I last published a post on our renovation project on 3 June. I had expected demolition to be underway as you read that post. It was … and still is.
Two Hardworking Men
Two men showed up at the building within a few days of me handing the building permit to José. Like José, they do not speak English…so we do a lot of pointing, speaking into my cellphone translator app, and nodding enthusiastically. On those occasions when I am able to complete a sentence in Portuguese, they understand … they respond enthusiastically, forgetting my plea to “fala mais devagar, por favor” (“speak more slowly, please”).
Their day starts at 8:00 and ends between 17:00 and 18:00.They began by removing the tiles that covered the rooftop so they could locate the beams that ran through the roof. This took only two days, so they next began to tackle the area that will be our future courtyard. They demolished the two bathrooms in the rear, and then the cement stairs that led to the rooftop deck. The ruble was nearly 4’ high and filled the 8’ x 18’ area. I asked how they would get it out of the building. They pointed to two wheelbarrows sitting in the corner of our future living room. To date, they have removed more than 25 large truck loads of debris.
We showed up one Saturday and found they had jackhammered the floor and dug a hole. Were they looking for Jimmy Hoffa? No, instead this would enable them to move the pillar about 3’ to the left. Yes, it is a lot of work…but we couldn’t figure out any other way to make the dining area work. That Saturday we also noted that metal poles were scattered about the floor. Closer inspection found that these were the temporary support poles that would hold up the roof as they opened or moved certain walls.
Each time we returned to the house we found another hole and a lot more poles.
We also found large cavities dug out of the 18” thick walls that would create beams and columns to enable us to enlarge the primary bedroom or install sliding glass doors in the kitchen. We also started to notice new rebar arriving on site. It just so happened that I had watched a cement truck pump concrete into another of José’s construction sites that same day. I wondered aloud to Denise, how one could pump cement into our site.
We got the answer the next day when we found a large pile of sand, gravel, and dozens of bags of cement piled inside our future front door.
Back to the Câmara
Watching the progress was so exciting that I nearly forgot that I needed to make yet another trip to city hall. When I picked up the building permit I inquired about the form that would allow us to pay a much lower tax rate on building supplies because we were restoring a building in the historic zone. A form was completed and I was told to wait for an email. It had now been four weeks, and I had not received an email. So I stopped in one day recently. The young woman who had helped me on my prior visits, smiled as I walked in. I noticed she was waving a piece of paper in the air. As it turns out, the form had been available for two weeks … I just missed the email notification.
She instructed me to walk across the hall to the tax department and pay €95. I did and she gave me a very official-looking document. It cites decrees and laws and all matters of stuff. But it would appear it is the elusive form that will save us 17% on all taxes for building materials … at least €37,000. I would say that was worth the wait.
On some days we stop by late in the day with beers in hand to thank them for their hard work.
Love this story ... it's so relatable ... and perfect for Portugal Living Magazine! (Especially with the magnificent photographs!) We're working on your next story -- "Too Many Joaos and Anas" -- to be published in our next issue. We had "Freedom Makes You Dance" scheduled for the issue after that ... but are thinking that this might be a better story for the magazine. What do you think?
Such exciting news!