We knew before we purchased our Pile of Rubble, that it needed to be stitched back together. We had various surveys conducted on it, all of which came back stating that it had moved and more worryingly, it had moved within the last 15 years. We know this as our structural engineer had seen our Pile of Rubble about 18 years ago. He had also carried out surveys for other prospective buyers prior to us. We could see from the outside that the render had cracked, however we could not see the walls inside due to the lath and plaster work which covered up the cracks internally.
What we had not prepared ourselves for was the removal of all the lath and plaster from the walls inside our Pile of Rubble. At first glance this seemed like an easy task. First you remove the plaster from the walls.
Then you carefully remove the wooden struts between the batons which are attached to the stone walls.
Once these have been removed and the very loose dust and rubble brushed off the stones, you are left with exposed walls.
Our Pile of Rubble is built in a very interesting, historical, way. It is block and rubble built. Basically blocks are placed together to form walls with a cavity between them, the cavity is then filled with rubble. Now in 1834 the building regulations were somewhat different from today….. Any material that happened to be around was used to fill the cavities between the blocks. The left over muck from making plaster, horse hair, small rocks and sand all went into filling up the void between the inner and outer blocks of the house. Over the last 187 years, the rubble filling the voids between the blocks that make up the walls of our Pile of Rubble, have settled. The air pockets that were formed by pouring rubble between two blocks have dispersed and the rubble has settled down in the lower parts of the walls, leaving the two upper floors exposed to movement. Added to this was the force of a WWII Bomb which exploded behind our Pile of Rubble as Ventnor was a target for many years due to the radar station. Troops used the cliffs for training purposes prior to the D-Day landings. At some point in more recent years, drainage has been an issue, and this has further aggravated the problem, as the very limited foundations our Pile of Rubble were originally built on have suffered erosion due to leaks, therefore washing some of them away. Our structural engineer and our stitching guys, are very happy that our Pile of Rubble is no longer on the move. and when the work is finished to stitch it back together, it will be standing for many more years to come.
So how does this work for our Pile of Rubble? Once the block walls have been exposed, the major cracks need to be filled with more rubble and boulders, held in with Lime Mortar. A job the Taller One was very good at over the Easter period, before the stitching work began.
The back right hand corner of our Pile of Rubble has the major issue, and this is the area where most of the stitching work is taking place. Once all the walls had been prepared, we had to wait for the planning officer to give the go ahead for the stitching to start. Whilst this work has to be carried out, because it is a Grade II listed property, consent has to be given and specialist stitching contractors have to be authorised to carry out the work. We were very lucky to be granted permission to start this part of our project prior to Planning for the entire project being granted. This is in part due to the invasive nature of the work but also because without us doing these major works to the house, it will fall down!
Our stitching guys, Neil and Gareth, are very highly skilled in this area, and have carried out this work on a number of properties locally. All three floors of our Pile of Rubble have to be stitched back together again. Whilst the basement is not as big an issue, the pins and resin will only work by stitching together all the floors, from the bottom up. The worst area effected is the top floor. This area will in time become our en-suite. If you look closely at the photo below you should be able to see the crack, which you can easily fit your hand into and touch the outer wall of our Pile Of Rubble.
Most other areas once uncovered were as expected. Apart from the wall at the top of the main staircase, which has a window fitted into it. This is one of the highest points of our Pile of Rubble, and here the inner wall has completely collapsed. All the internal rubble has either fallen out or made its way to the basement through the cavity. Once exposed, the hole looked a bit scary, however our structural engineer is currently working with our stitching team to find the best way of packing and rebuilding the inner wall, before the stitching is carried out in this area.
Stitching started mid March, and it has been fascinating to watch. The first part of the process involves drilling into the outer blocks, and removing the solid stone.
A hollow drill is used and occasionally a piece comes out intact. Usually the stone brakes when it is tapped out of the drill piece, but we have a few pieces which have come out whole.
Next, three meter long steel pins are placed into the hole, where the stone has been removed, and plastic pipes are inserted around them.
Resin is then inserted through the tubes and allowed to set. This is done in a diamond formation across the walls. Then five meter steel rods are drilled into the main beams, from corner to corner, thus stitching our pile of rubble back together. So far 49 litres of resin have been pumped into our Pile of Rubble, and we are only half way through.