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  1. As I hinted in the first part of my post, there's a bit more to this than just the question of the window. I'm encouraged to think that we could go ahead and (after speaking to the Mairie) install the window, but the subsidence is also part of the issue. We need to build a buttress on one corner of that back wall, and will need more than the current 1 metre in order to give that the necessary foundations. We have established preliminary contact with the farmer, but before I blundered in and told him exactly how much land we were after, I wanted to be sure of the facts. I'd worried that we might need about 10 metres, and while he might be prepared to sell that much, I'm not sure I could afford it!
  2. I think it's more a case of our house having the potential to overlook the existing neighbour, rather than the other way round. If Clair's link is correct, and I was to go ahead and install the (large "French") window we plan, then I wouldn't want my neighbour to have the right to make me block it up again . . . especially as he's the one that I'm hoping to buy the land from!
  3. That was quick Clair. Many thanks. So, basically, we need an extra metre. That's a lot less than I'd thought, and means less of a bill too if we can persuade the framer to part with a narrow strip. I'll check the French link in more detail, just in case.
  4. I believe there is a law that stipulates how many metres of land, beyond the wall of your property, you need to own in order to be permitted to install a new window. Does anyone know what that measurement is, and where I can find out more details? We currently only own a strip 1 metre wide down the back of the house, but are bordered by open fields. The nearest house that we might overlook is about 100 metres away. Not only would we like to install a window in an otherwise completely solid wall, but we also need to stabilise one corner where the wall has suffered some subsidence. Any suggestions? Many thanks in anticipation.
  5. Hi Ben. I'd almost forgotten about this thread! Every once in a while things come back to haunt you, I guess . . . For those who besmirched my efforts all those months ago, the system is working fine. It's been inspected, and passed as safe, and I'm gearing myself up soon to extending it by another rad. As for the header tank - no, it's a completely sealed system, so no mains water. The antifreeze/inhibitor solution goes round all by itself, and the header tank merely holds enough fluid/air to compensate for expansion and contraction during heating and cooling. I've only had to top it up once. It works very like the header tank in a car cooling system, with a screw-on top that incorporates a pressure relief valve. As I originally suspected, the electric pump is needed from time to time, especially to get the circulation going strongly in the first instance. Once it's up to temperature, it seems to circulate well enough unaided. If you're going to include downstairs radiators as well, then I'd imagine a pump would be essential. I know we were all told at school that "hot air rises", but my (perhaps limited) understanding of water is that it's the "weight" of the cooler water coming down through the system that forces the hotter water back up, and that a good height into the system encourages a faster circulation. I hope that helps. Now I await a renewed tirade from those with plumbing degrees and shares in Elfin Safety.
  6. OK, so I'm an old-fashioned kind'a guy, but it was cheap, simple to install, has no moving parts, and virtually maintenance-free. You're right, I didn't mention the safety valve, but there is a pressure-relief valve fitted to the expansion tank. It's highly unlikely it's going to freeze with the concentration of anti-freeze and corrosion inhibitor I've used to fill the system - not unless it gets down to about 30 below. I'll take on board your suggestion about the twin-wall first metre - it would probably look better too.
  7. Yes, it is being changed. The plywood version was only temporary while I was installing the stove, and now that I know it works and all the pipework for the radiators is in position, I'm using the wooden version as a template for a steel one. Wood's a lot easier to cut, and not so expensive if you make a mistake!
  8. I've just finished doing this myself. We bought a woodburner (off eBay, but there you go) and had a backboiler professionally made and fitted. Total cost about £500. It's a relatively simple 10Kw burner with a single front-loader and able to take logs up to about 20". We could have spent anything up to £1000 or more, but this one looked OK for the job. Perhaps with hindsight I might have gone for something a little more sophisticated, but so far it has worked well enough. I've never done this before, so may have made some errors (and am happy to learn if anyone sees glaring mistakes and wants to point them out), but this is what I've since done: The burner is fitted into a typical French farmhouse-type fireplace, and fills it reasonably well without looking dwarfed. First job was to fit a flue pipe from the burner to the top of the chimney. It won't be seen, and I'm not too worried about heat-loss, so I've gone for the cheaper single-skin aluminium stuff that's available from any bricolage and painted the first section matt-black with heat-resistant paint. Then I fitted a baffle plate into the chimney. I set in a series of angle-iron brackets around the whole rectangle of the chimney, as low down as I could without being visible, and then made my first "plate" out of plywood, faced for the time being with aluminium sheeting - I'll explain later. It's in two pieces, one each side of the flue-liner, with a pair of half-moon cuts that join around the flue.  From the higher outlet (the hotter one!) of the backboiler I've sent 28mm copper pipework up the chimney to first floor level. I was only looking to run radiators through the first floor bedrooms, so none on the ground floor. It reduces at that point to 22mm, and stays that way from then on. I wanted it to work by gravity, so larger bore pipework was needed. The initial rise is about 3m vertical, and that seems to work well enough. After drilling a hole through the chimney breast in the first-floor bedroom, I've then run copper pipe throughout the top floor via four radiators. The pipework rises by a few degrees all the way, starting close to the floor, and ending up about 15 cms higher at the return point. From this outward (hot) pipe there's a T junction under each rad that leads up into the higher inlet valve of the radiator. Each radiator is also imperceptibly angled so that the hot water continues to rise and the cold sinks, depending on your point of view, to encourage the cycle. At the end of the line the pipe doubles back on itself, and at this point I've sent off a spur that rises