Getting ready for plaster.

Aye Aye landlubbers, Now as far asi can gather the way the French do plaster boarding is that they stick up some metal railings and screw the plasterboard to that and then tape & joint, then paint it. Some people like that method and some prefer the stud wall approach which is my own favourite so thats how I have done all the walls that have needed plasterboarding. Also I prefer a coat of plaster (A “scim” is I believe the correct term) as opposed to the taping and jointing and because I dont have the time to learn the plastering skill myself (you have to pick the skill syou have time to learn and although I am fairly handy with the hawk and trowel when lime rendering I aint so hot on the plaster) my nephew has been across to get us started.

Before he came we have under the guiding hand of our electrician tidied up what was a pile of multi coloured spagetti in the corner of the kitchen into the fuse board and distribution board for the communications.

Here is the underfloor stuff tidied

here is the upstairs down stuff

and here is the near finished article

Basically we are still on the temporary supply but the electrics are all over the house via the main fuse board so we have attached the temporary supply to that temporarily. I think that makes sense.

So it was time to get the scrim tape and edging out in prepearation of plastering.
We did the bathroom first her eis the wall under the velux all scrimmed up and ready to roll.

The next are a sequence of the walls and ceiling being completed

Here is Will plying his “old” trade as he is a wooden boat builder now (watch out for pics later on his next visit to show off his carpentry skills)

Its all angles and edges and this is one of the reasons why I decided it was one of the skills it was better to bring a top pro in rather than have a go at myself. With that amount of angular work it wood always look like I had “tried to do it myself” and considering the finished result we are aiming for that just inst good enough.

So all coming together and really starting to look like the real deal now
as you can see with the “near finished article after painting form daugher Pearl and grouting by MrsB

And here is the nearly finished article

So just the airing cupboard to build, the wooden shelf on the ledge above the bath to fit and the towel rail to plumb in and the plumbing to connect and the drainage to connect and the jobs a goodun!!

Front of House

WEll at last we have put some paint on the kitchen door and the main windows. We have still managed to miss the small bog window and also the studio door (the one on the left) isn’t the one that will be there for long nor is it the right colour but we are getting there.

Look at that shiny bell

So here are the before and after shots

Starting to look a bit more like it

and it should be noted that all the front of house stonework, garden walls, window design, painting (Pearl) and the nice touches were done and designed by MrsB.

Love and Peace

Onwards and upwards with the bathroom

After finishing off most of the tiling and grouting (apart form sikaflexing in the top of the shower tiles) MrsB and daughter P set about painting and tidying up the bathroom to bring it to about 80% finished.
Just the airing cupboard to build,
the top of the shower tiles to sikaflex in,
VMC suctions to put in,
radiator / tower rail to go in,
and of course the taps and drains.
So perhaps 75% finished is closer to the truth.
Either way you can get a feel for it now and if all goes to plan MrsB will be enjoying her first bath in late November.

Well happy with the shower cubicle which measures 2 meters by 1.15 and the shower head will be in the middle of the LEDs above the drain.

One word of warning here is that double check when you start the bathroom build where you want your shower taps to be.!!! We always planned on one of those big round headed “rain showers” but in my haste to get the walls up and insulated I forgot to put the pipes in the right place and they were coming up the back wall.
That meant you would have to reach in and turn it on and end up with a cold blast of water on your arm or head every time you used the shower, which would begin to mightily piss you off after one or two times.
Luckily I remembered in the nick of time and with a quick take down of some plasterboard and re-positioning of the pipes you now stand in the dry turn on the taps, check temp is OK, then get stuck in.
Much more civilised.
You can see the holes in the wall on the left on the above photo.

So this is what it looks like where the bath and sink will go (sink to the left)

A bit more of the floor.

Some glass block detail

And here it all is with the bath painted the right colour although still a little bit out of position and the basin arrangement in place but not plumbed in.

We are as the saying goes “rather chuffed” with it and look forward to being yet more chuffed when we get the plumbing attached and working.
Love and peace

An interrupted but fruitful session

Ahoy there landlubbers, back onboard after a one week journey to get here and unfortunately three weeks ahead of time. I feel like Dr frigging Who and it has been a clusterfuck of a ten days.

The leave started with great promise as MrsB and I sorted out emptying the kitchen ordered the glass for the eyebrow windows (lead in time 5 days) as well as the whole back window /door assembly (lead in time 6 to 8 weeks) and the Warmsler 1100 cooker range and boiler (lead in time 6 weeks) We also laid out where the tractor shed wall was going to go and dug the footings and laid in the shuttering for it.
I have to say that walking more than 50 meters was a bit of a pain with the dodgey knee and so I will admit that perhaps clambouring onto a ladder rested on the dorma roof (so I could waterproof the planned lounge log burner flue) was probably not a great plan.
When my good leg got cramp and my iffy one slipped off the rung the project nearly came to an abrupt end.
With my tail between my legs (not an easy task on a ladder I can assure you) I eased myself down to terra firma and “had a word with myself” In fact it was several words and most of them were sweary.
When MrsB dropped me off at Rennes airport after a week at home I was relieved to think that after the keyhole OP (removing a bit of damaged cartilage) the next day it would herald an end to several months of increasing pain and decreasing mobility. I had put it off as I rather “blokeishly” hoped it would “just sort of get better” with rest but all that happened is that it became worse and I piled on 5 kilos as I couldn’t exercise it off.
As I stood at the auto ticket machine trying to work out how to retrieve my ticket, someone shoved a gun in my back and demanded my money!!!!!
I did what any normal person would do in that situation which was to turn round and say “Fuck right off matey”.
It is not that I am some sort of super hero with special kung fu wonder skills or that I consider myself to be a “hard case” or that I have a death wish, it was just that I recognised the voice of my nephew Will (we had big hugs and laugh at my slight flinch as I felt the gun/ finger in my back) who was just back after a weekend in Hamburg on the lash with his mates and had arrived at the same time. I tried to organise getting him over to do a weeks work with the renovation and we parted at Dorch where he got the 31 bus (top deck front seat) to head back to bridders and I had the pleasure to attend the SkaBQ organised by Mark and Claire Hymas, where I had great time reminiscing with old friends listening to some great music and having a few beers.
At 11.30 on the morrow, off to the knee clinic I did go.
At 1pm they put me under and I limped out at about 4.30 with a gert big bandage on one leg and white surgical stocking on the other (toenails resplendent in their usual summer livery of “Cherry red”) and caught the train up to the Southampton airport hotel and flew back to Rennes the next day.
I must admit when the local anesthetic had worn off it did sting a bit but what miffed me the most was that my earlier understanding that I would be able to get some light work done after a week or so proved to be what I ‘wanted’ to hear as opposed to a reality. The scary reality was that I would need at least 4 weeks before I could bear any great load on the knee and worse still 6 weeks before larking about up ladders and scaffolding, but that was from the nurse, physiotherapist and surgeon, so what do they know huh??

After a week of hobbling about, being a crap patient although succumbing eventually to the tender administrations of MrsB nephew Will arrived and he started by fitting the windows in the eye brows and then moved onto making all the frames for the work surfaces as well as constructing the window bench that will hold the gas bottles for the gas hob. Later the next week son Zak turned up sporting a beaujangler of a beard and with his new van that he is converting to live in. he got stuck into the last bits of insulation with his Ma and then helping out wherever needed in between bouts of working on his van and the gadding off sailing and gliding with Will.
Realising my knee was taking longer than I had planned I convinced Will to stay for another week so having them both there would help move the job along and then out of the blue on the Monday morning comes a call from my company “Can you come back asap”
And here I am, plans and logistics in tatters but Z & W and MrsB put in a sterling effort and we actually managed to achieve quite a bit. WE have several deliveries waiting in the wings such as the Warmsler 1100 Cooker range/boiler, a Neff 5 burner LPG gas hob, a large Neff electric fan oven and a double fronted stainless steel catering fridge that has a 250 liter capacity but is “under the counter” design. We have tender out for the stainless steel tops for the work tops in the kitchen and we have the main parts of the rest of the plumbing including 250 liter expansion balon, 300 liter hot water twin coil (solar and thermal store) immersion, laddomat units and various pumps and piping and three way valves and other stuff associated with plumbing, (and two gorgeous old school industrial /maritime spot lights) all paid for and waiting in the wings to be delivered so so its just case of sorting out the logistics for when I get home in early November and installing it all.
Big days and big leaps forward ahead.

Love and Peace

Cutting Holes in Tiles

Now some people, (more commonly known as professional tilers and builders) posses the knowledge of how to line up tiles and services in advance so that any holes that need to be drilled in tiles to allow pipes through etc would be as close to the center of a tile as possible.
However there are other people (more commonly known as enthusiastic DIY’ers) who do not are not in possession of this knowledge or if they are can often forget to check forward in advance.
It is these people (such as myself) who then need to buy specialist tools to ensure that a neat at proper looking job can be done.

I was informed by my plumbing guru Simon (who had come to make the wall connections for me (I think the items used are called robbitieres) which is a metal plate that secures to the placo with brass fittings that are attached to the water pipes leaving a female threaded fixing for attaching shower controls taps etc) that Brico marche (& depot) sold a diamond edged tool for exactly the predicament I found myself in. I then followed his instructions and am well chuffed with the results.

1- You line up the center of the holes you need to drill (using the laser is easiest I found and then dry lay the tiles in place (not forgetting the spacers) and make your mark at the center of the required hole. In this photo you can see the metal plate thing and fittings I am on about. You can also see where I had to carve out some placo to move the shower controls and also how the tiles meet in the corner.

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2 So you get yourself a large “wood bit” that is the same or 1mm less than the hole you want to make in the tile.
You select a piece of board (in this case 18mm marine ply) and drill a hole near the edge. This will be your guide.

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You have also purchased on of these puppies, I dont know what they are called bu they are about 40 quid each however I am assured by my plumbing guru that they last for ages and will drill through granite tops marble tops and any tile you care to mention

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So the full kit is a cordless drill fully charged (with spare battery on stand buy, two or three clamps, a one or two inch thick piece of solid insulation, a board with a hole near the edge and a suitable workbench.

Put the insulation down on the workbench
Put the tile on it.
Center the board with the cut hole over the tile, obviously centered on the target area.
Clamp the lot to the bench allowing yourself room to get the drill on the job unhindered.

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Using the drill at speed one start drilling using the guide hole and holding the drill as vertical as you can and not applying too much pressure. My first one broke because I applied to much grunt to the job.
Slowly gently and relentlessly and in less than a minute I was through and look how close to the edge of the tile it is

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Here is number two which clearly demonstrates the need for better prior planning or having the right kit to cut the holes without trashing the tiles or making a pigs ear of it.

