So much left to do.


Looking around Our Tour we see the progress we’ve made, but also how far we have to go. While we’ve tried to restore many of its ancient features, sometimes in an effort to make it into a modern dwelling we’ve had to forgo others.

Case in point the huge boarded up fireplace that was in the space where our daughter’s room will go. The original idea was to work with it as a charming decorative feature, but the weight it was putting on the floorboards and the space it was taking up made us decide otherwise.

We took the large stone mantel off and placed it in the courtyard. It made such a nice makeshift bench that we’re contemplating later stripping the paint and turning it into a real bench.

renovating a 17th century townhouse

When we dismantled the mantle we saw that the side stone pieces that were holding it up were of a lesser newer quality. We took them out too. Further opening up the fireplace we found the vestige of another much older fireplace.













We cleaned out the shoot which was just a mess and then with a heavy heart covered it up with cement blocks. It just wasn’t feasible or practical to restore.


So much to do before Our Tour is inhabitable. The stress is mounting as our goal is to live in it this year!

There are places that we just don’t have the time or money to restore and will have to keep in its grungy state for a while. Like the inside of the tower stairwell. Un jour we will restore the stone masonry like we did to the outside and we’ll recut new stones to fill out the severely worn steps. Un jour. But for now we just have to concentrate on the basics (like heat, hot water and plumbing!).

renovating a 17th century townhouse  renovating a 17th century townhouse







Our 17th century interior walls after repointing.

living room

Much like the masonry work that was done to the exterior walls of “Our Tour”, the completed restoration and repointing of our interior walls has made a huge difference. Like the outside, the work has not only homogenized the stone and gotten rid of any cracks, it has also lighted and brightened the room. We are kinda amazed by the results.

Exposed stone wall living room before/after repointing

The professional crew also entirely restored the fireplace. The funky resin casing was replaced with new stone. The linoleum was pulled back during the process exposing the wood floors and the vintage tile hearth.

after stone work

17th century stonework after restoration and repointing

They also rehabilitated the stone niche we had found behind the plaster walls.

My beau père also prepared le terrain by wiring the electricity directly into the walls. The wires were passed under the floor boards and then through tunnels made into the wall which were later entirely concealed from the outside. Finished, only the switches and outlets will show.

Running electricity through stone wall

Passing electrical work through stone walls

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Our 17th century exterior walls after repointing

17th century tower after stone work

The outside masonry work is done and we are flabbergasted by the results. The professionals really did an amazing job rehabilitating “Our Tour”. Not only did they cut out the old joints and repoint with new mortar, they also replaced and “crossed” entire sections that were damaged or cracked. They took special attention to the stone around the windows, fitting them with newly cut pieces where necessary.

With time the new jointing will wear away a bit and darken in color, but for now “Our Tour” just seems to sparkle in the sun.

17th century tower

We also did a part of the courtyard’s wall (we’ll do the rest someday). Check out the difference in the arch below.

stone arch after masonry

Stone arch after repointing

Stone arch after repointing

The stone work on the inside main living floor has been completed as well. Just like the exterior, the change is phenomenal. I’ll post some pics soon.

Seeing “Our Tour” like this gives us so much hope for the future. After spending more than a year in just demolition work alone, we finally feel like we’re moving forward.

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Our 17th century tower undergoes a stone masonry facelift.

rockrosewine blog

The professional crew came in to repoint and joint the exterior of Our Tour’s outer tower stairwell. This facade is perhaps the oldest of Our Tour’s walls. We believe the stairwell precedes most of the home it connects.

While it was in considerably good shape for being almost 400 years old, it did need a good refreshing. The old mortar was crumbling in many places resulting in water damage to the stone and plants had been finding little cracks in which to sink their roots. Not good in general for the insulation or preservation of our very old home.

The crew came in and set up the scaffolding and started to cut into the joints from the top down. All the joints needed to be well cleaned of its old mortar before applying a new couche. The above pic shows Our Tour’s cut out work in progress (the top floor is cleaned and cut).

Then the team applied a new limestone and sand mix mortar that allows the joints to breath and absorb water in place of the stone. They also replaced all damaged stones and “crossed” them in areas where there were visible cracks.

I’ve seen the “after”, and it’s impressive. But I wanted to wait untill all the scaffolding was down to take new pics. It’s amazing how changed it looks.

 Here are some useful links about repointing stone walls:

See what our Tour looks AFTER:

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Moving on up.


Let me start off this post by saying my Beau Pere is boss. We are so fortunate to have friends and family in the region who are able to help us with such a big renovation project and my father-in-law is the best help we could ever find.

I am constantly amazed, AMAZED, at everything he knows how to do. Carpentry, masonry, electricity…he’s saved us a ton of worries, time and not to mention money.

The last couple of months have been dedicated to securing some basic structural work that we needed in order to move forward with the project. We spent a good part of the summer dismantling a 3 ton stone wall that wasn’t supporting anything, but was putting all it’s weight on a lower supporting beam (we had 3 experts tell us we could take it out and when we did we found the rest of a niche that was hidden behind it, further proof that the wall had been added at a much later date).

