Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's Autumn!

It's Autumn! Look, the leaves are falling from the trees! But is it possible for it to be Autumn inside? I suspect it's mainly due to neglect, or maybe there is some other reason? What do you think?

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tin bath time

Ahhh... filling the the old tin bath from the kettle - I remember it so well from reading about someone else's childhood.

These tin baths aren't as solid as they used to be, and pinker certainly - this one was rescued from the garden.

Owing to our lack of hot water pressure, it's currently bathing the children and sometimes us too (though it is a bit small). Certainly better than a cold shower!

Meanwhile we all have the flu, which may or may not be related to the cold showers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The missing room and the tree in our lounge

Underneath our lounge, and between our cave and the boiler room is a mysterious missing space...

It's possible this space is just filled in or was never really there, but (at least in my head) it's equally possible that it contains a chamber of secrets, a treasure room, or anything really (a crypt? a Doctor Who void-space?).

There's no obvious way into this treasure room (we shall call it). The only clear possibility until now has been the large 'water feature' in the middle of our lounge that contains a few plants and a small tree. The estate agent searched fruitlessly for a water connection for some minutes when we looked round the house first (there isn't one), but there is a lot of concrete and lots of bark chip under the plants, potentially hiding something.

So it was with some excitement that we cleared away the bark chips, leaves and old cat poo, and revealed....

...absolutely nothing at all, except a concrete floor. Perhaps there was a trapdoor there which has now been covered.

Anyway, needless to say, this is a great disappointment. There is an old freezer in the basement that backs onto the missing space with an alcove (or door) behind it that we can't quite see.

I shall have to work on moving that to see if we can get to the bottom of our missing room.

New tiles

We now have a new roof, almost complete, with tiles and everything. The tiles went on really, really fast - this morning we had none, and after a lot of rumbling and banging, the tiles are all on, and it's only lunchtime.

(Damn, I was hoping to get an arty shot of a half-tiled roof too!)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thirs bin a murda DCI Taggart of Maryhill CID used to say.

I suspect foul play.

Not very far from this spot, and after an exhaustive manhunt, we also found a bodyless head hidden in a hole in the wall.

I fear the this old hotel may have a dark history.

Rainy day

The roof's almost ready for the tiles now. Just in time, as the heavy rain has started this weekend. I know the boarding is waterproof, but somehow I'd prefer tiles on soon...

Today is Saturday - we had a long lie in today expecting no one to arrive, but they arrived a bit after dawn and fixed a few things to make sure the roof was properly raintight. That's service for you!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Warm roof!

We now have a warm and closed roof - though still no tiles yet. Just in time, it's getting pretty chilly out there (3 C last night). We're heating the entire top floor with a 2 kW fan heater just now.

The guttering is going on (the copper's pretty shiny at the moment) and they're finishing the wooden bits (technical term) to hang all the tiles on.

No pressure on the heating

In an unrelated problem, it looks like we'll have enough fuel to get through the next few days - not because we've got more fuel, but because limescale in the tank has reached such critical proportions that it's blocked something - the hot water pressure is now rather low.

There is plenty of hot water it seems but it's just not moving very fast. The morning shower is now a little bracing since the mixer tap evidently hasn't noticed that it shouldn't be dumping the usual quantity of cold water into the mix. The bath still works, though it takes 30 minutes to fill.

We could get everything serviced and all the pipes flushed, but since we're planning to rip it out all in the next week or so, we've decided to live with it...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The other side

Work started yesterday on the other side of the roof. Our roofers arrive early, at dawn, and work all through the day - by the time I left for work, most of the old tiles were off (including the nice old round ones). I did manage to completely forget about all the rubbish we store under the eaves, so had to spend half an hour moving it all so the men could work there.
The view from this side is quite nice too when the roof's not there (Mont Blanc) - maybe we should put in a window. I'm posting this a little late - the boarding on the roof is now all done, so the house now has a completely watertight and insulated roof (although minus the tiles)!

Monday, October 11, 2010

I want one of those

...always handy for storming castle walls during sieges.

