Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France

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Builders, joiners & carpenters – Constructeurs, menuisiers et charpentiers

Tom, Molly and I have just got back from a lovely trip to SW France.  Even thought the first few days were all concerned with the house build, we still managed a few days in (yet another) lovely Chamber d’hotes.  The French seem to do these very well and we have never been disappointed in where we’ve stayed. Maybe this could be the theme of my next blog…..

Anyway, this visit allowed me to finally meet the other potential builders and timber frame companies that Tom met on his last visit.  We crammed a lot of meetings in quite a short space of time and also managed to squeeze in a few that we hadn’t planned on!

Timber Frame Companies

First was Batis Paille whom I have met before as well and was very impressed by.  They have a very interesting system of build which includes straw bale insulation (hence the name, paille being French for straw).  We then met Marandat another Timber Frame company based near the plot. They seem to have quite a big operation going and were also very professional and came up with some great ideas and solutions as to how we could get the house built.

We also met David Lestage from Charente Maison Bois at his home/office. A lovely timber framed house, in the middle of nowhere.  It was a great place to meet him because we will get an idea of the quality of the workmanship we’d get on our own house.  Our last meeting was with Desmortier Maison Bois.  They are based slightly further away from Montemboeuf than the others, but still local (ish) which is something that is important to both Tom and I.  We are not only keen to employ French trades, but ideally ones located close to the plot.

One of the builders that we met recommended that we contact a menuisier that he knows called Debessac.  We met him at his factory, which was even closer to the plot than Batis Paille or Marandat.  The quality of some of the work he showed us was amazing (as it was for all of the companies that we met), but you could really see some attention to details.  He showed us a headstock that he was making for church bell housing he was making for a local church. Clearly a talented man, we will await his quote and see if he is the man to build our house.


We also met three general builders on the plot, one from SLM Construction, one from Cesar Constructions and another chap called Domingos.  They will build the foundations for us and create an access in to the site.  While they were there we discussed the possibility of building a basement or sous-sol.  The site is on a slope, so it seems an ideal opportunity to create some more space, just by digging down an extra meter or so.  This may mean going back to the planners though and I not sure that this is something either of us want to do.  Still depending on the extra costs involved it is something that we can discuss with the planners to decide if it worth our while. The builders we have met so far are either English or Portuguese, which goes against our plan to use French trades, but we have found that this is not always possible.  We are still open to tenders, so if anyone knows a good local French builder – please let us know! 

All in all this was a useful trip.  It enabled me to meet all the builders and timber frame companies which will help me feel more involved in the whole process.  We now have a better understanding of the quotes and can start looking in to them more thoroughly before we make our decision. A few of the timber frame companies are so busy that they can not start until next year. This is great news for them but mot so much for us.  On the plus side, it does mean that there is a demand for high quality timber frame houses in France!

We are still awaiting a few quotes, but in the meantime we can go through the ones we have, line by line!  Tom will also be working on designs for the basement.

One slight problem I discovered while we were there was that there is some Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)  near the plot – not something you want around when embarking on a house build!  We told the Mairie’s office, who fortunately knew of the plant and the problems it causes, they took our details and said that they would get back to us.  I am not sure what will come from the meeting, but at least we have told them.  Hopefully something will be done, although it did look as though the verges had been cut recently which is slightly concerning. By the way, in case you need to know, the French for Japanese knotweed is La Renouée du Japon! It seems as though it is just as much a problem in France as it is here….

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

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


New designs to take to the French planners

Apologies that things have been a little quiet on here of late, but this is because Tom and I (well mainly Tom) have been working hard on our new designs.  We are off to France soon for the Medoc Marathon and we have managed to book a meeting with the planners in Confolens on 5th September to show them our ideas before we submit our formal planning application.  The idea behind this is that they will make their comments there and then and if there are changes then we can make them before we submit in the hope they will grant planning permission with no delays or changes….nous souhaitons!

Garden perspective

Garden perspective

The new design is similar to the old with the idea of a living space at one end and sleeping at the other, but it now has more of a barn style feel.  It also takes away the flat roof in the living end of the house and now incorporates a double height space – something Tom has always been keen on.  We have also included a covered outdoor area which has easy access from the living end of the house.  Tom has also found a building company close by that specialises in ‘green architecture’ and can also make pre-fabricated straw bale walls!  This is something that we are both interested in so I think we will be paying a visit to their factory as well.

We have also asked my brother-in-law, Al, a talented young Landscape Architect to draw up some plans for our garden.  He has come back with some initial ideas which we are very excited by.  These designs will appear here and on our design pages soon.