Dwarf Walls in the Attic Rooms.

By Andy the stuff doer

So I’ve got a roof on the wash house,  I can now get a boiler in, the pipe work is laid through to where it needs to be.  So at first glance it doesn’t seem such a big step to get the hot water flowing and the central heating running.  However the radiators need fitting and to do that that you need walls to hang them on.

This post covers what needed doing to get to this stage in the attic rooms. I’ll have to write another post for the copper radiator and fitting radiators to stone walls etc.

Dwarf walls are those that fill the bit between the sloping roof and the floor.  They provide a great space to hide services, electrics, plumbing, ventilation or if big enough a bit of storage space.

Services in the space behind the Dwarf Wall.

services behind the attic dwarf wall

Wiring and plumbing all needs going in first before the dwarf wall is built

Before I could construct the wall all the wiring and plumbing etc. had to thought through and installed. So lots of decisions on where the radiators are going, where the sockets need to be, what ducting is need for the ventilation system (more on that later) and even how the arial cables need to go.   Then of course it all need to go in, after considering how the space is going to insulated.

This fist picture shows the stud work and wiring with a 40mm sleeve of plastic waste pipe over it as it will be passing through rockwool type insulation.  This gives it air space around it so the wires won’t overheat if the load through it is up to the max (in this case 16 A on 2.5mm).  If it passes directly through encased in insulation the circuit would have to de-rated or the cable size increased.  The copper pipework at his point is down to 10mm diameter to each individual radiator after splitting down from 15mm. The 10mm is easy to bend by hand to get it to the required position.  To know what the right position was I temporarily mounted the radiators.

Next comes the insulation after thinking about how the space will be ventilated to ensure any condensation can evaporate away.  The roofing membrane is breathable but the insulation need to be kept away from it so there is a good gap for air flow.  As the insulation is packed in quite tight I stapled some strips of left over membrane on to the rafters where necessary to hold back the insulation.

insulation behind dwarf wall in attic room

The space packed with insulation but leaving an air gap for ventilation

The whole face of the wall is then sealed with a vapour barrier.  This is to minimise moisture that could enter the space from the bedrooms.  I had considered laying this on the floor in the space as well to stop moisture from the rooms below but considered it impossible to seal at the eves, therefore making it ineffective as a moisture barrier and probably restricting natural evaporation.

vapour barrier behind dwarf wall in attic room

Sealed to prevent moist air from the room entering the space

The pipes, wiring, back boxes and ducts have to be carefully detailed as they pass through the barrier.  All this provides the added benefit of improving air tightness making the ventilation system more effective as well as reducing energy sapping drafts.

The timber panelling could then be fitted followed be skirting and any trims.  The panelling is recycled from various bits from the strip out.  This should be more stable new bought stuff that no matter how long you leave it to acclimatise always seems to shrink as soon as its fitted.  On the downside I had to heat gun strip many layers off before I could re-use it.  The joints are corked with decorator’s cork that will hopefully hold the paint whilst still allowing the timber a bit of movement. 

reclaimed panelling on attic dwarf wall

Reclaimed panelling on attic dwarf wall and new skirting board

All this was very time consuming considering the job was to get the radiators fitted. But it needed doing at some point and now it is, apart from sanding and painting.   So that’s a job for the next weekend and then I won’t have to drain and remove the radiators to paint behind them at a later stage.

Ventilation Duct Manifold 1 to 3 Home Made

By Andy the stuff doer

This is probable the first mention of the MHRV (Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation) so here’s a quick run-down of the thinking behind it.

The Cottage will be a  holiday let,  if it was just us I probably wouldn’t  have gone to the time and expense of installing the system, we would open windows and turn on fans when necessary.   Old buildings such as this one can suffer badly from damp rusulting from our modern ways living. Holiday makers won’t necessarily treat the place like we would.  So as the technology is available and now tried and tested, I’m prepared to give it a go. 

The system draws warm moist air from the kitchen and bathroom and transfers the heat to fresh air that is ducted through in to the bedrooms.  The unit runs at a low speed constantly supplying a flow of clean fresh air through the whole building. It will turn to full power when moisture from cooking and showering or even clothes drying is detected.

