Door Step in place

In Feb 2013 the front windows and new kitchen main door are being delivered and fitted. 

They have all been bespoke made in the traditional French style the windows hardwood double glazed will be painted on both sides and the main door in Oak will be painted on the exterior and just oiled on the inside. The door is an copy of the original seen in the next photos showing the new doorstep going in. 
(apologies for the dodgy quality of the photos) 
When I say the door is a copy obviously I dont mean an exact copy with all the rot and gaps and stuff. 
It will be a new door in the same style three way opening made by Mick the artistically gifted carpenter who created our stairs and the main doorway from kitchen to lounge and the roof. 

The door step was next to be fitted

The granite step was cut to exact dimensions in the granite quarry up near Broons and measures 105cms x 45 cms x 15 cms and weighs in at 107 kilos. A lovely coloured granite (photos dont do it justice) that has little glittery shard in it and sort of matches the stone colour of the front. It will blend in even further with time and wear. 
My eternal thanks as ever to my good neighbour and his trusty old Massey Ferguson and his homemade pallet lifter.

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I had already dug down the doorway and laid in the services such as mains water and a land drain that takes moisture out of from under the kitchen floor (see previous post) 
I then pegged out the levels 20mm lower than they needed to be and with a 1 degree tilt to the outside and made a batten wooden frame to which the concrete base be at the correct levels required. We then laid that and let it go off for a day. 
After checking the levels were good (which they were) we made up a firm mix or 4 sand 1 cement (with water-proofer).
WE had moved the step to lay parallel across the front of the door and it bwas resting ona sheet of zinc to make it easier to move
I laid out three battens 20mm thick on the base. 
I had put a flat webbing strop around the middle of the step and then using a method known as “union purchase” rigged a chain block to pull the step in and a ratchet strap to lift it as it went.
WE then put a load of cement in between the battens and a good 20mm higher than them and then just eased the step into position using the union purchase and a crow bar on either side to centralise it.
The weight of it coming in sat it at the correct height on the battens and it pushed any excess cement forward as it came.
A few minor adjustments and tweaks and it was in. 


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You may notice in this shot that we also made and fitted a new oak window sill and refurbished and refitted the metal bars. After using a flappy paddle sanding dist to remove as much rust as possible we then primed and top coated them using a product available on the net called “Rust Bullet”.

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Starting to put some skin on the skeleton

Right up at the top of the house we have created a mezzanine sleeping deck to better utilise the space, rather than just having an attic.
I had strengthened the dividing wall (which is only about 350mm thick at the top) with a couple of coats of our normal lime / mud render mix, however as the place next door is just used as a storage barn I wanted to insulate. 
That means dry lining the wall, so I knocked up a framework and as I had some spare foil insulation hanging about have used that and 100mm of isotherm fibre glass type stuff as the insulation and plaster-boarded over that. 

The foil has air gap in places and some places it is snug against the isotherm and the wall but it was the best I could manage without loosing to much space and will prevent heat loss through the wall to the empty space. 


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The foil you can see in the roof over the chevrons is a temporary measure and was put up in feb 2012 to create a warm space for my son and his mate when they came over and trimmed all our oaks at project number 2 and helped me with the kitchen floor here (see earlier post) 
It will be replaced by 30mm celotex between the chevrons and 120mm over them then counter battened and plaster boarded.
Hmm toasty.

This is the banister thingy (balustrade?) that will prevent anyone falling from the mezzanine into the office below. It isn’t fitted yet but you get the idea and size wise it is just over two meters long and about 50cms high.


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Here you can see the insulated dividing wall leading up to the deck


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We will be plastering (proper UK plaster) so we don’t have to be too fussy about the taping and jointing and wont have to suffer the dust that sanding it down creates. My building guru has told me that we dont really need to bother T&J if we are plastering but I am, as ever, taking a belt and braces approach which wont do any harm. 

The staircase going up to the mezzanine deck is going to be hidden and disguised as a bookcase. and you can see the start of that process in the coming photos. We will be using light colour wash on all the exposed wood and sterling board which will blend it in with its surroundings although looks a bit stark as it is. 
It was originally a temporary one from a brico shed and has now been backed with 18m sterling board. 

Here is a shot of the back taken from what will be the under-stairs cupboard.

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Then a shot looking up the stairs and one of the side in the room showing. I have beading that will fill the gap between the stair stringer and the wall to make it all neat and dust trap free. 


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Here is the first part of the cupboard under the stairs door and its frame utilising old wood re-claimed from the original roof. The door was the old original hay loft door or might have been the back door I cant remember now.
We had all the old doors and re-claimed wood sand blasted so we could see what we had and I have to say it worked a treat 

If you can imagine a backdrop of white or cream wash on all the wood and bookcase extended right to the top of the wall and across the top of the understairs cupboard 


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The rest of the office is now plaster-boarded out and the electric distribution box for that and the mezzanine is in as are the back boxes for the plugs and lights.

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This is the upstairs toilet waiting for its skin.
The wall that leads to outside will be insulated, plaster boarded then tiled. The wall with the wires in it will be acoustic insulated with isotherm stuff and plaster-boarded. To increase the acoustic insulation the timbers that are to take the plaster-board will have a foam like membrane which prevents the wall form acting like a drum skin.
I have only just found out about this and would have used the same stuff between the floorboards and floor joists had I known. 



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I wanted to get at least one of the bits of hydro placo up in the bathroom before we left and just managed it on the last day.
Loads of acoustic insulation and noggins and the main timber is 100 x 100, so nice and thick as I am no fan of flimsy stud walls.
A trick my building guru told me to make stud walls feel thicker and more sold is to use a double layer of plaster-board which although obviously more expensive might be worth the effort in some places. 

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So that’s us starting to put the skin on the skeleton. 



Master bedroom

When we put the floor in we ran a 10 by 25 beam across the wall with which to suspend the floor on and my idea was to build up a wooden framework wall from that, insulate between us and them and then plaster board and plaster over for the upstairs bedroom. 
See here the big beam, (it should be noted that the joists are not in contact with the old beams below and we have no intention of doing so at this time) There is about two and half meters before the joists sit across some new beams. 


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And the floor it supports (with mrsB adding some scale to it)


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The flaw in my plan came when I realised that although it is a mighty chunk of wood it is helping to hold up a big floor and still moves. I popped my laser level on the beam and took a stroll across the bedroom and watched the laser light dance over the roof and knew that if I sat a stud work wall on it and then plastered the plaster would just crack off. 
What I decided instead was to suspend the wooden frame wall form the joints in the terracotta wall and leave a gap at the bottom (so it doesn’t touch the floor) which I would disguise by a floating skirting board when finished.

I used pieces of chevron (75 x 45) cut into 100mm lengths and then used screws and rawl plugs to attach them to the wall with the 75 bits as the depth .
From there it was simple enough to construct a framework built over it with 400 centers and then noggins in between.


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The neighbours are only in residence for three months a year but I wanted to make sure I combined thermal and acoustic insulation so used the Isover shown and squeezed it in behind the framework and then inserted 25mm celotex style polystyrene between the noggins and then completed the sandwich with standard 13mm plasterboard. 


