Up a ladder at 5:30am

We had hoped that the roof repairs were finalised with the last round of work finished before Easter. The occasional day of rain we had between then and now seemed to indicate all was well. After each rain I would check the buckets that remained in place in the two rooms. They stayed dry. I would almost obsessively run my hand along the wall in between the two rooms to check if it was damp or water was running down the wall as happened in the past. All seemed well as the wall remained dry. However, I was waiting for a few days of rain in order to really test the repairs. This is now happening as the east coast of Australia is being pounded by floods and winds.

The small kitchen, now known as the butler’s pantry, is bone dry. Repairs reported in previous posts have been the replacement of the skylight, which had a crack running across it, the box gutter running just below the skylight between the two roof peaks, and finally the bathroom roof that was pooling water and leaking significantly.


The hole in the roof with skylight


The dry esky and floor

The blue and white esky was used to collect rain from the multiple drip points from the hole in the roof. It was so bad that sometimes it would be a third full when I emptied it. The dirt on the floor is from the plaster and stuff that have been washed through the hole. Anyway it is now dry even though we have had three days of rain. Success!

Unfortunately, the room next door still has a problem. This was the room with a hole that developed after we had been living in the house. There are currently 3 buckets that have water dripping into them. Two have less than a coffee mug of water but the third near the centre of the room has about two mugs of water in it. This is significantly less than what used to drip with this amount of rain. The wall is also still dry. A big win is the leak in the hallway next door has yet to develop and it would have in the past, after two days of rain. So this is a partial success. Almost certainly there is another source of water.


The ceiling pre making the hole bigger. The gaps between the lathes gave only a small view of the roof cavity.

I only noticed the water dripping last night and that was after a few days of rain. I got the ladder and with a torch had a look through the small gaps where the plaster had fallen out between the lathes. I really couldn’t see much and then went to bed.

I woke up at 5am and could hear it was still raining. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I decided I should make a hole through the lathes to find out if I could see where the water was coming from. Of course now was the time and not some more reasonable time later on in the day.

I have read about people’s experiences with removing ceilings. They always talk about lots of mess and dust. So I got prepared. I laid down a floor tarpaulin and placed the ladder just right. I knew I would need a shower after this so I placed clean clothes in the bathroom ready for washing up. Wearing a paper dust mask I carefully went up the ladder with a claw hammer to lever some lathes away from the main framework. I will point out that I hate working up high on a ladder and these ceilings are way higher than a modern house. Down came some lathes with the plaster keys that were still hanging on after over a century. Some spider webs and clouds of dust. Dust from 1882 or earlier as this would have been part of the original ceiling. I had a small piece of plaster bounce off my head on its way down but was ok. After I had made enough room for my head to fit through I went and washed my face because I had dust and grit all over and some was almost getting into my eyes. My glasses needed a wash and clean too.


The lathes taken out.

So I went back up the ladder with my torch. I was about to look into a space that hadn’t been seen for a long time. Of course at this moment I knocked my torch off the ladder and had to go back down the ladder to pull it out of the mess on the tarp.

I’ll mention now that the torch is a wind up one. So I wound it up to give it more of a charge. At the top of the ladder again I placed my reading glasses on hanging plaster where I could get them if I needed them. I stepped up to the second last step on the ladder. Finally, I carefully put my head through the hole while holding my torch in one hand and having a death grip on a ceiling beam with the other.  I got my first good look into the ceiling space.

There were fewer spider webs than I had expected. I could see the corner of the top bathroom and the plaster and lathe wall of the red bedroom. When I climbed down the ladder to get the camera I knocked the plaster my glasses were on and it decided to fall down too. I retrieved my glasses from the pile of rubble and they were safe in their case. I carefully took a few pictures.


Water pipe for the top bathroom. Plaster and lathe wall on the left is the red bedroom.

The small pipe in the picture is the water pipe that runs into the corner of the top floor bathroom. The large pipe is the waste pipe from the bathroom. The vertical wall on the far side is the wall of the red bedroom. The triangle of bricks is part of the outside wall on the east side of Cliftoria.


The black pipe is the waste pipe from the bathroom. Triangle in the distance is the outside wall.

Apart from the water stain on the beam over one of the drip points I cannot see where the water is getting in. I’m sending a message to our roofing people for them to come and have a look because their experience should, I hope, let them see things that I don’t recognise.

The shower to clean up was nice but had to be fairly short because I discovered the gas hot water had stopped working during the night due to the wind. Fortunately, there was enough hot water in the tank to get properly clean including my hair. I relit the pilot light and it is now working ok.

Things to get for my next time working on the ceiling. Overalls to wear. A full face dust mask that lets me wear glasses. I came too close to getting grit and dust in my eyes. Also a safety helmet, which is obvious in hindsight.  Finally, one of those work platforms so I don’t have to use a ladder. A better torch too.

So that is why I was up a ladder at 5:30am this morning.


3 responses to “Up a ladder at 5:30am

  1. That’s not a hole I’d want to poke my head through! As I was reading I was thinking, “Where’s your safety equipment??” so I’m glad you are getting some.

  2. I hadn’t done any ceiling work before. Well other than painting one. I was not removing the whole ceiling because then I would have been all kitted up. I had thought taking a handful of lathes out would not be too bad and a dust mask would be enough protection. This area has dried out because the main leaks have been fixed and the current one is somewhere further over than I would have thought.. My experience shows that it was quite bad anyway. My hair and face ended up all covered with grit and dust. Googles or a full face cover are really required for this sort of work. A useful learning experience though.

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