Saturday 10 November 2012

The Yank's House -Trouble

The work was continuing at a slow pace. We spent all out Saturdays at the Yank’s house and most of our annual leave from our day jobs too. Sometimes it felt like we were getting nowhere other times we would get a job finished and it felt like a major step forward. But likewise there were times when something would happen that was definitely a major step backwards.

One such time was when I noticed damp patches on the floor in one of the top floor bedrooms. I showed it to Pat and we investigated different possibilities. The wet patches were close to the front outside wall. Not wanting to even consider that there could e anything wrong with our lovely new roof, Pat pointed some stones in the wall that had been disturbed. We hoped this was where the rain was getting in. However a few weeks later I noticed the floor was wet again.

Then one very wet day, I was sitting having my lunch in this top floor room. During a heavy shower I felt drops hit me on the head. I looked up and noticed the water dripping from a joist in the roof. We still had no ceilings at this stage which was a blessing. Climbing up to investigate we could feel the damp running along the joist, but it was difficult to establish where the water was getting in. The amount was very little but this was irrelevant — all water leaks are bad news. 

The new roof from the inside - up
Water has the habit of traveling and often the problem is in a completely different place to where the water presents itself. In the end we discovered it was getting in around a chimney. This was a disaster. We would have to strip slates off the roof around the base of the chimney. We were devastated. We had no scaffolding and no real safe way of working on the roof. But apart from this a job we felt we had completed two years earlier was now giving us such grief again.

By now the crazy building boom was cooling down and we were able for small money to hire enough scaffolding to put up a tower and get back on the roof.  Also the man we got the scaffolding from seemed in no hurry to get it back. Just as well because it was a full year later before we were happy we had the problem solved.

We really hoped we could fix the problem without it turning into a major job. Pat tried everything, he re-leaded the chimneys and he re-pointed them with cement and sand. He spent days sitting on the roof — battling with his fear of heights and fast running out of options. But nothing worked.

Then out of the blue Pat was struck down with severe back pain. We couldn’t pin-point how he had hurt himself. No one thing or time came to mind but whatever the cause Pat was a full six months out of action. He was unable to work and needed several spinal injections and months of rest before he started to recover. A leaky roof was the least of our problems.

The third anniversary of our purchase of the Yank’s house coincided with Pats recovery and return to work. It was also the start of our fourth summer working on the project. Maybe it was all that time lying on his back — all the time he had to think. Whatever the reason Pat decided that the chimney had to come down and be rebuilt. He also decided the other chimney needed a new cap at the very least. Up to this we had tried to do the majority of the work ourselves — only getting help in for job we just couldn’t do. But this was an eye opener and Pat admitted that we needed help.

As we were now planning to ask someone to get up on the roof to build a new chimney we needed more than just a tower of scaffolding and a roof ladder. No one would get up there unless it was safe so we had to arrange for proper scaffolding to be erected and for both chimneys to be scaffolded out. We were not able to do this work ourselves so we asked the chap that we had hired the tower from if he would do it for us.

He said he would — but for him this was a small job and it took him most of the summer to get around to doing it. I find it so frustrating waiting for people and not being able to do anything about the delay. This is the hardest part of getting anyone in to work on the house. They are always coming next week. But next week runs into months. I would much prefer someone to tell me it will be a month rather than to make promises they cannot keep. But I have realised this is how things work in the building trade. 

It was a high climb to get up to the chimneys
When we eventually got the scaffolding up it was a great job. It was very high and we had to get used to the climb again. But now Pat and I could get up on the roof to take down the chimney. I felt very safe working off the scaffolding. Once we started knocking the chimney I had to admit it was little wonder the water was getting in. The chimney was very brittle. It didn’t take much effort to knock it down.
On the roof - taking down the chimney

We also took the capping of the second chimney. While this chimney was not leaking the top plaster was cracked and we felt it would be better to finish both chimneys the same. We had our new chimney built and both chimneys capped. We also took this opportunity to drop a flexi flue down the chimney for a multi-fuel stove.


  1. Chimneys are a pain! Had ours pointed last year...we both hates heights so had a huge bill! Well done - great achievement. Archie♥Annie

  2. It's a lot better to think of alternatives rather than giving up the chimney. Having a chimney means that you have a fireplace, and a fireplace is very useful in cold weather and it improves the look of the house a lot. Having both chimneys capped will create less problems for you when it comes to leaks and such.

    Terence Watthens

  3. I can just imagine the challenge you guys went through when you fixed your roof and chimney. I congratulate you for getting the job done safe. However, I would suggest that should this happen again, it's better to seek help from a professional. It is for your safety, of course.

    Kristopher Diss

    1. Thanks for your comment - we don't always have the money to get help. So sometimes we have no choice but we are always careful.

  4. I second! Kudos to you and your hard work! Asking help will definitely not be wrong, but nothing beats the feeling of overcoming an obstacle and setting your head high after a good hard work!

    - Chantay Smithingell -

    1. Your are right there. We could have gotten someone in at the start and the whole thing would have been finished in a few months but we would not have learned all we have. Yank's house has become a way of life.