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You can see in this one where the bedside plug sockets and light switches will be and also the actual light fitting locations above the middle of the bed. We have a rather extravagant bed and headboard planned but you will have to wait to see details when we have found the right bits. 


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Up the top (ie above the a frame) which is their attic I decided to go with 120mm Recticil (which is a celotex/ kingspan equivalent) as insulation. 
The roof will be done with 35mm celotex/kingspan between the chevrons and 150 celotex/ kingspan over the chevrons, counter-battened and then plaster-boarded leaving whatever of the beams remain on show. 


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Although this picture doesn’t show it I actually shuffled all the joints together so they were very tight and then taped them with the correct reflective tape. This then has an outer skin of 22mm thick Douglas Fir (un treated as yet) which can be seen here.


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As we have plenty of old beams about we may slice a few and peg them to the perlings before we put up the ceiling for an extra bit of “old wood feel” although MrsB has yet to agree to this idea and will need to see one done before committing.

Thermal Store (called Richard) Is Installed

The thermal store is to be the central hub of our heating and domestic hot water system.
It will be connected to a log burning cooker with back boiler in the kitchen, a log burner with back boiler in the lounge and a couple of water heater solar panels. 
The purpose of it is to “store the thermal energy (heat) that you create every time you have the fires burning or the sun shines. Each log burned not only provides immediate heat to the room you are in but also sends heat energy to be stored in the TS that can be used for the UFH the radiators and of course to provide lots of domestic hot water. 

The principle behind us wanting to go the thermal store route rather than just a log burner running a few rads on its own route is a simple case of the most effective use of energy (more bang for you buck) and, to us, makes long term economical sense.

I have lost count of the times I have read on various French forums about the trials and tribulations of getting up in the morning to a cold house as the fires haven’t stayed in and having to get it all flashed up again to obtain some heat. 
Therefore it makes logical sense (to me) to store the heat you do produce and then it can be used for days after the fire has gone out, yet alone just a few hours. 
The one we have is capable of storing heat for over a week and usually will not lose more than half a degree per day.

It isn’t the cheapest route to take on installation which will put off the “make do” and penny pinching types and may not be suitable for all types of use, but however you look at it having access to stored energy that you have created and that would otherwise disappear makes perfect logical sense to me.

We reached this decision after a couple of years of research into various methods of heating, which included but was not limited to various green building and alternative energy sites along with surfing google to check out each new idea that cropped up and then consulting with a couple of professionals about how to design it. 
This is the company product we used http://www.akvaterm.fi/fin/Akvaterm.1.html

There was a three month build wait for the tank so we made and paid our order and waited for the day to arrive which was due to be the week commencing 5th November.

I had arrived back from sea on 27th October and we started work straight away on preparing the area where the TS is to live. 
It was going to be in the main space that will be MrsBs art studio so after clearing the area and deciding on orientation we set about clawing out the dead wood of a rotten beam built into the wall and then making the wall good again 

After that we dry studded the wall and insulated between us and the derelict next door. 
You can see the 100mm polystyrene insulation that was backed up with 100 mm isotherm fiberglass stuff. That is the wall between us and the empty one next door.
In the floor joists (under the bathroom and above the tank) is 100 mm isotherm to act as an acoustic barrier rather than a thermal one. 

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On this one you can see some extruded polystyrene I had hanging about which is 30mm thick and is on the wall that backs onto the lounge. Not sure if it was needed but thought bit wouldn’t do any harm (he says adjusting the braces and taking the belt in a notch) 


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Then we just tape and jointed and slapped on a few coats of “Johnstones Obliterating Emulsion” (which in my experience is the best emulsion paint I have ever used) and we were good to go. 


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The bit missing you can see in the corner is where (behind) the bath and sink drain are going to come through the floor from the bathroom above and run along that wall towards the front of the house (all hidden) so I needed to make sure I still had access to make sure I made a good connection with the drain pipes. 


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We had been told that the “Thermal Store” was “en route” and would be with us at 0830 on the 8th November however the truck delivering it didn’t have a fork lift or crane so we would have to make our own arrangements for unloading it. #-o 

I couldn’t find the local farmer to ask if I could (borrow/hire) his Manatu for the morning so I nipped into town and organised a half day hire from my normal hire centre, with whom I have developed a very good business relationship with. 
So with a slight sense of excited anticipation of the next days delivery we popped up the road to have a couple of beers and some cake with a mate of ours whose wife was in UK for a few weeks.

When we returned through the village we noticed a massive articulated truck parked in the school car park, :shock: with the driver inside cooking, and on the short drive from there home we chatted about what it must be like being a trucker and wondering why more of them didn’t take their wives along fot the ride.
On arrival at home we were met by one of the two elderly lady neighbours, who is given to lots of hand waving and Oooh La La ing (we think she is great) telling us that the biggest lorry in the world has come into the hamlet nearly ended up in a ditch Ooh La La because he was so wide Ooh La la he couldnt turn around the corner Ooh La La and has gone to the village for the night Ooh La La and its all our fault because he has something for us. 
I drove back into the village and knocked on his cab door just as he was finishing dinner and told him to stay there in the morning until the manitu was delivered and I came for him in my pick up. 
Turns out he was a Croatian driver of a Swedish registered truck making the delivery from Finland. :shock::shock: :shock: 
My initial thought was “F@ck Me!! for all my energy saving green friendly ideas there goes all my carbon credits in one truck trip”, but all that escaped my lips was an Ooh La la of my own. 8) :D

So onwards and upwards as I hear the familiar air horn of the hire centre truck announcing his arrival with the Manatu.
I drove up to the village and had the trucker follow me around the widest bits of road to make a circle back to our place where I had him park at the top of the road while I nipped down the lane and flashed up the manatu.

When the trucker pulled back the curtains I could see that it was a gert big lorry for one tank, however it did have three rolls of paper he was taking to Vannes after my drop so my eco greeny points started to rise again. 
The TS looked much bigger than I expected and also it was the wrong way round on the truck, however with a bit of fancy wriggling with the manatu and I had it sorted and then it was a simple case of take it down the lane and pop it into the room. 



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All was going well until “Err Huston we may have a problem”


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As you can see it looks a bit bigger than the door 


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So it was a case of re-rig it and take off the first layer of wrapping and try again. With a little bit of shakey jiggly and with 5mm to spare each side it was in. 
HooooRaaah


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This next photo is awful but it does show if you look carefully through the haze how we landed it onto two tower scaffold boards on which were in turn on three wooden rollers.


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Then it was a case of putting an extension on the forks and giving it a gentle shove as far as I could across the room.


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Then with the help of my good neighbour Pete and his trusty trolley jack we performed the technique known as “gently gently catchy monkey” using the three rollers and two scaffold boards and the jack, and moved all 500 kilos of it 5 meters across the room and turned it 90 degrees to its final resting place.


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And after a bit of grunting and groaning and “hang on a minute” whooooah, OK OK OK, Puuuush now, just a bit this way, and some choice expletives from me (as seems to be my way when I am working) the Thermal Store,. Known henceforth as “Richard” (yes it’s corny but it will be the warm ‘heart” of the house) was in situation.


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Mrsb then looked at me with raised eyebrows (but smiling eyes) and said “Why have you turned my art studio into a ships engine room???” 

