Saturday, June 5, 2010

From the floor up

This post is to try and get the blog up to date with the house so lots of pics and a few basic explanations.

 After gluing the beams in place I plastered between them using a mix of water, PVA and standard hardware shop plaster. If you are doing this, use masking tape as if you own shares in a tape company! I found the only way to clean it off was to sand it (although as I had used outdoor cement grade plaster at first this may be why) It was then I discovered that I had placed the beams the wrong way around.  For anyone interested in historical accuracy, they should be put in 'flat' so that the widest side is against the structure they are supporting, not the modern way which positions the beam on its edge using the width of the beam as its strength. This is why floors sag in older buildings.

Next were the fireplaces which were bricked using this wonderful tutorial:  I remain in awe of the talented people online and how readily they share their ideas. After a few false starts with the kitchen fireplace (I had cut the hole too big and too close to the scullery door way for a solid effect, the walls were ready to be papered (in the sitting room) and timbered in both downstairs rooms. The paper I chose was Acorns which seemed fitting for an 'oak'framed cottage and was bought from who is my favourite online retailer for price, variety and service for DIY.

The timbering is being made from a stained and damaged set of wooden venetian blinds which had been destined for the tip. Each slat is about an inch wide and about 2mm thick, so is really easy to work with. Because of the water staining, after cutting, I have restained the slats with oak stain which has come up darker than I planned but I think in the 30s dark oak was fashionable so that is okay. Papering with timbering is the easiest thing I have done so far. You don't have to cut the paper perfectly as edges will be covered. Papering after timbering is a different story! I did one wall of having to trim paper to fit between wonky timbers before realising that.  I cut each slat in half lengthwise, (can be done with a ruler and craft knife) roughed up the edges and stained, trimmed to fit and glued into place. Unlike cornices and architraves, you don't have to worry about angles.

The kitchen however was another plastering job, so it was slats first then plaster again with lots of cleaning up, retouching the woodwork (it had gone a beautiful weathered finish which would be perfect for outside but looked unloved and faintly 'haunted' inside) and painting the plaster ('Double Glaze' by British paints) As it was a bit pristine, I have given it a dirtying teabag rub which shows in real life but disappears in a photo.

While working on these bits I started the 3 doors off these rooms, scullery, sitting room and larder. I decided these would be painted so was able to make them from 3mm MDF,  scoring the boards and using craft sticks as bracing.

Flooring was the next step. Again I wanted to use the egg carton method but as we have hens and no egg cartons, I had prudently saved the packaging from Mr 13's electronic pride and joy. Cutting the random flagstones (with help >>>) was reasonably easy. I had charted up an eighth of the floor with plans to make 8 panels and just rotate each around for effect. In theory that should work perfectly, in practice I ended up with piles of miscellaneous shaped cardboard blocks and had to fit each one in place individually. Gluing them down was my first indication that this wasn't going to be as easy as the egg carton bricks. The edges curled, the middles swelled randomly and they began to split. More glue and a flattening with an old flatiron helped. Work got in the way, so I only had brief half hours to play with the house, no time for troubleshooting.
The day of painting arrived. A special trip to buy some slate grey paint held the disastrous moment up. As soon as the entire floor was coated, I noticed that as it dried the packaging was splitting away in layers. There was nothing to do but let it dry and hope for the best. The split layers peeled away giving a touch more 'rusticity' but didn't look too bad I thought, until my daughter told me (with no softening platitudes) that it looked cold and institutional. Sadly I could see that she was right, so out came more paints in brown shades and I wondered if there would be any flag stones left when these split too.
Miraculously they painted beautifully! Grouting was fiddlier. Because the surface was so rough, I knew I couldn't just smear grout (made from watery plaster with paint added) all over, so I carefully found a used cliplock bag for a piping bag, only noticing after I had started and the grout was oozing over my hand that the bag had a number of other holes. It was easier by then just to smear it over, clean up what I could, touch up the centres of the flagstones and walk away!
A couple of coats of flat folk art varnish and approximately 6 hours (total) of working on it and the downstairs floor was finally finished!  I am tempted to add a metal ring to one of the flagstones, but as there would be no mystery about it, won't.

My neighbour and friend, Cherie, then gave me something she thought I would like because she was pretty sure I wouldn't have one: an egg carton! Little did she guess what a welcome and multipurpose gift it was.

To finish off, I have been playing with the doors today so that they can be hung and putting a brick floor in the larder. Satisfaction has returned and the house is once again online.


  1. This is looking sooo good! I love what you have done, especially the inglenook fireplaces and doors! The old egg cartons DO come in handy, I know I will get to use them on my next project.

    Looking forward to see this little cottage progress!

    Michelle xx

  2. Welcome, Michelle and thank you very much. As I said while visiting, your 40s house is inspirational!