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Kitchens & Baths
And a crazy meeting...
When we last updated you on our little renovation project the second layer of bricks was going up, causing the house to shrink. We had also just finished an important meeting to determine where all electrical outlets and switches would be placed. But there is more to the story.
A Rather Crazy Meeting
What I didn’t share in the last post, was that that was one crazy meeting. You see, I had sent an email about one week prior to our meeting asking José, our builder, when he needed our kitchen design, bathroom design, a decision on the underfloor heating contractor, which sliding glass doors we wanted, etc. He responded, the night before our meeting:
“You need to tell me those things tomorrow.”
We began our meeting at 14:00. Ana began the meeting by explaining that she needed to be in Tavira at 16:00…so she would be leaving at 15:30. No problem, I thought, I have my trusty graph paper. We started with the electrician marking the electrical outlets, switches, TV outlets, etc. in the guest room. Then a guy showed up that wanted to talk about the sliding glass doors. Denise went off to talk to him. Then another guy showed up about the underfloor heating. Denise tried to pull me to talk to him, but I explained he would have to wait.
“You really need to talk to the sliding glass door guy,” Denise said.
“Sorry, I am a bit busy right now. If you can’t decide, he will just have to wait.”
“What about the heating guy?”, she asked.
“He’ll have to wait too!”
So our 90-minute meeting to decide on the electrical outlets and switches ended up lasting 3.5 hours. Ana did leave after 2 hours…she would be late. The sliding glass door guy and underfloor heating guy… also waited. Being late, and waiting… are Portuguese core competencies!
And as we had only begun meeting with kitchen designers about one week prior to that meeting, the spray-paint markings in the kitchen were just guesses. Over the next two weeks, we met with two different kitchen design companies (one in Tavira, the other in Spain). Both were very responsive and offered great designs. Frankly, their designs were nearly identical.
We ended up going with the company in Spain for two reasons. First, we liked their cabinets better. And second, they actually were €10,000 less (€36K vs €26K). Part of the difference in price can be explained by the lower VAT (Spain’s VAT is 2% less)1. Also, we have price compared and found that the very same appliances are less expensive in Spain…not sure why. Finally, the provider in Spain is making his own cabinets. Our builder has worked with him before and can vouch for his quality and installation abilities. Carlos, the kitchen guy, drove over to our house to check the placement of electrical outlets, etc. a few days after we signed off on his design. Fortunately, only a few items needed to be moved, and they simply filled the unneeded holes with cement.
The bathroom design process offered another opportunity for learning. We had visited a number of bathroom design centers in Spain and Portugal over the past few months. We hadn’t picked tiles or fixtures…we just were trying to get the “lay of the land”. But during the “crazy meeting” José explained he would need any fixtures that would be placed inside the wall and the tile for the walls within the next three weeks. But “good news”, he had a Spanish supplier with a showroom in Loulé and he had already planned to go there in a few days. We could come along and take care of everything at once.
A few days later José, his wife, Denise, and I headed off to Loulé. The showroom was beautiful. The salesman was very knowledgeable and spoke perfect English. Whew…that’s a relief. We quickly realized that all four of us were shopping. Denise and I for our house, and José and his wife for the new house he is building for them. So the meeting was a bit chaotic!
A few days later we got the quote from the company. It included a special discount to reflect a sale that expired in 2 days. The quote for the tile, vanities/sinks, mirrors, toilets, shower pans and glass, and the fixtures for two (smallish) bathrooms was €19,000. My first thought was, “this has to be a mistake”! My second thought was José must be doing pretty well.2
I also noticed that the tile quote assumed we were covering every wall, floor to ceiling with tile. I told José and the salesman we didn’t want this. We would tile the shower of course, and behind the vanity only. José insisted this was impossible. He always tiled all four walls. A few days later, I spoke with Ana. “Are all four of the walls in your bathroom tiled?” I asked. “No,” she replied. In explaining further, it appeared she agreed with me.
In an attempt to make an already long story shorter, let me wrap this up:
Surprise, we went to another store on our own and made our selections. It turns out that we are buying only the towel warmers from the Loulé company because we really like the design and they heat via hot water from the underfloor heating. Add that €1000 to the €8300 for everything else from the other store and we are only €7300 over our allowance. (But half the price of the Loulé supplier.)
We ordered only enough tile to tile the walls we want to tile. José was a bit upset. First, he insisted, “That is not the way we do it here.” Second, he had already applied something to the wall in anticipation of tiling. He will have to remove it from some of the walls. As Denise often says, “You know what they say about people that assume …”
I mentioned before that I can’t understand how someone can manage such a process from afar. Our visit to the house yesterday is a perfect example. The bathroom supplier was to deliver all the tile and the in-wall fixtures to the house yesterday (21 November). Denise and I walked over to check and I noticed this mark on the wall in our primary bath. It denotes where the water control to turn on the shower should go. I hate to get my arm wet when I turn on the shower. Instead, I always place the control in easy reach and away from the shower head.
This was incorrectly marked, assuming we would enter the shower from the left. Instead, because the bathroom is relatively tight, we will access the shower by entering two glass doors in the center. As soon as I got home last night, I quickly sent an email to José explaining where it should be placed. It is now the morning of the 22nd, and I am worried the workman won’t get the message before smashing out the brick for the fixture. I am headed there now….
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We have learned that many, many things are not eligible for the lower 6% VAT we enjoy because we are in the historic zone. Basically, it covers the bricks, insulation, roof, etc…general building supplies. Kitchens, baths, HVAC, etc are charged at the normal 23% rate in Portugal.
Our bid from the builder provides an allowance for different items. If you exceed the amount estimated you pay the difference. If you go under, the price is reduced. Our bathroom allowance is €1000 per bathroom.