Which it has to be said gave me a great idea, because once we have all the pipe work connected to the various heat sources and the distribution manifold installed on the side wall, we will be constructing a wall around it to make its own room and I thought, in homage to the engine room comment, I would put in few portholes in it to give it that nautical feel. 
Arf Arf

The Warm Heart of the House

Gas and Oil and Electricity are going to go up in price. fact of life. 
My gamble is that they are going to go up in price faster than wood. 
The fact that we own a wood (albeit a smallish one) is a bonus and that we live in fairly heavily wooded area was also a key fact in determining the design of our heating and hot water system. 

We have opted for a hybrid system that incorporates a wood burning cooker/range with back boiler in the kitchen and wood burner with back boiler in the lounge for use as domestic hot water and heating in the winter, solar and a bit of wood for the spring hot water and occasional heating and solar for the water in summer with a electrical back up for hot water if required.

The main hub of the system will be a 2,000 liter thermal store and a 200 liter chuaff eau (immersion tank) as a quick start if hot water needed in rush after we have been away for few weeks. 

I have enclosed a diagram that (for the purist or professional) does not include all the pumps, and cut off valves, and pressure ballons, and correct height of entry and exit of all the assorted bits of pipework but should gives you a simplified plan and idea of how it all links together.

I offer immense thanks to the fellow who made quite a complex system seem so simple when he explained the various parts and showed me how the entire system would fit together piece by piece, with all the assorted safety features, and how it will provide me with mains pressure hot water without it having to be a pressurised system due to the heat exchangers inside the thermal store, (i think) so I can use our cooker range of preference (Warmsler) without the fear of having potential bombs in the house.
 

We haven’t found the right wood-burner with back boiler for the lounge yet as it is to be sighted in front of a 4 meter wide 2.5 meter high window (probably Pilkington X triple glazed) and we cant find the right stove that has the water jacket more around the rear of the stove to prevent as much radiated heat passing towards the window. (any ideas gratefully received) 

The main thermal store unit itself is a Finnish make http://www.akvaterm.fi/eng/Accumulators … ti.40.html

So this is the rough sketch of what will be fitted with the domestic water supplies self explanatory, the UHF downstairs in each of the three rooms (studio lounge and kitchen) the rads will be upstairs in each of the main two bedrooms bathroom and coridoors etc. We will also be using a VMC with heat exchanger and sending the warm air back into the upstairs corridors as well. 
MMM toasty. 

Basically wherever we burn a log or the sun shines it will be being used for more than one purpose, although the sun will only be directed mainly to domestic hot water. 

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The metaphorical wall

I guess at some stage all renovators hit the wall (s’cuse the pun) like marathon runners. 
You reach a point where all the obvious Hollywood jobs have gone and you spend ages on the bits that no-one is ever going to see but unless you do them properly and get them right it would ruin or nullify what you have already achieved.
There is also a point where you reach the end of your knowledge and have used up all your learning and advice and yet you have some important decisions to make that you have possibly been putting off due to your lack of knowledge. 
We have still been doing stuff that needed to be done but had been shying away from some of the major things that needed to be addressed like electricity and plumbing. We had reached the stage this leave where we had to step back and have a long look at where we were before we could map out the way forward to where we want to be. In order to do that we needed some professional help and fresh eyes to help us make sense of what we wanted to do and what was possible and what we had to do next. 
We had to make a decision once and for all about the fosse septic, the plumbing/heating and how to achieve what we wanted, and we also had to decide the number of lights and plugs we wanted and where we wanted them. 
We also had to find out what we “had to have” in terms of plugs and lights and power supplies etc. 

All this was done in the atmosphere of EDF threatening to cut off our temporary supply (as we had had it for 4 years). I contacted our translator to see what options we had and he was informed by EDF that we had till the end of May to get a full installation in. That was blatantly impossible for us so I asked him to check that the local electrician could rig us up with a partial installation that would pass consueil. (To those elecs out there who said that it was most irregular I know you were right but the noises I was receiving back were looking good) 


I spent a week when I first arrived home preparing and area to receive the main board and a light and a couple of plug points and found out when the electrician came a week later that it was all in the wrong place because EDF were going to move the poles. 
Grr fume grr fume. A week later the local leccy came and fitted a main board in a place where I would rather not have had it and temp light fitting (no dcl) I had now been relieved of 2,000 euros including translation fees for something that consueil were never going to agree to in the first place. This was confirmed when they turned it down and two days later EDF called and said that we could keep out temp arrangement for another year. 2,000 up the chute for sod all. To rub salt into the wound the main board they fitted only has three rows and two other people have since told me it is probably too small for purpose. To make me even more f@#king p!ssed off was when in Brico Depot I noticed the same board for 300 euros but I had been charged 900 for it. 
Snarl fume snarl fume 
Ah well at least I now know that the local leccy is not up to the task and that we could probably have sorted out the mess ourselves without the help of a translator as MrsB is becoming a bit of a dab hand with the lingo and while my grammar and tense is a bit suspect I am improving all the time. We are now going it alone.
So electric supply problem solved for now but I will return to the subject of electricity in the house later.

Luck would have it my builder guru was chatting with me over a beer or two about a fosse that a long established chap local to the area had juts installed and it had a compact filter rather than the bloody great sand thing that we had been first planned to have. 
He arranged for this guy to come and see us and he took one look at our original plans, from when we bought the place looked at the land the lane and the garden across the lane that was to have the sand filter (7.5 X 7.5) and said “You don’t need this but the bloke form this firm who did the plans does not like to be challenged or to change anything” Our best bet was to get in another company to do the soils test and draw up plans acceptable to us and the authorities. It was 360 euros well spent as the man turned up and after some questions about rooms and size and then uncovering an underground concrete drain we didn’t know was there, said he would be happy to recommend and draw up plans that utilised a fosse with a compact filter. All we had to do was choose between Coconut matting Rock wool or Zeolite. 
After some research on here and other places we have chosen the Zeolite one and now await the plans to be drawn and a new devis form our Fosse man and we will be the proud owners of a fosse without having to sacrifice up to a third of our garden across the lane. Whoop Whhoop.

The first problem and how we solved it.

The first real problem we have found so far manifested itself a week ago.
When I went back to sea in early March MrsB went to the UK for a month and on return found that in the corner shown a “damp patch” (stop sniggering) had appeared on the new scalpings.

The edges were dry, the wall is dry, there are no leaks in the roof, there are no pipes underneath where we dug down 


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When you look at this photograph which I had not studied until MrsB sent the previous one, you can clearly see the darker soil but is was not really visible to the naked eye and didn’t feel damp or look damp when we dug down.


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There are a couple of possibilities, Next door has a leak that is seeping through under the ground, Until they turn up in late May I wont be able to check, or there is an underground small spring slowly seeping up to us. We have had no rain to speak of since the scalpings were laid. 

Now I am being forced to think about it a small history of “nothing to worry about or “it will be alright when we get the roof done” springs t into sharp focus. 

When we first bought the place and in the couple of years before we started work on it the earth floor in old doorway (where the wine rack now is was often a bit damp. I put that down to the leaking lean-to roof at the back. 

