Thursday, 29 August 2013

Renovation Project - A cheval steak anybody????

Renovation Project - A cheval steak anybody????

The car is full of rubbish so we decide to go to the dechetterie on the way to Quimper, unfortunately we didn’t check the time as we left, it is just after 12 noon, which means its lunch time, the dechetterie is shut!
This means that we have the choice of driving with a car full of rubbish or going home and unloading, by which time the dechetterie will be ready to reopen! We decide to just take one of the still assembled cupboards out of the car, when we are driving back we pass the local workers restaurant and there are no cars or lorries there, we suddenly panic about whether there is another bank holiday, I call friends to check and no, this time it is closed because it is August!

In France (well rural France) August is the main summer holiday and many places will close down for a few weeks, August is not a good time to arrange for deliveries, work or pretty much anything really.

We head off to Quimper again and the weather is lovely, once there we realise August is also the time for tourists and cannot find anywhere to park, by the time we park and find a nice restaurant, I really don’t feel very relaxed, John moaning about why we are going to a tourist hotspot on a busy afternoon, really did not improve things.

We find a lovely restaurant and sit down, we look at the menu and see cheval, this is cheaper than the steak or even the burgers, so John decides to try it, it comes looking like 2 burgers and to be honest it tastes very similar to beef. We have to take a picture of our first cheval dinner (well not mine I had a French version of a tuna melt!).

But at least we know that cheval (and I’m sure you have guessed what cheval is by now!) is quite nice and we can order it at any restaurant, I’m counting in my head now how many of my horsey friends are going to be very upset when they read this, but as the saying goes “when in Rome...”

We finish lunch and head over to the shop for the tiles, I manage to ask for what we want, but they do not have enough, we find another but it is end of line and just as we are about to give up, find another one, this they have in stock.

We were looking for a general colour, but price was most important, what we did realise was that the tiles are not arranged in price brackets so you can have 10 euro tiles mixed in with 50 euro tiles, this means that you have to look through every one, not just in a certain area.

The guy working was extremely helpful, and again his English was much better than my French, and for some reason today I could not say the number 16, I had to keep asking for dix et six, not good but it got us what we wanted.

We buy all of our adhesive and grout and we are ready to go, we just have to pile it all on top of the rubbish in the car (we never found a dechetterie between home and Quimper)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Renovation project - What can you use a BBQ for in France?

Renovation project - What can you use a BBQ for in France?

The base unit for one side of the kitchen has all been built. 

It is now time to remove the rest of the old kitchen units. The day is spent emptying them and moving all of the paint from the kitchen floor.

The tools from the cupboard are stored in our new wardrobe and all of the food has now been stored in the BBQ, this was definitely one of the best buys we have ever bought, for the first 5 months it did all of our cooking, the underneath cupboard has always been for our pots and plates and now the BBQ itself is our food cupboard, I really don’t know what we would have done without it or how we have spent a year with this being the most important part of our kitchen!!!!

Brute force removes the wall units. The wall is so disgusting, years of dirt, grease and grime are just looking at us, I really feel very sick!

The cupboards are all broken and I load them all into the car, it’s too late to take them to the skip tonight.
The kitchen floor was going to be the tiles that I spent months scraping and cleaning, but when we realised that the tiles were not originals and could still be bought today, they were not quite as appealing, plus if we had kept the tiles we would have had to decorate the kitchen to match the colours.

We considered having floorboards in there but I am worried that with wooden cupboard doors to have boards on the floor as well the kitchen may end up looking like a giant sauna!

We spend some time looking for tiles and have found some inexpensive dark grey, slate looking tiles, these will be perfect, they are timeless and will go with anything, the only problem is they are in a shop in Quimper, which is approximately an hour away, oh well it is lovely and sunny at the moment we can turn it into a trip out and have a nice lunch whilst we are there!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Renovation Project - starting to build a new kitchen

Renovation Project - starting to build a new kitchen

The kitchen wall is plastered and it is looking good, john is definitely happy with his new plaster. The next job now is to start building the new kitchen cupboards.

We went back to the shop yesterday (Friday after our fruitless trip on Thursday)

We did consider buying standard base and wall units from the DIY shop, but it is actually less expensive to build our own. We bought the laminate wood when we went shopping and are going to have just one very large cupboard as a base unit. This will not go all the way to the end of the wall as I hate that kitchen cupboard where you cannot reach, it just ends up being filled with things you never use as you cannot reach anything.

This bit will have the plug sockets, as we have found a tower plug socket that will just push up and down, which also means that that we will not have to cut into the new aluminium splash backs and so the work tops will be kept clear.