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The lesson of the day is 30mm higher and 50mm to the left and I could have had it all in one tile, but I managed to salvage the day anyway.

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It turned out OK in the end
Love and Peace

Bathroom gets some tiles and shower room

Aye Aye landlubbers, Its been a productive leave with rooms actually really taking shape now. It is surprising what some plaster and some tiles can do and how different it feels than having plasterboard and screws on show. It takes away that building site feel.

So we doubled up the marine ply on the bathroom floor so it is now 36mm thick on about 30 centers on the joists below. It is screwed about every 20cms, in other words it isn’t going to move.
After careful measurement of the tray waste hole we drilled down to the room below to make sure that my initial measurements were correct and the the waste unit would miss any joists

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Once satisfied I had to use the jig saw to cut out the odd shaped hiole that would allow the waste unsit to fit beneath the tray and give me enough access fomr below to make sure I could do up the threads. I somehow managed to get the first cut a bit skew whiff but after some head scratching sorted it out. It will never be seen anyway. I used some silicon around the hole to ensure that there would be a d good seal with no chance of it leaking between the tray and the wood, which has been waterproofed as well.

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Looks a bit messy but the silicon spread as we slid the tray into position and the silicon around the sides is also there to prevent any water leakage around the edges.

Here it is in place with me mucking about downstairs

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Now it was in place we could get on with tiling the bathroom floor once we had finsihed the plaster board and popped in the electrics and plumbing ready for tiling later.

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We tried to do as many jobs as we could before we tiled the floor to protect them as best we could.

Here you can see the tiles in place but not finished at the edges yet.

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And here we are making the preparations for the glass block shower wall

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Fist thing with the glass block wall is that you have to create a frame for it to sit in and it was during this process that I found out that the top of the back wall (which holds up the mezzanine deck) was 3 inches out of level with the bottom. so I had to move the bottom of the upright wooden post that made the last part of the frame 3 inches. This meant that I have a 3 inch gap at the bottom but would be flush by the time I reached the top with the blocks. I had forgotten that we had worked out the height of the ceiling yonks ago so that it would take 12 blocks high and thankfully that bit was right and level.

Once we had measured a few times to ensure that the maths was right we secured the upright post that we had sanded and treated ready for its new position. It was originally out of the old roof.

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I used L shaped heavy duty stainless brackets both at the top (two) and then refitted the placo, and one at the bottom on the inside so that when the glass blocks were placed in the brackets would not be on show.

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This is Mrs B’s boot and my hand making the adjustments required

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So all was good and once we had gathered all the equipment close to hand we set about putting up the wall.
We had gone online to Glass Blocks for U a while ago and selected the patterns and colours we liked (well Mrsb has the better eye for colour that I) and she had drawn out a plan for me to follow when placing the blocks.

So here we go

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WARNING the specialist glass block is fantastic at its job but a vicious ba$tard of a thing to get in your eyes and it nearly melts the skin on your fingers. I cannot stress strongly enough that you need eye protection and skin protection when using this stuff as in the space of two days I had two very painful and scarring blobs in my eye that almost rendered me blind for 24 hours. And I wore glasses after that (doh!!!)

The whole kit and kaboodle comes with spacers re-enforcing rods wall and ceiling brackets and there are plenty of instructions on the website of what to do. I also spoke with the help desk and they were fab.
Here you can see the first four rows in and the re-enforcing rods in place both vertical and horizontal every couple of courses

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Ha ha on this one you can see my new heart and anchor tattoo that MrsB and I both have although I didn’t follow the aftercare program with mine so its bled a bit. MrsBs is much more dignified than my old sea dog version.

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Here you can see the spacers that keep it all at right angles and all you have to do is keep it level vertically. it is bit odd to start with but you soon get the hang of it.

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And onwards and upwards

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In this photo you can see the metal rails that are lazer level to start the tiling later in the shower area.

I was doing the setting and leveling and MrsB was floowing on keeping the blocks as clean as possible and tidying up the cement to be ready for the grout that will come later.

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Here you can see the gap at the bottom of the wall where the wall is on the squint. The wall is secured in place by long L brackets every other block as I go up to ensure it is rigid and secure and not flapping about in the breeze. The gap wil be filled later with close cell expanding foam and then will be grouted over. Because the gap is at the bottom it wont really be noticed when the tiling and grouting is complete

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More detail of the gap and the wedges to hold it tight and the pattern starting to take shape. You can see tyhe pattern in the background pinned to the wall.

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Here goes the pink ones and if you notice on the wall you can see a discoloured bit in line with the vertical of the wall. That is a acrylic sealer to protect the placo in the event of any seepage

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MrsB and I getting all arthouse with the camera

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Now we are making progress and the gap is down to less than an inch

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The top line would prove to be the most difficult so I had to let the rest dry for 24 hours before attempting it as I didnt want to upset or disturb what had already been laid
You can see one of the l shaped brackets coming down from the ceiling to hold the thing in place
The white foamy looking stuff on the top left is the sort of expansion stuff the give you to put at the ends

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And there it was done just needing a clean up and tidy up in places

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We fitted some shuttering (held in place by the wood slats) covered in oiled tin foil to act as a stopper for the expandy foam but bits still escaped, however it cleans off quite easily once set and has filled the gap a treat

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Next step after a good cleaning was to start the tiling of the shower bit but before we get onopt that I thought I would show you either a bit of luck or (as I prefer) a fantastic accurate measuring for the amount of tiles to order and skillful tile cutting. This is the only waste we had on the floor tiles and there were plenty of cuts around the edges to do.
I love it when a plan comes together

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Thats the first bit and starting to look a bit more like a room now

Love and Peace

I cant believe its been so long

Aye Aye landlubbers, I trust all is well with you all.
I cant believe it has been so long since I updated the site but I have been at home for 7 weeks and already back on board for one so time just mooches along I guess. Aplogies to those who commented and that I didn’t get round to acknowledging, most unlike me to be tardy like that.
The next installments about the bathroom are following this notice within a day or two.
Thanks for reading and taking an interest in the project and also my ramblings on the other section
Love and Peace

The Story of the Shower Tray

Aye Aye Landlubbers,
This is the story of the shower tray.
If you are not up for a long read then the condensed version is
“Bought shower tray online. Collected it. Put it upstairs ready to install.”
The longer and wider ranging story is as follows:-
One of the main reason we built the sheds was so that we would be warm and dry and clean at the end of a day’s graft. At the time we had no idea how homely and “amazingly fit” for purpose they would be, but anyone who has stayed with us will confirm that the sheds are mighty.
YeeHaw trebles up as a kitchen, shower and guest room, and for the last 7 years this has been our shower.

That one large saucepan of water is enough for a good cleansing shower and the method is simplicity itself.
Heat the saucepan of water.
When water reaches the desired temperature place the big saucepan on top of the other one and pop in the pump (12 volt bilge pump from a shipping chandlers shop 15 quid)
Get naked and get in (or, if you are prudish, get in and get naked)
Turn on shower and get hair and body wet.
Turn off shower.
Soap and shampoo yourself up.
Turn on shower and rinse for about two minutes.
Emerge to take warm fluffy dry towels off of radiator.

The dimensions of the shower are 1100 x 1100 and when we designed the main bathroom the shower was always going to be at least 1100mm wide and about as long as it needed to be to suit the space and getting on for 2 meters was what we had our eye on.

I can’t stand piddly little showers that can only just about take one person, or that have been shoved into spaces not quite big enough, as you often find with “en suites”. I find that with piddly little showers I am always knocking my elbows every time I turn around, or if the soap is dropped your arse ends up pushing the door open or hanging out into the cold when you bend down to get it. Even worse is the piddly little shower combined with a shower curtain (aaarrgh) that with even the slightest contact results in it stuck to you requiring the slightly queasy process of peeling it off. So as you may have guessed I like a “big” shower.

We had dismissed the idea of “en suite’ in the very beginning of the design process Ask yourself, “what is an ensuite anyway”? other than a wife’s own private bathroom, normally installed at the expense of space in the bedroom. If you don’t believe me then check out how much more spacious you bedroom would be without the ensuite (especially In a smaller property) also check out the sort of reception you get if when “sharing” the en suite you decide to “coil one down” first thing in the morning just before your wife or girlfriend (or husband) goes in for a shower or to brush their teeth. IMO one of the golden rules for harmonious co-habitation is to never have toilet in the same room as a shower/bath, and if you are going to have a “his and hers“ anything then don’t fuck about with poncy double sink units (are you ever really likely to stand next to each other as you brush teeth, shave, apply makeup, scratch bollocks squeeze sports etc) but do make sure you have two bogs.

I am fully aware that some would argue that you can only use the space you have, but I think that is feeble bollocks as far as justifications go and I would counter with “spend some quality time thinking or planning and come up with better design”.

Ok I admit that maybe I am being a little bit unfair and uncompromising, and perhaps there are some people who like bashing their elbows and knees and having to touch the cold walls when they shower, but I am not one of them, I also don’t like the flimsy feel of plastic shower trays.
So we have always had in our minds a big shower cubicle with a solid base and an easy to use control and a mighty torrent of water when it’s running.

We arrived at the required dimensions of 1100mm wide x 1810mm long, due to the placement of the studwork inside the walls (for fixation of the glass block wall that will form one side), and our idea of the general dimension of the bathroom, ie how it looked when we laid it out with a mock wooden framework as a practice indication of how it existed in the space, how close to the door it would be, how the lights worked in it, and how it worked in cohesion with the bath and proposed sink in terms of scale and placement etc. On a separate issue, the plug hole needed to be placed exactly where we wanted it due to the position of floor joists below, which is 200mm from the end and 550 in from the side.

We searched over 5 years in every brico shed and bathroom showroom, not only in France but also when we were in UK, for a robust shower tray, preferably in ceramic, but drew a blank. We had one sniff of a possibility about 6 months ago when I saw the sort of rigid re-enforced foam templates that you tile yourself when installed, however we couldn’t find anyone who would make one where the plug hole was in the right place for us. In fact one chap went so far as to say that they should really only be used on a concrete base downstairs (although why eludes me). PointP also had on display a resin based stone look-a-like tray that could be made to the right dimensions but the plug hole would still be in the wrong place. Laypeyre was the same story as with everyone else
It should be noted that the bathroom floor is 18mm marine ply doubled up (ie 36mm thick) and cross laid on joists between 250 and 300 screwed every 250mm. It isn’t moving anywhere.

