French property: 7 things to do before you lock up your house
PUBLISHED: 15:38 03 September 2021
Have you ever dreaded the jungle of weeds and damp that might be waiting for you at your French property? Here’s what you should do to keep your home safe and secure while it’s empty
With many returning to their second homes for the first time since the start of the pandemic, it is inevitable that there is some anxiety concerning the state of properties left for well over a year. While climbing vines and distressed shutters can add a bit of romantic character to a house, leaking ceilings and rotten floorboards won’t be as welcome of a sight. Therefore, if you are venturing across the channel to be reunited with your French property now that restrictions are easing, it might be worth taking some steps to secure it before you come back. With autumn approaching and the weather turning, it’s always good to make sure any maintenance is done in advance.
Caretaker services are available for second homes in France and operate locally, and friendly neighbours are also great to keep an eye on your property while you’re away. The level of maintenance required depends on the age, size, style and location of the house, but here are some tips that might prove useful, saving you both time and money:
If you have a swimming pool, it goes without saying that regular maintenance is crucial, and depending on the season it’s important to take the right steps to keep it in good condition. Debris collecting on the floor of the swimming pool and stains on the sides can worsen over time and become a nightmare to clean. Make sure to maintain correct chlorine levels and ensure it is covered properly when not in use.
Making a habit of doing small tasks such as clearing gutters and drains and brushing away leaves from window sills or terrace areas can make sure that pipes don’t detach and can actually lessen the risk of fire if in an area in which wildfires spread and thrive on dry vegetation. Putting a geotextile membrane down under any gravelled areas will prevent weeds from overtaking your driveway while you’re away, and keeping your garden as low-maintenance as possible is preferrable if you aren’t able to visit often. Getting a gardener in might be worth it to tame some weeds and ensure it’s not a jungle the next time you visit.
While fosse septique systems require emptying at least once every 5 years, the filter should ideally be cleaned twice a year (depending on usage), and a well-maintained system will last much longer.
Pipes and appliances
Get appliances (oil and gas boilers) and plumbing tested by professionals to make sure they are safe and efficient. Check pipes before you leave, as burst pipes will cause flooding and in turn water damage. Some opt to leave heating on a minimum temperature to keep pipes warm during winter months, while some choose to turn off the water at the supply just to be safe.
Check roof tiles, look for any missing or slipped tiles that can be replaced. Also look for drips or signs of damp in the attic, and pay particular attention to where the chimney meets the roof or any dormer windows, to make sure they are well-sealed.
Treat woodwork on windows, shutters, doors and outdoor furniture, as wet or dry rot or damp can seriously damage them, compromising safety and security.
Closing the shutters, covering furniture in case of flies or the rare occasion a bird might come in to your house, and leaving the house as tidy as possible will make it so much easier for your arrival the next time you visit. A handy tip is to take a picture of your dry-food storage so that you know what tins you can survive on without heading straight to the shops the next time you visit, and you can do the same with toiletries and even tools so that you’re not bringing the same toolkit backwards and forwards across the channel.
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