French Triumph: How Notre-Dame Fully Traced Oaks in Rebuild!

Exclusive: Notre-Dame is now 90% restored, with the Cathedral roof achieving full PEFC project certification.

Sun 28 Apr 24


When French President Macron vowed to rebuild the Notre-Dame de Paris timber roof piece by piece using the exact construction methods from the Middle Ages, scepticism reigned amongst the masses. 

And yet, despite the setbacks, including COVID-19 isolation, material shortages, and General Jean-Louis Georgelin’s tragic passing, the full restoration project is now entering the final straight – now 90% restored!

On Wednesday, the project team – made up of 500 carpenters, stonemasons, scaffolders, sculptures, gliders and glassmakers from across the world – celebrated a major milestone on the steps of the rapidly rising cathedral: the PEFC project certification of the cathedral’s roof, appropriately known as “the forest.”

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On Wednesday members of the Notre-Dame project team and the French government met with members of PEFC International, PEFC France and the FBCA Institute of Technology to celebrate the PEFC project certification. (Photo Credit: Supplied by PEFC, copyright from Patrick Zachmann)

“I would like to thank PEFC France and the FCBA Institute of Technology (French industry’s technical body for forest industries) the for this certification,” Philippe Jost, President of Rebâtir Notre-Dame de Paris, said, adding that the certification “recognises the remarkable commitment and strong support of all the players in the forestry and timber industry.”

Wood Central spoke exclusively to PEFC International overnight – the world’s largest forest certification – who said the project was one of largest and most culturally significant to be certified, adding that 35 sawmills and 175 forests – all with PEFC certification, were involved in the project.

When it comes to forest certification, PEFC ‘project certification’ is the ultimate demonstration of sustainability, providing full traceability and independent verification for all timber used on construction projects—whether a mass timber building, a real estate development, or the total restoration of a UNESCO-listed cathedral.

According to Christine de Neuville, the President of PEFC in France, “the certification recognises the commitment of not only the client, Rebâtir Notre-Dame de Paris, but also of the entire forestry and timber industry to the long-term survival of the French forest.” 

“This unprecedented industry mobilisation to restore a symbol of French heritage perfectly illustrates the vision and determination that PEFC has been pursuing for 25 years. 

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Known as the la forêt, or the forest, the framework was the major fuel source for the fire – a dense web of old-growth timber, 13th-century builders harvested 5000 oak trees from 522 hectares of ancient forests to make up the enormous framework. (Photo Credit: Supplied by PEFC, copyright from Patrick Zachmann)

In total, more than 1500 French Oak trees have been used to fully restore the roof, the spire, the internal nave and choir, with the project paying tribute to the astounding craftsmanship of the cathedral’s original builders and ensuring that the centuries-old art of hand-fashioning wood lives on.

“We want to restore this cathedral as it was built in the Middle Ages,” according to the late Jean-Louis Georgelin, who in 2019 said, “It is a way to be faithful to the [handiwork] of all the people who built all the extraordinary monuments in France.”

Last year, Wood Central reported that hundreds of PEFC-certified trees were meticulously selected, with global artisans and carpenters combining Middle Age carpentry and modern 3D technology to reconstruct the spire piece by piece – with the 80-tonne spire and new timber framework transported along the River Seine in barges and fitted to the cathedral “like a giant jigsaw puzzle.”

“Traditional carpenters had a lot of that in their heads,” according to Peter Henrikson, a US-based carpenter who has been working for more than three years to turn the PEFC-certified timber into the new wooden framework. “[It’s] pretty amazing to think about how they did this with what they had, the tools and technology they had at the time.”

Peter Henrikson travelled from Minnesota to France to assist with restoring the Notre-Dame cathedral – footage courtesy of @MPR_News.

The restoration project is a city inside a city, with Hank Silver, a New York-based carpenter and timber framer, saying, “It is so impressive to see all the other trades, all the other craftspeople who are here today. To see the sculptors, to see the masons, the glass restoration experts, the organ experts, it’s unbelievable.

Known as the la forêt, or the forest, the French oak-based framework was the major fuel source for the April 15, 2019 blaze – a dense web of old-growth timber, 13th-century builders harvested 5000 oak trees from 522 hectares of ancient forests to make up the enormous framework.

Earlier this year, work on the roof frame was finished, with crews now working on the nave and choir timber-based fame, which includes a complicated installation over the vaults.

At the same time, acoustic engineers are working on the internal sound, “mapping out the cathedral’s acoustics, calculating how sound reverberates against each interior feature of the building.”

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In January construction crews finished work on the roof, combining Middle Age construction methods with 3D technology to best create the iconic Notre-Dame de Paris as it appeared.(Photo Credit: Supplied by PEFC, copyright from Patrick Zachmann)

As for the future, Mr Jost said that the restoration remains on track for a full December opening before adding:

“I extend my warmest thanks to them, as well as to the hewers, squarers and carpenters who have placed their expertise at the service of the cathedral’s rebirth as part of an exemplary restoration project.”

The restoration of the UNESCO-listed building, which had 12 million visitors a year before the fire, is forecast to welcome 14 million visitors a year after it reopens.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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