Eventually with a deadline to get the bathroom fitted and operative by November this year we searched online for bespoke shower trays. We had three hits and duly e-mailed out the dimensions of what we wanted.
One reply came back from this outfit who make trays out of a resin product. First they make a mould (any shape any dimension) and then pour the resin. They do specialist jobs for super yachts etc and prices started at about 3,000 pounds. (eeeeeek)

One didn’t respond to our inquiry, and then we had a mail back from Alexander MacKintosh from Birmingham who suggested we gave him ring to discuss the shower tray.

What a lovely chap he was, calmly explaining that the size we wanted would be no problem but that it didn’t need to be “all “tray”. The first bit would be what’s known (in shower tray parlance) as a “lead in” which has grooves in it, like a draining board, and then the tray. He sent us a diagram and a quote to make it out of quartz-stone or marble but he recommended the quartz stone as a better product for what we wanted. 1500 quid including the VAT. For a bespoke piece that will look splendid in situation we didn’t consider it to be over the top, so we ordered it for collection in mid March and paid 750 quid deposit. Decision made. Job done.

At the same time we had been looking for some unusual bathroom floor tiles and had decided on something like the old Moroccan or Victorian patterned style but couldn’t find anything that caught our eye. MrsB was having a browse on the webnet and found an interesting mosaic of old style patterns laid in a random configuration, which now I read this back sounds a bit whacky, but is actually going to be very groovy when laid. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea but then again they don’t have to be because they are ours, and they float our boat.
Here is an idea of what to expect. (as an aside you can also see the waterproof coating between the two layers of marine ply.
They are just laid out roughly in these photos to give an idea of the effect, and when in place they have a 1mm spacer gap and a special coloured grout that goes with them.

They were available from a tile manufacturer in Kettering which I figured was about the same distance “ooop north” as Brum so we ordered and paid for them online and I arranged to collect them on the same day as the shower tray.

LOGISTICS (Bentley style).

I was considering buying a new pick-up truck and with the old one coming close to the end of its MOT I decided to combine getting that done (to enhance its re-sale value) along with picking up the shower tray, tiles and stocking up on other hardware. I had measured the back of the truck and had 1155 mm between the wheel arches so the tray should slide in sweetly albeit with the tailgate being open. No problems.

I took the overnight ferry on Wednesday from Caen to Pompey, drove down to Bridport to Dorset Vehicle Rentals where I did the paper work for hiring a transit and then dropped my pick-up for its MOTat Scruffs. (an old mate of mine whose garage has looked after all my vehicles for several years).
I had some pottering about to do for the rest of the day including stocking up on all sorts of goodies from the Bridport Building Supplies (the builders merchants I use in UK).
This included two bags of “tanking slurry” (which will be mentioned in another post) screws nails and assorted hardware likely to come in handy.
I had booked into my favourite pub for B&B that night, spent an early evening in there and took an early night ready to be off with the lark in the morning for my run to Brum.

Other organized activities that I had factored into the trip included a blood test on the Monday morning at the health clinic to check out my sugar levels because a routine job related medical in Malaysia had picked up spike in my levels. This meant fasting for most of Sunday. l also had my annual seafarers medical booked for Southampton at 4 pm on Monday and the overnight ferry to St Malo at 8pm.
I had also arranged for Saturday afternoon to take my daughter MissB for a “Waggamamas” lunch in Dorchester before she headed back up to London after a visit to Bridport.
So there I was “SORTED’ (an anagram of Dorset) and ready for my mission.

It is about 50 a minute plod from Bridport through the lanes up to Taunton and then onto the M5. It is about another 2 and half hours to Brum. I set off at about 7.15. and stopped for a coffee and sarnie up past Gloucester.

I’d had a brainwave on the way up and took the opportunity to call a comedian mate of mine, Paul B Edwards, who lives in Letchworth. I had realised that because Ketteirng was just a bit “ooopp north” from him, I could work on the principle that if he wasn’t gigging he would, be right up for going out on the lash and I could doss at his place for the night. If not I would just trundle back to Bridport on the Friday afternoon and go out for a few beers there.

When PBE answered the phone I asked if he was about and fancied a pint and he said “Yes I am about. Yes I do fancy a pint, but more to the point do you fancy doing a gig because it’s my Hitchen shows 20th anniversary gig tonight and I would love you on the bill.”?
“Oh Yes I do” says I “See you later this afternoon”

While I finished my coffee ,made a quick set list for the gig so I could rehearse a bit when I was driving, and then the set off towards Brum arriving at Alexander MacIntosh’s showroom / workshop at about half 10. (Thanks Tom Tom for taking me to the door)
Tucked away on an industrial site up near the airport I thought at first glance that it was just a workshop, but I was absolutely gobsmacked at the huge showroom and the quite magnificent display of fine quality marble and natural stone tiles on display. When you look at the front of the building there is no indication to the marvelous treasures hidden inside. If you are looking for something a bit special then check it out but IMO the website photos don’t do the showroom, or the quality of product on show, justice.
On arrival he showed me out the back to the workshop where the shower tray was sat in its glory. To say I was as chuffed as nuts with it would be close to the truth, and in the flesh it looked much bigger than I expected, even though we had chosen the measurements. He took me back to the showroom while he sorted the paperwork and I had a good mooch about collecting ideas for the next project and marveling at the stuff on display and how it was displayed.
I paid the owing amount and we had a quick chat about him making me a one off marble or quartz stone piece that would surround our sink (see previous post) and also act as draining board, but he said because of the waste involved it would be cost prohibitive and we would be better off speaking to a stone kitchen worktop supplier. I thanked him for is candour (and the wonderful job they had done on the tray) and then took the hired transit van round to the loading bay.

This is where a small spanner was thrown into my works because they told me it was not possible to transport the tray “flat”, it has to be transported on its side or it will crack. I was in the transit so no problem as far as transporting it goes “but” I did notice (and filed away under ‘sort out later plan b c and d) that it was a major struggle for the “three” of us to get the thing into the van. Once in we then packed it out with polystyrene to keep it secure. It probably weighs close to 200 kilos. I only had two ratchet straps with me but with some fancy rigging I managed to secure the load, upright against one wall of the transit and off I went in the direction of Kettering.

I stopped after about 5 miles and 8 roundabouts (tense and listening for odd “cracking” noises as I negotiated them) just to check the load was OK (as it was) and arrived in Kettering about an hour later and picked up the tiles from the massive manufacturing plant on the outskirts. Just opposite was a Tool sales place so after procuring a couple more ratchet straps (and some flappy paddle sanding discs and some other bits and pieces. (Well it’s a tool place innit? )) I then “double lashed” the tray and set off in the direction of Letchworth.

I arrived mid-afternoon and we set about the business of catching up with our latest gossip after about 4 years of not seeing each other (those of you who like punk music may like to catch his superb long running podcast on We then got ready for the gig and off we went. Suffice to say the gig went very well and it was a good buzz to be back on stage, microphone in hand, making people laugh. One very pleasant surprise after the gig was that although I had told him I didn’t want paying he slapped a healthy wad of cash in my hand. Top geezer, although he knows I would have done it for the laugh anyway. After the show we set off on an extended laughter and conversation filled pub crawl of the late night drinking haunts in Hitchen. I finally crawled into my pit at about 4ish and slept until about 10.
We had said cheerio the night before as I had to be away early to meet MissB for lunch in Waggamamas in Dorchester abefore she headed back by train back to the Big Smoke. I had a quick teeth brush and cold water sploosh, grabbed my bag and was out the door. As I was setting myself up in the van (feeling a tad “peaky if I am honest”) when the phone rang and it was MissB telling me not to worry about getting back for 2pm as she was staying the night in Bridport so we could go out for dinner instead. Bloody hell!! I could have had another 3 or 4 hours in my scratcher, but as I was up (and now locked out by the security gate) I thought I would just grab a coffee at the first petrol station and plod on. (A fortuitous decision as it turns out)
I was flagging a bit by the time I made it to Fleet services on the M3 so I stopped for brunch, more coffee and made my way back to Bridport, via Dorset Reclamation in Bere Regis where I bought some old decorative ridge tiles to cap a flower border wall that MrsB was intending to build (see a previous post)

Feeling rather pleased with myself (if not little jaded) at the successful nature of my mission I arrived back in Bridport at about 2.30pm.

My nephew was staying at my mother in law’s and had agreed to give me hand to transfer the shower tray from the transit to my pick up. Once I opened the back of the transit he took one look at the shower tray and said “It isn’t going to fit” which confirmed the niggling doubt I had been ignoring for the last 24 hours and sure enough the back of my pick-up is only 900 high and the tray is 1100, and as I had been told there was no way of transporting the tray flat or at an angle I now was the unwilling owner of a 200+ kilo, 2 square meter problem. Oh BOLLOCKS!!

So time for some quick solution focused thinking and onto plan B (or C or D if required)
I now needed to hire the transit for another three days to let me take it to France on the Monday night, ferry back to blighty on the Tuesday night from Caen, then back on the overnight to St Malo Wednesday night to France with my truck “Unless” I could convince my nephew or daughter to come and drive the Transit over on the Monday night and come back Tuesday night, but both were working.
My son had just finished filming on feature film so I called him and asked if he fancied a little jaunt to La Belle France and as ever he was right up for it so I arranged to pick him up from Dorchester station on the Monday lunchtime ready for the trip that night.
He then asked if it would be alright to bring his new girlfriend along for the trip which I could hardly say no to. It meant I had to book an extra cabin because I am sure she might have freaked out a little at having her boyfriend’s dad sharing a cabin with them.

It would cost me the overnight fare for the van (and extra cabin) to St Malo and then Caen to Pompey with van and cabin on the Tuesday night. Ok so it was an 480 quid of extra expense ()plus dinner for three) I hadn’t planned for but I wasn’t going to risk 1500 quids worth of shower tray for the sake of scrimping and trying to shove it in the pick-up and ‘hoping’ for the best.
I nipped into the hire place to finalise the details with them but it was shut ()slight rise in stress level) however I called the head office who said that we would have to change vans for a newer one, but to pop in Monday and all would be OK. (lowering of stress level) The good news being that as I already had paid for 4 days it was the same price as if I had hired it for a week and as I was a fairly regular customer (and he used to come to the comedy) it would only cost an extra 20 quid for the Europe insurance cover. Happy days for stress level.

