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It's Starting to Look Like a House
Plaster, windows and doors...
Keeping to a Timeline
When we last updated you we had been provided a renovation timeline. In general terms, the building crew has kept to the timeline provided…though not always in the order we expected.
The wall tiles were installed in the bathrooms in late February1, though the lowest row on each wall remains to be done. I assume these will be done after the final floor is installed. Having tiled many a bathroom or backsplash in my time, this is a job that can easily be completed in 3 hours. Grouting the next day is also a half-day project.
Reinaldo in fact did install the underfloor heating. While the process took longer than we expected (he hadn’t ordered enough supplies and had to wait nearly a week for more to arrive) it is now complete. During the last week of March, he also started to install the four air conditioning units in the ceiling cavities.
The guys installed the marble window and door siles next. To do this they had to chisel some of the cement they had installed around the windows. Removing something previously installed2 seems to be a common practice in Portuguese building practices.
Next, they put a coat of paint on the front of the house. I am told the final coat of paint will be the final step.
The most exciting day was when the “plasterers” arrived. I thought José had told me four men would complete the job in 3 days.3 I found this surprising. I was not surprised when two guys showed up. The first day they were on site they began attacking the outside of the house. One guy4 was inside feeding the bags you see in the first photo into a machine that was piped up to the guy on the roof. He sprayed a wall then smoothed it with something similar to an 8’ 2 x 4.
I stopped by the house every day …. and it’s a good thing I did. As they were working in the kitchen and living room, I commented to the shorter plasterer, who is about 5’3”, “Precisa de braços mais compridos” (“You need longer arms.”) He assured me he could reach.
I immediately pulled out my translator to explain that the ceilings in the living room were higher than in the kitchen. Both men stopped working and looked at Alex, one of José’s men that happened to be on site. Alex pleaded ignorance and I immediately called Ana (our architect). Fortunately, she was able to take my call and explained everything to the plasterers. There was a bit of shouting…expressive arm gestures...hands on hips. The shorter guy looked like he might walk off the job. The taller plasterer calmed down first and persuaded his co-worker that it would be okay. Boy, am I glad I showed up that day!5
Ana and I met with José on 27 March, as Denise and I had an 11-day trip to Italy planned for the next day. José was very proud of the progress his men had made. He explained that we needed to choose the tile for the rooftop deck. This surprised me as I assumed they would be installing traditional tile like that which had been demoed early on. Ana explained that the reproduction tile was not of good quality and that we should use a standard 12” x 12” tile. José happened to have his recommendation on hand and we decided that would work. Just as José was proud of the progress his men had made, I wanted to show him that the flooring and ceiling light fixtures he had requested to be delivered by 1 April were, in fact, on-site. He wasn’t impressed…he wouldn’t need them for 5-6 weeks.
During our meeting with José, one of the workers (Samuel) inched across the floor on a foam pad chiseling out the plaster that had been installed beyond a metal channel that had been installed 3cm above the floor. The channel is to allow our final vinyl plank flooring to be installed without baseboards/skirtings. I looked at Samuel, raised an eyebrow, and looked at Ana. "Don't ask me to explain why Portuguese builders do what they do," she responded.
As we wrapped up our meeting with José he mentioned he needed the next payment installment so he could order the windows and doors.6 I agreed to take care of the payment before leaving for Italy. On 5 April, I received photos from José. There is good news and bad news. Ana and I toured VRSA with José that day and choose the windows and doors we wanted. Good news ... the windows are those we selected (they open from the side and the top). Yeah! Bad news ... the door is not. The one we selected had a bit more wood at the bottom allowing for a mail slot. In addition, the doors installed may have the ugliest handles I have ever seen. I immediately shot off a text to José, which he chose to ignore. So I called Ana. She reported that José and a carpenter will meet me at the house soon. Stay tuned!
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Also, within minutes of arriving back in town on Friday (7 April), Onix and I took a walk to the house. I didn’t expect to see anyone working on Good Friday, but one ceiling subcontractor was there. He has installed a channel on the walls where the ceiling height will be. He will install a grid of aluminum supports from which the ceiling drywall will be hung. There are also a few pieces of drywall to be installed as walls (along the column to align with the kitchen cabinets, a wall will be suspended from the ceiling from which our bookcase will be installed, around the transom, etc.).
A few days later, I observed the aluminium grid being installed and the dry wall installed.
Finally, it is starting to look like a house. Call me crazy, but I really do believe we will be able to move in, in June!
Final Note: tomorrow is the 25th of April…Dia da Liberdade, a famous day in Portuguese history. If you are not familiar with why this is a National holiday, I recommend you read this post.
Fica bem, tchau,
You’ll recall these are the tiles we had to rush to get to the house in December. More on this later.
They installed an entire brick wall on the rooftop and then cut out 75% of it for the doors, they installed bricks on every wall then chiseled away for the electrical lines, etc.
While my Portuguese language skills are still very limited, I am very good at numbers!
I asked him how many days the job would take. He said they would be done by Monday (segunda)…no surprise, it took till Thursday (quinta-feira).
By the way, I am loving the feel of the smooth plaster walls. After so many years of textured walls (and ceilings) in the States, it is a real treat!
I questioned whether it would be all the doors (including the sliders) and he sheepishly admitted it would not. His men had broken the large marble slabs that were to go under the sliders. Once new slabs are delivered, cut, and installed the “aluminum” guy can do the final measurements for the sliders.