Raise the roof

The original 100-year-old roof

It was 1954 when singing cowboy Stuart Hamblen released his hit single “This Ole House” that included lines such as:

Ain’t got time to fix the shingles


This ole house lets in the rain

Until recently he could have been singing about our own house but it was reasonable to expect that after nearly one hundred years, the roof was going to need some repairs. Prior to selling our house in Atlanta we had to have the roof replaced and all of the price estimates came in at about $10,000 for new asphalt shingles on a 4000 square foot (372 m2) 3-story house. Last summer during lockdown we had plenty of time to investigate a similar project here on our 1-story house measuring 1055 square feet (98 m2). Granted, now we had terra cotta tiles (on the main house and on an attached room) instead of asphalt but the surface was about 1/4th of what we replaced in the US so we should have been in for a pleasant surprise, right? Well, the cost certainly was a surprise!

Tiles removed: so much dust!

Before going into any unfamiliar situations we always try to be prepared. Moving to another country has given us ample opportunities for new experiences so to get ready for a roof replacement we used two websites (links below) that display costs nationwide for a multitude of home repair projects. Comfortingly, the consensus from these two Internet sources was that we should expect to pay, on average, around 100 € per square meter or roughly 10,000 € for our surface of 98 m2. Armed with that information we arranged for a contractor to make an on-site visit who gave us an estimate of around 30,000 €. We quickly and politely declined his offer saying that it was three times the average price we had seen online. He responded in a similar manner saying that he simply could not do the job for less than the quote.

We then got the neighbors involved who gave us five more possibilities, even making the appointments for some of them, yet the estimates all settled around that same figure quoted by the first contractor and with a timeframe of 3 weeks of work. We understand that a “black market” of uninsured workers without a warranty on their labor does exist, but these were all legitimate, tax-paying firms that ranged from big corporations to a one-man operation. But as the song goes, “This ole house lets in the rain,” ; we had to make a choice.

Tiles awaiting placement

Since the house was built in 1926 it did make me wonder about what it and the homeowners might have experienced over the last century:

1936 First time that French workers had paid vacations

1942-1944 Carcassonne occupied by the nazis

1944 French women obtain the right to vote

1959 Charles DeGaulle elected president

1969 First flight of the supersonic aircraft Concorde

1992 Creation of the European Union

2016 Bill and Bob first look through the windows of this house that they are about to buy

The most recent discovery we’ve made is that we are located on the Roman road “Via Aquitania” built 2000 years ago to connect Narbonne on the Mediterranean with Bordeaux on the Atlantic. I wonder what this new roof will see over the next 100 years?

Estimates: https://www.travaux.com/couverture-toiture

Estimates site 2: https://www.e-travaux.com/construction-gros-oeuvre/devis-toiture/prix-toiture-m2#st4

The finished roof
While we’re up here: our rooftop view of the Pyrenees

7 thoughts on “Raise the roof

  1. Hello there Bill and Bob,

    after being quoted 3 times as much as your online source, what did you end up investing?

    How fabulous to be on the roman road Via Aquitania. I myself live in Augsburg, Bavaria known as “Augusta Vindelicorum”, which is over 2000 years old. This dates back to when Augustus was emperor. Fascinating history!

    Have a great sunday.

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    1. This story is not over yet! The last crew has not arrived to add new gutters to the house and I will add a follow-up story with all the exciting moments when we had roofers above our heads.

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  2. We feel your pain. In order to make the last house more sellable, we spent half of your high estimate for just a repair to the barn roof. I find it difficult to write that line and feel a lump in my throat just thinking about it! :-/
    That’s quite a view of the mountains! Looking forward to the rest of the roof story. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day.

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  3. Bonjour Bob, we had a similar experience in south Georgia (ivo Macon) for new shingles (about $10k). However, that was one of the first things I had checked out when we bought into our 4 unit coproprietie – what was the roof condition. Thankfully, our inspector said it was in good shape and should last another 50 yrs or so – IF minor problems are repaired in a timely manner. We’ve got a slate (ardoise) roof and the tiles rarely fail, but the wood frame supporting them eventually rots and has to be replaced, particularly if leaks are allowed to get to the wood. I estimated our roof replacement might be 150k euros or much more when the time comes. So we started a “roof fund” to set aside about 500e/yr for the ‘eventual replacement’, which would still be woefully short. But I did see it as a success in that I was able to convince the other 3 owners to even put this much aside. I’d add a picture if I knew how.

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  4. Thank you for your informative blog posts. I bought a house in the Languedoc about 10 years ago and have had to have some major work done over the years. My biggest project was redoing the façade, removing the concrete covering that didn’t let the house breathe and replacing it with the traditional covering. So far, the roof is holding up though!

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  5. What a project! It definitely looks like it was time for a replacement! But the tiles you selected look perfect for retaining the look of old world for your home…beautiful job! The picture looks like they did a great cleanup before starting the new one. The wood base underneath appears to be the same as our base here in Texas that was built over 3 years ago for steel tiles. The base allows for a heat barrier along with insulation. I imagine your leaks are over!

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