I help john when he needs me but otherwise I spend the day stripping all of the old wood boards that we removed from the bedroom walls. They were all painted with emulsion, the easiest way to remove the paint was to wet each piece with soapy water and then scrape the paint off. I will sand each one to finish them off.
These boards are going to be the fronts of the kitchen cupboards, this means we will be able to have oak doors for no cost other than time spent stripping them and we will really be eco friendly with recycled furniture.

We are definitely on our way to having a kitchen!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Renovation Project - French bank holidays

Renovation Project - French bank holidays

John plasters the door way and the difference is immense, OK, I now think blocking the doorway up was definitely a good idea!

John is also impressed with the plaster, it is fine, like the UK variety and it sticks to anything, John is a happy bunny!

Not so happy when he realises we have bought the wrong size pipes for replacing the leaking water pipe, so we decide to take the pipes back that we have bought and go and get another bag of plaster for the rest of the kitchen walls.

We see the man from next door and say hello, it doesn’t click with us that he is not at work (first clue!) we drive along the motorway which is very quiet (but the roads here are often quiet, but really this should’ve been clue number 2), Clue number 3, which is more like a sledgehammer is when we pass one of the big supermarkets and see the empty car park, it is a bank holiday!!!!!!! Unlike bank holidays in the UK everything shuts, we have just driven for 40 minutes to a shop that is shut, we still have the wrong pipes and we don’t get anymore plaster, can the day get any worse, oh yes, it can.

I talk to my daughter when we get back and she can’t get any flights, they are all booked up, I am so gutted, I won’t get to see her and the baby.

Today is a disaster, the only consolation is that the plastered doorway looks good, and we can put the temporary work top back and use the kitchen, I am looking forward to my bed tonight!

Also realised I have not been leaving any top tips so here is one:

Top tip
  • Know when the bank holidays are and don’t go shopping!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Renovation Project - our first power tool accident!!!!

Renovation Project - our first power tool accident!!!!

John has started to look at the stairs again today, they have had some time to breathe since removing some of the vinyl and whilst they do not look fantastic, they are not in particularly bad shape apart from the bottom tread. This has rot and woodworm in it and we are left we no alternative but to remove it.

We also have to remove the step that is at the bottom of the stairs and covered in tiles if we want to have a nice wooden floor in the living room and to ensure that the new stair wall can go into place correctly.
John breaks it up with his kango (this is like a pneumatic chisel) this is going along well and the concrete step breaks up.

John then begins to drill through the new stair wall frame into the floor, whilst pushing the wall on to the stairs with one foot when disaster strikes, it happens so quickly, the drill slips, spins around and before you can blink it has slid on to Johns knee, I am watching as the drill goes into his jeans and continues drilling within seconds the drill has ripped Johns jeans clean open and he manages to let go as the material has wound round the drill and is touching his crown jewels! For a second neither of us can move!

He is OK, it hasn’t cut him, and I go into shock as I cannot believe I didn’t think to just hit the electricity switch, but then I shout why didn’t you just take your hand off the drill switch?????? John explains he couldn’t as his hand was twisted and stuck and if he had let go, then it would definitely have gone in him!
I am distraught that I didn’t help and act quickly enough; John is great and explains that in a situation so fast, I couldn’t have done it.

John’s jeans are ripped up to his waist; I still can’t believe how close he was to drilling into his leg or how close it stopped to his privates!!!!

We stop and have a cup of tea (we are British after all!) this is a word of warning to anybody doing this, an accident is never far away, John has been doing this for over 30 years and can still slip, power tools are dangerous things!

Well the excitement is over and its back to work, the bottom tread has to be removed along with part of the frame. We still have some of the new joists left over so John cuts out the bottom bit of the frame and replaces it with a piece of joist (which has been treated as a precaution) to insert this piece means me holding the stairs up off the ground and John slotting the new piece in place, I feel like superwoman!

The piece is in place and secured, this will not be seen as we have bought a piece of wood to slip on to the outer edge of the stairs so both sides match (this sounds confusing but the photo’s will show what I mean) the wood is like a big skirting board going down along the new wall. The technical term is a rake
The bottom tread is replaced and all of the stairs are treated, the new frame wall goes back in place and they do look good.

That evening we are going to Theresa and Craig’s, John is going to watch the football and I am going to enjoy a nice glass of wine, the evening is lovely, and Theresa and I sit outside (yes it is still lovely weather, this year is so much nicer and warmer than last year).

The day is finished off perfectly by sitting outside at midnight watching shooting stars, I make my wish, but can now say it did not come true as my lottery ticket was thrown away a couple of days later, oh well the stars were like a lottery win on their own.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Renovation Project - Buying French plaster

Renovation Project - Buying French plaster

We have to go shopping today as we need some plaster for the covering where the doorway was, I really hate shopping for plaster, John will insist that I try to read every pack and find the one he wants (even though in France they do not sell the one he wants, we have been here a year now and it is not going to change!) but still I have to read every bloody pack!!!!!!!

