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Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


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Almost there – Presque là

Oh Andy

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Come together – Venez ensemble

Always check your IKEA bits

Always check your IKEA bits

Here we are in France, 3 weeks of putting the (hopefully) finishing touches to the house.  So much had happened since I last the house that I was very excited to see it. The week before we were there, my sister and her family stayed for a week.  They had to do a bit of indoor camping because unfortunately the kitchen hadn’t been fitted in time for their arrival.  I hope they still enjoyed themselves though – at least they were able to have a hot shower!  Sadly for them, the kitchen started to go in just as they were about to leave and was ready to use by the time that we arrived.  The kitchen may be have been delayed, but it is well worth the wait.  It is much nicer than the kitchen we have at home and is great fun to use.  We were lucky to find our kitchen fitter because he was able to help out with a lot of the other jobs that we needed to do.  There was no way that we would have been able to work on the flooring, skirting, wall cladding and other bits and bobs if he hadn’t helped us out.  We are very grateful to Matt for all his hard work.

During our first week, Tom spent a lot of time fixing lighting in the rooms.  It is all well and good having a shower or going to the loo with the door open when it is just the two of you, but when there are a lot of builders around, it is a good idea to have the door shut!  My DIY skills amount to painting and fixing towel rails and it was a little too early for that, so I was on Supermarket runs and Lego building with Molly.  Neither of these things are particular hardships, although letting me loose in a French supermarket may not necessarily be the best idea.

I was able to help Tom with the storage for the living area.  He had worked this all out very precisely on IKEAs design page which then kindly gave him a list of all the bits he needed.  All of this was included on his mammoth ‘three trolley’ trip to Bordeaux IKEA, but something went wrong and a few bits were missing and a few bits were left over (a door rather than the vital screw we had forgotten to use).   Off we popped to IKEA once again, but got round in record time and didn’t even stop for meatballs.

We also went to the Mairie to talk about bins and rubbish collections.  I know that even though the translation of Mairie is Mayor, he isn’t the same as our Mayor in Lewisham, I still found it funny that we had to talk to him about our bins when at home residents have to ring a big call centre in a Council building somewhere.  I work in the same office as the people whose role includes dealing with problems of missed collections and missing bins and I know that they like me would find it amusing.  I can never imagine a situation where Tom and I would walk in to Lewisham’s Town Council Chambers to talk to the Mayor about getting a bin.

 

We have just started the second week and things have moved on massively.  It was a flurry of excitement and activity here on Monday (yesterday).  Thromas – our plumbers and electricians – came to install shower screens, heated towel rails and some of the lighting.  This was the lighting that needed scaffolding to install so Tom wasn’t able to do it.  It is amazing what a bit of lighting can do to a room.  With these major jobs done there would be a lot less dust being created.  This meant we could put furniture together and remove plastic coverings from the windows – the later of these activities certainly made the place feel a little less like a building site. Flapping plastic in never a good look. With the furniture in place we were finally one the way to having a home.

On Thursday, Fred (French Fred), the man doing our earthworks is starting.  Hopefully, by the middle of next week we will have a driveway, footpath and some useable garden at the back of the house.  This will make a huge difference to the look of the house.  Removing plastic from the windows does help stopping the place look like a building site, but the piles of earth and stone all over the place do nothing for the look of the house.

I’m off to do some more cleaning now, we’ve got guests coming in a couple of days, so we need to get things a little more tidy – I think you put up with a lot more when you’ve been living with it for a while.  I’ll report back soon on our progress…., but it really is all coming together….!


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Splish Splash – Flic Floc

The fished facade with shutters

The finished facade with shutters

At the end of July, Tom, his dad and his brother drove down to Montemboeuf for a week. Luckily they were not too delayed with the ongoing problems in Calais and made it in time for a lovely meal at the Lavender House. Over the next week they had a very busy time of it including a mammoth trip to IKEA, putting together flat pack furniture and getting the house cleaned up.  They were also able to get a good look at what had been happening in the house in the month since we had last visited the house. One of the most exciting developments was the installation of the bathrooms. It was so great to finally see something installed that we chose just after Christmas.  I am just pleased that we still like our choices!

