Saturday 24 November 2012

The Yank’s House – A Grand Entrance

The day we first viewed the Yank’s house Pat opened the front door to discover a drop to the ground and some broken down wooden boards that appeared at one time to have been steps. 

This was an unusual arrangement for this type of house. One would expect stone steps up to the first floor front door – so it was a bit of a mystery. The wooden steps didn’t appear to be over a hundred years old but our investigation could not prove one way or another if there had ever been any other steps there. We found no foundation stones or rubble so we had nothing to go by.

Locals couldn’t really remember. We wondered if the steps had been sold when hard times hit or if the Yank had run out of money and never gotten round to putting in steps in the first place. I don’t suppose we will ever know. 

We cleared away the rotted wooden steps and later dug out the ground around the basement of the house for our French drains so in the end we had a drop of about 10 feet from the door step to the ground. We were faced with the dilemma of how best to construct the steps. I went around for months taking photos of steps and entrances into old houses. Mostly these are built of stone but our budget wasn’t going to stretch to this.  

In the end we decided we would build our steps with concrete blocks and we will finish them off with slate and lime plaster eventually.

Once the decision was made we marked out the shape and size we felt would give us a good balance with the house. Putting in too small a structure would make the entrance look skimpy – too big would swamp the front of the house. After we had decided on the size we put in our foundations.  We decided to build a freestanding structure. So our steps are not actually joined onto the original house. In years to come it will be easy to identify them as having been added on at a later stage. We then built the walls with concrete block shaping the individual steps with a brick arch underneath.

When the structure was built we were ready to make the steps. We could only make one step at a time. Pat would support the step with wooden casing - then we could make the face of the step with concrete, fill in the back with rubble and finish off the tread of the step with more concrete. This had to be left to set before we could move the casing and do the next step. When we got to the top we wanted a square platform at door level. This is the area over the brick arches. We had to lay steel to support this platform - case it out and fill the casing with cement. Because of the spread of this platform we were in no hurry to take down the casing. 

We are very pleased with the finished job.  We intend to put a low wall along the edges and finish off the steps with slate – a job for the future I am afraid.

Finally – steps in place we needed to get a new/salvage front door. The old door was beyond repair.  We were back in our favorite salvage yard again. We found a door with some lovely stained glass. The size wasn’t perfect but we were able to cut it down to fit. It now takes pride of place at the top of our new steps. We love the way the light shines through the glass and the colours reflect on the lime wash plastered walls within. 

The Yank’s house is a handsome house but for whatever reason it didn’t have the entrance it deserved. Now with it's new steps and lovely newly painted front door in place it is getting there. I hope the Yank would be happy now if he could see these steps in place – maybe at last we are getting to finish a job he put on the long finger - 150 years ago.

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