Friday, 30 December 2016

Renovation project - Family Christmas

Renovation project - Family Christmas
Well we have just spent a week in the UK, which is why I have been so quiet lately, I had hoped to keep up to date, but I had babies to cuddle, at some point I am going to have to stop saying baby as my ‘baby’ granddaughter is now 4 years old!
We have an absolutely amazing week and manage to visit all of our family, which is no mean feat when it can take an hour and a half to drive just 20 miles, we really do not miss the UK traffic, but what I do miss is having breakfast with my daughter and granddaughter.
I still panic that she will not remember me; I know this is completely unrealistic as I can hear her shouting for me as I knock on their door.
There really is nothing as magical as spending Christmas with small children; the sheer excitement of everything is so magical.
I also get to be there for another first, the first time she used chopsticks in a Thai restaurant.
But all too soon our week comes to an end and it’s time to say goodbye, there is nothing as special as spending Christmas with them, but also nothing so heartbreaking as saying goodbye.
As I pick her up for a last cuddle and she starts to cry and asks us to stay, I think my heart is going to break, but we settle on a compromise, she can come and visit us soon on the aeroplane.
As we leave and spend many hours on the busy motorways heading to Plymouth, I am already starting to plan our next trip. We may live in another country but we have so much quality time with our family it makes up for it, if we still lived in the UK we would not be able to see so much of them with our work commitments.
But it is back to Huelgoat to finish the house and get ready to sell in time for our next adventure, as long as this horrible cold I caught doesn’t last too long!
So if you are thinking of moving to another country but have misgivings weigh up how much quality time you actually spend with your family, it will always be difficult to say goodbye and not be around the corner, but when you do visit it will be far more relaxed and last a lot longer.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Renovation project - Insulation, insulation, insulation

Renovation project - Insulation, insulation, insulation
Everything is dried in the main house and we move back in, the first morning we notice how much condensation there is in the bedrooms, the 2nd morning we notice that the condensation is on the ceiling, this is not good.
Severe condensation is caused by cold spots in the house. John goes into the loft to check the insulation and realises there are gaps between the floor insulation the roof insulation.
He decides to completely redo this. This means removing all of the insulation he attached to the roof beams and cuts it to size to fit in between.

He also adds more insulation under the floorboards and packs insulation into the eaves.
That night the house is like an oven, it is so warm and the following morning there is virtually no condensation.
Big tip if you have a problem with condensation, always check your insulation. It will not cure it completely if you are in a old stone house, but it will make a big difference.

As we said in older posts, all the ceilings have had insulation added before they were decorated.

Insulation is key, you really can't have too much.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Renovation project - Light at the end of the tunnel

Renovation project - Light at the end of the tunnel
Today we are moving into the little house, this means we can decorate everywhere without sleeping in the smell.
I have started to give the doors a first coat; it is amazing just how different they look when you first paint them (especially when you only thought they were off white!)
John has also added skirting boards to all of the rooms; these are the same skirting boards that he has made before from packs of floorboards.
In case you were wondering why we make our own skirting boards, here is the answer. The floorboards we buy are very inexpensive (approx 14 Euros a pack) this gives us 5 lengths at 2 metres per length. To buy ready made skirting boards which are very small and flimsy, the cost is approx 5 Euros per length (for the cheapest)
The cost is almost halved, and over a full house this makes a big difference
The entire house is painted over the next few days and it is so nice not to have to sleep in the smell, it really is quite handy having a spare house.
Everywhere is painted white, I know this sounds boring, but it gives the whole house a really fresh look especially as the floors are such a contrast.

Once completed the floors are scrubbed and given a quick sanding and then varnished.

The house is almost finished (the famous last words as we find out in a couple of days!)

Friday, 9 December 2016

Renovation project - Decision made

Renovation project - Decision made
It is time to sort out the downstairs of the little house as we will be moving into it soon. We have the window and luckily this one is the right size.

Once fitted it is a case of moving all the tools and paints into the dining room, this is what I meant about the house constantly being turned upside down, we finish a  room and it looks great, then another room is emptied into it and it looks dreadful again!
John also does some work on the inside of the garage, there are some big concrete steps leading up to where the door to next door used to be, he is going to remove these, or at least that was the plan until an hour later and he has hardly removed anything, these are the most well built item we have ever come across and Johns tools are not up to the job.
We consider them for a while and decide not to remove them, but to actually build them up and make a small indoor garden area under the window sill.

This also helps with our decision on the garage; we are going to keep it.
Yes the little house maybe a bit darker downstairs, but once the garage is painted white inside and this little indoor garden is built we can add plants to make it look pretty.
The house will have enough outdoor spaces, but will also give a large indoor workshop.
This is such a rarity for a town centre building so will hopefully be a good selling point.
Once finished the property will be so versatile, it can be either a large family home with garage or still be used as a family home and gite.

