Our living room was always the big draw, with its large oak beams and huge inglenook fireplace, it has the wow factor for anyone who visits. Admittedly, our cottage doesn’t suit everyone, especially with its low beams, but its perfect for us. Not that we are short by any means, Nicholas bumps his head multiple times a week on the beams, but somehow it is perfect for us and our lifestyle.
When we moved into our cottage we knew that a lot of work was required and over the 10 years of living here we have been through a lot of upheaval undertaking various projects to improve our home and bring the cottage back to its former glory. We always knew the living room would be the most difficult to renovate, not just the technical aspect, but finding someone knowledgeable in dealing with old buildings. We also needed time to be able to visualise how we wanted the room to look and feel. We needed to research and experience traditional welsh cottages as they would have been in years gone by, so that we could have a healthy mix of original features and modern living.
in 2017 we finally found the perfect builders to carry out the work for us and you can see the results below. The fundamentals of the room are still here, but we have stripped away some of the work that was carried out over the last 100 years, work that was done incorrectly. There is now a calmness to the room, as if the cottage is saying, "thank you, I can breathe again". Scroll down to view more photos and read about the renovation......
A few years prior to moving in, previous owners laid new laminate flooring. This did look very nice, all shiny and lovely. However because there were fundamental issues with the floor underneath, the laminate flooring started to deteriorate rather quickly. If you look at the first photo below you can see the laminate starting to come up. Its not difficult to see the damp around the skirting boards either. The living room end of the cottage was taking the brunt of the weather along with water from our neighbours gutters too.
Our first job of the build was to have drainage work done outside which has helped tremendously. The house next door was built around 1905 and for many years their gutters naturally drained into the ground which ran straight down to our cottage. This was one of the reasons why our cottage was so damp. So we had drainage work done outside which has made a real improvement.
Once the drainage was complete we could then start on the build. There were 101 decisions to make daily, but one that we knew we definitely wanted was a reclaimed slate flagstone floor. It's probable that the original floor at some point during the cottages life was slate. We have found many old slates used as stepping stones and paths in the garden and there were still some located under the boiler. We also know that parts of the floor were cobbled as we found in situ cobbles during the build.
We searched high and low for local reclaimed slate flagstones and managed to find three individuals selling flagstones which were suitable for our cottage. The first was a batch that had been sitting in storage on a farm for some years. The second was from an old school that was being renovated in New Quay (Wales) and the biggest batch came from an old jewellery shop in Lampeter. The building was originally a gentlemen’s outfitters and dated back to a similar age as our cottage, early 1700's so perfect for our needs. The shop was being renovated and turned into a florists and they found the slate under two layers of flooring. What a find!
We also needed to replace our patio doors, the photo below shows that they were actually internal doors. They were single glazed and very draughty. You might also be able to see the plinth in the fireplace in the photo below. It is not original, we weren't sure how long it had been there but it didn’t add anything to the room, so we felt it needed to go, along with the Victorian era cupboard next to the fireplace, out of shot.
You will also notice in the photos above there is a 'post' supporting the large oak beam. We installed this when we moved in as we were unsure as to how secure the large oak beam was. The majority of it had rotted off many years previously, most likely when the roof was thatched and neglected. It had been repaired about 100 years ago by way of inserting an additional piece of wood into the wall and bolting it to the beam. However we wanted to improve on this remedy and ensure that the beam remained solid and safe for generations to come. So our builders removed the old Victorian fix and replaced it with a piece of steal as you can see below.......
The builders first held up the beam using an acro prop. They then used a very sharp chainsaw and sliced vertically through the beam. They inserted a pre made piece of steal with holes drilled and slotted it into the beam, extending into the wall. It lay on a concrete pad and was then bolted into place. We visited a wood reclamation yard about 10 miles from here in a pretty remote location and were able to choose an old oak beam which the carpenter would use to clad the steel.
As you can see in the photo, the new piece of cladded oak is encased around the steal structure in an 'L' shape. The lime render meets the edge of the beam and looks and feels as though the beam is essentially in the wall. The drilled holes where the pieces of steel were bolted through were filled using wood filler and Nicholas used ink and boot polish to blend the wood filler in. If you look closely in the photo you can just about see them. Isn’t it incredible! It was one of the most fascinating parts of the build to watch. Also extremely satisfying not having a post in the middle of our room any longer!
To keep down building costs, we did as much as we could ourselves. Nicholas owns an SDS drill and wanted to remove the render on the front wall very carefully so as to not damage the stone. We intended for the wall to be left exposed and to be lime pointed. When we removed the render it was obvious to see that the window sill had been raised at some point in the past. The original oak noggins and part of the old sill was visible about 10 inches below the current sill. We asked our builder to reduce the height back to how it was originally. The window looks and feels the 'correct' shape now as you can see below.
The photo below shows the build in full swing. At this point we had already removed the Victorian cupboard to the left of the fireplace. The plinth in the fireplace is gradually disappearing too!
It was an exciting time as they started to lay the slate slab floor. I did feel so sorry for the builders as it was pouring with rain for the few days they were laying the slabs. Using disc cutters to cut the slate outside in the wet was tricky to say the least....
Starting too look like a proper floor.
At this point things are coming together. After 6 months of upheaval, we were so pleased to see the floor grouted and clean. Here Nicholas had started to oil the floor and it started to show what the end result would eventually look like.
testimonials.....Hi Melanie and Nicholas,
Just a quick note tank you very much for the recent picture you did for my wife. We are both very pleased with your work and we will be recommending you to both family and friends. We look forward to seeing you and your work at Crufts in March 2000 and also meeting your acquaintance. Well once again thanks and we look forward to having more work from you in the future. Dave and Michelle.
Would you like to see photos of our dog Lily? She is a Tibatan Terrier and we have a page full of cute photos for our cleints to see!
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