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Bristol ceilings

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SammyQ

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Would Eric the viking. or Rafezetter, or anyone living in Bristol, please tell me .."what in the name'God"**possessed Bristol builders to use coal dust as a binder for the initial coat on a lath and plaster ceiling?
I pulled number 3 child's main bedroom ceiling - as a favour to him - and I have never, in my puff, had such an appalling renovation experience. That stuff is totally, truly, transforming ghastly. Its dust has gluten-like cling, resists any attempt to clean it up, disseminates through 1mm gaps to spread over a metre from said gap...I am completely unimpressed and consider the architect of this practice to have an IQ in single figures. ( Yes, I know, probably a cheap local by-product? But, I am ready for the hills!!).

** Belfast vernacular: ' what in the name of God'

Sam, who could have easily auditioned for BBC's "B&W minstrel show"...'cept...I can't sing...or dance...just look like a singularly clumsy coal heaver...
 

CHJ

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The same gods that deemed it the in thing to use fine fly ash for the 1" deep impressively polished plaster finish on those Victorian and Edwardian houses in Malvern that were retrospectively Plumbed in Lead water pipes and wired in lead sheathed electrics. Oh the joys of dealing with live leadwork and dust that clogged anything better than a dustpan and brush in the 1960's.


Old age may be a pain at times but the acceptance that those experiences are not in the foreseeable future bring some consolation.
 

rafezetter

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Well according to my mate "Dave the builder" who's been around this area for 30 years and is a bit of a history buff, it was a cheap filler - some of it was an offshoot of the coal mines around Bristol and the rest was from the sweepings of coal suppliers warehouses - a cheap readily available filler for the first coat to stick to the lathes, as well as the aformentioned fly ash and "god knows what else".

Going by Erik's rough cast rendered walls the same mentality went for the outside as inside - I found old cut nails, glass and bottle glass, broken pottery (clay and fine china), seashells (cockles possibly) .... allsorts.

I've no idea how all of that became part of the render mix, it really does make you wonder; about the only things that do make sense are the cut nails and cockle shells - lunch (not together obviously).
 

Phil Pascoe

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I took out two box frame windows in my 1899 house and everything above the windows hit the floor. Bits of angle iron, pieces of iron pipe and even a piece of an old bedstead. They were in a corner and fortunately one was six inches higher than the other, which allowed me to run the new lintels overlapping into the brick column . The irritating thing was that the bathroom window was about a foot inboard of what should have been the lintel and I had boarded up the inside up to about six inches from the top (a four foot board) to avoid any damage - nothing can possibly fall upwards, could it? :? .............. and when the wall above the "lintel" collapsed, a piece of shale about fifteen inches long hit the scaffold, bounced upwards through an arc straight through the six inch gap into the bathroom ............ where it went through the side of a brand new, large coloured glass fibre corner bath. (hammer)
 

SammyQ

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:D That makes me feel so much better, that I'm not the only ejit smothered in heavy duty makeup, pulling 25 rubbish bags of carp on his (thinning) bonce...Eric, coff,coff, know perzactly wot you mean. Wrote off three middling-effective dust masks in 24 hours and I'm tempted to do a Steptoe and Son comment re what the dust does to body mucus...( yes, I know, that will fly above the heads of anyone who isn't a sixties child).

Chas, your last lines really pulled me up; I'm 63 and heading for a new knee, this has just got to be my last serious labouring job for the family. Paying a "wee man" and observing from a distance is now being writ into familial policy! :D

Happy new month everybody.

Sam
 

Chris152

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Same thing in Cardiff, and I'd imagine turn of the century houses all along South Wales - from the mines i guess. We even get coal dust tide marks on the beaches (which feels less offensive than tide marks around a sweaty neck after a day ripping out plaster walls/ ceilings).
 

Eric The Viking

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In case anyone wonders about the veracity of Rafezetter's comments above, at the beginning of the last century, the Bristol coalfield was the largest in the UK, or so I've read. The NCB is still involved here, as large areas of the city are now housing where once were pits, and occasionally things disappear, vertically.

And yes, I hate the render on our place with a loathing that is impossible to adequately put into words...

E.
 

whiskywill

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I pulled down the lathe and plaster ceilings and hacked off all of the walls of a three bed semi around 35 years ago and only now do I learn that the dirty black mortar contained coal dust. :eek:
 

SammyQ

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:D :D Will!

I did the same 30 years ago on a full three storey terrace house (and two storey return) but it was nothing, repeat, nothing, compared to this stuff! At least there it was standard lime plaster and bat dung...

Sam.
 

Student

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It’s not only ceilings, the stuff seems to have been used in all sorts of places. Our house is built of engineering bricks which are very hard. The mortar on the other hand is made with the coal dust in place of sand and is very soft. Drilling holes in walls for curtain rails, pictures etc. is a lottery. Unless you hit near the centre of a brick, the chances are that the drill bit will glance off into the mortar; alternatively, you hit a mortar course straight off. Should you hit the mortar, you get a fountain of black gunge and the resulting hole is very difficult to fill with Polyfilla type fillers. The dust was also used in the base coat when plastering walls. The mess created when my daughter got an electrician to chase out the walls in her house to bury surface mounted cables was unbelievable. You can also see the use of coal dust in the cappings of stone walls in the north of Bristol.

Although the stuff may be coal dust, in some respects it is more like graphite being quite greasy rather than gritty. As an aside, after we moved to Bristol some 40 years ago, I was told that most of the stuff came from the old gas works near the Cumberland Basin.
 

SammyQ

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Yes Student, I noticed that the stains/dust were quite like those created by messy third formers when we did a prac with graphite dust. Real 'cling' factor when you tried to wipe it away, even with a good cleaner, like flash or similar. Didn't make the connection until you pointed it out. S'pose coal dust proper is grittier?
Sam
 
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