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  1.  
    Hi all

    Not sure where would be best as way of a Hi and introduction so I gambled on here (happy for it to be moved if needed)

    Anyway, I’m a long term fan of forums having restored cars, motorcycles, renovated properties etc over the years.

    The new project requires some “out of the box” thinking and looking around many of the forums it’s people quoting building regs or abusing people for not paying experts to do it for them haha...... here seems much friendlier and helpful although I know it’s not so active, so I genuinely hope others here will not only help me but also get some enjoyment out of throwing around ideas.

    The project is very unique, a 400-700 yr old house (originally 2 dwellings), built against the 2000yr old city wall.
    You’d think this would make it an impossible project with volumes of restrictions and lots of zeros in the costings..... thankfully not here in Portugal. There are of course some restrictions but not too many, hopefully here will be a place to hear possible solutions.

    The house itself is a long thin irregular building approx 2.7m (increasing to 3.5m) x 17.5m, 2 storeys.
    Originally it would of been 2 houses, each with the ground floor for animals and the upper floor for living.

    Good news...
    a blank canvas
    Very little building regs
    A fun project

    Bad news...
    One of the long walls is the historical wall and does have some restrictions
    With the above factor suitably insulating the property or even heating is questionable
    Highly unlikely to have much in the way of foundations
    The opposing long wall is leaning significantly
    Portugal famously suffers from sever damp issues
    The lack of regs in Portugal means that everything that’s been done in the past is a joke, so literally everything needs to be redone
    The other walls are of an old traditional method that involved packing any old stone or brick along with dirt (yes genuinely dirt!) 50cm thick, no damp proofing etc, with a tradional lime render.

    Intention...
    I’m planning to convert the house into 4 small Airbnb/holiday rentals with an overall medieval/historical theme.

    I’ve lots of questions, queries and desperate pleas for help but thought the above would help paint an initial picture.

    Thanks in advance and Hello again to everyone!
  2.  
    What are your external operating temperatures going to be? i.e. summer only, all year, extended season? It makes a big difference to the heating demands (if any) and the referb. choices e.g. insulation, windows etc.

    Don't worry about 50cm stone /dirt/rubble walls, you just have to treat them as you find them and remember you can't make a small hole in that type of wall.

    With regard to previous works done - IMO if it ain't broke - don't fix it.
  3.  
    Thanks for the questions Peter,

    Being Portugal obviously an extended summer season as a given, but being an historical tourist town it has major festivals over Easter, a couple of weeks April/May, a couple of weeks October, Xmas/NY period. It does get chilly in the latter periods and even occasional morning ground/car frost over winter.
    I was advised by an expert in commercial building heating that blown air is the best option but I really am not keen on that. I did research the infrared heating panel developments but honestly I’m swayed towards underfloor heating at the moment.

    Regards the 50cm wall my concern is that quite a lot of damp penetrates them currently so would appreciate advice on them..... as for small holes ouch! I’m applying to fit 6 extra windows and an extra door so yeah that’s an area I need to research also.

    As for the previous works done “BROKE” would be an understatement haha I’ll post some photos soon to make you giggle and cry!
  4.  
    Oops temps you asked...
    Only averages N= night D = day
    Summer N17, D26
    Spring Autumn N7 D20
    Winter early spring N3 D15
    • CommentAuthorMike1
    • CommentTime7 days ago
     
    An interesting project.
    Posted By: PortugalProjectI’m swayed towards underfloor heating at the moment.
    Underfloor heating is normally good, but as you have damp walls you might want to lay it in a limecrete floor on granular insulation (rather than concrete) so it remains vapour-permaiable and doesn't leave the walls as the only way for moisture to escape. It would be interesting to know what the existing floor is made from.

    Posted By: PortugalProjectThe opposing long wall is leaning significantly
    Sounds like the advice of a structural engineer may be a good idea. On a potentially related topic, what is the local seismic risk?
  5.  
    Hi Mike and thanks for getting involved....

    Thanks for the advice re the flooring. Existing is just very rough poured concrete that I’ve no idea how long has been there or what is underneath, I’m actually considering using a breaker on it next week just to see under a few sample sections to know what I’m dealing with.

    I need to find it again but I did read about a new product for flooring that is small hollow clay balls giving excellent insulation fast and easy to lay etc, BUT is in uk only that I could find. I’m going to check cost to transport here and possibility of a similar product here as there is a massive clay based industry throughout the whole country.

