Monday, December 11, 2006


...has it really been so long since I posted? Well, things have been moving along and I promise to get it all down in writing soon. Keep watching this space!

Monday, September 25, 2006

You Oughta Know

If there's anyone out there considering restoring a ruin, allow me to offer you three tips that might -- just might -- save your sanity:

1. Don't visit your ruin when it is raining.

When in the midst of restoring a ruin, always remember that grey and rainy skies can be far more illuminating than sunshine. On these dismal days, every flaw in your house -- the cracked walls, the sunken roof, the dangling wires, the sad, straggly garden -- will seem larger than life, as if someone has placed a giant magnifying glass in front of them. You will see everything, everything, that is wrong and you will be gripped with the terrible knowledge that you could not rid yourself of the house even if you wanted to at this point, because who would want this heap of junk? You will feel trapped and horrified. You will wonder if the villagers who think you crazy are right.

You can skip all this angst-making stuff by not going to your house when it rains. Or, if you're very sensitive, even when it's overcast. However, if a rainy day sojourn is unavoidable, just keep reminding yourself that any rising desire to flee is just the weather talking. The feeling WILL pass. When the sun comes out, you WILL love your house again. Maybe it's only because the sun is blinding you, but who cares?

2. Don't believe your worker when he says he's coming "next week."

While it's true that he very well might come "next week", there's no point in believing him until it actually happens. Trust me: a big dose of cynicism here is a healthy thing. It'll save you from feeling the sharp claws of betrayal when "next week" arrives and he's nowhere in sight. This way, you can just shake your head, laugh, and say, "Oh that crazy worker...I just knew he wouldn't show!"

That said, this doesn't mean that you can't get back at your truant worker by harassing him with a barage of annoying telephone calls and faxes. Dawg, correctly not trusting the "next week" response, has been bedeviling our carpenter in this manner for the past 3 weeks. We knew we were getting to him because by the end of last week, he stopped taking Dawg's calls. And, sure enough, today, he showed up at the house. Turns out, he wasn't able to get in because the mason put a new lock on the front gate and no one had the key, but that's another story.

3. Don't tear down old telephone/electrical wires without protective goggles.

Two weekends ago, while working downstairs with Red, I hear a crash and then a yelp from upstairs. I call out to Dawg, who has been yanking down old telephone cables, to see if he's okay. He answers: "I don't know." This response is mildly worrying -- it wouldn't be difficult to get injured here -- so I dash upstairs. Dawg is standing there on the 1st floor landing, a wire cable dangling from his hand, a smattering of blood on his t-shirt. "Is it bad?" he asks me, hopefully. It isn't. It's just a scratch on his cheek. No worse than a shaving cut, I tell him. Dawg feels somewhat robbed of his moment of high drama until he realizes that it could have been bad. "It could have scratched out my eye!" he declares, "I should have been wearing protective goggles!" I agree, it certainly could have been bad, and he definitely should have been wearing protective goggles. I offer to get the camera to document his narrow escape. Dawg agrees that this is the right move. So, here is Dawg, taking one on the cheek for the house.

Don't let this happen to you.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Moving so fast looks like we're standing still

Oh wait - we are we standing still.

Okay, yes, we knew that nothing was going to happen in August. But still, it was so, so sad to come back, refreshed and optimistic, and see our poor house looking as pitiful as ever. There's really no point in me posting more pictures. The interior looks the same as it did in July -- jacked up. The exterior is a bit better: one attic window that was protruding has been fixed. And the grey, crumbling stone around some of the lower windows have been replaced with sparkling white stone. And we hear that a supporting pillar has been installed in our cellar. Tiny steps. Itsy-bitsy movement. We're crawling, ovah heah.

Don't mind my moaning. It's our own fault that we forgot what the house looked like during vacation. We got waaaay ahead of ourselves. When the architects visited us in July, they brought us electrical and heating plans of the house. Unlike the discussion of The Best Way to Replace Rotting Beams, talk about electrical and heating plans is fun. When you're building your own house or doing extensive renovations, you, the owner, get to decide where you'd like each electrical outlet, off/on switch, and heater in every room. This is no simple task, since that means you must also be able to envision what each room will look like, furniture and all, even when the room doesn't yet exist.