This is how of roofers are taking all the stuff up to the roof. It was plonked in the middle of the garden along with all the pallets of tiles by a huge lifter that the whole family managed to miss in action.

Like many of the tools I have or would like to have I can't really think what I'd do with it, but that doesn't mean I don't want one. Nor do I have a castle for that matter, but that doesn't mean I don't want one.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Truth About Having the Roofers In

While it's all very nice to see Gavin's photos of gas boxes, old lights and random roofing products, I feel, as the person who is here most of the time with the roofers and hole drillers, that I should share some information about the more human side of our restoration work.

We currently have three roofers undertaking work on the top of our house.  One of these only wears shorts, even today, when it's overcast and quite chilly.  The second of these has glasses and is a man and hence our 18 month old shouts "Daddy!" whenever he walks past the kitchen window.  Although I've since taught her to say "man" instead, she won't oblige.  The third is a David Beckham look-a-likey.  That's a plus point for the firm we've chosen, certainly.  I wonder if he was employed in this ex-pat area only for his roofing skills?

Interestingly, the roofers keep themselves to themselves.  They refuse coffee, tea, muffins and biscuits.  And they haven't once used our toilet...

...which is lucky, since Gavin has banned us from shutting the door on it.  My almost-brother-in-law dislodged the handle when he last visited, and it's never been the same since.  In the last few days it's worked itself really loose and yesterday a ban was issued by the man of the house until he can get to the DIY shop to fix it at the weekend.  Allegedly, one could be stuck in there for an entire day!  Ironically, I hardly ever shut the door and have only started doing it since the men came to work on the house.  Now I close it over, only to have it pulled open by the kids at inopportune moments.  And the toilet is overlooked from our balcony, which I guess will soon be the workplace of the roofers since the front of the house looks nearly finished.  The upstairs bathroom has scaffolding across the window, so there's even less chance of privacy there.

I wonder when they'll finish for the day...I'm not sure I can keep my legs crossed for much longer.

Nice Box

A little unexpectedly (since we thought everything had been cancelled), a man arrived today and started to drill big holes in the wall outside our garden, and plonked a gas box in the appointed space.

We have a pipe on the other side of the wall that our heating engineer can connect up, though we're still waiting for GrDF to dig the trench for the pipe that will actually connect the gas supply to the box. I'm not sure this is all being done in the usual order, but it's good to see some more progress!

Meanwhile, our heating engineer is contacting some people who should hopefully be able to get us an emergency supply of fuel (and not 500 litres of it) - so we can start giving the kids warm baths again!

Next layer in the roof cake

I'm happy to say that our roof is looking much more roof-like now that the waterproof wooden boarding is on. It's made of compressed wood, and adds extra insulation and sound-proofing.

Alas, it doesn't smell nearly as good as the other stuff (doesn't really smell of anything).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Roof getting there

The first half of the roof is getting there nicely. We may not have any heating but we will have a well insulated roof!

It's a compacted wood insulation, that looks quite like a slightly yellow Weetabix, and smells really good! I spent about 20 minutes in the attic just sniffing at lunchtime.

Another heavy insulating board then goes on top of this, and then they put the tiles on that.

Getting the thermals ready

Today, GrDF had planned to arrive and dig up our road to connect us to the gas supply. Unfortunately, something has gone horribly wrong with the permissions for this (all the various parties involved are each sure they held up their end), so they phoned yesterday to say that they couldn't go ahead - it could be another few weeks before they obtain the necessary permissions.

Looking at the dial to the right, we're running a little low on fuel for hot water and heating (it was perfectly planned), so I may have to get some more... which is a little inconvenient, since it comes in minimum 500 litre deliveries, and even if the weather was frozen, I'd doubt we'd be able to use that much in the few weeks we have left on fuel.

Maybe I can tap some fuel from somebody else with a long siphon tube and a bucket...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Room with a view

The roofing company, Ferblanterie Gessienne arrived yesterday afternoon and started putting up the scaffolding.

