Thursday, 31 March 2016

Renovation project - draught proofing

Renovation project - draught proofing

We are still quite draughty in the house so John takes a day to go around every window with expanding foam, followed by sealing the reveals with plaster.

There is nothing we can do about the doors though, all of the external doors in the house are different sizes. The front door is wider than most doors available and is not as high (it is also an amazing original old door)

But they are all single glazed John looks at the possibility of installing double glazed glass, but this is not feasible.

Our other option is to screw panels of perspex over the glass panels (look at different shops for this, as we ended up buying from Brico Depot and they were half the price of the first shop!)

The panels are cut to size and screwed into place. When we have less priorities John will add some beading around the edges so the they look more aesthetically pleasing, but for now, we are just happy to have got rid of our last draughts.

As a final measure we add some draught excluders around the doors, we can only get the sticky foam excluders here, but we have visitors from the UK soon who can bring over the small brush excluders.

But for now we are draught free, we have heating, we are warm!

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Renovation project - Insulating an old French house

Renovation project - Insulating an old French house

In an effort to make the house warmer, we have decided to insulate the attic. We had considered converting the attic into a large bedroom but there is a problem with where we would install the stairs.

The attic has been fully boarded and it would make a lovely room, but we would need to move some of the bracing joists.

We have already taken space from the bedrooms for the new bathroom, so to take more space would mean making one of the bedrooms very small, which is a bit of a pointless task, it would take a lot of work to still only have two double bedrooms in the main house.

So it is a case of just insulating the attic.

As John looks at the eaves, he realises there is no insulation there, so first job is to pack the eaves with rock wool. This alone will make a lot of difference, he has already insulated all of the water pipes here to prevent any issues with freezing, now it is a case of ensuring that all gaps are filled.

This is a dirty, messy job and as he finishes all clothes are just thrown into the washing machine, the fibres are not good for the skin.

As we are only going to use this room for storage, we do not need to make it look fantastic (if we had been using this room, we would've insulated between the roof joists) but now we can just staple the insulation across the entire roof.

John goes along with the staple gun as I hold it in to place, we realise as we get near the end, that this is not going to be as simple as we thought, we are covering the little loft windows, which means the light rapidly runs out.

The last bit is completed with Johns head light so that he can see what he is doing.

Renovation project - Renovation project - Insulating an old French house

Renovation project - Renovation project - Insulating an old French house

Renovation project - Renovation project - Insulating an old French house

But once finished we are a step closer to being warm!

It is not long before we notice the difference, but as we are sat in the living room we can still feel draughts, but that is for another day!

Friday, 25 March 2016

Renovation project - French electrics and more new windows

Renovation project - French electrics and more new windows

We have a friend coming today, he is going to be installing windows at his house and John has said to come along and see how easy they are.

They set about installing the windows in the living room and kitchen and this goes very smoothly.

This means that the property will now be fully warm, we hope.

Andy also helps John with the last bits of electrics, there are a number of double switches, John has always hated these but after looking at the old junction box he hates them even more!

All we can say is thank you Andy and we are so glad we decided to replace the electrics rather than work with what was there.

All the junction boxes were similar and the electrics were not in any easy order to understand.

Now we have very clear leads going from the consumer unit to each room for plug sockets and light switches, and a separate lead for each main appliance in the kitchen.

Its a busy day, but by the end we have fully functioning electrics and windows installed.

Top tips

  • If you have electrics that do not conform, they will need to be brought up to standards
  • The property will need to be earthed properly
  • Sometimes it is easier to start completely from scratch, rather than to try to work with what is already in place
  • If you do not fully understand French electrics, get some help (these will be fully checked if you ever come to sell your property)
  • If the electrics are out of your capabilities consider getting a professional to rewire your property.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Renovation project - Decorative footpaths in France

Renovation project - Decorative footpaths in France

At the front of our property is a footpath next to the road, this was one of the first things we noticed about the house when we came to view. The footpath is made of old tiles, not all are in good condition and the years of dirt are hiding some of the patterns, but today, I am going to try to revive them.

When we had the water connected we were asked if we wanted the meter outside, but this would've meant breaking more of the tiles, so we said no, I am hoping they will look great when cleaned up.

I am knelt with my scrubbing brush, bleach and buckets of water, the weather is not the best for doing this job, it is cold and trying to rain!

I keep going until the rain starts properly, most are cleaned up and it does look fantastic, it is a little thing, but it does make our house stand out a bit more and once we are finished, I just know it will be the prettiest house on the road.