I’ll go in to more details at a later stage but for now it means I have to install the ducting in as discreet a way as possible.  I’m also minimising the potential noise, it’ll have to be virtually silent so it doesn’t bother anyone and I don’t want cross talk from room to room via the ducting.

Ventilation ducting behind attic dwarf wall

Ducting fitted where it wont be seen. Difficult in an old property.

Being such an old house without the normal spaces to run ducting the design is fairly challenging.  This post covers a quick look at the manifold duct splitter and silencer I had to make and install before fitting the dwarf wall in one of the attic rooms.

Ducting manifold splitter to flexible ducting from ridged duct

The Splitter manifold with the three flexible ducts fitted

The inlet is 60 x 220mm rectangular ducting that will be fitted above a false ceiling in the bathroom  it then splits to three outlets to 4 inch insulated flexible ducting  running to each of the attic bedrooms and to the living room.  The flow rates in the flexible ducting will be low enough not to cause noisy turbulence.  The flexible duct is sound absorbing and as they don’t connect directly together like with tee joints the cross talk is reduced.  The manifold box has sound absorbing insulation on the inside wall to further attenuate any noise.  No way could I find a suitable commercial product to do all this in the space available.

three way duct manifold custom made

The ventilation duct manifold showing the rectangular inlet and the 3 x 4" inch outlets

Construction is simple and the materials cheap. I used sections of plastic ducting, these are easy to cut with a jigsaw and to shape using a heat gun.  The joints are welded with plastic solvent screwed and sealed with a building adhesive (I think it’s called “stick like s**t”, I’m sure other brand are available).

home made duct manifold internal details

Belt and braces approach to the construction. It will last !

If you fancy making your own, these couple of pictures might give you some ideas, If you want to know more drop a comment on below and I’ll see what I can do.

Lead Flashing on Pantile Washhouse

By Andy the stuff doer

Yes I did eventually get around to doing this. The lead flashing had to cover  the soilpipe from the bathroom toilet so for a relatively inexperienced lead worker it was a bit of challenge.   The curves and angles made it particularly difficult to measure and cut the pieces before beating them in to shape. Only one piece went far enough out as to need an extra piece adding.

You can see from the picture it is all very tight. I have had to sacrifice the normal requirement to allow the lead to easily expand and contract with changes of temperature.   We had a lead theft from the main cottage roof whilst the scaffold was up. This has made me very wary even to point of considering using lead substitute on the wash house roof as it can be reached from ground level.

Lead flashing on pantile roof

Tight and glued lead flashing hopefully will put off the vermin from stealing it

To make it less attractive to casual thieves the lead is tightly beaten and glued with leadmate to the tiles. This, I’m hoping will deter any scumbag that has a go. The nature of the loose fitting tiles will hopefully allow enough movement to prevent the lead from cracking under expansion.

Wiring Old Bakelite Light Switches

By Andy the stuff doer

Yes old Bakelite light switches can be used as long as you need a screwdriver to take the lid off them.  Some have covers that are screwed on, these should not be used under the current wiring regulations as there a risk that inquisitive little fingers can get to exposed live terminals.

The switches we had in the cottage originally are being reused after cleaning and checking.  As I had taken these off I knew how to put them back on.  Not surprisingly they aren’t nearly as easy to fit as modern switches but it’s still not a difficult job.  Just one that need getting right first time as there’s nowhere to tuck any slack cable.

Wiring a period Bakelite light swith

Connecting a period light switch

The step by step guide will be on the web site when I get around to it. Please comment below if you would like to see how I did it sooner rather than later.

Attic Roof Insulation and Plaster Boarding

By Andy the stuff doer

Another fiddly time sapping job to get right but WOW what a difference it makes.  It looks like and feels like progress.

Previously there was no insulation in at all just plaster board straight on to the rafters.  That all got ripped out before the new roof was put on so it’s been bare for a good while.