The other good news was that the pick-up truck had passed its MOT (albeit with new wheel bearing). During the trip I had pondered long and hard the pros and cons of a new pick-up truck but had decided not to spend a load of money on a new one as we still have the second project to complete and the truck will definitely get bashed up.
Why not just continue bashing up the one I have as opposed to bashing up new one. IMO it is pointless owning a pick up if you are going to get all lah de dah precious about bumps and scrapes and making the inside a bit dirty. This change of heart would mean registering it in France, which apart from some minor bureaucratic hiccups on our part passed off smoothly enough (it is now “Le” pick-up on French plates) and I save over 350 quid a year on the insurance. (lovely jubbly)

So what ensued was an enjoyable few beers and nosebag with MissB on Saturday, followed by a booze free fasting day on Sunday, blood test early Monday morning, then off to pick up MasterB and his girlfriend to do the paperwork for the transit and change vans.

It was at this “van change” time with the vans parked back to back with the doors open, and as my son and I tried to shimmy the shower tray between vans (which isn’t as perverted as it sounds), we realized that there was (to use my own words) “not one flying fuck of chance that we would be able to maneuver that heavy bastard up the stairs without breaking it, or us, or both” I decided we would worry about that after we had arrived at the house but already had in my mind to hire manitu and send it in though the office window.

After securing the load in the new van I shot off in my pick up to Southampton for my medical and said we would meet in the bar on the ferry. The medical went without a hitch and we actually met just before boarding, we checked the load was good and on we went.
A nice big posh dinner in the A le carte followed by a few drinks watching the singer croon his stuff and (for me at least) a well deserved early night.

I set off to the house first followed an hour later by Master B as he wanted to take his girlfriend for a coffee in the “Freaky Dolls” bar in St Malo. If you have never been, the bar stools are swings, and the toilets are disguised as an old wooden hotel phone booth and there are thousands of dolls covering every square inch of space, and a magnificent ard deco odd light fitting. Check it out if ever you fancy a drink or a coffee in unusual setting in the ever lovely St Malo walled town.

I nipped into Ploermel to hire a Manitu but Locormor (my usual place) didn’t have one so I nipped round to Loxam who said they had one but rather than deliver it would cheaper for me to just drive it as it was only about 18 kilometers. All fine and dandy but as I hit the open road I realised two things No1 I should have had ear defenders No2 15KPH was flat out.
Ah well I arrived home mid-afternoon after a rather uncomfortable drive where I was even over taken by 4 old blokes on push bikes. I then secured (with ratchet straps) a few scaffold planks to the prongs of the Mainitu to create a solid platform and then nailed piece of wood to that which helped hold the wood together and also would act as a stop for the tray to lean up against when we lifted it to the office window.

The first job was to do a risk assessment of the process in which it was decided that zak would ride the tray up to the window so first we needed a practice run.

Then remove the balcony

Lift the tray out of the van and get it balanced on the manitu platform.

Had it been another 10cms longer it would have over balanced but we now had it so that the tray was stopped at the bottom and it was easy for MasterB to maintain his balance using the weight of the tray as stability.

Then with hand and shouted signals down to me guide me into the office window

Once in the window I then had to park and get up the stairs to help slide it into the office room

Then with the assistance of his girlfriend put the balcony back on

Then while MasterB and his lady had a joy ride around the village and farm tracks in the Manitu MrsB and I took a couple of shots of the tray at last in the bathroom and then made dinner.

The photos don’t really show the markings and colour in the stone however after its epic journey it is now just two meters away from where it will end up

Unfortunately the total cost now is getting on towards 2200 pounds (including transport and van hire and extra cabins and posh dinners etc) which some people will no doubt consider to be absolute fucking madness for a shower tray. Ho Hum. But please remember, it isn’t your money we are spending.
Once we had decided that this project (when it came to the fittings) was not going to be one of those “scrimp and save” ghastly B&Q cheapo job, this sort of “extra” is just part of the deal, , we have to take it on the chin.
Although we don’t have to justify it to anyone I will just say that we haven’t spent all this time, effort and money to end up having to take a shower in a piddly little plastic thing shoved into the corner of the bathroom as an afterthought.
Suffice to say that we are well chuffed with the shower tray and are looking forward to the finished shower room.

Love and peace

Mrs B Weaves her stone magic

Aye Aye Landlubbers.

So we had camouflaged the septic tank and filter and then laid the concrete block core of what will become our front area of the house.
It was all set for Mrs B to weave her stone magic and create something to which I can then make and fix a low lying palisade style fence to complete the picture.
MrsB has just sent me the photos of the progress so far and I think it is absolutely superb.

So it started like this

And when we had camouflaged the septic tank and put in the concrete walls, it looked like this.

And now MrsB does her thing!!

Being watched as ever by the old farm dog ‘Hercule’ who just adores her.

And our jack ‘Minnie’ who also adores her

Post box and newspaper slot

And now with a few pots in place and the flowers already happy in their new home in the wall

And now you should be able to get an idea of how good it is going to look with a low wooden fence (about same height as the slot for letters) running along the front both sides of the gate on the back of the wall

Here you can see the stones that will be used in the yard area and also some of the multitude of old reclaimed materials from the house used for pot stands on top of the wall.

I guess it is reasonable to say that there has been something of a significant transformation to the fornt of the house and we think it still retains the original character of a little French farm cottage (although perhaps a well cared for one.

In the beginning it looked like this

and today it looks like this

Its coming along!!

Paix et d’amour.


How to camouflage a septic tank and filter

At the front of the house we had to come up with a plan to camouflage the septic tank micro filter and pump housing that also gave us easy access to them when required.

We have always planned to have a small (breakfast & coffee) terrace outside and to the left of the kitchen window (the one with bars) and to have a flower bed running along the dividing wall to the right of the house as you look at it.

We used blocks to create the flower bed and found some old clay ridge tiles from the UK (bargain at 6 quid each) to create an attractive and quirky flower bed and painted the wall the same colour as to match our lime and mud pointing and the stones on the front of the house.
Here is MrsB setting about painting the wall and blocks to colour

And here with the ridge tiles applied

MrsB that came up with the idea of forming a raised area of decking (L shaped) to surround and cover the tanks. This will eventually be covered in pots of various types
We have plenty of old oak beams sand blasted, treated and dry stored from the original roof. We have always put back in to the house what we have taken out, where possible, and this was just another way of doing that, so we decided to check out the stock for suitable pieces and found a few gems.
It was then a case of cutting them to shape and leveling them up as best as possible.

The great thing about this was that the big chunks of wood didn’t all look level when laid in however it did leave us a chance to lay wood railings on the inside that would be level and also keep the decking clear of the lids and vents etc. All we had to do then was treat the beams

Then bolt them together and fit in the railings (25mm x25mm)

Here you can see the bits of brick and block that have been used to bring the main beams to some sort of level

Then treat the planks and cut to size when dry (perhaps it might have been less messy to do it the other way round but we were on a roll by then

Then trim fit them into place held with one small nail each end

Where the little vents stick up will be covered with upside down pots with holes drilled in with plant pot on top. * (you will have to wait a month or few in order to see how that will work but in the meantime feel free to let your imagination wander.)

For the gates MrsB had found a couple of old chestnut veal crate doors, with the wood on one side worn smooth by countless calf’s heads reaching through to drink milk from the bucket that would hang on the other side.
I found some old oak beams taken from one of the original A frames and trimmed them up to create gate posts and buried them in the ground at the appropriate height.

Unfortunately on my very first pick swing I heard a dull hollow sound ring up the drain pipe on the house and realised I had hit the rain water run off pipe. Closer inspection revealed I had put a sodding great split in it, and that the pipe ran right where I intended to put the gate posts.

So with some deft diversion work and pipe mending I continued and installed the posts

Followed shortly by the gates that still have the hinged openings for the calf’s head

To create a dividing wall to the left of the property where the land dips down we dug a footing trench when I had the digger hanging about and compacted a load of old rubble into it with some cement footings over the top. Nothing drastic as it isn’t holding anything up except itself and at the most will be a meter high.

Then MrsB laid in the first row of blocks (first pic of MrsB loading them up) to bring it up to a height that will level up the front garden area.

Now to get the land level (ish) level with the kitchen door is about one and half blocks high but we are going three high on the right because MrsB wil then cover it in stone on both sides of the block and then continue up with stone leaving a gap in the middle above the block which will become a flower bed in the wall.

You can see the metal ties for the stone wall here

Along the front where the wall shows will be a stone facing and then a rustic picket style fence will complete the enclosure of the front garden.

You will still be able to see the big wood sitting proud and behind that are large round pebbles (up to 50mm) of the same colour as the wall and then a paved area outside the kitchen window and a paved pathways to each door.
Not sure about the form of the gate by the kitchen yet, but may well replicate a version of the veal gates.

So there you have it the front of the house starting to look less like building site and more “homely”

D’ya loike dhaaaggs?

After months of winter rain the place where we normally park had become a swamp and was no longer fit for purpose (excuse the picture of the dumper and septic tank but it is the best one I could find to demonstrate the morass).

We had been parking on the neighbours hard standing (they are in Paris for the winter) and decided that we can’t put up with the mud each year nor can we keep using the neighbours space, so we decided we had to create a hard standing of our own.
If you like ‘we had to make a stand’. 8)

We toyed with the idea of gravel but it just squashes into the ground after a while, gets caught in the tyres of the truck and ends up all over the lane, makes a horrible scrunching sound and is difficult for people to park motor bikes on (and we get several visitors who ride them) so we dismissed that line of thought.

We also dismissed concrete as (in our opinion) it looks a bit nasty and would look out of place so we decide on “tarmac” which is what has been used elsewhere nearby.

I have never been involved in tarmac-ing anything but I have watched them build enough roads and seen it done on drives a few times to get the general gist of it.

I hired a tipper truck, a digger, and a big whacker plate, and then over the course of a day dug down (fairly level) to the sort of depth I thought I would need and then dumped the spoil on on our other bit of land about 5 miles away).

That evening when light had faded the laser level confirmed my “eye” was nearly all right and I used a spray paint to identify any high or low areas which I tried to scrape level in the morning.

We then put in a sort of boundary to give straight (sort of) edges to the finished product that we could then re-enforce and blend into the garden to make it look lovely.

Then off to the local yard that not only sold tarmac but also scalpings, but unfortunately they seemed to be a bit “stiff” when it came to adhering to the rules of how much scalpings they would load in my truck and would only put in a piddley little bit equivalent to about 4 or 5 wheelbarrow loads.
Luckily the quarry a bit further out in the sticks and had no such qualms and loaded me up to the gunnels and three large loads later we had out scalping base which we leveled as best we could with the digger then ran the whacker over it.

