Restoring an old cottage...

Category: sandblasting

Sandstorms in the Attic

We’ve been quiet for a while, mostly because we’ve been on holiday, but partly because we’ve been dithering.

There’s quite a lot to do. And we’re beginning to realise how clueless we currently are about, well, everything.

The oak flooring for the attic is arriving sometime in late October (we’ve put the dates back a little because of the amount we have to do) but before then we have tons of stuff to get on with. Here’s what we’ve done since the last update:

  • Joe and my dad – Adrian – stripped out seemingly miles of cables and nonsense from the attic. Strangely, the porch light and one of the lights in the Rayburn Room no longer work. Makes perfect sense.
  • Pulled out an uncountable number of tacks, nails, and cable ties from all the timber.
  • Removed the final bits of cladding and random battens.
  • Had some more sandblasting done.
To Sandblast or Not to Sandblast

One of our dithers was over whether or not to sandblast the timbers in the attic. We have enough cash to do the floor and the staircase before Christmas, but other than that, it’s getting a bit tight.

In the end, we decided to go for it because as Chris, our Super Sandblaster, pointed out: if it looks crap when we’ve done the rest of the room, we’ll be gutted. And it’ll be a right mess to do later.

We’re really, really chuffed we did because it looks ace. Here’s the before:

Attic space with original beams and pine cladding


And here’s the afters:

Sandblasted bricks and timbers

Stone end, after sandblasting (plus Hole of Doom)

He did the bricks as well, which is ace because they were a right mess, and we couldn’t tell what state they were in. As it turns out, there are many types of bricks in all manner of states.

Sandblasted end wall

End wall of the house, sandblasted

So we’ve just treated all the timbers for woodworm. We need to buy some more stuff to do the top beam and the floor. It’s odd stuff – it made Joe and I sneeze continually…

Concrete Nightmare

Once we’d done that, our next job was to tackle the panels between the floor and the ceiling slope. Interestingly, we found one panel that was still – we think – the original lath and lime plaster:

Original lath and plaster

Original building materials

I wish we’d realised before we knocked a chunk out. We’re leaving the rest of it in situ, obviously, and we’ll repair the hole we made…

Bad news for the other panels though. They’re concrete, and what looks very much like random lumps of cement. We honestly don’t know what we’re going to do with these, because if there’s no brick in the walls and we take all the concrete out, we might end up rebuilding that whole section of wall.

And it’s not just the top bit in the attic – the wall continues down into the Wonky Room below.

Any suggestions and advice welcome!

We did start chipping away at it, but it’s super-hard and it’s going to be a nightmare.

Original panel in the middle, concrete on either side

Original panel in the middle, concrete on either side

And the yukky concrete one – do we chip it all out and risk a hole in the wall? Or skim it and ignore it? I don’t want to leave it there, but neither do I want to rebuild an entire section of wall…

Concrete wall

Concrete wall woe

There’s another one of these on the other side of the original panel. And two more at the other end of the room.

What’s Next?

So, what do we have left to do before the floor arrives?

  • Put eco-friendly, natural plasterboard up on the rafters
  • Skim and paint the ceiling
  • Skim the walls? Or leave the bricks bare? Probably skim them, because they’re quite gappy
  • Put new wiring in (maybe – maybe after the flooring is done)
  • Soffits between the wall and the ceiling to stop birds nesting up there again
  • Cut out the new stairwell and remove the old stair gubbins

And probably a bunch of other stuff too…


Nasty, brutish and short – the life of a vacuum cleaner.

The vacuum cleaner had clearly been very bad in a past life.
It came out of the box full of hope and enthusiasm, smiling with red, plasticky joy. It took one look around and realised that its future would be short and brutal.

Sandblasting the inside of a house makes a significant mess.

The chap doing the blasting was excellent. He worked really hard, pulled long hours, and did a great job. Years and years of horrible black (and white, and yellow) paint has been removed from all the internal timbers in the house. And it all ends up as a fine dust, in the air, on the walls, in the carpet.

We spent yesterday cleaning up the house after three days of internal sandblasting. We got the kitchen looking quite nice, and certainly clean. At least we can have tea.

I moved to the rear lobby – and the hoover started its work. Years of spider construction projects were destroyed in moments. Civilisations were uprooted.

criminal hooveringWe then moved into the main downstairs room, where the new hoover spent a couple of hours working non-stop, and was emptied perhaps twenty times. There’s plenty more to get out of the carpet in that room, but we were running low on time.

All of the carpets on the first floor were cut into strips, rolled up and thrown in the skip. There’s no point trying to save those carpets – newspaper laid under them were dated 1980, and they’d clearly had a tough time. Under the carpet were significant carpetty strata, probably going back another 50 years.

Vicky will spend today sweeping and hoovering the first floor. I really don’t expect that hoover to see it’s first birthday.

Tomorrow will see us both back there, cleaning some more and getting the house ready to move into. There’s a lot of electrical wiring that needs clipping back to the freshly cleaned timbers. The house needs a complete rewire anyway, so it doesn’t need to be a permanent job, but removing the dangling hazards would seem to be wise, otherwise I suspect I’d come downstairs one day to find the hoover had ended it’s bitter, harsh life.

On Saturday we move in.

It’s Ours!

“Crikey. It’s quite big, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Yes it is.”

It’s dawning on us that we’ve not just bought our dream cottage (yes, we got the keys just in the nick of time), we’ve also taken on an acre and a half of woodland. And an outbuilding that’s probably going to fall down in the near-ish future.

But that’s all fine, because this is a great big adventure.

We have the keys – we got them on March 30, two days before the deadline – and so far we’ve accomplished the following:

  • Got the chimneys swept (all in great condition – hurrah!)
  • Ordered an oil delivery
  • Sandblasted the interior of the house… all 45 black-painted timbers (yes, that was more expensive than we thought it’d be)
  • Moved the motorbikes and the contents of the garage over
  • Made, remade, and remade a whole bunch of plans
  • Got very excited

We actually can’t quite believe our solicitor and mortgage broker managed to accomplish what seemed like an impossible task: get the whole sale completed within two months, before the Government bent us over for an extra £8,000 or so in stamp duty.

So I’d like to recommend Amy at Express Mortgages. She’s some kind of a mortgage whisperer, I think. Tell her I sent you.

And Mark Cooper at Brindley Twist Tafft & James Solicitors in Coventry. He appears to be a sorcerer of some description. They’ve both been absolutely amazing.

Always go with recommendations, even if they’re slightly more expensive (in fact, these guys weren’t that expensive). In the end, they’ll pay for themselves. Plus your stress levels will be massively reduced.

The only other thing I have to report right now is that it was my birthday at the end of March, and Joe got me a chainsaw. Look:

Chainsaw Win!

Disclaimer: this is a posed photograph with a non-fueled, non-running chainsaw. Do not, under any circumstances, use a chainsaw in this position. Or wearing jeans. Or in any way like this at all. M’kay? Good.

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