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Archive for the ‘The trials of renovation…’ Category

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b&b entrance wide

towel+toiletries

lamp detail

mirror med

artist studio

breakfastroom

emilie_room

anne_room

isolde_room

paintings

spring

summer

autumn

cookery

olive picker cropped 4 desktop

rose

sausage

croisade canal med

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la rigole

narbonne market 1

wintercanal 2

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Six years on, and I now have pictures of before and after the  renovations…

the house as I bought it…

… and what it looks like today…

the old attic…

… and the new.

an old attic room…

…and the new roof terrace…

the old cellar…

… turned into breakfast room…

the original sitting room

… turned into comfortable living space…

the old basement…

… is now a modern kitchen with woodoven…

and the old backdoor…

is now the B&B entrance

The old facade on the Medieval ‘sentinel’s path’…

… and the new facade on the same old ‘Chemin de Ronde’….

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the maggot-like 'eaters' that do all the damage...

Termites are bad things. They have a voracious appetite for moist wood and to get to this, they’ve been known to munch and crunch through 2 inches of concrete!  They also operate a frighteningly effective communication system and have a collective intelligence that should make us shudder. Some experts reckon that if we humans only had a fraction of their intuitive and collective intelligence we would now be inhabiting a dozen planets.  So no, I am not happy that they’ve found a million or so of these nasties in my house.

completely destroyed supporting beam

Within their colony there are eaters, soldiers and flyers – each has their role to play and all of them die almost immediately when exposed to light. Because they live their lives in the dark, they are transparent white-ish, looking like albino ants.  The ‘eaters’ (above right) were found munching away underneath the plaster that covered a supporting beam in the basement. Not only could we could put a fist through the hole in the beam, but a head would have fitted through it as well!  The beam, needless to say had to be replaced… But at the same time I had to decide on the kind of radical treatment that would eliminate these beasts forever from my house.

I chose the more environmentally-friendly method of TRAPS, rather than having 1500 litres of poison injected in my beams.  The latter option is in my opinion only temporary (albeit for 10 years) as it merely creates a barrier – so the termites will look for other wood for as long as the poison puts them off. The trap-method involves small traps being placed both in and outside the house.  These are filled with wood or a moist woodpaste (‘cake’ to the termites since they feed on cellulose) to which a chemical has been added that renders them infertile.  Because they no longer reproduce, it takes a year and a half to wipe out the entire colony. The treatment expert comes and checks the traps every 6 weeks and only when no termites have been found for a year, are the indoor traps removed.  The outdoor traps stay in place for yearly check-ups and serve as a warning system.

Naturally, I wasn’t able to start renovations until the termites were eradicated – which took the bulk of two years. Renovations have taken another two years, but that is another story…

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some north-facing windows...

I bought my house because I fell in love with its light – it seemed to cascade in through the tall elegant windows.  I just couldn’t get enough of it (understandably of course, after 25 years in Ireland).  Like in Africa, the light here changes not only with the weather but with each progressing hour of the day. Apart from obvious benefits for artists, light also touches us in a primordial way – a simple glance at the sky can tell a thousand tales…

Southern facade

Now, you may think that it is normal to have lots of light in a house in the south of France, but then you’d be wrong. The Languedoc summers (I’m talking July and August) are hot, sometimes very hot, and the locals have got used to protect themselves from this heat by closing their shutters and windows – hiding themselves in the cooler dark and gloom…

What was special about this house, was that most of the windows faced north (unusual almost everywhere). This means that only on the south side the windows need to be closed against the heat, leaving the rest to let in the light…

the roof-terrace to be...

The house was a mess of course and needed lots of restoration work. But I had no intention to shutter myself in the dark for part of the year, so I budgeted and planned accordingly.  I had been told all was in order (in France it is the vendor who is responsible for the surveying of the property and an  expert’s report on the presence of lead, asbestos and termites, is needed for the completion of any sale

basement...

(since 2010 this certificate also includes aspects of insulation). I booked my flight to France to sign the acte de vente and it was only then that the notaire (solicitor) handed me the official document with the findings (it is not illegal to leave this till the last moment, but it’s not very honest either). The expert’s report stated that old traces of termites had been found in the kitchen, but I knew that termites tend to re-visit places they know.  Naturally, the owner was not very happy about having to fork out money on a pre-sale anti-termite treatment but the law demanded it and I insisted, so he agreed.  A return visit was organised a few weeks later, I was given a (photocopied) guarantee to prove the house had been treated by a reputable firm and since it all went through a solicitor, I thought all was well and signed the contract…  Some eighteen months later, after I had moved in, the renovation work started.  It was the 3rd of January, and the renovations finished on the same day. When lifting the old terre cuite tiles in the attic, the builders had found live termites…

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