Staying warm is the key to the happy heart of the home particularly when you are creating new openings. With thick walls and big holes, it can get a bit breezy indoors. That’s been our focus as we come to the end of January and reach into February.
It’s been a wet and windy January with some very chilly intervals. The renovation of the roof is on hold as it’s too dangerous for us DIY folks to attempt new skills. Ideally, it needs to be above freezing and not raining. Neither has happened so far this month. So we created work shelters to stop the rain pouring in and we’ve brought in an expert (Martin the Stone Mason) to help us create a new doorway from the kitchen to the barn and a new window opening in the kitchen.
The house is old and made with strong granite stone walls filled with mud and rubble in the middle. Knowing how to keep the stones stable, prop them up correctly and understand the load-bearing capacity is something that we understand but need skilled trades with long term experience to do the work. There were some tricky options for support using the beams already positioned inside the kitchen protruding into the wall and using these to extend the steel and acro prop support.
In France when you look for a tradesperson or Artisan you need to confirm that all the official paperwork is in place. A siret number (company number) and a devis (detailed quotation for the work). We also needed to check that the right application was made with the Maire to create a window opening at the back of the house. We are not overlooked or close to historical monuments so it was pretty straightforward.
Our walls are just under one meter thick. That’s a lot of stone to take out and then rebuild the opening to the perfect door and window size. Simon created the oak lintels from the wood that remained on-site from an old garage in the garden. He stripped down all of the sapwood and revealed the beautifully strong heartwood beneath. you can see the frame in progress on our youtube channel The oak is in keeping with the style of the old French farmhouse the rooms downstairs certainly have a rustic feel to them.
The lintels go below the props and the stone is built back around the supports to strengthen the wall. Then the weight-bearing can be transferred to the pointed wall and the new lintel once the mortar dries.
Thick walls and big holes
Here is the work in progress shown in the slideshow below.
Simon is busy working on the door so for now, the hole is stuffed with insulation and boarded over. We need to mix a concrete base to level the doorway floor then we can add the door frame and render the walls with lime mortar and lime plaster. We’ve been really pleased that our stonemason Martin took the time and effort to protect the interiors as much as possible with lots of wooden shuttering and tarps. When the huge circular saw got to work cutting through old thick concrete and granite bedrock the dust clouds were something to behold. We managed to keep it contained by mainly using a wet saw and keeping the tarp sealed and windows open.
The next thick wall and big hole is the window from the kitchen in to the back garden.
Our advice to DIY’ers and renovators. It’s your home, live with it, walk around it, feel what’s missing. Then plan it out a hundred times if you have to before you rush into cutting a big hole through your thick walls. We can’t wait to show you the progress.
Here is where our adventure started. See our blog posts in timeline order