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Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


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Our first site visit – notre première visite au chantier

Molly checking the sign is in its proper form!

Molly checking the sign is in its proper form!

Nous sommes en France!

Today, Tom, Molly and I paid our first visit to the site since the ‘ouverture du chantier‘.  Even though it doesn’t look like much at the moment, this was a very exciting step in the whole process.  We were also able to meet our builder, Stuart, on site to discuss the setting out of the house to make sure the foundations are put in the correct place.  Although we do have a rough idea, these can not be finalised until we have the drawings from Marandat – our timber frame company.  After having had a meeting with Claude today, we hope that Stuart will have this drawing by the end of the week and then Stuart can start the works!

After visiting the site, we took a trip to see our timber frame company to go through their quote and to get an idea as to when they can start on site.  It all looks possible for them to start in November, as long as Tom and I can be decisive about the designs and the type of windows we want.  There is far more to choice of windows than just their alignment, we have to decide colour, opening style, finishes as well as deciding the sort of shutters we want – I never imagined I would take so much interest in a window.  If the choice of windows is difficult, I dread to think how we will be on kitchens and bathrooms!  Luckily, Tom and I seem to like the same windows so the choice is not as bad as it might be!

A few other design decisions were made today and I am happy to say that we have (and this is very important), agreed to raise the roof by 10cm!  Wow, you might think, but this is a very significant design decision that I (no, seriously I did) pushed for.  It means that we don’t have to trim the bedroom door frame in one corner.  It would have been one of those things that niggled at me in my old age. Oh no, I am turning in to Tom…..!

 

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

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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The builders have started on site – Les constructeurs ont commencé sur le site

Building access on to the site

Building access on to the site

I never thought i’d be so excited by a picture of a digger, but I am.  The picture above shows a digger on our site, starting work on the access road.  Stuart from SLM Construction kindly sent these through so that we could see his progress.  It night not look like much at the moment, but it is the first sign that we have that work has started and that we really are building a house!  The building of the foundations should take about 6 weeks and then the timber frame can start – just as long as we finalise the designs!  We will be signing the contract with Marandat next week, so we need to stop tinkering soon!

The sign to the left of the picture must be displayed as part of the planning process and is therefore a legal requirement.  Unfortunately, for the first two months that it is displayed our planning permission can be contested by third parties.  Hopefully, this will not happen, but I will have my fingers crossed until mid-November! The photo of the sign is just as important as seeing the digger.  If we did not have this sign in place, and the proper form, potential opponents would have the right to contest the planning decision.  The obligation to prove that the notice was placed on the site in a correct manner, and for a sufficiently long duration, lies with Tom and I  – so hooray for the photo as proof.

The new driveway looking    north

The new driveway looking north

We wrote to Grand Designs about our project but unfortunately they are only covering projects in the UK.  They only ever did one season of Grand Designs Abroad and I think they should think about doing another one!

Now that we’ve started on site, more posts and photos should appear, keep you eye, we’ll keep you updated as much as possible!

 

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

Baies coulissantes – Siding doors

Casque de chantier – Hard hat.
Sous-sol – basement
La Renouée du Japon – Japanese knotweed


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The building begins – la construction commence!

Perspective Image © Thomas kyle

Perspective Image © Thomas Kyle

So, here we are, nineteen months after our initial plot search, we are about to start building!  Please, don’t get me wrong, this hasn’t been a slow and laborious process, these things just take time.  We had to find the plot, buy it, work up designs, take them to the planners, work on the designs some more to get them right before submitting them planning permission.  Then, once planning permission was granted 2 months later, more detailed designs had to be drawn up to take to the builders and we then had to chose our builders – which is definitely something you need to take time over.  The time it has taken to get this far has nothing to do with French bureaucracy – which contrary to anything you may have heard was very quick and efficient – or us dragging our heals (although having a baby may have slowed things down a little), it is just that building a house takes a long time and we haven’t even had the metaphorical brick laid yet.  This is about to change though!

We have chosen our groundworks builder and have written to the Mairie notifying them of our Déclaration d’ouverture de chantier, basically informing them of our plan to start on site.  Tom had a long chat with our preferred groundswork builder and all being well we will start building on 16th/17th September!  We are both excited and nervous in equal measure, but really pleased to be finally starting on site.  We will try to post as many progress photos as we can to keep you updated, it just depends on when we can get to site. I just hope it doesn’t go all ‘Grand Designs’ on us with adverse weather and dodgy ground, but because we did our etude de sol the later shouldn’t be a problem, the former, well we just have to hope that the Charente doesn’t suddenly get some odd weather patterns……

See you soon, hard hats and hi-vis jackets on!

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

Casque de chantier – Hard hat.

Sous-sol – basement
La Renouée du Japon – Japanese knotweed