The other big development was the fixing of the shutters. The ‘envelope’  of the wooden cladding can really be seen now. Not only that but it made it much cooler for the builders that were working inside the house.  July was a very hot month in Montemboeuf, so I think they were relieved for anything that would cool the house down.

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The first job for the boy was cleaning the house as much as possible.  The builder had done his best, but with all the furniture that would be arriving over the next couple of days they needed the place, not quite gleaming, but as dust free as possible. The boys had a tough time of it, but I think it was probably worth it in the end!

The next day they travelled to IKEA to do quite a large shop.  Fortunately, IKEA Bordeaux do a click and collect service, so we were able to pre-order and pay for a few items.  It may have just been a few, but every little helps when it comes to IKEA.  Tom was very lucky that he had the help because they had 3 trolleys worth of goods. I don’t think much can be said about an IKEA shop, other than the fact it took them a long time and they deserved their pineau once they got back!

The next day more furniture was delivered including a bed and sofa.  Tom assures me that this is still covered in its protective plastic covering.  Nether of us are particularly keen for it to get covered in builder’s dust or paint.

In the month between Tom’s visits our kitchen also arrived, so Tom and his family made a start putting this together.  There were quite a few cupboards to assemble and shelves to go in, but they managed to get all this done.  All that needs to happen now is for our builder to attach all of this to the wall and install all the electrical goods.  We really hope that this can be done by 11th August because this is when my sister and her family will be staying in the house!

Work on the kitchen begins

Work on the kitchen begins

The Kyle men worked really hard over their week in France and managed to get a huge amount done.  Part of me wishes I had been there to see how much progress had been made, but I think Molly and I would have been in the way.  Until we get her using a screwdriver it is best that she stays having fun at home!

There’s a party going on Bobby


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Somebody paints the wall – Quelqu’un peind le mur

Sanding man

Sanding man

As the wall was going up on the outside, on the inside work started on the painting the walls on the inside.  First things first, the whole are had to be sanded to make the surface ready to paint.  The poor chap above was given this task and it looks like he did it on a very warm day. Luckily he still seemed to have a smile on his face!

I will not post lots of photos of paint drying, but it is an important step in the build process, so in needed blogging about!  We still haven’t quite decided on all the colours, but we are getting there. We even roped in our neighbours and lodger to help us choose our colours, but we only got as far as the grey and orange!  We do not have that long to decide because our decorator needs to order the paint from the UK. Paint colours are quite important for the feel and look of the house, so although we don’t have long, ew can’t rush these things either….

The thing about finding songs to match the title of the blog post, or vise versa is that you come across some crackers (and some not so much).  I will leave you to decide which this is.

Take it away Tracy


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Veiled in Grey – Voilée en gris

This is where our kitchen will be

This is where our kitchen will be

Although I have been quiet on the blogging front recently, things in Montemboeuf have been moving forward at a pace.  Unfortunately, plaster boarding, and taping and jointing are not the most exciting things to be writing about or to show in images.  They may be an important part of the whole build process, but they don’t get the proverbial juices flowing!  There is quite a lot of house to plaster board so it is not surprising that it has taken a while.

We hope that the plaster boarding will be finished by the end of the month and then work can start on the painting and tiling.  This has meant that we have been trying to chose colours for the house. Fortunately, a lot of the house will be painted grey or white, but with a few splashes of colour.  We have a rough idea of the colours we would like, but when it comes to tones – there is a lot to chose from.  We have also been warned that French paint is not as good as English paint, so we’ve been going through swatches from Dulux, Little Green and a few others.  There really are 50 Shades of Grey!  Grey may sound dull to some people, but if used well and with the correct contrasting colours, it can be very effective.

Tom is also planning to contact our kitchen supplier to arrange for them to come out in July. Hopefully, they can install it in time for our visit in August/September.  In the meantime, Tom and I will be not only be choosing paint, but also furniture and kitchen equipment. Our first guests (my sister and her family) are booked in for late August, we need to be ready for then.  Hopefully, there isn’t a classic ‘Grand Designs’ moment coming up!  Still at least there is a nice Chambre d’Hotes in Montemboeuf if things are not ready!

