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Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


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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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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


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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….


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Rock stops play? Roche arrête le jeu?

rock

Rock didn’t stop our trusty builders

Fortunately not as it turns out!  Our builders did come across some rock which I thought meant disaster when Tom first told me.  I had visions of vast costs involved to remove that rock in some very unenviromentally friendly way – and that roll top bath becoming ever further from my reach.  Apparently tough it would have been a good thing – rock being a good base for foundations.  This could have meant a saving in the cost of foundations – that bath was on its way back….In then end, the rock was just in a small area and was nothing to worry about or be thankful for.

Our builders continue to make good progress and as the sun still seems to be shining in Montemboeuf, hopefully there will not be any delays due to bad weather.  I just hope they don’t get the weather we’ve had in London any time soon, or that pool that we want will be built a little earlier than expected.

Trench footings

Trench footings

The photo above shows the start of our foundations and Tom tells me the metal caging has also gone in which reinforces the foundations.  I don’t have much more to say about that, apart from it is very exciting – more so than just your average hole in the ground with bits of wood in anyway.  Hopefully in the next post I’ll have some photos of something more concrete as it were…..