Bin ich seltsam?

Bin ich merkwürdig, schrullig, verschroben, wunderlich, von der Norm abweichend?

Jemand nannte mich seltsam, weil es ungewöhnlich für ihn ist, dass eine Frau mit Hingabe Wände verputzt, Naturstein Mauern und Fußböden baut, Fliesen verlegt und gern alte Häuser renoviert.

Keiner nannte mich seltsam, als ich Anlagen für die Reifenproduktion einkaufte, Vertriebsniederlassungen für einen Reifenhersteller aufbaute, Busse verkaufte. Allerdings schauten meine zumeist männlichen Kunden anfangs schon ein wenig gönnerhaft auf mich herab und liebten es, mein technisches Wissen zu testen. Seltsam fand ich dabei, dass dieses technische Wissen bei meinen durchweg männlichen Kollegen vorausgesetzt und niemals hinterfragt wurde. Glaubt mir, nicht einmal die Hälfte von denen konnte erklären wie eine Reifenproduktionsanlage oder ein Bus funktionierte.

Meine Eltern machten nie einen Unterschied zwischen Arbeiten, die vermeintlich eher für Frauen oder Männer geeignet sind und so habe ich mir lange Zeit überhaupt keine Gedanken darüber gemacht, ob es seltsam für eine Frau ist Reifen aufzuziehen.
Für mich gibt es höchstens Arbeiten, die für die meisten Frauen körperlich zu schwer sind, beispielsweise Zementsäcke schleppen, aber da kann man sich ja starke, sprich männliche, Hilfe organisieren 😉

Ich find mich ehrlich gesagt überhaupt nicht seltsam. Aber die Bemerkung hat mich schon nachdenklich gemacht.
Dahinter steckt Stereotyp, ein festgelegtes Bild oder ein festgefügter Glauben den man von bestimmten Situationen, Personen oder Gruppen. Manchmal ist sowas hilfreich, um sich schnell in einer Situation zurechtzufinden. Aber es kann auch hinderlich sein, eine Situation zu hinterfragen und neu zu denken.

Irgendwie ist diese Bemerkung auch sexistisch: Frauen machen/können sowas nicht, das ist eher was für Männer.
Als wir nach Frankreich gezogen sind und angefangen haben unsere Häuser zu renovieren, habe ich ganz oft Sätze gehört wie “… das ist keine Arbeit für eine Frau..” oder “ lass das doch deinen Mann machen…”.
Wenn ich im Baumarkt oder Fachhandel nach Rat gefragt habe, hat man mir tatsächlich das ein und andere Mal erklärt, ich solle lieber meinen Mann vorbei schicken, das ist eine technische und daher sehr komplizierte Angelegenheit.

Das hat mich schon schockiert und wütend gemacht.
Mittlerweile wissen viele Leute hier, dass ich gern (und gut!) solche “Männerarbeiten” mache und akzeptieren das mit einem Lächeln.
Ich bin mir ziemlich sicher, viele finden mich gerade deshalb seltsam.

at work

Decorative Wall Finishes

The design of walls, their colours and surface structure, decisively influences how well we feel in it. Of course, this also subject to trends and fashions, but I think it should fit to the personality of the people living in it. It is like a coat that envelops us.

There is a universe of ready-made products, imitating old techniques such as Stuc or Tadelakt. As I have written several times, I learned how to make and apply decorative coatings by just using sand, lime and marble. I follow old recipes, which are partly written down and so surpassed, but as always, the real secrets you learn only when you work with it. There are almost no restrictions, you can coat almost any underground with an appropriate pre-treatment.
The result of this work is always unique, always personal and never exactly foreseeable, because I work with natural materials. The little irregularities are part of the decoration and make it so distinctive and charming.
I have already decorated many hundred square meters of walls, I work I really like and therefore, I included it into my repertoire.

Swedish Red

Swedish Paint

Few weeks ago, I wrote about a natural paint, based on flower and pigments, I created for painting a new garage door.
Last week, I wanted to paint the shelter for our firewood in the garden and again, I cooked my paint, using the same recipe but with red iron oxide pigment.
The shelter is much more exposed to weather (sometimes rain, but mostly sun and wind) than the garage door and thus a durable paint is needed to protect the wood.
Permanent exposure to the sun is a big challenge, most of the synthetic paints peel of after a few months.  So far, I used Osmo paints but even those semi-natural paints chipped of after two years.
It can become an expensive hobby to paint all the outdoor wooden pieces every two years. A durable natural paint, tested under Scandinavian weather conditions for centuries seems to be a good alternative.
It’s easy to create and it’s cheap: 5 L of paint costs about 5 €!
Thinking of the environment, I also wanted to avoid any toxic ingredients.
The paint should last approx. 4-5 years and restoration is easy as the surface needs to be brushed before repainting it.

