©2018 by A French Address.

Wood Worries

May 9, 2015

As we reached the 4 month renovation mark, luckily we hadn’t yet struck any major difficulties. Granted we were further behind schedule than we would have liked, and our initial budget was looking slightly unrealistic, overall things were more or less going according to plan. On the majority of renovation shows we had watched, people seemed to regularly encounter hidden problems which crept up on them, requiring additional money, time, materials, or all three. From this ‘experience’, I was ready and waiting to face such a surprise issue. 


The only real difficulty we had faced so far appeared while we were sanding the beams. When sanding the first two structural beams, it didn’t take too much effort to discover the smooth wood underneath. Thanks to the sander, the paint would disappear leaving a nice healthy wood glowing through. However, when it came to structural beam number 3, as soon as we began sanding it was a different story. While the paint would disappear easily enough, we found little parts of the wood would also flake away with it, leaving a grainy, crumbling texture behind. 


It was clear that this beam had issues, and we were advised by a neighbour to call a carpenter to investigate further! 


The diagnosis was a type of tiny woodworm who were inside the beam gnawing away. While nothing serious and treated easily enough, it would cost us. What’s more, the carpenter told us if they were present in one beam, there was a chance they could appear in the others. So it would cost us more…!


Now each building in France is run by the ‘copropriété’ which is made up by the owners of the different apartments in the building. Once a year, there is the copropriété’s General Assembly, during which different issues are raised, such as cutting down the trees in the garden, painting the outside of the building, replacing the letterboxes, etc. Everybody is allowed to submit items for the agenda which are then discussed and voted on. For such issues, the costs are divided equally amongst the owners. 


Now as our problem beam was structural and supports the entire building, the issue of the woodworm quickly became one for the copropriété. Therefore, we found ourselves having to present the issue at the General Assembly, after having only just met some of our neighbours for the first time ! Obviously this was a sensitive issue - we were still the ‘newbies’ in the building and making noise weekend in and weekend out. We weren’t sure how asking them to spend money on what could be seen as our repair job would go down. 


Luckily we needn’t have worried. Our neighbours were more than understanding and releived we had discovered the problem when we did. They commented that if we had just ignored it, in 10 to 20 years time a collapsed structural beam would prove a much more expensive repair job than a quick treatment now. The issue was then voted on, and unanimously everbody agreed to share the cost. Following the vote, our neighbours even congratulated us on the renovation, and came by for a peek around and an apero ! 


The following week, the carpenter came by to treat and protect the wood, following which we could get on with the sanding. While it’s true that the beam has a slightly different texture to the others, I like to think that’s what adds to the charm!




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