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Create openings on an old house: tips from archi

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Create openings on an old house: Archis tips

Leroy Merlin

The old houses make us dream, they have so much cachet! If only they were a little brighter, more open to the outside. Our elders, to protect themselves from the cold, limited the size and the number of openings, but we want exactly the opposite. We dream of large openings, which let see the garden and enter generously the rays of the sun. So, how to open our traditional houses? What do you need to know before creating or enlarging a bay on an old building? What type of window will best respect the personality of a century-old house? Two architects guide us.

Drilling or enlarging an opening on an old house is an ambitious project to prepare with care. You will intervene on load-bearing walls, too, surround yourself with experienced and qualified professionals. But before even addressing the technical issues, it is important to think about these openings. Where to place them? What shape and dimensions should they have? What should you watch for? We went to collect the advice of architects: Bernard Febvre and Mathieu Julien.

A new window: for what purpose?

The most interesting of windows is the one that will transform, in much better, your daily life, bring you more comfort (bright, visual, thermal) and well-being. "It's not about opening to open, says Bernard Febvre, it must be that opening makes sense, it significantly improves the use you make of the house.I will therefore be interested in priority Your lifestyle, your rituals, your habits ... Soon, I'll find that there are "strategic" places that, if they were open, would change things positively. "

It is therefore by the uses that one can start the reflection. It is a question of well posing the problem and its location. If you need to turn on the light when entering the house, it is perhaps at the level of this "airlock" that must be done, with a skylight or a transom and fixed frames around the door.

Creating an opening creates a new dialogue between inside and outside

The window allows the exchange between the inside and the outside. The light and the sun come in. The look goes out, towards the garden or beautiful panoramas.

"This is indeed another dimension to consider, says Bernard Febvre.The view to the outside must tell a story.What will be seen by this future window? How to put this view in value, the frame, to get the most out of it, from the inside of the house, so the shape of an opening and its position depend on what's going on inside and out, for example, if you have a wonderful 180 ° view of a lake or fields, a long window horizontally, at the height of the bed, allows to keep the spectacular side. "

Take an interest in the different plans that will be available to you once the opening is created. The foreground, in the immediate vicinity of the window, may need to be landscaped or green, to lead the eye to the next shot.

The window acts on the atmosphere of the house

A new window can completely change the ambience of a room, by its own shape and by the light and heat input that it generates. "It is important to take into account these changes of atmosphere induced by the openings: the inhabitant must feel instantly at home, the atmosphere corresponds to what he is looking for and his way of life", adds Mathieu Julien.

Choose the material, the color and the shape of your window thinking in particular of their impact on the atmosphere of the room. Install, from the outset, the blinds, shutters, curtains, which will sift and regulate the light.

Drill windows north, nonsense?

For both ecological and economic reasons, we are concerned about the energy efficiency of our homes. To consume less energy (and thus reject less greenhouse gases), openings to the south and west are preferred. With them, we benefit from free solar energy to heat the house, which is not negligible in winter. But to the north? Should we open these cold walls?

"We must not constrain ourselves in the name of energy efficiency, continues Mathieu Julien, and deprive ourselves of a beautiful light of the north, constant and soft.Today, the windows are powerful and it is possible, with a study exposure and sunshine, anticipate solar inputs.From the results of the study, we recommend triple glazing or glazing with reinforced insulation, only if necessary. "

The new opening must find its place on the front of the house

An added window must not unbalance or disfigure the facade. We must seek harmony and balance, in terms of alignment but also consistency of door frames (color, thickness). For all that, says Bernard Febvre, "balance does not necessarily mean symmetry at any price", the right composition will therefore be appreciated on a case by case basis.

To light up attics, you can opt for skylights or roof windows. There are several forms of skylights (including the famous sitting dogs) that retain the traditional personality of the house. Heritage architects recommend aligning the skylights with the front windows and using the same type of roof as the roof. You can get free excellent advice, adapted to your project, from the Council of Urban Planning and Environment Architecture (CAUE) of your department.

Opening Creation: Work Authorizations and Neighborhood Constraints

Before starting your work, do not forget to file a preliminary declaration of work in the town hall, because the openings change the external appearance of the building. This declaration is also mandatory for roof windows and skylights. You must also respect certain constraints of distance between your openings and the limit of property of the neighbors. If the view is direct (right), your opening must be more than 1.90 m from the neighbors' property. If the view is indirect (oblique), the minimum distance to be respected is reduced to 60 cm.

When planning to create openings on an old house, do not hesitate to consult an architect, even if you do not have a formal obligation.

One tip: first check that windows or doors have not been walled by previous owners. This is relatively common as our old homes evolve over time and lifestyles.

Thanks to Bernard Febvre, architect in Saumur (49) and Mathieu Julien, architect in Joué-lès-Tours (37).

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