When we dug down the lounge floor and had laid the gravel then the sand to get a smooth surface for the membrane to sit on I remember that over near that corner it had after a few days developed a bit of verdigris (sort of green tinge) but put that down to the sand holding some dampness and not getting any sun. 

I noticed that when I dug down to put the concrete plinth in for the wine rack that the earth was darker but it didn’t feel “damp” and the walls had no damp in them either. Funny that now with the full benefit of hindsight, the signs were there all along and proof that experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

I am going to do three things, the first is that I am going to ask the key holder of next door to let me into their garage (which is the other side of the wall) to see if they have a leak. It would be the easiest and most convenient of all the possibilities.

Number two is that on the outside in the neighbours garden I am going to dig a trench next to my wall and run a drain along to take away any excess water and run it into a soak away on my ground. This is a precautionary belt and braces measure because if you look closely at the next picture you can see where there appears to be some damp in his wall. That corner it should be stressed never gets any sun at all. 

Where my wall meets his white one is (when you look at my kitchen photo) to the right of the wine rack so there is some possibility of water travel.


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Number three is that I am going to dig up the scalpings that are damp and then dig a small trench further down ion the stone underneath and then inlay some of the drainage pipe shown and run it out of the kitchen door into a soak away at the front. 


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I may have to T piece the drainage pipe to run along the direction the water seems to have followed. And get it to go where I want it.

So that was my plan and I hired in the small digger again with the smallest trenching bucket and dug in some drainage pipe running along the middle wall and out to the front to a soakaway.
It sems to have solved the problem . 

The Kitchen Floor Dig Down

The next major job was and is the Kitchen floor. 
We needed to dig down in order to put the plumbing, some UFH and then lay a concrete slab in order to tile or flagstone from there. 
We are still in the “trying to choose the correct floor” stage at the moment and have spent some interesting hours in various tile centers in Brittany but have yet to fine the “one” that will give the kitchen the feel we are looking for. 
We visited someone with a flagstone floor and it looked dirty all the time regardless of the attention given to it by our host. They said they had just learned to live with it looking dirty but if they had the choice again would not go with flags.
Fair enough if you live on a working farm with people tromping in and out all day in their willies and are happy to give it a sweep once in a while, but however much you clean it the thing will never look clean. So flags have been given the thumbs down. And now the search begins for something else.
We don’t like shiny, or uniform, or twee, or contrived, so we search until the “one” shows itself to us.

First I became all macho and decided it would be good for me to do this by hand and after a bone juddering, back hurting, teeth rattling, 10 minutes on my mates 30 kilo Kangol, followed by 10 minutes of scraping and scruffling, just to get a barrow full of soil and leave a tiny area looking like I had ‘roughed it a little bit” I decided that macho was not the way forward and do hired a mini “mini digger” (85cms wide). It fitted easily through the kitchen door although I was concerned that it didn’t look “man” enough for the job. The reason for my concern was because the top inch or so was packed earth but under it were large areas of shale type rock. The sort of rock that you wouldn’t use in a wall but might be happy to use as hard core. 
I put the smallest trenching bucket on that had two decent teeth and began ragging it. I have to say that the little digger did great job and I was filling barrows as I went and my son and his mate (they ofhttp://www.ancient-giants.com fame) did the barrowing.
I had done about two thirds when Zak, (as sons are want to do), said “Dad can I have a go on the digger” 
Being a dad and focused in the “dads digger zone” I explained that I had bought him over for his youthful strength, ie to push barrows, and that I am getting quicker and better on a digger every time I use one and want to get it done, and a few other excuses. I did throw out that he would be more than welcome to get stuck into the JCB at the other house as we had loads to do there. To give him his due he said fair enough and carried on pushing barrows. 
MrsB, who had been doing the trimming around the areas we didn’t get with the digger bucket, turned up with coffee and quietly said to me (like mothers do) that he was a “man” now and not a child and that I had done the danger areas around the fire and doors that I wanted to make sure were done carefully and perhaps as a sign of respect, acknowledgement, and in the interest of sharing the work load I should find something else to do and let those two finish it off. 
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to argue with logic as simple as that . 

Once I had dug down in the doorway next to the lounge floor it was a simple case of working out (backwards) how deep the scalpings would be and then the insulation and then the concrete to make it level with the lounge floor. Just case of putting a bit of v black electricians tape ona length of batten, setting up the laser level where it could get the whole room and off you go. Dig Dig check check and so on. When you are finished it should be about as level as it is to get. Just one word of warning I did buy a decent laser level (Dewalt) I did originally have a B&Q cheapie special which to be honest was as about much use as Ann Franks drum kit.
The one thing I have learnt during this whole project is that most cheap tools are cheap because they are sh!te and will let you down when you need them the most. Buy something that will last as it is false economy not to. However don’t be frightened of e-bay in order to pick up a bargain quality second hand or demonstrator model tool . 
So here we go after we had dug down a small portion, I am in the background setting up the laser level so that we could get it level as we went. Zak and Walso manning the barrows


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In this corner the sink and work top will be living in a galley style set up kitchen cooking area with an island in front of it


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This bit is where my clay pipe wine rack will end up living. I have just loaded a few in to get the general idea ( we will be seeing this photo later on as a situation has developed surrounding it). See if you can spot what it is?


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Here is Zak ragging the last bits of rock followed by Waldo (with Mrs B watching on) having a go and where you can clearly see the teeth on the bucket that eventually saw the rock off. “Ragging” with the digger is going in and in again on the same spot and drawing back and then just changing the angle slightly and having another go and keep of ragging at it and eventually you get a corner to lift, or a crack to appear and you are in like Flynn. 
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Here is MrsB using hammer and bolster and spike to loosen up and tidy all the stuff in the doorways she is sat on the concrete lounge floor.


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And here are the lads taking a well deserved tea break and the pile of rubble they shifted. That is about two thirds of an area 34 M2 at about 9 inches deep. It took the four of us the best part of 6 hours continuous work (that’s is taking out the coffee stops and lunch break.) 


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The next day it was a case of wheel barrowing in the scalpings in and raking them level (using the laser level and a marked pole again. Once that was done we went ion with the whacker plate to tighten it all down. Then we went in again, one in front with the survey pole, one with a barrow of scalpings applying to any low spots, and one with the whacker plate applying whack where it was needed and it finished up looking like this by mid-morning on the second day.


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Next installment is our first encounter of a problem so far.



Terrace or Patio

The first stages of the “Terrace” or as the English say the “Patio” 
I think I prefer terrace pronounced the French way as tear-ass (rip not cry) it sounds more suited to what we are doing although I will probably call it the “Sundowner deck”. A place to sit in the evenings and enjoy a sundowner G&T whilst basking in the last of the days golden rays of light. 
Our land extends 5 meters across the back of the neighbouring derelict and our own hose is 10 meters wide. When we first came up with the idea of a Sundowner deck, the idea was to create it in with symmetry so that the depth was half the width. ie 10X5 meters, and then have central to that a curved extension that was the same width as the main window (4 meters and half as deep again as the main terrace. This would go up in three steps and become part of the garden with a path meandering down to the end of the garden where there will be a small private seating area that will always be in homage to our time spent there in the evening’s whilst shed dwelling.
First was to dig down and grade the land to slope away from the house in order to take the run off water away and into a soak-away and then on to the field behind. I took off all the spoil and down to depth close to where it needed to be and although I am a reasonable, and fast improving digger driver, I bought in my 

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After the dig down it was a case of getting the scalpings down as shown.
There are 4 tipper truck loads (the type of tipper you can hire form “Superu”) at 35 Euros a load from the local quarry. The first three I tipped direct and the last one we wheel barrowed through from the front. 
What I did was tip in portions and then loose rake them into position. As soon as it was getting dusk and the definition line of the laser was easier to see, we re-raked to get the right levels and camber once again using our stick but recalibrated to account for the scalpings thickness.

