October 31, 2023
Last Updated on November 21, 2023
In the heart of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, beneath a Grade II listed townhouse, was a neglected space with immense potential – a barrel-vaulted brick basement. This basement had become plagued by dampness and decay, and needed . We were given the opportunity to restore this unique space and transform it into a welcoming and functional part of the home.
Condensation had built up on the external wall and cupboards. As such, the basement was marred by rotting timber, and a sinister mycelium growth was found beneath the ply-clad stairs. The tell-tale musty odour was not abating. It was a space that no longer held its former charm, but was certainly suitable for renovation.
Our aim was to breathe new life into this basement while reviving its charm. To achieve this, the work began by replacing the iron grating with a glazed pavement light. By removing the window and addressing the deteriorating cementitious surround, the brickwork could be repointed with a lime mortar. This essential restoration allowed the brickwork to breathe, preventing water from seeping through from the pavement above.
Before and after: iron grating to glazed pavement light
To tackle the issue of condensation, the cupboards and the window on the external wall were removed. This strategic decision not only minimised condensation but also allowed the wall to breathe. It also meant that rot and mould could no longer take root in the timber fabric of these elements.
Rotten oak was replaced with like-for-like kiln-dried oak, with a bituminous backing where it met the brickwork. This careful approach ensured that at least one face of the timber was fully breathable, minimising direct contact with the brickwork.
The stairs, once clad in plywood and damp-proof membrane, underwent a dramatic transformation. The plywood was removed, the mould on the brickwork treated, and the toes of the tread were replaced with white brick. The result was a beautiful, safe and breathable brick staircase that added character alongside functionality.
A timber floating floor with ventilation around the edges was added. In addition, new lighting and high-level sockets, connected to metal surface-mounted ducting, were strategically placed to enhance both functionality and aesthetics. To combat humidity, a humidistat was connected to a simplistic yet stylish wrought iron air brick. This aimed at reducing the overall humidity within the basement.
Within just one week of completion, the basement’s humidity levels dropped significantly, from the mid-90s to a manageable 84%. The persistent musty odour had vanished as a result. The room now boasts abundant natural light, constant air circulation and the freedom for pent-up moisture within the walls and floor to dissipate naturally.