Renovation project - Decorative footpaths in France

Renovation project - Decorative footpaths in France

Renovation project - Decorative footpaths in France

Renovation project - Decorative footpaths in France

We have no idea how long the tiles have been there or who laid them, but all I can say is thank you!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Renovation project - Can I use my French bank card on line?

Renovation project - Can I use my French bank card on line?
photo courtesy of
As we now have imminent guests we need to get some more furniture, we need two beds and a mattress, we look on all the main shopping sites and do not find what we want, so we try Ebay, we find what we need and then have the fun of trying to order, we do not have a French PayPal, so set this up after all it is so easy.........

French PayPal will take 5 days to set up so we have no option but to pay by bank transfer, it is very difficult to use your french bank card to buy from internet sites.

We order and then arrange for the bank transfers. This will take a few days so I have to e-mail each company to explain that payment will be delayed.

But we manage and our new beds will be here in plenty of time.

To pay by bank transfer in France you have to set up a new transfer name, which means you will need all the bank details of the person you are paying. Once you have added the beneficiary, you will receive a text with a code, you have to insert this code before you can continue.

Once added the new beneficiary will be usable after 48 hours.

We also order John some new glasses, this has to be paid for by bank card.

This is even more fun.

You enter your card details, which then get refused (our bank will not allow internet usage)
click on the link that appears to your bank.

Then, once you have logged into your account, you will be sent, by text, a code to allow you on to the next stage.

You then type in the amount you want to spend and a time limit for using it.

Once your text code has been accepted, a picture of a virtual credit card appears on the screen.

This is the card that you then use to continue with your purchase.

The new virtual card can only be used once, and only for the amount that you entered.

This all seems to be such a hassle, but after the first time, it is really very simple and so secure. The temporary virtual card cannot be used again, nobody can access this code without knowing all your bank details and passwords and having access to your mobile phone.

So, hassle maybe, secure definitely.

This post relates to Credit Mutuelle de Bretagne (CMB) as this is the bank that we use, Others maybe different

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Renovation project - A good nights sleep

Renovation project - A good nights sleep

We are moving bedrooms today, hopefully by the having our current bedroom empty with the heating on, it will dry out more quickly.

We still can't do anything about the external paint but John has fixed every leak on the gutters and has pointed around some of the stones outside. This should stop some of the problems.

If you do have a problem with wet walls, you need to check every possibility, such as gutters, external walls, especially if you see any sort of plant life growing from your external walls.

The new bedroom is cleaned and we move the bed and add the four poster bit (we had bought this bed a few weeks ago, but never got around to fully fitting it all together).

We finally have another room almost finished, the electrics are in place, as is the new window and the wall to the new bathroom is finished. There really isn't much left to do other than the finishing touches, such as skirting boards.

It is so exciting when you see something taking shape, the house is coming together. 

And we have another fantastic view from the bedroom window

I have an extra reason to be excited and hurry the house along, my daughter and baby grandaughter are coming to visit for a week, so we have to have the bathroom and bedrooms totally finished for their stay.

Whilst they are here we are going to visit Paris and Euro Disney. I have not been to Paris since I was about 16 and I can't wait.

We can get a direct train from Morlaix and I try to book tickets on line, but there are so many options, I am left with no choice but to call in to the train station and book direct.

There are so many inexpensive tickets, but we find out that these are for trains booked well in advance and not at great times. But it is worth it, I have not been to Paris for so long and I can not believe how excited I am.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Renovation project - Health and safety in France

Renovation project - Health and safety in France

John is working on the electrics again today, and he has to get the new wires through the big external wall.

The old wires go through but he cannot see where.

He works out on the kitchen wall where he thinks the should be and there is nothing for it other than to hit the wall with a hammer until he finds the area where the wires are.

I watch him balancing on the ladder and work top and leave him to it, I am painting the last wall in the living room when I suddenly here a bang followed by a clattering followed by cursing, I go to see what John has done, to find him sat on top of the fridge freezer with his hammer and the new kitchen cupboards in disarray.

They had given way beneath him, now this is a big tip for anybody, do not balance on cupboards that are not attached and have a solid wooden worktop perched on them.

It is not safe!

But on a positive note he has found where the electrics come through

We also realise that there are pipes in place so that the new electrics can just be pulled through the wall, this will make life so much easier.

But for now it is a case of emptying the work tops and putting the temporary kitchen back together

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Drying out an old stone house

Drying out an old stone house

We have the new windows installed but we have found a problem in our bedroom, the wall behind the bed is still wet, not just damp, you can see the water on the wall and the paint is starting to get damaged, we have also found black mould behind the bed.