Swedish Red  or Rouge de Falun

In the town of Falun is a copper mine which has been explored for more than thousand years. The red iron oxide is a by-product of the copper mining. The earth above the copper contains ocher, silicon and zinc. At plain air, it washes out and dries. The result is a fine red powder, the red iron oxide.
The mine closed in 1992. Today, the area is on the UNESCO list and a tourist hot spot.

Since a few years, we have Swedish family members and one of the first pictures which popped up in our heads were those of the nice red wooden houses in Sweden.

Red Swedish House
Red Swedish House
Isabell Schulz - Yellow Swedish House (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Isabell Schulz – Yellow Swedish House (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In the 16 century the city municipalities ordered home owners to paint their house front facing the street in red to impress the royals.
Later on, it became a countrywide fashion to paint all new country houses red, urban villas in yellow and window frames and fences in red or green.  At this time, the paint did not contain any linseed oil or savon noir, but sometimes brine, beer or tar.

Either you cook your own paint, or you buy it from the two manufacturers of traditional Swedish paint, Falu Rödfärg and Moose Färg.
Nowadays, the colour palette offers also different shades of blue, yellow, grey, green and even black.


The base recipe stays the same, just different pigments are added.
You can use this kind of paint also for painting wooden floors, furniture, already painted walls (plaster boards like Rigips and Fermacell) and bricks.
Ferrous sulfate protects the wood against fungus infestation and is not needed for indoor paints.
The surface needs to be rough, the best is to seal it in advance.
Even an application on paper walls is possible but you need to make the wall absorbent with a layer of acrylic.








Another house to restore

We took on a new project, an old, small village house in Fitou. This time it is for a young couple who would like to make a living here or rent it out, we’ll see when it is ready.
dachIt’s the fourth house we are going to restore in Fitou and by now it is the one in a comparatively good condition. Together with the owners we made a plan how to transform it.

Currently, it has an entry area, where was a kitchen and a bathroom, it had two rooms in the upper floor (not anymore) and an attic. We’ll divide and change the entry area to have space for a garage and a utility room and a bathroom. The first level will house a kitchen and a living room and in the attic we build two rooms and a small bathroom.

Work of one day - RoofWe already started a month ago by emptying it completely. That means, we torn off some walls, plaster from walls and beams and removed all the usual rubbish from the attic and carried all the staff (3.000 kg!) to the decheterie.
Since last week we are renovating the roof: removing old tiles, put on new planks, cover it with roof felt, put on new roof battens and re-lay the old, now clean tiles. Sounds like a lot of work? It is, I feel so tired after the third day on the first half of the roof 😉
It is of course faster to lay down new roof tiles instead cleaning and fixing the old one’s with lime mortar, but it looks so nice with the old tiles. And it is sustainable too 😉


The apartments are ready – time to celebrate

Depuis un peu plus de 1,5 ans, nous avons restauré la maison en 22 Grand rue et maintenant il est prêt!

Nous avons eu beaucoup de soutien et d’aide et nos voisins qui ont résisté à la poussière et le bruit que nous avons fait.
Il y a encore du travail à faire dans la cave, mais les trois appartements spacieux laquelle nous avons créé sont prêt à emménager
Maintenant, il est de temps de célébrer! Venez jeudi prochain, le 7 Août à 18h00 à jeter un oeil sur ce que nous avons fait (Facebook – Event).

Nous vous attendons!

Christine & Hagen

Restoring stone walls, plastering walls (If you struggle, you can hire me ;-) )

Restoring a wall starts with removing the old plaster and all the odd pieces and covers which are not original, such as pieces of cement, gypsum, wood, plastic etc. The best way to remove the old mortar from the surface is doing it manually bit by bit with a pick hammer.

To remove harder (cement) mortar you need an electronic percussion hammer, but this is very heavy to use and you have to do the finish with your pick hammer afterwards anyway.
If you want to leave the stones visible afterwards, you have to remove the old mortar to a depth of about 2 cm between the stones.
Don’t worry about stones moving or falling out, but put a tarp under your working place to catch them, especially when working at height.

Afterwards, you have to wash the wall with water (either with an ordinary water hose or with a Karcher) to remove all the loose, dusty pieces. You wash from top to down and don’t pose the nozzle directly into the joints to avoid washing out the sand from the inner parts of the wall.
In case you need to replace stones, take the same natural stones which are used in your wall. You place them in a lime mortar bed. Mix 3 parts of fine sand (0/3) with one part of lime hydraulique (NHL 3,5) and water. It’s difficult to say how much water you have to add as this depends on how much water is in the sand, but you should be able to form it by hand. If it’s too dry, it will fall apart, and if it is too muddy, it will drop out.

