Saturday, 9 March 2013

Renovation project - Straight lines in a crooked house

Renovation project - Straight lines in a crooked house

We have been working on the ceiling for 2 days now and we are really starting to see some progress, the difference is unbelievable, at first it did seem to make the room look a lot smaller, but that was probably because we had gotten so used to the ceilings not being there.

We have decided to use the tongue and groove wood as this is traditional in the Breton area, which is good, because we realised we could not fit the sheets of plaster board up the stairs and into the room.
Taking 3 days to fit the ceiling (we’re still doing it tomorrow) seems to be a long time, but there is so much work involved. The first task is to try to make the planks look straight, this is never easy in any house but even less so in an old French house where nothing runs parallel or square, the first row goes up with lots of umming and arring

We decide as long as they look straight whilst lying in bed this is the most important factor.

We also change how we attach them to the joists as the specialist hidden nailing clips do not work, this entails John nailing the planks  to the joists, this is where our next problem manifests itself, the joists are all different depths, this was not noticeable until you try to nail a straight piece of wood to them.

how to install a new ceiling

John now has the choice of the ceiling having a wave effect or attaching batons to different joists, we go for the baton as we don’t want people lying in bed and feeling sea sick!

Had john been doing this job in the UK he would’ve put a suspended ceiling underneath, but as the ceilings are not very high, this would be impractical in this house, so he will punch all the heads and fill with putty, as we are painting the ceiling white this will not be an issue. (however you must cover the nail heads with putty or else they may bleed through the paint)

Yet again John is frustrated as he has to adapt and compromise his work practices, but if you are going to do this type of project without a bottomless pit of money, this is something you must be prepared to do.

The next aspect that takes time is treating all of the wood, even though this is new wood, we have decided to treat it with a preventer, the old joists have already been treated but they get a second coat as well just to be on the safe side.

how to install a new wooden ceiling and treat woodworm and rot

how to install a new wooden ceiling and treat woodworm and rot

The final part of the ceiling is the insulation, this was my job, measuring and cutting the roll of insulation to fit in the gaps, I am beginning to think scrubbing the floors is not the worst job, cutting this stuff is, I itch and can feel fibres all over my arms and face.

The insulation we have used is Rock Wool, we had tried to get this from the UK as when we were there last, it was on special offer. In France it is not on special offer, it’s very expensive, a roll 100 milli thick costs 30 Euros’ we had been paying 5 GBP for the same roll in the UK, and because we need to insulate every ceiling and every new wall we build this is adding a big strain to the budget, but it is not something you can skimp on, well not if you want to stay warm and I do not want another winter like this one!

installing rockwool insulation

The reason it is so expensive in France is because residents can claim the money back through their tax (we haven’t really worked this out properly) but we do know you have to employ a French artisan to install it to be able to claim it back, which is a bit pointless as it is much easier and quicker to do it ourselves.

There are a number of different types of insulation available but rock wool is the right one for our needs, we had looked at the foil bubble wrap, which would’ve been my choice as it is not full of itchy fibres and can be easily bought on line from sites such as Direct Plastics but this would not have given us the same level of noise insulation, so I am stuck with this itchy stuff, aarrrggghhhhhh!!!

We will be using the foil bubble wrap on the underside of the roof as this is a lot easier to attach, but this is a job for the future as now we need to get the house child friendly.

We keep going until it is time to get showered and dressed, we have been invited out to dinner tonight, we are going to Sheila’s and Brian’s to watch the football, well John and Brian are, Sheila and I are going to drink wine.
how to install a new wooden ceiling and treat woodworm and rot

how to install a new wooden ceiling and treat woodworm and rot

how to install a new wooden ceiling and treat woodworm and rot

For the first time we are perfect dinner guests, not only do we not arrive late, we actually arrive early!!!!!! We have also not missed the shops and arrive bearing gifts, but I suppose it’s not really bearing gifts when the gifts are wine and you know you will drink them, but it is the thought that counts.

We have a wonderful evening and walk home. I don’t think my head hit the pillow before I fell asleep that night, which is a shame because I didn’t notice that the bedroom wasn’t freezing.

Top tips          
  1. When using insulation, make sure you use the right sort for your needs
  2. Regularly rinse your hands, face and arms with water
  3. Wear a face mask and a disposable paper suit
  4.  If no suit is available wash all clothing separately from other clothes


  1. Bit late but you could save a lot of work by secret nailing through the tongue, it is hidden by the next boards groove.

    Nice work though, it's looking better each day


  2. Thanks David, we had tried those first but they didn't work well with the wood we used, so wanted to make sure it was really secure.
    and thanks it is starting to feel more like a home than a building site (well upstairs anyway)