Here it is after a whackering or two after we had tried to fill in any dips

Here we created the run-off down into the drain.

And here is the preparation finished and ready for the tarmac.(you can also see how the lean-to works on the shed in the background)

Now before we go any further I must say that at this time it is absolutely important that you have a smooth level surface. It doesn’t matter if it slopes one way or another (the water will run off) but it mustn’t have any undulations, and so another proper leveling at this time is absolutely the thing to do or else you will end up with a rubbish finished product that looks awful and always has bloody great puddles in it.
Remember the adage of the 7 P’s p!zz poor preparation precedes p!zz poor performance.

Of course you could just get a contractor in to do it but where is the fun and the challenge in that??? 😯 😯 😆

After that it is a case of get prepared for the hot tarmac arrival.
Two Rakes
One Vibrating Roller
One digger to spread the tarmac about evenly
Two people clad in boots and gloves and T shirts as it gets very very hot.
Cover all rakes and digger buckets in a liberal coating of old diesel.

Get tarmac delivered and dropped in the most convenient spot.
It is recommended that to give a 5 to 6 cm covering you need one ton for every 10 M2. We had 65 M2 so 7 tons of tarmac arrived (944 euros) and this is what 7 tons of hot tarmac looks like.

Spread about and rake as smooth as you can, as fast as you can, because you want to work it when it is still hot or else you are f@#ked and will be left with an ugly tarmac sculpture of a blob.
Trust me when I say that this is a hot and sweaty job and you have to just get stuck right in and keep going till its done. It doesn’t take long but you need to be on it and stay on it till its done and ready for rolling.
Trust your eye to get the levels.

Rake it neatly as you can using both sides of the rake ie the top bar and the prongy bit to spread and even it out

Then get the roller on it.

Now the roller is a vibrating double roller with a gert big long handle on the end with the controls on it for forwards backwards and vibrate. There is no steering. 😯 😯

You have to get it trundling at just the right speed then yank it the way you want it to go. It is like wrestling 5 bags of moving cement and was very hard to get the hang of. Eventually cracked it but wished I had hired a small sit on one with steering instead.
I guess, like with many of these things, if you practice a lot you will get used to it and eventually master it but to be honest life’s a bit short to be fannying about huffing and puffing trying to drag a bloody great roller about.
That said I was fairly happy with the end result of our tarmac-ing experience (do ya loike daaags??) , which after a few months will blend in around the edges and look like it has always been there.

and here it is with with the side boards gone

Here you can see the natural slope left in down to the drain and also the diesel in the wheelbarrow for the rakes. If it doesn’t all wash off the rakes and barrow just chuck some petrol on the diesel (just a bit) and set fire to it in the barrow and let the metal bits of the rakes dangle in the flames for a while. It cleans the barrow up a treat as well and gets rid of the dirty diesel.

We have trimmed down the edges and laid concrete to give a hard edge and plomped soil and turf on that.
I will pop another photo up at the end of the summer so you can see how it would have blended in properly.

Love and peace


‘including the kitchen sink!!


As with every other room we took long time deciding on how the kitchen would be laid out and how we wanted to be able to cook and “be” in there. The kitchen is often the beating heart of a house and in our opinion needed careful planning and consideration.
We are aware that some people are happy to chuck in an “off the shelf” kitchen or pay some stranger to come into their house to “design” it for them and tell what they want, or what is the latest “in thing” however that isn’t a route we would take, so each to their own on that.

We will be having a large wood burning range with boiler (A Warmsler 1100) in the fireplace but obviously will only cook on that in the winter months.

We will have a bottle gas hob with electric double oven (because we have found bottle gas ovens to be utter S**te and not controllable enough)

We have built an island as extra work surface which will have a larder style fridge under it, and a peninsula for the sink (ha ha how posh does that sound)
We have created a “galley” style cooking area of two opposing Ls where everything will be to hand for one or even two ( ) cooks at a time.

The galley style cooking area comes from my experience on many ships, particularly the smaller ones, where they are designed for one cook to be able to feed 15 or more men 3 times a day. Work surfaces near cookers, fridges close to hand, sink close to hand, utensils either above head or to hand in open shelves. All designed for maximum cooing area with least amount of movement needed by the cook.

I created something close to my idea of perfect in the last house we had in UK and it was easy to cook in but the best one so far has been the galley space in the shed Yee Haw where you can pirouette on the spot and reach everything required.
Obviously we want to expand on that and a large sink is a vital part of the apparatus required.

We have chosen a double Belfast style sink just over a meter long half meter wide with 2 bowls about 25cms deep.
We chose the biscuit colour.
I say “we” but actually I was plumping for the white (doh! I am man = sinks are white doh!) so MrsB made me stand in the kitchen with my eyes scrunched up looking at the floor tiles then held up a pale cream colour in my eye line, and then a white colour in my eye line, and so we ordered the pale cream, (or biscuit as they call it)

Basically where the colours come in and where the “guilding of the lily” is occurring we are firmly in MrsBs territory and I am gladly following her lead and only arguing if I really do not get it.
We still discuss and have to agree on it all and I am involved in the choice of colours and textures etc, but in general MrsB has the eye for the detail whereas I am more interested in what holding the detail up.

We had been looking in various trocs brocantes and kitchen shops etc all over Brittany but nothing had caught our eye in years so we ordered on line from a manufacturer in UK

Here it is in all its ribbed front biscuit colour glory.

Here are floor tiles
so you should be able to see how that works together

We are in the process of setting the height right and then it will have either a granite or marble shelf to the right and the along rear which sits along the top of the sink and hopefully in unison with one piece incorporating a large draining board to the left, which in itself will sit and fit seamlessly with the island worktop which maybe stainless steel or wood or something else “light” coloured (yet to be decided)

The tap will be one of those goose neck jobs probably in brass or brushed steel (although yet to be decided) and set centrally at the rear and come through the granite / marble shelf.

In the last shot you can see the rear of the sink and overflows which will obviously all be hidden.

The block work of the island and sink support will all be trimmed and smooth coated then tiled.

To the left of the picture is the island

In the background where the temp gas stove is now will be where the hob and oven go and from that in an l shape following the concrete blocks will be an L shape stainless steel top with splash back.

The top will be as wide as the cooker along the back wall and then thin down to about 350mm along the front wall ending up with round end.

Any appliance stands on a 5cm plinth (already built in) so when stuff is dropped on the floor in the cooking area and water sloshed about, none of it gets under the piddly valances and skirtings of normal fitted kitchens, or trapped under the fridge or cooker legs to fester away for ages as it does in many so called “modern” or “fitted” kitchens.

The block work along the walls (about 5 cm gap) also acts as a conduit for an air vent which takes air from outside to the main wood burning range which is out of site on the right of the picture.
The air comes in through a vent outside (under the window seat) and is piped into the space behind the blocks and then when it gets to the end of the blocks is piped to the front of the wood burning range.

The window will have a wooden seat in it and to the left of the sink in the photo will be the granite marble shelf that runs in dog leg around the sink.

That’s about it for now on the sink. I will update the progress of the kitchen and am also preparing a post that is from start to finish just the kitchen as I will do eventually with all the rooms as they come on line.

Love and Peace


The Log Shed Evolves

A year or so back we erected the first part of Shed 3 which is to become the main workshop and depository for my tools and the various bits of storage we don’t want in the house

It went from this

to this

You can see the extra-long chevrons on the right that were left in with the express purpose of extending them further and then roofing over to create a log store on the side.
We cut to size and treated some more chevrons with a mix of modern creosote, old engine oil, dirty diesel and a black french wood preserver like runny tar.
After they were dry it was simple case of nail gunning them in place with stiffiners to extend the chevron length. (you can see the stiffiners sitting proud under the chevrons They are about half a meter so extend 250mm each site of the join)

Once they were in place We used meta post (concreted in for extra stability) and created 4 uprights cut to length with a cross member that supported and stiffened the whole ensemble and then used the same roofing material just slid it under the existing which had been left slack for the over lap. Screwed it down using the wide oblong washers and special screws for the job and there it was done.

Then we had to get in there and clad the wall with treated wood (it is vollige which is the stuff normally used under traditional roofs, but with a heavy coat of our protector mix both sides it will last for yonks.

You can see the simple uprights used as an anchor for the wood cladding all treated as well. This gives a nice air gap behind to keep everything healthy. You can also see how it look at the front where it will be seen.

Here is Mrs B suitably attired getting stuck in with the hammer and also showing me how even and thick the coat she had applied was after I had inadvertently inquired. (ahem)

So we completed the cladding where needed and I buggered off back to sea leaving Mrs B the massive Jenga/Tetris task of compacting the log pile into the new shelter in preparation of another load arriving soon from out woodland that we are going to thin out a bit in the autumn plus another load of limbs yet to be sawn that we pollarded a couple of years ago at project two

This is how it turned out with the log pile now neatly stacked and the view from the back of the shed before it receives its wood cladding.

And here from the front.

Mrs B reckons it now takes up about a third of the shelter so plenty of room for more and we start burning in the autumn so plenty to come yet.

Just the small stuff to move to its own section

So there we have it a log shelter done and dusted, logs stacked, about half of shed 3 with its wood cladding, and just waiting for a couple of collector barrels for the rainwater and the run off drain-away to put in. That was the first task complete on the leave.
More to follow.


Tiles Down in The Kitchen

We had dug down from the packed earth original floor and prepared for the concrete pour

All; fine and dandy so far but that’s where it started to go wrong and the pour was too dry and the bloke didn’t stop quick enough and before you knew it we were struggling to get anything even remotely level and ended up with a floor that didn’t look much better than the rock below it. I think Mrs Bentleys exact words were “For fucks sake it looks like a ploughed field”

However on survey it was only about two inches out in the worst area and Derek who lives nearby used to be a flooring contractor told me not to worry as we could sort it out “old school” quite easily using a near dry mix cement screed.
First we had to nip off the rough edges of the concrete floor and here is MrsB doing exactly that

Mixed at 4 to one and quite dry possibly only 2 liters of water/pva 8 to 1 to a mixer full and then floated on and tapped down to level a meter square at a time. He is the best part of 70 years old and was only supposed to be showing me the technique but ended up doing it himself as he said it was easier for him to do it than show me how.
We found the highest area and started there getting a level from there and then working in about a square meter pads proceeded with a spirit level as he went to cover the floor.
He said that years ago if there was a gang of them laying big floor they would have two on the screeding and then behind them would come the tilers and they used to just sieve (using a kitchen flour sieve) cement dust onto the damp screed and lay the tile direct on, by morning they would be set solid
Anyway I digress this is how it looked when done

On the right you can see the start of the island in the kitchen

Now comes the second problem which was when we (Derek) had laid the screed the dog walked across it and left little pits and also that night and un-forecast the temperature plummeted to a frost.
The combination of the two meant that when I went to sweep the surface the next day gert big holes appeared where the dog had walked which I tried to patch with some of the same mix but I would have had more luck trying to shove poo back up my butt.
I was rapidly loosing patience with the floor and MrsB was also getting a bit impatient that we should have it tiled for the visit of the family at xmas. In short we were pushing on a bit too quickly and not applying our normal care and timely work ethic.
So the only way forward now is to put a thin cover of self levelling screed on and tile to that but I was getting worried about the height we were adding and we had already had to design in a “mat well”
After a bit of U tube tutorial and some advice from Derek my son Zak on the float we set about tidying what I was now referring to as “that fucking floor” once again.