Take the bedroom for example. Naturally, we want electrical outlets on either side of our bed for reading lamps, clocks and the like. But where will the bed go? The bedroom is big enough to have a few options. We want to make sure we make the right choice because once the electrical outlets are in place, we're pretty much committed. (I mean, think about it: when you rent an apartment or buy a house, you set up your bedroom according to the space and the location of the outlets, don’t you? Yes, you do.) We don’t want to have extension cords trailing across the room, or wake up one day and say – damn! Why did we put the bed so close to the door/near the fireplace/far away from the radiator? So, it deserves quite a bit of thought. And that’s what we did on our vacation: we looked at our plans, tried to envision each of our rooms with basic furniture, and plot our sockets and heaters accordingly. (That said, we were not working from scratch. The electrical and heating plans from the architects gave their recommendations – we modified the plans to fit our vision.)

It was so exciting to envision our house as it could be. We imagined it clean, dust-free, with actual floors. A bed here, a closet there, overhead lights everywhere. We contemplated the configuration of our bathrooms (where should the stand-alone tub go? The walk-in shower? The heated towel racks?), whether the hallway needed an extra radiator (yes), and the best place to put the boiler (the front part of the cave). All this was reasonable and fun, but then we got carried away. We started visualizing the tiles for the bathroom floor… the style of faucets we’d have…the type of material for the double sink….the huge, stainless steel refrigerator in the kitchen….parties in the garden…cozy fires in the library…. friends in guests room….In other words, by the time the vacation was over, in our minds, the house was already built.

So, it was shocking, nay, horrifying, to return from vacation to find the house the derelict heap of rubble that it is. We immediately got on the phone to the workers. They won’t be able to start again until mid-September. At the earliest.

Well, at least we’re ready.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Inching forward

Now that we're making forward progess on the house instead of backward, I'll be keeping better record of the goings-on there. (Though don't look for any posts in August since all of France, including us, will be on vacation.)

We went to examine our little maison abandonee last weekend and it's looking much less abandoned these days. Scaffolding has sprouted like vines all over its exterior, and if you know where to look, you'll see that repairs have been made. For example, a large stone in the wall on the north side of the house was protruding several inches from the rest of the house, due to an attic beam that had been slowly pushing it out of place for several decades. That beam was repaired in January and now the wall has magically been repaired as well. A bright new white stone shines down on us from in between the scaffolding.

We also noticed that the horrible, non-breathable concrete that someone slathered into the exposed stone on the south side of the house in the hopes of delaying decay has been chiseled away.

The interior is also changing. Slowly. The majority of the work has been done in the attic, where all the old rotten beams have been removed and replaced with lovely new pine beams. The new beams have been covered with large, flat wooden boards (can't remember what you call them), but now we can walk around up there without fear of falling into the the downstairs guest bathroom. Or rather, "guest bathroom."

We also were pleased to see that our work chipping away the plaster from the beams around the perimeter of the house was not in vain. We discovered several decaying beams on that freezing day and now most of those beams have been removed. New oak beams lie on the floor in the library, waiting to do their duty for the house.

While these works were going on, Reliable Red, our fabulous English neigbor, did a bang-up job cleaning out the cave (cellar) in our barn. Like the house and the yard before it, the cave was filled with decades of junk and dirt -- but unlike the house and the yard, it is pitch-black down in that cellar and thus not so easy to clean.

So there it is. And now we're off for vacation.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dusty work

Taking up those walls/floors creates a tremendous amount of dirt and dust. Here are a few pictures of the dust created as Dawg and Red shovel it out of the house.

Gutted like a fish, part III - Look Ma! No floors!