    Ahhh Portuguese structural engineers! €275 a very good price, the report?.... “yeah it’ll be ok, it’s stood hundreds of years and survived the giant earthquake in the 1700s” :shocked:

    I’ve already learnt that good construction professionals in Portugal move to other countries as pay is far higher. Here it is very questionable as to the worth (I’m already on my 3rd architect, 2nd topography guy, 3rd lawyer)


    Seismic activity I believe is daily but not felt, however mine is in bracket of 8 using the European macroseismic scale.
    That said I’ve been here over 18months and still not felt one.
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTime7 days ago
     
    Posted By: PortugalProjectI did read about a new product for flooring that is small hollow clay balls giving excellent insulation fast and easy to lay etc, BUT is in uk only that I could find.

    I suppose you're thinking of Leca - https://www.leca.pt/
  6.  
    Dave (Djh) thank you so much..... that saved me a day of searching google, plus you’ve directed me to the Portuguese site!

    I think I’ve got my £5 forum membership worth already haha

    Any experiences with this stuff or opinions on whether in my project it would be suitable/effective?
  7.  
    We used LECA and were very pleased with it. Breathable floor construction, with UFH.
    Should be some posts / pictures on here, if you can’t find them let me know.
    • CommentAuthorgoodevans
    • CommentTime7 days ago
     
    It's the £5 membership that keeps the Trolls away - it's why the site is friendly and most of the responses are worth reading (except this one obviously as it is not relevant to the topic). BTW welcome.
    • CommentAuthorMike1
    • CommentTime7 days ago edited
     
    Posted By: PortugalProjectAhhh Portuguese structural engineers! €275 a very good price, the report?.... “yeah it’ll be ok, it’s stood hundreds of years and survived the giant earthquake in the 1700s”
    Doesn't surprise me, and they may be right - or the next one might fell it.

    Maybe you could find a UK engineer prepared to work from a plan & photos.

    I'd be thinking about opportunities to reinforce the structure using the type of technique shown here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWF6Rp_NovM - formed into a framework. If the wall goes, you still have a property worth repairing. See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7beGxhCLnEo (in French, and at roof level, but larger version of the same idea.)

    It will be interesting to learn more about your floor investigations.
  8.  
    Posted By: Dominic CooneyWe used LECA and were very pleased with it. Breathable floor construction, with UFH.
    Should be some posts / pictures on here, if you can’t find them let me know.


    Hmmm not sure why the quote isn’t working


    Thanks for the offer Dominic, anything that saves me time is always appreciated.
    I’m glad you said about the breathable as it was one of my concerns after watching the video they promote.
    It specifically focussed on talking about a sealed concrete floor layer on top and I do think breathing will be essential.

    PLEASE anybody who reads what I write and disagrees/has other ideas say so as mine are merely rumblings of dreams and ideas so very prone to error! Plus I’m thick skinned and always grateful for help!


    My thoughts about the breathing is because the 2000yr old that runs along one length of my property is solid stone 2m thick minimum using a traditional lime mortar..... so the idea of making a truly sealed passivehaus style project seems impossible to me, therefore I’m thinking good breathable products and ventilation will be key to avoid damp issues
  9.  
    Paul (goodevans)..... a very valid point haha

    I do find the more specialist a forum is the more friendly and helpful it is.... yes a generalisation.
  10.  
    Hi Mike...

    or the next one might fell it...... my concern also. This is a fun project but also a dream of standing back saying “I did that”, my retirement pot, a small business, something to leave to my family (ps I’m 49 so not aiming for the latter too soon but you get the idea haha), so I don’t want to spend a lot of savings and blood on something that falls down in a few years!


    Maybe you could find a UK engineer prepared to work from a plan & photos....... I hadn’t considered that as I’d have thought they would need to be here in person to investigate as so unique


    I'd be thinking about opportunities to reinforce the structure...... read my mind, and will be one of the things I’ll be putting to the community very soon. I built a garage in the past using a steel frame construction from an industrial mezzanine floor structure. Worked fantastic and gave so many possibilities. I’m considering doing an internal steel frame in this but there are issues I’ll explain later. (That 2nd video is very interesting and easily done, certainly now on the highly considering list)


    It will be interesting to learn more about your floor investigations...... arghhhh you little tease tempting me to start this week instead of next haha
  11.  
    I used Leca on my limecrete floor, but if I was doing it now I'd use recycled foamed glass.

