Category Archives: Practical Articles

Damp Walls–How to get them dry

Damp Walls--How to get them dry damp-walls-01
Houses in situations like this often have damp walls. Pic: Rod Fleming

In the past walls were rendered and plastered with lime. Lime is a truly wonderful material that can be bent to a whole series of uses, but as a render on stone it is unsurpassed. It ‘breathes’, allowing moisture to escape and suppressing damp walls. This is because it is very porous. So why are there damp walls in so many old houses today? Continue reading Damp Walls–How to get them dry

Roofs in France

Roofs in France roof-head-wee-225x300France is divided, basically, into the north, where tuiles plats were traditional roof covering tiles, and the south, where tuiles romaines are found. There is a line just south of Chalon sur Saone where you can see this change quite clearly, and you know you have officially entered le sud, even though the Mediterranean is still hundreds of miles away. I always stop for a glass of wine in a café when I pass this point. Roofs in the north, with their flat tiles, tend to be steeply pitched, whereas in the south the pitch is much more gentle. Continue reading Roofs in France

Wood in Traditional Building 2: Poplar and Pine

Wood in Traditional Building 2: Poplar and Pine 2002-06-10room07cr.wee_-233x300
Pic: Rod Fleming

The next two timbers to consider are Poplar and Pine.

 

Poplar.

Everyone will be familiar with the beautiful poplar trees that make valleys in Burgundy and elsewhere so charming to the eye. Poplar produces straight-grained timber of prodigious length. The wood is soft and easy to cut, and it holds nails very well. It resists splitting firmly because is has an interwoven grain, so it is tricky to plane well; better to use a power plane. But poplar is in any case best kept for rough work.

It has two big disadvantages; it can to warp severely as it dries, so great care must be taken in stacking; and insects just love it. Poplar should never be used unless it is treated or painted, or else the woodworm will have a field day. However, it is reasonably resistant to rot, and as long as it is used with care, is a useful timber. It is cheap and plentiful, light and easy to handle.

Unfortunately, poplar is usually grown individually, in long thin avenues, or as windbreaks along the edges of fields, and more rarely in plantations. Its presence in the beautiful valleys of central France is a great asset visually. However, this causes a problem when it is cut for timber. Continue reading Wood in Traditional Building 2: Poplar and Pine

Wood in Traditional Building 1: Oak

Wood in Traditional Building 1: Oak oak-framing-203x300
Pic: Rod Fleming

Wood is, along with stone and earth, one of the principal materials used in the construction of buildings, and particularly older buildings. It is important to have some understanding of the nature of wood, its uses in the older house and some sympathy for its virtues as well as its limitations.

Timber is used in a wide variety of applications, and the most important of these are the support structure for floors; the roof timbers and associated work; and the interior finishing timber. Timber is also used in the construction of interior walls and in many areas in the construction of supporting walls.

There are three timbers commonly found in older buildings in France, namely oak, poplar and pine. Other timbers are often found as parts of outhouses and sheds.

Oak (Quercus sp) Continue reading Wood in Traditional Building 1: Oak

Why your house is damp and how to fix it 2

Why your house is damp and how to fix it 2 traditional-tuiles-plats-214x300
An old building in Burgundy roofed with traditional tiles

Damp in your old house and how to deal with it.

Part Two in a series explaining where dampness in old buildings comes from and what you can do to combat it. Most of the advice is applicable anywhere.

Before worrying about how to get rid of dampness that is already in the house, it makes sense to make sure no more can get it first. There are a number of important areas where unwanted moisture can make it into your house. The roof is the easiest to deal with so we’ll tackle it first.

Continue reading Why your house is damp and how to fix it 2