Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Problems with floors.

Can there be a more gloomy sight than to look around a lovely old farm house in France that has been ‘restored’ in the 60’s and be faced with the round floor covered wall to wall with muddy brown glazed tiles ?

I suppose in their day they were considered to be the height of modernity to people who replaced the original unglazed tiles with them, not realising what long term problems would result from their use

It is not unusual that these tiles will have lines of cracks across some rooms and probably, less obvious, rising moisture in the walls. The two problems are usually related to the tiling and the cement screed it has been laid on. The effect of completely sealing the internal floor is to force ground humidity outwards until it reaches the walls, where it rises within the structure and causes damage. Ground humidity is also not always uniform and being unable to dissipate by natural evaporation upwards can cause distortion in levels that eventually result in fissures in the rigid cement.

Floors and ceilings play a big part in the environment of an old building, they regulate not only the heating but also the breath-ability of the construction.

Restoring the ground floor using natural materials traditionally employed can exploit their exceptional qualities. This is fine if you find the building with its original compacted soil floor but presents problems if you are faced with an existing cement based floor and there are signs of movement or wall damp.

I have to be honest I have never heard of a simple solution, the easiest if there is no obvious upheavals in levels and big cracks opening up, is to leave the problem and hope it doesn’t get bad. Even if it does , in several years time, you can rectify the causes then.

To restore the equilibrium of the building there is one solution, but it is drastic. Dig up the offending floor and its concrete base. Fine if you are completely re-modelling the building and don’t have to live in it during the work, but a very difficult job of persuasion if life has to go on in the interim.

A new floor based on compressed soil with gravel/clay cover and lime cement screed will provide an excellent sub-structure for unglazed tiles.
This will enable the building to breath and will be an excellent insulation.
The health of the house and its occupants are improved but until it is finished it will resemble downtown Baghdad on a bad day. I am writing a webpage with more detailed explications of what can be done and will put in a link when it is operational.

But for now I am writing this in Paris because dear old SNCF are on strike again and so I had to drive Claire up and will be returning tomorrow morning to work on the kitchen, which is operational at last, and very effectively I am glad to say. The only problem is it is not completely finished which is causing a degree of stress.

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