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Lime | My Barn Conversion

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Building Progress August 2012

Category: Barn Conversion Journal September 11th, 2012 by mbc

Shelving and lime mortar dominated August.

In the utility room, work continued installing shelving, using wood reclaimed from the animal stalls that once occupied the current kitchen. Using the same materials, I also built a wide high-level shelf in the kitchen that runs level with of the top of the kitchen cupboards and hides the slightly off centre vent pipe for the kitchen extractor fan and provides some more much needed storage.

I’ve also tidied up around the foot of the external walls, filling any small gaps that remained in the pointing or in the join between the wall and path. I also needed to rebuild the thick mortar foot of the whitewashed gable-end wall. The mortar footing hides the cable that runs from the satellite dish into the barn. The whitewashed gable-end really catches the weather and with two window sills dripping onto the footing it had crumbled over the last couple of years. So I rebuilt it using a stronger lime mortar mix – TWICE! The first attempt got washed away in places, despite being covered, by the soggy summer.

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Turn in the stair…

Category: Favourite Things July 5th, 2012 by mbc

Oak staircase, white clay painted walls, oak beam and ‘bag rub pointed’ masonry wall…

From Barn Conversion 2012

It’s these places in the barn where differing materials and finishes meet and harmonise that work really well.

@Cornish_Lime a recent acquaintance via Twitter have a article on their website about the bag rub finish worth a read if you’re interested.

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Limewash recipe

Category: Barn Conversion Journal July 20th, 2011 by mbc

The limewashed gable-end of the barn, done in October 2008 needs a bit of a touch-up so I’ve been looking for a ‘recipe’ for limewash.

The builder who originally limewashed it for me used a bagged hydrated lime mixed with water in something like a 3/4:1 (75kg/100kg water:25kg lime) mix.

But as I’ve still got half a dozen buckets of lime putty available, I thought I’d look for a putty based recipe.

Over on the green building forum Gervase Webb kindly gives the following recipe:

one bucket of putty to one and a half buckets of water and half a cup of linseed oil

Out of interest the recipe using bagged hydrated lime is:

Put 40 litres of water in a plastic dustbin, add one 25 kilo bag of hydrated lime, leave for a couple of days and then beat it up with a paddle mixer, again with a cup of linseed oil added

…which I guess gives a more creamy mix than the 3/4:1 mix I referred to earlier.

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Repointing – done!

Category: Barn Conversion Journal June 29th, 2011 by mbc

It is with a mixed sense of delight (at having no more pointing to do) and dismay (at having no more pointing to do) that I can report that I’ve completed repointing the barn.

There’s still work to be done on pointing the garden walls and the arches over the original windows and doors still need some attention, but the real time-consuming, day-after-day effort is over and done with.

I’ve already found plenty of other things to do, but after having spent over four years repointing the barn (although I stopped for a year or so around 2008/9) there’s a small part of me that with miss the sore hands and starring at a wall for hours on end…

…anyway, onwards and upwards…

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Pointing with lime mortar ~ Part 3 = Technique

Category: Starter for 10 February 24th, 2011 by mbc

Lime Pointing Tips

Here’s my take on how to go about pointing with a lime based mortar – others may have differing guidelines – this is very much my take.

This post is this third in the series.

In the first instalment, I covered the tools of the (pointing) trade.

The second instalment was about lime mortar and how to go about making it.

Now in part three I’ll address – pointing technique


Firstly the old mortar joints will need cleaning out. If the old mortar is really rotten or dirty then a pressure washer can be used initially to clean down the masonry and blast out any really lose rotten mortar.

With a hand pick work back the mortar to give a repointable joint. When repointing over old mortar, a joint of around 25mm / 1 inch depth will allow a good packing in of fresh mortar that will be able to carbonate externally and remain stable over time. Too deep a treatment and the deepest mortar, deep in the joint and away from the air will remain too moist and too flexible and potentially be unstable. For deep joints point in ‘shifts’ of 25mm or so at a time, allow the mortar to go-off between applications. If you can’t get down to the ideal 25mm joint don’t worry too much, I’ve pointed plenty of shallower joints that are still sound after several years.

Some advisors on the subject talk about the need for a squared internal surface to point up against (in contrast to a rounded one). Whilst probably ideal, this is time consuming to achieve and so unless you’re lucky enough to have abundant time for your pointing project I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Square the corners if you can, but don’t fret about it if you can’t.

If the existing mortar is sound, then I leave it in place – if it ain’t broke

Before applying new mortar, damp down the wall before pointing. Use a bristled brush and a bucket of water. Personally, I favour a ‘flick’ technique – water in bucket – dip brush and flick! Get right into the joints that you’re repointing. The warmer the day the keener you’ll need to be. On a generally damp, cold, dismal day (not that we get many of those in Wales!) your damping down will likely be minimal.

It’s best to point a wall top-down – that way you can damp down the wall without damaging or washing out previously pointed joints lower down the wall.

So, to work…
Load your small pointing hawk with a trowel full of mortar, then using your trowel of choice (either a ‘normal’ pointing trowel or a smaller ‘trowel and square tool’ as I discussed in part 1) take up a sliver of mortar on the back-face of the trowel appropriate to the size and shape of the joint you are pointing and push the mortar into the joint. Use the trowel to work the mortar fully into the joint and tidy up any that doesn’t go where you want it to.

After pointing a length of joint or a discrete area of wall then go back over your work, tidying and smoothing along the length of joints to get a consistent finish.

…and repeat…

Where you have wide and / or deep joints it’s important to use pinning stones to reduce the width / depth of the joints and so reduce the amount of mortar you need which in turn will reduce the time needed for setting and carbonation of the joint.

For very narrow or very shallow joints do what you can. Sometimes you’ll need to pack the mortar into a very narrow joint – place a blob of mortar on the joint and repeatedly press the mortar into the joint, hopefully filling it slowly. I’ve been known to build up very shallow joints to stand proud of the masonry surface, although this is more of a cosmetic affectation than a practical necessity.

Cleaning up
I must admit to being a bit lax when it comes to finishing the joints. Ideally, after around 24 hours you will tidy up your pointing. At this stage the surface of the mortar will be hard with softer mortar underneath. A brush with stiff bristles (but not too stiff as you’ll just end up ruining your good work of the day before) can be used to tidy up the joints, remove excess ‘tags’ of mortar and mortar that is misplaced on the masonary.

When to point
You can point for most of the year in the UK (except perhaps in the far north), I tend to ‘retire’ over the Winter – Novemberish to Marchish. Keep an eye on the five day forecast when pointing and have a tarpaulin or sacking ready to cover over any pointing should a sharp shower unexpectedly arrive. Don’t let rain anywhere near your freshly pointed joints. Beyond that, fill your pointing boots…

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Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

I’m having a moan on twitter… https://twitter.com/barnconversion/status/368427314868396032

A lovely Flemish barn conversion

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Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

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Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

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Our engineers … our architects – Le Corbusier

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Plaid Cymru’s Green New Deal promise

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Permitted development extension limits to be doubled

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Lloyd Khan, making shelter simple.

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