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We live in a former water mill which, logically, means that the house is built on a slope.  There is a new extension to the old house, built back into the slope of the valley.  This difference in elevation has allowed for an external door at what is first floor level.  This picture attempts to show the lay of the land, with the top of the new porch just visible, the modern extension, with the two dormer windows and the old house further down, with the three velux windows.  




The space that the door opens into we call 'the new attic' (as opposed to the old attic above the old house).  It has been unused by us, except as storage space, since we moved in nearly 20 years ago.  We've had various plans to convert it, but frankly the existing house is already too big for us, so there has been no point in adding more living space.

When the idea of a porch/canopy was first floated, I took to the internet, searching out images of porches that appealed visually.  If you search for  'door canopies' in Google images, you'll see exactly what we saw!  I also learned that the type we most liked was called a gallows bracket canopy.  Using that to search on YouTube, I hit upon 'How to make hand made gallows brackets and a canopy porch' by Jon from Central Building and Development.  I could not have hit upon a more useful guide and I have embedded it here; if you are thinking of doing something similar, it's extremely helpful.


Jon was sizing his porch to utilise standard cuts of timer - very sensible.  In my case, living in France, what's available from the timber merchants is very different.  4 x 2 doesn't exist (I do love the way UK builders talk about 2.4 metres of 4 x 2!) and tends to come in 3m lengths.  The nearest equivalent I could find was some 90 x 40 PAR (planed all round).  So that's what I bought for the gallows brackets.  Standard roofing 'chevrons' are 75 x 50 by 3m and that's what I used for the rafters.  
Sizing the gallows.  This is one thing I would do differently.  I just followed Jon's dimensions and - to be fair - made a very presentable pair of brackets.  However - I was covering the porch with slate - leftovers from when we re-roofed the house 6 years ago.  What I should have done was work my depth of canopy off a set number of slates.  My slates are 32cm x 22cm.  Next time I would go with the depth of a standard number of slates - 4 probably, giving me an overall depth of around 90cm (allowing for a gap between each slate).  That would have meant the gallows bracket extending to 85cm.
It all worked out fine, it just meant I had an awful lot more slates to cut.

It might help to know the standard method of fixing slates in France.  My only previous experience of roofing was doing a massive boat shed over a slipway in Dorset.  We had unpierced slates that needed nailing to some very bouncy battens.  Quite a few were broken either trying to make the holes, or in being just a touch too ambitious with the hammer.  This still seems to be the traditional method used in the UK.

Many other countries (which includes most of Europe) use the hook system - best explained in this short slide show: -



If you had boarded the rafters on top, as Jon did before fixing his battens (or used a roofing membrane) then you have to fix vertical battens before nailing on your horizontals.  Otherwise there is no space for the hook.  You could stick with just the pointed hooks, but that means nailing them all in.  OK for a small porch - but not for a 180m² roof.

And in any case, hooks are quick and accurate, self spacing the slates, and fix the slates incredibly securely.  They can also be laid far more quickly - up to 50% faster in some cases.  They are recommended in windy, coastal regions of the UK I believe.

All of which brings us back to the porch!  A confession.  I was so engrossed in making the brackets, I forgot to take any photos so I am afraid you are presented by a fait accompli - as the locals have it.  However, I just followed Jon's methods exactly, so look at the video for guidance.  The only difference being I don't have a hand router, so I did all the individual pieces on a router table before assembly.




(The green-fingered amongst you might notice the rose got a haircut during the build.)

Something I wish I had done sooner, was put up the staging.  My original thought was it was too much effort for such a small job.  By the time I'd been up and down, up and down the ladders umpteen times, I sincerely wished I'd put it in place sooner! 

One of the things not covered in Jon's video was fixing the brackets to the wall.  My wall is rendered blockwork - the blocks being hollow.  Most of the house is granite - no problem there, but rawl bolts wouldn't fit the bill here. After a long chat with the builder's merchants, I came away with some very expensive screws and rawlplugs - Fischer Duopower no less.  Hmm.  I got a couple in on each of the brackets and then 6 (3 to a side) on the first set of rafters.  I think I'll fall off the perch a lot sooner than this does.

One last thing to do and that is the flashing where it joins the house, but otherwise all is complete, we are very happy with the end result - and many thanks to Jon for the explanations - they made everything so much easier!