Insulating the roof of the Attic Rooms

Deciding what insulation to use and how thick it needs to be is confusing with so many options available and comes under building regulations (part L 2013), Thermal Elements,  Energy Conservation  etc.   Even the manufacturers information doesn’t make things much clearer for retro fitting insulation. Without going in to great detail the regulations say the U-value should be 0.18 or less.  My research leads me to the simple answer to achieve this without taking out too much head height 115mm or more of foil faced insulation board (Kingspan, Celotex, Balytherm) is required. 

For most retro fitting jobs 70mm between the rafters and 50mm under the rafters as a general guide will be sufficient to comply with building regulations.  There are lots of factor to consider  like rafter depth and spacing that can tweak the the U value by 0.01 or so and of course if more can be fitted it’ll make up for other heat losses that can’t be addressed.

I chose to use 50mm between the rafters and 70mm under the rafters. This should give a U value of 0.17.

Between and under rafter attic insulation

Foil faced insulation inbetween and under roof rafters

This isn’t normally advised as the theory is that the outer layer (between) the rafters should be thicker than the inner layer under the rafters to prevent the “potential risk of interstitial condensation “ But there’s many factors which can affect this in my case all in my favour.  Please comment below if you want to know more.

The cottage rafters are 3 inch. So I have fitted 50mm board between the rafters and leaving a 25mm air space to the breathable sarking membrane (if it’s not breathable the ventilated gap should be 50mm). The alternative to put the 70mm board between the rafters would have been to batten out the rafters to, in effect make them deeper by 20mm.

The 70mm insulation boards go under the rafters, fixed up with a few 90mm plasterboard screws. I made little washers for these from some old lino so the head didn’t pull through. (Before these go up I marked where the rafters are so I know where to put the screws.)

All the board are as tight a fit as practically possible. Any gaps are filled with either slivers of the board or stuffed with rockwool type insulation.  All the joints are then sealed with aluminium tape.

Taped joints of foil faced insulation to make a vapour barrier

Taped joints of foil faced insulation to make a vapour barrier

Now it’s looking like a proper room again and its ready for the plaster board.  I used 12.5mm plaster board, you could use 9mm but 12.5 is a bit tougher and takes the large drywall screws better without cracking up.  With all the angles and corners it takes some measuring and tweaking to get the largest sized boards to fit (I’m using 6 x3 ft sheets) but it’s worth the effort to reduce the number of joints. 

note: It takes 90mm long srews to go through the insultion and get a good grip in the rafters.

plaster board in attic room

Plaster board being fitted keeping joints to a minimum

Many hours later one of the rooms was ready for a big clean up and so it was ready for the daughters to stay in.  Thankfully the effort was appreciated.

Idea for Insulation Where Space is Tight

By Andy the stuff doer

The top of the stairs to attic has a landing with an old dormer window.  Head height at the top of the stairs is an issue as is the ceiling of the dormer. The cheeks of the dormer are also short on space.

The solution I’m trying here is to provide the maximum insulation possible whilst keeping the space practical.

Instead of using conventional foil faced insulation I’ve used insulated tile backing board.  This is a foam core with a thin reinforced layer either side, designed to be used in wetrooms.  After I’ve detailed and sealed the joints it should be vapour tight. I can then finish it with finish plaster directly without needing plasterboard.

Insulated tile backing board used where space is tight

Insulated tile backing board on attic room ceiling and dormer cheeks

It is a bit of an experiment as I’ve not seen this done before or tried it anywhere else.  Time will tell but so far it’s looking like a perfect solution.

Georgian Panelling Preparation and Painting – First new Paint

By Andy the stuff doer

Georgian Panelling Preparation and Painting – First new Paint

OK  not so much to the actual painting,  it’s the preparation and restoration of the Georgian? panelling that has been far more interesting.

I’ve been working on  preparing this section of panelling as a relatively quiet job in the evenings for months.  It would have been easier to rip it out and start again but with time and patience it’s great to be able to save something with this much character.

repaired and restored wooden panelling

After all the repairs and restoration the wall is solid

It was probably put in as a reclaimed wall some time well over 100 years in the past,  cobbled together from whatever pieces  where available:  Rough saws timber over the doors, two sections of frame and panel at the side of kitchen door (one panel missing and frame falling apart), the center section vertical panels with dodgy tongue and groove.  All in all it needed a lot doing to it to replace missing and rotten sections, stabilise it and make good the surface for painting.  To finish it off I added a piece (must have name) at the top that fitted around the beams.

