Posted in Blog, Color Shape Space, DÉCORATION, House Renovation

OSB Decorated Art Wall


I’ve noticed that there is not much inspiration out there as to decorating OSB walls, so I thought I would show you what I have done with one of my OSB walls.

PAINTED of coarse!


I used layers of good quality household paint – mat acrylic that dries quickly.

REMEMBER – Layers create depth!


Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, House Renovation, The Garden

Recycling Old Oak Beams

It’s 2007 — and we’re stripping out the floor joists from what will be our new lounge area.


Move on to 2012 — November. Decide to use some of these old oak floor joists to construct two raised plant beds for some yew hedging plants.


The worst part was dragging and man-handling them the 50 metres up to the house from their pile in the garden.

I leveled the lower beams, chocking them up with pieces of flat paving, and cutting to length with the chainsaw.

Then selected other lengths to lay on top, turning them around and flipping them over, to try and get the best contact so that they sat snug and stable.

Their heavy weight was enough to keep them in place.

The porous garden sheeting was cut to size and draped over each side of the ‘bed’ which would keep the soil in place when infilling.

When I’d filled each trough (bed) with soil, compost and a bag of horse manure, the rest of the sheeting was turned back over the top, then cut through every 50cm to take each of the ten yew saplings.

Then I finished off with a gravel mulch.


Posted in Blog, DIY Hints & Tips, House Renovation, Tools & Materials, TUTORIALS

Our Old Flagstones get a New Home

…. from a pile of slabs……. to a classy stone floor ….here’s how…

opus romain patternslabs laid out in the courtyard
We laid these flagstones in an “Opus Romain” pattern — laying the flags in regular rows,  but varying the row-width across adjacent rows.

You need to decide beforehand on which widths you are going to use. Commercially available flooring in this pattern usually come in 3 widths; for example, 60cm, 45cm and 30cm. The lengths of the individual slabs will vary so that each width will have say a couple of rectangular sizes and maybe a square size.

“Sounds complicated?” “Not really, once you see a picture or two of how the pattern works, it all pretty obvious.”

Opus Romain stone flooring

…….so onto a few ‘Tips & Tricks’…….

  • Sizing  the Flagstones : This is perhaps the trickiest part of the job! There are no hard and fast rules—you need to assess what you have to work with and try and work out the best width options to choose—to achieve a pleasing pattern without undue waste.
  • Essential Tools — Angle Grinder (preferably with a diamond/carbide disc), club hammer and bolster cold chisel, eye protectors, ear protectors and face mask, tape measure, T-square and marking chalk or pencil.
  • Cutting stone with the grinder – make the straight cuts with the grinder steadily and evenly, letting the machine cut gradually to its maximum depth, around a few cms or so. It isn’t necessary to cut a stone “all-the-way-through.” Then with the bolster chisel inserted around the middle of the cut, give it a few sharp blows with the club hammer—and it should split away cleanly and easily.
  • As you can see in one of the images above, I’ve angled the grinder slightly “off-vertical” — undercutting the edge. This is a little trick to make it easier to lay the cut edges of the flags closer to each other, avoiding the chances of odd lumpy bits left after breaking stopping the close fitting of two adjacent flags.
  • Then carefully and gently tap along the top of the cut edges with the club hammer, chipping little fragments away to leave a more natural looking stone
  • Finally, should it be necessary to remove some stone from the underside of a particularly thick slab, make a series of close parallel cuts, and repeat again at 90°, and then chip these away carefully with the hammer and chisel. (A great way, incidentally, to make your own stone dice!).

"Opus Romain" style of laying paving
You may then decide whether to grout the spaces between the stone with a lime mortar — or simply brush in some sand or fine gravel. Depends on what look you’re after.

And if the floor is exposed to light and rain, then you’ll need to weed the cracks from time to time if they haven’t been grouted.

So give it a try and “Bonne Chance!”

Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, House Renovation, Tools & Materials

My Hemp Porridge — another great material for the DIY builder.

The wet gluey porridge that is hemp renderI happen to have a Scottish surname — and I do like porridge – but even I would baulk at a bowl of this for breakfast !

What is it?  —  It’s a mix of industrial grade vegetal HEMP fibre, (Cannabis sativa) — (Not to be confused with Indian Hemp — Cannabis Indica), LIME and WATER. We’ve used this material extensively as —

  • floor insulation
  • as rough render on open, porous stone walls to plug all the draughts and prevent rodent activity
  • and as a easy way to fill all those awkward places before starting the decorating stage.

