Living on the rivers edge Part 3
The Moulin renovation was progressing. We had already survived numerous trauma’s but we had reached a great milestone in the works. A beautiful tiled new roof had transformed the building giving it a hint of what was to become. It added strength and style to the whole structure and made it waterproof at last. Now the project was on an upward trend while our bank account moved downwards. The rotten timber flooring and rubbish had been removed as well as an obscure array of metal items protruding from the walls. The old factory equipment had been taken out and stored and a new, concrete block and beam floor had been laid and skimmed with a cement carpet throughout. We had reached our ‘blank canvas’ stage. Now, came the fun part! (or so we thought!)
The open building displayed its immense size and it looked magnificent. We were completely overcome with the sight of it and so were all of our visitors and tradesmen who saw it. The most common used expression became ‘WOW’! Our tumbledown water mill was now a 300 year old open shell resplendent in new hat and shoes. We had reached, what we considered to be, the first stage of the build. Now we could work on creating the ground level floor plan and the new first floor. We knew then that whatever it took we would finish this wonderful, exciting project.
Over the intervening months back in England, we had spent many hours pouring over the design plan. Our French architect had drafted a number of plans but none really caught our attention. We decided that we would design our own floor plans by using the original architects plan provided in the sale documents of the Moulin. We felt on safe ground as our architect had used them as the basis for his ideas. As it was such a large and grand building we avoided having small rooms or corridors considering them inappropriate. We felt having fewer but larger rooms would complement the buildings profile. Once we had finally arrived at a layout acceptable to us both and reasonably practical, we drew in the furniture and fittings to scale to make sure our finished plan would work. Following which we could identify clean and foul water pipe work and electrics positioning with extra support foundations for heavy items like the staircase and fireplace in order that the builders could set them in correctly before raising the floor level. We were quite pleased with ourselves when we had our completed plan. It sounds such an easy and pleasurable process but the discussions we had on each other’s ideas and wants did not come without many heated moments. We certainly gained a new respect for architects during this period.
We had intended that on our next trip to France we would give the builders our plan and let them get on with it. But on seeing the wide open shell of the building with its new floor in, we decided that we would mark out on the floor the basic wall and door positions. It was a good decision. With mounting horror we found that much of it just did not work as we had envisaged it. We had taken the dimensions on the original architects plan as exact. It was obvious something was seriously wrong. The walls had not moved. A quick grab for tape measures and squares showed very quickly that the original plan dimensions were wrong, not just by a little but often by more than half a metre in many cases. The external wall dimensions were correct but the important internal dimensions were all over the place. From what was a wonderful moment in the renovation our thoughts and aspirations collapsed. Our hearts sank when thinking of all the works under the floor that really could not be changed.
It took a while for it all to sink in. But we just had to, ‘dust ourselves off and start again’.
As Susie’s Dad, was always saying, (he was a master builder). ‘Never take anything as correct without checking it twice’, and when you have done that, ‘check it again! We decided to put a hold on all further building works until we were in a position to oversee all of the works ourselves as it went on. We just could not afford more expensive mistakes Had we just left our plans with builders to get on with it while we had been in England, which we had intended to do, an even greater disaster could have occurred and it would have been our fault. We returned to the UK with the old architect’s plan but, with many painfully corrected dimensions and another hard lesson learnt.
Back in the UK we looked for the positives of the situation and convinced ourselves that this was another opportunity to revise our layout for the better. It made us feel a little better to think like that even though we were slightly kidding ourselves. We knew we would be restricted to working with the already laid points for the under floor works and pipe work but, hey ho, that is what we would do. Back to the drawing board, literally. Fortunately, it turned out that it was not the disaster it threatened to be. Some juggling here, a few modifications there, and we had re-jigged the plan. In fact, a number of the changes were genuine improvements. We were lucky to get advice from a surveyor friend of ours in the UK and his comments and suggestions really helped us along. It was a wake up call for us on the large nature of our project and on how easy it was to get things very wrong. Any non-professional renovators like us reading this would do well to take note.