Friday, 26 June 2015

Renovation project - A happy house

Renovation project - A happy house

Well the sun is still shining which is good news as we have most of the kitchen in the garden, is this preparation for Spain maybe? Is there some higher being that is giving us a taste of the Mediterranean lifestyle?

Though to be honest I hope the new Mediterranean lifestyle will include an inside toilet!

I am still really busy with the estate agency and I am just so glad that John has something to occupy himself with instead of getting under my feet.

He has been in his element since he decided to have a go at the kitchen, measuring, designing and then re measuring and redesigning.

It does make it easier that the kitchen is so small, it really will not take too long to do.

His first decision now that it is empty is to remove the old hardboard wall and see what is going on he is also convinced that there is a beautiful stone wall hiding somewhere.

It really doesn't take long to strip as most of it just falls of with one tap of his hammer, so even if he hadn't planned to have the stone wall exposed, the house had different ideas.

The smell of damp is awful and we see just how bad everything is. John is back to his cursing again he really can't understand how a builder can leave such a bad job, and understand even less how something so beautiful can be covered by something so bad.

The most surprising thing about uncovering the wall is the fact that the house is also happy about it, so happy that there is a great big smile staring back at us!

Yes you read it right and here is the evidence, can you imagine a house being happy, well this one is and now it smiles at us every time we walk into the kitchen!

Renovation project - A happy house - the house is smiling

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Renovation project - Alfresco dining with a difference!

Renovation project - Alfresco dining with a difference!

We look at the kitchen where we are and it really is not usable, this is an amazing kitchen and I will explain in detail so you can understand just how good it is.

On one side there is an old unit next to this is a cooker, this cooker is one step up from a camping stove and every time you try to light the ring it explodes, I hate it!!!!!!

There is an old fireplace next to the cooker that has been boarded up

On the other side is a Formica table, a kitchen cupboard that is not attached to anything, with a
wooden dresser top that is nailed to the wobbly wall, an old sink unit which still has the lead water pipe with a tap sticking out of the wall and a concrete cupboard underneath, but the best bit is the tiling around the sink unit, wait for it, but the tiles on a board are actually nailed on to the wall!

Yes you read it right the tiles on a board are nailed on to the wall!!!!!

This wall is also wobbly, it is just a piece of hardboard that has been nailed in place, not fully nailed in place as it is wobbly and also completely rotten and damp

The wall separating the kitchen from the living room has an amazing stone arch, lots of which is covered in plaster, which looks like it was thrown at the wall rather than trowelled on. There is also a small cupboard in the wall and plug sockets everywhere.

Now the plug sockets should not be a problem other than they are in plastic trunking, the light switches are the same, there is plastic trunking everywhere.

This is quite common in France and if you have your house re wired, please be aware. Unless you actually state that you want the wires in the wall or hidden away, you are likely to have plastic trunking on all of your walls.

Unless you know this information before hand you can pay for a rewire and end up far more upset than you were with the original wiring.

We are still waiting for the saniflo unit to arrive so John is going to sort out a few of the problems in the kitchen, if he doesn't it will cost us more as we are having to go out to eat every evening and that sort of defeats the object of staying here.

The sun is shining so we are able to move the kitchen outside, there is a small porch area opposite the toilet in the back garden. So today John removes everything, thank goodness for the sun!

The kitchen also looks a lot bigger now its emptied. But we also get to see just how bad the damp and dry rot is at the hardboard wall, it is totally rotten.

This is another tip to be wary of when buying in France, if you see a new dry lined wall you really need to know what is happening behind it, as often a damp problem is not sorted out, a new wall is built to cover it, this had also happened to friends who had bought, by the time they had removed all of the new walls they found a big problem with their house (their house was also a lot bigger as the walls had been covered more than once, so always a silver lining!)

Here are the photos of the kitchen and our new outdoor kitchen.

