Replacing A Timber Floor With A Solid Floor

Some properties have change forced upon them. Properties that have been around a long time, often have to deal with external changes. This is particularly the case in towns and villages.

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Ground floor timbers exposing shallow subfloor MAAC Studio conservation architect

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Many small properties were built close together to provide protection from the elements. The streets followed natural contours and were not designed for modern cars and vans. As transport, and public utilities became more important to our daily lives, councils though it would be a good idea to adjust road levels, smoothing out gradients.

The road levels are lifted and properties find that their floor level is now below the external road level. Ventilation is blocked and new paths for moisture into the building are created.

As our concerns for health and safety have grown, grit and rock salt has been spread across the pavements and roads. The salt pulls in more moisture when it is wet and then when it dries it crystalizes, damaging the structure of the stone, causing it to disintegrate. Joints open up and more moisture is able to penetrate the wall structure.

Even modern developments, located some distance away can create changes to patterns of land drainage, increasing the risk of flooding.

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Subfloor and perimeter insulation and sump prior to laying a new solid floor MAAC Studio conservation architect

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There is often very little space below the floor joist and saturated ground and walls cause the timber to rot and encourage mould growth.

In most circumstances, we would recommend trying to repair the original building fabric, as this is the best way to look after the structure long term, but you have to work with nature. Trying to fight for the traditional, authentic solution in this situation is folly.

It is necessary to acknowledge that the circumstances have changed, dictating an alternative solution. In this situation, a solid floor may be the sensible way forward.

A new floor offers new opportunities for insulation, underfloor heating, and services, but introducing new materials always needs to be considered carefully. You can’t just throw in a modern concrete floor.

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Finishing a solid floor MAAC Studio conservation architect

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It is important to maintain ventilation at the base of the walls, inside and out, using specialist membranes.

It is important that the walls are repaired, using the correct lime mortar and indenting new stone if necessary to protect the walls against water ingress and to allow the wall to dry out.

Never, never, never use chemical damp-proofing or membranes. They are not suitable for stonewall and will introduce a whole host of new problems.

If you are putting in a solid floor, to replace a timber floor, take care to get the detailing right and your new floor can be an asset, your walls will breathe again, giving you a healthy indoor environment.

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the finished floor MAAC Studio conservation architect

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MAAC studio are accredited conservation architects and principal designers working with traditional buildings throughout Scotland. 

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