This is not good and could explain why we are both regularly feeling a bit off colour.

The outside of the property is painted and the paint has started to break down, but the weather is not good enough for us to paint the external walls, we need to do something though, as living like this is not good for us.

We know what the problem is and if you ever complete a project similar to this, where you are renovating a property that has not been lived in for over 40 years, you will find similar problems, the question is what is the solution? long term we know it is a case of painting outside and letting the house heat up and dry out, but short term we need to look at a quick solution.

The easiest solution is to install a dehumidifier, this will draw the moisture from the room and help it to dry, if you are going to use a dehumidifier ensure that you use the correct one as there are plenty available on the market, use a shop or online store that offers advice such as AER Industries and depending on the size of your property it may be more beneficial to use a commercial dehumidifier rather than a domestic one.
residential dehumidifier -
 picture courtesy of
Industrial dehumidifier -
 picture courtesy of
We clean down the walls and the bed and wash the bedding again, we make sure that no furniture is too close to the walls, we don't have the quite the same problem in the other bedroom, as this is connected too another property, so John repaints that room so that we can hopefully move into it tomorrow, we just hope that the paint will dry. As the property has been empty for so long everything is taking much longer to dry, this is when we wished we had found the air movers, they dry surfaces faster and better than when they are left to dry naturally and do not leave behind chemical residues such as chemicals employed in fast dry activities.

This is a featured post

Monday, 14 March 2016

Renovation project - we have a bathroom with a view!

Renovation project - we have a bathroom with a view!

Now that we have the new window installed John can finish the bathroom. The tiles go up as does the bath panel and the shower screen.

This process does take a few days, even John can not install a window and a bathroom in a day, but it is almost finished (all the final touches will be completed when we have less competing priorities) we have the new heater on the wall and I finally get to take a bath with a lovely view.

This is my view when lying in the bath

We can also shower each evening now and save a fortune on the water bills.

Here is a photo diary of the bathroom, remember there was no bathroom at all in the property when we moved in!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Renovation project - Installing french windows

Renovation project - Installing french windows

John has been working on the bathroom for the past few days and it is really taking shape, we no longer have an open plan toilet and all the walls are in place.

The bath is fitted as is the sink unit.

We need to replace the window before we can tile the room and fit the shower.

The telephone call arrived regarding the delivery of the windows, and I am so impressed with myself, I answered and arranged delivery all in French, I am still paranoid about my level of spoken French, but John can't understand why, he keeps telling me I have no problem, and actually I don't, I'm not fluent, but if people speak slowly, I don't have a problem.

I can go to the Mairie and discuss our plans, I can answer the phone, I can make the appointments necessary and do most things, my only real problem is that I still sound like a satnav!

I think I may have actually cracked the language barrier, even if I do end up with a headache.

Anyway the widows arrive at exactly the time I had arranged. We are now glad that we had to get them from the other shop as the quality is much better.

They are stacked in the garage and John installs the first one in the bathroom and then spends the next few days installing the upstairs windows.

Renovation project - French windowsRenovation project - French windows

Once installed he has the fun of sealing all of them and ensuring there is enough insulation.

The house is getting warmer by the day!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Renovation project - French windows

Renovation project - French windows

We have to replace all of the windows in the property and luckily because we are replacing like for like we do not require planning permission.

I was over the moon when the Mairie informed us of this and now we can go and buy the new windows.

We call at Brico depot in Morlaix to buy them, but are informed that they no longer sell wooden windows, we are gutted. We really do not want PVC, and if we install PVC we will have to wait 2 months for the permission to come through.

We head home disappointed, but start to search other shops on line.

We find a shop called Lapyere, we have bought from here before and the stock is good quality, but more expensive, but we have no choice.

We go armed with our measurements and there are no English speaking staff.

This really puts my French to the test. But we manage and I have ordered the correct windows (I hope!)

It is quite difficult to understand the measurements as you have to add an extra measurement to the windows and they did not have all of the exact sizes,

But I do impress myself by arguing the price, they are more expensive than I had calculated, this turned out too be the handles, we quickly cancel the handles that were going to be ordered and order some different ones at a considerably lower price.

The assistant also puts a note on the delivery sheet stating that we are English so not to speak quickly when they telephone us to arrange delivery.

My head hurts so much when we get home, I had spent nearly an hour with the assistant and the only English she spoke was “oh My God” when she saw the price of the decorative beads, to make them look more traditional (we didn't order those!)

