Treating the Beams

Our house built sometime during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, judging by the tool marks on the beams, and the old ridge line of the roof that looms out of the darkness in the attic, is held up by a massive oak A frame. This frame supports the roof in what is a work of glorious engineering that involves massive joints pinned with wooden pegs, here and there you will find additional metal pegs added at a much later date. You can see one of these metal screw bolts/pegs in the photo below. It's that white thing at the end of the beam. Most of the A frame is hidden, which is sadly we cannot expose without having rooms that become like chimneys, all funneled to the sky, or losing storage space and necessary insulation.

DIY, woodworm, protecting exposed beams, life on pig row

For years the beams that ran through the house, upstairs and downstairs, were hidden under the DIY craze that Barry 'Bloody Stupid' Bucknell gave to the UK television nation in the 1950s. Box everything in. Got an old cast iron fire, box it in with ply and then put an electric fire in front. Got a lovely Victorian door, cover it over with hardboard. Got some wonderful old beams, box them in and deny they are there. Kids getting on your wick, box them in and call it a playroom in the ground. Just kidding. We have lived in many a rented property that embraced the Bucknell craze, making rooms that once oozed with individuality into gauche museums to fire hazards. This one man did for UK DIY what Ground Force did to problem gardens, he decked our bloody houses. Now the hardboard and the ply is being stripped back to cries of, 'What pillock covered these up?' and 'Which wazzock thought ply was fireproof?' Fashion changes, we recognise that but the 1950s DIYers were indeed monumental pillocks who embraced everything from asbestos to DDT. Now the beams are uncovered we have to do our job in protecting them, something that those who came before Bucknell knew. Back in the seventeenth and eighteenth century they would paint them (yes, we know, lead paint), stain them, wax them, year in, year out to keep out boring beetles; this isn't a West Midlands cover band for The Beatles but more to do with woodworm. We have to do the same now and with signs of woodworm in the floor, we need to treat them now or else that A frame will turn into a U frame.

how to treat woodworm, life on pig row

To do this we got a three in one treatment, dry rot, wet rot and boring bugs killer. Again, not a rock band. You know the drill about plenty of ventilation, and cleaning all the dust and dirt off the beam, we have covered that but for goodness sake's do not scrimp when it comes to old beams. Remember that they have been boxed up, that means they are extremely dry and they need a thorough soaking. When we use a brush on beams we have a paint tray beneath the beam itself and we do small sections, the length of the tray, allowing the treatment to soak into the wood and then to go over the same patch again until you see the treatment bloom out into the dry areas of the wood and literally cascade like rain down the beam and into the tray. If you look at the underside of the beam you will see how far this allows the treatment to penetrate into the beam. It soaks in quickly on a dry beam and will get down to a depth of to around three inches. Basically it will penetrate right into the heart of the beam. You want to do another coat within two hours, the beam mustn't be fully dry as the second coat will soak in deeper than the first. Then you can leave it alone, the beam is now treated and you MUST leave it for at least three days before adding any final wax, varnish or oil treatment. This allows the treatment to fully dry out and you will notice a slight smell in the air during that time, a mix of chemicals and dry wood, or the smell of wet wood dust that smells like it would ignite. After you've finished the treatment, wash your brushes in warm soapy water, clean out the tray and for goodness sake take a long shower and soap yourself thoroughly. This isn't anything to with the chemicals, you just stink and we didn't want to say. Just kidding. Common sense must prevail. After the shower, eat something nice, we did and the greens came from the garden, and they were good!

woodworm killer, treating yourself, steak, life on pig row


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