For you, newcomers to the Pays de Gex, curious or passionate with traditional craftsmanship, we are going to explain to you the marvellous history of the “tavaillons”, small planks of spruce wood, ranging from 40 to 45 cm in length and 2 cm thick, used as shingles in a typically mountainous setting!

Once upon a time …

The tavaillon is developed in the mountains of the Jura in the XVth century. It was first used for small buildings such as granaries. The technique of the tavaillons was not used much previously because nails were rare and expensive at that time. It is a little later on, in the XVII century that the tavaillons spread to cover the roofs but also the facades on the south-western side to protect the houses and the farms of the Jura against the inclement weather and the strong winds!

Let’s go for a walk in the woods …

To make these planks, you need wood, and in particular spruce, the king of the forests. The trees should preferably be at least 150 years old, grown on a south-western slope, but also have branches that are at least 8 m above the ground and have a trunk measuring 45 to 60 cm in diameter. These are strict selection criteria indeed, but only the best wood is selected for the making of these tiles! For the tavaillonneurs, it is a breeze to find the ideal tree! For us, it would be a very different story …

Once the tree is cut down, the tavaillonneur needs a 30 to 40 cm long millstone. They are then cut with an axe and split by half and then into 16 quarters. And so, that’s how the tavaillon is born under the expert hands of the tavaillonneur.

Then they are arranged in layers during the spring and summer!

Did you know ? Between 110 and 115 tavaillons are needed per square meter! That’s a lot of tavaillons !

Incredibly, there is no need for paint or varnish! The dried and raw wood allows the facade to be preserved for at least a century while ensuring proper insulation against cold and humidity! 
This is one good reason to opt for this type of siding!

An ancestral trade in full renaissance.

In the Jura, there are only two tavaillonneurs left. And yet, there are still many tavaillon facades! They are omnipresent in the local landscape and many of them require restoration.

During the summer, discover the mountain villages of the Pays de Gex, look around, it is very likely that on your way, you will come across several houses whose facade is covered with tavaillons! Here is a small hint, there are some in Lélex and Mijoux (not really a surprise, these two villages are close to the Jura!)

Take out your smartphones, and share with us your most beautiful pictures of tavaillons on instagram with the #paysdegextourisme. We can’t wait to see your new discoveries!