Restoration Photo Journal
This photo journal shows the enormous amount of work carried out to Wellington Mansions after it suffered years of neglect due to an absent freeholder, a story which starts here.
The first thing we did in relation to the building was to commission a Building Condition Report/10 Year Maintenance plan to not only show the condition of the building and to see exactly what we were up against but to start planning the order of the works.
It’s executive summary stated the following, starting with the roof:
- The roof coverings were at the end of their useful working life:
- An internal inspection of our flat established that water leaked into the building during periods of rainfall;
- The roof deck felt soft underfoot;
- Through years of neglect it was likely that a substantial amount of timber replacement (decking and structural members) might be required in addition to the complete renewal of all roof coverings;
- The water tanks located on the roof were exposed to the elements leading to possible/probable contamination of tanked water supplies;
- Tank lids, housings and insulation were missing.
This is what it looked like before we started to repair it, cleaning it of moss, plant life and debris, and continuing the effecting of temporary repairs where we could as soon as we could.
This was the intermediate stage.
We also had the following repairs carried out to all the water tanks:
- The water damaged water tank houses were dismantled;
- The pipework was disconnected then re-connected;
- The rotting timber that supported the water tanks were replaced;
- The damaged stop cocks were replaced;
- The water tank houses were re-built then covered with a felt-covered wooden lid.
Later, when they had all been done, the water was disinfected with silver peroxide which breaks down into the water over a few hours.
This is our roof now!
The boarding to the structural steel work of our building appeared fibrous which was thought to be a sign that it was made from an asbestos containing material. An asbestos survey revealed that we had white Chrysotile which is classed as a carcinogen and whilst dangerous, it is not as dangerous as the other forms of asbestos. The asbestos-containing boarding was declared safe if undisturbed but a panel later became dislodged by a landlord’s contractor carelessly lowering a sofa over the balcony. This posed an immediate health and safety risk to the flat beneath so we had all panels removed from the front and rear of the building.
After its removal we had the following work done:
- All the old rendering or pointing surrounding the beams hacked out;
- The exposed steel beams prepared for redecoration with two coats of hammerite;
- Sections of wood between metal joists and ceiling sections installed and painted in matching colour to the ceiling.
The building has sustained a number of cracks over the years which whilst not surprising considering its age (its believed to be a 1930’s build) it certainly wasn’t helped by being ignored for nearly two decades.
All the repairs required the following:
- The raking out of slots into the horizontal mortar beds at a minimum of 500mm either side of the crack;
- Reinforcing the cracked brick wall with stainless steel bars;
- Re-pointing the mortar bed and making good;
- Re-pointing the surrounding area where needed.
The repaired cracks encompass the whole building, front, rear and sides. There is also a lintel repair at the rear of the property which spread up the stairs! Another crack was found in the joist underneath a rear flat and was repaired to prevent further damage.
We had been looking to provide safety measures the block for a long time because a number of flats had been broken into.This was scary enough but it got a lot worse when some of our so-called ‘rogue’ landlords handed over their flats to the local authorities who then violence committed against us by their anti-social tenants. but because myself and my partner were the only security the block had and we had sustained a number of physical assaults when we dealt with disturbances in the common areas (which is our remit). Finances and other priorities had dictated otherwise but after working with our company solicitor and successfully getting a lender to pay the arrears of a leaseholder who had (up to then) continually refused to pay, we were able to finally have CCTV installed.
CENTRE FLOWER BEDS
Our centre flower beds were were mainly populated by fuschias and the surrounding paths were badly in need of a jet wash.
This is what they were transformed into. As a mark of respect to our former caretaker who had cared for the fuschias for a very long time before he suffered health problems and sadly passed away, we had two large potted fushcia plants placed on the new gravel beds in his memory.
DOWNPIPES AND HOPPERS
We gradually had all our down pipes replaced with round pipes fixed to the wall with pipe clips and brackets which come in two parts (a two-part bracket). One part fits around the pipe while the other part is fixed to the wall. The separate parts are joined together with a nut and bolt. A shoe fits onto the bottom of the downpipe to direct the water away from the wall and into the drain.
Installing external lighting was actually carried out alongside the roof and water tanks as the existing wiring and the few lights that had been installed were in a right mess, with exposed wiring on stairwells and bits of foil dishes dotted around the place. There was some light coming from the main road at the front of the building but the stairwell was very dark and gloomy and around the back of the block it was virtually pitch black. A tenant actually broke both ankles on the front stairwell not to mention the drunken behaviour and drug taking of some of the (then) tenants and their friends under the cover of darkness.
The finished work was an extremely professional job and made a tremendous difference.
FLYTIPPING & FIRE!
Before we took control, the constant turnover of rented flats and the uncontrolled dumping of any and all of their contents was a massive problem. The number of altercations we had with individual landlords and their agents because of their downright refusal to remove what they emptied out of a flat ahead of a new tenant moving in was endless! The following photo’s show just how much was tipped over the years.
The next photo’s show what happened with someone visiting a tenant on the block had a row with them and chucked a lighted match into the whole lot! I recall being asleep at the time when my partner woke me up to say there was a fire and I could already see flames licking upward towards our floor. Pretty damn scary! Not only that, there was an ongoing leak in the center of the area which had started before the fire and the buildings insurance had been allowed to lapse!
This took years to repair because landlords would think they had repaired the leak, we’d wait a while to ensure it had stopped before we issued instructions to repair, and the damn thing would start again!
Eventually though, we reached a point with the current landlord where we believed the leak to finally have been repaired and this is what the area looks like now!