You mix it as per instructions including wild hair and go go dancing as demonstrated here by Mrs Bentley

Then you pour on a load and just use the float to move it into the corners and sort of even it out.
When you pour out the next lot you overlap it a bit and sort of work towards yourself.
It is quick and easy to do as long as you don’t spend too long fannying about with it although in the photos it looks a bit odd

On this one above you can see some of the holes in the cement screed left by the sweeping after the frost and dog walk episode.
Anyway soon the whole floor had been screeded we knew it wasn’t going to freeze and so we left it for 48 hours to go off before starting tiling.
Two mistakes were made at this juncture in that due to the weather we should have left it another couple of days to totally dry out and I should never had bought the pre mixed tiling glue recommended by the chap where we bought the tiles.
What I should have done is gone to proper tile place and asked for their strong floor tile glue that was fast setting. (cant remember what it is in French now)
The difference is gobsmacking the proper stuff comes in 20 kilo sacks and you add water and mix about a quarter of a sack ata time and get it down and get the tiles on. Two hours later they are set and probably earthquake proof. The sh!te in the tubs doesn’t like the cold, takes forever to go off in the cold, and doesn’t stick very well after its gone off in the cold (can you see a theme here). Never again will I use the pre mixed stuff and when I told the person in the proper tile shop that I had used it she shook her head emphatically and said “non non non, pas pour sol” (Not for floors)
Ah well here is some pics of the process and soon I will be able to put up the time lapse video of the floor tiles going down. It took about 6 hours from start to finish.
Here is tile one going in

The grout when put in is grey and the area outside the borders will be done with a tile of the same colour either the red, grey, or cream of the tile, or it may even be done with the pattern tiles cut to fit wherever it needs to go.
The island will be tiled in a different but light shade and I will post up when we have moved that step closer.
We decided against trying to make the border go round inside the galley bit as it all looked a bit squashed Likewise around the main fire place it all looked to bitty so we ran the borders to their natural conclusion and did the one near the island as though the island is piece of furniture on it. That might sound a bit odd but when it’s all tiled in with the edges done as well as the island, with the range in place etc and you see the full result I am sure it will make sense.
The tiles came from Castorama in Vannes and were about 56 euros a square meter (averaging the border and corner tiles as well).
The tiles for the room cost approx. 1600 euros and cover about 28 square meters and it is fair to say that we are rather chuffed with them.

Love and Peace

Septic Tank (Or Fosse Septique which has a more oo la la sound to it)

Well Ahoy there again landlubbers here is the latest installment and is the septic tank going in.
Fosse Septic (as they say in belle France) with a Biorock filter.

Why not a sand filter because they are cheaper? I hear you ask.

Good question and the answer is:- When we bought the place (2006) we had the soil test and all that malarkey done and were told we couldn’t have a septic tank out the back as there were two wells (not ours) closer than 25 meters so it would have to be out the front and the sand filter would be in our patch of land (10 meters by about 35 meters).

When we saw the drawings there was some sort of holding tank at the front of the house, then a pump through a pipe under the lane to some other tank thing and then to the sand filter.

The filter appeared to take up a third of the land and stood a meter proud of it plus we were told we couldn’t plant anything on it.

As we were not in rush and knew the septic tank would be a few years into the future we just sidelined it (dug our dunny out the back) and started the project “HOWEVER” (nb) we did the design process with all the waste coming out the front of the house ie with toilets, baths sinks etc situated at the front of the house for ease of pipework. (something any new renovator should take note of as it will save you lots of compromise or angst and cutting up of floors at a later date.

The rule of thumb seems to be shorter the run of pipe the better at about 1.5 inches a meter drop) when it comes to shifting sh!te)

We did have to re-situate the main bathroom as my wife pointed out it might be a tad tricky getting out of the bath or shower with dignity intact (and in my case without scaring the neighbours) when stood naked in front of a two meter high window.

Here you can see the lane when looking out of the study (original site of proposed bathroom) and the land opposite (now with shed three on it) and the effect (loss of use) a 7.5 meter square 1 meter high sand trap would have had, as well as the expense of putting a pipeline under the lane.

A couple of years ago (5 years after the start of project) I was asked by my building guru when I was going to put in the Fosse and I said I was dragging my heels as we didn’t want to lose a big chunk of the land and I have been researching other options.
He steered us into a meeting with a man who soon had us thinking differently about what was possible with the siting of a filter and the size.

After spending 300 euros (bargain as it turns out) on a new soil test and with me explaining to the man who did that test that we wanted to use a micro filter (not to be confused with a micro treatment plant) at the front of the property without having to cross the road, we waited a week for the new plans to turn up which gave us just that.

The tank, filter and pump housing all on our side of the lane.
Happy days.

At first we had opted for a Zeolite filter, but we had to change our minds when we found out their new ones come with about 5 mushroom vents sticking up so we opted for the biorock system instead, that has received many good reviews not only from the man we were using but also from some members on this forum.

So the money was gathered, the forms and plans sent off with a nod of approval form the mayor and when they returned with a green light the fosse was and accompanying pipework pumps vents etc was ordered and a date set.

Here is the fosse tank, the filter tank and the pump housing, man hole covers and associated bits (we were setting up the storm water run offs as well while we had the digger in)

So here we go in pictures and words
“How to install a fosse with biorock micro filter”

Level the land off near enough where the site is.

Before you start digging the holes make sure you have somewhere to dump the spoil (and something to dump it with) as there will be lots and lots of it

Dig the holes approx 2.5 meters deep and a bit bigger than the tanks themselves.

Get the bottom as level as you can then use gravel to level it up completely

Place in Fosse tank then filter making sure they are level

Now put some gravel and spoil around the tanks and filter and pump housing and connect the pipes up as you go.

In this photo you can see the red gain which is the mains feed to the pump motor,
the pipe coming in from the right is the bathroom and utility room water,
the pipe coming in from the left is the kitchen sink water,
the lowest pipe from the center is the two toilets combined (the open bit is the rodding point)
the two highest pipes from the center are the vent stink pipes going up through the house and through the roof to ridge height. (we have (since approval has been granted) combined both those pipes into one as all they do is vent air in and out of the fosse and the filter)

With the stink pipes we combined them underground and now have only one roof vent (pic to follow).
Bit of a saga as the chap who came to fit the roof vents had a bout of the sweats and shakes after a heavy weekend and although they looked alright from the front, when you looked from the side it looked like a deformed giraffes ears.
There only needed to be two for the chap who approves these things to give the nod and that’s what happened. No sooner had he driven off than we were up there changing it. Unfortunately the roof still leaks where he bodged the fit and I am having to cough up for someone else to come and seal us up properly again.

Here are (right to left) the Fosse, the filter, the pump housing.
The concrete manhole is above the drain pipeline where the clean water is pumped after the fosse and filter and also where storm water is run to

I should say at this stage that once they were were in and the main bits connected we filled them with water as we were expecting rain and the installer said they would float up if we didn’t ballast them down.

And so there it was done, fosse septic, biorock filter, pump housing, spoil removed, 3 storm drains run to underground ditch, all the pipework, roof vents manhole covers etc for a grand total of 9,000 euros and letter of artisan guarantee insurance.
The zeolite would have been closer to 11K and the sand 7.5K+ due to the under the road malarkey so the extra couple of grand was small price to pay to keep our land intact.

I now realise that what I don’t have is a picture of the completed items now we have cut the lids down to size.
The whole front now is ready for landscaping in order to hide all trace of the tanks and their vents.

We have put in the zinc down pipes for the gutters and trimmed down the tank lids and will soon be leveling the land and creating paths, breakfast area, etc and only the very keenest of eyes will know the tank is there.

I will post photo of front in its changing stages as we go along this year.

I have jury rigged a temporary flushing bog which works a treat and has rendered the old faithful, self composting, super reliable, long drop dunny to a very distant second choice, especially this time of year.

Some may read about the fosse installation and wonder why a pump has been mentioned,and then get the “biorock filter system” confused with a micro station that needs an aeration pump (which this does not)
This is to do with the the topography of the land and I have to pump the clean water up a slope to the drain after the filtration has taken place.
The micro treatment systems need a pump running 24/7 to aerate the mixture to help the digestion process, and I would then have still needed another pump to take the clean water away.
Our pump only runs when there is clean water ready for the drain. I hope that clarifies the need for my pump.

Chin Chin

Double Ended Slipper Bath

I have always preferred a good strong deluge of a shower as opposed to the gentle luxury of a bath however Mrs Bentley has always preferred a bath.
A deep, comfortable, well supplied with endless hot water, bath, this she assures me turns the washing experience into something more akin to a pampering and relaxation session.

So the scene was set many moons ago in the early stages of design that we would have a bathroom large enough to cope with a big “walk in” shower and one of those double ended slipper bath tubs (in cast iron as neither of us are taken with the acrylic)
The bathroom dimensions have ended up 3.5 meters by 3.5 meters which should be ample for our requirements as it is just a tub a shower a basin and towel cupboard. I cant stand the bog being in the same room as the bath and shower so that is in its own separate room as it should be.

I had searched the net and found the Cast Iron Bath company of the UK made the bath we were looking for but thought it would be easier to buy it in France. We set off in search of the double ended slipper cast iron bath in our region of France but could find none in the limited number of bathroom style showrooms available.

