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Barn Progress: First Bay Floor Complete & We Have a Flat Lounge Floor! Only 4 More Bays To Go!

Another week of good progress and the hard work has really started!

It started with Scott finishing the first fix plumbing and electrical runs, with all the electrical wires fed through and protected within a plastic casing tube. This is a very good idea as not only does it protect the wires, but is easily visible if at any time in the future the floor needed to dug through again for any reason.

In France, when it comes to electrical installations, you must use a qualified electrician. We work very closely with a French qualified electrician who works with us, offers excellent advice and will be present at the end of the project when the conseil (council) come to do the final check off of the property. It must meet their standards and regulations for sign off and any changes they feel may need to be made are obligatory. Because a qualified electrician is require, Electrical installations can be very expensive. I would definitely advise phoning around and comparing prices and speaking to French and English electricians to compare prices. In fact, if choosing to outsource labour for any part of your project, always obtain at least 3 quotes from different contractors who preferably have been recommended through word of mouth.

It is difficult for both of us at the moment as we both wish we could spend more time with Summer, but we have to remind ourselves that that is exactly what we are doing this for in the long run. We dedicate each Sunday to her as a day for her to do what she likes with us as a family and no work involved. We call it "Summer Sunday's" or "Damoiselle Dimanches". We had planned to go on a bike ride and paint a family mural last Sunday, but after a long spell of sunshine, the rain decided to come and spoil our plans! Summer decided that she wanted to have a film day and for daddy to put up her ladybird swing chair which Nanny (one of her 4 nannies) had given her for Christmas, so that is what we did! She absolutely loves her chair swing and got to take it out in the sunshine the next day along with her amazing pop up tent - thank you Nanny!

A lot of hours and hard work has gone in this week. Our friend, Kevin, who, being a builder and roof specialist and having lived in France for the past 12 years, was actually recommended to us by the estate agent when we first viewed the house as the person to meet with for building advice and to check that the building was structurally sound. He is now a neighbour and has been a great support to us since we arrived. He has been involved in various aspects of the renovations from day one and we have built a good relationship both as friends and in working together, which is invaluable. We are very lucky to have found a friend who can work with us as when it comes to selecting a contractor, trust counts for so much!

Kev has various building machinery, including a large cement mixer and mini-digger, so whenever there is large scale work which is going to require either of the two, he is always the first we would call upon. He is currently working on a long term job some distance away, but was able to take some time out to give us 3 days this week with his cement mixer and wacker machine. Knowing we only had his expertise for those three days, it was all go with us rushing to try and get the floor prepared for cementing when he arrived.

Even though we put in all the hours we possibly could, with Scott working until 3am one night and us both working until 1am the next, we still didn't get quite as far as we would have liked before Kev's arrival, but almost!

It didn't help that after driving to our preferred builder's merchants for cost of bulk material runs at 45 mins away (Brico Depot) and collecting the second load of cement, Scott arrived back to find that the cement did not match that which we already had and although having been advised that this was the correct type to use, after checking with Kev, he was right in thinking it wasn't and was not as strong as a floor cement should be, so he had to go back a third time to exchange the second load for the correct type! Un-loading, re-stacking heavy bags of cement is quite a workout and not something we were hoping to do that many times!

As time is of the essence and from experience, we have learnt to plan our material runs as wisely and time effective as possible, so this was a huge annoyance and waste of time for us.

Below: finally - all the bags of cement, ready and correct!

Below: Shuttering going in and gravel being used as protective layer over service pipes

Scott had finished off all the first fix plumbing and electrical insulations. We had built up the floor as much as we could with the rubble from the breaking out of the troughs as the first layer, with Scott breaking it down into smaller pieces to be able to level it out as much as possible.

Kev and Scott then fitted the wooden shuttering to fill the concrete out to, carefully cut and fitted to be the guides for the final levelling. Then, in came some wheelbarrow loads of gravel which was raked out level up to the point where the 40mm insulation would need to sit. Then came the wacker machine which compresses the layers down and levels it out. The levels are being checked with a spirit level constantly.

Child labour! Summer is in the work house. ;o)

In the meantime, I have begun with the "facelift" to the exterior of the barn in the hope to brighten things up and bring it all together and really making the barn shine and come to life. This is just the undercoat stage, so you will have to wait and see what colours I paint them when the good weather is here again and I am not needed for the floor levelling work - could be some time!

