As explained in Buying And Renovating A House | Part I, we were on a very tight schedule to complete the renovation of our new home. General Builder had given us an estimate of two to three weeks work, so with double that time we thought we would still be OK when coming across the inevitable bad surprises. The three weeks had come and gone and let’s just say the house was nowhere near ready. General Builder came back from his two-week holiday and I fully expected him to turn up on the Monday with his team of builders and get a move on. Well, good job we had not told the Bekannte that his services were no longer required, because when General Builder failed to arrive and I rang him, I was told he would “come by late afternoon”. When he did arrive, he looked horrified by the amount of work still to be done and then said that he STILL had no one to work on our house. You guessed it, I lost it again, at which point he said he would send two people on Wednesday or Thursday.
I will spare you all the details but the reliability of General Builder never improved. Most of time only one of the two promised workers would make an appearance. And Lone Guy once left after a couple of hours because of sudden back pains. Or he sometimes arrived late because of car issues or having attended a wine festival the night before (yes, that really was the excuse given to me by General Builder. I pointed out to him that all workers on Team Bekannte had turned up on time, and that they had very probably gone to the same place that Sunday night).
On top of it, Team General Builder and Team Bekannte were not fond of one another, to say the least, so we decided to keep them apart, with one team working on the first floor and the other on the ground floor. Thankfully, all other companies could be counted on – except for one occurrence, see below – and just went about their business.
A few more stories for you:
1. We had decided to get rid of the tiles in the lounge, TV room and the entrance leading to them, replacing them with laminate flooring. We of course gave instructions to the two guys doing this job so they would lay the floor in the right direction. This they did in the first two rooms. Although they did not manage to align the planks from one room to the other, but it was too late when we noticed this. Then they started on the entrance. Going in the other direction, for some reason. Luckily, Sexy Hubby was on holiday by then, saw the mistake and stopped them. They seemed surprised to be told to start again.
2. These two were also the ones who thought leaving the remains of their lunch all over the house was totally OK. Chicken bones and mouldy gherkin, anyone?
3. The heating company was great and we recommend them to everybody. They ended doing all of the plumbing too, as General Builder was so far behind in his work. The only issue we had was with one particular employee, who was told exactly where and how to move two pipes. He unleashed his creative side instead… He trashed the wooden ceiling in the lounge, destroyed the top of the freshly plastered wall, cut through the new electric cables and drilled two holes in the corner of our bedroom on the first floor. Then he left. I arrived, took in the scene, and rang his boss. He came immediately and paled visibly when he saw the damage. The matter was however handled to our complete satisfaction and we are still happy customers.
4. One of the builders, doing work outside, turned up one day rather merry, shall we say. Only this was SO out of character for him – he had been there from day one, never missed a day, always turned up on time and done a good job – that I thought he was suffering a brain haemorrhage or something. It turned out he was having some personal problems and rang the next day to apologize. He came back and finished the work, again to our complete satisfaction, and we are already planning to work with him on our next project. All the same I had quite a fright, I must say!
5. Construction and renovation are not really my area of expertise. In German even less. I certainly learned a lot and the builders sometimes had to draw what they wanted to explain in the dust on the floor, but we managed fine. And shared a few laughs too.
6. There were also some good surprises. Like discovering beautiful long lost beams hidden in the walls we took down. Or the old tiled stove being in perfect working order. And finding out that my charming French accent goes a long way when dealing with building companies! 😉
Of course we did not make our deadline. We moved into an unfinished, dusty house and it took a long time until we could finally get rid of our 200 boxes. Team Bekannte almost completed the ground floor on time, but as the warm and sunny weather left place to a few rainy, cooler days, they had to wait for the ceiling and walls to dry to complete the painting. Needless to say, it took a lot longer for the first floor to be finished and Sexy Hubby and I slept in my office and shared Second Daughter’s bathroom for weeks until everything was ready. Not the end of the world, I know, but that meant sharing the houses with builders for weeks too and not much work done for me. In addition, I happened to say I was tired of this whole palaver one day. General Builder’s comment to this was: “Women are too weak to be on building sites. They should stay in the kitchen”. You can imagine how well this went down. I wonder if he regretted his answer when he sat opposite me for half an hour a couple of months later, while I told him exactly was I thought of his attitude?
After much deliberating, we also decided to renovate the outside walls before the winter. To my great chagrin, that meant pulling all the ivy off. Something had to be done about it anyway, but there was one part of the house where it truly was magnificent. Had we decided to keep the walls white, it could perhaps have been saved. But as we chose a “Tuscan Red”, it simply was not possible. This part of the renovating went rather smoothly. We had a lot of luck that the weather remained dry and mild the whole time. The originally green elements (shutters, banister, etc.) were repainted in “Palazzo Grey”. We are very, very happy with the result and have received many compliments from neighbours and visitors.
The last bit of work, done together with our direct neighbours, was to sort out the parking area. We can now park four vehicles easily, six when visitors come and we re-arrange our cars a bit.