Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Guttering: system of open pipes on a building that collects and carries away rain

It's been raining a lot in the South West of England.  For a long time.  Climate change?  Maybe, maybe not.  If you are reading from outside of the UK, just google "Somerset Levels Flooding" and you will see just a little of the problem that we've had this winter.  Further south than Somerset, here in Dorset, our flooding has not been so traumatic, but water goes a long way and sometimes here in the confines of our little cottage, things happen!  In July 2012, we had a short but intense adventure because of a heavy storm here.  Now, two years later, a little something turned into a rather big something.  I'll try and make a long story short, but I blog this by way of a warning.... you'll have to read to the end!

On 23 December, we had water in our bathroom (no really, not from the taps!!) when rainwater started to run down the wall between our bathroom (added in 1900) and the original housewall probably built around 1800.  No-one does much over the Christmas holiday, but we managed with saucepans and towels until mid January, when it stopped raining for a few days to allow workmen up the scaffolding.  We've had new lead lining in the gulley between us and next door and we had an "end" put on next door's  guttering, as that was where the water was actually coming from. We didn't know that the end of that run of guttering was missing... it's at the back of our house, and because of the layout of the terrace, it is not something we thought to check.  Ever.  Anyway, we paid for a new "end" to next door's guttering (a few £s only for that, the cheapest bit of all the work but the cause of some heartache and a hole in the bank account.......!)

Next the plasterer, to work on the ceiling of the archway which was formed by cutting though the original house wall when the newer bit of the house, now the bathroom and kitchen, was added in 1900.  The house walls are around 21 inches thick - solid stone.  The plaster on the ceiling of this opening had to come off, as half of it had fallen down when the leak was at it's worst.  So he chipped it all off.  What he exposed was the original lintel, a 3 inch thick piece of oak (thank goodness it was oak, read on!).  The water egress had been happening for far longer than any of us imagined - Two thirds of the lintel was wet rot, and above it, the rest of the house wall!  Imagine!  The thing is...... our house, built in around 1800, with mortar would have been lime mortar.  When you centrally heat a house with old lime mortar eventually it dries out and crumbles. And what was above that rotting oak?  several large stones in the original house wall, with nothing holding them up at all, the mortar having crumbled.   EEEK!

Thank goodness, the plasterer is actually an all round builder.  He brought in an acroprop (huge peice of metal that holds up ceilings when people knock walls down), shored it up and fitted a concrete lintel.  Then re-mortared all the stones (not with lime).  And finally, when we were talking about the roof space which was never insulated, he asked me if I wanted it done whilst there was a hole in the bathroom ceiling?  Yes I did!  So we are now safe from falling masonry, have a fully insulated roof space, and tomorrow will have everything covered by a new coat of plaster.

We are happy, warmer,  and several hundred pounds poorer.  BUT THE POINT IS:  see what a missing bit of guttering can do?  Check around your house ASAP!!