Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Renovation project - French plaster - Wednesday 26th September

Renovation project - French plaster - Wednesday 26th September

First job of the day is to take every bit of paper relating to the internet and telephone to the bank, we make an appointment with the English speaking manager who says not a problem she will change the security setting so the card so it can be used.

She gets on to the orange website so she can pay, we have our log in details but the password does not work, I didn’t think I had changed it but I try every variation I can think off, still no luck, so she calls orange direct (yes this is a bank manager calling the telephone company for us!!!!) it turns out the password did not work as we had been cut off, so why they offer this option to pay I don’t know, the problem is solved and it appears that our original direct debit (or RIB) had got lost in the post or gone to the wrong department, the direct debit is set up and we pay this payment directly, we will be back on line in 24 – 48 hours!

Back in the attic bedroom and time to start plastering the wall and ceiling where the wall came down. In England John was a time served plasterer and his work was second to none, so this was going to be a doddle (or so we thought!).

 John thought he would treat himself to a new handboard when we got here, but the suppliers don’t seem to sell them, so he has to make a new one, the for sale sign is perfect!

plastering a house in france

French plaster is very different to English as it is lime based (yes this means nothing to me either!) but it means it acts very differently to British plaster which is gypsum based plaster. Unless you buy a certain major DIY retailers one coat and then its just as bad!

In England this job would’ve taken a couple of hours, here it takes most of the day.

He is very upset that I have taken photos’ of the mess he has made because of his professional integrity, I just found it very funny as I have never seen this before, the plaster is everywhere! It is drying before he has time to skim it smooth and he is adamant that it will be as smooth as his normal plastering until I point out that if he gets it perfect it will look odd as nothing else is perfect in the house and we could end up with a big perfect stripe!

plastering a house in france

plastering a derelict house in france

I leave him to it as I take all the rubble to the tip, it takes 3 trips and on the final trip I make a pledge to myself that I will bump into at least one of the guys at the tip looking nice, as on my final trip the guy looks at me and asks if I am always in dust!

When I come back the plastering is almost finished the other half was completed much more quickly as John had sussed out how to do it, if you put PVA on the wall first it will slow the drying time down, if you use plenty of water and keep on trowelling it will come flat!

plastering a derelict house in france

plastering a derelict house in france

The light switches are plastered in to the wall but this takes a bit of manoeuvring as the wall is very thin, all is looking good, until we look at the other side of the wall and discover the plaster has fell off and they came right through! Another job for another day.

So a word of warning, if you are not an expereinced plasterer and you decide to do this, it will not be easy, but don't give up because even the experts struggle!

Calvin and Liz offer to take us out for dinner, so it’s a visit to Le Crepuscule, or so we thought until Calvin said that it looked very shut on their way past.
We’re ready for 7.50pm and go to have a look, yes it is all locked up so we go over to Hotel Du Lac, we have not been here before, but it looks very nice and there is a 12 euro deal on between 7pm and 8pm, this is for starter, main and sweet. We sit down and it takes a few minutes to be served where they inform us we have missed the 8pm cut off! Bugger!!!!!!

We all order from the normal menu and John and Calvin have a trio de porc, this contains belly pork, sausage and chitterlings. We have no idea what this is but all try it and decide to Google once we are home (we didn’t want to be put off our food by finding out what it was before it was eaten). The food was lovely, the chitterlings can only be described as a pinwheel of very fatty bacon, it turns out that it was pig intestines! So glad I didn’t know before I tasted it!

Top tips

1.       Try different food, but wait until you have eaten it to find out what it is
2.       Ensure that your direct debits are set up correctly
3.       Check the opening times of restaurants (they change out of season)
       And if your work goes wrong, try, try and try again!


  1. French plaster is also very soft as you may have discovered, stripping wallpaper ended up needing much filling and sanding of the scraper marks.

    You are really making some progress - great job


  2. Hi Jenny & John
    Following your blog with interest. Just noticed you left stockport (wise move I guess, I live there also and cannot wait to get away.). I am considering initially a temp move to france as my other half does not want to consider this, I have been looking in the limousin / haute vienne areas for some time however because of the distance / cost etc of getting there I have started looking at brittany / normandy for a refurbishment project early next year. I am trying to decide which dept is best, I have a particular interest in the ww2 so normandy is probably better located however brittany would not be a problem if I can find out a bit more about it. I obviously need to visit and look around which is obviously intended before I purchase, however if you can throw any pointers at me I would be most appreciative.
    I have a surveying / trade background so the refurbishment is not a problem to me, what I am more drawn to is a more temperate climate - am I going to get this - whats your view. I am a keen motorcyclist for one so the M/c weather is a big problem and this year has meant many weeks of frustration.
    Hope things going ok and look forward to any help you can give.
    Best regards
    email: energy@tiscali.co.uk

  3. Hi Paul
    Brittany is a fantastic place for bikers and we see many touring around.
    If you are not afraid of restoration there are plenty of bargains still to be had, do not believe the estate agent prices they are all open to big negotiations (unless they are rock bottom already).
    the temperature is much better than the UK and Manchester in particular! but be warned it does rain, quite a lot, but unlike Manchester it does stop! we returned for a visit to the UK mid October and before then we had only really been wearing coats during the evening.
    we have met a lot of people who have bought renovation projects but remain living in the UK and complete the work over time.
    when we have finished we intend to have a small B&B offering tips and advice including viewings, if this is of any interest.
    biggest tip is to just go for it especially whilst the exchange rate is so good.
    we have also found flights from leeds/bradford or east mids to Dinard for only 24 euro's return if booked in advance.
    hope this helps and if you do visit and are near to Huelgoat give us a shout and we can meet for a coffee
    good luck
    Jenny and John

  4. Are youactually sure the plaster was lime-based? In my experience lime plaster should take half a day to set at the very least and if it gets stiff you can always mix it with a bit of water (chemical curing takes something like 24 hours and until then you can add water every time it gets too stiff). Anything that sets faster probably has gypsum in it, and lots too.

    In Germany and Austria lime/cement based plaster is considerably cheaper than gypsum plaster so it's used whenever thick layers are required. Gypsum plaster gives a nice smooth finish in one coat so that's used on rather flat walls. Lime plaster also doesn't mind moisture as much so it's recommended for slightly damp walls.

    Still, even gypsum plaster shouldn't set THAT quickly, maybe your bag was already off (I've noticed that old plasterboard spackle tends to set faster and faster for some reason).