More flooring

Just a video today, time lapse photos of the progress that’s been made during the day.

Nick and Kieran had a relatively easy day, installing the waste pipes to link up with the bathrooms and kitchen. The pipes will be concreted in place when the floor of the terrace is poured. The man who’s going to install the heating system arrived as it was getting dark, to see what needs doing, at what point. He laid the gaines, which will the bring the caloportive liquid from the pompe à chaleur, outside, under the chaufferie (boiler room) floor, to the underfloor heating in the house.

Joel and his crew got on with laying the rest of the hourdis and putting up the shuttering for a concrete beam to support the edge of the landing, around the staircase. The first layer of concrete will go in on Monday. It’s all taking shape 🙂

The link to the video is;



The tale of a floor and a terrace

Today was glorious; clear blue skies, wonderful views of the mountains, and it was even warm! Joel’s lads soon had all the breezeblocks cemented in place for the base of the terrace and the boiler room, then it was up to Nick and Kieran to fill up the space, initially with rubble from our rubble mountain, then with gravel. By the time I got home from my first lesson of the day, at 12.30. they’d already had lunch and were starting again!

The hourdis arrived; not, as I’d been led to believe, a steel structure, but lots of lengths of steel reinforced concrete which go between the outer wall and one of the internal walls. Then sheets of fibreboard with specially shaped polystyrene attached; these sit on and between the concrete beams and the concrete will be poured onto that later in the week by betonlook vloer.

The concrete….. hmmm…….comes in a big lorry………hmmm……….so big it won’t fit between the gateposts, even with the gates removed. Previously, the lorry’s gone round to the back of the house, where the gates are wider; but this one has to come into the front garden. Methinks at least one of the gateposts will have to be sacrificed. Ah well!

The link to today’s time lapse photos is;


And more mud…..

When I went to teach my English class at the CLAN this afternoon, Nick and Kieran were looking forward to a bit of a rest. The cement mixer lorry would pour the concrete into the terrace foundations, they’d spend 10 to 15 minutes levelling it, then they’d have the rest of the afternoon off.

However, it didn’t quite work out that way; the cement lorry got totally stuck in the mud behind the house before it was anywhere near where it needed to be, so they had to unload it a bit at a time into Joel’s digger’s biggest bucket, and tip it into the trench from there. The trench was, once again, partly full of water, so the concrete wouldn’t flow as it should; Kieran tried pumping the water out, but the pump soon clogged up, so he ended up draining it as best he could with a bucket.

But, by 6.30pm, the job was done and the lorry driver could go home; they’d use the digger to ease him out of the mud – until the digger got stuck, that is!!! Eventually it was freed and everybody lived happily ever after (well, till tomorrow, anyway)



More like the Somme than the south west

After yet another night of heavy rain, Nick’s first task this morning was to start pumping the water out of the moat (aka future terrace) again. But the sun was shining, so Joel decided it would be a good day to dig out the foundations; Kieran drove our mini-digger (he’s still hankering after a chance to drive Joel’s monster digger), while Seb shovelled the edges by hand and Nick barrowed away the sodden, heavy, slimy, sticky goo which, after 3 weeks of near constant rain, currently passes for soil. Being further hampered by the fact that  a good proportion stayed stuck to the digger bucket when Kieran tipped it into the barrow and to the barrow when Nick tipped it onto the heap made progress painfully slow, but progress they did. This, in spite of the occasional torrential downpours, in spite of the mud having quicksand-type properties (they completely lost three, 3foot long, foot square oak beams at one point), and in spite of the digger nearly tipping over as the mud oozed between and around the tracks. When it came time to get the digger out of the hole, Kieran had to push it out with its own bucket simultaneously with driving it up the planks; if they’d left it there, it seemed that it would have disappeared into the mire by morning!

Yes, we’re still here!

I’ve just had a text from a friend, checking that everything’s OK, as she hasn’t seen a blog for a while; sorry Terrie! Yes, everything’s fine; we’ve just been run off our feet.