As much as we would like to support the local businesses in the area and do so whenever possible it becomes impossible on some occasions such as this. In one such showroom we were leaving, after having a look around and not finding anything suitable, and the salesman asked if he could help so with the aid of some drawings he consulted his brochures and came up with the exact model we were looking for and had sourced in the UK.
“Excellent news” says I and asked how much.
After a bit of jiggery pokery on the calculator “5,000 euros” (yes that FIVE THOUSAND euros) came the reply.
After I stopped laughing and clutching at my chest for theatrical effect he asked how much I was expecting to pay and I told him I had sourced the exact same model in the UK delivered to France for 1100 pounds (1,300 euros)
“Oh I didn’t factor in delivery” he said “that would be an extra 200 euros”

So the bath was bought in the UK and delivered to belle France in mid November arriving in a large wooden crate with a total weight of about 150 kilos.


I knew the dimensions of the bath would fit through the upstairs window at the front after we had removed the balcony but in its crate it was going to be bit tight.
The alternative was for me to employ some muscle and man handle the thing through two doorways up a set of stairs and around three 90 degree bends to get to the bathroom.
Or through the study window and round the corner to the bathroom.
To make matters a bit more difficult we had already started work on the installation of the fosse so it was a bit tricky getting close enough at the front to make it easy for the digger or for me to use the farmers manitu.

Anyway the digger driver was confident and so using a combination of heavy duty ratchet strap and a chain block I rigged up the slings to make them as short as possible to give the digger arm maximum jib height.

Here you can see the rigging arrangement I used

Here you can see that it was indeed a tight fit and that is with the windows off. We had about 3mm each side and the bottom left corner of the crate had been slightly damaged so needed the attention of a large flat screw driver to help it through the gap.

Also the digger bucket as at its absolute height maximum range so myself and the digger driver’s son needed to do a bit of the old “heave ho” (of the Norwegian steam variety) to help it tip over the balance fulcrum into the room.
It then just needed a couple of nudges from the digger and it was in.
Hoorah Hoorah Hoorah

Imagine our surprise when opening the crate to find that the bath body and legs were separate and even more of a surprise when I came to lift one of the legs out of the bath they must have weighed twenty kilos each

Once we had fitted the legs as per instruction and direction (each leg had its own set of washers and nuts pre-tried and balanced in the factory before shipping) you can see that Mrs Bentley was keen to get in and try it out for size

She nearly nodded off imagining scented candles, heady bath salts and oils made from the fruits of forbidden trees, warm fluffy towels and central heating, and I had to nudge her from the dreamy reverie and offer to put on a saucepan of water for a shower in YeeHaw shed.

I have been told that I am forbidden form the bathroom with any sort of camera equipment later in the year when the dream becomes a reality and the whole plumbing / heating system is connected and working and hot luxurious baths are no longer the stuff of my true love’s dreams.

Love and peace

And then there was light!!!

The start of the lighting of the house. 

Here we just put up parts of the ceiling to take the lighting (LED’s for the corridors) because there may be more plumbing and the VMC ducting to go in so we didn’t want to do the whole ceiling in one go.
The LED fittings are easy to take out and will be removed when we have the ceilings skimmed. 

Here is the stud work for the ceilings going in 



And then with the plaster board on. Although this looks on the squint because of the offset ceiling board they are in a straight line. 


Bad photo here but this is in the corridor portal shining light down on all the features built into the stonework and is set into a piece of elm that forms the ceiling of the portal. You can see it in the photo above looking form the upstairs bog along the corridor 


And here is another poor photo of a “bit” of ceiling put up on the landing at the top of the stairs purely to take the electrics as we are trying to get consuel and permanent supply before xmas (I can but dream ha ha)


All the corridor lights are on two way switching so you can start from the bottom of the stairs and turn off the last lounge light and turn on the stairs and half the landing lights. 
The you can turn on the rest of the corridor lights and turn of the stairs and carry on through the house like that until you reach the top of the mezzanine sleeping deck if you happen to be the last one to bed.

You can come out of any bedroom or the bathroom or toilet and have light (all LED’s) to light your way to any part of the house you like, turning off those no longer required as you go. However being LEDs you can leave them on and they wont make much difference to the electricity bill. 

Here is the “what will be” attic space in the master bedroom getting its plaster board and light fittings 


Here are the wall lights in the office space. 


Here is the bathroom showing the first fix 



First fix over the bath


Then first the central light (IP44) 


Here you can see the three LEDs that are “in the shower” ceiling they are IP65 


These two are above the bath and are also IP65


Electrics going in the lounge.
Here you can see the chestnut fllor of the bedrrom above. We have used 120mm acoustic / thermal insulation with some of the wires under that and then countered with 65 x 40mm chevron to put the plaster board onto and give us enough depth to run the lighting circuits and fit the LEDs themselves. 


We have installed 11 LEDs in the middle section of the lounge (4m x 4m) on two circuits so we can either have half or all the lights on. 

This is the wiring going in 



We have already found that when all on it gives a daylight to that part of the room and is proving most useful during dark days. It is a north west facing room and even with the big 4 meter window it will still be dark on some daytime occasions.

At night we have two large lights that hang from the high ceilings either side of the central part and they give a lovely soft relaxing light which will be augmented by lamps if needed

It has to be said they are bit bright for nighttime use this is what they look like in the plasterboard with the beams having been given their first two coats of Tung Oil after being up for 4 years. 


The price per unit (including the bulbs) for the LEDs comes in at about 25 euros depending on the type and quality of finish. You can buy the cheaper Chinese import stuff but as far as I can work out speaking to people who have installed LEDs recently you get what you pay for. Buy cheap and you will be replacing them before you k now it.

So far we have 27 installed with another 20 going in the kitchen and another 4 or five dotted about and we are very happy with the light they provide and the piddling amount of electric they use..
The bulbs for the outside lights will also be LED. The technology and quality of light produced by LEDs now seems to have taken a great leap forward in the last 5 years or so and although the initial installation cost maybe quite high compared to the normal bulb type lights, I am happy to invest now while I can afford it because due to a massive drop in income on retirement and I want to keep “running” costs as low as possible then.

The design and placement of the lighting is as important as the design and placement of doors, windows and walls when it comes to the overall feeling of the house and the ability for it to function during the day and night. Lights are not only for the nighttime especially in old properties where some original rooms have small windows or northerly aspects. 
We thought it prudent to understand that the house would be different in artificial light and we needed to plan carefully for that to keep the overall feeling one of comfort, warmth and ease of transit around the house. 


The head board is starting to rattle, OOhh EErr

I think it necessary to show you this photo because it is what will become the headboard of the beds we intend to put in the master bedroom.
We have ample room for two 4ft divans to be the main bed with the frames bolted together but the mattresses independent of each other.
This enables us to use two double duvets so eliminates the problem with duvet hogging, enbales one of us to sit up later reading while the other kips without the fear of disturbing them when t you turn the light out and settle down, and because of the independent mattresses we can each have our own preferred firmness/ hardness (stop the giggling and chortling in what is a double entendre heaven) of sleeping arrangement.
With each one being 4 feet wide it also gives us the opportunity to” visit” each other for warm snuggles over morning tea or any other purposes that may arise like doing the crossword together or wathcinga film on the lap top or anyother lap top activities that may (or not) take place.
The idea from MrsB is to replicate a sort of Indian temple doorway effect using these doors we found in an old reclamation yard down near Pont St Aven .
I am asking her to keep a photo diary of the headboard transformation process so we can share it later. 


Love and peace 

Water inside the house at last Whoop Whoop

After 4 years of a stand pipe at the front of the house we decided it was time to bring the water in so we can get ready to connect up Richard (the thermal store) and it also give us the option of getting a flushing bog working for this winter, because we will have the septic tank in by the end of November.

We thought it would also be good to have a cold water feed to a washing machine and an indoor sink as well. (with spare tap for hose fitting that takes water down to the outside sink by the sheds)

Fortuitously for us, when we bought our latest vehicle (see blog) the people selling it also had a rather interesting sink (disconnected) in their garage which would make a perfect studio/scullery sink. 
I asked if we could buy it and they agreed. 

We ran the mains under the kitchen floor and up next to Richard where we had a three branch manifold with stop valves fitted.

The sink is the only one ‘on’ at the moment as we wait for the septic tank to go in. The ends of the washing machine and toilet hoses have been fitted with a male screw fitting 12mm (half inch) ready to take a flexi hose which I will able to sort out myself once the septic tank is in. 

Here is the temporary manifold as is 


Eventually coming out of richard will be:- 
A domestic hot water feed to a manifold taking hot water to sinks showers baths.
A domestic cold water feed taking cold water to sinks baths showers, toilets and outside rear tap.
A heating hot water feed taking water to UFH bespoke airing cupboard radiator and any other radiators upstairs that get fitted.

Each feed to sink or toilet or whatever will have its own stop valve at the manifold for ease of isolation.
Each manifold will have two spare outlets for “unforeseen additions” 

Here is the sink it is 1 meter long 45cm wide at the top and 35cm wide at the bottom 


On here you can see the sink tap and also offset at the end the tap with hose fitting that takes water down to the outdoor sink by the sheds. We set it off on the squint at the end so the hose didn’t get in the way of the sink.
The sink tap also has a push fit hose attachment for thewatering the front garden and also should be just need a hose somewhere sharpish 


Here you can see the channels cut out of the floor to take all the various pipe work and electrical gains



New Kitchen Floor

The paving slabs worked a treat, the windows went in well and the terrace drain situation was remedied and all went well and we were well chuffed with progress. 
We then had lots of preparation work to do ahead of laying the concrete slab for kitchen floor. 

First off we buried the mains water pipe that comes in through the kitchen door and goes through to the studio where “Richard” resides (the thermal store is called Richard) 

You can see the black pipe coming up next to him here on the left.


Once we did that we made sure all the scalpings were near enough level, as can be seen in this photo. The lumpy uneven stuff you can see is actually bits of insulation after we did the kitchen ceiling.


Then it was a case of laying in the electrics that go to the various points around the kitchen and into the studio room where we have the main junction box for all the lounge lights.
(sorry the photos are a bit blurry) 
They all lead to where the main boards will be in the corner on the left. (although Richard and all the circulating pumps and sensors etc will have its own isolated board) 


Here you can se the electric and communication gains going off to the studio room


Here are ones for the plug points cooker point (even though we are not having an electric cooker) extraction fan etc


Then it was case of getting the sand in to make the surface smooth for the membrane 


and then packing it down with the whacker plate and checking the levels again using the laser and a stick. 


Now we are on the morning of the concrete arrival and as I unrolled what I thought was plenty of membrane, it in fact only covered half the floor so a quick improvisation was needed and we doubled up with some thick plastic sheeting. 
We made the join with a sort of fold over pleat thing and some tape to hold it in place while we put the insulation down. 
Not perfect but the clock was running and I didn’t have time to go to town to get another roll of insulation .