This is our bedroom as viewed from the kitchen. Pretty wild, huh? It's hard to see in these pictures, but the staircase and fireplace are being held up with metal stabilizers. Also you can see in the 3rd picture that (most of) the wall with the hideous wallpaper has been torn down (compare with "gutted like a fish, part II, 1 & 2nd pix). Having difficulty orienting yourself? Look at the 4th picture: the master bathroom is to the right of the staircase.

Are we rebuilding this house or what?

Gutted like a fish - part II

Here, the first picture is a "before" and the rest are "afters". As you (might be able to) see, the walls between the hallway and the master bedroom and master bathroom have been torn down. The walls with the hideous wallpaper you see in the "before" pictures have since also been torn down. Again, all this was done in order to replace the beams on which those walls rested. See the beams and joists on the floor? Those are the same ones as in the earlier "kitchen" pictures. All of them are gone now. In other words, there is no floor/ceiling between this half of the ground and first floor. Just a huge open space. Let me see if I can find pictures....

Gutted like a fish - part I

Here's a before and after of the "kitchen" (or rather, an "after," "before," and "after). Well, it's not so much pictures of the kitchen, as pictures of the room behind the wall of the kitchen. We knocked down the wall between the kitchen and what was, and will be again, the downstairs bathroom/laundry room. We had to do this because the main beam running through the kitchen/bathroom and several of the smaller beams need to be replaced due to years of neglect and water damage.

Once we knocked the wall down, we were tempted to figure out how to leave the space open because, as you can see, a wonderful light comes in through the large bathroom window, and the kitchen could use a little more light. But as we don't want to change the character of the house too much, we'll probably rebuild it as it was before. In our 9-month house search, we have seen some really dreadful attempts to modernize/improve the structure and space of otherwise beautiful old homes, and it would be very embarrassing to wake up one day to realize that we've become the very assholes we've mocked.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Anyone still there? It's me...the really old house owner....hello? HELLO?

I'm very sorry for my absence. I have no real excuse except to say not much has changed since I last wrote. In March, we took up more floors, knocked away the plaster covering the beams on the house's perimeter, discovered more rotting beams. In April, we tore down some walls. These days, in some parts of the house, you can see straight up to the roof from the ground floor. That's how much stuff we've torn down; how many gaping holes we've made. I know that all this destruction is considered progress -- there's no way to get a stable, secure house without doing this -- but at times it sure don't feel like it.

The worst was in February and March, where not only were we constantly tearing down everything, watching our beautiful house turn to dust and rubble, but we were doing all this dirty, tiring work in the freezing cold. Sometimes, I would have to sit in the car with the heat blasting, waiting until my fingers unfroze enough for me to continue. And sometimes, if we needed to warm-up but didn't want to go to the car, we would simply step outside the house for a minute or two. Yep, that's right. In the winter, it's warmer outside the house than inside.

Okay, I bet now you're picturing me and Dawg as proficient and knowledgeable craftsmen, rubbing our dust-streaked chins as we stare thoughtfully at blueprints; wielding our crowbars and sledgehammers with inimitable skill, grimly continuing to labor until the job is done, despite artic-like conditions.

It's not like that.

To tell the truth, Red, our neighbor, does most of the work during the week. By the time we get there on Saturday, there's very little left to do. We spend maybe two or three hours working, and then spend another two or three hours eating lunch and guzzling wine at Red's family's chateau. Or sometimes we work for an hour or two, then go to the nearest bed and breakfast, rent a room for the afternoon, take a hot shower, take a two-hour nap, and return to Paris. We're the laziest house-restorers you'd ever want to meet.

Anyway, I suppose it's not entirely true that nothing has changed since I last posted. To keep things simple, here are the top 5 things that have occurred since I last wrote:

1. The house is warmer. And not just because it's now June. No doubt tired of my incessant whining about the cold, Dawg and Red finally cleaned out and opened the fireplace on the ground floor. Now, we can have a lovely, huge blaze going while we work. It doesn't warm the whole house, so, to get warm you have to keep returning to the fireplace (at times I actually sit in the fireplace), but it's really nice to have something in the house that not only keeps your warm, but actually works! Other than the roof, the front doors, a few beams and the stairs, this fireplace is the only thing in the house that currently serves a purpose.