When we got the wall out we had to put in a new beam where it had left a hole in the above floor boards. We had several options including using an IPN metal beam or a solid wood one. Both options were very expensive and would have been difficult to  transport and implement.

However, Beau Pere had a different solution: Just use a series of wood 2 x 4s imbedded into the stone masonry and then solidify them together with the longest screws I’ve ever seen. My husband, brother-in-law and I were all on hand to help and gawk in amazement as he finished the assembly.

montage ceiling

The outside of the 2 x 4s were then covered with wood planks and the edges were mounted with wood “ears” specially cut by a carpenter neighbor friend who had all the cutting equipment for the “ears” and the wood plugs that will later conceal the screw holes. After the masonry work is done we’ll stain the wood to better match the color of the other original beams.

The other big project my Beau Pere finished was cutting the trémie where our colimaçon will go.

Colimaçon is the French word for spiral staircase. The nice thing about doing a reno project real slow is that it gives you the time to really think about the layout. In the beginning we had just assumed that we would access the different floors by the outside stairwell tower, but we later realized that the stairwell would be impossible to insulate and that we’d lose a lot of heat by just opening the doors and going in between the two main floors. So the new idea became to make a sort of loft within our Tour, joining the main living floor with the floor that housed the bedrooms. It’s a lot cozier and energy-efficient. We won’t lose heat from opening the main doors to the stairwell and the heat from our future wood stove will be able to waft up to warm the bedrooms.

We finalized the floor plans and told Beau Pere where we wanted it to go. A couple of weeks later we came back to our Tour and lo and behold the hole was there. I really have no idea how he managed to saw into the floor boards like he did. Like I said he is just a boss of bricolage.


While we might have been able to do some of the masonry work ourselves, we decided to call in the professionals to do the job. Next month a team will come in to repoint and joint the stone walls. They will also restore the main fireplace’s chimney, small square niches and the big niche you see below. That’s honestly something we couldn’t have done alone.

Also, because of budget concerns we had to make a big decision: Do we restore and repoint the inside of the outer stairwell tower or repoint and joint the outside? Beau Pere said to definitely do the outside in order to protect it from any further water damage and see about the inside later. We didn’t need much convincing and followed his advice.

So in addition to doing the interior walls of the main floor, the pros will also be doing the whole exterior of the outer tower! All 4 stories of 17th century loveliness. Now that’s something we really couldn’t have done ourselves.

So, these are the before pics. Our Tour is about to get a major face lift.


Other stories:

cuisine-aurelie-mathigot EXPOSED BEAMS AND JOISTS




Finished. Demolition. Done.

In restoring  “our Tour” we wanted to preserve and showcase some of its most ancient features. Unfortunately, many of those features were hidden behind more recent walls. For a long time we couldn’t make any important technical decisions or floor plans because we just didn’t know what we were working with. Now we do: Demolition is done and phase two has begun!

During the winter break we were able to get a lot of good work done. We’ve exposed all the features we wanted to expose while leaving what we thought should remain.

We tore off the recent plaster work on the walls of the 2ème étage (top photo). It was so thin and wrought with humidity that it fell off like shattered glass at the slightest touch of a pick. Underneath is an earthen clay layer that we’re preserving for insulation. Since this floor will house the bedrooms and we want to keep it warm, we’ll be further insulating the walls with an additional air pocket/modern insulation/dry wall. We’ll also be covering the ceiling joists with an additional insulation/drywall to prevent warm air from going out the roof.

However, on the main living floor the stone walls and ceiling joists will be exposed. While the walls still need some cutting out before repointing, they’re more or less ready to go. Afterwards we’ll get new windows and doors custom-made by a local artisan using the existing hardware on the old ones.


We’re still cleaning off the supporting beams and joists. Originally we had started cleaning them with a metal brush as we were told this was the best way to expose the natural grain of the wood. Well, that was just taking wayyyy too long. So we threw in the towel, er brush, and borrowed a sand blaster from a family friend. It’s so much faster and the beams look fine. We are using a fine grain of sand and the wood has kept all the natural imperfections that make it so beautiful. When we took off the false ceilings we were careful not to disturb the old insulation, a mix of mud and hay. The sand blaster is precise enough that we’re able to strip the joists without touching the areas in-between.


Thank goodness for the linoleum! It was installed by a previous owner and has done a wonderful job protecting the wood floors during our demolition work and sand blasting. The floorboards are amazing, but we won’t be ready to uncover them for a while.

After much discussion and some dispute the floor plans have finally been finalized! I think I drew up at least 15 different options and in the end the simplest ones won out. Edraw Max rules!  We now know how the kitchen and bathroom will be laid out and can go forward with some of the electricity and plumbing. The kitchen will stay in this corner:


After being a bit overwhelmed by the grandeur of this project and unsure about what course of action to take, we now have a much firmer game plan. Even though we’re still far away from making our Tour a modern habitable living space, it feels like we’re finally starting to see the light.

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