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The first big makeover project

Updated: Jan 2

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a while. It’s not from lack of progress, more that I planned to blog about this when it was finished, but the job kind of grew. A lot.

As we headed into March, we thought the weather might suit outdoor work. What a lot we still have to learn about north Devon. We had planned to attack the Matron’s apartment, a self-contained run of rooms on the first floor of the more recent service wing, which I wrote about in the earlier blog ‘A splash of colour‘. It wasn’t in bad shape when we bought, though a year of being a bit damp, with a bit of a slow leak through the chimney flashings, had taken its toll. It needed rescuing. Happily, because it’s already an apartment with its own council tax bill, it isn’t so much of a planning issue.

This is what had happened to the north end of the apartment by the end of a year…

So before we could start internal makeovers, we had to address those leaks. Here are those troublesome chimneys. We were hoping it was just the chimneys, not a whole troublesome roof.

To get at them we had to scaffold to the roof. So we decided we might as well decorate the outside of the apartment too. You can see how the job grew. Because it’s not just painting. And it’s not just the walls. The list became: fix chimney flashings, check over the roof, repair the guttering and the fascia and barge boards behind the guttering (at least I’m improving my vocabulary…fascia boards are the horizontal wooden bits beneath the roof eaves and barge boards are the ones that go at an angle meeting at the point of the roof), jet wash the walls to remove loose paint and render, chip off the old plastic paint coating, repair the rendered walls with lime or lime putty and repaint. Oh and renovate the sash windows.

So up went the scaffolding. You can see where we had a few trials of paint removal techniques. Jet wash, hot jet wash, chemical strippers, shot blasting and good old hammers and chisels.

Right after the scaffold went up we got a bit worried as we had a couple of kids climbing it, and the same week reports of burglaries at the building site next door (though this ended up being just miscommunication between different contractors moving stuff around).

Anyhow, first bit of good news was that the flashings were an easy repair job and the roof was sound. I bought a couple of chimney pots to go on the blank chimney stack, almost matching some of the original ones. We thought it would be good to seal up the top and just keep them vented, rather then the current open holes pouring rain water into the flat below. They’ll go on later from the west side, when we plan to build a bigger scaffold.

Not such good news on the guttering and boards, though.

And on to the walls. We started small, with jet wash and brush, then a bit of chipping away at the cracks. Which is where things really escalate. It’s a bit like picking a scab…

So what started as a plan to touch up cracks ended up with all the render stripped off, bits of wall repaired with new bits of stone and bricks and mesh, including rebuilding the window arches. The bits of original render that were fine were so small it wasn’t worth trying to render around them in the end. Briefly we had a stone wing!

Up to now, things have gone backwards. But next, things start to go back together. I’m going to keep you waiting for that! Next post….

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Moreton House, Abbotsham Road, Bideford, Devon, EX39 3QW

moretonhousedevon@gmail.com

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