Wellington Mansions had sustained nearly two decades of neglect due to the previous freeholder being in jail for Customs and Excise fraud then believed to be deceased) and his managing agents (family members) insisting that the building was nothing to do with them. From my initial research into trying to find a way to move the block forward, which starts here, to securing the Right to Manage and then acquiring the freehold through compulsory acquisition, the building is very slowly being restored.
There was not only the physical aspect and the leasehold problems of the block to contend with but at the same time we were subjected to totally uncontrolled subletting and dealing with the the press coined ‘rogue’ landlords.
ROOF AND WATER TANKS
This photographic journal starts with images of the roof and water tanks, working down to the gulleys. All the following photographs are what we inherited and the works we had carried out.
Clearing the roof and carrying out patch repairs was all we could do in the early days, which was like trying to plug holes in a great big sieve!
After a considerable amount of time, the roof and the water tanks were fully repaired and they ended up looking like this!
Guttering is used to efficiently drain water from the roof and prevent problems with damp. Depending on the ground bearing capacity of certain types of ground under the foundations, if these become blocked this can cause severe problems such as subsidence. All ours were replaced.
Downpipes and Hoppers
Gradually the lead down-pipes were replaced with round plastic pipes fixed to the wall with pipe clips and 2-part brackets. 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. Hoppers have also been replaced due to many of the them having split.
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!
These are the repaired gulleys.
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 taken out when we took over management 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. So, we hadn’t planned to have it removed, as it only needed monitoring. Unfortunately some idiot trying to lower a sofa over the first floor balcony dislodged one of the panels, posing 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.
Here’s a sample of the cracks we’ve had repaired.
Having external lighting installed was carried out in tandem alongside the works to the roof and water tanks as the existing wiring and the few lights that had been installed in the dim and distant past 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 at the rear of the block it was virtually pitch black. A tenant actually broke both ankles on the front stairwell and we constantly had to deal with the drunken behaviour and drug taking of some of the (then) tenants and their friends under the cover of darkness.
We couldn’t afford to get every single light the building needed at this stage but we did get installed as many as we could at the time. We were so pleased when a number of residents said how much safer they felt, including the family speaking for an elderly and unwell tenant who lived on the ground floor where it was darkest.
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!
Centre Flower Beds
Our centre flower beds were mainly populated by fuschias which had been there for years and each year they were becoming more and more sparse and were being continually trampled on by kids. The surrounding paths were also badly in need of a jet wash having accumulated years of moss and were a serious trip hazard. Sadly our caretaker, who along with other duties had also been looking after the fuschias as best he could, passed away and so we decided to overhaul the area to make it easier to maintain. In memory of his services and as a mark of respect we had two large potted fushcia plants placed on the new gravel beds.
These photos show the intermediate stage of the overhaul and what the area looks like now.
The rear garden was in an awful state and in order to get it under control one of the first things we did was to remove a number of trees as well as asking our neighbour to cut back their overhanging tree which was seriously blocking light to the rear top floor flat. Trees (and particularly their roots) need to be monitored and maintained when they are located within a distance that could affect a building. This is because they can damage drains and undermine foundations, particularly on older properties which may not have any foundations to speak of!. They are often found to be the cause or significant contributing factor to ground movement i.e. subsidence. They also cause dessication by sucking moisture out of the soil (clay soils are particularly susceptible) during the dry months causing it to sink slightly and the property with it. When the soil swells again during the winter the property doesn’t necessarily go back up, or, if it does, not in an even way which can cause significant subsidence cracking. The roots can also cause mechanical damage to drainage and foundations by pressing on them.
Note: Some trees are much higher water-demand than others
The next photo’s show the ‘during work’ stage to remove the trees.
Here’s that area of the garden now.
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 which it has.
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!
This is what the balconies on the rear floors looked like during works.
This is what they look like now.
Front External 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.
This is the front render repaired.
SECURITY SIDE GATE
This was a more recent addition to the security measures made to the block and it was because we caught some people wandering in off the street and strolling down the side. When challenged they were downright aggressive so we decided to nip this in the bud rather then run the same risks as before which resulted in personal injury to us.
STAIRWELLS (front and rear)
One of the biggest differences made to the block was the redecorating of the front and rear stairwells as this is what they looked like. Balancing our finances meant that this had been put on the back burner longer than we would have liked but when finances improved we finally went ahead and had them done.
Here’s the work in progress. All the steps had some minor repairs to even them out ahead of their nosings being painted (a health and safety requirement).
Pass me my shades please!
UNCONTROLLED WASTE AND A FIRE!
The continual dumping of stuff from inside rented flats, from debris to toilets was another major issue demanding ongoing efforts from us to get the landlords to stop doing it! It took literally years to get it under control but not soon enought to prevent someone from setting fire to some of it!
This is the damage we were left with and which of course we inherited. What we didn’t inherit though was any buildings insurance!
Ongoing Water Leak
Yet another problem we inherited was that of a water leak from the flat immediately above the fire. Everytime it was thought that it had been fixed it reoccurred.
Eventually the leak stayed repaired long enough for the repairs and redecoration to be carried out and this is what it looks like.
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.