Phase 2 begins

All windows and doors have been fully framed out, and the order for the windows (with final measurements) is in!

Here you can see the completed west facade.  The window below is a new opening to a ground floor bedroom that previously had no natural light.  Framed out with original stone from the house. The two windows above have been raised to align them with the corner window (and the eye height of an average adult human).  We are fresh out of worked framing stones, so we bought these from a local source.

IMG_3875Compare the shot below, which shows one of the upper windows in its previous, broke-down state.

IMG_3790Below is the east facade, which has received comparatively little intervention.  The high window in the tower and the windows on the main floor, all framed simply with brick, were untouched, except for new brick sills that were necessary to accommodate the windows.  On the ground floor, to the left of the patio door, is a new window to the summer bathroom, framed with the same bought stones used for the west facade, above.

To the right of the patio door is a re-framed window for a ground floor bedroom.  We used rougher-hews stones for the frame, to match the frame around the patio door.  The lintel is salvaged oak.  I may try to cover the patio door’s steel I-beam with a similar piece of wood.

IMG_3884The view from inside the summer bath.  The brick false walls are designed to keep humidity out of the ground floor rooms.  Without this protection, I’d have peeling paint and plaster during rainy weather.

IMG_3876The kitchen and dining room windows from inside.

IMG_3871The framed out terrace door for main floor guest suite:

IMG_3868With all this progress, the builders have called on me to begin finishing the walls.  This is the beginning of Phase 2, the part where I actually do the work myself.

I took this work on because: (1) cosmetic wall work was the biggest expense in the builder’s quote; (2) I felt I could actually do it myself without much danger of the house falling down; and (3) the builders offered to give me some instruction.  So let me pass on what I’ve learned.

Most of the walls in the house are in the condition shown in the photo below.  Some rocks are visible, but most of the wall is covered in a rough, old mortar.  The mortar is crumbing and in many cases resembles loose sand.  It has to come off, because its poor condition would compromise anything applied over it (new mortar, plaster, etc).  Leaving as is would be a poor option because it is ugly and continuously drops sand and dust into the room.


Step one is repicar, which I’m calling “re-picking.”  I take my handy Bocshhammer and chip off the covering mortar, as well as an inch or so of the mortar between the stones.  Then I sweep out as much of the dust and debris as possible.  Then I haul it out of the room and deposit in a gigantic garbage pile.  This is hard, dusty, noisy work.  And I have many, many more days of it in store. . . .

Below you can see a photo of a downstairs bedroom fully re-picked.  I believe I will leave the stones visible on the large wall above the bricks.  The other walls will be mortared and plastered.

The next step is esquerdejar, which means filling in the cracks.  First you wet the wall with a hose to remove more loose debris and to help the mortar stick.  You make a huge batch of mortar (recipes available upon request), you put a gob of it on a pointed trowel and then you FLING it at the wall with a flick of the wrist in a strange and compound circular motion that I am far from mastering.

You fling and fling and fling.  Then scrape at the mortar with the side of the trowel in order to get it generally flat, but still rough on the surface.  The roughness is important because a rough surface takes the next coat more readily than a smooth surface.

Much of my flung mortar ends up on the ground.  The builders can fling a wheelbarrow full of mortar in no time flat with only a minimal amount hitting the ground.

Below, a wall that has been esquerdejat.  This is the boiler room, which we needed to hurry up and finish so that the systems team can begin to install equipment for water and heating.


The final step (or penultimate step, depending) is remolinar, or “swirling.”  You use a flat trowel to push more mortar on the esquerdejat.  You sweep upward, ending the stroke where your previous stroke began.  This is much easier than flinging.  The challenge here is to get the wall as flat and straight as possible.  If you will leave the mortar visible, you must “swirl” with a flat plastic trowel in order to push the sand in and leave the surface smooth.  If you will plaster over the mortar, you leave the surface a bit rough to help the plaster adhere.  This wall has been remolinat:


Only a few hundred square meters to go!

3 thoughts on “Phase 2 begins

  1. Rob! The masilla looks like it’s really coming along! Abhi and i are hanging right now and missing you. Hope you are doing well. Need to start planning that visit soon… Xoxo, Chi


    1. Thanks so much. I can’t wait for the visits to begin! Still feeling a bit overwhelmed with the pace of work and the amount of work and the learning of Catalan, but I am happy with the progress!


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