Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dry rot (la mérule)

In writing recently about 'vices cachés' - possible hidden defects that may only become apparent after you have bought your French home - I thought it might be useful to add some information about dry rot (la mérule) which can affect timber and other materials and is more common in parts of north-western France than in the warm south.

Dry rot attacks timbers and other building materials, frequently in older houses, and tends to propagate in dark, damp areas that may normally be concealed or inaccessible. As a result it is not easy to detect and the first sign may be the collapse of a timber structure such as a stairway or supporting beam.It is therefore of particular concern both to potential buyers, who may be faced with an expensive problem, and for vendors concerned about their responsibility regarding 'vices cachés'. Note also that it is rarely covered by building insurance policies - that is, specifically excluded!

The current technical surveys covering lead, asbestos, termites etc ('les expertises') are compulsory and paid for by the vendor, but exclude examination for dry rot. There is a proposal before the French parliament to add dry rot examination to the list of areas covered, and meanwhile if in any doubt potential buyers and current owner/vendors might be advised to call in a specialist firm. Dry rot spreads extremely rapidly and if left unchecked can be very expensive to eradicate. In worst cases, it may result in the demolition of all or part of a building.

There are various sites in French you can access on the internet, including maps showing which areas of France as most vulnerable.