Saturday 23 January – Rendered Useless

Last week’s blog stated that we had started the year’s major project which is a refurbishment of our family gîte, Granary.  It said that the risk of projects like these was that they were prone to mission creep as you discover additional problems when you rip out kitchens and bathrooms.

One we discovered 2 weeks ago having taken the bathroom ceiling down. These were some rotten floorboards in the ensuite above which had been caused by a historic leak.  I mentioned that there was a risk we would find others, and we feared that there was one fairly large issue we would uncover.  Our fears have been realised.

In our initial revamp in 2015, we saw that the render on the internal walls of the ground floor had had a number of patch repairs and, when tapping on them, there was a very hollow sound suggesting that the render was not well attached to the wall.  In 2015 we didn’t have the time to resolve this and hoped that no one would knock the render too hard and cause it to come off!

When I had the opportunity to inspect further this week it became clear that all of the render had to come off – as it was about to fall off anyway!  With very little persuasion the render came away from the wall in sheets which at least made the job fairly simple.  It was clear that, whenever the render was applied it had been put on over a previous coat of thin plaster-like material.  Most of this had come away from the wall as well and, where it hadn’t, the render had not adhered well to it.

With the render removed there was evidence that, at some point in its history, Granary had been very, very damp, which had caused fibrous rot to grow and spread across the walls.  When we arrived, there was no heating in Granary other than the woodburner, and we know that the previous owners, who only lived in France for 6 months a year, shut the gîtes up over winter which, doesn’t do these old, stone buildings any good.

Using dehumidifiers and better heating, it took us almost 3 years to dry the buildings out and it is something we are very conscious of when the properties are unoccupied, especially in the colder, wetter months.  Having seen this evidence of rot we looked more closely at all of the wood in Granary, and unsurprisingly, there was lots of evidence of historic problems.

We have a very good charpentier (similar to a carpenter) who lives in the village, and he came and had a look during the week.  He has agreed to help us address the problems and make things good again but this will of course add to the time required to complete – hopefully not by too much.

I think I have now done all I can to prepare Granary for the electrician who arrives tomorrow and starts the major work.

During the week we went back again to Brest (I suspect this will be a frequent destination during this project) to buy more materials.  This time the main purchases were a fridge freezer, toilet, bath and the bathroom tiles.  There will be more.

Conscious that the garage remains an ongoing project, which I don’t want to fill up with the materials we remove from Granary, I have managed to cut all of the lambris we have removed so far.  Yet more kindling created!

Amazingly, I have managed to cut the grass.  This is by far the earliest in the year that I have ever cut it and shows how mild this season has been – so far.  I did get it cut in December which isn’t unusual, but normally I can then forget about it until at least March.  Not this year, it had already grown extremely long and desperately needed trimming.  Depending on the weather I will probably need to do it again in the coming week.

With the weather being amazing – and especially so today – we chose to do one of our long walks in a new area to us.

We traveled to the north coast of Finistère and started a 10 kms circular walk in the village of Guissény.  Just outside the village is a large lake (Étang de Curnic) which, apparently, is a great spot for wild birds.  While there weren’t many around today, it looked amazing under the clear blue sky.

Etang de Curnic outside Guissény
Etang de Curnic outside Guissény

Also, amazing was the Guissény beach.  As lots of the beaches here, it is very shallowly shelved so when the tide is out, as it was when we walked today, there is miles and miles of near-white sand.  This would be a great place to return to in the summer.

Guissény beach
The beach at Guissény

The coast is also very well known for its geology and interesting rock formations.  Just outside of the village are several naturally occurring standing stones which are great to explore.

Our electrician arrives tomorrow to start his work in Granary so we should be able to start to make significant progress. However, I suspect for the first few days he is doing his thing there won’t be much for me to do so I can focus on other projects and outstanding tasks – I won’t be idle.

I’ll let you know what I achieve next week.