First of all, sorry about this basic page format. I just had to do something quickly, I wanted to get these images on the web but need all the time I can get for the building work. So welcome to 'Pages created with Notepad'. These images are not of the best quality, far from it. Taken with a video camera they are screen shots from a limited function (old) video card. But until I get a digital camera, they will have to do.
So this is the house that we will soon be moving into, as you can see it lacks certain facilities. Like water, doors, windows, stairs, etc etc.
24th August 2001
So here you can get a general view of the downstairs. The basic building, an old stone farmhouse is 5m wide by 10m long (interior dimensions) (~16'*33'). The walls are noteworthy. Basic wall construction is selected granite stones forming and inner and outer wall, between these two skins is a mix of stone, rock, earth and cereal husks. Total thickness of the wall is 1m. (3'3"). There are two floors, the ground floor, which you can see here, and the upper floor.
Back in the day, each floor was one big room with no interior walls at all. Each floor had a fireplace. Here, the downstairs fireplace can be seen in the end wall. Itís the big black opening you can vaguely make out. Itís huge. You can walk right into it and look up the stone chimney. Its almost 6' high and is about 6' wide, 3' deep. I've not as yet measured it, but at least you get some idea. There are two doors, one in the North wall, (in the picture you can see the door hanging open, a mall square window showing some light. The other door is in the South Wall, no door fitted as yet and you can see daylight streaming in. There are two small windows on the South Wall, and that's it. This means that the house is really dark, its like a cave in there. We'll have to use a lot of well-placed light fittings just to be able to see. The ceilings are low. Originally about 7' to the underside of the beams, but that was with the original beaten earth floor. Concrete has been poured to level this, making a split floor. The join can just be seen, its the horizontal line of blue in the picture where the dampproof membrane shows through.
The floor dropped about 18" from the fireplace to the point where the picture was taken. This followed the natural rock strata. The house is literally built on granite rock. No foundations at all, you don't need any. The house is built on top of a rocky outcrop that sticks out from the hillside. Soil depth where the house is situated is around 2". But this did give me a problem with the floor. I mean, I can't exactly cut out so many cubic feet of rock to level my floor. I just had to go upwards, so poured concrete in two slabs. It can't be seen in the photo here but the higher level of floor has no ceiling over it.
The reason for this? Hmm, made it up as I went along. The oak posts holding the 2nd floor in that end of the house were rotten and had to be replaced. In fact all the upper floor planking was rotten too, you just couldn't walk up there. After taking all that out it left this huge space, from the ground of the fireplace right up to the trusses of the roof. It looked fantastic, with the curve of the chimney going all the way up. It really created an idea of space in a small house. So we never did replace them. Instead we made the upper floor a mezzanine. (I really do need to get some photos of this up, I'll do that)
Sadly I won't be keeping any of the stone work visible. Itís nice to look at, but those thick stone walls have a very small insulation factor. In the winter you freeze to death. So everything needs to be insulated, as that big ole fireplace is actually extremely inefficient. An open fire has 80% energy loss. I have plans for that fireplace but will talk about that later.
And do now we move onto the second photo. Itís of the same place, the downstairs of my house. This time taken from a corner near the fireplace.
To the right you can see the open door. A stable door with an upper and lower half. Need these around here unless you really like to have chickens or the odd duck walking into your house.
Problem is, the door is warped, its totally out of square. As I write this, the door is off its hinges and I'm working on it. You can't see the other doorway in this photo, but you can see the flood of light on the floor that is coming from there.
Also readily visible is the ladder that serves for our stairs, its fine for now, but you really have to be careful on it. I'll be glad when I finally do get a staircase in. It'll have to be custom made of course, this house doesn't conform to any of the 'norms' with regards to that sort of thing. Itís just too old. We don't know how old exactly, but its a few hundred years.
At the far end of the building, you can see a dark wall to the left, then a lighter area to the right. The dark wall is the original end wall of the house, the lighter wall is the side wall of another building, currently a garage. The space in between is going to be our mud room. About 3m by 5m (12'*16')
Taking that large chunk of end wall down was a difficult decision. It didn't /do/ anything, it wasn't a supporting wall anymore as all the stone work and small fireplace that made the upper gable end disappeared in the first phase of work, as we made the upper floor bigger. So I decided to take it down, due to some huge rocks in the base it wouldn't be possible to take it all the way to the floor, but it would leave a 6" high shelf 1m deep. Perfect for washing machine, tumbledrier etc, saving us a lot of space in the mud room proper.
In the end, I'm glad I took it down. It turns out the end oak beam, that had been supporting the upper floor, was rotten. It looked fine from the room side, but when you took the wall down and looked at it from the other way, there was almost no beam left. It had all been eaten away over the centuries, all nicely hidden from prying eyes. So basically the upper floor had sagged a couple of inches till the framework of that floor rested down onto the upper stones of the wall that was /not/ a supporting wall. Well, I guess now it /was/ a supporting wall. Anyway, soon as I started to take it down it became evident there was a problem. First thing to do was to support the upper floor. If you look back to the first photo you can see a vertical bar running up the middle of the image. This is one of the support props. We call then AcroProps. Probably a makers name, I haven’t a clue. Anyway, used some of those to jack up the upper floor to its original position allowing me to take down the wall.