    https://www.krysteline.com/blog/foam-glass

    It has better u values and it's a recycled product.
  12.  
    Hi Pile-o-stone

    I would certainly look at it however since Dave above very kindly directed me to the Portuguese website of Leca I’ve actually discovered the production plant is actually only an hour from me and offers “cash sales”, which I’m guessing could be very financially beneficial to me haha
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTime6 days ago edited
     
    Posted By: PortugalProjectHmmm not sure why the quote isn’t working

    That'll be because you used 'Text' format. If you go back and edit your post and choose 'Html' format, it will magically work, but you can't post any active URL links in a post that's formatted as 'Html'. Just a foible of the forum software.

    the idea of making a truly sealed passivehaus style project seems impossible to me

    Note that the 'sealed' nature of a passivhaus refers to its airtightness, not its (water) vapour tightness. I live in a very breathable passivhaus - lime and straw bales.

    UK engineer

    Double check legalities since we've left the EU. I can imagine you can legally use any EU engineer, but UK might be stretching it. I don't know - IANAL. Edit: Oh and FWIW I used two* engineers on my project (one straw bales, one passive slab foundation) and neither came to my site. * Actually more than two - there was another for the roof and another for the first floor, but none came to site.
  13.  
    Haha TaaaDaaa a quote!
  14.  
    Dave a very good point re air/water and one that I knew but for some reason my brain was still tieing the two together.

    So I’m sure a major debate or conversation but in layman’s terms are we saying that air tightness we are restricting the airflow, were as with the breathable aspect it’s the actual materials ability to breathe?

    Thanks for supporting the idea of using a ‘remote’ engineer.
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    Posted By: PortugalProjectSo I’m sure a major debate or conversation but in layman’s terms are we saying that air tightness we are restricting the airflow, were as with the breathable aspect it’s the actual materials ability to breathe?

    Yes, in both cases in fact. i.e. it's the material properties that determine how airtight something is as well as how vapour permeable (aka breathable) it is. Generally things can be airtight and vapour tight, or airtight and breathable, or neither. There are some cases of vapour tight but not airtight I think but I can't remember any right now.

    Note that the answer is not always obvious. For example it's easy to think of wood as airtight, but it isn't if it's got any shakes/cracks in it.
  15.  
    For seismic events - What I did (Hungary has had some damaging events) was to get insurance for the buildings, along with fire and storm damage and then forget about it.

    For heating - if you have sufficient power then perhaps a reversible ASHP so that you can advertise air/con. as well as heating as needed.

    If they are small units the you can get single room MVHR units for about 250 GBP that can be installed with minimum ducting if the air/con. doesn't give a positive input ventilation by default.

    I wouldn't bother with UFH, rather in the sitting areas I would put engineered wood flooring on 3cm battens with EPS between the battens (comfort issue) and tiles everywhere else (easy to clean, difficult to damage) If you go for tiles everywhere then some scatter rugs in the sitting areas.

    I would insulate the lofts and put external insulation on the walls. I have a stone/rubble walled building that we used for tourist lets and we stopped doing winter, early spring and late autumn lets because it took too long to heat the building from the previous week end when we had a let that phoned on Thursday night for Friday/Saturday and it was too expensive to keep up the temp 'in case'. A reasonable level of insulation will / could make it easier to be 'always ready'. Also the insulation will help in the summer to keep a nice indoors temp.
    If the building has the external walls rendered now then EWI won't (shouldn't) be an issue because EWI can be made to look like the original.

    From experience I would be very nervous about asking the local builders to do anything that is even the smallest bit outside their comfort zone. (e.g.limecrete ?) Go with the local practices and methods and but first learn what they are and how to do them then watch the builders like a hawk to make sure no corners and cut. Builders everywhere are good at making the end product look OK and never mind what is under the last coat of plaster.

    The French video above shows a cast in situ reinforced concrete ring beam going on. - Just the thing for your stone walls. If you need to take the roof off then put one on before the new roof is fitted. Ring beams are standard practice here even on new build.

    The 2M thick city wall is either an asset or a liability. At 2M thick it is going to be very temperature stable so either put internal insulation on it or point the stone nicely and make a feature of it. For the purposes of heating I suspect it will act a bit like a floor, it will warm up in the middle to the stable room temp. and will have cold bridges at the sides.