Two of Joel’s lads arrived before 8am on Friday and worked till 6.30pm to finish all the downstairs brick-laying, ready for the hourdis this week. Joel came round mid-morning to check their work and deliver an estimate for replacing the roof; he reckons Nick and Kieran have saved us €10 000 so far, by working with him; well worth doing, then!

There’s a terrible draught comes in under the front door, so I decided to make a curtain, but as it will only be used for a couple of months this winter and probably next winter, it didn’t seem worth spending a lot on it. I found an old throw, left on the settee when we bought the house, an ultra thin bed quilt that came free with a catalogue order and  a second, similar quilt, bought for €1 in Emmaus (a charity shop), stitched them all together, remembered that I’d sold all my curtain header tape before we moved here, so sewed bits of ribbon to the top and used these to tie the curtain on to the rings on the (reclaimed) pole. Result? We’re toasty warm 🙂

By the end of last week, we were all ready for a rest; the lads had worked hard in the house and I’d taught four language classes; but the cycle club dinner on Friday night, aperos on Saturday, then dinner at friends’ on Saturday night, walking/cycling this morning, followed by lunch to which we’d invited Adrian, has meant that the last couple of days haven’t felt much like a break. Maybe we’ll watch (or fall asleep in front of) a film tonight, well, once I’ve finished my next lesson plan………..

Mud and dust

Nick was working by 7.30 this morning, removing the rest of the rubble generated yesterday, cutting windows. But when Joel arrived with two of his employees, Nick and Kieran were no longer required, so they amused themselves by starting to replace the bit of débaras (junk room) floor that was under the chimneybreast when they removed it. They had to cut out the part tiles and cement up the floor, which, of course, caused mountains of dust. They claim to have closed at least one door, but I’m not convinced!

Once that was at a stage to be left to dry, Nick started working on tarting up the grotty cupboards in the arrière cuisine, making wooden end panels and a panel for the back of the washing machine. I’ve arranged the tiles for one wall on the work surface, but haven’t had time to stick any to the walls yet.

I taught my first paid French class this morning; it went well and everyone seemed happy with it. I dashed home, had a very hasty lunch and went to meet a woman, to arrange future lessons, as I thought. However, when we’d discussed times, dates, etc., she decided it would be a good idea for her to have her first lesson today, “if I had time”. It normally takes me 2-3 hours to plan a lesson………! So I blagged my way through it, on the basis of what I’d taught in French this morning and she was delighted with the result. Phew! By the end, my languages were getting a little mixed up; on Tuesdays I teach English mostly in English, this morning I’d done French, but mostly in English for beginners, then this afternoon was English, but mostly in French!!! Ah well, I suppose it’ll help stave off Alzheimers 😉

PS A prize for the first person to spot the beer bottle!

Holes everywhere!

Joel didn’t arrive till late yesterday; he’d had to sort out someone’s guttering, pulled off by the rain. The heating lady arrived half an hour late, because two roads she tried to take were flooded. The route I normally take to avoid Nogaro centre is closed, and under 1.5metres of water. We haven’t got the snow the UK is experiencing, but we’ve certainly got plenty of rain!

But Joel arrived today and set the boys on to cutting holes in the walls for windows, while he got on with building the internal walls. They are going to put in concrete lintels tomorrow, so that everything will be ready for the arrival of the hourdis later this week.

In Joel’s absence, Nick and Kieran worked on the arrière cuisine yesterday; it’s now ready to tile above the work tops; this is my job and I think it could be quite a challenge. I want an eclectic, rustic look and have bought a selection of different tiles, all 10cm square, but in quite a variety of thicknesses. I couldn’t find many patterrned ones, so I painted some of them. Naturally, I want a smooth finish, so I’ll have to take care to use the right amount of sticky for each one. Could be interesting :-/

Kieran, in his spare time, is building a device to do time lapse photos. Using just the camera for it is quite complicated, so the new gadget is supposed to be simple enough for me to use – in other words; idiot-proof!

