lespetitesgarennes

Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


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Our house, it has a crowd, there’s always something happening – Chez nous il y a beaucoup de monde, Il y a toujours quelque chose qui se passe.

Taking shape

Taking shape

Just a few photos to update you on the progress of the house.  These were taken just before Christmas.  Work is due to start on site again tomorrow.  We are expecting and hoping for a flurry of activity.


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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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You will always find us in the kitchen at parties – Vous nous trouvez toujours dans la cuisine aux soirée

Kitchen hunting

Kitchen hunting

We’ve been kitchen hunting in France and for some people (as you can tell from the photo above) it was more exciting than others.  Wandering around kitchen showrooms, it is very hard to keep in mind that we will not necessarily be living in this house and it is very easy to get swayed by the shiny taps (again) and gloss white cupboards with the soft-close hinges. I have to remind myself that we can’t go for a very high end kitchen (but soft close hinges would be nice).  It seems, however, we have been looking at kitchens at the right time of year because there are a lot of bargains to be had.  So much so, that we actually bought one…..yes reader, we bought one- and it had soft close hinges.  It will be delivered in April 2015, I just hope there is a house built to put it in. I think we will be putting the kitchen together ourselves, so if anyone fancies a holiday in France putting together flat pack furniture, just let me know.  Hopefully, the kitchen will be so nice that people will want to spend time in it, at parties or otherwise.

 


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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…..


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Let’s face the view and dance – face la vue et danse

83 Molly and Tom check out view

Molly and Tom check out view

Just a quick post to say that we have now visited the site ourselves and it is even more exciting than I imagined it to be.  The elevation of the slab really makes the best of our view and we couldn’t be happier.  This was one of the things that drew us to the plot in the first place and we definitely made the right choice.  Seeing as we will see it on our sofa by a log fire or when we wake up in the morning is fantastic.

We also manged to meet out timber frame guy on site who is happy with all the work and will hopefully start next week.  He and Tom had to iron out a few remaining design issues, but this is all sorted now, so we are good to go! This week we will be having more site visits, choosing our log burner (poêle à bois) and trying to arrange meetings with tree surgeons.  Tom is also working on the specifications and scope of works for the internal joinery to get some quotes.  We have a busy few months ahead….

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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How do like your Agilia in the morning? – Comment prenez vous votre Agilia le matin?

LaFarge truck arrives on site

LaFarge truck arrives on site

On a dark early morning in late November, two big white whirring trucks turned up on our site.  Finally the time had arrived to lay our concrete slab!  This was such an exciting moment in the build process and neither of us can wait to see it.  Our builders have done a fantastic job throughout the build and have always kept us informed with photos and now a video!  The finish is so smooth it looks like water.  It is probably a good job i’m not there because wet concrete is s bit like ‘a moth to a flame’ and i’d be very tempted to write my name.  I don’t think Tom or our future guests would be too impressed because it is likely that (all be it with a resin on top) that this will be out floor finish.

Below is a video that Stuart our builder took of the concrete being poured.

To the right of the video you will have seen a big hole in the ground.  Don’t worry, we haven’t missed a bit, this is where our pergola/terrace structure will sit, and where will will eat cheese, drink wine and look at the view!  Seeing the guys smoothing out the slab, you can see how amazing this Agilia is.

Our foundations are now complete a great achievement with no problems, we are now ready for our timber frame.  We also managed to avoid the classic Grand Designs mishap of spending all our money just to get out of the ground.  Now where’s that bathroom and kitchen catalogue…..

 


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Insulation, I love you – isolation, je t’aime

Insulation, polythene film and service pipes

Insulation, polythene film and service pipes

First of all, apologies for the slightly tenuous title of this post, but I used it because I thought that it would be a good excuse to post the song at the end of this entry – enjoy!

Since we last wrote our builders have put down a wire mesh, which will to help reinforce the slab, some (plenty) insulation and finally a layer of polythene film.  The polythene film has been put down to keep the concrete slab and the insulation apart to allow movement between the two.  You can see the design of this as a cross-section in a previous post.

