As I mentioned in a January 'Things Around Me', our house gets cold in the winter. We have the radiator-running woodburner downstairs and an open fire upstairs, but the open fire is not very efficient. Best Beloved loves it, I believe, for the psychological aspect: the Lord of the Manor in his Great Hall. When lit and roaring, it's an impressive sight... But I digress. Over these last few cold weeks, the house has been decidedly chilly, especially upstairs where the radiators really don't get much above lukewarm because the system is just too big for the fire.
Since the start of the cold snap, we have wrangled for hours about heating the upstairs: BB went to see Chris Hadjipetrou at Thermodynamics on the Polis road who had sold us the other two woodburners in the house, and Chris advocated putting one of his big burners in the open fireplace, but nothing he had would fit without knocking out what was already built and although BB and I might fight over his fireplace, we agreed that unless something fit without alteration, that idea was a non-starter.
“But we could install another fire,” my husband suggested. I cast an eye over the room, checking out the corners he had indicated as possible locations or envisaging a sexy Scandinavian in-the-round number in the centre of the living room, and finally said: “Yes, we could. Right behind my desk.” Our house might be about to become a Thermodynamics Alternate Showroom, but at least I would be able to work at my desk in the winter without two jumpers, woolly socks and slipper boots.
Chris had several models that would work, so we settled on Tessa from the Spanish company Rocal – slightly raised, glass doors on three sides. BB and Chris discussed price to include installation, construction of a plasterboard backing with spotlights, and the moving of some electrical points, and settled on a delivery date.
Last week a large white van drew up at the front door and Don and Wayne, familiar from the installations of our other fireplaces, began setting up. They were done within the day, and blessings on them, swept up every mote of dust and picked up every scrap of packing, leaving the room spick and span.
We couldn't light Tessa the first night as the cement was still curing on the chimney, but we did the second and felt a difference in the room. She is pleasant looking, easy to clean, and a joy to work in front of – and since BB provides all the wood from our tree demolition with his trusty chainsaw – cheap to run.
But I still felt cold upstairs. Was our top floor simply too big and lofty to heat at all?
The answer came Saturday.
“Manamou,” Best Beloved said to me mid-morning. “Come here.” He was standing at the kitchen sink, and he pointed up to the left, where the larder and kitchen walls converge. “Does that hole go to the outside?”
He had been standing at the sink, and hearing sparrows, had looked up, thinking that a bird or two had got into the house. Only then had he noticed that where the massive beams meet the wall, there seemed to be a space. Some hapless builder had never filled between the ceiling joists and the wall, and because of the darkness and natural colour of the wood and the angle of the ceiling, we had never noticed.
We collected the long ladder and he climbed up to see. Sure enough a space below the ceiling measuring fifteen by thirty centimetres has sucked out heat and let cold into our house for the last five winters.
BB called the contractor – who's also, luckily, a friend – and he sent some builders around the next day while the plaster board guys were doing the fire surround. The hole has now been filled and painted, and when I walked into the house that evening, Tessa had been going for an hour or so and the upstairs was actually warm. Not just 'not cold', but honest-to-goodness warm.
Glad we got that sorted!
Unfortunately there are 'During' but no 'After' pictures -- yet. Our plasterboard finisher is a real anachronism – a perfectionist who cares about the quality of his finished product. He is having trouble with a section of work, and will not sign off on it until it meets his specs. I grumbled about that at first: although Mr Mattheas cleans up after himself (a great selling point for Thermodynamics as most local workmen leave all their litter behind them), a fine layer of plaster dust from his re-sandings has been in this room for the last few days and he will not finish until tomorrow or after. Then I realised how lucky I am to have a craftsman who cares about his work and will strive to get it right: I haven't seen one of those for a while and will trade a bit of dust for the cost and disruption of repairing a bodge any day.