Damp in your old house and how to deal with it. Part Two in a series explaining where damp 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.
Just about the first thing that everyone notices when they get their dream house in France, and I base this on an admittedly unscientific but extensive post-prandially-conducted survey, is the damp. Unless they have bought in the Midi, of course. For those further north or west, it is a big issue.
Ask anyone yourself. You’ll soon see that this is the case. You might be forgiven for thinking that parts of France were perpetually under water, from the stories you hear. They’re not; it just can seem that way.
In order to get some sense of perspective on this, let’s examine a few facts. Large areas of France are indeed very wet. A quick glance at the map will show that weather systems coming in from the Atlantic under the prevailing westerly wind have a choice; they can either swing up north and east and drench Wales, Ireland, the north west of England and of course Scotland, or they can slip in over the Bay of Biscay and take up residence in France, where they will be nicely bottled up due to the fact that from the Med to the Rhine Basin there is a rampart of mountains which prevents any further progress.
I understand that this is to do with the exact position of the jetstream, a system of ferocious winds at very high altitude.
Normally, summers in Central France are reasonably dry and very warm. Just what the holidaymaker likes, apparently, and perfect for ripening all that lovely plonk.
Not for the French the quaint Anglo-Saxon habit of neighbouring towns staggering their half-days—or even taking half-days in the first place.
On Monday, the whole of France is as dead as that chap they poisoned on St Helena. You know the one. In fact, I think he was responsible for it. And of course, the reason is quite fair; all the shops are open on Saturday so that the people who don’t work in shops can do their shopping, and why should the commercants and their staff not enjoy a proper two-day weekend?
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?
Life certainly has an interesting tapestry here in P’tit Moulin. This morning I was awakened at some ungodly hour—well, just before ten actually, but I am semi-nocturnal—by an excessively enthusiastic clangour (good word that) of my front door bell, of which more later.
Well, I threw on a pair of jeans and a T and went to see who had disturbed the peace in this manner, and there on my doorstep was a rather scruffy individual, definitely of the traditional French horny-handed persuasion. Behind him was a truck that looked, to my bleary and unaided vision, even older and more dilapidated than my Isuzu, and that’s saying something.
He must have recognised my absence of recognition. ‘Sir,’ he said (in French of course, I’m just trying to make it easy for you. Do keep up.) ‘Sir, the last time I passed you said you had some scrap.’
Penetrating damp is the result of water coming through the walls.
Once you’re sure no water is coming through the roof by following the previous articles in this category—and the saving grace of that kind of leak is that it is very obvious and marks its presence clearly—the next issue is this one. Here’s an excellent overview of the problem.
I’ll take time for another of my provocative asides here. I’m pretty convinced—actually I am totally convinced—that there is no significant problem of rising damp in most traditionally built houses, at least as long as they have been left that way. Note that last bit. I’ll come back to this later.
Meantime, if we discount the possibility of rising damp in most cases, we must look elsewhere for the source of water and there are two issues to address here.
I met Denis Poulot by the old lavoir as I ambled down to the Salle des Fetes. We’ve known each other for 24 years now; we’ve never been especially close but we share a relaxed camaraderie. We paused in our journeys to shake hands and exchange formalities, then carried on. Inevitably, this being Bastille Day, 14 July and we were both going to the ceremonial vin d’honneur, we chatted about Bastille Days past.
Denis drew up and looked into the distance. ‘It’s not the same any more.’
Molinot is a village deep in the Arriere Cote of Burgundy, has been a part of my life since 1993. In those days, the village was famous for the extravagance of its Bastille Day celebrations and people would come from miles away to enjoy them. Indeed, ours was so popular that many villages around had their celebrations on another day, since all the locals were at ours; and of course we reciprocated, making for a thoroughly convivial week.
Postmodernism is an intellectual disease that strikes that the very heart of Western democracy. It was founded by the cynical French intellectual Jacques Derrida, an old-school Marxist who realised that in the era of Stalin, when he was writing, truth itself was dangerous.
We in the West are lucky. We live in the most varied, rich and progressive culture the world has ever known. Its foundation is in science. Science gives us a true way to understand the world and indeed, the universe we live in. While it may have no absolute certainties, as a body it represents the most reliable, accurate and sustainable system of knowledge humanity has even known. It is also the biggest, by far, repository of learning. That is why the unholy alliance of feminism and the cult of anti-science is as dangerous as it is: because it seeks to destroy science as the basis of our culture and replace it with mumbo-jumbo. Continue reading Feminism: a cancer that destroys the matriarchy — and our culture.→
Last week we had the first wedding in Molinot for five years. The Bride and groom have been together for years and decided to make it all official. It was a lovely event, very redolent of a rural France that is fast disappearing. Yes folks, la France Profonde is contracting. Soon it won’t be there at all.
Meantime it was nice to see an event like this, with all the colour, hilarity and distinctly earthy humour. This is the Arriere-Cote.
I don’t know when we’ll see the next wedding in Molinot, so better enjoy this one.
Non-Politically Correct Writing and Photography by Rod Fleming and Guests