While Edward and I have been busy refurbishing the inside of the house and creating a garden outside, we have also had builders here to replace the roof and fit new doors and windows.  It’s been quite stressful, to say the least!

After receiving quotations for the work from a French company, which were extremely high, Kevin and Dave’s quotation was much more reasonable.  Plus, they were English and while we had nothing against working with French artisans, we felt communications would be a lot easier if there wasn’t a language complication, particularly on technical details…

Work started in late May, later than we had hoped but we’d been told they could do the job in 4 weeks…..

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Replacing the roof tiles on the back seemed to go really well – completed within 8 working days!

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We knew the front would take longer because of the dormer windows (much more fiddling work with lots of tiles to cut), but we hadn’t banked on them being here for another 10 weeks, on and off!!!

To be fair, they also replaced the doors and windows as they went along but at times it’s been extremely difficult juggling keeping the house and garden tidy and safe while we have been hosting friends and family and latterly the students.

I think the worst day was when they arrived one morning and said thunderstorms were forecast, so they wouldn’t be going up on the roof but would replace the door and windows in the kitchen…..  Great! I thought, not realising the sheer chaos and devastation this would entail!  So, while Edward was giving the morning lesson to our first three students, Kevin and Dave set about taking out the window frames and doors – not as simple as it may sound.  Apparently, in France, the frames aren’t just screwed into the walls, they are set in place then filled around with cement then plaster….. Consequently, the frames had to be cut out and with them, stone, mortar and plaster came away too – it was catastrophic!  Not to mention the dust – apparently, there is a void above the door lintel, through which years of dust and debris fell when the door frame was removed…. I was cooking lunch at this point…… A last-minute ‘Plan B’ was executed – everyone debunked into the dining room for lunch and for subsequent meals while I hurriedly cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom, hoping no-one would notice the layers of dust and grime that had settled on every surface – it was truthful to say it was a nightmare!!

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But at the same time, it was amazing to see such a transformation to the house, both inside and out.  Luckily, our three lovely students were very accommodating and understanding as we tried hard to keep the disruption to a minimum.

As they worked along the front of the roof, they also replaced the windows in the dormers.  This made a huge difference, particularly inside the bedrooms, which were instantly brightened by the white frames and bigger expanse of glass.  However, we were left with a conundrum… The dormers themselves, on closer inspection, were in poor condition.  The exposed woodwork had rotted in places but this hadn’t been immediately obvious as the dark wood-stain that had been slapped on anything that was wood (!) did a good job of hiding such problems.  We decided to take advantage of having the scaffolding in place, even though it meant working around our friends’ visit and the students that were staying with us for the coming weeks.  With our friend, Steve’s help the first week, Edward replaced rotten wood and ‘dressed’ the outward facing woodwork that didn’t need replacing.

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As the window frames were white, we thought the woodwork on the face of the dormers could be painted white too…  Unfortunately, I was too short to reach from the scaffolding, so they set up a pair of long ladders for me…. It was a long way up and I found it best not to look down to remind myself how high up it really was!!

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A couple of coats later and the first of the three dormers was complete (apart from zinc flashing and a bit of sealant around the frame)….

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As Kevin and Dave worked along the roof, we were hosting students, so it was difficult for Edward to utilise the scaffolding to replace the wood in the other dormers.  The next opportunity was at the weekend, when he was able to sort out the end dormer.

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Kindly, Kevin and Dave set up the scaffolding for the middle dormer for Edward and ladders for me to paint….

DSCF9566Here we have the last few slates going on…

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Doors and windows continued to be replaced as we juggled things with this week’s students.  We were more prepared for the dust but it still managed to coat every surface in the living room and dining room.  To make sure the students weren’t disrupted, we were up at the crack of dawn cleaning the place, washing the floor and putting back furniture…. To be honest, it’s felt like there haven’t been enough hours in the day to get everything done!!!

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The temperature on the terrace this day reached 57 degrees Celsius!

And so, another dormer is painted with a new window and the final one is almost ready to be painted too….

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By juggling things with the builders, students, sleeping and eating, we managed to get the final dormer painted and by 18 August, Kevin and Dave had cleared the site.  We hope they will be back in October to continue work on the barns but in the meantime, we will enjoy the respite from living on a building site and will make the most of the new façade of our home here at La Biochère!

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We think it’s made for quite a dramatic transformation, plus, as an added bonus, we won’t have anymore drafts and water ingress from the leaky doors and windows! ♥

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