John will make them instead for a tenth of the price,

Top tips

  • Make sure your measurements are correct (taking into account any additional measurements required)
  • Check the total cost and don't be afraid to question it
  • Ask the staff to add a note for the delivery company to explain they will need too speak slowly

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Renovation project - Something feels strange

Renovation project - Something feels strange

The water heater did not work last night and our hot water is running out, we can turn it on manually but this is more expensive to do during the day as we have opted for cheaper rate electricity during the night.

We Skype with Andy and explain that the water heater did not work, it was simply a case of changing two wires around, so fingers crossed for tonight.

John sets about installing more heaters in the house, we are actually going to be warm soon in each room!

We spend the evening watching TV and I have this strange sensation, something does not feel right in the house, I can't work out what it is.

I am left feeling a bit uneasy until I realise that I took my second fleece off earlier in the day, I am sat here in a t shirt and only one jumper!

I am warm!!!!

The strange feeling is sitting here normally, not wearing two fleeces and a body warmer and my woolly hat, it has been so long since I have felt warm, I had forgotten what it felt like.

This is no longer a strange feeling, it is nice, it is normal, it means we are starting to get somewhere on the house.

It is time for a celebration!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Renovation project - You can't park there!

Renovation project - You can't park there!

The other day I had a conversation with a visitor to the next door property, it was a bit of a struggle but mainly consisted of 'we can not park in front of our house, we need to park across the road', I explained that we couldn't as our next door neighbour was parked on our side of the road and we had to park behind them.

The following day we had a visit from a Mairie employee telling us officially we could not park here and needed to use the little car park, that is just a few yards along the road.

OK obviously we had been reported!

I still have no idea why we can't park in front of the house

Whilst Andy was with us helping with the electrics, he had parked outside the house (I had forgotten about the recent visit)

It didn't take long before we had another visit from the Mairie, I explained that we no longer parked outside the house and that this was a visitor.

He was very friendly and was happy to speak slowly and even told me not to worry about my slow French, it was very good.

I asked why we could not park and why there were no signs to say such, at this point he took me to a very large overgrown hedge and scrambled inside to show me a sign!

This hedge was very overgrown when we bought the property and nobody told us there were any parking restrictions.

He then apologised that the hedge was over grown and said that it would be cut back soon so the sign could be seen.

It is official this bit of road is no parking.

The guy from the Mairie confirmed there was no problem for unloading if we have a car load but not for permanent parking, now we know why there is a little car park at the end of our road, this is not a problem, but we are a bit peeved that this was never pointed out to us when we bought the property.

The following day somebody had been out and cut a big chunk of the hedge away so that the sign could be seen.

But now we are used to parking in the car park, we realise this is much better, it is never full as there are only a couple of houses here and it means we never have a car parked outside our living room window.

Sometimes problems can work out for the best.

Top tips

  • When buying a property always check for parking restrictions.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Renovation project - French electrics

Renovation project - French electrics

picture courtesy of
John has been struggling with the electrics and getting the new consumer unit in place, there are so many wires in the house.

This house was rewired in the 1970's. There was no earth fitted, there are 4 double switches (for the stairs etc) and 3 totally different zones all wired into each other. The problem is trying to remove the old electrics without leaving us with no lights or power.

He has connected some new safe light switches and plug sockets but the job is very big, we have no option but to call in the cavalry.

Never struggle with the electrics as they need to be done correctly and Connecting French electrics are very different to the UK.

It is not a sign of failure asking for help, it is the sensible thing to do. We are lucky that we have friends in France that fully understand the regulations and what is required.

The cavalry arrives in the form of our friend. John and Andy sit down with the instruction manuals and we realise the diagram on the consumer box is so unclear and that is why John had been having problems.

The consumer unit is wired up correctly and fitted to the wall.

The earths are in place and the correct fuses are in place, we are just having a problem connecting the night switch for the water heater, but fingers crossed it is all correct now.

We will find out tonight

If you are struggling at all, always get somebody in, electrics are one of the first jobs you need to do in a renovation project and if you do not get them right, it can and will cause problems later.

There are clear instructions for installing electrics when it comes to plug sockets, lights and kitchen appliances.

On your consumer unit you must have the correct amount of fuses, you will need a separate fuse for each appliance in the Kitchen (e.g. fridge, washing machine etc.) each fuse will also need to be the correct size.

You can have so many plug sockets and lights per fuse.

Again make sure that you do this correctly as when you come to sell your house there will be a diganostique (survey) on your electrics.

Never feel ashamed at asking for help, this is such an important aspect of your project and needs to be completed correctly