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Old Farmhouse renovation

  • 11-12-2021 12:41pm
    Registered Users Posts: 840 ✭✭✭

    I'm starting a new thread on this rather than clutter the chat thread.

    I'm currently/starting a renovation on an old farmhouse, circa 200 years old, rubble stone walls, no foundations, bangor blue slates - big chimneys. It started as a 2 room cottage right along the side of the road, roof blew off night of big wind in 1839 - added a second story and reroofed. Sometime then extended a new bay each side, and was 2 houses/brothers at some stage, so is now 4 bays long, and the original road is not used and became the lane up from the main road. Several builders have suggested cheaper to knock and rebuild, and also an engineer...but I think/hope if I can do the donkey work myself can come in cheaper to keep it.

    I'm planning to lower the floors slightly, rather than raising the roof and all the windows, and plan to do a light version of underpinning, without going the whole way under the walls, but just digging down on the inside and doing an inset of 100mm wide 400-500mm down, connecting the inner wall to the boulders/rock below. This is going to leave most of the ground under the wall intact bar this 100mm, but there are lots of rock/boulders in it as opposed to just earth.

    I'm somewhat lucky as I'm very close to bedrock, bout 4 foot down, and there lots of boulders at wall and floor level. Also, they lowered the outside maybe 100 years ago building a plinth inset into the wall with engineering bricks, and coating this in tar/bitumen.

    But I'd really like to hear from someone who has done it like this before?

    There is no DPC but they did put down a layer of lime under the walls. I'm wondering is it worthwhile to use waterproof concrete for this new piece of wall under this lime to prevent rising damp coming up and through. Anybody any experience of DIY waterproof concrete, integral, where it is mixed in with the water?



  • Registered Users Posts: 840 ✭✭✭gk5000

    Hi Wrangler, Did you have to underpin, and how? I'm faced with the same. Thanks.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,934 ✭✭✭✭wrangler

    Underpinning was primitive, we dug out about a metre under the wall then skipped a metre and then dug out another metre. Iwas sure it was going to fall on us but didn't.Then put in a little foundation where we dug out and built it up to the base of the wall with four inch blocks on the flat. The house was built into a hill so we had to lower the site on one side to stop the damp coming in, the ground nearly came up to the window sill on one side , we only had to underpin there. we really should've hit the house with the digger but it's grand now. We probably would've but it's a listed building

    We did a good job on the house and lowering the surrounding site for under 100000

  • Registered Users Posts: 840 ✭✭✭gk5000

    Did you dig the whole way under the entire wall?

    I'm planning to lower the internal floors of a rubble stone walled house and insulate, by digging down along the old walls about 1/2 meter and then inwards under the old wall about 100mm and inserting a concrete wall.

    I'm wondering if anybody has done this and what are the pitfalls or consequences.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,055 ✭✭✭Grueller

    I'll watch here with interest because I am facing a job like this in time to come also.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,876 ✭✭✭farawaygrass

    I inherited an old house and really really wanted to do it up, but I think a new one will be going in on its place. It’s a hard decision, a lot of nostalgia attached

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  • Registered Users Posts: 10,934 ✭✭✭✭wrangler

    No we just did the side that we took away the earth, as I said we undermined three foot and left three foot and went on like that and when we had those holes supported we did the same with the gaps in between. That was twenty years ago and it's still standing.

    I didn't have the money to renovate when I was younger and wasn't really worth doing anything major at 55, People who lived here before us were wealthy, there was about 20 big flower beds, maybe 15ft by 3ft, an air raid shelter, a swimming pool, huge glass house, and a couple little pagodas, all in bad repair and the water from the garden flowing in under the walls of the house. A digger sorted the garden in a couple days and now all that mess is a lawn that takes about 15 mins on the ride on. The whole area was lowered between 5ft at the worst and 2ft at the least

    We had a tiny kitchen and yet had a room 28 by 14 rotten and not being used so that's our kitchen now

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,843 ✭✭✭Hard Knocks

    A new one would be simpler but there’s history and legacy with the old one and great satisfaction when the project is complete

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,843 ✭✭✭Hard Knocks

    I gather the finished floor level will be same as now, we dug up the floor added radian barrier, 75mm insulation board and 75-100mm concrete, didn’t touch the stone walls

    You’ll be very familiar with the wheelbarrow when you’re finished

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,755 ✭✭✭Suckler

    Could be an interesting thread to start. Few probably have old buildings/ houses worth doing up on here.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,934 ✭✭✭✭wrangler

    You were very conscientious, but you were right, we just did what we had to do. we insulated the kitchen and living room so at least it's a liveable area now and we've an electric aga on all the time

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  • Registered Users Posts: 17,907 ✭✭✭✭Bass Reeves

    I did up an old two up two down farm house. Consider removing internal chimneys. You can replace them with steels studs and fireproof/concrete board This allows you much more scope with layout. What condition is the existing roof are you replacing it. I had to in the one I did.