We had two front gates installed and the difference in people’s attitude to the property was an absolute study in human behaviour. We have a bus stop immediately in front of the block but we’d never actually had gates before so our forecourt was completely open to everyone, as if it was an extension of the pavement. We had young adults on mobile phones, young adults peering into windows whilst on mobile phones and little children at risk of injury by running hell for leather on the concrete stairs because their mothers were too pre-occupied on (you’ve guessed it) their mobile phones to even notice!
Before the gates we’d even had to chuck people off the forecourt for urinating on it!
Little or no trouble of that kind since installation though although we’re constantly removing cigarette butts, crisp packets and cans!
We had a number of gulleys that needed repairing. Unfortunately there wasn’t much we could do about some of the shoddy pipework entering into them as they were carried out by individual landlords!
Guttering is used to efficiently drain water from the roof and prevent problems with damp. Our cast iron gutters had been blocked for literally years so rainwater, (sometimes in very high volume), had discharged onto external walls and onto the ground. Depending on the ground bearing capacity of certain types of ground under the foundations, this can cause sever severe problems such as subsidence.
We’d acted on this by having the guttering cleared and maintained but one day whilst standing by the central flower beds, I noticed that some water was bouncing from an open window onto my head. On looking up there was a gap in the guttering where the water was coming from.
This led to the whole guttering later being completely replaced with UPVC guttering which is lighter than other materials, making it relatively easy to manouevre into position, and it requires very little maintenance.
After a considerable amount of time without any vandalism problems, one of the tenants on the ground floor caught someone trying to break into his flat via the bathroom window. So, although we never had to consider it before, we had a motion sensor installed in this area to deter repeat actions. No more vandalism!
Pointing (which is the external part of mortar joints) can over time become defective as weathering and decay cause voids in the joints between masonry units (usually bricks), allowing water ingress.
Whilst we have renewed a number of areas of defective pointing, the largest repair was done at the side of the building as it was causing water ingress into the two end flats, back and front.
It required the raking out of the pointing to a depth of 25mm, renewing it and starting at the top going down 20 courses. It also required co-ordinating access to the neighbours drive. I have to say that they (and others that used the drive) were absolutely brilliant!
REAR BALCONY DAMAGE
This is yet another part of a rear wall that had sustained serious disrepair and there was a danger of bits of it falling off!
We had a very large tree overhanging our block which can be seen in the photograph. It wasn’t actually ours as it was on the other side of our boundary wall and so belonged to our neighbour. This tree was causing a significant lean to our boundary wall and blocking out a considerable amount of light to the upper flat over which it was hanging. After shoring up the wall I contacted a company called the Tree Clinic for advice. After explaining the situation to one of the Directors of the company, I was advised that I should get a surveyor to fully assess the damage to the wall and surrounding area and to write up a report. Were we to then use the Tree Clinic, they would base their remedy on the contents of that survey.
They went on to say that felling the tree in one go would not necessarily be the best course of action because sometimes it is best to remove a mature tree in stages for example, 40 – 50% of the crown (with the tree being left for 6 months to a year) then a further percentage until the tree is fully removed.
Other factors to consider are the potential issue of water that is not taken away from the tree resulting in it going somewhere else and what type of ground the tree is rooted in.
As a result of this telephone conversation we decided to ask our property manager to request that our neighbour put a hold on felling the tree until we were able to act on the advice of the Tree Clinic but ahead of us being able to take it, they cut the tree right back and then painted stuff onto the stump, which penetrates the roots and kills it off. We’ve had no growth from it to date, so it looks as if their action has done the trick although we won’t be able to tell for sure until we remove the shoring in order to repair the wall.
We also wanted to overhaul the garden which shows how many trees we had and what it looked like when the landscape gardeners came in.
The garden ended up looking like this.
I also thought that it would be nice to put up photo’s of our ‘punk’ squirrel as he seemed more than ready to pose for the camera! The robins were a little more difficult to photograph and the toad had no choice!
RENDERING OF FRONT BOUNDARY WALL
Our front wall was in quite a state and the question was should we pull it down and rebuild it or should we repair it from the render plinth up? Cost is always a factor when making such decisions so we decided on the latter and it appears it was a good move as the following photographs show. This is only the front of the wall from the outside of the block so the opposite side (from the inside) will need to be done at some point.
SECURITY SIDE GATE
This was a more recent addition to the security measures made to the block and it was because we actually caught some people wandering in off the street and strolling down the side. When challenged they were not very pleasant so we decided to nip this in the bud.
STAIRWELL REDECORATIONS & REPAIRS (front and rear)
One of the biggest differences made to the block was the redecorating of the front and rear stairwells. Balancing finances meant that this had been put on the back burner for far too long but recently we had improved finances and so we finally went ahead and had them done. Pass me my shades please!
The next photo’s show the stairs being made ready for some minor repairs to even them out ahead of their nosings being painted (a health and safety requirement). The last 4 photos are painted step nosings at the back and at the front, 2 of each.
There is a crack in the main road which follows through our boundary wall, across our forecourt and up the center of the building. So, to be on the safe side, when the council moved one of the bus stops from just up the road on the opposite side of the road to directly opposite our block I took the opportunity to take photos of the crack at a deeper level before they repaired the road again.
I also drew it to the attention of the council but they were insistent that it was not causing any problems for us. They also said that if they repaired that particular crack in the road, they would have to repair the one further down the road and this was not an option! I also took some photo’s to demonstrate how much heavy traffic our main road gets in case further down the line we have to prove that both the cracks and the traffic are the main contributors to any subsidence to the building.
WATER TANK CRACK & DAMAGE TO FLAT
Our neighbour reported water damage to her ceiling and on investigation it was found that the water tank serving her part of the building was cracked. So we had it replaced.