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Author Topic: Looking to buy a moulin in Creuse, France - insulation advice needed.  (Read 1365 times)
Le Hobbit
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« on: February 08, 2018, 01:31:03 PM »

Hello all

We are looking to buy a moulin with 15 hectares in the beautiful, sparsely populated department of Creuse in deepest rural Limousin, France.

Initially we were looking for a full renovation project, but it has been tricky to find a place with the right the land. The place we are considering has been partly renovated by the French owners, but not all of the work is to our taste or has it been done to the standard we would like. Many of the rooms are half finished but a lot of the main work has been done. There are wooden double glazed windows throughout, new septique tank system; roof insulated with 200mm thick wood fibre batts, vapour membrane and plasterboard or wood cladding. Fitted kitchen and bathroom.

The rooms are not huge and in many cases the 500mm thick external granite walls have been lime pointed inside and out but not insulated. In some rooms (mainly upstairs) there has been dry lining with plasterboard and the metal rail system, but oddly they have neglected to put insulation behind the plaster board? In most cases the plaster board is just screwed in place so it would be easy to remove and add insulation and then re-use the plaster board?

For the solid stone external walls we prefer an eco approach. We really like the idea of using a hemp/lime internal render (50-60mm) on top of the existing pointed stone work. Apparently this improves the U value of the walls significantly and would give us the natural finish we desire. Does anyone think we would have issues getting this render to adhere to the existing walls which are already lime pointed?

As for the plaster boarded rooms, what would be the best insulation to use behind the plaster board given that the gap is only around 50-75mm? I was thinking PIR board or preferably an eco alternative?

Any thoughts people?

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Le Hobbit
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« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2018, 08:50:36 PM »

Did I put this in the wrong forum?
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todthedog
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« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2018, 08:07:08 AM »

Your plasterboard rooms, are you intending to infill between the studs with PIR?  In which case how about replacing the original plasterboard with plasterboard with insulation pre attached, would help a lot with cold bridging via the metal stud. In addition.  Be careful of condensation forming behind the insulation . Vapour barrier ? 
My mate Patrick lined his house with hemp lime mix, his original lime removed to expose the  stone as he considered it would not  give a sufficient key for the new hemp lime mix.
Have you bought the house?
Don't forget we love pictures!
Good luck
Tod
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jonesy
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« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2018, 09:23:34 AM »

The larger DIY shops will lend you a blower and you can blow in loose insulation. However, this does involve cutting 10cm holes. It's probably easier to remove the plasterboard and fit squabs, or secure rolled fibreglass to the wall. I've seen plenty of conversions in the SW where I live and they are all dry lined with fibreglass, usually 100mm. The frame is usually held top and bottom, so there should be no bridging. No vapour barriers.
I've not seen any hand applied rendering; Weber do a very popular lime based product which is sprayed on and hand leveled. Not sure of the thickness, but around 20mm, which is sprayed onto the stone and existing render. Concrete render is removed first.
15 hectares is an enormous amount of land to maintain. If it's loaned to a farmer, make sure this agreement is official with proper termination before you commit. Farmers can get rights after a period of time. Whilst not obligatory, I'd strongly recommend that you get the boundaries marked out by a geometre before purchase. For 15Ha you'll pay say 5k, but bear in mind that French properties do not come with defined boundaries (unless already done by a geometre) and the land sold is +/- 10% depending on where anyone can remember where the boundary is. In my case, the notaire handling the sale and purchase (normally handled by 1 notaire) had been responsible for my field for over 100 years, so the ownership was secured, and the neighbours had fences up. I'm about 5% down on the sold area.
There is currently a spat in my village between a farmer who has been using a track for over 70 years, and a land owner who last year decided it was theirs. The farmer clearly can't prove he's used the track. It is going to court and will be decided on the balance of probability.
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titan
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« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2018, 12:47:33 PM »

I sold my place in the Creuse a couple of years ago, it is a great part of France, the least populated but economically depressed, property prices are low and selling anything old not easy as there is very little market for it. The locals want newbuilds and who can blame them which means old stone buildings are bought mainly by foreigners and that market is decreasing. The lime hemp products were originally French, Isochenve in LeMans developed it but there are other producers, it is mainly used for sympathetic renovation but the Webber spray on products are more popular and look good. Possible boundary problems have been mentioned, my experience was the exact opposite with the cadastral maps in the town hall and locals knowledge clearly identifying boundaries and that was for me around 14Ha in around 20 plots around the hamlet and surrounding woods, they get so many plots because of French inheritance laws.
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renewablejohn
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« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2018, 03:45:47 PM »

