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You Can't Always Get What You Want
Another renovation update...
I wish I knew more about the processes surrounding building or renovating a house in Portugal. Part of it is I just don’t know what questions to ask. In at least one case, my lack of knowledge/experience led to a sleepless night.
I was Pissed…
Because I have limited Portuguese language skills and our builder does not speak any English I attempt to communicate with him via email. I will use DeepL.com1 to write to him in Portuguese. He will respond, on occasion, in Portuguese and after giving my reading skills the ol’ college try, I will copy his text into DeepL just to be sure.
Several weeks ago they started to stucco the front of the building. I sent José an email with a picture of a window from a house he had built in town. It is the window you see above on the right. I explained I wanted to be sure he was installing the marble window surround in that photo. José never responded. Not following up on his lack of response was my first mistake.
So when I showed up at the house to find the workers applying cement around the windows I freaked. They had completed one window and were well on their way with the second. I told them to stop and immediately called José. A few minutes later he drove over to have a chat.
Our realtor, Artur, happened to be walking down the street. I grabbed Artur and he acted as translator. I won’t bore you with all the histrionics…though to say I was pissed is very much an understatement. The bottom line is the builder was following the architectural plans.
I called Ana. I learned she had assumed that is what we wanted because the preliminary plans from the owners before us specified that. She never asked. We didn’t know to ask. After a lengthy, frustrating conversation I asked Ana if she had ever watched Star Trek.
“I feel like we need to perform a Vulcan mind meld so you know how little I know”, I explained. “I don’t want any more surprises!!!!”
That night I did not sleep much. Early the next morning I sent Ana and José a text. “Tell me how much time and money it will take to give us the windows we want.” Several hours later Ana called to give me the bad news. It wasn’t as easy as scraping off the semi-dry cement and ordering the stone. Much of the hardened cement on the front of the house would need to be removed and reapplied after the stone was installed. Weeks to get the stone. Money for the rework, and possible cracking in the future.
Hurry Up and Wait
Ana and I met with José last week…it had been a month. Of course, at our prior meeting, José insisted that he needed the tile for the bathroom walls immediately. We worked with our supplier and had it delivered. It is still sitting where it was delivered. So I guess I should not have been surprised when I received a text from Ana about 4 hours before our meeting to say José needed the exact dimensions of the vanities/sinks so he could install the plumbing. I dropped everything, drove to Tavira, asked Susana (the salesperson) to drop everything, and with her help retrieved the dimensions he needed.
He also needed the same information for the towel warmers that had been purchased from “his” supplier. When I arrived with Ana at our future home, we found Reinaldo dry-fitting pipes for our underfloor heating. A discussion ensued between Ana and Reinaldo…far too fast for me to understand. Then José showed up and joined in. Bottom line: they all thought I should return the towel heaters that were heated by the underfloor heating for ones heated by electricity. WTF?
“José you were the one that said it should be water heated!” José looked at me confused. “But you were there when we picked these out.”
“Oh I wasn’t paying attention…Reinaldo will have to run a second supply for those. You don’t want to heat the floors just to heat the towels.”
We made some calls…they can’t be returned…Reinaldo is running a second line. Cost? Who the heck knows…
It is How We Do It
If you have been with us for some time you know that December and January are the rainy months in Portugal. Algarve is a bit drier than other parts of Portugal, but we have gotten quite a bit of rain recently. One day I showed up and found a waterfall inside the kitchen. You see they had removed the tiles and the protective coating on the roof when they did the demolition. Needless to say, you cannot do any “finish” work inside when the roof leaks and there is a 3” deep pond in the primary bedroom and in the kitchen. This explains the tile that needed to be delivered urgently sitting in the corner unopened.
I asked José why they had waited till the rainy season to start on the roof. He gave me one of his, “Why are you asking me this question?” looks. I was told that things are done in a certain order and this was the time. I suggested that there is a better order…one which considers the rainy season. He again gave me one of his looks.
“We only need a few days without rain,” he explained. Looking at the weather forecast it appears those days will occur right before they leave for the 10-day Christmas break.
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Sometimes I wonder what the hell we were thinking….
p.s. Perhaps time will tell if “we get what we need”.
My architect, Ana, asked what translator I was using. She said, “Next time just send it to me in English…I find the translation very confusing.” I later learned José João seldom reads my emails.