Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Dry Rot–Work Begins

Today the man from the damp proofing company came to begin work on our dry rot problem in the kitchen.

He worked fast, efficiently and very tidily. I was amazed how much he had got done by lunch time, and with so little mess, too.

To backtrack a little, here are the pictures of the problem area. First of all, the old kitchen cupboard to the right of my fitted double oven.

01 Original Cupboards Closed

When the fitter installed our new kitchen when we moved 3 years ago, I asked him to leave that cupboard because it was an original feature of the house and it seemed a shame to strip it out. However, it proved an absolute pain – it was too deep, and the back was inaccessible, and whatever I wanted was always at the back, which meant that I was constantly taking stuff out to get at what I wanted! The first rule of larder design: have shelves that only hold one or two things deep, so everything is accessible. Also, in front of the cupboard was an area of dead space in the kitchen. The fitted oven unit is built against the front of the old chimney breast, and the cupboard goes into the recess to the right of it. When the new pantry is built, the door will be flush with the front of the cooker and will make use of this dead space.

Here is the top cupboard open, and you can see the problem I have with access to the contents.

02 Top Cupboard Open

This is the bottom cupboard, already cleared – you can see how far back it goes, and you can also see where the floor boards have rotted away, and the hole on the left.

03 Bottom Cupboard Open and Cleared

The rotten floor boards and the hole.

04 Rot in Bottom Cupboard

Looking down into the void beneath the house – you can see the rotting joists.

05 Detail of Rot in Bottom Cupboard

When the damp expert came to assess the problem, he said we would not know the extent of the problem until he’d got the floor up, but the worst case scenario was that it might have spread quite a distance, and he anticipated having to remove the oven unit anyway, and possibly even need to take up some of the floor in the sitting room next door. He said he would definitely have to take out the whole of the old cupboard, and I had no objection to this as it had proved such a problem to use.

He was due to begin the work a couple of weeks before Easter but a death in the family took him away for a few days so he said he would start the following Thursday instead, until I reminded him that the next day was Good Friday, which would mean we would have a hole in the floor for four days and no work being done, and he said he would start the day after the Easter bank holiday, which was today, Tuesday 18th April.

In the meantime I had plenty of time to clear the kitchen, starting with the rest of the offending cupboard. I didn’t know how much mess would be created, and anyway we needed to move into the kitchen in the flat, so I cleared everything that was out on top – no point in taking everything out of the kitchen units as they’d be protected from dust anyway. The next two photos show work in progress with the clearing!

06 Clearing the Kitchen Ready for the Work

07 Clearing the Kitchen Ready for the Work

It started to get very bare indeed and it became quite echoey in there! Once the work is done, it will be a great opportunity to give the whole kitchen a good spring clean before bringing the stuff back in, and the new pantry will allow me to organise things better so that I won’t need so much stuff out on the worktops, making it tidier and easier to keep clean.

Here is the flat kitchen with our stuff moved in. (You can see the primrose bank through the window!)

08 Decamping into Flat Kitchen 1

08 Decamping into Flat Kitchen 2

It’s very small, but I can stand in the middle and reach virtually everything! We’ve now been in for more than a fortnight and I’m really quite enjoying it! It’s funny to be using my old cooker again, too.

So – this morning the work began, with Kevin, one of the firm’s subcontractors taking on the work. Here is the space where the cupboard once was – these photos were taken at lunch time.

09 Cupboard and Rotten Timber Removed

10 Working on the Hole

He said that the man who had laid the laminate floor had done a beautiful job – the pieces were so snugly fitted together that he had to exercise great care to remove them without snapping off their tongue-and-groove edges.

In this photo you can see that he has already cleared away the rotten timbers.

11 Detail of the Hole

The pipe over the hole is believed to be the gas pipe which fed the old gas cooker which we had removed when we had our new kitchen – Kevin wasn’t keen to interfere with this, and I am hoping it won’t cause a problem in the new walk-in pantry – I shall discuss it with the kitchen fitter when the time comes. It runs through the wall and under the sitting room floor, presumably to the main out in the street at the front.

During the afternoon he cut new joists and wrapped the ends in damp proofing membrane (the black roll bottom right in the next photo) and cut new floor boards. He also made new wall plates to replace the rotten sections he has cut out – these support the joists. The old ones were extremely hard wood where he had to cut them, beyond the rotten part – and he couldn’t get his big power saw in and had to use a small blade which got extremely hot and made a nasty smell, as well as a great deal of noise – and of course during this stage, I had to deal with an important phone call!

All day the kitties were shut in the bathroom because the last thing we wanted was for them to start exploring the hole, and wandering about underneath the house! They were not best pleased. We discussed what to do, and we agreed it was best to keep the kitchen door shut and the cat flap locked, and after Kevin had gone, let them out so they had access to the rest of the house, and if they wanted to go out, we could let them out through the door from the flat into the garden. However, by the end of the day, Kevin had laid the new floor boards in place to cover the hole, without fixing them, so we were able to let the kitties out without any danger of losing them in the foundations of the house!

This is what it looks like this evening now he has gone.

12 End of Day 1

13 End of Day 1 Detail

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the work he’d done so far in the hole, showing the new joists in place, before he covered it up, but I’m hoping to get one tomorrow morning when he lifts up the floor boards to continue work, as it looks quite impressive!

What we have learnt today is all very good news. He says that it is a great advantage that the joists run transversely, because if they were running out at right angles to the end wall, the rot could well have got into more of them, necessitating a lot more digging out, and more floor having to coming up. As it is, it has only affected the two joists running across the cupboard space, and they are bounded each end by two solid walls. Not only does he not have to dig up the sitting room floor (WHAT a relief!!!!!) but he hasn’t even got to remove the double oven unit! I was pretty well certain that this would have to happen after what the boss man Andy had said.

Tomorrow, Kevin will remove the joists he’s just laid in place for now, and hack off the render from the walls where the cupboard was, as he needs to ascertain if any rot has got into the walls. He will redo this with sand and cement. Depending on whether he can get away with one or two coats, he may even finish the job by the end of Thursday! If it needs two coats, it will go on into Friday, but the job will certainly be finished by the weekend.

He will also spray the whole area with a chemical to destroy any dry rot, and make sure it is all damp proofed and ready for the new timbers to be permanently installed.

After the render has dried, he will plaster the walls, and then once the floor is all back in place, we can go ahead and get the kitchen fitter to start building my new walk-in pantry. He probably won’t be able to start immediately as he’s bound to be booked up with other work for a while, but at least we’ve got the flat kitchen and I’m quite used to cooking in there for now.

Today’s news was so good, and I am so relieved, and no longer worried about a huge, ongoing job causing major disruption and a lot of mess.

I am very impressed with this firm, and with Kevin’s expertise and efficiency. I can’t believe how much he has already achieved, especially as once he’d seen what needed to be done, he had to go out and purchase supplies.

I should have more news and photos tomorrow.


  1. Wow! That is quite a job they had to contend with. I'm so glad it didn't turn out as badly as it could have.

  2. Oh dear! BUT just as well to get rid of the old cupboard.Glad the work is progressing quickly.
    My new blog is http://taxtilemagic.blogspot.com.au

  3. That looks horrid, bet you'll be glad when it's all done but sounds like it's going to be okay. Take care, Angela xXx

  4. Sheesh, that looks rather scary, but having seen your update it's good to know that the problem was solved. Knowing that, diminished the shock value of these photos! Your handyman deserves a medal!


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