Repairing the Old Windows in the Engineers Garage

We sourced a modern putty substitute designed for steel casement windows to renovate the windows in the engineer’s garage

One of the four window blocks cleaned and glazed but awaiting painting.

We’ve paused plaster removal works in the main build whilst we await the delivery of 100 more rubble sacks. Although Fife Council are opening their recycling centres from Monday we’re unclear as to when we’ll be permitted to dispose of our plaster and rubble.

There’s always plenty to be busy with here though and it’s given us the opportunity to tackle a job that’s been on our to-do list for years.

Late last night we finally finished removing the old blast film and fixing broken panes in the Engineer’s garage 😀 A sizeable number of windows on the west elevation were broken when we bought the site, many as a result of a ? pellet gun.

Putty Replacement

We had good intentions years ago when we ordered the replacement panes from Leuchars Glazing. After some fairly disastrous attempts to replace the glass using traditional putty we sourced a modern hybrid polymer-based cartridge applied Heritage putty from Hodgson Sealants that is compatible with steel framed windows. It’s fairly expensive, with one tube used for every two panes replaced, but George has found it easy to apply and work.

The blast film removal wasn’t a particularly pleasant task .The film appears to have been applied with vinegar. Removing the film, with razors, released the most horrible stale vinegary stench 🤢. The sticky residue left behind was removed with Zep Sticky Stuff Remover, razors and a fair bit of kitchen roll.

We’ve been keen to retain our original metal framed Crittal windows. It’s a personal view, but I feel too many metal windows have been lost to make way for rather unsympathetic plastic ones. Whilst I understand the real problem of condensation encountered with metal framed windows in our unheated garage space that won’t be a problem.

The Scottish Crittal supplier in Helensburgh has dated our galvanised Crittal windows, in the Engineer’s garage, to the 1960’s. They are in great condition for their age unlike some of the non galvanised ones in the main build which are rusted and no longer close effectively.

The main build replacement Crittal windows will be double glazed units which comply with required U values. The double glazing will remove some of the condensation concerns although the frames aren’t thermally broken and so sensible ventilation will still be required. The modern replacements have dummy projecting hinges which retain the characteristic original look and feel of the originals but with the security of multipoint locking.

Next job will be priming the galvanised frames then painting Anthracite Grey (RAL 7016) to match the new Crittal specified for the main build.

Stripping Back the Vestibule – Part 2

We spent a second day stripping out the old vestibule.

The completely stripped out vestibule

The vestibule is finished, another 5 hours spent removing the remaining plaster and demolishing the brickwork. We’re not long back from a trip to the Co-op for some well earned beer and pizza. George had cracked open his first can of Innes & Gunn before we’d even left the carpark 😀

Yesterday I remembered we had lots of rubble sacks and so we were able to bag the plaster. 40 fairly heavy bags of the stuff are now sitting waiting in what will be Harry’s bathroom/ bedroom until the recycling centre reopens. The bricks George has dumped to the rear of the building for now. It’s not ideal double handling such heavy materials but needs must and at least we have the space to store it without hindering further works.

We’re missing our trips to the recycling centre. Strange as that sounds the 30 minutes there and back allows you a well earned rest and the weight off your feet.

Stretch Targets

Each day we start with a goal and what George likes to call a stretch target. We don’t always achieve our stretch target but today we did. Stretch targets are often a result of my inability to know when to stop and most often reluctantly agreed. Today George humoured me, the stretch target was to lift enough linoleum tiles to fill the space left in our landfill bin which is being collected tomorrow.

We’re on a rural bin collection schedule and have no brown bin. Our landfill bin is collected every two weeks and without fail it’s full to the brim. George will agree I’ve moved mountains of mixed waste over the years filling our blue bin fortnightly. Simple pleasures 😆

Raising the Floor Level

The Listening Station windows are set quite high in the wall, presumably for privacy. Unfortunately that means, with the current floor level, I can’t see out although the boys can see just fine ! We’ve got a fair bit of room height and so it was decided we raise the entire floor level by 39cm. This level change requires steps in the vestibule and also steps to our new back door.

The beauty of removing the wall in the vestibule is that we can now ask the architects to update their drawings and move the position of the steps closer to the front door and away from the main corridor. We can also widen the treads which, we think, will look better.

I’ll email Bill shortly, he’s the very able architect tasked with our detailed production drawings, and share our weekend handiwork. Poor Bill probably opens emails from me with some trepidation when they arrive on a Monday morning 😂.

