Sunday, December 8, 2013


Ok, I'm done with comments on blogger. As of today I noticed that the captchas have become utterly unintelligible so unless they change their design again I won't be able to comment on blog posts any more.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Floor Update

Old Austrian ceilings are usually rather complex.
The load-bearing layer is the usual plaster&lath setup with heavy timbers as joists (and I mean HUGE, the ones in my bedroom are something like 18 by 28 cm or 7x11"!). On top of it there is a board-and-batten subfloor. The battens are designed to keep the layer above from falling down, that is the sound insulation. The easiest way of reducing sound transmission through a ceiling is sheer weight and the old-timers knew that. So they simply shoveled 10 cm+ (4") of sand, clay, broken mortar, bricks and other construction debris on top of the lower subfloor. In this dirt fill they embedded sleepers (2x3s) for either the second subfloor (in case of herringbone) or the finished floor (planks).

The old mix weighs around a tonne per cubic metre and did a decent job. Modern alternatives are often MUCH lighter (200-300 kg) and much worse. The best option in terms of weight would have been clay but that is expensive and needs to dry for a loooong time. Therefore after lengthy negotiations we chose Liapor Fit, which is double-fired clay granulate.

The battens in this room were partially damaged, put on crooked right from the beginning plus there were some splits and knots in the floor that allowed the old fill to fall down into the joist space. We requested the floor to be covered with paper or felt to prevent this but the contractor refused to do that. His guys did take some old boards and nailed them over the worst holes (after we told them) and filled some other gaps with *gasp* expanding foam. Then they built the subfloor.

Yesterday I worked on the wiring for the ceiling light one floor below and the instant I touched the cable I was showered with Liapor! Upon closer inspection we also discovered a nice sink hole above! That means there's a substantial hole (or in fact there are probably several as I found at least two sink holes) through which the nice new stuff can disappear!

On the plus side today the painters showed up to remove the leftover old distemper and skim the walls. Tomorrow they're supposed to shellac the water stains and skim another time. Then it's on to painting!


We spent Easter hurrying to complete a bunch of details since our mason promised to start plastering if we finished. So we spent the better part of two days scraping loose mortar/plaster out of brick joints in the front room and wired both the small bedroom and the last missing outlet in the front room.

With that done, the mason could finally plaster the front room! The first room that looks like a room again! Whoooooppppeeee!

                           became this

PS: I just realised that I'd never finished this post, probably because I found posting pictures too annoying. So I decided to post it with just these two pictures. The second picture is just a "during", taken before the finish coat was applied.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Again, a loooooong time has passed without updates. The flat I mentioned in the last post is mainly done, except the owner now wants to install central heating (great idea to replace the boiler just after we finished tiling the kitchen!). Only she didn't have time and energy to deal with plumbers, so the place is still sitting empty and half-finished (and half-full of old crap still).

In September work started at my home. We were scheduled to switch from combi boilers in every flat to a central wood pellet boiler in the cellar, which involved a stainless steel liner in an old chimney (inlcuding grinding out the flue to enlarge it), running big pipes in abandoned flues and just about trashing all the bathrooms, replacing the sleek combi boilers with pumps, meters, heat exchangers and plenty of exposed copper and PVC pipework - and of course plenty of rewiring, as the bloody boiler requires 3-phase 400 V power! The installation went on well into November and the hot water supply STILL doesn't work properly - the plumbers have to change some menu settings and replace a relay in every flat.

On Dec. 21 we had our little personal apocalypse when the top floor flat burned out and the firefighters flooded all three flats below. All my personal belongings (except for the mattress and some other minor items) were saved, but the plaster ceiling suffered and the oak herringbone parquet had standing water overnight, even though we used every bucket and tub we could find in the house. After MUCH debate with the insurance company, the floor was taken out to dry. Currently, the new subfloor is in and we are trying to finish some while-we-are-at-it wiring before the painters come in on Monday to scrape the old paint and skim-coat the walls and ceiling. Then it's on to painting and re-installing the floor. I'm still not sure how much I trust the contractors and what I'll let them do.

I also rewired parts of my cousin's flat (below ours), pretty much in the nick of time to prevent another fire. Some of the wiring was 100 years old and completely brittle. A note of caution to everybody: flush halogen fixtures are a sure way to fry the wiring inside the ceiling, especially (but not only) if it's old! And bare wires in a wooden (plaster and lath) ceiling are a sure recipe for disaster!

Progress at the farm has been minimal. We did get the WC tiled and mostly finished (only missing sink and door plus some painting), the better part of the bathroom is tiled, the bath is in (but not tiled yet) and two floors are done.

I removed the floor from the last post again, you can read all the gory details here:

We also installed a new larch floor in the small bedroom. This one had been stored in the house for months, so it worked fine. It still needs to be finished though.