2. We got electricity. Despite my insistence that this house has nothing, it does have electrical wires (some of them appearing in frighteningly random places) and a circuit box. To our surprise, we learned that all we needed to do to get power in the house is call EDF and have them flip a switch. Red made the call for us, and now our house has more juice than a smoothie bar. But fat lot of good it does us - because the wires are scarily dangling all over the house, we are only keeping one outlet live. How we do this, I don't know, but Dawg and Red assure me that all other wires in the house are currently (or current-less, ha!) harmless. Better hope so.

3. We have flowers. Or rather, we had flowers. Last November, Dawg's sister very kindly, though naively (she had yet to see the yard), gave us Daffodil bulbs to plant in our junk-filled wilderness. And we gamely did, one very cold December day. I remember that we looked doubtfully at the little mounds we created amid the rubble and weeds, and wished them luck. But apparently, they didn't need luck -- daffodils can grow just about anywhere. For, one day when we went to the house in late March, there they were, rising up beside rusted metal and old ceramic sinks, or pushing through the stony ground at the back wall, bright and pretty as anything. Yes, their loveliness was a bit incongruous what with all the other havoc occuring in the yard, but it was still a very pleasing sight and happy reminder of what our garden will one day be. Pictures to come.

4. We got a mailbox. Okay, I'm stretching for stuff here, but it was very exciting to get the key and see our name (well, Dawg's name) on the box. And yes, we do get mail. Flyers for local events, store circulars, and - only days after EDF turned on our electricity - our first electricity bill. For 259 euros. Which seemed awfully high, considering that we've never actually used any electricity. Luckily, the person Dawg spoke to at EDF was very understanding (this is not something one can assume 'round these parts) and we got a 259 credit on the next bill.

..and last, but far from least.....

5. We got some state money to restore the house! Incredible, but true. For my birthday, a friend gave me an amazing book called, "Fermes & Maisons Villageoises: 30 exemples de rehabilitation" which details 30 house/farm restoration projects in various villages around France. If you're restoring a near-ruin in France for the first time, it really is a must-have. For each project, the book shows before and after pictures, miniature blueprints or floor plans, detailed descriptions of the works undertaken, the cost of the entire project and the length of time it took to complete it. It also has a glossary of construction terms, listings for architects, artisans and other workers, and -- best of all -- a bunch of public organizations that deal with the safeguarding and restoration of old houses. One of these organizations is called Fondation du Patrimoine ( Clever Dawg realized that, under certain conditions, this outfit actually gives money toward the restoration of old homes. And not only that -- if you are awarded a grant from them, you are entitled to deduct up to 100% of certain building costs from your taxes!

Basically, to get a grant from them, your home must be:

-- old (how old was never really clear - we think our house was built around 1850, give or take 20 years, and that was old enough);

-- in close proximity to a landmark, in an protected area or in a natural park (our house is next to a landmark church dating from the 16th century);

-- be visible from the public space (this is key because they only pay for works that will be visible to the public eye. If we had needed a new roof, this really would have been a godsend!)

We figured we met all the requirements, so we put together a really slamming dossier, which included estimates from all the workers with regard to works visible to the public eye, photographs of the exterior of the house from every possible angle (including a reprint of an old postcard of the house from the turn of the 20th century), and a rockin description (prepared by our architects) of all the works, both exterior and interior, that will be done on the house.

We submitted the dossier in May and found out in June that it was accepted. We were granted 8% of the total costs of our exterior works. It's less cash than we'd hoped for but we're thrilled anyway since it means that we can deduct 50% of the cost of the exterior works from our 2006 taxes. That's some 30,000 euros!

Naturally, we're taking the friend who gave me the book out to a fabulous dinner. That book was the most expensive birthday gift I've ever received.

