Summer 2015

Facade with new lime coat

Facade with new white coat and freshly painted windows and shutters (blue)

Click on photos to zoom

As you can see on the photo above, the work on the front of the house has progressed tremendously in the last half year. October last year the local manufacturer Consola replaced all doors and windows with new double glazed ones made from local chestnut. This spring the whole roof and all walls and floors were insulated, mostly with Isocell cellulose (22 cm for the roof, 14 cm for the walls) and perlite and cork for the floors (6 cm). The cellulose insulation comes from a nearby factory in Beziers in l’Herault which uses locally recycled newspapers. As a former environmental journalist it suits me well to have our walls filled with the scraps of the old Languedoc papers Midi-Libre and l’Independant (photo), especially since we were able to inject them behind intelligent and breathable membranes.


Recycled newspapers waiting to be turned into cellulose insulation at Isocell factory in Beziers

The whole building envelope is now very well insulated and made airtight with Intello Plus vapour barriers of Pro Clima, who sell you a whole kit with different tapes, glues and a hefty instruction manual. Not to our surprise it was a lot of preparation to make the ‘compartments’ and put up the membranes before having the cellulose blown in. One wall was too humid and had to be insulated with Amorim cork boards (2 x 4 cm overlapping). Another wall, which is partly sunk into the ground and suffers from rising damp, was insulated with cork chips behind impermeable plasterboard. Indoor walls that adjoin the neighbors’ were insulated acoustically with 10 cm of cellulose and a double layer of plasterboard.

Joel from Ecologis blowing in the cellulose insulation

Joel from Eco-Logis blowing in the cellulose insulation

The perlite-crete floor in the big living kitchen was poured onto OSB waterproof boards (19 mm). Unfortunately the massive, old oak floor beams which carried the four-inch dirt floor laid with terracotta tiles were too warped to be leveled. We replaced them with new untreated Douglas-fir floor joists from the local sawmill that gets its wood from the nearby Black Mountains. The old oak beams were sold to a builder in the nearby village of Lautrec, which paid for the new floor (see photos).

Old oak floor beams

Old oak floor beams

Old oak floor beams leaving the house

Old oak floor beams leaving the house

Douglas fir floor joists

Douglas fir floor joists

After the summer I’ll post some more pictures and a description of the new kitchen, the staircases and the tiled floors. It’s coming along…

Spring 2014

Good news is that we received a state grant for the insulation of the rest of the house. It’s part of the government scheme Habiter Mieux (ANAH) for which we applied last year. A lot of paper work but well worth it as the French state finances a good part of the insulation work. This grant also made it possible to put in new doors, windows and shutters: double glazing in local chestnut which we will paint with traditional linseed based paint.The roof and exterior walls are going to be filled with blown cellulose insulation (Isocell) behind a breathable membrane (Pro Clima). Floors will be made from French pine (pin des landes) and Portugese ceramic tiles and staircases from pine and beech. The facade will be rendered with lime. Altogether a big step forward in the ongoing eco-renovation of our 17th century timber frame village house. This autumn we will post some photos of the work.

Ready for winter

No major building projects this summer, but our newly installed RIKA pellet burner (model Pico – 6kW)  finally works well after the installation of a draught moderator. Due to the 8m of chimney flu the draught was too strong which made the burner rather noisy. However, it’s meant to be one of the more silent ones on the market, heating mostly by radiation not by convection or hot air blown into the room. It now comfortably heats a whole new section of the house, including a living room and two offices.

RIKA Pico (9kW) Advice for people who would like to buy an Austrian pellet burner made by RIKA : do not buy the Pico model, as it is not completely airtight and therefore not as silent as it should be ! The other models are though. And ask your dealer/installer how to regulate the draught. Too much draught affects the combustion and reduces the efficiency. A draught moderator works well but reduces the overall system efficiency as it draws in warm air from the room.

Summer 2013

Just back from a writing and walking vacation in Kerry (Ireland), followed by a symposium on the retrofit of traditional buildings in London, organised by the SPAB. No hands on work yet, but a summer of outdoor rendering (lime) ahead of us.