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I Don't Know all the Questions
When building a home, never assume
Earlier this week I mentioned the many things we did not/do not know. And yes, I have been frustrated from time to time. Very frustrated. Yet we make progress. Slowly…
Just a Few Iterations
If you have been following along you know that we were offered a two-story (approved) plan with the building. However, as it was a four-bedroom nearly 300 square meters (3000 square foot) home. We don’t need that much space so we worked with a local engineer to resubmit the plans. I had taken the original plan (which in typical Portuguese fashion had separated the kitchen from the main living area) and reworked it into a single-story, 2/2 + office home. The engineer then made the necessary changes to assure it met local regulations (specifically handicap accessibility) and submitted them to the city for approval. When approval was received we purchased the building.
We then revisited the building with the architect and engineer we hired to help us complete the project. Leading up to this visit I was keen to rework the plan to swap the bedrooms. Ana, our architect, agreed this was a good idea and possible if we moved an existing wall as Denise had recommended. We left that visit anxious to receive Ana’s plans.
We also started working with a kitchen designer. We learned that she would provide the kitchen design to our architect, who would insert it into the plan for submission to the city. Working with the kitchen designer (a Dane that has lived and worked in Portugal for many years) was a breeze. We swapped plans back and forth several times before sending them off to Ana.
We received the plans from Ana on the 17th of December (approximately one month after our visit). She provided us with two plans showing different configurations for the master bedroom closets. (If you have been reading along you know closets are important to us.) We choose the plan shown above. (The master bedroom is now in the back with access to the courtyard.)
So where are we now?
Well, we are learning that we know even less than we thought we knew. More importantly, that our assumptions are typically wrong. For example. I asked Ana when we would get the electrical plan to overlay the floorplan. She said the electrical plan was Vitor’s job. I then called Vitor. I said we wanted to review the electrical plan before it went to the builder because we likely would want more electrical outlets than he included. (Every supermarket, hardware and Chinese store in Portugal sells outlet extenders like the one above.)
He said, yes, he would do an electrical plan but it just related to getting electricity into the building. Placement of the outlets, lighting, etc was the builder’s job. Huh?
I called Ana again. I apologized again for assuming the processes I was familiar with in the US were used in Portugal. I explained that typically after the floor plan (such as the one above) you would overlay an electrical plan. “Oh, we don’t do that. Our builders may not know how to read such a plan. When it is time, you will go to the building site with the builder and mark where you want.”
“But how will the builder be able to provide an accurate estimate of building costs if he does not have an accurate count of electrical outlets, their placement (for example in the floor), etc?” I asked.
“Oh, you should tell him that.”
Here’s the Good News
So, here’s the good news. We have owned a lot of houses. We built two houses from scratch (i.e. modified a builder/developer’s floorplan), completely remodeled a house ourselves and we have flipped a few homes. I am used to working with builders. (Permit me to digress to share a funny story. When we were having our house built in Port St Lucie I visited the building site once a week to assess progress. On one of those visits, I spotted a floor socket in the 18’ x 18’ living room that was only 6’ from the wall where the TV would be placed. The builder had flipped the plan by mistake. Fortunately, the cement slab had not yet been poured. My weekly visits bothered him less after that.) So what you see above is me figuring out where outlets and lighting will be placed. The legend is in Portuguese…so pull out your translator.
Also, as Denise reminds me daily…I have the time and I “like” doing this stuff. Yes, she is correct. But I have three cautions for you if you are considering building or remodeling a home in Portugal:
Like this stuff;
Have the time to do it; and
Plan to be onsite during the build.
Here’s the Bad News
But here’s the bad news. I am not a trained architect or interior designer. I have aspirations but no formal training! The Google Search above is just one of the dozens I have done to try to understand scale and proportion. And as I was doing the “electrical” plan above I realized that the distance between recessed ceiling lights is in part determined by the ceiling height. Most of the ceilings in the existing building are over 12’. (Note to self, I need to measure all ceiling heights ASAP.) So again, I sent an email to Ana.
Ana, sorry another question….
What is the ceiling height of the various rooms? Is there a way to use different heights (like Frank Lloyd Wright did) to create mood?
Her response is shown below:
Well, the ceilings of your house are very high so in my opinion will be important to work with different heights, if not will look like a "shoebox”. LOL
Even in the master bedroom that is the lower ceiling (2,8m) we can use 20cm to do a nice lower ceiling that will create a cozy space at the bedroom.
As I write this I have started a list of things to ask Ana. First, on the list: Ana, can you recommend exactly how we vary the ceiling height?
You see, as I write this it is the 30th of December. Ana let me know she is off till next week. That gives me four more days to think of questions to add to the list because I have learned I will get an answer to every question I ask. It is just I get frustrated by two things:
I will always get an answer to the question I ask…no more.
I don’t know all the questions to ask!
Next Week: getting a Portuguese driver’s license and immigrant or expat.