Monday, February 27, 2006

My First Rant

When Dawg and I first began looking for a house to restore, lots of people (mostly those that had already restored old houses) gave us frantic warnings about how tough it is. But when I tried to pin them down about what exactly was so difficult about it, nothing anybody said scary enough to make me rethink our decision. They said things like:

"It takes a long, long time."
"You have to watch the workers to make sure they don't cheat you."
"You have to make a lot of important decisions, like about where you want the sink and what color tiles you want."
"It costs a lot of money."

None of these reasons really fazed me. We're not living in the house as it gets restored. We've got Red there to look out for cheating workers. Worrying about where to put the sink are the least of our troubles. And as for money, well, even if we fully renovated the house with all the latest gadgets and installed a gigantic swimming pool with a waterfall and swim-up bar, the house would still be cheaper than a 100 sq. meter apartment in the center of Paris. Basically.

Anyway, I decided to keep this blog, not just to keep family and friends informed, but so that I could remember exactly what I would find so hard about house restoration. So far, it has had nothing to do with any of the items above, only this: dealing with multiple foreign languages.

Last weekend, our architect friends came from Berlin to see the latest developments on the house and talk to the workers we want to hire. This is always something that I look forward to, but then I remember: there is no single common language between the 6 of us -- only poor Dawg speaks English, French and German -- which inevitiably means that someone is left out. Usually, that someone is me.

I understand this. I am not the E.F. Hutton of construction. I have no gems to offer when it comes to the best way to replace a rotten beam, or whether a sagging wall needs extra support. (Dawg somehow does.) But, I still like to know what's going on. I mean, if the carpenter says that a concrete beam is appropriate, and the architects say only wood will do, I want to know why. How will each material affect the house? How will each affect the cost? I may not recognize a sagging wall when I see it, but I sure can recognize a dwindling bank account. Anything that affects it is something I need to know about. Plus, I'm interested.

But, alas, for me, being clued in is a transient thing. Listening to what goes on is like listening to a staticky radio. Here's how most conversations go:

Carpenter (in french): This main beam here really needs to be replaced in its entirety. I think we should use a kiosier and lieontion on the sidonsiet to make sure that it all belomoier l'amoastion, and won't fall down.

Architect #1 (in German): What'd he say?

Dawg (in German): He thinks the Klunonen needs to sozost ondopasohen zwodofacht die Koasidzt. Moewr gesdior mozoieren an.

Architect #1 (in German): Ask him reithins einen Noprecht bufeten zumil like a T?

Dawg (in French, to the carpenter): Don't you think that you should use a moeifier, you know, in a T-shape?

Carpenter (in French, gesturing): We could do that but it weighs 100 kilos and costs 2.45 euros per kilo which would be muchmoreexpensivethanusingtheamiser. I recommend glitre movier drissment l'opier. Plus, if you broiter it's going to be too heavy. So, you see that thisismoreefficient and quierier lache du meseret than what you might expect.

Architect #2 (nodding, understanding): I see. Okay. That's fine. So, hat mekozzien Motktcher miwkkoil getremosen?

Dawg (in French): Would the miovoir be more tuvriers afterward?

Carpenter (in French): Yes. Absolutely.

Architect #2 (in French): Good.

Dawg (in German): How can poiwelk the wall aiseft Moazzsocht Libmsser in that wall pirffketen an?

Architect #1 (in German): Wittag tizetes seitks the wall misoep gehtti mi asmieom camiotiosech in the wall msuss nur hat maiklpriwen wall Soimoro the wall stukizmeot Asoeimottzwieomicht in the wall getrummen einem Jemsttmsen the wall zeoptlsoweoioewrien the wall gleibe Nositammoack amsieoame the wall miwopaeprem stablized.

Dawg (in English to me): We're talking about walls, honey. I wanted to know if -- (in German) Hey what about taisocht gekospsmeop geospmemmen?

Architect #2 (in German): Just kospomap selsiten.

Dawg (in English): Okay. (In French) What we've been saying is if the wall is misateur maopu l'amiosi preais de mapempqe verior, then how can we use a aspoge oamque to stablize it?