    Do you have used buildings on either end as this will affect the heating demands.

    IMO structural engineers are only needed for the building authorities and for when you are going out on a limb or otherwise pushing the boundaries of the norm. The local builders have done it all before and know what works so I let them get on with it for any run of the mill stuff and only use a SE for the marginal bits. Any way there is the 'As planned' and 'As built' and they are never the same. Builders are not very good at following plans, they use the plans to get the footprint dimensions and then just build the way they always have.

    The way windows are put into stone rubble walls here is that first the concrete lintels is put in above the place using support bars through the wall above to hold the wall then the wall below is removed and the sides repaired with standard bricks to the window size. If stone / rubble walls are common in the area the local builders will know that to do.
    • CommentAuthorEd Davies
    • CommentTime6 days ago
     
    Posted By: djhOh and FWIW I used two* engineers on my project (one straw bales, one passive slab foundation) and neither came to my site.
    But it's a slightly different case when an engineer is certifying plans vs examining and giving advice on dealing with an existing building. E.g., for my old house I had a problem with the front steps slipping down the hill; I sent a structural engineer some photos from which he was pretty sure of what was going on but neither he nor I would have been happy to go with that until he'd come and had a look himself.

    There are some cases of vapour tight but not airtight I think but I can't remember any right now.
    I'm having a hard time imagining that; anything which is sufficiently open to gas flow to be considered not airtight would automatically let enough vapour through to be considered not vapour tight - particularly as water vapour molecules are smaller than the main air molecules (O₂ and N₂) so even a molecular sieve wouldn't work that way.
  16.  
    Hi again Peter

    A lot of your time put into that post so my genuine thanks.

    Insurance will be a definite once completed, I did speak to one agent already about insuring now who laughed and said no chance.

    ASHP.... two issues, one electricity is expensive in Portugal so a factor, secondly as an historic town externally no modern items can be viewed under local law (crazy as 20m away are allowed, but not the original centre), so external ASHP units, solar panels, etc are all out of the question.

    Combining the aircon/2m wall/neighbours...... in summer internally the house is very cool, even when 30deg outside its a pleasant 20deg inside, likewise in winter inside still feels a lot colder than outside. There benefits of insulating the wall are obvious but as you also suggested I’ve decided to point and make a great feature of the wall, in fact my internal layout is based all around the aesthetics of the wall feature.
    Only a neighbour on one end and no benefits from that as there is a gap in between backfilled with yet more rubble and dirt.

    The French video is excellent and I intend to incorporate a version of it when the roof is removed, though not wishing to Infringe on my limited internal space any further I’m still problem hunting how to do a ground floor level support.

    When I originally set on this road over a year ago I intended on using local builders funded by my job.... a year later, major pay cuts, demotion, possible redundancy all covid19 related and losing faith in local builders to work outside a concrete slab floor with concrete pillar/hollow clay block wall construction method I’m definitely looking at a more hands on approach.

    Thanks for the window info, it’s certainly one area I’m looking to use local builders. The thing is that in this region there is actually a deluge of work for builders so they are getting harder to find, plus they really only want large whole jobs not 2weeks - 1 month part jobs.
  17.  
    Well to help the suggestion flow and to aid my explanations, here’s a few photos (sorry about the colour but seems to have lost most as I compressed them to post here)
      AF5159C6-F9C7-4583-93AD-0F4E29F73D5F.png
  18.  
    One showing the ‘leaning’ aspect of the wall
      8148ACC6-9584-4F69-AD4E-897A2A132B7D.png
  19.  
    Other angle...
      6E6B3F27-C350-4768-871F-9F5DABD81081.jpeg
  20.  
    The previous workmanship that I’m determined needs replacing :bigsmile:
      2B877D35-F45F-486C-AC2D-EDBDFC3AD2E0.jpeg
  21.  
    Yes they really have used random bits of brick, wood, concrete..
      17B2D48C-2953-4361-A789-BBD9BA95B9E9.jpeg
  22.  
    They are all supporting the first floor :shocked:
      6CA19AC8-D083-4214-9D11-A4834AD8B08E.jpeg
  23.  
    As you can see I really wasn’t exaggerating the need of a virtual rebuild, at the moment the only thing that will not be replaced is the front and end wall. That will be reinforced/tied to prevent further movement, extra windows fitted and new render/paint.
   
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