The Hole In The Wall Gang


Previously, on Sitting Room News..

The main beam was supported by an acrow prop because the cob wall beneath it appeared to be crumbling.



These builders never do anything by halves.

Through lounge diner anyone?



Fortunately it didn’t stay that way for long.

In times of olde the builders would simply have dug up some earth from the garden, tossed in some straw and used the resultant mix to pack in the hole. Of course these days that’s going to far too much trouble, if nothing compared to the trouble they’d have been in had they trampled a single fat shoot of my prize hedychium which as we speak is pushing heartily up through the soil right outside the sitting room door. It doesn’t bear thinking about does it.



Much the easier solution is to drop by the specialist builders’ merchant on the way to work and pick up a pile of cob blocks. These are larger than regular bricks but used to reconstruct the wall in much the same way. Cob is very soft. Once built it can easily be chipped away and sculpted to form the rounded corners usually associated with a house built of mud.



Any cracks in the stonework are stitched together with HeliBars.



Reforming an area above the fireplace in the dining room where the cob was falling away.



And underneath a window in the sitting room where a radiator had concealed a large indentation in the wall. One of the disadvantages of cob in the modern age is that it’s very difficult to fix anything to it. Drill directly into cob and it simply falls apart. The radiator was fixed via a series of Devon pegs, lengths of wooden stake driven into the wall to provide something solid to screw into. One of these pegs remains in the wall below the new blocks (bottom right). The replacement radiators will be anchored in much the same way.



Some holes are more welcome.



The theory goes that there’s a well underneath what will become a window seat. Food for thought when perched there in the future methinks. We did wonder if the work in the dining room might have revealed it but it’s clear that the entrance, concreted over, could now only be accessed from outside the building.

Could these niches in the side walls have possibly supported the winch mechanism, the windlass, that enabled water to be hauled up from the well?



We’re now waiting for the scat coat to set, the first of four layers of plaster. The builders used a compressor to fire lime slurry on to the walls which, by working its way into the natural fissures in the old cob, helps form a key for the subsequent coats. This is all very well until the compressor breaks down. At one point they were forced to revert to the old fashioned method of picking up a trowel load of slurry and literally hurling it at the wall. Perhaps we should have helped. It must be cathartic.

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. Clearly I was overly optimistic in believing that all we’d need to do here was patch up a few areas of plaster. And my hope that this could be a relatively self contained job went out of the window several days ago too. There’s absolutely no chance of shutting the door on these two rooms and forgetting about the mess. The bedroom is directly above the sitting room and there are large gaps between the floorboards. The other day I opened a kitchen drawer, at the opposite end of the house, to get out a baking tray and had to wash the tray before I could use it. And all this before we get to the dirtiest operation of them all. But let’s leave that one for another time shall we?



Welcome to the duck cave.

Onwards. It’s the only direction left to go.