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!
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.
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?