Carpenter: Of course, for a crack like that we'd use an asopge mapoier that would lerastre d'umnier!

Dawg (in French): Okay, that's what the architects say too. (In English): How do you feel about that sweetie? Did you get all that?

Lola (pointing at a wall): Uh. Are you talking about whether that crack in the wall is going to --

Architect #1 (impatiently, in English): We're not talking about that wall yet, Lola. One thing at a time.

Carpenter (in French, moving on): We still need to discuss the kasois de parcitupent ossoir larostee.

Dawg (in French): Right. What I was thinking was --

Lola: Wait, Dawg. What just was just said here?

Dawg: Where's your french today?

Now imagine this type of conversation going on for 2 hours in a freezing cold, cobwebby house that has no bathroom. I was Not Happy. I don't like cold. And if I must be in a situation where I am forced to see my own breath for hours on end, there had better be a damn good reason for it.

Luckily, just as I was about to slip into a hypothermic-and-boredom-induced rage, Dawg and I came to an agreement that we would not leave a particular room without me knowing exactly what the issues are, and without me getting my questions out. He was very, very good about sticking to it, even when the others were impatient to move on. Thanks, sweetie. We can stay married.

Okay, rant over. Architects, if you're reading you know I love you both. But cut a sistah some slack, huh? Especially you, Architect # 1. You know what I'm talking about.

Real developments on the house, coming soon.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Before and after

I know it's hard to tell some of the "befores" from the "afters" so let me explain. The first two pictures are of fireplace in the future library. The picture doesn't accurately convey how truly disgusting it was to clean that fireplace out. But it looks pretty good now.

The second second set of pictures are of the front hall. The nice clean-looking picture is the "before." The one with the red stabilizing rods and piles of plaster is how it looks now.

The next two pictures are duplicates -- sorry, I couldn't erase them without having to start this whole post from scratch. Anyway, the picture is the "before" shot of the future kitchen. The ones of the bare brick walls (below) was taken after we knocked the plaster off the walls.

Where the floor went.

Our garden, de-jungled

And one day, there'll be grass!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Excavation Site

I tried to put these pics in chronological order, but blogger is being annoying so that didn't work out. Anyway, as you can see, the first two pictures are of the master bedroom and bathroom respectively, with the floor wholly and partially removed. And below, there's me and Dawg removing the tommettes in the bathroom. Have you ever seen a more industrious pair?

Catching up

How shameful that I've not blogged in so long! But don't think that we've been idle in my absence. Here's a quick recap of what's happened in the past few months:


  • Continued cleaning filthy house. Thrill of cleaning up shit begins to wear off after third consecutive weekend of doing so. We decide to take the next weekend off.
  • Hired local man (Jackee) and his incomprehensible son to remove piles of junk out barn and cellar. They do a fantastic job. We are relieved that we didn't have to do it.
  • Architects and co. came from Germany to meet with French workers! Interesting weekend. Are told that our roof needs to be cranked up (as if with a jack) to repair a beam underneath. We are apprehensive. Do not like the idea of raising the roof. But architects reassure us that this is normal. One french roofer looks dubious. We decide not to hire him.
  • Architects really tear into house. They uninhibitedly tear plaster off of walls, ceilings; break pieces of wood off windows, punch holes into things. Dawg and Lola watch anxiously, occassionally reminding each other, as we step over a new pile of rubble, that these are our friends and that we trust them. We really do.
  • Architects tell us that beam in the kitchen will need to be replaced. This is not a surprise. Even to our novice eyes, we can see that it is thoroughly rotten. We go from room to room, looking for problems. There is much discussion in rapid French and German about what needs to be done. Little effort is made to translate. Lola decides she hates everybody and sulkily takes car out for a spin in the countryside. Mood brights as she realizes that she could run off to Italy or even Greece, if she wanted, and no one could stop her! But in the end, she returns to the house. More effort is made to translate. We are all friends again.