Allsorts, including the kitchen sink

It was too cold on Friday to pour the concrete for the window lintels, and too wet to work outside, so Joel went off to another job, leaving Nick and Kieran to cut the hole for the bathroom window. I get the impression he’s gradually realising that they’re not your average DIYers and he’s more than happy for them to work with him.

By the time Friday night arrived, both lads were pretty shattered, having worked non-stop all week, so we decided to have a lazy weekend; but the weather wasn’t conducive to going out, so the “weekend off” saw them finish work at 8.30pm on Saturday and 6.30pm on Sunday. They’ve made good progress on the arrière cuisine, which now has cupboards, a working sink and some work surface. I had my eye on a lovely, solid beech work top, but as it cost four times as much as the melamine, I was out-voted; we’ve got melamine on the grounds that it is only an arrière cuisine, a bit like a utility room. I had wanted to use the old pot sink from the current kitchen, but was disappointed there, too, as it’s badly stained and has started to chip in places; I did, however, manage to find an old-fashioned looking pot sink in one of the DIY stores, so they’ve installed that.

The rain’s been non-stop for days now, the garden is a complete mud-bath and what will be the terrace is dug out to about 50cm deep; Nick has been running the pump, to drain it, most of the weekend, but it just keeps refilling. I hope it’ll dry up soon as Joel wants us to dig the foundations for the boiler room. But we shouldn’t complain; this is one of the few areas of France that isn’t under a blanket of snow 🙂


As one door closes, another opens

Joel was on his own today and at first said he wouldn’t be needing any help, but he soon changed his mind! So while Kieran and I went to Aire sur l’Adour to buy a sink for the arrière cuisine, Nick was busy playing the role of builder’s mate. Not much progress on the arrière cuisine today, then….

The ground floor internal walls are nearly built now, the garage doors blocked up and Nick and Kieran were set on to cut a hole in the outer wall this afternoon for the French doors in one of the bedrooms. The man came round from Sarremejean to let us know that le hourdis will be ready next week. This is a metal structure that will be put in on top of the ground floor walls, to support the first floor. I gather they’ll take off some of the roofing tiles and a cement lorry with a long tube will pour the cement onto the first floor from above! Sounds pretty clever to me; I’ll be there with the camera.

For my part, I had a meeting today with some prospective French students – English people wanting to learn French, that is. It looks as though I’ve got two small groups; one for beginners and another for intermediates, from next week. I was also told that the maire of a local village is looking for English tuition for himself and his wife, so can I get in touch. So far, so good. 🙂

The link to today’s timelapse video;

After the break-in; realtime footage of what went on….

Joel and two of his employees arrived at 8am, apologising profusely for breaking in yesterday, and with a truckful of briquettes for the walls. We finalised plans for exactly where the walls and doorways were to go and left them to get on with it. Once the walls were well underway, it was time for today’s scary moment – well scary hour or so; removing the huge oak beam that ran the whole width of the house and supported the roof.

Pit props were put in place to support the two other big beams that rest on the main one, which, in their turn, support the uprights, which hold the roof up. Nick and Kieran helped build scaffolding towers so Joel could use a chain saw to cut out a section of the beam at a time; being about a foot square in cross section, even short lengths were extremely heavy. Gradually, they moved along the length of the beam, removing it a metre at a time, then took away the upright supports from both ends. The house is still standing! Phew!  🙂

Kieran’s built a device to allow us to do time lapse photography; I hope you enjoy the video clip which you can watch in either 50 seconds, or more slowly, in 5 minutes. Watch especially the beam that shows at the top edge of the picture, or doesn’t, by the end.

When they weren’t working with Joel, Nick and Kieran did the plumbing in the arrière cuisine. No leaks, so we’ll buy a sink tomorrow and they’ll start assembling the kitchen units

Short version

Longer version