New Ceiling Challenge

When I first started looking for a property in Portugal, I discovered that many had major problems with woodworm. That is, where the property was constructed extensively from wood. I will admit that initially I was looking at houses that were cheap because at that time, funds were limited. However, on my available monies increasing and looking at more expensive houses, those same problems of woodworm often remained evident. Due to this, I considered that a building constructed with far less or almost no wood, would be a better option.

In the case of me opting for a concrete/stone built house with solid floors and ceilings, I never considered the difficulties involved in working with such structures. And here, very thick walls to many parts of the property, again another challenge for the passage of cable, pipes and ventilation tubing.

Because everything I needed was here upon purchase, I decided to live in the house before considering improvements. I purchased late December and the first winter was bitterly cold with the open fireplace eating more wood in an evening than I, food in a month. It did so without really providing much heat and there was a battle of heat produced verses the cold of stone walls. I was not overly worried at this time of teeth chattering coldness as being December/January, winter would be over soon.

Originally the living room was a pleasant clean and tidy space except, somewhat dated. Upon the purchase of a log burner and having it fitted, something that became a horrendous experience and resulted in the fitter being dismissed without all works completed. Thank you Francisco. At this time, the past matters little, but I can say, it was beneficial long term as I was learning about the Portuguese weather and damp winter conditions within a stone walled house.

The Mess Begins

There will be warmth

There will Be A Problem

There will Be A Solution

Having had the log burner fitted and the tubes in place, I discovered that this high output expensive lump of wood burning metal could not heat the space efficiently so decided to insulate the room fully.

With the burner having large tubes to supply heat to upper rooms, a problem was created because the tubes ran across the ceiling Francisco style. This however was just one problem as when rewiring started, there would be more ugliness incorporated into the ceiling. As said, I decided to insulate the room and now, the question was, what should I do with the ceiling as heating tubes were at 12cm plus fixings and beneficial insulation to be added, plus cable conduit at a mere 2.5cm.

The original ceiling height is at 2.85 metres so I decided that I’d lower the whole thing down to 2.60 metres. This new dimension posed a problem as I considered the fitted ceiling fan to then be at a too low a level. It would have worked but I was not happy about the aesthetic lowness. My next idea was to just lower the perimeter as this would, with luck and careful calculations be possible. This on the other hand would result in a lack of insulation to the centre part, and insulation I’d decided to incorporate across the whole. There was another possibility.

Considering Fan Height

Everything is in place

With not being happy with the above ideas, I toyed with lowering the whole ceiling to two different levels and making the ceiling a feature of the room. This was going to be very complex and me being me, had decided that doing something myself was far better than trying to find a person to undertake the works and result in more disasters. 

All these ideas were going back and to in my head for ages, considering the challenges, prose and cons. Eventually I decided to stick to just a single level so measured up and ordered the materials. I ordered more metal framework than I needed as I’d need this for a future project. Still, I ran short of various fixtures and fittings.

The materials arrived without problems where I was still toying with the idea of a two level ceiling. In the end, I was unable to resist the temptation and set my heart on that. After all, the whole ceiling could be insulated, have the fan at a sensible ground clearance height, become something of great interest, but most of all, challenge my abilities in this single handed job I was about to undertake. Plus, I’d now also decided to incorporate concealed colour changing lighting into the central area. Oh, how beautiful this could be. I was set for the painstaking job of endurance testing over five weeks.

The Challenge Begins

The challenge was mighty as where did I begin? Ideally a laser level would have been brilliant as absolutely nothing is straight, flat, level or truly vertical and the heating tubes had been fitted in not ideal positions. In the end, I decided to start in the centre at a 7.5cm drop and work my way out and down. That way, I’d not be influenced by any of the four walls or floor. There was a good thing, and that was the ceiling fan was truly central to the four walls and the cable just about permitted that lowering.

The work began and the first problem was that I had no idea where the concrete supporting beams were except for one where the Francisco man had attempted to jack hammer through it to fit the ducting to the upper floor. I started at this point and measured off the typical dimension between centres for my support rods. All went well for a short time and then, no concrete beam. I drilled more holes and still no concrete beam. Okay Ashley, your dimensions are out. More calculations and still not correct. Where are these beams? Solution! Cut sections out of the ceiling and find the god forsaken things. Presto. The idea worked and I discovered that they are at 432 mm centres. An odd number to say the least as that does not tally with the infill bricks I’ve see sold. But that is where they are. Now, fill all those cut outs so even if it can’t be seen, it’s tidy.

Dozens and dozens of support rods had to be cut at different lengths as the ceiling and beams above varied so much in levelness and this new ceiling WAS going to be level and flat, in fact, perfect. Eventually, the central ceiling section was completed in the framework, then the new support for the fan and finally, the insulation was in place.

Initial Framework

Itchy Job Done

Another Challenge

The next stage was fitting the ceiling panels. Again, another challenge. How do you hold delicate panels in place, ensure their position is correct and screw the things secure with only two hands. I rented an Octopus. No, not really. With determination, a head for support, a mouth for screws and a good stiff erection to support a battery drill, you’re set to go with a good measure of sweat and swearing to aid one. Done, completed. The central section was finished and it never fell down like that wonderful hard erection.

This Was Hard Work

Next comes another challenge. Those heating tubes and the position of inset lamps. Everything I was doing had to have precise dimensions else I’d cry with disappointment of the final result. Eventually, everything fell into place and five weeks after starting, the ceiling was almost complete and new lights fitted and working, heating tubes straighten and repositioned and insulated. Plus, cable conduit repositioned where required.

Tubes Will Be Hidden Soon

Starting to Feel Warmer

Now I'm Feeling Brilliant

Lowered Section Detail - 103mm

Wow - I Managed IT

I will admit that I never thought that the final ceiling perimeter panel would align perfectly with the first. After all, I’d worked my way around and outwards from a central point on all my calculation. Started the lower perimeter section, worked my way around four walls and ended up where I’d started. Perfect alignment. I thought I was God himself. Perhaps I am. There remains small details to complete the ceiling to all its glory but those will require the finishing of walls. Gosh, I was knackered but felt so good on completion and having filled and sanded the joins. The ceiling, when I started looking like shit, and now, you judge. I think I’m brilliant. Ha, ha.

And finally. There is a little trickery going on with numbers and calculations. Between the longer and shorter wall dimensions there is a difference of 25cm. I wanted the central area to appear as a true square and at the same time, have the lowered perimeter width appear equal on all four sections with inset lamps positioned taking into account coving. I achieved this by the division of the difference in length between longer and shorter walls so that an inaccuracy of 25cm became one of 6cm to each part. Only with a measure would you notice.

I had my doubts at times