This is definitely the right decision.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Renovation project - We have a garage dilemma

Renovation project - We have a garage dilemma 
We had always intended to remove the garage, but over the last few weeks we have been in two minds about this decision. If it is removed we will be able to see the little house, which is beautiful, the little house will have a small garden area and so be able to be used as a gite.
But, and this is a big but,
If we leave the garage, there will be a big workshop for the main house which is a big bonus and the little house will keep the roof of the garage as a terrace. Again a big bonus if used as a gite as this terrace has views over the forest, it is actually the nicest part of the house and a table and chairs sat on this terrace would be our favourite part of the house.
Here is the view

So all positives regarding keeping the garage, apart from
The front door and the window to the little house will be inside the garage.
This is a dilemma; does the little house need down stair space if it has the most amazing upstairs outside space?
It is something we are going to think about over the next few days.
But for now John needs to block the door and window to our neighbours, which are also in the garage (yes it really is a busy garage).
John uses concrete blocks and cement, these need to be approx an inch back from the face of the building. So that it can be rendered.
Once fully dried John renders the front of them with a sand, cement and lime mix. This is when the surface is made equal, the easiest way to make sure it is all flat is to use a piece of flat wood that is larger than the surface area to ‘derby off’ (or in layman’s terms to level it off)

We leave the garage for now, as we are still in a dilemma.
what do you think we should do?

Monday, 5 December 2016

Renovation project - How to box in pipes or cables

Renovation project - How to box in pipes or cables
We have a number of pipes and electric cables that can still be seen throughout the house, this is something that we both hate, here in this part of France quite often when a house is rewired (professionally) the electric cables are hidden by trunking, this is plastic covers that run from plug sockets and light switches around the rooms, this I think is even worse than having wires on display.
John has made sure that all wires and water pipes are in the corners of the rooms so all can be hidden.
How to box in pipes and cables
We still have some old doors in the garage and John uses these for the boxing in. The ply is perfect.
First he saws off the edges, so that he can see inside the doors, the insides are made of honeycombed cardboard. One side is carefully removed and then the honeycombed cardboard is scrapped away.
How to box in pipes and cables

How to box in pipes and cables

How to box in pipes and cables

How to box in pipes and cables

How to box in pipes and cables

How to box in pipes and cables
We now have two good sized pieces of plywood (this is very expensive to by)
A wooden baton is added to the wall and insulation is added, this is important, especially if your water pipes are next to an external wall, it also helps with noise reduction.
How to box in pipes and cables

How to box in pipes and cables
The ply is then cut to size and attached by panel pins (or screws).
This is painted and any joints are sealed with decorators caulk (again this is not easy to find in this part of France) and is one of the few things that we do stock up on when we visit the UK.
Once completed and painted the same colour as the room, the boxing in disappears. This is so simple to do and yet makes a major difference to the final appearance of the room, and as we said if you can recycle items the cost is reduced further.
How to box in pipes and cables
Big tip, never throw anything away until you are completely finished, even if it means there are piles of crap all over the property!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Renovation project - Accident & Emergency in France

Renovation project - Accident & Emergency in France
We are carrying on with all the little jobs, I have the fun of taking the rubbish to the skip, this takes 3 journeys but we once again have an empty garden.
John is working on the little house when I hear him shout, he doesn’t shout again so I finish making a drink before I go in to check he is alright, obviously if he wasn’t he would have shouted again, right? Wrong, when I get to him he is sat there holding his hand.
He was finishing the last plug socket in the granite when the drill snatched, which knocked his hand, resulting in his finger facing the wrong way, it was totally dislocated, he had already popped it back in when I arrived. But, it is still bending the wrong way, this is not good.
We sit and try to decide if it is worth going to the Urgences (A&E) as we don’t think they will be able to do anything other than strap it up. But half an hour later it is still bending the wrong way.
We head off to the Urgences, once we arrive, we check in and John has to show his ID, his carte vitale and his assurance (medical insurance) we sit in the waiting room and in no time at all see a triage nurse, who sends him for x-rays.
Anybody using Urgences in France will require ID, unless you have a French ID card, it is usually a passport that is required.
X-rays completed, John comes back to the waiting room with a piece of paper, this gives him his log on details should he want to see his x-rays on line!
Next it is to the doctor who explains it is not broken, but the tendons or ligaments (this got a little lost in translation) have been torn.
Morlaix A&E france
We had a couple of words that we struggled with and the doctor used Google translate for these.
He straps the fingers and tells John to see his GP in 10 days to have them checked.
This all took approx one hour from start to finish; this had been my biggest nightmares, having a medical emergency. But it was so simple and efficient. Yet again we cannot fault the French health care system.