DOWNLOAD OUR PDF for all the details:  Hemp Vegetal Fibre pdf

Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, House Renovation

The Upper Floor—Stage 2—the “Hourdis” —Feb 2008

hourdis pre-concreteFollowing on from the previous post, as each of the poutrelles were set in place, all the rest of the hollow concrete blocks were dropped into place between them. Until the concrete is poured, care must be taken when moving around on these blocks—they can crack and fracture by excessive rough treatment, so it is best practice to walk over them from poutrelle to poutrelle.steel trellis

In this shot of the courtyard from the old balcony you can see all the remaining palettes of blocks plus the 8 or 10 steel trellis grids. These are set on top of the blocks, cut, overlapped, and wired together as necessary, so that when the ready-mx is poured, this steel reinforcement in effect “floats” within the concrete layer.

To finish preparing the east end of the building for the new floor, all the existing floorboards, roof tiles, and roof timbers had to be completely stripped out. We had hoped to save and leave two of the original roof trusses in place but on inspection they were in too poor a state for it to be worthwhile. Using the crane and Ed’s help, we had this section down and cleared in just a day.Stripping the lounge area

And finally, by way of magic, here is an image of the new floor slab, all ready to continue the new block work up to roof level. I must have waylaid the camera for a few days as I can’t for the life of me uncover any photos of this part of the building after the above image was taken until this one with the floor in place. New poured concrete floor

Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, House Renovation

Upper Floor – Support Work – Stage 1 – February 2008

Beams and Blocks for concrete floor The delivery of all the beams, blocks and steel for the upper floor support was unloaded into the courtyard in early 2008. In France, this type of floor — poured ready-mix concrete on top of a beam and block support with steel trellis reinforcement — is refereed to a an “hourdis” (pron. ‘oardee’ ). The RSJs are ordered to length such that they span the width of the floor area and penetrate about 20 cm into the wall at both ends. They are a sort of short, stumpy capital T shape in cross-section and are set in place “upside down” (inverted T shape ) such that the hollow concrete blocks when dropped in between each pair of beams, rest on the protruding inverted top of the T.

RSJs in place

In the image above, you can see how we’ve used a block at the ends of each set of beams to act as spacers. As each beam is positioned, the next beam adjacent to it is then placed with a spacer block. This ensures that when all the remaining blocks are dropped in between the beams, they will all fit!  Don’t need to measure anything and this method allows for any small irregularities in the sizes of the beams and blocks.

Gîte floor joists

Cutting the slots for the joist endsThose beams at the gîte end, that lay across the width of the building, had to be housed into the existing stonewall. If sufficient loose stone could not be safely removed, then we had to cut slots into the stone with an angle grinder, which created dust clouds worthy of a Saharan Sandstorm!  Depending upon the future room layout and stairwells, etc, 2 and sometimes 3 beams were laid adjacent to one another, for greater load-bearing strength at that locality, and to facilitate adding shorter cross beams when creating open spaces for stairwells.

Read Stage 2

Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, House Renovation

Passageway Arch—Gardenside

Arch formwork in the passagefirst stones in placeWe continued working along the back (north-facing) side of the property, building the walls back up to first floor level, so that we could set the “poutrelles” in position to prepare the first floor for the concrete slab.  The passageway between the courtyard and the garden had some ugly concrete blocks supporting a decrepit bit of wood acting as a lintel for all the stone above it. So all this came down and we replaced it with a new cut stone arch. Passageway archIn the large image below left, the future gîte area fills the right-hand side of the photo, and the north-facing facade of the main house ( to the east of this passageway) fills the left-hand side of the photo.

Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, House Renovation

The Courtyard Wall—Stage 6—Finished at last!

Archway finishedNot a lot left to say—the poor old climbing rose on the right of the image has survived all the abuse that came with being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It has wonderful deep blood-red blooms in early summer so we hope it now thrives in its new setting.

View through the archAnd by this stage I’d managed to use most of the good stone, and clear the courtyard of the remaining rubble—although it did make quite a mountain out in the back garden.

The courtyard clear of stone at last

Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, House Renovation

The Courtyard Wall—Stage 5

Once I had all the arch stones mortared in place, I ran an oak timber on the inside behind the arch to finish spanning the opening. Further dry stone was then added in courses as usual. I wanted two or three shallow courses of stone above the arch to reach the final height.

dry stoning above the archThe image on the left below was taken from the old balcony and the image to the right is a good illustration of ‘the Double’ – one line of face stones to the outside, and a second to the inside, with the middle filled with smaller locking stones.

dry stone courses above the archAnd the view from the front……………….almost finished. I’ll need to find a solvent or some other method for removing the painted numbers on each of the arch stones. The farmer I bought the arch from had marked each stone as he’d demolished it. Essential maybe, but now, 10 years on, maybe not so easy to get rid of.

Arch from the front almost finished