Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France

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Hope in the Air – l’espoir dans l’air

South facade and pergola

South facade and pergola

The scaffolding is down and the pergola is on its way to being finished – it has been a busy week on site!  The building is beginning to look like the original concept sketches that Tom did almost a year ago.

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We only have a week left in France before we head back to the UK.  There are still a few things that we need to sort before we go because we will not be back until Easter.  It is hard to choose tiles and flooring when you are not around to see them in the shop.  Still, this as finally been decided as has our hedging, decking and walling!

We have an air tightness test booked for next week as well.  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 are lost if warm air can leak out of the building and cold air can leak in. Too much air leakage can lead to unnecessary heat loss and possible discomfort in the house which you would feel as draughts. The test involves regulating air pressure inside the house.  They do this by fitting a temporary airtight screen to our front door.  They then mount a big fan to the screen which blows air in to and out of our house so that they can create a pressure difference between the inside and outside of 50 Pascals.  There is then some more complicated maths to do. To pass an air leakage test in England and Wales, a home must achieve an air permeability result of 10 m3/(h.m2).  We hoped to achieve 3 m3/(h.m2)! We’ll let you know how it goes.

Over to Laura…..

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The roof, the roof, the roof is on (fire), Le toit , le toit , le toit est sur ​​(le feu)

The roof is almost there!

The roof is almost there!

Well, not quite on fire thank goodness, but it is on! Finally, we can stand in the house and not get rained on. There is still a way to go with all the different layers, but it is one step closer.  There was talk of using scaffolding to get the roof on to the South side, but fortunately they found a way as it was not an expense that we wanted.  We are still hopeful that the windows will be put in by the end of the month, making the building watertight!

Tom is hoping that the carpenters will join us for a ‘Topping Out‘ ceremony  In building construction topping out is a builder’s rite traditionally held when the last beam (or its equivalent) is placed atop a structure during its erection.  According to Wikipedia (that fountain of knowledge) the practice of “topping out” a new building can be traced to an ancient Scandinavian religious rite. A tree was placed on top of a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced in its construction. Long an important component of timber frame building, it migrated initially to England and Northern Europe, thence to the Americas.  Hopefully, it will be Champagne all round, well when in France….

While we were on site today, Tom even took the chance to explain to Molly the insulating properties of Pavatex.  As you can see, she was very excited.

Molly learns about Pavatex

Molly learns about Pavatex

We have also be spending a lot of time in Leroy Merlin, Cedeo and Dupont looking at bathrooms and fencing. Some big decisions need to be made over the next week and we can’t make these without seeing the type of bath, loo, taps and sinks that we will have.  As always it is hard not to get carried away! Slightly less exciting, but just as important is the dry lining and door packages.  Tom is doing his best to get me enthused about this, but compare this to choosing baths and there is no contest.

Rain is forecast for the next couple of days, so I think a trip to Ikea in Bordeaux might be on the cards.  I wonder how the French Ikea experience will compare to that of the one in Croydon?


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There’s room enough for two, up on the roof….Il ya assez de place pour deux sur le toit

Fixing the pavatex pavatex

Fixing the pavatex

The roof is beginning to go on!  For the first couple of days this week the builders fitted the purlins on the north and south elevations.  Then today they started to fit the Pavatex and waterproof membrane to the north side of the house.  Pavatex is a high-quality insulation made from renewable raw material wood.  It also gives better protection against cold, heat, noise and fire.

The builders are confident that the north elevation will be finished by the end of the week, but have warned us that the south side will be a lot more complicated because they can’t get the manitou to this side of the house.  Therefore, they have to get the materials to this side of the house and on to the roof some other way.

The roof will be clad in timber, but below that there are a number of other materials.  Underneath the timber there is lightweight metal roof (crinkly tin ‘in the trade’) to help keep the rain out.  Below this is a waterproof membrane (to also help keep the rain out), then woodfibre board (Pavatex), then the purlins with more woodfibre in between.  Below this would be our ceiling.  I am told this is a fairly standard roof style, but if it keeps the rain out, that is fine with me.

Roof detail

Roof detail

New French words I have learnt  (I will expand on this as the weeks go by);

There are some particularly interesting ones this week…..

Placo – Plasterboard
Placo feu – Fireboard
Placo phonique – Acoustic plasterboard
Ossature metal – Studwork

Poêle à bois – Log stove
Parpaings – Blockwork
Concrete – Béton
J’ai  une faim de loup – I’m a hungry Wolf.   I’m reading (or attempting to read) ‘Tintin au Tibet’, in the hope it will improve my French.  (From this you can read that I am just doing it as an excuse to read Tintin)
Hors d’eau – Water tight
Hors d’ait – Air tight
La poute – beam
Poussez les dents – teeth coming through!
Baies coulissantes – Siding doors
Casque de chantier – hard hat.
Sous-sol – basement
La Renouée du Japon – Japanese knotweed

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There is a house in Montemboeuf – Il y a une Maison a Montemboeuf

 The house arrives

The house arrives as flat pack

Well almost….

Although a little delayed our house in Montemboeuf has finally started to go up.  Tom and I are both disappointed that we can not be there to see the beginning of the process as we had both been looking forward to this part of the build.  Fortunately, our timber frame company have sent us some photos of the progress – and it all seems to be happening very fast!

Our soon to be neigbours have also been kind enough to take a few as well, so at least we will have an idea as to how things are going.  Sadly we will no longer be watertight for Christmas, but at least they have made a start and when we get back in January we will see more of the house being erected.

It has been great to see Tom’s designs finally ‘in the flesh’ (almost).  I am also pleased to see that my portrait window in the bathroom made it to the cut of the final designs!  I also can’t believe how big some of the windows and doors look.  On the drawings it was hard to tell the scale of things, but seeing these images you really get the sense of how great the doors will look once finished.  We are both so eager to get out there and see it for real now.

Joyeux Noël!


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Come on Molly light my fire – Allez Molly allumer mon feu

It's hard choosing the right poêle!

It’s hard choosing the right poêle!

Tom, Molly and I have spent a happy couple of days looking at interiors for the house.  This has included a trip to Leroy Merlin, Godin to look at poêles, Cedeo for bathrooms and Cuisinella to look at kitchens. These were the jobs that I had been looking forward to and it was great fun.  As I have mentioned before, it was very hard not to get carried away when looking at shiny tiles and sparkly taps. It was very a useful exercise to get a better idea of how what we would like fits in with out budget and where we can save money to get the items that are more important to us.  As Tom has designed the house, my responsibility lies with running and checking the budget (remember excel is you friend).

I have asked a few people about what they would expect to see in a luxury bathroom and double sinks seemed to come up every time.  Fortunately, Tom has designed the master bathroom large enough to fit one in, so those of you that suggested may be in luck!  We also looked at baths a showers that squirt jets of water at you, something I think is quite fun, but sadly I don’t think I can persuade Tom of their benefits!

We then went to Marandat to see our house being built.  It was very exciting to see the guys working on our walls and windows.  They still hope to start on site next week which is when  Tom will be back in the UK, so I really am going to have to gen up on my French building terms. At least I know the words for build, timber, wood and stop!

Tom has also been contacting plumbers, electricians, tree surgeons and we have arranged for our mains drainage to be connected!  It is about to start to get very busy on site…..