We have a relaxing night and take tomorrow off.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Renovation Project - Staying motivated

Renovation Project - Staying motivated
We have sticky back laminate tiles for the living room floor; these are the same as the ones that are in the kitchen. I still can’t believe we bought these, but they are very popular in France (well in this area) and its harder still to believe that they cost more than ceramic tiles.
I much prefer ceramic tiles, but ceramic are very cold under foot, these laminate tiles are not and there really is nothing nicer than having warm floors.
Laying them takes time and a good tip is to have some spray contact adhesive in addition to the sticky tiles; this will ensure a more secure fit. We are not sure if this is available in France, but we didn’t really look very hard, as when friends last visited we asked them to pick some up from the UK and bring them over.
Renovation project- laying laminate tiles

Renovation project- laying laminate tiles

Renovation project- laying laminate tiles
The living room floor is finished, this makes the room much warmer and yet again it is another room almost finished, we seem to be at the almost finished stage constantly now. This really is the hardest part of a project like this, we are always almost finished and each night go to bed with me thinking not long now, then thinking oh bugger it is going to take forever.
Renovation project- living room renovation, France

Renovation project- living room renovation, France
 But we do have some light relief as we are at a friend’s 50th Birthday, the night was great fun but the following morning is difficult to get motivated.

I feel tempted to not go out again, but then we will get back to the stage of just working, which is not what we want.

I have to be a lot easier on us both, there are a few more weeks left, that is all, it will be finished and very soon, I need to relax, but it is difficult as the house is often upside down again with furniture being moved from one room to another. This stage will not last that long, it just seems like an eternity!
We have to strike a balance, enjoying life and staying motivated

Monday, 28 November 2016

Renovation project - Replacing old windows

Renovation project - Replacing old windows
We still need to buy new windows for the dining room and the little house living room, we cannot do anything with the door in the little house bedroom until we have decided what we are doing with the garage and we can see more clearly.
But joy of joys, Brico Depot have got the wooden windows back in stock, we just received the little publicity magazine telling us so.
We head over to the Morlaix store, which is only 40 minutes away, and when we get there, there are no wooden windows in stock, we ask when they will be getting them and are informed that they no longer stock them, I explain that their advert stated they were permanent stock, the assistant explains yes they are, but not at this store, the St Briec store has them.
We then drive to St Briec and see the window display, but not our size in wood, there is another store close to Dinan that has them and they have 3 in stock, we need 3!
This is another hour away; at this point we will be back in the UK before we know it!
Do we drive what will be a five hour round trip, I know they said they have them, but so did both of the other stores or do we try something else?
There is another store called Leroy Merlin not far from where we are so we try our luck there. They have them in stock, not the exact size but very close; they are also a lot cheaper. We buy what we need and just hope that they will fit (well more a case of hoping that John can make them fit!)

John spends a day putting them in place, they are not the exact size, but with a little bit of making up you would never know the difference.
As the walls are new plaster up to the windows, John does not want to risk any cracks in the plaster, so he adds a trim around the windows, this will also make them look a little larger and once stained and varnished will give the appearance of a larger window frame.
No problem is in surmountable if you take the time to look at solutions.
The real difference will come in the warmth, these are the last of the old single glazed windows, apart from the little house, that does not have a window at all!
Renovation project - replacing old windows

Renovation project - replacing old windows

Renovation project - replacing old windows

Renovation project - replacing old windows

Renovation project - replacing old windows

Renovation project - replacing old windows

Renovation project - replacing old windows

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Renovation project - New floors

Renovation project - New floors
We have emptied the bedroom with the single beds and I spend a couple of days cleaning and sanding the floor before I give it a coat of varnish. The room looks good once it is done and the new colour is slightly darker than before, this makes the floor boards look older and covers the floorboards that were obvious where the walls have been changed.

The floors do not look very different on the photo's and this makes life harder, as normally I can look at the photos and see how far we have come. But in reality the floors are a deeper, more consistent colour.
But Peppa Pig seems happy enough with her new room, Every time I skype my grandaughter she insists on looking at Peppa in her bedroom, (this is the balloon that we managed to save from Spain, we really do only take the necessities when we move!). Now I realise why some people think we are slightly mad, we move countries only with what can fit in the car, and a deflated balloon was somehow on the essential list.
All we need now is the skirting boards, the boxing in of the pipes completing and another coat of paint and the windows repainting. This is what I meant by everytime I think we are getting there, the list of jobs seems never ending, but they will end.
There is no point in painting the rooms until we are ready to paint though completely, this will make life easier if we just start in one room and go through the house.

And we don’t want to do that whilst we are living in the house, so in a few days we will move into the little house so that the big house can be painted from top to bottom.