Friday, 17 June 2011

A Good Stonemason and a set of Flimsy roof bars!

2007 was a year in which knocking holes in old and wide stone walls seemed to be the norm during our visits to Brittany although I'm glad it wasn't me that was doing the damage!

One typical characteristic of old cottages is that the original windows are rather small and this is the case at 1 Chemin du Canal! The plan was to purchase a set of oak French doors, hire a stone mason to make a big whole in the living room wall and to fit the new French doors. 

Firstly we ordered a set of oak doors from a shop in St Brieuc. We went to collect the doors in our old ford fiesta with a cheap set of roof bars on top. We expected to collect two single doors and for sticks for the frame and not the whole lot ready assembled in one big flat unit which was slightly wider than the car! The journey back which normally takes around 40 mins took over 2 hrs avoiding the motorway! 

French Doors Fresh From Shop!

I'm so glad we hired a good stone mason. I was impressed with the skill level used to make good the new vertical wall edges. So all in all a good job done!

 French Doors from Back Garden

 From indoors

Oak lintel and vertical wall end

Following the work on the French doors, Iain (the stonemason)  knocked through another hole in the internal gable end wall between the bedroom and the loft space above the kitchen (future bathroom). I think the pictures below demonstrates the scale of the work pretty well and once again we're very happy with the end result. The straight edges are great!

Iain, if you're reading this, I hope you and the family are keeping well!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

New Barn Roof

In 2006 after completion of sale, the first job that needed doing was to re-roof one side of the barn roof because it had a big hole in it! The roof is on the same level as the lane which leads down to the nearby Brest Nant canal therefore lots of walkers walk past every day. This meant that replacing this roof was a priority, if only to stop people falling into the barn!

Gouarec sits in a seam of slate therefore a lot of the old houses have the original big thick slates on their roofs and our property is no exception. We only needed to re-roof one side of the barn as the rest of the property still has the original slate roof and is in fairly good condition. The property has been re-roofed at some point because the timbers inside the house is fairly new but the original slates have been re-used. We wanted to use as much of the original slate as possible and there was a pile of them sitting in the barn.

The work was carried out by Yvon who's a local roofer. The bottom 7 rows of slate are from the original roof while the rest of the roof was covered using a cheaper Spanish slate. We also installed 4 large velux windows into the roof to more light into the barn as previously it was a fairly dark room. The roof was fitted with zinc guttering which is fairly standard in French properties.

Barn Roof with large hole!

Completed roof with velux windows

Interior of new roof

Some of the original slates

zinc guttering

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Project Background

In the summer of 2004 during a camping holiday in Brittany we ended up buying a wreck of a property set in an acre and a third of woodland situated by the Nante Brest Canal on the fringes of Gouarec, a beautifull village set on the banks of the river Blavet and the Nante Brest Canal in central Brittany.

We had to fight through the undergrowth to get to the property and it had none of the basics you'd expect to find in a modern house apart from a cold water tap situated in the barn underneath a large hole in the roof. The amount of work was going to be huge but somehow we could see the potential through all the weeds, junk, dust and cobwebs!

After much talking and disucssion, we put in an offer which was accepted so it was time to start planning! Our aim is to renovate and develop the land and property so that we can move over and live full time in Brittany to follow our dreams of escaping the rat race and to live within our means and become as self-sufficient as possible in veg, electricity, heat etc. This will include renovating the house to a certain standard which will allow us to rent it out to guests looking to stay in quiet and peaceful eco-friendly accommodation.

We literally started from a blank canvas and the list of jobs was endless! We wanted to renovate the house in an eco-friendly way using natural materials like lime mortars, stone floors and installing an off-grid renewable electric system and a gravity-fed hot water system heated by wood and solar. The acre and a third of woodlands which came with the house would contain a vegetable garden, a few chickens and the occasional animal.

Over the last 5 years a long list of tasks have been completed and has included the installation of a new septic tank, re-roofing the barn, laying new floors in the house, designing and installing a PVsolar renewable electic system, completeing extensive structural work to the barn, installing new french doors and veluxes in the house, installation of a log burner with a back boiler which is a part of a gravity fed water heating system amongst others but a long list still exists!

We hope that this website will chart our progress until our dream becomes a reality. We will soon add further information about individual aspects of the revonation.

Further information about our adventures in Gouarec can be found on bretonblog