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Although difficult to see this is where the curved extra bit will go. The railway sleepers are where the drain will run underneath the stepped curve and are there so I could reverse in with the truck. If you look closely on the left hand side you can see the orange paint lmarks of where the s curve goes although it is more obvious in the drawing. 
They will become the steps up from the main level of the terrace to the level of the garden.


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So there we are so far. The next mission is to double check the camber and then whacker plate it all down. Once done we the have to locate and purchase the right slabs to harmonise with the colours in the back wall. According to Mrs B they should not be too yellow or too pinky or too square or too crazy pavingish or too uniform or too whacky but must be just the right combination of colour, variable size and shape, texture and affordable. 
We were in a builders merchants just before I came back to sea this time and saw some that fitted the bill however the best price offered was 65 euros a square meter and we need about 70 square meters (I could carpet it with Axminster for less than that)

Now it was time for MrsB to flex her wall building skills again and here is the first part of her wall at the bottom of the terrace. 

There are various bits of metal in it that we found in the house when we dug our the old lean to which is where the cider press was.

She is now waiting for me to get into gear and put in the levels for the railway sleeper steps that will take you up from the terrace into the garden. 
I haven’t been able to do it yet as I have to make sure I get all the levels right for the drains that will be under the steps and the covered gully drains that will be in front and that will take the water from the drainpipes. 
They will all run to a soak away and then an overflow down to the field.
None of it will be seen apart from the tops of the gully drains.

MrsB said the best bit about building the wall was that I was on the ship and unable to comment or offer advice or stand there looking and going Hmmmmm.


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One of the key jobs last summer was to make sure that the entire front was pointed.
What had started as this:-


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In this one you can see that were we had faced the concrete block wall with stone it looked all new and different and although the photo doesn’t show it on the old stone side the pointing had all but washed out.

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So Mrs B got her pointing trowel and gloves out and then armed with an I pod full of her favourite sounds drifted into “THE ZONE”  which is where you go when you have a lot of pointing to do.

Even though MrsB is a good pointer and tidy’s up as she goes the stones always end up looking a bit stained but 
we were told by Chris (our building guru) that after a winter or two the staining and odd bits of pointing would be weathered off and if we did the whole face in the same year after about a winter or two it would be well weathered in. Well after just one winter here is the result 

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In this one you can see clearly where there was a different door going into the kitchen. (The pipe sticking out the wall will be for the cooker hood extractor)


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Once we have the doors and  windows in and one more cleansing of the action of frost and moisture it will really bring it up a treat and give it a more uniform appearance. As it is we are happy.



Bespoke Staircase

When we were making the roof in 2009 Michael our, then 19 year old, carpenter said he’d had a good idea for a set of stairs that he thought we would like. 
It meant using some of the old beams we had removed from the kitchen as stringers and newels, old oak bits taken from the old roof as handrails and thick newer oak planks as treads.
Knowing, as we did, how good an eye he has for the art in wood and how in particular he gets “us” and our slight quirkiness and enthusiasm for re-using the original materials back into the house, we said we would ponder it although I was already sold on the idea. 
I was as ever very keen on using as much old wood as possible back into the house and Michael and myself had discussed the construction of such a stair case and the difficulties involved. 
Mrs B was concerned that it would all be a bit too “Hobbity” but in the end we both decided that a normal square flat sided staircase would not look right in the house so we asked when he was available and that we placed our trust in his skill and artistic eye.

To give you an idea of his work so far in the house and why we had no hesitation in asking him to do the stairs this is the door he put in for us between the kitchen and lounge. Say no more!

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The stairs were to be built with one turn which would be next to the old original doorway from the kitchen. 
I had already done the basic math’s for the height of the platform and the number, depth and height of the treads. 


We started on 17th August and after some fine tuning of the maths we built a three sided concrete block box to take the platform. This would later be rendered and it also solved a small problem in that the bottom of the wall behind, although never what you could call damp, never seemed to be as dry as other parts of the wall. 
We just left an air gap behind so it can breath in and out on its own. 


It would become an under-stairs cupboard on the side of the lounge but will be a large wine rack on the kitchen side.

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Michael had chosen the main newel post which is about 170mm squarish so it was a case of stand that up into position and put on the platform at the right height and cut it into the newel for support. 


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Next was to select the lower stringer (originally a beam from the kitchen). The beam is as heavy as iron and there were lots of lifting’s, holdings and finally a cut for the angles for floor and join to main newel. 
We offered it up a few times until Michael was happy with all the angles and joins and then set about marking in the steps and then carving the slots by hand. 
This was difficult due to the lumpy shape of the old wood, but with a bit of ingenious use of the laser level and the knowledge and innovation of a good joiner he soon had all the marks required and set about cutting out the grooves for the treads to sit in. 
Micheal can be seen here working on the grooves

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Once we had the groves in place and the lower newel chosen (originally a lintel from the old back door) it was a case of putting them into position. 


You can see in the next picture where we have taken out part of the wall to take the treads. We did this as carefully as possible but being an old wall “it” decided how much was coming out and when. 
There was lots of in-ing and outing with the treads and work with the 9 inch disc cutter to make sure we had enough penetration into the wall for the steps which is about 8cms for most of them. 

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It was then a case of fix in the steps and secure up the wall as tightly packed and wedged in place as possible.


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And this is the lower section in place. You can look through the treads and see where Mrs B had rendered the outside of the concrete block platform to bring it in line with the rest of the room 


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So onwards and upwards and to select the next stringer. 
I can assure you that moving this beast in and out of position was “hard graft”. It must have weighed at least a couple of hundredweight but with some careful placing of b&d workmates and various boxes we became quite adept at moving it about, although I did grunt a lot during the process.

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We had to dry fix the upper stringer for Michael to weave his magic again and that gave us the lines for the groves into the wall. 
We cut these into the wall with a big Stihl disc cutter with the water hose attachment on to keep the dust down. 
It made a bit of mess on the wall but it soon dried out and sponged clean again.
We also made sure we had covered our previous work as although the newels and main stringers were old oak in excess of a couple of hundred years the treads are fairly new (3 years at best) and so it is important to protect them against staining.

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After much jiggling and grunting and lifting up and down we finally had it in place with the top and bottom steps in. After that it was easy enough to slide the rest of the steps into place.


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This is me cleaning up a step ready for insertion and followed by Michael in the background slotting the last one in and making ready for the hand rails. 


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So after plenty of hard work on the sander and careful patch rendering of the wall we are starting at the top of the stairs and looking down to the platform. 