    Yours sound a large house. I had a problem with low ceilings down stairs that were only 3X2 joists with a 9X3 beam all along middle of them holding them up. I replaced with 7X2 and used 4X/4 box to support the middle.

    I replaced the ground floors and insulated underneath. This allowed me install a DPC under the floors. I drylined the external wall, I used timber studs. However consider using steel to make a frame to support floorboards. I used former effect upstairs to get headheight.

    More than likely all your lentils are timber. Replace them now as the timber will be in poor condition I imagine. If you are reroofing make sure your budget is the place for the slates. Only 1 in two or three of your slates may be good enough to go back up.

    If you have an existing septic tank you need not go near planning no matter how poor it is. Remember begging forgiveness is easier than asking premission.

    Try not to cement plaster the outside if possible. These stone walls were designed to breath. That is why whitewash was so common. This message s often what prevents internal dampness.

    There is other things if I remember I will put up. However remember if it has stayed standing 220years the chance of structural issues are minimal

    Slava Ukrainii

  • Registered Users Posts: 18,413 ✭✭✭✭_Brian

    We have an old two ho two down on the farm, it’s poorly positioned in the yard making living in it unattractive. We keep the roof patched and windows open for ventilation to keep the structure together. Future generations might be glad of it the way things are going. We’re blow ins here so it has no history in our family, bellows and crane still in the fireplace.

    we’re inheriting my wife’s home place on its own land, It’s in poor state, large old house with long family history. Needs total refurbishment, was a fine house in its time, they had both corn and flax mill in better times.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,755 ✭✭✭Suckler

    Just on the rendering; I see a lot advocate lime rendering to let the walls breath as you say, but I have no experience with it to be honest. Agree on the chimneys, the new flue systems are much better and chances are older ones are porous, your heart would be broke with them.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,543 ✭✭✭mayota

    We have an old two up two down house built 1906. Slate roof and granite cills. Looked at renovating in 2008 but built our new house instead. Grandmother born here. Going to make a start next year on in.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,755 ✭✭✭Suckler

    I'm surprised the bellows and crane lasted; we had same plus a traditional wooden kitchen sideboard taken out of a relatives old cottage. Belfast sink somehow survived as it was hidden behind a door.

  • Registered Users Posts: 840 ✭✭✭gk5000

    Interesting Bass. On the chimneys, do you mean just boxing in a flue with concrete board on the way up, and then support the chimney over the roof with steel?

    Do you mean a steel frame to hold the floorboards instead of joists? What's the gain - is the steel not similar thickness?

    The cement ship sailed in the 70's when the house was pebble dashed, and some rooms cement/gypsum plastered inside - though damp is not really an issue but probably due to the good site drainage. However, some rooms had many layers of wallpaper over old lime plaster which was causing damp.

    I'm still conflicted about lime in general, cork/woodfibre breathable insulation and then lime plaster but its way more expensive - so thinking regular drylining but maybe with a gap between the wall and the insulation.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,140 ✭✭✭jimmy G M

    Looking forward to this thread as I have an interest in our built heritage. Gk will you throw up a few pic's of the house now and as you go through the renovation process. A picture paints a thousand words and all that.

    There's an old cottage on land we bought 30 years ago, a small two up two down storey and a half, with beautiful cut stone front and redbrick around the front windows and door. I have a hairbrained plan to renovate it suitable for renting or Air B&B a few years down the line, so might pick up a few tips here.

    Best of luck with the work GK.

  • Registered Users Posts: 990 ✭✭✭Neddyusa

    Did a full renovation on the 1910 farmhouse here two years ago. Was expensive, but not as bad as feared and certainly cheaper than demolition and building a new house.

    Similar construction to yours OP.

