RICS Surveys in France. Traditional roof construction in France

When undertaking an RICS French property survey, we see that many UK buyers tend to favour period properties either for permanent occupation or for holiday homes. When first viewing the loft space within French properties, many buyers are often concerned to see a vast array of bright spots of sunlight piercing the gaps between tiles. Furthermore, buyers may be concerned not to see felt under the tiles as is common practice in UK construction. Their immediate response is often of alarm, with concerns as to rain water cascading through the gaps, drenching everything beneath.

Often such concerns may be put to ease. To understand why, an understanding of the construction methodology is needed. It is common in France for felt not to be laid beneath the tiles, thus the underside of the tiles is exposed. The bright spots of daylight are normally via light penetrating laterally through spaces between the tiles. Clearly checks have to be made as to whether any are capable of water ingress.

No felt beneath battens allowing inspection of battens and underside of tiles.

No felt beneath battens allowing inspection of battens and underside of tiles.

The advantages of the traditional French approach of not using felt underlay include the following:

  • The roof will benefit from improved ventilation. The air within the loft is usually warmer than the outside air, so will naturally rise up through the gaps. This draws moist air away from the house beneath, and allows ventilation to the roof joists / rafters, and battens upon which the tiles are mounted
  • The underside of the tiles and battens are not obscured by felt and can be inspected to assess their condition. It also can allow for the replacement of individual broken tiles from within the loft, by carefully raising the adjoining tiles. This may be important where exterior access may be restricted by height that may require scaffold etc
  • If a leak does exist, the precise location of the leak can often be seen from within the loft thus facilitating repair. If the leak were onto a felt membrane, the water would then travel over the felt, often travelling horizontally for some distance having being diverted by the horizontally fitted battens. This makes identification of the precise location of the leak difficult. The felt would also direct the water to the underside of the battens making them prone to rot.
  • The absence of the felt results in a reduced weight that would otherwise be carried by the roof structure.

As a Chartered Surveyor when undertaking a detailed RICS French Property Survey we understand the logic of both traditional and modern construction. Our detailed Survey Reports understand the ethos of the architecture and construction techniques. We also provide Care Plans to allow you to adopt the correct approach to maintenance taking account of the construction.  The approach to maintenance of traditional and modern buildings is necessarily very different. Armed with the French property survey report and Care Plans you can significantly reduce future maintenance and repair costs.