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And now from the platform to the ground. Although it is difficult to see they actually splay out at the bottom by 15cms more than the top, which one of our more artistic friends noticed and said “It gives them a generous, welcoming and inviting feel as you use them” 


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Here they are as seen from the lounge

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Here are some more detailed shots


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The old oak has been treated so far with 2 coats of 50 / 50 Danish Oil and white spirit and two coats of pure Danish oil. They will only need another coat or so with a run b down with very fine wire wool in between 


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The newer greener oak treads have been treated so far with two coats of “Tung Oil” on a 50 / 50 mix with white spirit. They will go on to receive 3 more coats of pure Tung oil allowing for 48 to 72 hours or more drying each time.


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And here they are in all their glory. 
The door under the stairs is actually the original back door trimmed down top and bottom to fit. Width wise it was perfect. 
The bunting is for the Stair Opening Party we had which was well attended by the village folk and a merry night was had by all.


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Well aware that they wont be to everybody’s taste however “we” are chuffed to bits with them and they fit perfectly into the room and make the transition from downstairs to upstairs a more interesting trip than merely “going upstairs”.

I can assure you they are a joy to walk up and down and feel absolutely solid, almost as though they have grown there. 
They are also very tactile and we often find visitors often just touching the wood.




Recipes and Methods for Lime Rendering

How we have done the lime rendering 

Our mix is the same as ever 3sand 1Lime 1Sieved torchis, however in the scratch coat we have used “yak hair” to help bind it all together. 
I have no idea where to buy it in France as nephew Will gave me a few bundles each one about 5 cms across by 7 long, it was “yak hair” but it feels the same as horse hair. 
When you have your mix going you have to separate it up and sprinkle it in, and you use enough so you can “see it” in the mix. You also need to free it from the blades of the mixer as it sticks a bit, but make sure you never put your hand or try and use a spade into a moving mixer as it is a sure fire way to end up badly injured.
I cut the long handle from a garden hoe down to about a meter and used this to free the hair from the blades and to help scratch out any residue in the mixer after each mix as the mud in the mix sometimes makes it a bit sticky for the mixer

Another alternative is to use chopped hemp which I know is readily available in France, not only does this bind and work well as a scratch coat it adds insulation properties to the render. It is excellent to use on the outside as when it dries it looks like it has been there for ever. 

Regardless of the hair/hemp, your mix consistency will be about half way between double cream and clotted cream. Once you have given it a thorough mixing give it 10 minutes to settle while you prep the area. 

If you are rendering over a torchis (cobb) wall you may need to give it a once over with a flat bladed spade first to knock off any lumps, it will also help you identify any holes. Then take a hose with a spray attachment and give the area you are about to do a good soaking. I don’t mean a little bit damp I mean “wet” then give it a few minutes to soak in. 

With stone walls the same applies on getting it wet, but concentrate on the pointing joints and make sure they are “wet”

With concrete block just give it a good wetting down or else it will suck the moisture out of your mix too quickly.

Lime render wont stick to plasterboard so don’t waste your time.

I had to get some “render board” or “cement board” as it is known because it wasn’t possibly to build up the tops of the slanted walls traditionally. 
To get the render to adhere we made a watery mix of cement sand mud and coated the board in it. We then cut the board to size and fitted in place then screwed chicken wire to that so it would hold the render. (It worked) 

Make sure you have a good solid platform that is at a good height so that ideally you can swing your arm from knee to just over head height. We use gorilla buckets to hold the muck although sometimes for the high bits I was using a long handled “Cornish shovel” and lifting from barrow to his hawk enough for him to work with. Takes a bit of timing but once we got going it was fine. 

Using a square trowel or the end of a “float” use your wrist action to flick (at speed) about “half a fist full” sized lumps of render into any holes to build them up level (or near enough) with the main surface. Do this for the whole area you can reach from your platform. 

Using your float land a large dollop of muck on the “hawk” (that’s the flat thing about a foot square with a handle underneath) and then work it a few times with your float (that’s the oblong trowel thing with a handle above the blade). The purpose of this is to remove any excess air and make it more workable.
Then in one sweep force the muck onto to the wall and spread it out (normally in one direction. Do this over and over again moving as you go. 

Don’t spend to much time mucking about with it as you will just pull it back off the wall again.

I tend to start at the top and work my way along and down trying to get a good even layer onto the wall. 

The beauty of lime render is that later on you can “sponge it up”.
The timing of using the sponge is fairly critical as you don’t want to start on it too early as you stand the danger of pulling it off the wall.

Once nearly dry but still will dent if you push your thumb hard against it you use a sponge board to even it out. They are sold in all Bricos. It is about 20 cms by 15 and has a sponge stuck to a board or plastic with a handle on the other side. You dip it in water shake off any excess and start to work the render with smooth circular strokes. You will be amazed as any imperfections or small cracks disappear.
As it is just the first coat you don’t have to worry to much about getting it too fancy a finish. 

Once you have finished the sponging and you can scratch it up to give the finish v coat a “key” to adhere too.
I cut a 6 inch length of chevron and hammered some 6 inch nails through it. You then run this over the sponged render going in about half a cm or so. Don’t go too deep or you stand the risk of pulling the render off.

Give it a day or two to dry and then damp it down (don’t get it soaking but damp is ok) starting at your original start point begin the top or finish coat using the same sort of swinging motion. 

You use the same mix but using fine sand (0.2) instead of coarse to repeat the operation.

With this final coat the sponging is crucial as if you are too heavy handed you will leave marks. 

The more you do the better you get at it and as you practice the technique on the scratch coat you will be much better by the time you reach the top coat.

I still have plenty scratch coating to do and I am getting more and more 
confident as I go along.

The bathroom will be lined with water resistant plasterboard and tiled. Even though it will be covered we are scratch and top coat rendering between the frames of the stud work. This is for me to practice my top coating but also so we can then experiment with “lime wash” using different pigments until we finds the right recipe and colour for the various parts of the house. 

I hope that explains the process so far but feel free to comment on our render or ask any questions.
Cheers
Bentley

The Heart and Anchor of Billy&Gentley

I go to sea, we are in love. her love is what keeps me anchored to life. my love keeps her anchored to life. 
Our motif is a heart and anchor. 

We designed and commissioned a special piece of iron work that encloses the end of the landing into a balcony (or crows nest as I prefer).
The top of the balcony is three pieces of bar twisted into rope form, as are three of the uprights. When fixed in position the securing bolts at the top are an overhand knot made for a piece of steel rod. The main body is black but all the bits that are rope will be finished in the blacksmiths special mix of wax which will make it even look the same colour as rope 

The heart and anchor motif signifies that the sea keeps us apart for half our lives yet our love always keeps us strong. Building this house together and having such fun doing it has anchored our love on even firmer ground. 

Here is Wayne the Artisan / Artist blacksmith on the first fitting 

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This is looking along the landing (it is place so that you can look out of the eyebrow window)

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Similar shot but shows the colour and some of the grain of the old oak doorframe
And shows how you will lookdown into that end of the lounge

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And this is what it looks like looking up at it, 

When I drop anchor it is within the heartbeat of Mrs B.