...Just ran out of undercoat!

The second night shift - finishing the shuttering, another round with the wacker machine, damp proof membrane and insulation sheets.

We chose 40mm polystyrene self-slotting insulation sheets which is within the regulations and will provide very sufficient thermal insulation for our needs. We would have liked to go for 60mm, but it is not massively necessary and is far more expensive. The other, even more expensive option is celotex, which is a very well know make which a lot of people opt for - but after researching into it, we read that although it is more effective to begin with, after 7 years it can release gasses which reduces it's effectiveness to be as effective as the polystyrene. Another thing we learnt is that the gasses can also affect the strength of the concrete, so we decided polystyrene was the best option for us.

Below: Scott fitting the suttering for what will be the step up onto the lounge.

The damp proof membrane:

The insulation sheets:

The next day and Kev is back with us. It is all hands on deck today with the cement layers going down at last! Below is how things looked with the insulation down. We chose to lay it in a brickwork pattern for extra strength.

Levels being checked constantly - very important!...

We are laying in the cement in two sections to make it more manageable to move the concrete around and level. We have installed expansion gaps in the middle and have cemented them down to keep them in place. These will act as a guide for levelling:

I had nominated myself as the cement mixer upper in the morning.

50 shovel fulls of gravel:1 x bag of cement:lots of water until the consistency starts to resemble that of cottage cheese to look at. Hard work!

I was on the second day of a 3 day juice detox that I had decided to do aswell and although I had woken up bright as a button and full of energy, I was now starting to think this probably was not the best time to be doing it with all these late nights and physical exertion!

We laid down a thin layer of cement for the steel mesh strengthening bars to lay on before sandwiching them in with the next cement layer. Once set, this will make it reinforced concrete. We opted for a thickness of approx 3mm for the steel mesh as it will not be taking a huge amount of weight, but will bind the cement together and make it stronger.

Ready for the next layer! It is raining hard for the occasion, so the boys have let me stay inside raking out the mixes as they slave away making the mixes up and bringing them in whilst getting soaking wet!

Don't worry, I will be making us all a nice warm brew now the 2nd layer is down and the final layer is ready to go on! Excitiiiing!! :o)

Although I have been religiously following my detox regime, this lunchtime I gave in! I needed something substantial to keep me going and stop me from passing out!! I really enjoyed doing it and felt great for it, but not a great mix with all this high energy work. Going to choose a better time to do it again and complete the whole 3 days as was already feeling the benefits. Below is a picture of what went into one of my lunch time detox juices - can't be bad!

Surprisingly, it was really tasty!If anyone is interested, it is the "Jason Vale Keeping it simple 3 day detox Juice Master".

Talking of fruit - we have our first strawberry! It was very nice!

Second layer is down!

Well, at least one of us is nice and dry! ;o)

Final layer going down!

The levelling commences!

We are using a straight edge to tamper and level the concrete from start of the bay to finish a few times before the final screed to give it a smooth finish. On the Scott had to do the whole process in one go whilst Kev was there with the rake, pushing any concrete up to the level where there were any low spots as we had nowhere to stand to use the same method as we did for the first bay. I am so proud of Scott, he has worked so hard.

Poor Kev - absolutely soaking as he has been doing the mixes and bringing them in while we are levelling inside.

Money is a bit of a worry at the moment with funds for the project running dangerously low. We have had the added stress of rooms available in UK also, which Scott has worked really hard to fill, with the last room being filled this week, so at least we know our mortgage his paid!

We currently have 5 weeks gite lets booked, but hope for around 9 - 10 weeks each season, so we are really hoping for more, as this is our bread and butter money. Scott has a couple of small planning jobs which he is working on a couple of evenings next week, but we cannot commit ourselves to any big jobs before the summer as we need to get as far along with the barn as we can so we have somewhere to live while the gite is let out!

We also have a week's holiday booked in Cornwall with the family for my mum and aunty's 60th birthdays and a few days out in June for a surprise 40th birthday treat which I have up my sleeve for Scott, so time is really of the essence! A little scary times, but trying not to panic and all we can do is our best! Think positive and hopefully positive things will happen!

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