I’ve been sleeping on a bed in the living room for the past week and everything that used to be in the bedroom is spread across other rooms. The house has been cold and damp whilst the plaster dries and there’s dust everywhere again – Christmas seems so long ago! Here’s a reminder of what the bedroom looked like at the end of my last blog post.
Why I wrecked the chimney breast wall
The plan was to open up the fireplace and clean out the builder’s opening to create a feature wall with an electric stove. First I wanted to remove some of the plaster from the fireplace to investigate what was underneath. The fireplace arch was much higher than I expected and it seemed to be in poor condition. The centre keystone brick was cracked and it looked like the arch had dropped on one side. There was no other lintel or support. I could see where modern bricks had been used to close up the builders opening, but didn’t want to remove any in case the whole thing came down.
If I wanted to open up the fireplace I’d need to consider the weight of the bricks above. The extra expense and disruption needed to install a supporting lintel to create a hole for an electric stove didn’t seem worth it. My plans for the fireplace changed – I now want to find an original Victorian or Edwardian fire surround with overmantel mirror. I’ve already seen some nice examples and have set up alerts on eBay to find one locally. I might tile the hearth and put a flat electric fire on the wall but I can decide on that later.
Getting the chimney swept
Before the wall could be replastered the chimney needed to be swept, ventilated and capped off. An airbrick hadn’t been put into the chimney breast when it was originally blocked up so no air was being drawn through – this won’t have helped the mould problem behind the wardrobes either. I wanted to get this work done as soon as possible because I’d already spotted one spider coming through the bricks from the chimney.
My plasterer removed a brick so the chimney sweep could get his brush and vacuum into the flue. I tried to remove it myself but was defeated by the cement mortar.
I’d never seen a chimney sweep at work before – he didn’t mind me taking some photos.
He needs to come back cap off the chimney because he didn’t have any caps to fit my square pots.
Getting electrical sockets altered
I had an extra socket fitted next to the chimney breast in case I get an electric fire later, or if I have a dressing table in the alcove.
There was an electrical socket behind the door that needed moving 15cms to the left to allow room for a column radiator. If the socket moved too far left it would end up behind the wardrobes. I measured this wall several times before the electrician came – think I worked it out right!
Preparing for the new radiator
The wall behind the radiator is plasterboard, and there’s no way I wanted to rely on cavity wall plugs to support its weight, so I decided to buy radiator legs too. They might look ugly once the carpet is cut but I didn’t have much choice. I could’ve had a wooden brace put between the joists in the wall but this would have been more expensive and would have put back all the tradesmen I had booked in.
The old radiator was removed by a plumber (not by me) and the pipes extended to the new position. Luckily there was a joist running horizontally exactly where the top brackets needed to be mounted so the radiator ended up having some additional support.
The plumber connected up the radiator pipes but he didn’t turn on the valves because it needed to be taken off again the next week for the plasterer. If you’re wondering why I didn’t get the radiator done last it’s because the wall needed to be replastered behind the old radiator and the skirting couldn’t go on until the old radiator pipes had been removed.
I had a bit of a problem though because thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) have a frost protection setting which means even when they’re turned off they let water through if it gets too cold (I guess to stop the system from freezing?). Some of the lowest temperatures of the year also meant the room was colder than normal. This meant that before I could take the radiator off again I had to empty the radiator first. I used a small plastic bowl held underneath the valve which took a while but eventually we could take the radiator off the wall.
I left the TRV overnight with a bucket underneath but the water was coming out too fast to leave the bucket unattended for more than a few hours.
I did a bit of research online and found out about decorators caps for TRVs. These are plastic screw caps that you’re supposed to put on the TRV to override the frost setting. Wish I was told about this before!
I couldn’t fit the decorators cap onto the TRV whilst the radiator was disconnected because water would go everywhere. Luckily my plasterer was there to help me lift the radiator back onto the brackets. I connected the pipes back up AGAIN, unscrewed the top of the TRV (the part you turn to set the temperature) and put the cap on. Then I had to use the small plastic bowl AGAIN to empty the radiator before having my plasterer help me lift it off the wall.
The radiator will need to stay off until the wallpaper’s up so let’s hope it doesn’t get too cold.
Preparing for the plastering
I removed the old dado rail and skirting – none of the mouldings were original otherwise they’d have stayed.
The dado rail was stuck on with decades old ‘no more nails’ so it should have been easy to remove. However the original plaster, complete with horse hair, was so dry it had ‘blown’ and come away from the brick wall. I removed most of the loose bits to leave another scary looking patch for the plasterer to fix.
After the replastering
Here’s what the room looks like now after having the damaged walls replastered, the floorboard put back and the new skirting attached (I’ll talk about the skirting in another blog post).
The plan for the next month
The woodwork in the bedroom will be prepped before painting and there’s a plaster cornice getting fitted at the end of February. I might get a plaster ceiling rose too but this means I’ll have to fit a junction box in the loft to house the lighting wires. I’ve fitted a junction box to a lighting circuit before, but the hard part will be taking up the boards in the loft which are covered with furniture or mess from elsewhere. Still lots to do before I can decorate!