After beginning the kitchen replacement work around four months ago, we are close to completion at last! With all the units and appliances installed, the slate floor tiles down, the new lighting working and the walls painted, we’re just waiting for one of my joiner friends to find a slot in his diary to lend a hand with the hardwood worktops.
Similar to the work we carried out on the bathroom, the kitchen has been a bespoke project. With cupboards built to look like drawers, a false wall to hide the water pipework and fully-integrated appliances, we are finishing it off with locally-sourced holly timber planks that run the full length and width of the worktops. It’ll look stunning when it’s completed, but requires some expert carpentry to make sure everything fits flawlessly.
When plants & shrubs attack
As the weather’s been good, we’ve also turned our attentions to the garden. Well-established plants and shrubs climbing across the house walls can give a soft, heritage look to the exterior. However, there are definite downsides to this, particularly if you’re living in a period property.
As you probably know, older buildings aren’t as watertight as new houses and they’re usually made from much softer materials. If your house was built before 1920, its bricks and/or stonework will be far more porous and your house will need to breathe to expel all the water from it.
And that’s not the worst of it. The softer stonework, bricks and lime mortar associated with Victorian, Georgian and older buildings, will be great fodder for climbing plants, particularly climbers that use adhesive pads (like Boston ivy and Virginia creeper) or clinging stem roots (like climbing hydrangea and English ivy). Once these get into the nooks and crevices around the exterior of your property they are going to do damage: rotting wood, damaging paintwork, destroying brick and stone, and removing your mortar.
When we moved into our Georgian cottage, the vegetation had been encouraged to clamber around the walls for some time. In addition, shrubs had been planted close to the walls, encouraging damp to penetrate. In the picture above, take a look at how much water has been collecting on the brickwork due to the action of all the foliage. Within a few days of removal, the water had dissipated and the moisture levels in the house had reduced as well.
One of the things that I had overlooked as a symptom of wall climbers, was how much they had also impeded the drainage system. One of the climbers had managed to wrap itself around a piece of guttering and was encouraging rainwater to flow down the wall of the property, rather than into the drain. In addition, it had grown across a drain cover, completely hiding it from view and stopping any necessary inspections being carried out. When the drain cover was finally cleared again, I was able to open it to see a small blockage that needed to be cleared before it got any worse.
The pictures above show the extent of the ivy growth over the garage. This had completely destroyed the wood fascia and the supporting wooden beam that held the roof in place.
Luckily, I caught it before the roof collapsed and I was able to put a new roof beam in before any major roof cracking occurred. This could have been very dangerous, not only because of the potential damage caused by collapse, but also because the roof is constructed from old asbestos reinforce concrete sheeting, which would have released asbestos fibres into the air.
So if you’re living in an old property, particularly if it’s listed, and you have nice looking foliage growing up your walls, I’d really recommend you remove it and take a look at all the damage that it could be doing. The longer you leave it, the worse the state of disrepair that your property could fall into.