Would not be to concerned about your insulation on the thick walls if it is proper lime mortar and lime plaster on a proper damp proof base. If you can keep the walls dry and free from condensation there surprisingly good at keeping a building at an even temperature. Where you do lose heat is windows, doors, ceilings, fireplaces, floors. Thats where you need to concentrate your efforts making it as air tight as possible then rely on a MVHR to keep the condensation levels low and maintain the fabric of the building.
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todthedog
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« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2018, 05:01:35 PM »

Insulate Insulate Insulate!!!
Our thick stone walls certainly kept the house cool.

Agree with John you certainly need ventilation to keep damp at bay, our lives became far more comfortable when insulated.
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eabadger
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« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2018, 05:27:25 PM »

we are in 53 so north of you.
massive insulation in floor, massive insulation in roof.
but none on external walls, all lime remndered externally and lime plastered and painted internally.
very warm house and no damp, have mhvr in bathrooms (5) recircs warm clean air to landing.
wood central heating goes off about 11 and still 19* in morning with minus 6* outside.
ufh on all of downstairs about 150sqm and rads upstairs on another two floors.

steve
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eabadger
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« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2018, 05:57:33 PM »

forgot to say we put external plastic egg carton dampproof in with french drain.
and put a uk membrane in underfloor, french we spoke to said you dont need them or want them!! as they can cause damp if you have a leak, it cant get away!!!
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renewablejohn
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« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2018, 11:32:07 AM »

Insulate Insulate Insulate!!!
Our thick stone walls certainly kept the house cool.

Agree with John you certainly need ventilation to keep damp at bay, our lives became far more comfortable when insulated.

Those same thick stone walls will also keep a house warm. Its how masonry stoves work. Problem is your expensive heat goes out through the windows, doors, ceiling and floor. Stop that heat escaping and your thick stone walls become a masonry stove.
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Le Hobbit
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« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2018, 09:27:10 PM »

Lots of good advice and comments. Regarding the land, there are 15 hectares but 80% of it is woodland. There are about 8000m2 in front of the moulin and then the other side of the river there are just over 14 hectares, mostly in several large adjacent plots and then another few separate plots a few hundred metres away. A lot of the land is steep wooded hillside with a mix of beech, birch, oak and some conifers. A lot of it looks after itself and it means an endless supply of free firewood.

Some good advice on the moulin itself. The rooms on the first floor are raised up over a couple of cellars, (caves) as the French call them.

The raised floors have some insulation underneath but we would want to add more.

All the windows are good quality wooden double glazing throughout. The heating system is powered by a wood boiler in the basement that takes logs and sends hot water around several radiators. Also there is a woodburner in the main living room.

Regarding hemp-lime rendering the walls I read somewhere that 60mm of hemp lime mix applied to 500mm thick stone walls can improve the u values from 1.60w/m2 to 0.60w/m2. Seems a good improvement to me?

I know that some people believe that stone walls don't need insulation and help an old house breathe, but in our experience it seems to require a lot more energy and heat output from a woodburner just to maintain heat levels in the room. We are currently renting a granite built house with 500mm thick walls and uninsulated tiled floors with very little insulation in the roof. To be honest it's bloody difficult to heat and unless the heating is constant the temperature soon drops (overnight from 22 degrees to about 15 degrees in the morning. It then takes several hours in the morning to get the room back up to temperature.

It's not how we want to live when we get our own place, so any advice would be great? It does get very cold in Creuse at times and minus 15 is not uncommon. Also this moulin is in a valley at 500 metres above sea level.

It would be great to get more ideas about what to do with the partially dry lined rooms. Someone mentioned blowing insulation behind the plasterboard. Does this mean the void is completely filled with no air gap? Also would it be cellulose filling? All this stuff is a bit high tech for rural Creuse!