Panelled wooden wall repair detail

Reclaimed pieces used to replace missing sections

All the holes were filled,  the now stable panel joints corked, and the whole lot hand sanded so the grain and aged surface would still be visible after painting.

The primer / undercoat is “hard to find” oil based paint, the theory being it’s more easily reversible than water based primers.  The final finish will be an off white oil based gloss.  The painting was a job for the other half so I could crack on with preparing the doors.

Painted restored panelling

With a first coat of paint it all comes together

Repairing a Fancy Cast Iron Air Brick

By Andy the stuff doer

This is purely a visual repair to a cast iron air brick to the outside toilet.  A combination of a leaky roof and zero maintenance had left the top part to rust away.  This was one of little jobs that was holding up another one, this time fitting guttering to wash house.  I could have knocked it out and bought a replacement (£40+)  or a modern vent.  But it’s all the little details that add to charm of the place so wherever possible I’m repairing rather than replacing.

1. The rust was chipped and wire brushed away then given a good coating of hammerite type paint.

Cast iron air vent repair

Rusted away decorative cast iron air vent

2. To replicate the missing pattern I made a mould from the bottom section using plastacine. As the design is symmetrical it flips over to match the top of the vent.

Making a mould to repair vent

Plastacine pressed on to make a mould

3. Car body filler can then be pressed  in to effect the repair.  It needed a bit of tidying up with sand paper before painting.

Decorotive cast iron vent repaired

View from the inside

Job done, it won’t have a deal of structural strength but it looks just fine especially in silhouette  from the inside.

Timber Window Repairs

By Andy the stuff doer

FULL STEP BY STEP window repair methods here

Timber windows can easily last more than a human life time. As long as the details are right and they are well maintained they should be any real bother at all.  Unfortunately the maintenance bit is often neglected or done with unsympathetic materials.  So we often come across serviceable windows that  are suffering from bits of rot.

This doesn’t always mean the window has reached the end of it’s life this series of articles explains how even extreme repairs are possible to keep the window going for many years to come.

Click through for full series of articles, and please leave any questions or comments below.

START HERE to read the FULL STEP BY STEP window repair methods


  • Full investigation to see exactly what a repair will need
  • Making good the timber frame or sash
  • Curing other window problems, double glazing and draught proofing:- replacing parts, fixing loose joints, swollen sticking sashes, fixing hinges
  • Filling and Sanding window repairs
  • Glazing and Putty
  • Priming and painting

rotten window ready for repairspliced in window repairfiller repairputty glazinglinseed oil painted window

Home Made Wooden High Level Toilet Cistern

By Andy the stuff doer

A bit of woodworking, a bit of fibre glassing and a bit of plumbing. The only fiddly bit was to connect a modified door handle to the cable of the dual flush mechanism.  Hey Presto! a wooden toilet cistern.

With hindsight maybe I should have gone for a old fashioned, reliable syphon flush. But only time will tell.

Wooden high level cistern with dovetailed joints

Wooden high level cistern with dovetailed joints

The background to this is:- It’s for the Bathroom in the Whitby cottage. We decided a high level cistern would be good, giving at bit more space where it’s needed. By making one I could offset the outlet so the down pipe will be at the side of the window. Bought one seem to very expensive especially when they don’t just look like ceramic blobs.

The timber, mahogany is recycled from some cupboards that where built in to the sides of the chimney in the inglenook.  The fibre glass was left over from the trike mudguards so it worked out cheap, just about £30 for the fill valve and flush.

fibre glass lined high level toilet cistern with modern valves

fibre glass lined high level toilet cistern with modern valves

I will at some stage put more details up + the fitted finsh instal but this will have to do for know.

Any comments (please leave them below) might encourage me to do the write up sooner than later.