Renovation Project - Kitchen renovation in FranceRenovation Project - Kitchen renovation in France

Renovation Project - Kitchen renovation in FranceRenovation Project - Kitchen renovation in France

Renovation Project - Kitchen renovation in FranceRenovation Project - Kitchen renovation in France
Renovation Project - Kitchen renovation in FranceRenovation Project - Kitchen renovation in France

Renovation Project - Kitchen renovation in France

Again do not be put off by what may appear to be scare stories, just be aware of the following points:

  • Buy with your eyes open and with the knowledge required
  • If you are buying a very old stone property cheaply it is not going to be perfect
  • If you are buying a house that has had work completed, get copies of the insurances from the company that has completed the work
  • If you are going to renovate yourself, do not buy something beyond your capabilities unless you can arrange for a project manager you know and trust to over see the work being completed
  • Be wary of new dry lined walls
  • Do not be scared of damp, it is a common problem in many old stone houses
  • Remember how much fun we have had renovating in France, do not be afraid but do not get completely out of your depth and be aware of how much you are spending and how much the property will be worth once finished. It is a balancing act.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Renovation project - Renovating by default!

Renovation project - Renovating by default!

Well that was a quick weekend in the UK, and luckily John got the shower working but he has to wait 10 days for the new saniflo system to arrive so he can fix the inside toilet. That means another 10 days with an outside toilet, what have I ever done to the world for it to conspire to make sure I do not have a toilet????

I help old ladies, I oooh and aaaah at puppies and kittens and babies (even the ugly ones!) I am generally a nice sort of person (as long as you don't annoy me when I have a hangover or PMT)

But there is nothing we can do about it.

When the original bathroom was installed, they used a saniflo, John can not get his head around why, there are mains drains, but these are under a tiled floor and to take it all up would be a major job and major expense for the owners, we have no alternative but to replace the saniflo (in 10 days!!!!!!) which also means 10 days of John swearing at the absolute stupidity of some so called builders.

The thing is John is now bored, he has nothing to do, there is no B&B, no renovation, and he cannot sit still for long, plus there is the real possibility that I may kill him before the 10 days are up as I am still busy working with the estate agency.

He wanders aimlessly cursing the bad workmanship in the house, until he can take it no more, there is still a lead pipe for the water that is not hidden in the slightest, it goes around the living room wall.

We also realise that it may not be the healthiest thing for us to be drinking out of old lead pipes, so he checks with the owners and they are fine with us replacing it.

There is a patch in the living room that is badly boxed in with the water pipe going along here.

The first thing he does is remove this boxing in, to find some great stone work and an old wooden beam, how can he leave that covered???

So as he removes the water pipe, he also cleans of the stones and the beam, it is not in the best condition but it can be treated, it is solid oak.

John gets to work and is happy again (which means he will live a little longer!)

The difference is amazing when he has finished it, and the mad thing is, it probably took a lot longer to cover it up (badly) than it did to point and treat it.

But here it is from start to finished
Renovation project - Pointing a wall and removing lead pipes in France
the old boxing in
Renovation project - Pointing a wall and removing lead pipes in FranceRenovation project - Pointing a wall and removing lead pipes in France

Renovation project - Pointing a wall and removing lead pipes in FranceRenovation project - Pointing a wall and removing lead pipes in France

Renovation project - Pointing a wall and removing lead pipes in FranceRenovation project - Pointing a wall and removing lead pipes in France

Renovation project - Pointing a wall and removing lead pipes in FranceRenovation project - Pointing a wall and removing lead pipes in France

Renovation project - Pointing a wall and removing lead pipes in France
and now it is finished!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Property maintenance for holiday homes

Property maintenance for holiday homes

Picture courtesy of
The house has gone and we have moved into our friends holiday home, as I have said for a long time, my only stipulation for our next house is an inside toilet, and guess what? We don't have one! Or a shower!!!!!

This is not a major problem as John will be fixing these and I am going to to the UK for the weekend to visit the family in 2 days.