They've actually arrived about a week earlier than planned since the weather looks set fair for the rest of the week. Yesterday the weather was bad and they worked all afternoon putting up the scaffolding in the pouring rain, but now the weather looks good, so they're going for it.

They're working fast! I came home for lunch today expecting some extra scaffolding, and discovered that our house has a whole new and rather splendid view, if you stand in the attic. It's a really nice view of the Jura mountains, and it seems a bit of shame to put the tiles back.

I asked if they could put on a giant window instead of tiles, but, alas, it doesn't sound like the insulating properties are so good. On that side, we're getting extra insulation put in the combs, which should help in the winter. That, together with the stuff we have already on roof should make it nice and cosy.

I'm happy to see that the wood that's holding the roof up (the "charpente") seems in good condition - it's one more to cross off the list of things to worry about at three in the morning!

Work starting then stopping on the new heating

It was all arranged - GrDF would come and dig up the road to install the gas. Our heating engineer would come and dig the trench in our garden, and then link it all up, and then start the work in the boiler room to replace the boiler.
Big diggers in the garden

As you can see, our heating engineer arrived and dug the trench (there was much excitement about the big diggers in the garden), but sadly the general strike in France meant that GrDF didn't turn up at all (no one was even around to tell us that they weren't turning up).

I'm posting this a little late, so I already know the next part of the story, but I won't spoil it for you... as far as the story goes, we now have a new date all arranged with GrDF quite soon and will have our new system all in place before the end of the month.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Heating System

To the right is a picture of our rather sad heating system. Don't get me wrong - it sort of does the business - it gets the house hot and heats the water, but it's not the easiest to control (it gets the downstairs really hot and the upstairs not really hot at all), it's not very efficient (compared to modern condensing boilers) and it uses domestic fuel (or "mazout" as its called here).

It also only has the capacity to heat about half of what we need - currently we only have radiators in half of the house - which is the half that we're living in just now. The downstairs has an underfloor heating system powered by the same system - and I do mean the same system - there is no evident separation of the radiators from the underfloor system as you'd normally expect.

The inefficient combustion and the big oldish tank can make the garden smell a bit when the system is running full blast. We decided before we bought the house to change it for something better. After rejecting the favourite option of deep ground-source (we'd need two of them to heat the old house we have), we settled on the boring option of gas. As you can see, the wall that was tastefully hiding the tank has been removed (by yours truly), and we're now waiting for the gas company (GrDF) to connect us up.

The Roof

The current roof of the house is in some pretty serious need of renovation.

It's kind-of watertight. Almost.. there are several leaks (we knew this when we bought the property I hasten to add!) and we've arranged for it to be changed.

This should be happening any day now - actually as I write this the roofers are arriving with scaffolding ("echafaudage" is my new favourite French word). Changing the roof in October (even in France) is always a bit risky with the weather - we've been known to have snow in October here - but it's looking like we might just get away with it.

This one was taken by me while dangerously
hanging out of the dormer window.
The sad part for me will be to lose the cute round tiles - but these are the oldest and by the looks of it on the inside, the least watertight. We'll be replacing the whole roof with the normal for the area, more modern roof tiles, in "Rouge NuancĂ©", which I think roughly translates as "dirty red".

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The House

Our house in France

In April 2010 we bought a house in France.

It's one half of a old hotel that's been partially renovated, and so much bigger than we need.  Some people may have been put off by the fact that both the basement and roof leak in the rain, and that half of it has neither electricity nor heating, but we kind of like it.

A lot of the main structural work to transform it to a family home has been done already, and the ground floor has been done up to an acceptable standard, but there remains a lot of work for us to do on both the inside and outside.

Due to our hectic life (we have three small kids and have just acquired two kittens to befriend our grumpy cat), this blog has arrived a little late - but rest assured, aside from moving in, setting up the essentials and replacing the numerous electrical items that packed up weeks after being moved, we haven't done anything yet!  With some major works scheduled for the imminent future, we've started blogging just in time to share some of our adventures in renovation with you.  And if we run out of stuff to tell you, Gav can happily share his collection of assorted power tools with you...for hours and hours...