However, you can replace the stones immediately after washing the wall.

Plaster and paints

TalocheIf you want to plaster walls made of natural stones you SHOULD use a lime mortar. It supports the exchange of humidity and lets the wall breathe. It is comparatively flexible and moves with the wall and does not crack.
A cement mortar mix is very strong and does not support the breathing of the wall. Sooner or later, you will get the problems with dammed up humidity and cracks on the surface or the stones.
Adding impermeable supplements to a lime mortar mix is also reducing the ability of the wall to breathe.

The best temperature for plastering is between 12°C – 20°C. It shouldn’t be too cold or too warm, thus you can’t really plaster in summer. The mix would be drying too fast and crack.

A traditional lime plaster

The traditional lime plaster (l’enduit traditionnel à la chaux) consists of three layers:

  1. Le gobetis (rough coating)
  2. Le corps d’enduit (main layer)
  3. La couche de finition (finish)

Even though the composition of the three layers is different, the application is always done by hand. We are using hydraulic lime for the first two layers and air hardening lime (chaux aerienne) for the finish. Lime gets its mechanical firmness through an exothermic reaction by adding water.
Hydraulic lime contains also minerals and is therefore drying much faster, can be applied thicker but is not so shock resistant.
Chaux aerienne is pure lime and you can add as much water as you like (e.g. for lime wash paint) to work with. It dries in air for several weeks or months and gets it shock resistance while drying. It can be applied only in very thin layers.

Le gobetis (rough coating)

This is a semi-liquid mix of 2 parts of sand (0/3 – 0/5), 1 part of hydraulic lime (NHL 3,5) and water. It is necessary to have a good grip for the following couches. The maximum thickness is 7 mm. Experts are throwing the mixture by using a normal sized trowel with their backhand on the wall. For the amateur this is very difficult. Make sure, that your wall is damp.
However, afterwards you have a rough surface with a good grip for the following layer. If you want to only close the joints and leave the stones visible, then you can skip this stage.

Le corps d’enduit (main layer)

The second layer is the most important layer of your enduit. It gives your wall the final shape and protects it by its thickness.
You apply it 48 hours after the gobetis, but make sure your wall is damp enough.

Mix 3 parts of sand (0/3) with 1 part of hydraulic lime (NHL 3,5) and water. This mixture should have a thick but creamy consistence and will be applied with a trowel. If it’s too wet, it will crack. You smoothen it either with your trowel or a taloche.
The layer is 2-3 cm thick.

For closing the joints and letting the stones be visible afterwards, you apply the mortar mix with a small trowel and press it into the joints. Let it dry a bit and sleek the joints afterwards with your small trowel or with a medium damp sponge.

La couche de finition (finish)

You apply the final layer about seven days later.
You mix 3 parts of sieved fine sand (0,8) with 1 part of air hardening lime and water. Color it with mineral pigments but respect the color palette of your environment. Damp your wall before you start. Apply a thin layer of max. 1 cm and smooth it with a taloche.
That’s a tough work!

Decorative finishes

To get a very fine, smooth surface, you can also use lime and or gypsum in combination marble powder. Mix 1 part chaux aerienne, or fine gypsum and three parts marble powder in water until you get a soft creme. You might divide the parts of marble powder with fine, sieved sand
Colour the mixture with pigments if you like. Soak the pigments in water before adding it to your enduit. Try it with small amounts of ingredients to get a feeling for the handling and to find your right colour. Lime, plaster and marble powder and your wall underground are changing the intensity of the pigments. I always prepare several samples on the same underground material.

Apply your enduit with a maximum thickness of 1-2 mm and smoothen it with a taloche.
This procedure you can repeat several times with different colours but always in very thin layers.
At the end you need to protect the surface.
I like to use linseed oil to encourage the colour or Savon Noir:

  • first layer: 1 part savon, 3 parts water
  • second layer: 1 part savon, 2 parts water
  • third layer: 1 part savon, 1 part water

Apply it with a brush the first two times, apply the third layer with a taloche. Start from down of the wall to avoid drops (which dry immediately and are visible afterwards).
Be careful with linseed oil, it really darkens the colour!

You can apply enduit on nearly every foundation as long as the it is dry, even, has no fissures and a unique surface. Some needs more preparation, e.g. plasterboards needs to be painted with an acrylic paint for bonding of the enduit.


Insulation of an old, stonewall house is done with the renewal of the external and internal plaster as described above. These walls are usually 40-70 cm thick, + 3-5 cm external plaster and + 1-3 cm internal plaster.

Mixing hemp into the corps d’enduit improves the heat transfer coefficient. In that case, your corp d’enduit will be about 7-8 cm thick.

When you are thinking of installing an energy-efficient heating system, then choose a wall heating and/or floor heating.