up to a small header tank. The outlet for this comes from the lower (return) pipe, so doesn't attract the hotter water, but maintains the fluid level in the system and allows for expansion. The return pipe runs parallel to the out-pipe, so falls all the way back to the boiler at the same angle. Under each radiator there's a similar arrangement of t-junction pipework to receive the cooling return water from each rad. There are valves on both inlet and outlet sides of every radiator. This return pipe goes back down the chimney (enlarged to 28mm again for the drop) almost parallel with the first one. However, I've included a branch and bypass system here that includes an electric pump. So far I've not actually needed to use it, but the theory is that I can speed up the flow if I ever need to, or "prime" the system when I first light the fire. I installed this over Christmas and it took about five days. The first time I fired it up I realised my fundamental mistake . . . I'd connected up the pipes the wrong way round to the backboiler, so the return was going into the "out" and vice versa. Even so, the radiators were hot within 20 minutes and almost too hot to touch inside half an hour, and that was on a pure gravity-driven system . . . working the wrong way! I'm optimistic that it will work even better when I get it piped up the right way round. Meanwhile the woodburner does a great job of heating the downstairs all on its own. We soon learned, however, that you have to remember to keep stoking the woodburner towards the back of the chamber, so the main heat of the fire is next to the backboiler. If not the radiators cool quite quickly. I've soldered most of the joints, but included some compression fittings here and there to make adding more radiators (or making changes/repairs) a little easier. I'm not a plumber, by the way, so you can do it yourself. I was pleased to discover no leaks when I filled it up the first time. I used plain water on that occasion, but once confident that there were no dribbles, replaced that with a corrosion inhibitor and antifreeze, for the times when it's cold and we're not there. With all the pipework in place I've been able to cut and shut the plywood baffle plate in the chimney so I know I can take it out for access easily enough. I'll now use this as a template for a steel one. I hope that helps.
  9. Having now checked, I discover you are right. They are both heavier than air. Propane (C3H8) has a molecular weight of 44 g/mol, and butane (C4H10) has a molecular weight of 58 g/mol, so they will both sink. Mains gas is a mixture, not a compound, and its composition varies. Typically, however, it is about 95% methane (CH4, molecular weight 16 g/mol) with the rest comprising ethane, propane and carbon dioxide, plus an odorizer to make it smell. It will tend to rise, although not as fast as something like helium - hence domestic detectors in main-gas houses being located higher up. My experience is with boats, where we have always used propane. I don't think I've ever come across butane being used on a boat. We fit gas detectors in the bottom of cupboards and down in the bilges. We also use so-called "pig" connectors on propane bottles, which are male-orientated and cannot be fitted to a butane bottle, which has a female connector. The bottles are always stored external to the cabin, above the waterline so that drain holes can be included for waste gas to escape overboard. Apparently, butane is "less volatile" than propane, which may be why it is preferred for indoor applications, but where the gas can be piped in from outside, propane is preferred because it remains gaseous at lower temperatures . Both are naturally odorless, and additives are included during the refining process to make them smelly.
  10. Great stuff Loiseau, both your suggestions look excellent. If I can't find any genuine old tiles from a salvage yard, I'll certainly give these two a try. The one at Les Raires is also quite close. Thanks.
  11. In the main, French towpaths, certainly along canals (as opposed to rivers) are all in excellent condition. With the majority of French waterways being built to larger dimensions than the ones in the UK, many are still commercially viable, and because of that have been well maintained throughout the last two or three hundred years. I'm not sure, but I assume that "lock-wheeling" is still permitted, so can't see you coming across any regulations that would prevent cycling along the towpath - something that a few local authorities did try in the UK!
  12. Jonzjob mentions the difference between butane and propane, and the tendency for propane to be stored outside while butane is permitted within the house. I always thought this was because propane was heavier than air and pooled (but was less likely to freeze outdoors in winter), whereas butane was lighter and, if there was a leak, would dissipate upwards and escape, thereby being less likely to cause an explosion. For that reason gas detectors for propane are fitted at floor level, while detectors for butane or mains gas can be higher up, even on the ceiling. Is this wrong then? I assume the regulations in France are similar to those in the UK, whereby only certified fitters are supposed to install pipework for gas? Despite this, fittings etc seem very easy to obtain in France, at almost any bricolage or hypermarket, which seems to contrast strongly with the situation in the UK, where only specialist suppliers stock anything except the most basic materials. 
  13. Thanks for the suggestion zeb. Yes, they are tomettes, but the square ones - approximately 17 cms. I see what you mean about the price! Thankfully, that seems to refer mainly to the hexagonal ones. Squares go for a lot less! I'll keep watching.
  14. Sorry to have wasted anyone's time, but I've already found that link on the next page of this forum: http://www.salvoweb.com/france However, that doesn't list any yards very close to us, so if anyone does know of a company around Saumur/Chinon/Poitiers/Tours, I'd be grateful. Thanks.
  15. I'm having to relay the old quarry tiles in our kitchen, largely because the previous owner simply dropped them down onto an unstable base and grouted with concrete. The trouble is, that has also meant that a fair few have got damaged over the years. They've very old handmade tiles; irregular, uneven and complete with cats' pawprints and other idiosyncracies, but we'd like to retain them. However, I cannot get replacements off-the-shelf (for size or colour) so assume my best hope is to find a reclamation yard somewhere. I recall some time ago seeing a link to a French website that listed these yards, but can't remember where it was. Anyone any ideas? We live in the northern Vienne (86), not far from Chinon, so recommendations within reasonable driving distance equally welcome.
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