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Over these posts i'll explore projects as they come and go and in particular the restoration of a period property in Dorchester.

By alexbeales, Sep 21 2015 08:06PM

Replacing an old lathe and plaster ceiling.
Replacing an old lathe and plaster ceiling.

Here are a few tips for removing an old lathe and plaster ceiling- from removal to painting.

As you can see in the photo chipboard and wood batten have been used to cover up an old lathe and plaster ceiling. Although not apparent in this photo parts of the ceiling were sagging and once the board was removed sections of the hidden plaster fell to the ground- potentially quite dangerous. After removing this the next stage was to remove the old lime plaster. This is a messy job and I made sure I had a good mask, goggles, ventilation and plenty of rubble bags to fill as I knocked the plaster from the lathes. As the plaster is removed it creates an incredible amount of dust so if you are not removing the carpets then be sure to completely seal them as normal dust sheets will not suffice and be warned if the doors are not sealed this very fine dust will creep throughout the rest of the house. After bagging the plaster I then removed the lathes- wooden struts that were used to push the plaster into. You'll need a good claw hammer to pull them from the joists and the areas near the walls take a little more time as the lathes are secured between the joists and wall and it can be fiddly getting them out. After removing them I completely cleared the room, letting the dust settle overnight.

Now I had removed the old ceiling, and before replacing it with a new one, I thought it best to check the joists and brickwork to make sure everything looked ok. As you can see in the photo there were sections of bricks that had been removed and I could actually see next doors joists- which is unusual. Possibly they had been replaced and as a result bricks had been removed but according to todays fire regulations this is a no no. If there was a fire then smoke/fire could travel through to the adjacent property though these openings- I therefore filled the gaps with a fire retardant expandible foam to comply with building regulations and prevent this from happening in the event of a fire.

The other problem I noticed is visible in the next photo- a small amount of water ingress has slowly been rotting a roof support. This enabled me to advise that this needed to be investigated further prior to the new ceiling being put in place. A small section of cement was missing from the dividing roof wall and this was slowly letting in rain water- by following the water trial to the roof we could then make sure the repair had been successful with the next downpour of rain- of which there were many in this wonderful summer we've just had- grumble, grumble- just checking youre hanging in there with this enormous post- don't worry- you're almost there...and on.... Its best practice to anticipate anything that could prove to be a issue whilst it is accessable and before its covered up.

When these two problems had been rectified the ceiling was ready to be insulated. In this case we opted for an acoustic grade insuation which provides both thermal and sound insulation as there was a room above. A tip for insulating is to cut across the roll of insulation and measure as you cut lengths. Although more time consuming it will be more accurate, you'll waste less of the expensive material and the area will have better insulation. Often the space between joists is slightly different so instead of trying to keep the insulation in place you cut just over the measurement and it holds itself in place.

Before boarding I PVA'd the area where the walls met the ceiling. As you remove the old ceiling it is difficult to remove the lathes and plaster without losing some of the wall plaster- so prior to boarding I sealed any dusty lime plaster that had been exposed. The ceiling was then double boarded with a silver back plaster board to add extra sound and thermal insulation. Again, as there was a room above it was necessary to double board the ceiling to comply to building regulations.

After the ceiling was skimmed a window was left open to allow sufficient air flow for the plaster to dry out naturally. This usually takes 3/4 days depending on temperature. It was then ready for a thinned down coat of white emulsion to seal the plaster and two further coats to finish the job.

Oh and one final comment...phew...its worth planning your lighting and electrics sockets for any rooms above before you board the ceiling- its much easier than pulling up the floor boards above when done. Thankyou and goodnight. I'll try and make these posts a little shorter in future- i just cant help myself..it is literally fascinating stuff.

By guest, May 31 2015 03:55PM

Restoring an old Victorian cupboard? Here are a few tips and tricks to achieve the best results.

With any project, no matter how large or small, I always look for any potential problems and then find suitable remedies. Sometimes these issues are not visible and this was the case with the cupboard.

As you can see in the picture when I removed the floorboards I discovered a section of wood that over the years had perished or been eaten by something. The joists also had small holes and at some stage had been eaten by woodworm but were generally still solid. There was a large amount of rubble/debris on the floor that was blocking the air from circulating freely underneath the boards- this would have contributed to the deterioration of the wood. I cleared the rubble to allow good circulation, removed the entire horizontal piece of wood, lay a damp proof membrane and replaced the wood with a treated piece to ensure future protection. I then sprayed the joists with an anti woodworm solution.

In the first picture you can also see a section of plaster has fallen away. In a property of this age the lime plaster, often with the introduction of central heating, dries out and becomes loose from the lathes/bricks. A simple test is to tap the wall- if it makes a hollow sound then more often than not the plaster has 'blown' and has come away from the substrate. In this case the section by the pipes was literally hanging on so I decided to remove an area until I reached a section that was secure. I then PVA'd any exposed brick/plaster and used hardwall to fill and repair any small sections of wall/ plaster. For the bigger sections I used hardwall to stick sections of plaster board to the bricks. Once this had dried I then filled any cracks with an interior filler to create a smooth surface. Although not visible I also filled/caulked any other areas to ensure the cupboard, once the doors were shut, was completely sealed. After the joists had aired and were completely dry I refitted the floorboards.

Now the structural problems had been remedied I was ready to paint. When looking at a space I always think of what it is to be used for. In this case the cupboard is being restored so it can once again function as a larder. I therefore opted to seal the walls with a Zinsser product which was safe to use in food areas. The walls were painted in a water based Fired Earth eggshell which is wipeable and low odour. The cupboard doors were painted with Bedec Aqua Advance Satin finish- again low odour and non yellowing- to provide a longer lasting finish. After the paint had sufficient drying time secured the door furniture and fittings and the cupboard was ready to use....

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