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Close But No Cigar
A renovation update....
I just checked and found that my last renovation update was published on 29 May…8 weeks ago…so this might be a long one. At that time we were extending our building license for two months and being promised a 15 July move-in date. Well….
Paint, Paint, and More Paint
I must admit the past two months is a bit of a blur. The painting of the interior of the house took over 3 weeks. Our painter kept telling us how big the house was. It is about 170 square meters, that is 1829 square feet. I can’t imagine how long it would take him to paint one of the McMansions that grace so many US suburbs.
The plaster walls, to my hand, were smooth. But I guess not smooth enough. There was more than a week of sanding every wall and ceiling. I cropped the photo below from Amazon showing the equipment he used. Our 5’4” painter was not wearing goggles or protective coveralls. I didn’t see him smile but he does sing a lot!
I showed up one day in my painting clothes thinking I could help him. He was not happy about that…he would be sanding for at least another week. I was to leave!
I will admit, he does beautiful work! After sanding he applied primer. Then he applied three coats of paint to the ceiling and two coats of paint to the walls. From time to time, I saw plaster-filling imperfections and the dreaded sander return. Then another application of paint.
He then moved outside. This past week he was on our rooftop singing away as he painted the exterior walls of our rooftop deck. Does that mean he is done? Of course not! Keep reading.
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The next big hurdle was the installation of the floor. It took about 4 days to complete 95% of the house. The rest got done in dribs and drabs over the next 3 weeks. Our builder, who has several major projects in the works and spends his day driving between building sites, taking phone calls, and yelling at people, actually was on his hands and knees installing the floor. 1 I had purchased enough flooring so he could install the vinyl plank flooring on the diagonal. But he immediately squelched that idea. Instead, he installed it vertically coming from the front door. I must admit it does look good.
He, of course, took every opportunity to tell me it was a difficult job. We do not have baseboards (aka skirting) in our home. Instead, the finished plaster ends 5mm above the cement floor. Instead of cutting the boards within 1/2” and covering any gap with wood, the flooring must be installed under the opening… requiring more exacting cuts, bending and flexing, and a bit of cursing.
The Closet Guys, the Carpinteiros
On any given day two or three carpenters were next on site installing the closets. Yes, our closets are custom…but they brought the boxes with drawers or shelves to our home. How could it possibly take 3+ weeks to install 4 closets and 5 pocket doors?
It could be that you are never sure what time they will arrive in the morning.
It could be their mid-morning break is taken even if they arrived on the job site 5 minutes earlier.
It could be that we would not permit them to install traditional molding around the door frames…again requiring more exacting measurements.
It could be that like our painter they are craftsmen. Wood putty (pasta de madeira) is never used! I have watched the lead carpenter return to his compound miter saw three or four times to cut the trim to the precise size/angle.
Yes, I was frustrated by the process. What I expected would take 1 week took 3 or more…but I can’t complain about the quality!
8 Guys on One Day
Most days we have the singing painter and perhaps one other guy. But I found 8 tradesmen on site during one of my daily visits. We had 3 carpenters (doors and closets), one guy finishing the floor, the singing painter, 1 guy putting holes in the exterior walls to install the outdoor lighting2, and two kitchen guys. While you might think I was jumping for joy, I was not. First, the kitchen guy scratched the floor near the front door bringing in a huge panel for the side of our pantry/coffee bar. Then he installed the panel wrong. He left mid-day saying there were too many people in the house and he was worried the kitchen would be scratched. He returned two days later and installed the panel properly.3
Carlos, the owner of the Spanish company from whom we bought our kitchen, laundry room, and appliances has been fantastic. He stops in regularly, spots issues, and addresses them promptly. Our countertops, appliances, and backsplash are now on site and awaiting the electrician to finish so they can be installed. The electrician was on site for 2 days (6 & 7 July) and hopefully will complete his work before you read this post.
The Slowest Plumber in the World
If there is a record for the slowest plumber in the world, then Guinness should come to our house. He started work in mid-June. Last week he installed one bathroom vanity, and the faucet for the utility sink in the laundry room. He partially installed the vanity in our primary bathroom … incorrectly. I spotted that this morning…but he was not there to speak with me.
Regarding speaking with him … a funny story. Jóse João ordered me to be on-site on 3 July to ensure the plumber installed the vanities correctly. I was having difficulties explaining the proper placement of the guest vanity, despite pictures complete with measurements. I urged him to speak more slowly…but he did not. I called Ana (our architect) hoping she could communicate with him. After two minutes, he handed the phone back to me. “He is not speaking Portuguese,” Ana reported. “I am not sure what he is speaking, but it is not Portuguese.”
As he ate lunch that day, he opened his phone to show me photos of his wife, children, mother, and nephews in Ukraine. He also showed me photos of a beautiful church with a golden roof near his family home. I must admit, when we are talking about the bathrooms I don’t understand a word. But I feel like I know all about his family and the home he left behind.4
Everything Hinges on Reinaldo
I jumped for joy at 18:00, Friday, 7 July when I saw Reinaldo locking up the house. He and his helper had just delivered equipment to complete the installation of our hot water, underfloor heating, and “central” air conditioning. You see Reinaldo completing his work is now the critical step that will control when we move in. He had previously promised it would be done by 30 June. But alas, he has “too much work”! Assuming he completes his work (installing the solar panel for the hot water on the roof, the air conditioning unit on the roof, the two water tanks in our laundry room, and does all the final connections) by the time you read this we should be in by the end of July.
After all the tradesmen finish, the final coat of paint is applied to the walls. Hopefully, there isn’t any sanding, and the painting can be completed in 5-8 working days. If we are able to maintain this schedule, we can have our furniture delivered and move in by 30 July.5
Update 16 July 2023: Surprise, neither Reinaldo nor Armando (the electrician) finished their work. After being on site most of Monday and Tuesday, Reinaldo worked at another job for the rest of the week. He and I spoke by phone (finally) on Friday morning. He could not understand my concern. In his mind, he was not holding up the painter. I explained he had equipment to move through the house and the painter did not want to repaint marked walls for a 4th time. I am caught in the middle.
Both Reinaldo and Armando promised they would be on site while you read this.
By the Way: We will be leaving our apartment on or before 15 August. The landlord, a lovely man named Paulo, is looking for another long-term renter. The apartment is registered and as such can be used for D7 purposes. If you are interested, please contact me so I can put you in touch with him.
Só o tempo o dirá, até logo, tchau….
As previously reported, we often put holes in walls after finishing them. This time a trench was carved out to install electrical lines and boxes for 11 exterior lights (5 lights going up the stairs, four on the rooftop, and 2 in the interior courtyard). When I asked why…I was told that they wanted to know the exact location of the stair risers. 1+ day to create the trench, 1 day to run the wire and install the boxes, 2+ days to plaster the trench, prime, and 3 coats of paint.
However, at some point, José João will have to replace four vinyl planks (the good news is they aren’t far from the front door so they only need to remove a few to get to them) and the kitchen guy needs to replace the pantry door that did not have the obligatory plastic sheeting and is now scratched.
Meaning no disrespect…we have decided he was speaking Ukranaguese.
There will be a few continuing sagas including the hole that will require an 8’ x 8’ screen to be replaced, the “painting” of the exterior stairs which were supposed to be powder-coated black before they were installed, installation of artificial turf for Onix in the courtyard, installation of the other solar panels, and more. So expect some pointing of fingers, shouting, and perhaps a bit of cursing to continue for a few months.