Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Blurred lines

After day five, the days spent at Tylden on the old house have sort of blurred in to one. I'm not saying that in a bad way, more so that there's plenty to do and so much happening at once.

While Pete and I have concentrated on 'taking out the termites' and all things wooden they have gnawed, some attention to other building materials has been required. Namely bricks and stone.

About 6 months ago I was marvelling at how Greg Pennington was building his new tool shed with stone foundations and at the same time wondering if the same building technique was prevalent in Australia at some point. Short answer, Tylden certainly was built that way.

The main issues I feel that have contributed to the demise of the house over the past 50 or so years has been the constant building up of soil and concrete around the perimeter of the house. Termites like damp and moist areas and nothing makes an area damp like stopping air flow. In fact the concrete and soil were so high up the walls it was impossible to see just what the building was sitting on, until we excavated a little.

After removing all the built up top soil and concrete we are now nearly 250mm lower than the top of the concrete at the back door as seen here.

Only then could we see that the stone foundations, set with lime mortar, had been well laid and indeed rendered with lime mortar as a finished surface. Just like a good dry stone wall, they had considerable large flagstones at the base and smaller well fitted pieces as the height rose. Most of the outside perimeter stone walls were all in very good order, still sound after a good 150 years. Which says something for lime mortar….and good workmanship too.

But unfortunately a short run of stone wall on the Northern side of the kitchen which led to the original house, had succumbed to years of non-existent drainage from the roofs spouting ( gutter ) above it. Add to this the huge invasive tree roots of the Banksia tree a few metres away and it was not surprising it had crumbled.

The corner in question behind the Banksia tree.

A friend in town recommended a good bricklayer and after a quick phone call, Ken and his son Travis came out to have a look at both the foundations and other actual brick work that needed attention. I've been told more than once since,  we were extremely lucky to get them at short notice. It seemed they had a few days spare between jobs.

After a look around, we arranged to collect some bricks and Ken and Travis came back on the Monday and started. Travis rebuilt the stone foundation on the North wall and Ken started to rebuild the central brick structure that held up the old iron water tank and internal kitchen wall.

In all three whole days were spent working on the tank stand wall, kitchen foundations and two kitchen chimneys. The results speak for themselves.

 Newly mortared kitchen foundations…. including an original cast vent from else where in the building

The left fireplace which would have housed a combustion stove at one point. It only had one skin of bricks precariously holding up the entire chimney and laid on remnants of floorboards and floor joists!

The same skin removed and whole chimney propped up on the lintel, inside! At one point we though the whole lot might collapse…..

Travis putting the finishing touches to the new double skin chimney wall.

 The old and worn out base of the second chimney.
The same chimney re finished. The fire place crane or 'swingle' even came loose after being seized.

 Tank stand stripped down …..
And beautifully rebuilt.
When taking away an old section of concrete on the right side of the second chimney and a pile of rocks and rubble it was poured on, I found one of the original grates providing air flow into the main house. To think it's been covered for well one 100 years. Gives me hope that there will be more to uncover as we clear the concrete and detritus from around the rest of the house. Fingers crossed.

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