25 February 2010

Building up

We've been building up to this for a long time, and now we are going to build up into it. Les combles, as they are called in French. L'aménagement des combles — finishing off the unfinished space in the attic.

Walt and two contractors talking over the plans yesterday.
The photo gives an idea of the volume we are talking about.

Plans for the attic expansion are all that's on our minds right now. So here are a few more pictures. They are ones I took yesterday when a contractor/builder came over to have a look at the place and do some measuring.

The view out of the attic window

Our plan is to have the roof well insulated and have wallboard/sheetrock put in all the way to the peak. It will be what we call a cathedral ceiling, I guess. I think the floor will be oak. And for the time being, the attic will be one big room that will serve as bedroom and TV room. I'll move my desk and computer up there.

Good-bye, TV antenna

The roof beams — those big trusses — will be exposed, but not the rafters, which will be hidden behind wallboard. The TV antenna will just have go. We don't use it anyway, since we have a satellite dish.

An off-the-shelf oak staircase
costs a couple of thousand euros

The biggest headache is having a staircase put in. With the contractor, Jacques, yesterday, we looked a pre-fabricated staircases in a catalog. That would be a lot less expensive than having one custom built, and if we find the right one it won't look much different. We are talking about oak for the staircase too.

Beams, windows, chimneys...

The other thing we have to have done is install a couple of windows in the roof. We're going to have Vélux windows put it. They are not the most attractive option, but they are functional and less expensive than having dormers built.

Nothing we're doing will change the appearance of the house
as you see it here. Photo from a few weeks ago when we had snow.

The Vélux will be on the back side of the house. There are no neighbors back there. Nothing we are doing will change the front façade.

The neighbors' house, with Vélux windows in the roof

A lot of the other houses in our hamlet have Vélux windows.


  1. ooh! ditto what Jean said! :)
    So, is this stairway catalogue online? I'd enjoy looking at off-the-shelf staircases -- I had never thought about them even existing :)


  2. You have such a pretty view from the top window. Those velux windows (skylights) are nice. My sister has two in her countryside house.

  3. I like the look of the Velux windows, actually...They're fairly subtle.

  4. This is all very exciting! I woke up thinking about it this morning.

    I'm having a hard time picturing the placement of the staircase exactly. Will it curve back towards the wall with the glass block windows between the existing stairwell and the kitchen?

    With your computer, bedroom, and TV up there, you'll only have to come out to cook and eat. :)

    Two things I'm sure of:
    1) It will turn out mighty fine. (Walt's probably got detailed plans drawn up already.)

    2) We'll get to see lots of photos as the work progresses.

  5. Cheryl, you got that exactly right. Looking from the landing at the glass block window, the stairs will start on the left, run back to the wall over the glass blocks, and then turn back to arrive upstairs right over the existing stairs. Does that make sense?

    As for coming down to cook and eat, well... the bathroom is downstairs too.

    More as it all progresses.

    Judy, to see the catalog, try this link. Click the little diskette icon at the top of the screen, toward the right, to download the catalog as a PDF file.

    Nadège, the view from the Vélux windows will be the back yard and the vineyar.

  6. Hey guys,
    We had a standard straight up stairway put in, its fine, about that price, but can be a little scary as the depth of each step is shallow (I walk sideways down) and after applying the Varni coats, it a little dangerous to walk on in socks!
    I always saw "grenier" so I have learned a new word.

  7. Hello anonymous,

    "Grenier" means "grainery", where grains were stored in the winter in old farmhouses. "Combles" refers to the roof beams and rafters. It's the wood or metal structure that holds up the roof tiles.

    Sounds like you need to put some non-slip pads on those steps. Or wear slippers or shoes...

  8. We're very pleased with our Velux window. The dormer type of window would have been so much more expensive and it is, after all, just a means of getting light in, unless you have lots of money to spare.

  9. Just wondering, is it out of scope to enlarge the window at the end of the attic? It would add so much light and air. And thanks for the info on the pre-fab staircases. We already plan to get a shower like yours for the downstairs at the cottage. It's so nice of you to go through this renovation before we start our next one.

  10. Hey, Ken, thanks for the link to that cool catalogue!

    So, I'm not sure what you're saying about grenier and combles, in terms of which one you'd use to refer to the attic? I've been teaching grenier as the term, but I admit that I only learned that from a book or a Duden, not from conversation :)

  11. Judy, the expression I see here is "aménagement des combles". I think grenier is what old farmhouses have, but not newer houses like ours. Loosely, it can still be called a grenier though.

    Susan, I don't think we'll enlarge that window, but I'm sure we could. The Vélux skylights will let in a lot of light, and that should be enough. We're trying to keep the job simple and not spend a lot of our still-worthless dollars.

    Jean, thanks. Henri Proust tells me that rooftop windows, being slanted toward the sky, let in a lot more light than the classic vertical window.

  12. How great that you guys are attacking the attic. I cannot wait to watch the progress! :-) Good luck!


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