Tomorrow sees George back to his day job. I’ll be up the newly moved scaffolding tower continuing my steam cleaning of the garage brickwork.

Stripping back the Vestibule – Part 1

We spent this weekend stripping the original vestibule back to the brick ready for redevelopment into the formal entrance at Hawklaw.

Behind the doors. The original main entrance to Hawklaw

Pretty pleased with progress in the vestibule yesterday. Seven hours in and the job is over half way there.

The double skinned wall took quite a bit of effort to demolish, especially the header bonded courses ( where the ends of the bricks are on show). George used the demolition hammer for most of the day. A wide chisel bit lifted the linoleum tiles and removed plaster. A point chisel bit broke the cement bonds between bricks and the concrete lintel into small chunks.


It’s worth mentioning asbestos at this point. Asbestos was widely used in 1940’s construction, our building being no exception. Owners of buildings such as ours have a legal obligation to ensure any building undergoing extensive refurbishment or demolition has all forms of asbestos identified by means of a destructive demolition asbestos survey.

Our demolition asbestos survey identified many obvious and some surprising asbestos containing materials (ACM’s).

Linoleum tiles and their adhesive can often contain asbestos, so too can toilet seats and sink pads ( the pad under your stainless steel sink that acts as sound deadening).

Tens of samples were taken throughout the building and black crosses were marked on the areas sent for analysis. I spotted one of the black crosses today on the linoleum tiles we were lifting in the vestibule. The tiles and adhesive tested negative for ACM.

Linoleum tiles and adhesive tested in the girls toilets and locker drying room tested positive for ACM’s. Those tiles were safely removed and the adhesive painstakingly scraped away by specialist contractors back in 2016 ahead of the administration block demolition.

Asbestos cement is one form of asbestos that we’ve found can reasonably be removed by householders. Thoroughly soaking the cement, being careful not to damage or break the sheets and using well fitting masks are sensible precautions even although the risk of fibre release, for undamaged asbestos cement, is fairly low.

We’ve literally disposed of tonnes of asbestos cement from the site over the years (a sheet of corrugated asbestos is surprisingly heavy). The double garage and both incinerator buildings demolished had asbestos cement roofs and some of the more modern extensions to the rear had asbestos cement guttering and downpipes.

We were fortunate that until a few years ago our local recycling centre accepted double wrapped asbestos cement for disposal. A form detailing the type and quantity, its origin and the person disposing of it were recorded by the council which was subsequently audited by SEPA.

More recently we’ve paid £300/ tonne to dispose of our asbestos cement and a further £25 for the required SEPA certificate. Little wonder asbestos is found fly tipped.

Asbestos has been one of the many, many things we’ve had to learn about over the years we’ve owned Hawklaw. Every day is a learning day with a self build project.

Hoping to finish in the vestibule later today, update and photos to follow

Super Heated Steam Cleaning Hawklaw

Over the past weeks we’ve been using super heated steam to gently cleanse the brickwork at Hawklaw

We’ve spent in excess of 50 hours, these past few weeks, cleaning the west and south elevation brickwork of our garage with a DOFF machine.

We stumbled upon the DOFF when we had contractors blast clean some of the main build internal brickwork last year. With large areas of render and brickwork to clean, and costly quotes to undertake the work, we took the plunge and purchased a machine for ourselves.

Stonehealth, who manufacture the DOFF, ordinarily sell to specialist stone cleaning contractors and stately homes. Despite being a rather unusual customer they gamely helped train all four of us in its safe, effective use. Eg discharging the steam lance down your brother’s rigger boots is a definite no-no!

The machine runs on kerosene, using around 20l per day. It can clean at varying temperatures, up to 150 degrees C , and pressures. The garage brickwork we’ve tackled at 140 degrees as it’s heavily covered in algae. The high temperature kills the algae, moss and any spores ensuring the brickwork stays clean for longer. Low pressure ensures no saturation or damage to the brickwork.

We estimate another 30 hours should finish the remaining accessible garage brickwork – our caravan is blocking a good part of the east wall!

We have two further jobs lined up for our DOFF in the next few weeks.

  1. remove plaster residue from the internal brickwork.
  2. remove flaking paint from the main build render ready for repairs and repainting.

Can’t say I’m looking forward to that job, the south elevation alone is 65m long!