Our first day in the new house is so strange, it is tiny compared to our last house and this evening we go out to celebrate and get a little tipsy, so I come straight home and go to bed (I don't notice the toilet and shower tonight!)

In the morning I do, when I have to go downstairs and outside, I can't believe I am doing this again! I pop to a friends to grab a shower and John tries to order a saniflo unit to replace the old one.

Many people buy houses in France and arrange to have work completed, the owners had paid a company to fit a new bathroom and do other work, whilst not living here, they had also paid for a company to look after the house and keep it clean.

Neither of these companies had done their jobs correctly but both had charged and been paid. We have heard many similar horror stories such as these and certain newspapers thrive on these horror stories. But there are simple steps you can take to prevent this (although most of hindsight is simple, that is the joy of hindsight!)

My advice is:

  • If you are not going to be here, always use a fully registered company with the correct insurance policies, they must have l’assurance d├ęcennale. This gives a 10 year guarantee, it also proves that the company or individual is fully compliant.
  • Click on this link for further advice French Property . Com
  • Arrange for a project manager to oversee the work, this could be a friend that you trust and is willing to go and inspect the work for you.
  • As a minimum ask for photographs to be sent to you so that you can see the work that is being completed.
  • And remember that if you have a lot of high quotes (building work is expensive in France) and then you get one very low quote, ask your self why it is so low (remember if something seems to good to be true it often is!!!!!)
  • The same goes for the property management companies if you hire one to look after your house.
  • Get somebody that comes with recommendations from people you know and trust
  • If you don't know anybody ask your estate agent to recommend a company
  • If you have to find one off the internet ask them to send photos when they arrive and when they leave so that you know how long they have been there and what they have done.

This all sounds very negative, but it does protect you as there are some unscrupulous people the world over, I personally would not have considered being this untrusting had I not seen the evidence and heard the stories.

But on a positive note there are many good people and companies, you just need to ensure that you follow the tips above (afterall these have come about from experience)

Any way back to the house, I am all packed to go to the UK and John is all set to put the new shower in whilst I am not here (I know this is really bad of me to disappear when the work needs doing but it is not a big job and I need to see the babies!)

I fly into East Mids (UK) and my daughter and granddaughter are there to pick me up, I always panic that she won't recognise me, but as soon as she sees me her arms are out and she runs too me shouting meme! She hasn't forgot me, and I didn’t need to buy all the stickers to bribe her with, she loves me any way!!!

I have the most amazing weekend and get to see baby Jamie (our newest addition!) the day after he is born, I feel guilty now on John as he misses seeing the baby, but we will both be back over soon for a proper holiday.

The weekend goes so quickly and I am back on the plane to France.

Bye Bye kids, love you all so much.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Renovation project - End of an Era

Renovation project - End of an Era

This is it, we have the Notaire meeting this morning, we really are selling up, there is no going back.

The house looks perfect, the beds are made, the toiletries are laid out in the bathrooms.

John goes outside and removes the B&B signs, it only seems like yesterday that we were putting them up.
Huelgoat B&B Brittany FranceHuelgoat B&B Brittany France

Huelgoat B&B Brittany FranceHuelgoat B&B Brittany France

Do I really want to go? It has been almost 3 years here, our hearts and souls have been put into this house, we have lived and breathed this renovation and the B&B for so long, it is perfect, the sun is even shining and our garden is starting to look fantastic, we will never sit at the kitchen patio again with our morning coffee, we will not go out to feed Edith and Amalie (who by the way are staying with the new owners).

But it is too late for any last minute wobbles, the buyers will be arriving soon for a final walk through and to take copies of the meter readings.

This is not something done in the UK, but here in France on the day you purchase your property, you meet the estate agent at your new house before you do the final signing too make sure that everything is just as it should be.

The new owners arrive and they love the house just as much as they did when they first viewed, they are also really happy with the fact that they can literally just move in.