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I was so excited the day it was delivered that I saw our elderly neighbour Mme Chattel outside so invited her in for a look. She is in her late 80’s and comes from basically from pragmatic subsistence farming stock to the extent that she has never seen the sea although we only live 50Kms from it. However she is a wonderful tough old biddy who speaks mainly patois. 
MrsB and her understand each other and she is slowly telling MrsB the story of her life from her and her sisters running the farm after the menfolk had been taken away by the germans and singing special songs to warn the resistance fighters they had sheltering in their barn.

Anyway she comes in and I point up and say VOILA, C’est bon, oui?
She looked at me and said ‘pour quoi?’
Mrs B said “Its for feeding the giraffes” whihc had the old lady in giggles and she still asks us when the giraffes are coming.  
After being dragged back to earth I realised that of course to her if it hasn’t got a use, whats the point. but overall she like what we have done although like most of the old ladies in the hamlet they think we are nuts and dont understand why we haven’t just pulled it down and started again with new stuff, however they have warmed to it now it is progressing.
When you have spent your life only doing things that have the purpose of helping you survive I guess that “frivolities” like the balcony would seem an anathema to her. 
I remember asking her a couple of years ago why the old farm cottages and houses only have small windows, her reply was along the lines of ‘Our lives were spent outside working in the view, we didn’t have time to sit indoors admiring it. We were either working, eating or sleeping so what was there to look at, and why waste money on glass that you are not going to look through.’
Tough and hard and relentless life but she is fun to be around and really seems to enjoy our company. 

Nephew Will puts his mark on the house.

My nephew Will is a UK trained plasterer and he had been working in Australia for a couple of years. Luck would have it he had popped back to the UK for a month and wanted to do something for the house. 
I said he could come over and help me get the main lounge walls and upstairs landing rendered and teach me at the same time, an arrangement we were all chuffed with as you should be able to see by the results. 

Here he is being “protected” by the cat and dog.

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Here is the scratch coat on. 
I will post a separate post on the technical bits of the job like mix and consistency and preparation later.


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And this is the method used to get it up to him on the scaffold. We had it down to a fine art in the end, and I could reach him when he was working at 3.5 meters.
I used a long handled “cornish” shovel, taking a “hawk” full of muck from the wheelbarrow and hoiking it up to him in one move. AS you can imagine at the beginning there was muck allover the place but after a little practice we had it “sorted” 



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This is where one end has been second coated

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Here is the same wall staring to look more like it blending in with the newly pointed and sand blasted stone wall 2011, The photos don’t really do it justice as I have the light wrong so I will post some more when I take the next batch. 

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And how it looks when complete with the lounge doorway. We are it has to be said “well chuffed”

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More work in the Master bedroom.

Staying up in the master bedroom I had to cap and secure the tops of the gable and to the left of the chimney I had to build up the gable. 
Whilst doing so I incorporated the 120mm pipe is part of the low volume ventilation system that removes moist air and prevents condensation.
The orange line is the bottom level of the joists for the attic space

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In this photo you can see where I have installed the joists for the attic space using bat hangers onto the “A” frame and inserted them about 15 cms into the wall. 
If you look to the right gable and keep panning right you can see the extra vertical supports I forced in to take some of the weight from the chimney of the dorma ridge. (belt and braces)

I rendered the top of the chimney and rough/heavy pointed the rest in preparation for the sand blast team. (shown in later photo) 


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I then dug out and re-pointed the chimney in preparation for the sand blaster The pointing is put on thick and wide then hard brushed back the next day and then the day after the joints and stones wire brushed back further. 


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This is the result after the sand blasting. You can see the scratch coat of render on the left. 
For the scratch coats we use 0.4 sand (or coarse sand) and drop down to 0.2 for the final coat. The mix is always the same 3 x Sand 1 x lime 1 x sieved old mud and torchis. 

You can also see all the joists in situation ready for the floor boards for the attic and the pipe for the ventilation system top left grey pipe. (cant remember the name but something like LFV or something similar)
In this photo the pins we used when rebuilding the bottom of the chimney are still in. I have taken them out now and tidies up the stonework near the bottom 

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That’s where the master bedroom is today 25th July 2011.

Master Bedroom Floor

The main bedroom was a bit more tricky as we had fitted two new beams which were a bit higher than the two old beams left in place. The old beams were put in green when the house was built and have sagged but although they are strong they are a couple of hundred years old so I wanted to keep the weight off them if I could. 
I built a wooded frame that supported a 250mm x 100 mm oak beam the frame was set onto concrete foundation beam dug out and laid by hand in the kitchen for the purpose.
I also incorporated some old upright beams in the design. 
You can see the old wood here. The other side of the downstairs terracotta blocks is the neighbours (they stay for 4 months a year in the summer) garage so will be insulated for sound and heat. I will then either make a brick and oak cross beam wall (medieval style) or use some more old oak uprights and then render or plaster onto cement board in between between. Not decided on that yet. AS we will no doubt spend a lot of time in the kitchen it is important to us that it is warm welcoming and functional and also has a bit of a wow factor. 

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The terracotta wall in the bedroom will be wooden framed and probably plaster boarded and the plastered with plenty of insulation behind it.

Here is the start using the method of a solid start point explained earlier

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Here is my son Z who is assisting by throwing some moves.

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In this one you can see all the various lengths of the planks used and you just put them in as makes sense and keep the joints as close as you can to the joists for added strength. 


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Nearly finished and the hammer arm and the back are starting to ache a bit now.


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Here is Mrs B giving some scale to the size of the master bedroom, 5.5 meters by 5.5 meters by pretending to be curled up in bed. 
In the various 

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Here is me in the shadows but hopefully you get an idea of how the big tall windows will look. I haven’t finished the edges yet but that allows me to easily push any excess render down the gaps when I render the walls. Once all the dirty jobs are done In will finish the edges


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The stone walls in the bedroom will all be rendered in the 3 sand 1 lime 1 sieved mud render that we use. There will also be built in cupboards, wardrobe etc below the small dorma at the front with shelving all faced with old oak as a dressing area for Mrs B.
Something similar for me on the opposite wall.

We designed and had made locally some bespoke balconies for the tall windows by an artisan blacksmith called Wayne Challis I believe he has a retail outlet in Josslin. They will look fantastic when we fit them to the front of the building. 
It’s all part fo those details that make the finished job just look that much better.
They are about a 110cms high and just over that wide. 
They are about 15 cms deep at the top and bow out to about 40cm at the bottom so will stop anyone walking out through the windows and be great for big flower boxes.


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These photos will have to suffice until I can get some better ones although they do show some of the detail. 
I do have a photo of Mrs B stood next to the pair of them however it is not a very flattering shot of her and I am under the sternest of warnings about the dire consequences I would suffer should I post it. 

