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Property: Why we decided to build our new house in Italy out of wood

Property: Why we decided to build our new house in Italy out of wood
Photo: Anastasiia Krutota on Unsplash
Italy's landscape is dotted with stone and brick buildings, so the usual response when you tell Italians you're building a house out of wood is, 'Ma perché?'. But it's a surprisingly advantageous and efficient choice, as our project plans revealed.

If you’re hoping to renovate or build a property in Italy, you may not have considered wood as a material to realise the house of your dreams.

The novelty of the idea seems to breed scepticism, but since our geometra (surveyor) recommended it, we investigated the options and we agreed with his advice.

READ ALSO: ‘How we claimed Italy’s building bonus twice for the same property’

A geometra is invaluable in helping with the local authorities and guiding you on how best to navigate a renovation.

In his experience, using wood as the structure for a house is a wise decision as, firstly, the frame pops up in just a couple of weeks.

That’s in comparison to the roughly four months for a stone or brick structure that he says it takes – at least in northern Italy.

It’s important to point out that we are using wood only for the framework of the property and not for the walls too – it won’t look like a ski chalet in the middle of Emilia Romagna, where our property will be.

For the walls, we’ll be using a mixture of other materials including plaster board, insulation, panels and external fascias.

The speed of construction is a huge plus point, which is now essential after waiting months and months to get through the paperwork of buying the wreck and jumping through hoops to get to the project design.

Photo: Eric Cabanis / AFP

We’re also working against a deadline, as we are relying on the government’s Superbonus to build our property – financial aid introduced to help people renovate properties following the pandemic-induced economic slump.

With this scheme, homeowners could benefit from a 110 percent tax deduction on expenses related to property renovation.

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Luckily, the authorities extended the initiative until 2023, but based on our experiences of how long each stage of the process is taking, we can’t fully breathe out just yet.

Aside from how quickly it will be constructed, when plans finally get underway at least, wooden beams are also something we wanted from an aesthetic point of view. We’ll be in the middle of the countryside, so a rustic appearance lends itself well to the surroundings.

Plus, using wood saves energy due to its low thermal conduction and insulation properties, meaning that it will meet the highest energy efficiency rating.

Cost also plays a big factor. Although our geometra said the cost is actually comparable between building a structure out of wood or brick, the biggest saving is when the house is built – a wooden house has lower running costs than a traditional house.

Photo: Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash

Due to the mentioned insulating qualities of wood, houses made of this material boast low energy consumption and, therefore, low costs.

So for a house of the same size, layout of the rooms and use of the house, a wooden house will have lower energy bills than its masonry counterpart, because it needs less energy to be heated in winter and cooled in summer.

These qualities also create an ideal climate to live in all year round.

This should assuage fears of Italians who are dubious about wooden constructions, because of doubts about how they would cope in hotter and more humid weather.

We were initially concerned about wood from a cost perspective, as prices have risen sharply in Italy this year, according to reports.

Between September 2020 and April this year alone, timber prices rose by 60-70 percent. As an example, glued laminated timber, one of the most widely used, has risen from €400 to €700 per m³. And that’s the closest estimate we have to how much this project is going to cost.

Any time we ask for an overall quote, we are told it’s unknown until work actually gets underway – as prices climb in the meanwhile.

However, in our surveyor’s experience, costs of all materials have increased this year so there doesn’t seem to be a cheaper method.

All in all, considering the reasons of long-term costs, speed of installation and its appearance, building a house out of wood is the right choice for us – and it might be a prudent and well-informed choice for others building a home in Italy.

If you’re keen to buy a property in Italy, you may want to take a look at our guide to the additional costs you might not be expecting, and read up on some of the common mistakes to avoid when buying a house in Italy. See more in The Local’s Italian property section.


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