Cottage in Provence

Provence, France
July 10, 2015 to August 30, 2015

The Wolf built a house of bricks…almost

Once upon a time there was a house in the South of France

Once upon a time there was a house in the South of France and a Wolf

Once upon a time there was a rabid Wolf who had decided to add a story to his French house. He applied his design skills to give some virtual 3D flesh to his dream, enlisted the help of a professional to obtain the necessary construction permit, and just as work was about to begin all hell broke loose.

The Wolf pivoted to build a house of sticks

Quite frustrated by the unfortunate turn events had taken, the Wolf pivoted and decided that if a brick extension could not be added to the house, then maybe a wooden cottage would be quite a nice substitute. Paper and pencils were used to draft the initial plans. Inkscape, a free vector based drawing software, was used to produce pixel accurate views of the cottage from 3 different angles. Said wireframes made it easier to put together a bill of materials and request quotes from local companies.

Step 1: The foundations

And just like we found ourselves with over 3 tons of gravel, cement, rebars, beams, purlins and other beams stacked in the garden. Armed with a pick a shovel and a chainsaw, our rabid Wolf proceeded to uproot 6 oaks and dig as many 60 x 60 x 60cm holes for the cottage’s foundations

Next up was assembling rebar cages for the footings and the columns. A few cubic meters of concrete later, tube forms were positioned on the now dried footings and precisely aligned to receive yet more concrete. The main support beams, weighting a hefty 120kgs a piece, could finally be laid in place.

Step 2: Raising the walls

Both Wolf and Zebra were quite excited when they first stepped onto the platform that was to receive the cottage itself. The project suddenly felt real. They however did not rest on their laurels for long and proceeded to assembling the 6 panels that would constitute the structure for the walls. It took several hundred screws and almost as many kilos of sawdust to build these but less than a week after they cut the first lumber the frame was up.

The frame then receives several external layers, each with its specific purpose. First come OSB panels. They act as braces preventing the frame to skew. The ensemble is then wrapped with a breathable waterproof film and stapled in place. Vertical rails, or furring strips, screwed through the OSB panels into the framing studs ensure air can circulate between the panels and the cladding. Last comes the cladding, ship-lap boards were used for optimized visual satisfaction. The project, so far a mere skeleton, was shaping up into a rather pretty little cabin. All it needed now were purlins and a roof.

Step 3: Add a roof

Lifting the 250kgs, 7m long ridge board without a hoist took all the strength our Wolf had left. Patience and sheer stubbornness worked their magic making the next step, nailing the purlins and the OSB boards, feel relatively easy. Instead of tiles, green tar shingles were used to finish the roof. While they are lighter and look, in their opinion, more “cottagy” they need to be nailed one by one while respecting a specific overlap to ensure good waterproofing. For the front deck Douglas fir (a type of pine wood native to California and quite resistant to water with the proper treatment) boards an outrageously priced stainless steel screws were the way to go, .

Step 4: Enjoy a fresh Pastis

The Zebra enjoying a well deserved Pastis on our new deck

The Zebra enjoying a well deserved Pastis on our new deck

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *