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Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


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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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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


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As promised, concrete! – Comme promis, le béton!

Lafarge truck

Lafarge truck delivering concrete!

In my last post, I hoped to show you something a little more ‘concrete’ when I next wrote. That time has now arrived!  A big Lafarge truck turned up on our site today to deliver and lay a lot of concrete for our foundations.  I know concrete isn’t the most environmentally friendly of products, but it was our best option and meant we didn’t spend a fortune ‘getting out of the ground’.  We will also be having a concrete slab, which is great for thermal mass, something which will be very important during those Charente summers.

Anyway, this is the start of the foundations and is a very exciting moment in the build.  It really feels as though it has started now and that we have officially ‘broken ground’.

For me, it also gives an idea of the scale of the build for the first time.  You always see people in Grand Designs standing in the frame of their house gawping at the size and scale of what they are building and now I am one of those people.  I am sure that this will only be confounded once our frame goes up.  What we are building isn’t huge, but it is good to get an idea. If you’re lucky, I will post more pictures of concrete tomorrow….