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 Courtyard Wall—Stage 2—2009

First arch stones left hand side in placeIn the 2 year interval since starting the wall—see post Stage 1—a lot of work had been completed on the ruined end of the property, as you can see in the photo above. It is no longer a ruin, but we were yet to move into it! I’d continued to add to the wall off and on, an hour here, a morning there, throughout these two years, until the point came when I needed to clear the courtyard of all the mix of rubble, and stone that had accumulated. It was time to crack on with the wall and get the archway underway.

First Arch stone in placeCrane lifting the first stoneHaving the crane obviously makes a huge difference to what one can achieve safely and quickly, especially when working alone. The control module for the crane—at the end of 20m of heavy cable—is used on the ground and occasionally Denise used the controls whilst I steadied the stones and gave her instructions to position the stone exactly. The crane had just enough reach but at its maximum extension, heavy weights do tend to ‘bounce’ a little due to the jib flexing under the load. Can be quite exciting at times!

3 Arch Stones in place

Posted in Blog, HOUSE & GARDEN, House Renovation

The House as was—circa 2005

2005 courtyard facade from the south
2005— the courtyard and front facade of the house

Here is a photomontage of the house as seen from the south, looking north. I pieced together the image quite a while ago without the use of any image-merging software, but it still gives a good enough impression of the style and state of the building. Continue reading “The House as was—circa 2005”