Beware Refurbishing 33

The flat I'm staying in is piled high with the boxes we spent the weekend packing and labeling. Downstairs Karol and Rafal are fixing the new joists to the front raised-ground floor. When I came in from the British Library just now I took out my phone to grab a snap of the progress. Rafal, who was bashing at the Acrow props, called out to Karol to say cheese (in the Polish equivalent), so I whipped round and took a photo of him instead. He comes first, then a couple of the floor (one of them with a side view of Karol).

Posted on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 12:15PM by Registered CommenterZina Rohan | CommentsPost a Comment

Beware Refurbishing 32

Bartek has gone to Poland for New Year, and won’t be back till 8th – the same day that Boss Builder returns from his jaunt to the Polish mountains. Sebastian is…actually, I have no idea where he is. Meanwhile, Karol and Rafal are here, although in theory they shouldn’t be as this Saturday was supposed to be a free day for them. Karol explains that they need to get the old floor joists out and the new ones in, fixed at least in the front raised ground floor room, so that chipboard can be laid on top all in time for next weekend. And why the rush? Because the young couple, who are really meant to be living in this flat, are arriving tomorrow from their Christmas break to pack up all their stuff and move everything out. That means that the entrance hall, currently only allowing one person at a time to sidle past the piled up water tank, washing machine, and sundry large items, has to be cleared to allow the removals to proceed.
Here’s a picture of the raised ground floor living room at the moment, with its floating fire place.

I have come across the following in an extremely long article by a Dr Druitt in the February 25th edition of The Builder of 1860.

 “…there are four questions, which should be asked concerning every house. Is it protected from malaria, or emanations from the soil? Is it adequate as a protection against cold, and does it supply such ab amount of fresh air and sunlight as shall be a protection against scrofula and other diseases of decay? Is it so drained that the inmates shall not suffer from diarrhoea and other sewer diseases? And lastly, is it so arranged that it shall not be a breeding-place for pestilence, nor yet a lurking-place, if it happens to enter from without?’

Some thousands of words later Dr Druitt wraps up:

‘Lastly, let me say that looking to the number of conveniences of life which society intervenes to procure for its poorer members such as churches, clergy, schools, libraries, baths, washhouses, saving-banks, clubs, hospitals and dispensaries; relief in destitution, over and above the legal pittance; work for the unemployed, reformation for the fallen, and even protection of the brute from cruelty, it were reasonable to extend the present machinery for the providing homes for the poor, and controlling them. At present we have associations which erect or repair model dwelling here and there; and all honour be to them. But we really want bodies whose functions shall be conterminous with every parish, which shall take poor dwellings whenever vacant; compete with the present sordid owners of house property; take, cleanse, improve, and let poor apartments at such a rate as shall just avoid loss; and find their profit in an improved public health.’

Almost 100 years later The Metropolitan Borough of St Pancras (Labour), later to become Camden Council (Labour) did just that. Those were the days.

Posted on Saturday, December 30, 2017 at 12:26PM by Registered CommenterZina Rohan | CommentsPost a Comment

Beware Refurbishing 31

28th December

Scary stuff. Bartek, Sebastian, Karol and Rafal have installed the steel frame and they're taking down the chimney breasts. But because they can't yet position the steels to hold up the chimney breasts above, we're back to the Acrow props and boards. Where the chimney breasts are being taken down are sooty black holes. I have no idea what happens next.

Poor guys, though. There was a giant concrete lintel over the one on the raised ground floor - and the weight of it! They haven't complained, though maybe because they couldn't find the words - in English and/or repeatable.

Meanwhile I have been at the British Library. The Builder weekly journal of 1860 carries news of tenders, auctions, ads for things like special offers on mahogany flooring (lots of those), polished granite (for tombs not worktops), terracotta drains, and pictures of rather complex water closets.


Yet it is mostly articles, many of them not only long but verbose. The Victorians in the trade were prepared to read....and read...and read. And clearly, they expected their on-the-ground builders to do the same. So that the pattern books I mentioned a while ago were also hefty affairs with pages of detail. Next picture is the front page warning readers of the upcoming content they must master.

Inside I read about the bracing expected in partition walls, none of which I have seen in my flat. But to be fair (why does one have to fair?) the author was talking about First Rate Houses. His complaints that builders weren't up to standard only applied to being lax on the job for First Rate Houses. I couldn't find any demands made for houses lower down the ranking.

Posted on Thursday, December 28, 2017 at 12:21PM by Registered CommenterZina Rohan | CommentsPost a Comment

Beware Refurbishing 30

December 27th

Bartek, Sebastian, Karol and Rafal are all here, having arrived in boss builder's grey van all together. That's the good thing, or an extra good thing about the boss being away on holiday while you have to work: public transport from Ealing to Kentish Town takes forever. 

They unloaded a mass of stuff...chipboard to go under the flooring when we're ready for that, and the new floor joists to replace the original ones that were all of different thicknesses and heights, which is what gave the floors their interesting and unnecessary indoor camber.

For now, though, they are doing something so violent that not only is this house shaking but I feel the entire terrace must be shuddering in alarm, or possibly sympathy. I do hope the neighbours are out. Work, pub, sales... Anywhere else will do.

Later: the doorbell of the top flat where I am staying goes. Karol is asking me if I am going to be out or stay in. Why?

Because we are going to make a large hole outside this door, (he points to the hall exactly outside the front door of the upstairs flat). It will not have support so to stand here will be dangerous.

How long will the hole be there?

Maybe two days.

Now this could be a problem. When anyone leaves the top flat, they come down the stairs to a door which opens directly into that hall, so the final step, which was onto joist and floorboard-supported carpet, will now be into a hole. And at night, on the way back in, there is no light in the hall, remember. We discuss and he decides they will put chipboard over the hole. I must make sure no one heavy drops by. I hesitate to say ‘in’.

Can I look? I say, peering through the partially open door of my real flat.

Yes, but not now. It’s dangerous.

I peer more, without moving. I can see a steel beam fixed to the party wall next door (please let them be out!) and the central supporting wooden beam, is nowhere. No joists either for a gap of about four feet between what was the two lower ground-floor bedrooms. I retreat – to write this.

Posted on Wednesday, December 27, 2017 at 07:10AM by Registered CommenterZina Rohan | CommentsPost a Comment

Beware Refurbishing 29

It's very quiet here. And odd. Where are my young Poles? Are they having a good time? Have they chosen their 'not dead' carp?

Posted on Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 02:31PM by Registered CommenterZina Rohan | CommentsPost a Comment
Page | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Next 5 Entries