  • Spend one weekend, per architect's intructions, scraping plaster off walls so that the brick or stone underneath is exposed. Heaps of crumbled plaster linger like snow drifts the kitchen and hallway. We are covered from head-to-toe in fine white powder. (Yes, we were wearing masks, mom). Despite all the plaster everywhere, house looks cleaner. Without plaster - no cobwebs!
  • We tire of scraping plaster off the walls. We'll have to get help.
  • Set up more meetings with electricians, plumbers, mason, carpenters, window-makers, and roofers. Beginning to get more familiar with French construction terms.
  • Have fun deciding where we want heaters and light switches to go. When electrician comes, go from room to room thinking of what makes the most sense. Excited by the idea that the house may actually one day have electric light and heat!
  • Receive first estimates for roof repair, electricity, heating, plumbing, and window repair. Prices make Lola feel queasy. Dawg is, as ever, unfazed. Dawg has no sense.

  • Meet with awesome carpenter who says that he can raise the roof, no problem. He fixed roof of local church - he can fix our roof. We trust him; Lola can even understand him. He's hired!
  • Meet with awesome window-maker. To preserve character of house, we want new windows that are as close to the originals as possible. The problem is double-glazing will change the character a bit. We have debate over whether to double-glaze. Dawg is more for aesthetics; that crazy Lola is more for warmth. For now, warmth wins.
  • We wait anxiously for more estimates to come in. None do.
  • Awesome carpenter (M. Dulion) agrees to stabilize our house in early Jan. Dawg worries obsessively that house will fall over Christmas holidays. It doesn't, of course.


  • First visit to the house of the year shows that M. Dulion (carpenter) has been there and stabilized it. To our surprise, we see that he has already completed the lifting of roof and repair of the beam! We are amazed and excited that the first construction works have been done.
  • Are told by M. Dulion that he needs to see all the beams in the kitchen and downstairs bathroom. This means that we have to remove the floor in the master bedroom and master bath. We are not sure how to do that, but are game. We call on our English neighbor, Red, for help. We ask him to begin removing the floor -- but to save some work for us so that we can brag to all our friends that we are capable of such hearty work.
  • We arrive at the house bright and early on Sat morning. Red has indeed removed half of the hardwood floor in the bedroom. The slats have been thrown down into the garden. We can still walk around in the bedroom, but we have to walk along the beams and joists. It is really cool to see the house exposed like this. Have never thought of how floors are held up or the intricate woodwork that lies beneath them. Now, when looking at a ceiling or a floor, it feels like I can see straight through them.
  • Dawg and Lola get to work. We tear off the tommettes (octogonal shaped red clay tiles) in the bathroom while Red finishes up the bedroom. We are very proud as we hammer and chisel away. There is a flutter of excitment as Red uses his chainsaw to cut the floor around the fireplace in the bedroom.
  • After removing the tiles in the bathroom, we see that the beams are covered with a layer of cement and plaster. Dawg and Red begin to break through the mixture. It creates an amazing amount of dust. Asthmatic Lola leaves to clean up the garden, which now has the remains of our bedroom floor piled in it. Feeling very rugged, she slings the floorboards over her shoulder and, four or five at a time, carries them into the garage. Not sure what we're saving them for. Maybe firewood. We know that we won't be putting them back into the bedroom. Tommettes are used throughout the rest of the house, and when we redo the bedroom floor, we'll put in new tommettes.
  • After floors are removed (since Red gave us a head start, we finish in a couple of hours), M. Dulion and the mason come to evaluate the beams. They are, in short, a mess. Particularly in the bathroom. Many will need to be replaced. For some beams, it is pretty obvious -- you can break off a handful of it, and it turns to sawdust in your hand. Others we have to trust his opinion (though we take lots of pictures to run by the architects). Anyway - the bottom line is that the estimate has to be redone and it'll be more expensive than we thought. This is not really a surprise. Everyone who has renovated or restored a house has warned us to expect what we pay out to be around 50% higher than our estimates. Still, this news hurts.
  • On the bright side, we buy a wheelbarrow!

Next up-- pictures of Lola and Dawg hard at work.