Carol, a podcast listener in the Auvergne region of France, has sent through these photos and top tips for success.
Above are two pictures that will give you an idea of what we took on, nearly a complete rebuild keeping a few old walls and the footprint of the house. My tips are for people like ourselves, who knew very little about construction.
– For a large project hire an architect and/or contractor, whom you trust. He should help choose all your sub-contractors and advise you on every aspect of the building.
-Think a long time about exactly what you want (amount of space, type of house, how you will use your home) and what you are willing to pay. This will be invaluable information for your architect and will be key to your satisfaction with his work.
– Hire the best, preferably local, sub-contractors you can afford. A good job done saves lots of grief later. Also good local sub-contractors, such as plumbers, electricians, painters, etc., will continue to be your handymen later and will feel responsible for their work.
– Visit your building project as often as time permits. I made 16 monthly trips from the USA to France during the first 18 months of construction, and then I visited nearly every day during the last year. I was amazed at the number of questions the workmen asked me when I was on site. They gave me good advice and were generally willing to do what I asked. Workmen, however, do not like to change things they have already done just because you weren't there to state your preference.
– Expect to go over-budget! It's amazing the number of things that turn out not to be included in the all inclusive budget the architect will give you.
– Expect to go over-time! Your architect/contractor does not have control over every person working on your house. All it takes is one business being late to hold up all the others. (A late delivery of tiles, which had been ordered well ahead of time, slowed our building by several weeks.)
– Although it is expensive, it is a good idea to take building insurance. We were advised against it, and now are involved in a court case against a sub-contractor, who delivered shoddy work. Building insurance would have made this case much easier to arrange.