22 July 2023


This was the roof terrace in July 2015.

It was a bit scruffy and we more or less ignored it for the first few months after we moved in.  It seemed an odd thing to have - an outdoor space accessible only by climbing out of the bedroom window!

The roof terrace is above the "well room" which is at the far right of the house.

The well room is clearly an addition to the original building, being three walls and a roof built over the well and attached to the end of the house, for who knows what reason, an unknown number of centuries ago.

Tacked onto the back of the well room is another building with a tiled roof which looks like it was built in the twentieth century as a pair of animal sheds.  We don't know what kind of animals but it's a useful storage space.

In 2016 we noticed that the condition of the roof terrace floor over the well was not good and getting increasingly worse.  The terrace leaked and the structure was rotting away.

During that year Nick set about repairing it and once the old tiles were off the extent of the damage could be seen.

He replaced the rotted floor panels and one of the beams and covered them with a waterproof membrane.  On top of that he laid new tiles.

This picture illustrates why the roof terrace was actually there in the first place.

The "door" is in fact the window that leads from the bedroom and on the right hand side you can see the line of the original roof.  When the well room was built (however many centuries ago) the rear slope of its roof would have covered the window.

This wouldn't have mattered to the people who had the well room built, as the "upstairs" was not a habitable floor at all, just a loft space.  This space, called the "grenier", would have been used for storage, would have had a tiled floor made of rough terracotta tiles called "tomettes" and two access hatches, one at each end.  There would not have been an internal access to it (staircase) from the ground floor originally, only the two hatches.  These would have had wooden doors, not windows.  With one access blocked by the well room roof the space would still have been accessible at the other end.

Amongst the photos left for us by the previous owners of the house is one which shows the inside of the blocked off access.  When this couple bought the house, renovation had already been started on the other end of the grenier.  They then wanted to extend into this end of the grenier, creating a large bedroom, and to reinstate the access as a window.

To uncover the access they had to cut off the rear part of the roof over the well, creating a large void.  They put down beams and a wooden floor, tiled it, and built a back wall under the remaining roof section, also made of wood.  Et voilà!  A roof terrace!

This is the bedroom the previous owners created with the window to the roof terrace at the end.  This large, light and airy space was a huge part of why we fell in love with the house.  The previous owners were rightly very proud of it. 

The roof terrace in September 2016 after Nick had repaired it.
We loved it.

A misty sunrise seen from the roof terrace in September 2016.

Over the years we made a few alterations to the bedroom, removing the home made office desk, rehanging the closet door so that it opened outwards rather than inwards, replacing the velux window and finally, fitting a new carpet and decorating it in September last year (2022).

The only way the delivery drivers could get the carpet upstairs into the bedroom was via the roof terrace.  We had not used it at all for three years (due to spending so little time in France during the pandemic) and it was in terrible condition.  Nick took down part of the barrier so that the carpet could be hauled onto the terrace and then into the bedroom via the window.  Having stepped out there for the first time in ages the true horror of the state it was in was both embarrassing and worrying.

It was leaking badly again and we were worried that it was becoming unsafe.  Much as we never really wanted or needed a roof terrace at all we realised we had to do something about it.

The fundamental problem was that the terrace bounced slightly as you walked on it.  This movement gradually caused the tiles to break up and the membrane to puncture so that when it rained water seeped into the wooden floor panels and beams, causing them to rot.

Although we didn't want to have to invest in a new roof terrace it was clear that the wooden beams and floor would have to be replaced with something more robust.  Concrete.

The roof terrace in April 2023, in bad condition and desperately needing repair.
This picture also shows the line of the old well room roof and how it covered the window.

Work started in April this year.  The roof had to come off, the old floor and wooden beams were removed.  The roof over the animal sheds was also removed because it was in poor condition.  

New concrete beams were installed and a concrete floor supported by a forest of acrow props.

In May work began on replacing the roof over the well, using the original tiles that were taken off.

In June the big digger was driven away from in front of the house where it had lived for over a month, the new tiles were laid and, with a lot of work still to be done, we were at last able to enjoy the space again.

The new guard rails were fitted and finally the new panelled roof over the sheds at the back.

It's been a long and expensive project but it's a space we can really enjoy.

As a finishing touch Nick built some new oak steps to enable us to climb safely in and out of the window!

It is a bit of a white elephant, a vanity project, that we don't need and never wanted but had to do in order to solve a problem that was never going to go away otherwise.  We like to think that it's an asset to the property or at least that if we ever want to sell the house prospective buyers will see it as a such.  Only four months ago it was just a problem that badly needed fixing.

We celebrated the finished job by inviting the lovely builder and his lovely wife round for apéros on the roof terrace just the other day.


  1. I think you've definitely added value to the property -- although no doubt you won't really make your money back when the time comes to sell.

    1. I think the days of doing up a French house as an investment are gone, unless you can do the work yourself. Materials are so expensive now and the regulations much more stringent.

  2. What a great finish for your latest “project.” I think the wonderful thing about ‘vanity projects’ is that they may be indulgences but what a transformation and who doesn’t deserve to be indulged?

    1. We will certainly make good use of it now that it's in better shape.

  3. Morning Jean..... it looks fabulous!
    Susan is right in one respect - cash back... but she's forgotten the business rule of diminishing costs.
    That has now been constructed properly and, give or take a few earthquakes, should last centuries!!
    Every year you have it, there is less money needed to claim back on sale of the house... you can start, really, by subtracting the materials and labour of Nick's work of seven years ago!
    [Plus 20% for current cost of materials if he'd done it again this year]
    Do the same in another eight years at the costs then.... and you will eat into what you have spent very rapidly!
    So, now you have a wonderful, outdoors, private space that, with those very neat, almost invisible rails is not overlooked and has views to enjoy!! And, having been done properly this time, will certainly add to the saleabilty of the property. You haven't got much left to do, now, just the Gite by the barbie!!

    I was thinking, reading the blog about the construction of the well room.... you say "The well room is clearly an addition to the original building, being three walls and a roof built over the well on the end of the house for who knows what reason, an unknown number of centuries ago"....
    I think that when it was built, the bread oven was accessed by a door where the window by your dining table now is and there was a wall between what is now your dining area and your sejour... where that step is! Obviously, the bread oven wouldn't have been inside the house.... but probably accessed via a door in that wall... so the room over the well may have been constructed as somewhere to store wood for the bread oven... it also meant that the house water source was also under shelter, a bit of a luxury!!
    Or, perhaps not... your bread oven is very big... far larger than most [look at Magali's one, yours is twice the size... in fact it is nearer the size of the oven opposite your old house in GP] and I'm wondering if your house was occupied by the local "boulanger" at one point... or certainly a central point for the local community to bake bread. A bread oven takes some maintaining and compared with many, yours is in very good condition!! So, built with the same care and attention as your new roof. Tracing that history will keep you occupied during the long dark winter months!!

    1. Tim, the size of the bread oven and its excellent condition are indeed a marvel. There must have been many more houses around, something approaching a hamlet, to require one that big. The old 1700's map on the barn wall in the château shows that there were more buildings here and where the neighbour's house is.
      I sometimes think it would be nice to be able to time travel backwards 100 years then 200 years and so on, to see what the place was like then, but I expect it would all have been pretty grim!