Monday, December 15, 2008

Mold - Ick!

Okay . . . I’ve decided that I cannot only tell you the good stuff on the blog. I can’t let you all believe that living in France is a fairy tale. There are a few things that go wrong here, even if I keep you in the dark.

Alas, I have a perfect example of “It isn’t all a fairy tale” to share. We have been battling a disgusting mold problem for the past 6-7 weeks.

Those of you who detest a moldy mess – you know who you are! – proceed with the utmost caution. In fact, you may want to skip this post altogether.

Okay . . . I warned you!

We had our first major rain storm near the end of October. There was lightning, thunder, wind that pushed you backward (literally!), and a ton of rain. That’s when we discovered that there was some sort of leak in our humble little apartment. We live on the bottom of a 2-unit “condo-like” apartment. We thought that the leak was coming from the upper unit. However, when the upstairs neighbors arrived a few weeks after the storm, they reported no problems.

Hmmm . . . perhaps it was a leak from the roof, through the cinder block walls, straight to our water closet? In France, the toilet is in a separate room called the water closet. This is where we noticed the leak.

Alas, the leak was the first domino in an evil, mold-producing chain!

Being foreigners, we did not know that the cinder block construction forces you to open all of your windows and doors for an hour every single morning. I mean, who would think that was necessary when it’s freezing cold outside? We were not opening our doors to air out the house, so we were exacerbating the problem – resulting in the second domino in the chain.

Next, we started using kerosene heaters (merci beaucoup Sandra & Jean-Louis!!!!). The electric heaters that populate every room in the apartment do not provide heat. Well, okay, if you put your hand directly on the front of the heater, it’s warm. However, that tiny bit of warmth does not radiate into the house – at all! We could see our breath in the house. No joke.

Sandra and Jean-Louis to the rescue! They loaned us two kerosene heaters that are now our sole source of heat. However, they are also domino number 3. Turns out that they produce quite a bit of humidity.

So, we have . . .

  • A leak providing moisture
  • A completely closed-up house without adequate ventilation
  • Wonderful heaters that pump a lot of moisture into the air
  • A ton of mold

The pictures are just a peak. I couldn't bring myself to post the truly awful ones!

Mike had been cleaning with bleach regularly (isn’t he the sweetest husband in the world – to save me from that?!), but it was a hopeless battle.

Our landlord contacted the insurance agent to see about fixing the problem. This is one of those French things that Mike and I really don’t understand. They contacted our renter’s insurance about the leak . . . as if it could be our fault somehow? Obviously, we don’t care, as long as the problem is solved!

After weeks of waiting, the insurance company sent “le expert”! Oh boy! Before that day, I honestly have not met a single “stereotypical” Frenchman – you know the kind you see on TV or read in novels – a French snob. Le expert was that man!

He showed up on a rainy day, so there was a ton of condensation on the windows. He ran his fingers along every window, almost snorting at me in disgust as he flicked the water off of his fingers. I’m seriously not exaggerating. He declared, quite emphatically, that the entire problem was due to the heaters.

Well, buddy, if I could speak French just a little bit better, I could tell you that we’ve only been using the heaters for 3 weeks! The problem has been going on for 6-7 weeks. Thus, it’s not the heaters!

I did try to tell him this, but he promptly chuffed and turned away from me. He actually said, “Les chauffages . . . Ce sont un catastrophe!” That’s French for, “The heaters. They are a catastrophe!”


Now the insurance company is turning down the claim, stating that there isn’t a leak. Le expert is supposed to come back and actually look in the WC this time – to see the walls peeling apart where there is water coming from the cinder blocks. He didn’t spend much time in the WC on his last visit because – well, who would want to hang out there?!

In the meantime, I finally convinced the landlord to send a professional cleaner over! Yesterday, she cleaned most of the mold. What a relief. I can walk around my house with my eyes open again! She will be back today to finish the job.

Wish us luck!

Love to all!

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