This time there is a different pack there, we have not seen it before and it states that it has a 50 minute working time, this means we have 50 minutes before John starts to shout and swear that he cannot do anything more with it and it has gone off (for those none plasterers amongst us that means it has set and you are stuck with the results!) so it’s fingers crossed.

We get back to the house and take down our only little bit of work top, this was the old tiled worktop that was there as part of our advertised Kitchen when we bought the house!!!!!!!


This takes some doing as underneath the tiles there is a concrete slab with metal reinforcing bars, this was the most solid thing in the house, apart from the stone walls. It also leads to another big problem, john cannot find his grinder, He actually has 2, but we cannot find either of them!

If you have never seen a grinder before it is a massive hand held power tool, it is very heavy and I would say impossible to lose, but no John has managed to lose not one but two of them (secretly I am impressed) outwardly I am having to put up with the searching for them, and as we do not have any cupboards it doesn’t take that long.

We then remember we had lent them to somebody, we give them a call and they don’t remember, bugger this is going to be difficult, they then call back and yes remember having one, but not the big one, we make do and only have to put up with periodic comments about how much easier it would have been with the big one!

Once this is all down John paints a cement and waterproof PVA mix over the walls, this is just to seal the walls and forms a good membrane to stop any future damp problems (there was no damp on these walls but it is better safe than sorry).

Once the worktop is all cleared and removed the rest of the wooden frame goes in the doorway and John adds the plaster board. 

We then put the wooden worktop in place, this will not stay like this but it does mean we can continue to use the kitchen

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Renovation Project - rebuilding walls in an old stone house in France

Renovation Project - rebuilding walls in an old stone house in France

The frame is in for the stairs, so now the next step is to put the frame on the wall for the plaster board, we had originally hoped to keep the living room wall as stone and repoint it, but the stones are not good enough and all different types, so it will look much better if we plaster this wall and just have the stone wall around the windows, plus too much of a good thing can actually look a bit over powering.

The frame has to be attached to the wall and once in place all of the plasterboards are attached, again this is one of those jobs that make a big difference.

Once the wall is in place, we move onto the door way between the kitchen and living room, John starts to remove all of the plaster and door frame, again this does not go quite as planned as we find out that the doorway in the kitchen actually has different size stone to the opening in the living room. We also find out that the bottom of it is made up of lots of smaller stones, so yet another rethink is required!

We settle on having a cupboard at the bottom of the door to cover the rubbish stones and just go with the different size stones in what will be the log store (we just put this down to another quirk in the house).
Yet again the house is now full of rubble, so its takes a while but I bag it and tip it, the guy at the tip does not bother coming to check all of my bags anymore and just shouts over to me in French, I am becoming a local, a local at the tip, but a local nonetheless, it’s a first step (personally I would rather be a local at the beauty parlour and the nice restaurant, but as I said it’s a first step)

When I come back John has stated to add the frame to the door way, so we step back and forth across it for the last time, we also do a little door dance, this is one of the last bits of wall building that we have to do, yes I know I have said that so many times already, but this time I think it is actually true!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Renovation Project - Rebuilding an old staircase in France

Renovation Project - Rebuilding an old staircase in France

The house seems to going at a great rate, the ceilings are up and we have all the studding and plaster board we need to build the rest of the walls.

We are going to rebuild the wall at the edge of the stairs on the ground floor, as there is no way we can buy a matching handrail, and trying to make one out of wood to look similar will be worse than having something totally different.

This is a problem when trying to renovate an old house, there will be times when you just cannot buy or make matching items.

John did have the idea of building a stepped wall which would still give some feeling of the openness which we have loved, but I just cannot see it.

We start by peeling the awful vinyl off the stairs and some of them do not look fantastic, but there is no rot in the stairs other than the bottom tread, that we were already aware of.

We contemplate it some more and John starts to build the frame for the wall, it is at this point that we wonder if we can make a handrail, that will just be part of the wall, the difficulty here is that the hand rail has a slight curve, but John says this is not a problem and he would be able to curve the wood. (I am a little sceptical, I love him and call him superman, but that is love talking, not fact!)

We have great fun trying to work out the angles as the old rail not only curves slightly it also goes around a corner, so there are no set measurements, John just goes ahead and makes it with me holding the new rail at different points until we get the right place.

Once the frame is all in place, John uses a piece of thin tongue and groove which is pliable, and it works. The walls will have plasterboard and we will need to add some stronger wood, but wow it looks great so far and we get to keep the open look in the living room. It really would have been heartbreaking to have to wall the stairs in again.