House Renovations in France: Overview – Our Story


We had never done anything like restoring a property before!  In fact I was DIY shy.  We wanted to purchase a house so we could have our own property.  And; we wanted to buy in France which is the place we had in common.  Denise, my wife is Irish and I’m British.  We discussed it at length during our first year working in Singapore.  We agreed it would be a fun project that would keep us busy over the coming years.  If you never try anything new how can you ever really be successful?
This series of posts deals with our attempts to renovate and extend the house we bought back in 1993.

Posts on Buying Property

Our Cottage

Our Cottage

Basically we simply wanted to buy something with character for not that much money and spend time doing it up, to enjoy doing it over the years and eventually retire there.  In 1993 we had been married for a year.  We shared a love of France and Denise, my wife knew Cahors and the Lot.  We had scraped together some funds so we took the plunge.  We thought it would give us something to work on over the years.  Many of our colleagues took the opportunity to travel during the long 2 months teaching holiday each year.  While they clearly had good experiences in the main we felt we didn’t want to be itinerant for 2 months of each year.  We were able to travel in the other holidays so we thought we needed a base.

Some Questions of Our Experiences

Were we ready to do it for the first time and in a foreign language?  The answer to both parts of the question is a definite “No!  I guess if you wait until you’re ready to do something you will never do it.”

Have we made mistakes? – “A most definite YES!”

Do we still make mistakes? – “Definitely!”

But have we learnt from our mistakes? – “Yes, mostly.  Perhaps not – I don’t know.  I suppose somethings have sunk in over the years.  The main thing is we’ve kept going!”

Have we ever felt like giving up? – “Often! You will see why as you make your way through the posts!!”

What has kept us going? – “Definitely a shared goal and a shared love for the place we have worked so hard to achieve.  We love our house.  Apparently I’m a different person when I’m there.”

Is it finished? – “A most definite no – it will never be finished!  But what a project we have for the rest of our lives!”

We knew we would have to employ builders as we would be away for all but 2 months of the year.  We felt it would be better than attempting to do everything ourselves.  There were of course pros and cons for this decision as you will find out reading each of the articles in this series.

For the first couple of years we enjoyed relaxing at the cottage and getting to know the locality.  We then contacted our first builder.

The Different Stages Covered in Other Posts

The Original House

A typical shepherd’s cottage built around 1830-1840, it would have been a one room dwelling with a barn attached.  When we bought it had a kitchen, a lounge, a mezzanine and a shower room.

First Stage

The First Stage

The First Stage

Taking out the shower room; building on top it; making an en suite bathroom to the mezzanine.  We also talk about finding a builder, doing the plans, final results and some interesting problems!

Second Stage

A new team of builders!  Refurbishing the shower room, adding a roof to the terrace, another interesting problem!!!!

Raising the Roof!

Taking off the roof, adding insulation, making bedrooms and alterations to the lounge.  Additions to the team of builders.  Problems and outcomes.

The Big Extension and the Final House

After the Major Work

After the Major Work

Major works, employing an architect, plans, permission.  Finding builders, getting the work done.  Budget, loan.  More changes of builders.  Completion of the project

What Next?

What is left after all that?  Fitting a kitchen, sorting out the garden and field and of course the rest of our lives to.. I guess.. not even to get close to finishing the work!!!!

No doubt some time in the future I’ll talk about these but for now I must get on and get the other posts written in this series.

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