Rotten timber lintels

5 Aug 2013
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United Kingdom
So, a bit of background:

I own a 1904 cottage with solid stone wall (about 500mm thick). It has french doors from the original building at the rear which would have lead outside, unitl a (really awful) conservatory was built in the 1980s, I believe these doors were originally a window which were enlarged and the lintels replaced (which I think predates the conservatory). Additionally there is a single storey scullery with a door which again would have been external until the leaky conservatory was built. 4 years ago we demolished the conservatory and built a single storey extension which effectively turned both these doors into internal doors. It was noted at the time that the lintels above the doors had some rot. To confuse issues, the house was once lime rendered, but again in the 80s. someone hacked this off and rejointed the whole house with sand/cement.

With hindsight, I wish I'd replaced the lintels when building the extension, but it was one more complication on a project which was already spiralling out of control (for a whole host of other reasons relating to retaining structures outside). So I regularly look at these lintels and contemplate whether something needs to be done.

The lintels above the french doors: There are 3 in total, each about 4" high, and 8" deep spanning an opening about 4' wide. The inner 2 look fine from underneath (they are exposed), it's just the outer one of the 3 which looks to have some rot on the exposed edge (it seems quite solid past an inch in). They are not original (they are packed with bricks at the end) - and may have been in a similar state for for sometime (the jointing around it follows the contours of the rot - so the shape hasn't changed dramatically since the jointing was done). Above the lintel is 2' of masonary and the first floor. It's worth noting that with the extension we created a large opening with RSJs in the same wall further along (but there is 6' of solid stone work between the two openings) - however, I suspect this section of the wall now carries more load as a result.

The lintel above the door into the single storey scullery is 5" thick and only the first 6 inches of depth is exposed (plastered internally). This lintel looks to be original, however, again it looks like it may have been in this state for sometime (the jointing again follows the contours of the rotten edge). It's not totally rotten but there is some rot on the surface, looking at the underside it doesn't look to be rotten except on the outside edge. This doesn't really carry much load, there is 10 inches of masonary above it, then the wall plate which spans the length of the wall (and is in good order) which has the roof timbers sitting on it (as an aside, when building the extension, which has an apex ceiling abutting this wall, we built blockwork off the top of this wall to create a pillar for the apex RSJ to sit on, then clad it in stonework on top of the wallplate for asthetics - however, the door is at the edge of the wall so little to no load would be over this door).

So, my questions are:

- Will this rot continue to get worse now it's not exposed to the elements? Especially when you take into account the shape of the timber hasn't change dramatically in sometime (as attested by jointing (which I believe was done 20+ years ago) following the contours of the rot!)

- Considering it's just the outside edge, does something need to be done? (the french doors have 3 lintels, one being rotten on the outside edge probably won't make difference).

- If I was to replace them, presumably it's a case of drilling out some of the jointing above the lintels, to insert a strong boy and acros (at say 500mm intervals - or at least under each of the larger lumps of masonary) then drilling out the rest, working the lintel out, then sliding a new one back in, packing with slates, taking the props out then gobbing it up with compo?
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It's a bit long to read, but rot stops when you remove the water sources. So unless it's getting water from somewhere or it's still moving then it's all in the past.

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