Any kind of applied external artificial thermal insulation will lower the ability of the wall the breath. As a result, the humidity will stay in the wall and either leave to the inner parts of the house if these walls are just plastered with lime mortar, or stay inside the wall in case the inner walls are also improperly covered.

To improve the heat transfer coefficient you need to lower the humidity in the walls, which you will make with the re-plastering as described above and with the accompanying restoring measures such as applying a gutter, restoring your old windows, doors, the roof and floors.

So much work!

@christinegraf work out :-)However, what I described above are the ecological and, from the material point of view, rather inexpensive methods to plaster walls. You only need time and some experience.
Contrary, there are a lot of ready to apply products (ecological and non-ecological) for a bigger amount of money (and with some chemicals inside) available in DIY stores.

If you struggle, you can hire me 😉





Working in the summer heat

It has been a long time since I wrote about our activities, we simply had a lot of work and no energy at the end of the day to write about what we did, just few minutes for some photographs we could spare.

Well, we did a lot:

  • all necessary beams had been replaced (24!), all new most of old one’s are sandpapered and treated
    Cleaning and painting timber beams
  • all floors had been made (rafters replaced, paved with our lime-hemp-plaster-sand mixture)
  • we built the structure for the upper apartment, a 76 sq.m place with an 24sq.m attic, including electricity and water supply
    tweeting ;-)Attic
  • built in the upper new staircase
    The last step
  • Finally, we started painting the ceilings and plastering the walls with lime & pigments in the upper apartment, the attic is nearly finished.

and we learned a lot:

  • about the successful lobbying of those involved in providing electricity and right materials by setting up rules which partly makes no sense (e.g. a socket for fixed telephones and TV in the main bedroom or a 2.5 m² single line for a 400 W air dome), not to speak of the disallowing of IP-driven sockets and LED light bulbs because you need to install the old system too.
  • that, when we want to shift the main electrical meter just 30 cm we have to pay the renewal of the electrical infrastructure outside as the cable is too old and not safe enough anymore (but we could use it further if we wouldn’t change anything!)
  • that we need a permission when we want to re-plaster our facade (which was not the case when we did it on our office three years ago). This was lot of paperwork but at least, we got a permission, with very detailed descriptions of the materials to be used which is good to know but I got the feeling that there might apply different rules for Fitounaises 😉
  • about the cultural differences in living habits, which results in skipping our idea to build a utility room as French people don’t like to use a washing machine commonly

We got a lot of help and advice from friends and neighbors, who helped us to find through the jungle of rules and restrictions and encouraged us to go on with our work. And, despite of the widespread practice in renting flats with as many rooms as possible, we kept our idea not splitting the space of each apartment in several small 9 sq.m rooms but having one bedroom, a bathroom, an open kitchen and a spacious living room.
We are sure there are some people who like this concept.


Stones, concrete and a lot of dust

We discovered a "Fake Wall"There were a lot of things I did not take into account when I was writing that our floor in the first level will be ready last weekend. I was a way too ambitious!

As always in an old house, a lot happens on the way you can’t see in advance.

E.g., when removing the rest of the old floor, we found a fake wall and had a 2 sq.m area with about 20 cm of concrete. This alone took half a day to remove it.
Before we could demolish all parts of the old floor, we also had to build a frame for the new staircase to the upper level which means putting in a new beam (dig the wholes and close it after placing the beam).

Christine and her hammerAnd then, the demolition of the two old staircases was not done in an afternoon. Another three old beams needed to be removed as they were cut when the staircases were built-in. Huge wholes were left, at least one we could use to place a new beam but for two other beams we had to make new wholes.

A neighbor passing by among all the dust, said it looks very pharaonic 😉

RubbleFinally, we needed one day to bring all the rubble to the dump site, 4.5 tons!
Since today, we saw and lay the rafters so that we hopefully tomorrow start to put the floor fill on our 75 sq.m first floor.






What happened during the last two weeks?

It’s really a stressful time for us as we need to work a bit for real money in our company , organize our household (yes, it’s necessary to clean the house from time to time, wash clothes, buy some food stuff) and do this restoration work. There is not much time left to write in detail about our activities, therefore, just a short summary of what we did in last two weeks:

We went public Today we went public :)and we

  • ... another floortook out 75% of the floor in the first level (7 trailers of debris!)
  • placed four new beams there
  • cleaned four old beams
  • removed the old plaster from the facade at Grand rue
  • built a cage for the staircase from level two to level three and finished the floor at third level
  • started restoring the first old interior door (it’s going to be beautiful!).

Tomorrow we will finish the sub floor at first level and remove the rest of the old floor. At the end of next week we would like to have the floor on that level ready.

Let’s see if we can keep our schedule.