FAQ’s – Get answers from a specialist cob builder

Frequently Asked Questions

We are a traditional building company specialising in cob, stone and lime restoration and conservation projects. Older buildings can be a concern for their owners or potential owners, so we answer some common questions you may have.

I have damp patches appearing on my walls, what can I do?

If you live in an older property you may get damp patches because the walls have been rendered with a building product that does not allow your property to ‘breathe’, normally sand cement and gypsum. This can cause water ingress. The trapped moisture gradually makes its way through the modern plaster and creates damp patches, efflorescence, and often unsightly mould. In advanced cases, this can cause structural damage so it is best to seek advice.

Top tip: Check that your guttering is sound! We visit a lot of properties where damaged or displaced guttering has caused avoidable damage.

What should I do if my building has been rendered in sand cement and gypsum?

We would always advise the complete removal of modern plasters both externally and internally on a cob or stone building. This will allow your building to expel any trapped moisture and allow the drying process to commence. It will also unveil any possible structural issues which can then be resolved. You can then re-render your property using lime, which is a fully breathable product.

If your budget does not stretch to this, we can talk you through other possible options, which may include partial removal and replacement or if you have a stone or brick structure, repointing with lime may be an option.

Does Earthouse do ‘patching’?

We would never advise patching with lime render on cementitious rendering. The two different materials are not compatible and this can lead to further issues. 

On occasion we may patch lime rendered walls, but this is never ideal and generally not cost effective.

We have not yet purchased our property. Will Earthouse visit the site and advise on potential works?

We will discuss your situation and if appropriate we can visit the property independently, with the estate agent, or meet you on site. If you are able to provide a structural survey in advance we can base our estimate on the information given. 

Can I do any of the restoration work myself?

This obviously depends on your situation. We have had customers who start the restoration process themselves and then ask us to take over at a certain point and we also have customers who will labour on their own project under our guidance. We are open to chatting through the options with you.

How much does lime rendering/plastering cost?

As a general rule, lime rendering is worked out based on the square meterage of a property. However, additional factors may need to be taken into account when we provide an estimate or quote. These may include the state of the existing render, accessibility and/or additional travel costs. The number of coats required and the desired finish also has an impact on price.

Unfortunately removing cementitious render can reveal structural issues which can add considerably to the cost of the contract. You will also need to consider scaffolding and decoration costs. 

Earthouse is VAT registered and charges VAT at the applicable rate.

We will discuss all these factors with you during your initial enquiries.

Can cob, stone and lime render be used in conjunction with modern building materials?

Absolutely! We have a number of projects where traditional building materials have been used alongside some really new modern materials and techniques with great harmony. We have established relationships with local trades and we are experienced in working alongside them.

Can Earthouse help with my plans for a barn conversion?

Yes. We are happy to work with you and the other relevant parties to assist with your planning proposal. You can view our recent Barn Conversion projects here.

Can Earthouse assist with scaffolding? What are typical scaffolding costs?

We have worked with the same fully licensed and compliant scaffolding contractor for a number of years now and we liaise closely with them to ensure that the scaffold is appropriate for the required works. Scaffolding costs can vary according to location, accessibility, and the number of lifts required. A full scaffold roof is an expensive outgoing, but depending on your project it may be necessary and could cut costs in the longterm.

Does Earthouse undertake well restoration?

Yes, but only in our local area.

Can Earthouse help with digging trial observation holes?

Yes, this will be charged at an hourly or day rate.

Will Earthouse work on chimney restoration projects?

Yes. Chimney issues can be frightening, but Earthouse are very experienced in ensuring chimney work is undertaken in a safe manner. We also work with roofing contractors who can provide full re-roofing and specialist lead and zinc options.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss your project further.

Well Restoration

Old wells

Well restoration is not exactly our trade, but due to the nature of the older properties we tend to work on, Earthouse quite often uncovers a disused well, often in a bit of a sorry state. Some customers choose to cover them over for safety reasons or simply because they do not want to be able to see them. There are really effective ways to restore a well and make it into a feature, which is what we did in a back yard, as shown below.

This well was covered in concrete; we learnt that the back yard of the property had once been used a wash house for the village so we felt it was right to proceed with the well restoration.

Well restoration - draining the well

Winching the bucket up – one load of silt at a time!

Well Restoration - built up to ground level

Well after the top section had been built up to ground level with brick

We drained the well a few times, first manually then with an electric pump; the pump to the well was also in the backyard, but was broken. Unfortunately due to an oil leak from another property we are unable to use the water. If you are restoring a well please be aware that if you intend to draw water from it, you will need to get the water tested and a license from the local authorities. You can get free advice and apply for a licence on the GOV.UK Water abstraction and impoundment page.

The well was about 12” deep and made of earth. The top area of the well needed reinforcement which we did with layers of red brick as shown.

The well full or water again - this project took some time!

The well full or water again – this project took some time!

The water level nearly at the top of the well a couple of days after draining. Brick work effectively complete.

Because the area will be in use we needed to ensure that the well was safe. It was decided to lay a sheet of reinforced glass over the well. This allowed us to also install lighting in the well which adds to the atmosphere when the yard is being used in the evening. We found that Veon Glass in Totnes were really helpful and provided us with a great bespoke product. We also reinstated the old iron pump.

Below you can see photos of the fully restored well. The final picture shows the well at night with the green lighting glowing.

Well lit up at night

The well at night – green lighting.

Restored Well in back yard

Fully restored well

If you are interested in well restoration, please contact us.