The Notaire meeting is very straight forward, our Notaire speaks excellent English, so there is no need for a translator. However if you are buying in France I would always recommend that you have somebody that speaks English with you, so that you know exactly what you are signing.

However in France there should be no nasty surprises as everything has been agreed before hand and all relevant documents have been sent to the Notaire and you have already signed the compromise de vente.

We all sit there and each of us sign the contract, every page has to be initialled by all vendors and all purchasers to state that you understand what you are buying.

After the final signature you hand over the keys and that is it, so simple, so painless.

We now no longer own Huelgoat B&B.

This is the strangest feeling ever, it is very similar to when we first bought the property, such a momentous occasion, and yet I want to sit and cry, I feel so lost, what do we do now?

But obviously that story starts tomorrow!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Renovation project - I am not good at moving!

The past few days have been a bit strange, we are trying to sort out everything and clear the house, there is paperwork everywhere and I am still working so most of the clearing has been left to John, apart from the paperwork and this does not seem too be diminishing.

We also have all of our personal stuff which is mainly memories, the kids pictures, photographs and now the pictures made sent by my grand-baby, these are actually the only things that matter and have to come with us (apart from Johns TV, of which we now have 2!!!!).

The first things to go are Johns tools, we are taking them to our new house (yes I know I kept that quiet, but I really didn't want to jinx anything) we are going to move into our friends holiday home, these are the friends that we made in the summer when they came for a visit and John spent a couple of hours with his head down their toilet trying to fix it!

They have kindly said we can stay there for as long as we need and we have agreed to fix the bathroom, a nice exchange.

It is very strange watching the tools come down the stairs for the last time and for all of the tools to be emptied from the shed, but they are, and they are en route to the new house, which is on the same road, this is the smallest move we have ever done, it is literally 10 doors away.

But time is running away with us, we knew we were going to be moving, but I cannot pack for a holiday never mind a house move! John is uber efficient and keeps nagging me to get the paperwork sorted, which I am doing but I am sorting it in to piles that then get moved so have to be resorted and then moved again (can you see the problem here?)

Any way John decides he is going to help me, this causes a major spat as his idea of sorting is very different, so I see my arse and have a big hissy fit and start to through everything in the bin, this is not a happy day in the process of moving, and later I am kicking myself as I actually go through the bin bags and retrieve things, but it is all sorted.

We don't have that much in the end, excluding the tools, and most of it is moved by the end of the day.

Tomorrow we are at the notaires and it is time to hand the keys over to the new owners, we do our final clean though and set it up as though it was for B&B guests, I want to make sure everything is in place for the new owners.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Renovation project - Our last guests leave

Renovation project - Our last guests leave

This morning is quite emotional, we have had such a nice couple who have stayed with us for the past week, and today it is time to check out.

When guests stay for so long you get to know them quite well and they can become more like friends, we have enjoyed the company and have a shared a glass of wine each evening as we have chatted about the day and discussed the joys of living in Finistere.

But this morning it is a double whammy, they are leaving but this is the end of an era, we are not having any more guests it is our final room clean, in fact it is our final everything, all the signs are coming down today, the website is closing and we now realise we have less than a week to pack and clear the house.

This is it, everything we have worked at, everything we have achieved has culminated to this point, it is Goodbye to Huelgoat B&B, goodbye to all of our guests and a week to enjoy the house (or a week to go into a blind panic as we have to have it ship shape for the new owners)

Once the breakfast is cleared away and the signs are removed, it is a very strange feeling, I actually feel a little bit bereft, it is similar to when friends or family have visited and left, every where seems a little bit quiet and empty.

I am sure this feeling won't last for long, but at the moment it is there, as I sit and type and look around, I know there will be nobody to ask any questions, no towels to get ready, nothing to do (apart from pack the house!)

It is almost like leaving a part of your life behind, and if I feel like this now, how am I going to feel next week when we really do leave everything behind!