Stone or Contemporary construction?

The French dream vs. practicality and convenience.

by Mike Welham
Stone or Contemporary construction? - 2
Mike Welham's property for sale in Nouvelle-Aquitaine

The costly French dream?

In the Limousine which is part of the Nouvelle Aquitaine there are stone properties as well as those of a more contemporary construction. Living the French dream possibly means having a stone constructed property with land which of course can be idyllic, but therein lies a cautionary tale. From personal knowledge those who opted for the stone construction either as a modernising project or a complete conversion can be a very costly exercise. Those I know who have gone down that route found it to be a great deal more than the initial cost of the property. There are many non-stone properties that offer equal benefits of having some land as well as offering beautiful views but have the benefits of good insulation and are generally more cost effective when doing maintenance work or undertaking an extension and of course more economical to heat.

French stone houseA typical French stone house

We were visiting people in France and had no intention of buying a property but the area had a lot to offer. For a start it had good access by road, rail and air to the UK as well as being within walking distance of shops, doctor, pharmacy, a garage, post office and a bank. So it was down to the question of what type of property. We looked at all options with an eye on the plusses and minuses of each style of property and the variation was immense from cheap dilapidated barns to fully restored ones. Then there were more conventional built properties which were often located in an uninspiring situation but were generally more intact.

Heating costs

Stone house or barn conversions in the right location caught the eye but on closer inspection and investigation were in winter colder and so required more heating. Having stayed in a stone house to look after animals belonging to friends we found that their stone house was cold even with the central heating and a wood burner on full. A stone house seems to be cool in summer and cold in winter unless you have a very effective heating system. So the stone house is rustic but not builder friendly particularly when looking at modifications, such as adding another bathroom or toilet which might not even be possible. Friends sold their property because they could not add another bathroom and they had a number of plumbers in to give quotes – none could do it because of the walls – granite. Also consider that room sizes will decrease if you have to add wall insulation added to which walls are not straight. The list of ‘need to do’ might be quite long and so your pockets will need to be deep, but you can have the house of your dreams.

Ease of updating and maintenance

A more conventional built house will offer many advantages. It will be easier to keep warm – an advantage as the cost of heating rises. It is more cost effective to alter the inside or update and to undertake the work. When we first saw our house we could see the potential - it had been neglected but was liveable. The changes we planned could easily be done and standard sizes helped with doors and windows. Bathrooms were moved or added as with toilets. Electrical wiring and plumbing created no problems it took time and not so deep pockets.

So when you seek your dream home delve into the pros and cons of whether a stone house or a conventional built house would be preferential and if you plane to live in the house for many years which will be the easiest to heat and maintain.