    A few recommendations:

    1. Use lime - not cement. Solid rubble walls need to breathe and cement will ensure damp is trapped in the walls and you'll rot all the timbers in jig time.

    2. As Bass said, given it's stood over 200 years, it's very unlikely you need any kind of work on the foundations. Those houses were built on either strong clay or rock and in short - if it's not broke - don't fix it!

    3. If there's any chance to lower the ground level outside, do it. And add a french drain about 1m out from the walls all round. This will prevent any rising damp issues, so no need for any DPC.

  • Registered Users Posts: 990 ✭✭✭Neddyusa

    Oh and another tip - if you have soot coming through the walls from the chimneys - there's a very cheap solution, cow dung!

    Seriously, did it here and not the faintest stain came through the plaster after.

    All sorts of sealants and paints had been tried previously and none worked.

    Sometimes the cheapest option is the best one!

  • Registered Users Posts: 990 ✭✭✭Neddyusa

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  • Registered Users Posts: 17,907 ✭✭✭✭Bass Reeves

    You box in a continuous steel flue all the way up.. you surround the flue with glass wool (not rock wool it smells at high temperatures). In a lot housing now steel studs are used instead of timber studs in partitions etc. So you use these to carry the frame up out through the roof. Remember stoves and wood pellet burners no longer need to be central in a room you can place off center or in corners.

    Old floor joist's were usually laid at the build level and incorporated into the stone wall. The problem is with any new renovation the ceilings downstairs are invariably too low. The advantage of a steel frame is that you can get caught over windows with the weight of upstairs floors. I saw 4x3 on edge warp down. I should have sacked the structural engineer ( myself by our mistakes we learn). We used angle iron. I think if doing a job like that again I would have used a steel frames after taking out the chimney which I did not do either. The windows upstairs are only 10-12'' off the floor but I put in velux's as I used the roof space upstairs in a former effect to gain ceiling height

    Your old walls will not be square so there will always be breathing gaps behind insulation. BER rating are a load of crap with old houses as old stone walls 2' thick are consider the same as cavity block.

    I was going renting this house so I was watching costs. Never realized about taking out the chimney it was a lad said it time after. Would only have added a grand to the cost as I had to put in continuation flues anyway and had to replace the top of the chimney from the upper step on it ( 3-4 ' below roof level).

    The render outside was very average, nobody had lived in the house for 30+ years. I just got it packed here and there with a bit of mortor. I put plinths at the bottom to try to stop the little visitors and footpaths. After that 2 coats of white wash with a little yellow ochre to give a kind of magnolia finish. It becomes oeevh in the winter.

    I whitewashed the chimney inside on the landing as a feature. I striped the old lime plaster off. Then three coats of wash. I put a bit of bluestone to bring it up brilliant white

    Slava Ukrainii

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,511 ✭✭✭Lime Tree Farm

    imigongo is the correct term for that type of art work.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,895 ✭✭✭funkey_monkey

    Several builders have suggested cheaper to knock and rebuild, and also an engineer...but I think/hope if I can do the donkey work myself can come in cheaper

    Devil's advocate...

    If a number of people who work in the industry are telling you that it would be better to start again, why are you ignoring them? While it is great to restore have you done the sums and/or got a QA to cost or your plans? Will you be able to get a floor plan to suit your needs or are you having to work around the footprint of the house?

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,199 ✭✭✭FintanMcluskey

    Agree here.

    If the OP has any concern for, or limitation regarding the finance of this project, I would advise him to take the advice of the people who gave the advice.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,169 ✭✭✭Dunedin

    most will be cheaper to knock and build. People think it will be cheaper to restore but a lot of the costs are hidden.

    the builders and engineers should be trusted on this one.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,895 ✭✭✭funkey_monkey

    But you know the price of the beef when you go to the shop.

    And conversely a higher price tag does not equate to a better product either.

    If the OP has done the sums and has contingency then fair enough, but the fingers crossed approach intimated in the opening post belies this.

    TBF I hope they do go along with it and show us the progress, and history does have an impact, but you could build from new and carry over design features from the old property or reuse materials. There are a multitude of ways to respect who and what has come before you.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 840 ✭✭✭gk5000

    I wish to lower the floors to add head height, and also add a bit of insulation in the floors. I know it would live forever if I left it alone but that's not a feasible option - See the new thread.