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Renovating a French home

Top tips to renovating your French home

Guide to renovating your home in France

Renovating a property in France.

Renovating a house can be an ambitious task and there are different reasons for wanting to do so: adding comfort to your existing home, for example, or the desire to update an old property you have purchased and turn it into your new home.

A large-scale project usually requires the services of qualified professionals, unless you have the luxury of time to be able to hone the desired skillset yourself and learn on the job, which may involve making many mistakes along the way. If you decide to engage professionals to carry out the works then it’s wise to have an idea of your budget in advance, particularly before you purchase an older property that could come with many hidden costs. Before getting started, therefore, it’s important to understand that the various elements to be renovated can be very closely linked. To avoid unpleasant surprises in the middle of the project, our team at Maison Bretagne would recommend you carry out a preliminary analysis of the existing condition of the property. To do this you could engage the services of a surveyor or ‘expert de batiment’, they will then be able to provide you with a report of their findings and potential problems the property may have. 

**IMPORTANT – This is supplementary to the ‘Diagnostic technique’ report you get with the purchase of your house which is a legal obligation when buying property in France. This report will give you such semi-superficial information as an assessment of the presence of lead or asbestos in the property and an indication of whether the woodwork has problems with parasites such as death watch beetle or woodworm. This is all good information to know but it will not be detailed enough to enable you to identify any potentially dangerous structural deficiencies or any environmental risks such as flooding etc.

French home

Who should I contact to renovate my property?

You can contact several professional tradespeople to renovate a house, or you can also entrust the task to an architect or project manager. The latter will oversee and manage all the renovation work. They will select the craftsmen, monitor the progress of their work and ensure that it runs smoothly and on budget.



Why renovate my property?

You may want to renovate your property for several reasons, to update a tired kitchen, repair damaged areas such as the roof or even prepare it to be put up for sale.

There are three main types of renovation: lightweight refurbishment to freshen things up with new paintwork or flooring; a complete overhaul involving an electrical rewire, plumbing and heating installation as well as new plaster works, insulation and painting and decorating. Then there is heavy renovation that involves the modification of the existing structure and the reconfiguration of living space as well as the other renovation works already mentioned.

Home renovations

What is the cost of a renovation?

 Before you start renovation works it’s best to have a clear idea of the costs it will incur. You can do this by contacting local craftsmen yourself and ask for quotes for the work you want to carry out. Alternatively, your project manager will have a good network of tradespeople they can contact on your behalf. This will give you a more accurate idea of how much things will cost.

First things first – formulate a plan.

If you are embarking on a heavy renovation that requires structural modifications, you will probably have plans from an architect that you can give to your local craftsman to follow, these usually outline the works required so he can easily produce his quotation. If you have not engaged an architect or project manager, then the ownness is on you to explain exactly what you want to be included in the quotation. A good way of ensuring you don’t forget to request something is to make a list of all the works and give this to the professional when he visits your home. You can then go round the house from room to room to ensure that they have understood the works in detail.

Make a clear list of the works

Even better than a list is a scaled plan (even a hand drawn one, not necessarily to scale but with the important measurements marked on) of each room. Ideally show the m2 of the spaces with a comprehensive list of the works by the side. The clearer and more precise you initially make it for the artisan, the easier it will be for him to understand. This will also mean that you can check through the devis more effectively to make sure the artisan has included everything you have asked for.

Double check the devis before signing!

Remember if the works have not been costed on the devis, don’t just assume the artisan will be doing them, chances are they have forgotten to include them. It is the homeowners or project managers responsibility, as well as the artisans, to make sure that everything has been costed in advance of agreeing the devis of works. So check it, then check it again, nobody is insured from making mistakes. Make it your priority to question those works that you don’t understand and ask for photos or a technical drawing if you really want to be sure of what you are getting.


renovation budget

Our advice when starting the renovation works?


with your artisan / builder on a regular basis. When sending emails write important instructions in a WORD document and attach it to the email, that way you can easily file each document away in order, as can the recipient, making them easier to reference later.

Be prepared

for problems, particularly in older properties that can hide a multitude of sins, although if you’ve followed the previous advice about getting a surveyors report then chances are you can minimise any surprises down the line.

Remain flexible

It’s not always possible to have exactly what or everything you want. Be open to discussing with your builder / tradesman / artisan what you want to achieve and be open to making compromises, sometimes even better solutions can be found out of difficult problems encountered!

Stay positive

and try not to fall out with your builder – Renovating can be a stressful process, try and keep your eyes on the prize. In general the builder wants what’s best for you as their client and are trying to reach the end goal, just as you are, so remember, they are there to talk things over with should you be feeling overwhelmed or confused about the direction your project is taking.



From RosieEllis in CONSTRUCTION

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