Chestnut Flooring

Luckily for us our local timber yard in the village produces chestnut floorboards in varying sizes and degrees of quality (She also does lots of other types of wood as well)
The ones we have used are 20mm thick, 12cms wide and tongue & grooved all round. The lengths vary at 35, 40, 45, 50, 60, 75, and 90 cms. 
As long as you get the joists level it is easy to lay and you end up with very little waste. You can either then cover them for protection (recommended method which I didn’t do) or just cary on building once laid and just leave the sanding finishing to the end. With hindsight I wish I had spent some time covering them and the best and cheapest thing to use is the hardboard separation things just over a meter square that they use on the pallets of bottled water in supermarkets and which they are happy to let you have if you just ask 
If memory serves me correctly, we buy the mid grade that comes in at about 23 euros a square meter. I have laid about 65m2 upstairs in the master bedroom, the shedroom, the office and mezzanine above the office space.
Laying the joists out in the shed room (that’s the one at the back which is a homage to our sheds) is pretty straight forward and the joist size was dictated by the height of the floors of the landing and into the bathroom / office side of the house.

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The joist timbers are 100mm x 90mm the span between the beams is a meter so the joists are beefy enough and set at 350mm centers.

Each joist is drilled (20mm hole through and into the main beam below and then glued and hard wood dowel pegged into the beam and cut flush the next day. 

The levels were checked as I laid out the joists and spacers were put underneath where required. 


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Once that was done it is simply a case of establishing which side of the room you are going to start from and leaving a small gap lay out one run of planks. The only slight mistake I made is that for better acoustic insulation you can get this thin 2 or 3 mm hard foam that you put over the top of the individual joists and then nail the planks onto that and it reduces the “drumskin” effect.  

Make sure you have them all level then pencil mark the joists. Pick up the planks and get a straight length of chevron and nail it firmly along the line, leaving the nail heads about a cm out for ease of removal later. This gives you a solid base to work from and prevents the planks shifting sideways when you bash them with the nailer.
If you zoom in on the next photo on a joist you can see that you nail on the “tongue) and you can see the black oblong head of a nail in. 

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You use a flat edge to make sure the planks are running staright and no unsightly gaps are appearing and away you go. 

You then need a secret nailer see photo, which your wood yard should lend you (for a price along with the nails) If not check out a hire center.
The mallet that do comes with it has a nylon/rubber head and a big metal weight on the other side. You use the nylon/rubber head to strike the gun and also to “tap” the planks into place for a nice neat fit without danger of messing up the wood edge.
The first couple of rows and the last couple or so you may need to use a hammer and the nails without a head or wedge shaped heads (pins) and a punch. Once you get the hang of it its pretty straight forward.


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And here it is done 

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And her is Mrs B checking out some dance moves  on it 


Billy & Gentley make the portals for upsatirs, and Downstairs are done as well

Are we going to have neat straight walls with neat straight doors all very twee and typical middle England renovation job?”?? 
Are we bollocks!!! 
We had to make the doorways through the top of the walls which were just under a meter thick. 
Once we had the openings roughly the right size we used hard wood dowl pegs in the back of old timbers that we had cleaned up to hold the frameworks in place. All of the timbers used in the doorways we have made were taken out of the old roof and cleaned up using what I call flappy paddle disc. 
They are a round normally rubber mounted disc with lots of “flaps” of hard sandpaper set in a circle. 
Some are firmer than others but the bendy ones are great for following the natural contours of the wood as you erode away the old crappy bits and reveal the beauty beneath.
The one that leads into the bathroom /office side will never have a door so it is more of a portal. 

We still haven’t finished the pointing of them or the blending in but I will take photos soon to show you how they have turned out.
The one that leads into the master bedroom will have a door however we haven’t decided on a style or type yet although my instincts tell me it is likely to be quite rustic.
This is the first one that Mrs B and I did and leads to the bathroom, toilet and office.




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Once the uprights are in and the brace bar it is simply a case of filling in with nice faced stone and mortar (3 sand 1 lime 1 sieved mud which is our standard mix for everything to do with stone work in or on the house.)


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We also had to begin to build up the gable to get some separation between the two sides of the house and to give some added strength. When I am using concrete block to stone and mud I uses out normal lime mix but if I am using concrete block to concrete block I use sand and cement. The lime mix seems to bond better with the torchis and stone and just seems more natural somehow 


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This is the doorway through to the main bedroom 
First the entrance hole and then with the wood fitted. In the first photo you can see the pins that my building guru put in to help create the downstairs doorway. 

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On here you can see the gable being built up with block 

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And on here you can see a brave Mrs B right at the top filling in the middle of the block work with one hand whilst hanging on with the other. 


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And this is the roof of the doorway that I made using cedar oak chestnut pine. If I get it right it is going to end up hinged and will be the entrance up into the attic space.


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Here you can see both doorways and the landing passageway which will be behind the studwork of what we call the shedroom. The stairs will come up on the left of the photo 


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We have created a small balcony at the end of the landing that will be open looking down into the front room.
We have had an artisan (and artistic) blacksmith make us some steelwork for this which I will show you in a later installment. It is absolutely wonderful and a classic case of billy&gentley. 

But you can get a feel for it and when you stand there you would be able to look out of the eyebrow on that side of the house. The other giving the extra head height for the stairs

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I will post later photos to see how the doorways look now but it is fair to say that they have cleaned up a treat. 

This is the first doorway that we had to put in and takes you from the kitchen into the studio/ room which has a shower/toilet wet room, big deep sink and washing machine as well as the main thermal store and manifold space for al the heating.
Mrs B made a drawing of how we wanted the door to look and we asked our builder guru if he would do it for us. 
The reason I asked a professional to do this is because it was going through the main gable of the house and was just over a meter thick. I had no idea how to approach a job like this and although he did explain how he would do it I did not feel confident about taking it on.
He did it while I was away at sea and before we even did the roof. When we turned up to check it out you could not tell it apart form the drawing. 
Its big test was when a neighbour came through and I proudly showed him the new door he said “don’t be silly its always been there” It took me quite a bit of persuasion to convince him that it hadn’t. That is the test of a good design well executed. 

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This is the second doorway cut through by the young carpenter who did the roof with me. Because he knew of out fondness for old wood he asked if he could get expressive with it. 

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This is the pair of doors together leading form the kitchen into the center of the lounge and into the studio. 

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Whenever we put in “old reclaimed oak” out finish of choice is Danish Oil. The m,ore coats and a rub down with 0/0 wire wool in between and you end up with a glorious finish that really shows of the wood. 


This is what they all look like after a couple of coats of Danish
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The next one shows off the doors upstairs along the landing with how they look when against the lime and mud render whihc follows the contours of the old walls. You can also see the end of the curved balcony piece and the eyebrow letting light in on the right. This will be a fixed triangular window   

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The next photo shows looking the other way to whee the stairs come up. You can see the eyebrow on the left letting in light. 

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These are the eyebrows from outside to give you a better understanding of them  


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Here is some more of the interior doorways. This one wont ever have a door fitted as it is just a corridor leading to on the right a bathroom then an office with a loo at the end under the skylight.    

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These are the sort of tiles that will be going down in the corridors when the time comes. We found them in a an old Chateau hotel we stayed at on a jaunt down to the Med coast for a friends wedding. Groovy.  

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So onwards and upwards


Renovation IN France

I dont know if when you pop onto here to have a look at what I am writing it shows you that there is another blog which is covering the renovation of our home in Brittany France.
I is the story (in writing and pictures) of Mrs Bentley and my efforts to renovate and breathe new life into a house that had lain empty for 40 years and we are doing the vast majority of work ourselves.
I hope you like it and link to it.
Love and Peace
Bentley