Newbie to France and starting renovation


Myself and my wife (Mark & Gill) are new to the site and about to embark on renovation of a small cottage and conversion of a large barn (cow shed) near Beaumont in the Dordogne that we became proud owners of in December 2018. Are we mad? Time will tell lol.

Not a builder but come from an operation and project/contract management background and have built a few extensions over the years including 2 in the last 4 years on our current home, each time undertaking more of the work ourselves.

First phase is to try the impossible and renovate/extend & a loft conversion to the cottage during regular visits whilst still living in the UK. Plan is to do as much as possible ourselves and pull in specialist artisans as we need them. Still have a lot to learn re: French building techniques and building materials. Looking forward to learning from others experiences both good & bad.

Hoping to agree plans with the architect in the next couple of weeks so that he can apply for the appropriate permissions. In the mean time we are just preparing the property internally. Managed to find the buried water meter and stop tap on our last visit, so we now have water. Next visit have EDF hopefully turning on the electrics so we can have hot water and then start to stay at the property. Albeit just a step up from camping.

Have 1001 questions, at least, particularly around sourcing all the materials required at reasonable prices, along with finding trusted tradesmen.

Having just had our first quote for made to measure replacement windows (ouch) it will be important, if possible, to use standard sized off the shelf windows & doors for the new openings. Any suggestions on the best place/s to obtain these.


Hello Mark and welcome… sounds like you have quite a project… that will keep you busy for quite some time :relaxed::relaxed::relaxed:

We camped in one room for the first couple of years… and I was over the moon when we finally got running hot water in year 3…

Folk will soon chime in with favourite/recommended stores.

Some that we have used are: LaPeyre, Leroy Merlin, Mr Bricolage…

Hello Mark
For windows have a look on Internet…my French ‘partner’ bought his this way, they were a lot cheaper and excellent quality.

I can’t remember what site he used so I will ask him and let you know.

As Stella has already said Leroy Merlin is a good bet too, they have highly trained staff on their sections and if you give them the sizes they will generally print you out a free quote while you wait. They also have periodic offers where the prices can come down by 30% so well worth asking when these are due …

Thanks Stella & Ann

Yes a great project for us and will be measured in years rather than months.

3 years without hot water - wow!

Thanks for the suggestions I will give them a try.

I get windows and doors here, great quality, great service. I even have a contact there who likes replying in English if you need!

When we started our renovation we went to our local Big Mat and persuaded them to give us the equivalent of a trade account on the basis that that would allow us to buy the bulk of materials through them. Saved us quite a bit!

We could probably have saved the same/more by shopping around for each item, but it made our lives less stressful. And they delivered stuff to us as there was a ‘real’ building site down the road.

Yes James…that’s the one my partner used, he was very pleased with the quality and the fact that you could’ customise’ to suit your needs.

Delivery was as promised too :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks Jane.
That’s very interesting because I had been told by an estate agent who had been a builder that they didn’t do trade accounts, so I will look into that.

Thank James. I will definitely check these out.

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Generally speaking, making allowances for any local agreements, to get a trade account you need to be trade with a siret number.

Yes, absolutely. Which is why I said an equivalent of… basically we negotiated that they would give us an normal account with x% off as we were doing a big project, amd in return for us sourcimg the bulk of our stuff from them. I think it was 12%, but 5 years ago now so could be wrong!

We might have just been lucky that day!

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I went to our local merchant & asked directly if they’d be prepared to give me discount if I shopped with them…
No problem.
I went with a list & got good prices. The difference between “public” & “private” prices can be considerable on certain items…I managed to get a rate about halfway between the two…
I think to some extent folks are more inclined to go straight to places like Brico Depot these days, than spend time shopping around.