 

Over to you Mystery Jets


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These wires are out of control – Ces fils sont hors de contrôle

Kitchen wires

Kitchen wires

Apologies for the lack of posting recently, but life sort of took over.  Molly started nursery, but was then sick and I was due to go back to work, but then also became ill.  I have just about recovered now and I am recuperating in France! Sadly not in Cannes where most people seem to go for that sort of thing, but La Rochefoucauld is very lovely!

We are also a little behind schedule, but inevitably these things happen.  Unfortunately, not having been on site for six weeks has meant that things have moved more slowly than expected.  Even though we are behind on the program that the builders had given us, the site had changed considerably in 6 weeks.  Externally, the site is looking a lot tidier for a start which makes the approach to the house a lot more welcoming.  This is further helped with the very beginnings of the landscaping. We’d contracted ‘An English Nursery in France’ to plant a hedge for us and to do some tree pruning and the work they did has made a big difference to the front of the house. Hedging plants seem to be very expensive in France.  We were very keen to use our local pépinière, but it would have been cheaper to buy the plants in the UK and drive them over.  This of course, would have not been very good for the plants! 

The pergola had also been finished and we were now able to see Tom’s design of a seamless continuation of cladding of the house and pergola in action.  I can’t wait to be sitting there with a glass of pineau watching the sun go down.  I am sure some of you would like to join me!?

However, it is on the inside of the house that the biggest changes have happened.  We now have some walls, ceilings, the beginnings of a staircase and lots and lots of wires, pipes and ducts everywhere.  As I have mentioned before, it is difficult to imagine how the layout of the house will look or gauge the sizes of the rooms from the architect’s drawings. When we were last in the house, before the partitions went up, I could not visualise the space and wondered how we would fit two en-suite bedrooms downstairs.  Visiting the site again, with the partitions up, I can’t believe how large the areas are.  It just goes to show that you really need to see a house with internal walls before you worry about the space!

The walls that have been put up enabled us to see that all important framed view that I had wanted Tom to design right from the beginning of the project.  It was very exciting to finally see it. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks all the walls will be up!

We now have a bit of careful time and project management to work on.  It is also vital that the interaction between our mason, plumber, electrician and main builder works as smoothly as possible. We have to time the delivery of our kitchen correctly because there was no way our mason, who is doing the tiling can do a good job on the tiling with big kitchen boxes in the way!  It is therefore important therefore that the tiling is finished before we take delivery of the kitchen, but this meant that first fix plumbing and electrics had to be finished before the tiling can start.  This organisation of the trades was going to be difficult once back in the UK, so we will have to keep our fingers crossed that until Tom can get back to site things run smoothly with all the trades!

 

Over to you Franz Ferdinand


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Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe – Quelquefois, tout j’ai besoin est l’air que je respire

Air tightness test

Air tightness test

The results are in….

At the end of February we had an air tightness test. Achieving a good level of air tightness is important for the energy efficiency of the building.  The benefits of improved insulation and more energy efficient heating systems such as the ones was have installed would be lost if warm air leaked out of the building and cold air leaked in.  Too much air leakage can lead to unnecessary heat loss and possible discomfort, which anyone in the house would feel as draughts.   To carry out this test, the company arrived and fitted a temporary airtight screen to our front door.  They then mounted a big fan to the screen which blew air in to and out of our house so that they could create a pressure difference between the inside and outside of 50 Pascals.  To pass an air leakage test in England and Wales, a home must achieve an air permeability result of 10 m3/(h.m2).  By the end of our build we will hope to achieve 0.6 m3/(h.m2) which is far in excess of UK building regulations and is almost Passivhaus standard which is 0.2 m3/(h.m2.).  At the end of this interim test we would not expect to achieve our desired result, but doing a test at this stage would allow us to seal up any major leakages through the construction. It was all quite exciting on the day and as we waited for the results.  The results came in and….we achieved 0.8 m3/(h.m2). I think this far exceeded what Tom expected to achieve at this stage, so he was very pleased that when they ran the test again they attained the same results!

It’s all yours, The Hollies….