive rain or prolonged drought. The majority of pre-war cottages and terraces have shallow footings and this exacerbates the problem and often makes it very expensive to fix. Underpinning is how you can fix really bad cracking but these series of articles are not addressing such serious structural situations and an engineer should be consulted if your home is in need of this work.

The other point to note about these movement cracks is that replacing the lime render with something stronger is not necessarily going to solve the problem. It may just crack again along the line where the two meet.

Getting organized involves,

  • Moving furniture and creating space.
  • Creating an area where you can store rubble, paint strippings, old carpets and eventually empty paint tins.
  • Creating a space where you can store your working tools, some of this stuff will live in the room where you work but to avoid loosing or tossing out the wrong thing it is important to have a safe, dry storage area, especially once you start painting.

Your work kit will need to consist of a couple of stepladders, and a solid plank to span between the two ladders. If your removing paint from either the ceilings or walls then a couple of litre size gas bottles with attached burners is the most efficient and cost effective method. You fill these at the local servo so to save time I always use two.

You will need a large flat bladed paint scrapper and one smaller for the fiddly stuff. You will want protective eyewear and paper facemasks, buy a box. You should also have a good quality hammer, Stanley knife and even though it will cost you, a quality battery drill is invaluable and will save time and money.

Next month we shall address the individual renovation issues.

Good building and design!

Note: The views expressed in this article are of a broadly based nature and are in no way to be taken as the basis of an individual design. Should a reader wish to pursue the ideas expressed then at all times we recommend they consult with the appropriate professionals. 

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