Stone House Misconceptions

One phrase I hear a lot when taking clients around to view properties is, “I’d love a house built with local stone.’’ Rarely are people saying this because of its appearance and natural beauty, it’s largely down to their concept of temperature. Many times I hear them say, “Stone houses are cooler in the summer,” or “Stone buildings are warmer in the winter.” This is one of the popular misconceptions people have, so I’ll set the record straight here in a short blog entry cataloguing my experience of living in a house made of stone.

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Stone built houses are not cooler in summer, in fact they can be oppressively hot. During the day the stones are warmed by the sun and at night release that heat like Satan’s storage heaters. The only way to keep an Italian stone house cooler in summer is to have smaller windows and the shutters or blinds closed during the day and one of the best things we ever invested in was an air-conditioning unit. Tiled floors rather than carpet are good for giving your bare feet respite from the heat. IMG_4402

The opposite happens in the winter, the stones have cooled and are now cold. the frigidity seeps through the plaster making the walls cold. This is where the next best investment kicks in, the wood burner. Granted, once the room and walls are warmed by the fire the thickness of the stone helps to insulate the property and keep the temperature up. However over night when the fire has gone out the chill sets in once again.

And those cold tiled floors are not friends to bare feet in winter.

The Cost of Keeping Warm

Welcome to my first blog post of 2016. I had a couple of people message me to say that I hadn’t mentioned what music was shuffling on the iPod in my last few posts; one of whom was my stalker (I say in the nicest possible way) in New York – Those who’ve been following A Life on Shuffle for a while will probably remember him?) So to kick off,  il primo post di quest’anno, the first song playing, appropriately is an Italian one called, Piove by Giusy Ferreri.

Most people ask me what the comparison is between utilities in the UK and Italy and obviously I can only comment on my own experience. Electricity is on a par with England, however mains gas here is a little more expensive. We have no mains gas in our lane so last winter we used a portable gas heater and kept a record of the costs which during the coldest months totalled €365.00 (£268.50) which we think wasn’t bad considering we had a couple of weeks of deep snow.

Wood BurnerThis year we installed a wood burner, it’s a 9 kw that is capable of heating 190 m3 and so far we’ve been really happy with it.

We at first we assumed we’d have to buy a pallet of ready chopped wood, but then we thought about how the locals here sort out their winter fuel and we decided to do it the same way if we could.

At first I cut down some overgrown branches from our fig tree and left them over the summer to dry out.

We then had a friend who had 2 very small olive’s that he wanted to cut down and said if we cut them down we could have the wood, so that was the start of our wood pile for 2015. Then another friend had a rather unruly olive and we were allowed to cut down this one too.

There’s always lots of kindling around so there’s no need to store it as a 5 minute walk down the lane can supply this, however we had lots of off cuts of pine from the restoration and this was then chopped and added to our store.

A trip to the beach is finished off with a walk into the woods to collect a box of pine cones: Brilliant for resurrecting embers should you neglect the fire. Pine Cones

 

The olive harvest came and Mario asked us if we wanted his pruned branches for our fire. They are a little bit labour intensive as you have to strip them, but the larger pieces make great logs and the smaller branches are very good; as olive burns very well and doesn’t need to be left to season for a year. We very soon had several wheelbarrows full of extra wood.

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Finally, we often take a trip to the coast as it’s only 15 minutes away, and we’ve now become seasoned driftwood scavengers, with each trip bringing us two large bags full of wood.

Driftwood

So when you look at it, the cost this year is minimal, a small amount in petrol (which we’d have used anyway going to walk on the beach) and a few cents on fire-lighters.

So we’re happy that the cost of keeping warm this year is considerably cheaper than buying gas bottles.

Stay warm folks and see you next time.