To make this house as energy efficient as possible, Tom has designed in quite a lot of insulation, both in the floor and the walls.  This means that the house will not need to have any central heating. We will have a poêle à bois for when the weather gets cold and because they are a warming addition to the living room.  This should be all we need! Also, as mentioned earlier, the use of the concrete slab will help with the thermal mass of the house.

The next stage of the process will to lay the concrete slab. We hope that this will be complete by the end of next week. Although, continuing with our obsession with the weather, it looks set to turn over the next few days. Thank heavens for Agilia concrete!

The song

As promised here is that song I wanted to add – if you can think of a better title using Insulation, please let me know.


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u-block the sunshine of my life – u-block le soleil de ma vie

Foundations looking east

Foundations looking east

Did you ever see such a beautiful set of foundations?  What to some may be just a load of concrete and concrete blocks to us it is the very foundation of our house – literally! As you can see things are still moving quickly on site and the foundations are nearly finished. Our builder has placed a u-block on top of the concrete block wall to help support the timber frame. Hopefully the foundations will be finished in the next week or so.  I am really looking forward to being on site again because I think I’ll get a better impression of the scale of the build. I had thought in a previous post that I had an idea of the size of the house, but seeing these pictures, I don’t think I have.  It looks quite small to me, even though I know it isn’t!  I will have to do my ‘Grand Designs gawping’ when I get there after all.  Montemboeuf looks to still be bathing in glorious sunshine, we just hope that this great weather stays for when we head out there and for when the timber frame starts to go up at the end of the month.

Tintin update – I haven’t got much further with my attempt to read Tintin in French – it is harder than you might think!

In honour of our last post, I couldn’t resist putting up a little video.  It is also quite appropriate here, considering the name of the band.


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Build me up a foundation, don’t break my heart – Me Construire une fondation, ne pas briser mon coeur

Tamping down gravel

Tamping down gravel

In our last post we wrote about the next stage of the foundations. The middle (where the chap is working), has, as we said been dug out and filled with gravel.  He is now compacting this down ready for a new delivery of gravel.  This will continue until the are has been built up enough. The pipes you see in the background are for electricity, water, telecommunications and sewage (hooray to be on mains drainage).

The next stage in the process will be to lay the mesh and insulation and the top with the Agilia concrete. Agilia is supposed to be top stuff because it can be poured quickly and flows and spreads easily to provide an exceptional, highly aesthetic finish (so say Lafarge).  If you wanted this could be your finished floor.  For those of you that might be interested in this type of thing, here is a video from Lafarge explaining why it is so great – if you ignore the self promotion – you’ll get the idea!

Since we last posted, we have also chosen our front door and insulation.  Fortunately, this decisions were not too difficult to make.  The much harder decisions (to roll top bath or not and how many cushions on the bed etc) come a bit later on!  Either way, for now we are happy to see that the view from the house will be great and all the time we took aligning the house in the right direction looks like it will pay off!

Our view looking South West

Our view looking South West


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More concrete and some blockwork – Encore de béton et des parpaings

Blockwork looking east

Blockwork looking east

You lucky people, here is another picture of some concrete, but this time the picture also contains some blockwork walls! The foundations are coming on a pace and the shape of the house is beginning to show!  We are also beginning to get an idea of what our view will be like.  It is good to see that the builders have built the foundations in the right place! The blockwork walls are being built because they support the timber frame above.  They will eventually be covered up with decking, so will fortunately not be visible.

Over the next few days, the middle (where the chap is sitting) will be dug out and filled with gravel and then compacted, on top of that will be sand to make sure the damp proof membrane doesn’t puncture, then a damp proof membrane, then insulation and then the concrete slab.  We will write more on this once the builders get that far.

Cross-section showing foundations (ground floor build up)

Cross-section showing foundations (ground floor build up)

As you can see from the images below, the Charente is living up to its name as the second sunniest place in France after the Cote d’Azur.

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

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