Renovating - what would you change if you were starting it again?

Well, I've bitten the bullet and bought my first renovation project in France, this after weeks of flipping between terror and excitement, wondering if I can take it on, and more importantly get it finished in a reasonable time. So now it starts...

I'm a blank slate re renovation, so it's a journey from 101 up for me.

I'd love to get as many tips as possible before I even begin the planning - has anyone on this forum got some hard-won lessons to share? Is there something just wish you had known, or someone had told you, before or during your renovation?

Or have you found some online resources that became your best friends?

Thanks - think I'll print all these suggestions out in large font and stick them on the wall! :) There is in fact only me, and I don't have the skills to do the work myself, bar a bit of tiling and painting, unless I have dormant abilities about to come to life! So it's about finding the right guys, great guys, and an architect who can take a very odd-shaped house and design something beautiful.

Second all the suggestions. Would also add that if you are doing it all yourselves, you will spend a third of your time planning, a third buying all the stuff, and a third actually doing it. Plenty of paper and ink speeds up the first, a big car helps with the second, and lots of good power tools helps with the third. Dont forget to dig a big hole for the rubbish, and if you can, start the garden first, as that inevitably takes the longest to finish. Check out how-to websites to avoid silly mistakes.

Buy yourself a really powerful, industrial strength vacuum cleaner, Karcher or the like. It'll pay you back every penny you've spent on it on the sheer relief of being able to clean up a dusty, filthy room in a couple of minutes. Theres nothing more stressful than building mess.

Also accept that you're going to get to the point when you'll agree to something that isn't perfect just because you're tired and want to get the whole thing finished. A friend warned me about this and she was absolutely right. I've done it too, and forewarned, I don't beat myself up about it.

You guys rock! Thanks for these tips, very grateful.

Also, if anyone has a good recommendation re builders, artisans or architects in the Aude / Carcassonne area, please send me a message. Thanks again.

I'd change nothing. Me and my boyfriend are doing it all ourselves and I love it. We have wonky bits here etc but it all adds to the character of the house :-)

My only regret is not having heard of earlier. This site is a goldmine for young, hard-working kids who will come and give you a hand for a week or a month in exchange for board and lodgings. They will do all the simple tasks like cleaning up, mixing cement, carrying stuff around ... and bring so much dynamism and good-nature on to the site that the time - and the work - just flies by.


It will depend on the construction... think about "Doublage", "BA3", "Carrelage"... it's easy, you can do it your self...

Another thing from my husband, always work from the upstairs down. Many people make the downstairs livable first then end up having to cart rubbish through the nice part of the house when they do the bedrooms and bathrooms. And in the same vein, check if you need planning permission first not halfway through.

loads of mistakes over the years though I always respected the golden rule of ensuring the roof is overhauled and preferably felted to help prevent bigger problems later on

whatever you have as an original budget allow at least a further 25% for unforeseen events thus avoiding shocks further down the line,it's amazing how the money leaks away

ask neighbours for recommendations for artisans etc

Multiple electric outlets every 6 feet in every room. A television cable/ hook-up and computer cable outlet in each room. Think about geo-thermal heat/ air conditioning along with super insulation.

Second the insulation and power points! The upstairs apartment of our house is rented out to tenants and they tell us that they know when we light the fire, they turn off their heating. Their part is fully insulated, ours is not yet finished!


What ever you do make sure you spend time in the community and with your neighbors. For the first 3 years in France we worked on the property and lost sight of why we came to France in the first place.

Don't skimp on insulation or windows and exterior doors. They will mean the difference between being warm at a low cost or not. Your local building supplier will be able to tell you what insulation you need and where(i.e. 200 to 300mm for the roof, 100mm semi rigid panels for the exterior 100m for upstairs floor etc.) walls make sure your floors and roof are in good condition before you start anything else. Also avoid using timber for your partition walls try and use the metal stud work if you can.

That in most cases it will take longer than you expected and you must budget for unexpected things if renovating a very old house.

One thing we couldn't foresee when we bought our renovation, to be done mostly by my husband and my dad was that four weeks after we moved in, my dad had a heart attack. This meant that instead of the planned 6 months of them both working full time, with my mum looking after the kids (aged 6 weeks and 2 years) whilst I got a job was completely blown. As we were on a very tight budget we are still feeling the repercussions 6 years later:-(

The 3 major mistakes we made were not putting in enough insulation, insufficient power points and just replacing floorboards rather than putting in a concrete floor. Of these the insulation was the costliest mistake, the floorboards the most annoying (What goes on in bathrooms should stay in the bathroom)

If starting again, I'd also think about putting in more TV points and having at least 1 network connection in very room as WiFi doesn't work throughout the house and you never know where someone might need to use a PC.

Don't try to do it from a distance - I have had a lot of work done whilst in Angola (where I live and work) and each time I get here, have to have a lot of it re-done. May be slower and less comfortable to be in situ to supervise/make decisions but better in the long run

Great - at least now I know there is such a thing as attestation decennales :), and I will follow your advice, and also read up about the legal side. It's news to me that the owner is responsible for providing some kind of 10-year warranty on work done on the house for future owners?? Did I read you right?

My biggest word of advice... Make sure you get copies of all attestation decennales before you start work from all artisans for the period of work. If you have work carried out on your house and then sell within 10 years but don't have the attestations then you are still personally liable until the 10 years are up.

Do have a look through my blog though as it covers our second renovation so far...we're still in planning stage but hoping to get our main contractor on board soon.

Thanks Elaine - very good tip about the devis - had thought about the end date but not the start!