I left a generous buttress of wall remaining. I don't really want the house falling and these old stone buildings have no mortar to hold them together, only mud. Now I have to tackle the problem of the upper floor. With the old rotten beam cut out I have to come up with a new way of supporting the upper floor (Particularly as it seems there may be a bath going up there in that area). I was going to build a wooden partition wall separating the main room from the mud room anyway, I guess now I'll just to make that partition wall into something a lot more solid, a supporting wall for the upstairs.
I'm no structural engineer, but I've worked a lot with the wood here. I made a choice on some heavy timbers and came up with a plan that will hopefully hold up the upper floor and at the same time, not break the budget.
Click for bigger image. Warning: Large
I'm hoping, and its intuition and practice that gives me that hope, that this will be strong enough, with a margin for when the bath is full and someone in it. In addition, due to the width of this now stronger wall, I can have a pocket sliding door. I've always wanted one of those so made provisions in the plan.
25th August 2001
If you look carefully at the above image you can see the left, centre and right hand support beams holding up the horizontal beam. This is the basic structure of the wall, and is the main part that will be taking most of the weight.
And now some extra timbers have been added, these do serve to take a small part of the strain but their main function is just to hold the dry wall in place later on. Spaced 60cm on centre to accommodate the 1.2m sheets that you get here in Europe.
Every timber has to have a small slot cut out of it. The reason for this is that the timber from the lumberyard comes in pre-set sizes. Its easier and cheaper just to take what they have and fiddle with it to make it fit, for if you want something 'special' they will charge you an arm and a leg. So every timber is measured..
After all that we now have both sides of the wall in place. Actually, it didn't take very long. Thank goodness for power tools. :)
No this is not the inside of my house. This is outside. Decided to go for walk and seeing as I had the camera there to hand, I took it with me. This is just the view from the driveway, looking out over the few remaining trees of the original apple orchard onto the countryside beyond. Sometimes when I get stressed with the work around here, its nice to just take in the view. Reminds me of why I live here in the first place.
Someone online asked me for some images of my two kittens, well, I couldn't get a decent shot of both of them, they spend most of their time flying around at impossible speeds, but this one is Clio. Sweet little thing, just don't put your fingers too near.
And this is Balkie, the sort of half father of the other two. He's a really nice creature, though has a terrible habit of sprawling like this right under your feet. Not good if you are carrying dishes.
So continuing on with our little walk, down near the stream we come across the little pathway I cut through the woods. Itís nice and cool down here, and a great place to listen to the birds. The cows come right down to this fence too, but they seem to be in hiding. The white blob is a friends dog that Iím looking after - Loki.
With no cows around I went hunting for 'cow bait'
And here they are, Kerroc'h resident population of 3 cows.
Anyway, back to work. Just couldn't resist taking a picture of one of my favourite toys ... TOOLS, tools, I mean tools. Itís a favourite tool!
The sand and gravel I ordered finally arrived, so arranged water, cement mixer etc so as to give myself a reasonable place to mix concrete.
And this is what I need concrete for, starting to put in the base for the fridge, freezer etc. Used some 10mm 'batipan', construction plywood to line the side of the wall, and a large timber propped against the far wall as two sides of a mould. I'll pour, or more accurately due to the difficulty of the location, I'll shovel the concrete into this to make my base.
28th October 2001
This and most of the following images can be clicked to enlarge
So here we go with another update. Time has passed and I'm happy to say that there has been some progress. Last time I updated we were still lacking a mud room floor, though the framework was in place. Since then not only has the floor been poured, but I've finished the basic construction the outside wall, set into that the frames for the door and window and started to cover the wall in planking, which will be the outside skin. Here it appears very pale, though in treatment against the elements and the bugs it will darken considerably. If you want a bigger picture, just click on the link to enlarge. The quality of this and the images that follow will be slightly improved as I now have access to a digital camera and don't have to grab them from video tape. Phew.
And here is the mud room door after its first coat of 'lazure', which is kind of like varnish, but leaves a satin finish, not a gloss one. The first coat is applied very thinly, I mix it 50% with turpentine making for an extremely watery consistency that soaks deeply into the wood, carrying the product with it, leading to a high degree of future protection.
I could also use white spirit as a dilutant but white spirit is oil based and it doesn't soak deeply into the wood grain, tending to stay near the surface. Another disadvantage is that because white spirit tends to pool on the surface, it also takes a terribly long time to dry between coats. Turpentine, though a tiny fraction more expensive really does a better job.
I also took this shot, just the outside of the front of the house. As you can see I've yet to finish the roof, but I'll tackle that next year, at least itís waterproof. You can see the newly finished front door and the mud room wall under construction on the left hand side of the picture (just).
Well thatís it for this update, watch this space and email if you have any questions. :)