Next came the insulation I had found that saves a lot of height. It is a multi foil type stuff with a foam sandwich and is recommended for sub floor insulation especially where height is an issue. 


Here is the main gain for Richards fuseboard and the plastic coated 22mm copper pipe for the back boiler on the wood burning range 


And here it is with the hot and cold for the sink and the electric feeds for the island that will go in later. You can also see the re-enforcing mesh down.


In this one you can see one of the electric boards and the spaggetti of wires that will be connected in due course


We finished just ahead of schedule and had a drop of lunch and waited for the cement lorry to arrive which it duly did. 
Big beasts are they not? 


Here is my son and I after the initial shout of “Let her roll matey!!!”


As soon as it started I thought “Hmm that’s a bit dry” however I decided it might just be the first bit down the chute but in another few seconds I realized it was way too dry and am shouting for him to stop the pour. However he had wandered off round the side of the lorry and doesn’t hear me and before he stops there is well over cube in already.

I am doing two things now beginning with S “sweating and swearing”, which I can assure you is not a great combination.

My son and I managed to drag the dry stuff about and then get him to wet down the next bit of the pour but he was being a complete t****r about how much water he was putting in and stopping before he put to much dry stuff in.

Suffice to say it was a struggle to get it spread out and even close to level with a reasonable finish but we did the best we could to make a good job of it.

I was even running over it with the whacker plate for a while to try and level down some of the humps, which proved to be fairly successful and we got it down to a level that at the most is about 15mm out in places. Not perfect but the best of a bad pour.



To say I was p!ssed off about it (as was MrsB) is an understatement as we both thought it looked like ploughed field and nothing like the lovely level smooth floor we did in the lounge that was nearly twice as big. However it was down and when it dried out in the morning wasn’t quite as bad as we first thought. 
You can see here where the pipes for the sink and electric for the island come up through in the places chosen. I will be building the island when I get home in November. 



We shuttered off the studio room as we wanted to re-arrange how the floors joined up which we did later by hand an with a gentle slope up to the studio floor. We were not able to get all the floors totally level as it would have meant taking another 30mm off the door height which is already low enough. 
To give a a level we are going to create a mat well by the door. This means we will have 20mm to play with using self leveling screed to bring the rest of the floor to a condition that we can tile onto. 
Just as a word of warning to others is that had I been thinking and measuring more carefully in the beginning I would have made the lounge floor 25mm lower to compensate for the low door in the kitchen but I am not a pro builder and it is fairly easy to put right. It is not as perfect as II would have liked but it is what it is and is fairly easy to remedy. 

It will be next year before I get round to screeding and tiling and in the meantime MrsB has put some jute matting down as a temporary measure to make it a bit more pleasing on the eye for the winter and the gang coming over for Christmas (our first one together in 6 years) 





Next up some plumbing. 

Making sense of the Windows

The windows and their story will make more sense when the big windows go in downstairs and I can get photo shot of the house full on from the back with the eyebrow windows showing as well. 
The photos dont always do it justice but in the flesh it makes sense and all the proportions work. 
There is some maths at work such as diameter of the arc of the upper terrace being exactly half of the width of the main terrace which is twice as high as the big downstairs window. It isn’t obvious because it isn’t square but it does seem to please the eye in real life. 
I have no idea where I learnt this sort of stuff but it might be something to do with a documentary I saw on the construction of the pyramids or it could have been working it out once at an old chateau that was having an open day, and me noticing the symmetrical similarity between the facade and the grounds. 
Who knows how we recover bits of stored info we have seen and thought “Hmm I see how they do that, or I get how that works and why my eye is being drawn in a particular direction, or how it just settles easy on the eye, and I will file that in my mind in case it ever comes in handy” 

It all comes back to the absolutely vital and crucial couple of years we spent planning and drawing it out on the mud floors. We were working out where the light would come from and how we would move around in the house and what spaces we wanted to perform what function for us and how the placement of doors and windows is crucial to that functionality.
As we begin to spend more time in the house we are reaping the benefits of the time we took during the design, and also our preparedness to adapt if we realised a better option was open to us.
Love and Peace

The Back Windows (well some of them)

So this is what the back windows have looked like since about 2009 when we put the roof on. 

Fitting actual windows hasn’t been a priority as there has been so much else to do but now we have lots of the insulation in the roof, and the front sealed up, and planning to have christmas in the kitchen this year we thought we should get them sorted .
If you go back a couple of pages you can see that we had the front windows bespoke made in traditional style for the 4 openings there however because of the proposed three pane design for the large back opening downstairs we decided we didn’t need the multi pane small windows, that way we could keep some balance and harmony to how it will look.
I have probably mentioned before that the big window upstairs and the big opening downstairs are in mathematical ratio to each other as are the smaller ones and the eyebrow ones. 
I think this gives a balance that is pleasing and easy on the eye, or at least will be when all finished and fitted and tidied up. 
The “end look” is an important factor when you are designing how the place will be, however you need to balance that with the functionality of the window and its effect on the interior in terms of placement and utility. That might sound a bit airy fairy but it is how we have approached every design phase of the project, with drawings and ideas changing hands until we agreed on a “look” and usability that we felt we could achieve and that suited our requirements for light and space and how we would live in each room. I admit that it is a lot to consider but it is proving to be worth the effort as the project enters the last half.

New window taken apart for a good rubbing down, filling and some extra coats of exterior undercoat.


Here was the gap they had to fit into


Just needesd some work with wood filler in some parts and a bit of chisel and rasp action in others 

And in she goes.
The green stuff is that frog tape seen advertised in UK as a more resilient and better quality masking tape. Seems to do the job very well and here is waiting for the first gloss coat.

Here are the other openings waiting for their windows


As a little treat we wondered what it would be like to lie in bed in the Shedroom (which is what we call the big upstairs room which has been built in homage to the sheds we live in and that you can see nestling beneath our oaks and cherries).

Nice view to wake up to (especially for our townie mates) and in the autumn and winter will give views to the distant hills (well distant gentle slopes rather than hills but I am sure you get the drift)

This is the one from lying in bed 

And this one sat on the end of the bed 


Here are the bottom two in and a bit of fine tuning with the planer to get the top one to fit going on 


Shedroom Fitted from the inside


And from outside


Downstairs left


And right 


What you are looking at here is the window openings when we first made them and just before we put the roof on. You can see the beams that support the Shedroom above


And here with the roof bits on and its first window box in 


This is what it looks like with the top window still in undercoat and the downstairs side windows in and glossed and the upstairs wood treated for the first time in 4 years .


Still have to seal them in properly and put sills on the top one etc but all in all should look alright when painted and the bottom one will mirror the top one except the two side panels will slide open.

It will make more visual sense when the big windows go in downstairs and I can get photo shot of the house full on from the back with the eyebrow windows showing as well. 
The photos dont always do it justice but in the flesh it makes sense and all the proportions work. 
There is some maths at work such as diameter of the arc of the upper terrace being exactly half of the width of the main terrace which is twice as high as the big downstairs window. It isn’t obvious because it isn’t square but it does seem to please the eye in real life. 
I have no idea where I learnt this sort of stuff but it might be something to do with a documentary I saw on the construction of the pyramids or it could have been working it out once at an old chateau that was having an open day, and me noticing the symmetrical similarity between the facade and the grounds. 
Who knows how we recover bits of stored info we have seen and thought “Hmm I see how they do that, or I get how that works and why my eye is being drawn in a particular direction, or how it just settles easy on the eye, and I will file that in my mind in case it ever comes in handy” 

It all comes back to the absolutely vital and crucial couple of years we spent planning and drawing it out on the mud floors. We were working out where the light would come from and how we would move around in the house and what spaces we wanted to perform what function for us and how the placement of doors and windows is crucial to that functionality.
As we begin to spend more time in the house we are reaping the benefits of the time we took during the design, and also our preparedness to adapt if we realised a better option was open to us.
Love and Peace

The curved bit of the terrace.

Now some people call it a patio, and some call it a terrace (pronounced the French way of tear-as (the tear as in to rip not to cry) ) and for some reason we have always referred to it as the terrace even though at first I thought it sounded a bit poncy for some reason, however I have become used to it so “terrace” it is and here is the story of the laying of the curved part.

MrsB had manufactured all the slabs (see a few posts ago) so once we had sorted out the “sub sleeper drain scenario” it was time to get on with laying the first part.


Never having laid anything like this before I just applied some common sense to the job and worked out out the levels with a bit of a slope running the water down towards the drain. After that gravity should sort it out 
We then set up the straight edge guide rails so we could lay a slab then move the straight edge on to check if it was near enough in the right place. 

We used a mix of 6 sand to one cement and put it in dry after soaking the ground underneath.

No doubt a pro could have made the scalpings higher and a more level finish, or might even use a completely different process, but this is how I have seen workmen laying pavement cobbles and pavement slabs before so figured it would work for this. 
We had to remember that this is the back terrace of our rustic cottage dwelling, not the polished marble entrance foyer to the Ritz, that said we didn’t want to bodge it .

(Ha ha :lol: does that sound like me making excuses for why it might be a bit uneven in places?? Ah well we love it. 8) 8) 


MrsB who had not only made the slabs by hand also selected the slabs shape and colour to be laid and I gently coaxed them into place with some grunts and a rubber mallet .

At the end of the day we went over it with a couple of full watering cans and left nature to do the rest. 


Whata cracking pair of working boots


Here is the first bit taken from above and we were already pleased with the result and our decision to have ago at making them ourselves 


You can start to see the way it is going to pan out with the variety of slab colour and design. 
It is probably not everyone’s cup of tea because some people are bit more” straight lines and right angles” and then again some of us are not, but then again not everyone has to come and drink tea on it.


Here is how it runs down to level with the top of the step and also level with the stones that disappear into garden level.

Here is a bit more after a soaking 



And when its dry


New slabs in manufacture 


And here is the final pieces just laid in by MrsB this week up to the outdoor fire/oven/bbq that is still under construction. (0The stones are where you would stand to cook.)


We are well chuffed with the result of the home made slabs. 
We have been now been recommended a product called Lanko241 which we will put on the slabs to seal them and MrsB has also slightly altered her production method, making more use of an old orbital vibrating sander after the initial pour to the moulds in order to release more trapped air bubbles and also using a water proofing compound in the mix. 

The production for the main terrace slabs is already underway and will continue through the winter when its warm enough so that we can get it laid in spring summer next year. 

All that’s left to do for the curved part is to bed in the drain cover and the jobs a good’un.


Next installment is the windows