This stuff is called render, enduit (ahng-dwee) in French. Let’s stick with the French word. They spray it on and trowel it flat, the way they do stucco in the States. But instead of wire mesh, they spray it onto the stone, so the layer — this is the first of two — is very thick.
I can sound pretty metaphysical, with all my references to what the house “wants.” In this case, it’s not metaphysical at all. The builder’s intention is communicated in the stonework.
This is your top of the line, gimme my enduit, stonework. The corner stones are dressed, which is to say they are angled at the corners. They are chipped to allow good adherence to the enduit and the chipped parts are angled back to meet the stone that built the main house. If you are going to do something as insanely expensive as fix up a derelict old house, hope for a house built like this one. Chances are they didn’t cut corners elsewhere, either. Fortunately for me, the main body of my house was built in this way.
And, well, then there is this. Some time later an owner wanted a more imposing look, so he added wings, little rooms that originally just stuck out there; I have changed things so that the rooms serve a function but originally, inside they just looked odd. Anyway, he wanted flash on the cheap, so he didn’t go to the trouble that the first guy did. You can see that the corner stones are just squared off. Though the ends are dressed to adhere to the enduit, they are placed nearly flush with the body of the house. In this situation, the crew will have to build out the enduit and feather it back to leave the corner stones exposed. It’s the knock-off handbag of stonework methods.
So, if you are still with me, you are surely wondering why I refer to cornerstones, when those big blocks are in the center of the wall. And what’s going on to the left? Well, there was a third part, a second addition. They added a small apartment to the main house. To the addition to the main house. It’s solid enough but it is built more like a country cottage. These stones were not meant to be hidden. The crew packed the enduit around the stones and let it dry. Then they went over it with a wire brush to clean off the loose bits and make it look nice. There will be no second layer.
And there you have it. The guys will do a first layer all around the house. They can do about one side of the house per day. Friday they will clear out. A friend is coming for her summer holidays, so I’m sure she will want to read that. When she and her family leave, the crew will return and give the whole place a second layer. And for I hope the next 50 years, that will be that. In 50 years, will the archaic skills needed to do this work still be passed on? I hope so — these buildings were meant to last — but you never know.