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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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Building Progress ~ May 2011

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

Oh dear, a little late with my update – been on holiday, now can I remember what I did in May…?

The newly laid lawn is coming on green and lush, with a few bald patches and some unsightly lumps and bumps – but all-in-all looking pretty good.

Pointing is pretty much done – no official announcement as yet but near as damn-it done, just three years after starting…

…and then there’s filling in the eaves. I spent a weekend boarding up the back, then one on the front, then another on pointing the gap between the wall and the boarding – read more about it on this post. Just need to repaint them and fit mesh over the ends that I’ve left open to allow some airflow.

I must have spent the best part of a cumulative day bashing my way through the wall getting the TV aerial cable from outside to in. I still finding it amazing how long even the simplest seeming jobs can take. At least it’s there now.

Also made a start on painting the second bedroom – it feels strange starting work again inside – especially when the sun is shining.

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Building Progress ~ April 2011

Category: Barn Conversion Journal May 11th, 2011 by mbc

With the good weather continuing working outside has been my main occupation.

The flag-stone fronted raised bed at the bottom of the main garden slope has been completed.

On the pointing front, I’ve still got just a couple of patches to finish – smaller patches than they were in March as I’ve been able to spend a couple of days pointing recently. I’ve completed all the easy bits with the two remaining patches requiring some enabling work – I’ve extended the concrete pad that the gas bottles stand on so the bottles can now be moved to allow me to complete the pointing behind them and I still need to move the TV aerial to complete the pointing around it. The problem I have with the aerial is the thickness of the walls – I’m really struggling to get a hole through the wall that I can pass the aerial cable through permanently… that’ll be next weekends job. The need for some kind of permanent, open duct or channel from inside to outside (obviously with doors, suitable insulation etc.) is one of those features that with hind-sight I should have allowed for. There are a few places where we’ve gone from inside to out – various vents and water overflows – all of which have been opened and then permanently closed off again with no allowance for future usage. Next time!

The oak lintels over the south facing windows have had another couple of coats of wood preservative and they really catch the weather.

I’ve spent a lot of time this month preparing the ground at the back of the barn for laying to lawn. After a couple of doses of weed-killer then many a happy hour or ten of raking out stones and roots I got the ground prepared eventually. Fertiliser and the seed went down last weekend – pictures are here.

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Building Progress ~ March 2011

Category: Barn Conversion Journal April 8th, 2011 by mbc

It’s been mainly outdoor work this month thanks to the pretty good weather.

I completed the flag-stone patio and I’ve concreted a top onto the dry-stone wall that runs along one side of it. I have built my (not-quite-as-deep-as-I-planned) barbeque pit and started to build a flag-stone fronted raised bed at the bottom of the main garden slope.

I’ve not made much progress in the wood with clearing trees to let the sunlight in, having been diverted by cutting and splitting logs that were kindly donated from my neighbours wood-pile. Next winters fuel is hopefully pretty well sorted. An additional benefit is that I’ve managed to get my chainsaw cutting much more efficiently by a combination of sharpening the blade and figuring out the correct tightness for the chain.

Now I’m back on to pointing with just a couple of patches to finish and hopefully no interruptions from the weather. I nearly made a start last weekend, but wasn’t happy with the mortar mix which was too yellowy as I used a new kiln dried sand, so I used that mix to start pointing the garden walls instead.

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Pointing with lime mortar ~ Part 2 = Mortar

Category: Starter for 10 December 31st, 2010 by mbc




Lime Pointing Tips

As I near the end of my repointing opus magnum I feel a little more qualified to advise on pointing with lime mortar than on most of the subjects I blather on about on this blog.

So here’s my take on all things lime mortar related – others may have differing guidelines – this is very much my take. This post is this second in the series.

Firstly, I covered the tools of the (pointing) trade now I’ll move onto lime mortar and how to make it.




From Pointing ~ tools

Mortar
What went before?
When repointing an old building you may want to match the new mortar to the original mortar – a similar mortar mix, with a similar colour and texture. Many lime suppliers will analyse a piece of your original mortar and suggest the best way to achieve a match. Alternatively, you might want to do your own piece of psuedo-science and like me carry out your own lime analysis with a piece of the original mortar and an acid to dissolve the lime.

From your analysis you’ll start to form a picture of the exact mortar mix you’ll be using. You need to stick with the same mix for the whole of the job to ensure consistency of finish so make sure you’ve enough raw materials before you start.

Putty or powder?
One of the first questions you need to answer is what type of lime you’re going to use. There are two main choices – lime putty or powdered hydraulic lime.

Fat lime putty is produced by slaking quicklime with excessive amounts of water, thus forming a lime putty with a high water content. This form of lime does not set unless it comes into contact with air and so is ideal where some degree of flexibility is required – below the surface the lime does not fully set and so if the mortar cracks the newly exposed lime will set and re-establish a sound joint.

Natural hydraulic lime (NHL) dry powder products are similar in appearance and usage to dry powder cement products. Differing strengths of hydraulic lime products are available:

  • Feebly hydraulic lime (known as NHL 1 & 2), is slow setting (taking up to 20 days to set in wet conditions) and is suitable for internal use or external use where the masonry being pointed is very soft.
  • Moderately hydraulic lime (NHL 3.5), faster setting and used for pointing most types of stonework.
  • Eminently hydraulic lime (NHL 5), faster setting again and used for very exposed areas of pointing or floors.

As a rule of thumb you should never use a lime that sets harder than any masonry it’s in contact with.

Personally, I work with and recommend lime putty for pointing masonry walls which is where my experience lies.

Mortar Mixing
Powdered lime mortar can be treated pretty similarly to cement and a mixed by hand or in a cement mixer.

For mixing lime putty there are three main methods, in ascending order of ease and cost:

  1. By hand
  2. Using a drill with mixer attachment.
  3. By mortar mill (a £2000+ option)

I tend to mix small amounts of mortar as I use it – the equivalent of about four shovels-full of mortar lasts me about half a day. I use a drill with a mixer attachment. For most amateurs working on their own that is more than sufficient. Each mix takes 5 or 10 minutes and usually comes as welcome relief from starring at a wall. Originally I mixed by hand, which is a lot more time consuming, but good exercise and I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from starting off in that way.

One advantage of using a putty based mortar is that any left unused can be stored, covered over and kept dry and then knocked up (that is worked briskly with a trowel) the next day or week ready to be used – only the top most layer will go off in contact with the air. Add a little splash of water if it dries out a bit.

Be careful when adding water to lime mortar at any stage – a little goes a long way.

You can also buy premixed mortar in which case no mixing is required. I’ve only come across a premixed mortar when being used by a neighbour – the mortar failed to go off and needed to be replaced so I’d certainly approach premix with caution.

When using a mortar gun you’ll need a smoother and sloppier mix than normal. No stones, pebbles or lumps of mortar or you’ll clog up the gun.

The mix I use, which gives a light coloured finish similar to the original mortar is:

  • 1 part lime putty
  • 2 parts builders sand
  • 1/2 (half) part kiln dried sand (for colour and to dry down the mix a little)
  • 1/2 part sharp sand
  • – this gives me some texture and a some particles than the builders sand alone, when using the mortar gun this can be left out to ensure a smooth mix

You’ll need to derive your own mix that suits your circumstances – then stick with it for the duration of your project.

In Part 3 I go on to discuss pointing technique

Previously… In Part 1 we looked at tools for pointing

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