Progress and Disappointment
We continue to learn ... A building renovation update
I often get confused as to what to call what we are doing. Are we renovating a building…building a house? In Portugal, it appears to fall under renovação. Since moving to Vila Real de Santo Antonio I have learned this adventure will be a mix of progress and disappointment.
First Stop: A Bit of History
When we first visited the building with the former owner and our realtor we were told that it was once the Tuna Fisherman’s Association Hall. But a few weeks after buying the building, I stopped in the Associação dos Pescadores de Atum building right next store. There I conversed for about 10 minutes with a retired tuna fisherman who spoke perfect English as he had lived in Rhode Island for 20 years. He assured me that this was not the case ... the building we were standing in was the one and only tuna fisherman’s hall. I was somewhat disheartened because we already had friends referring to our future home as “Tuna Hall”.
So imagine my excitement when I found the building above. Perhaps they could unlock the mystery of what we had purchased. After ten minutes of halting Portuguese (me) and English (from the receptionist), the man in charge appeared. I provided the address (Rua Conselheiro Frederico Ramirez, xx… try fitting that on address line #1) and he shook his head. He brightened however when I showed him the exterior photo.
“Ah, yes, I know that building. It was a union hall built in 1921. First it was the fisherman’s association and then the general labor union hall.”
Eureka! He went on to explain that they had recently received many large boxes of records related to the building. Scores of years of history. That they would be compiling them and creating a “book” that chronicled this history. We could get a copy. However, the material contained lots of personal (protected) data … as such it would take about two years to complete the project. Progress and disappointment…
My Love of Spray Paint
Little known fact, my love of painting did not begin when we moved to Portugal. As a child, I painted horses’ heads … lots and lots of horses’ heads according to my late mother. When I encountered my first mid-life crisis I turned to reverse glass painting. Most were abstracts and involved dozens of cans of spray paint … including car enamel. I never wore a respirator … though I did work in an open garage. There were some nights that I coughed and wheezed a bit too much. So Denise was none too happy when I brought home this can of spray paint.
However, she was pleased to learn it was not for artistic pursuits, but rather to roughly mark off the rooms in our future home. We paced off the measurements from the floor plan provided by our architect. You may recall we were concerned that the building had shrunk. We are pleased to report it did not. Everything will fit. Progress!
Last week I received this notice via email. Could it be? Only 17 days after our architect submitted the plan to the city it was approved. That is pretty quick in any country if you ask me. I read through it as best I could. Denise also took a look. Yes, it appeared to be the approval we were waiting for. But there were so many official articles and proclamations that we couldn’t be sure. Putting it through the translator did not offer any further reassurance. I sent it to our architect just to be sure.
She explained that there was something she had to submit. And that it still needed the technical (engineering) project submission. But yes, we are making progress. Ana also admitted that she had called the city twice the week before to inquire as to the status. Normally she would not have done this…but having now worked with us (i.e. impatient Americans) for a few months she thought it wise.
Disappointment…Frankly, I Was Pissed
You may recall I had written that we loved Vitor. He is the engineer responsible for the technical projects. You may also recall it is frustrating when you don’t know all the questions to ask. Well, we love him a little less now!
You see I had to press Vitor to begin the technical projects before the city approved Ana’s plan. He thought it best to wait, just in case they wanted changes. No, I insisted. The plan was nearly identical to the original one the city had approved … despite any cost of rework, I wanted him to start now. So he did. But last week I got a call that really, really ticked me off. In fact, other than 6 January 2021, it is the angriest I have been since moving to Portugal.
Vitor called about 21:00 one night with a suggestion. He explained the seismic engineer already had all the information and calculations in his computer. It would be quicker for him to do the structural analysis and report than for Vitor to start from scratch. He wanted to call him and see if he would be willing to do that part of the project instead. Seemed sensible to me.
However, in typical Portuguese fashion, the next day I got his “proposal”. He was requesting a 35% deposit on his 1795€ (plus IVA) project. Wait a minute, was this in addition to Vitor’s 1920.50€ project? I immediately called Vitor. He explained that his original structural engineering project only covered replacing the exterior stairs to the roof. “But Vitor,” I implored, “How could you think that was all that was required of a 100-year-old building?”
He offered excuses … threw our architect under the bus … I got angrier and angrier. After 15 minutes of unproductive conversation, I asked if he understood the expression “it appears you have me over a barrel”. I paid the deposit using Multibanco and went to bed mad.
As I was writing this post, Vitor called with more questions from the structural engineer. Did I know the volume of the jacuzzi we wanted to put on the roof? Had I selected a builder? He wants him to do further investigation into the current beam that traverses the ceiling so he can calculate the size of the steel beam that we will need to move the pillar. Somehow I am able to keep these discussions civil … but I am very disappointed.
Next Week: golf in the Eastern Algarve and what you need to know about Portuguese mortgages.