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A Builder and a Hammer

A Builder and a Hammer

Finally, we are making some (not much) progress on the house restoration.  Obviously, these things take time, but since we bought our little corner of Andalucia, very little has happened.  However, now is perhaps the time for a progress update.

We have finalised the plans for the house, and we are now getting exactly what we want.  The existing property consists of two buildings:  The main house, which is currently set out as two small houses back to back.  There's the original cottage dating from the 1850s and a more modern extension, both containing small rooms and walls about a meter thick.  The nave: a former storeroom and stable at the end of the garden.  We did go through stages of compromise, and it has to be said we have made very minor concessions when it has come to the configurations of the bedrooms, but we decided that we do (despite popular belief) spend less time in the bedroom and more time in other parts of the house when we are actually awake, so having a humungous bedroom with a startling view may be one luxury too far.

We also went through a painful stage of harsh realisation when it dawned on us that the ready funds we had available in the bank may well not cover everything on our wishlist.  In light of this, we had a tough meeting with the architects during which various pencils crossed out chunks of our proposed new house to try to reduce the footprint and, commensurately, the overall project cost.  Our faces got longer and more crestfallen, as we looked at this shrinking grid of black and white lines, and we stared at a tiny box of a house with very little to commend it.  We went home, neither of us quite knowing what to say, but it didn’t take much longer before we both agreed that this is where we want to live, and it seemed to be ridiculous to be making concessions here when it was quite possible to juggle a number of associated factors to ensure that we ended up living in a house that we wanted and loved. So, positive decisions were made and we both immediately felt better and immensely happier.  I remember the words of the architects when we gloomily studied a diminishing footprint, and they, rather forlornly, tried to reassure us that we would get “something nice”.  Anyone who knows us will realise that this doesn’t work….we don’t just want “something” nice, we’d like “everything lovely”, thanks.  Who says we’re spoiled?

We are, as a result of this epiphany, back to where we wanted to be.  The main house (ooh, very grand!) will have 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, and a downstairs loo.  On the ground floor, after much boring out and levelling of floors, and an extension into the garden, we will have a cosy snug and an open-plan kitchen and dining room with a wood-burning stove and wide doors onto the garden.  There will be a ground floor guest bedroom with ensuite bathroom tucked away to one side.

On the first floor, we will have 2 more bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and a sitting room with open fire and wide sliding doors onto a roof terrace from where there are uninterrupted views across to the Sierra Nevada.

At the end of the garden, the nave (or shed and stable) is to be converted into a studio with a bedroom and bathroom - the place where we will run to and hide in when we have guests to stay.

The builders have been in, briefly, to inspect the areas “of concern”.  The house is built on a hefty great rock, and we need to drill down some way in order to give the required ceiling heights on the ground floor, and to enable us to level off the ground floor which is currently all over the place.  That is Challenge No 1, as we don’t really know how much rock there is below the house, although we now have a fairly good idea having drilled various holes in strategic locations.  Whenever we have chats with the builders, there is often a lot of talk about its being possible but it will cost….

 What you see here is rock. 

What you see here is rock. 

The builder also stripped off the false ceilings in the older part of the house revealing all sorts of lovely old beams, many of which are still in great condition and as hard as steel.  The whole roof has to come off the house.  Actually, there are two roofs: one belonging to the 1850s house and the other belonging to the more recent addition.  The roof needs to be raised, and replaced with one single roof, covered in traditional tiles, and this is Challenge No 2.  Many of these original beams will be saved and used throughout the reformed house.  The walls of the old house are made with lovely mellow rock, and we hope to be able to strip these walls back to expose this rock where possible.  This includes one of the first floor bedrooms, where we share a party wall with the neighbouring house.  The aim is to strip back our side of the party wall to reveal the stone but Ana, one of our architects, mentioned that, should the next door neighbour ever need to demolish their house, our wall would disappear.  Relaxing; but hey, we get a lovely exposed stone wall!

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So, the house is beginning to look as though work is being done.  It’s not though; these were necessary exploratory activities.  The plans are now being drawn up to be submitted to the town hall for approval.  We are waiting for quotes from the builders and then we start to negotiate.  We have two separate people, both relatives of our builder-of-choice, who have told us to show them the quotes and if they think they are too high, they will have a word with the builder to get them down.  We have the architects’ estimates, and we are using that as our gauge for the time being.  Typically, for restoration, allow for €600 per square meter of footprint and for the new-build extension allow for €550 per square meter.  This is a basic rule-of-thumb, but quite handy when you first look at the plans.

We have the obligatory spreadsheet-of-joy that itemises everything we might need for the house - it’s actually a glorified shopping list full of kitchen appliances and beds, and that is always exciting.  We have a very active Pinterest board and we are gradually creating mood-boards for every room, leaving nothing to chance.  As I was always taught, many years ago in one of my many previous jobs, stick to the 6 Ps: Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

When will we move in?  Who knows?  Rather optimistically, we had hoped to be in before the summer but when we mentioned this to the architects they could barely stifle a guffaw.  We now hope that we might be in by October, so if we get in before Christmas Eve we’ll be lucky!

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