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Le Hobbit
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« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2018, 09:31:21 PM »

Your plasterboard rooms, are you intending to infill between the studs with PIR?  In which case how about replacing the original plasterboard with plasterboard with insulation pre attached, would help a lot with cold bridging via the metal stud. In addition.  Be careful of condensation forming behind the insulation . Vapour barrier ? 
My mate Patrick lined his house with hemp lime mix, his original lime removed to expose the  stone as he considered it would not  give a sufficient key for the new hemp lime mix.
Have you bought the house?
Don't forget we love pictures!
Good luck
Tod

Hi Tod. We haven't bought it yet but we are negotiating the price at the moment. Will try and get some pictures up once we have secured it. Regarding your comment about hemp/lime. The walls are currently what the French call "pierre apparent", so the stones are exposed with lime mortar in the joints. Do you think there would be enough "key" for hemp lime to put a 60mm thick layer directly onto the pointed stonework?
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Le Hobbit
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« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2018, 09:38:37 PM »

The larger DIY shops will lend you a blower and you can blow in loose insulation. However, this does involve cutting 10cm holes. It's probably easier to remove the plasterboard and fit squabs, or secure rolled fibreglass to the wall. I've seen plenty of conversions in the SW where I live and they are all dry lined with fibreglass, usually 100mm. The frame is usually held top and bottom, so there should be no bridging. No vapour barriers.
I've not seen any hand applied rendering; Weber do a very popular lime based product which is sprayed on and hand leveled. Not sure of the thickness, but around 20mm, which is sprayed onto the stone and existing render. Concrete render is removed first.
15 hectares is an enormous amount of land to maintain. If it's loaned to a farmer, make sure this agreement is official with proper termination before you commit. Farmers can get rights after a period of time. Whilst not obligatory, I'd strongly recommend that you get the boundaries marked out by a geometre before purchase. For 15Ha you'll pay say 5k, but bear in mind that French properties do not come with defined boundaries (unless already done by a geometre) and the land sold is +/- 10% depending on where anyone can remember where the boundary is. In my case, the notaire handling the sale and purchase (normally handled by 1 notaire) had been responsible for my field for over 100 years, so the ownership was secured, and the neighbours had fences up. I'm about 5% down on the sold area.
There is currently a spat in my village between a farmer who has been using a track for over 70 years, and a land owner who last year decided it was theirs. The farmer clearly can't prove he's used the track. It is going to court and will be decided on the balance of probability.

Hi Jonesy. Interesting idea to blow in insulation. What do you mean by squabs? Also by fibreglass do you mean glass wool or "laine de verre" as the French call it? We wuld rather use an eco product if possible. In our last place we renovated in Charente, we used "laine de verre" Knauf Ecowool to be exact and it was horrible to install. Itchy and fine dust which made you cough. Want to avoid using again if at all possible. I was thinking of cellulose fibre?
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Le Hobbit
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« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2018, 09:47:27 PM »

Insulate Insulate Insulate!!!
Our thick stone walls certainly kept the house cool.

Agree with John you certainly need ventilation to keep damp at bay, our lives became far more comfortable when insulated.

Those same thick stone walls will also keep a house warm. Its how masonry stoves work. Problem is your expensive heat goes out through the windows, doors, ceiling and floor. Stop that heat escaping and your thick stone walls become a masonry stove.

I am interested to read this because most of the articles I have read on insulation state that stone walls have a very low U value even if 500mm thick? This is why we are interested in adding a hemp lime render/plaster on the inside which can be painted/coloured.
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renewablejohn
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« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2018, 12:57:27 PM »

Insulate Insulate Insulate!!!
Our thick stone walls certainly kept the house cool.

Agree with John you certainly need ventilation to keep damp at bay, our lives became far more comfortable when insulated.

Those same thick stone walls will also keep a house warm. Its how masonry stoves work. Problem is your expensive heat goes out through the windows, doors, ceiling and floor. Stop that heat escaping and your thick stone walls become a masonry stove.

I am interested to read this because most of the articles I have read on insulation state that stone walls have a very low U value even if 500mm thick? This is why we are interested in adding a hemp lime render/plaster on the inside which can be painted/coloured.

Look up the recent research done by I think Scottish Heritage on thick stone houses in Edinburgh. Basically thick stone rubble filled walls far performed far better than expected with various methods of further insulation also tested. Biggest component was keeping the walls dry by using natural lime mortars and plasters allowing the house to breathe.
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