Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My day was AWESOME. With Bonus Electricians.

Posting is sporadic at the moment.  For my laxity, I apologize, but renovations, once begun, seem to keep on happening, and one day you wake up to find that your electrician has interpreted “I want this light and this other light both on the same circuit and both controlled by this switch right here” as instructions to pull the wiring for the second light out of the ceiling and paint and plaster the ceiling up behind him.

My day today was awesome.  It went sort of like this:
            "Hi Julio, my redoubtable electrician friend!  Where is everyone?"
            "Hello Señora Tabubilgirl! The floor people came, but then they went away again.  They seemed worried about something.  They said they were going to call you.  Enrique the plumber is off sick. The kitchen installation people haven't come at all, but that's okay, because neither did the ceramicist, and we can't do the kitchen installation till the he puts the last corner tiles put in, so that's a good thing.  But don't you worry, Señora Tabubilgirl!  Right now I'm just finishing up the kitchen outlets, but after that, I will do all the tiles myself!  And O Look - here are the floor people now!"
            The floor people were worried.  About two things things. The first of which they wanted to show me right away.  And that ended up in a phone call to our general contractor, which went like this:
            "Rodrigo! Where are you!"
            "In the car!  Going places!  Buying paint for the painters!"
            "There's just a little problem with the bedroom floors and I'd like to see you here as soon as possible!"
            Rodrigo is a good contractor.  He knows a client in a tail-spin when he hears one.  He was on-site in less than ten minutes flat.

            "Hel-lo, Rodrigo!  How are you this fine morning!  Remember how we went to rather a lot of trouble to level the floors and take out the hollows and downward leaning slopes?"
            "Right.  So why exactly, after all that leveling is there now a great big upward hump in the middle of the master bedroom floor?"
            "Ah. That's just where the old slab meets the new slab. The floor guys expected a little variation.  Anything up to half a centimeter.  Where are the floor guys, anyway?"
            "Rodrigo, this ruddy great hump is a lot more than half a centimeter!  See?"
            "Oooooh. Oh. Yeah. My word, that IS a big hump. Eight centimeters?  My word. Well, it's not that wide... I reckon we can knock that out, no worries."
            And Julio was duly hauled out of the kitchen and handed a hammer and a chisel.
            Rodrigo looked at me. "Where are those floor people, Tabubilgirl?"
            "Oh, they went away again.  That was the second thing.  They've lost the floor."

We went into the kitchen for a tour of inspection.  And a spit-take.  Rodrigo bellowed.
            Julio appeared, chisel in hand.
            "Would you care to explain" Rodrigo said, blinking rapidly, "what you are doing to those electrical outlets next to the sink?"
            "Well, Señora Tabubilgirl wanted two of them. I just finished screwing the cases on so that the installers can come in, just like you asked me to."
            "But why aren't they level?"
            "But they are level!"  Julio was stung.  "You've both made such a fuss about level - I even used the bubble level to make sure that they are perfectly level with the floor!"
            "They’re not level."
            "They are level!  I measured them myself! 
            Rodrigo gathered himself visibly. And let it all out with a rush. "They're side by side-" he hollered, "two centimeters apart, and one of them is three-quarters of a bloody centimeter higher than the other one!"
            Julio looked at him and looked at him and there was absolutely no compromise in his eyes. I could see Rodrigo looking back, and deciding that there were some battles that were just not worth the winning.  Fixing this would involve taking off a lot of tile, and a lot of grout – and considering how lucky we were to have those outlets in the first place* I was inclined to agree with Rodrigo.  Under the circumstances, however, I wasn't entirely sure that I was comfortable with Julio finishing up the tile work before the kitchen installers came.
            "Oh, that's not a problem."  Rodrigo looked happier that there was something to be happier about.  "I've just heard from the ceramicist and he's promised to come in today to finish it all off." 
            Rodrigo’s phone rang.  "Speak of the devil -  Where are you? Downstairs?  Fan-tastic."  He hung up and looked at me.  "Good thing those kitchen installers haven't come in yet.  Where are those boys?  Aren’t they supposed to be here by now?  Speaking of where things are – or aren’t - how'd they lose the floor?"
            I sighed.  "According to the floor people, the floors were delivered here on Friday.  They even have a signature on the delivery slip. Only we didn't get them, and there's no record with the building manager downstairs, so now they're off trying to figure out who actually took delivery."
            Rodrigo’s rather rapt contemplation was interrupted by the arrival of the ceramicist.
            "Don't mind me."  The man said.  "I'm just here to get my stuff.  I've got my boys waiting downstairs in the truck.  We've got another job."
            Rodrigo inhaled alarmingly, and I fled back toward the bedroom and Julio and his chiseling. When I came out again, the ceramicist was looking tightly unhappy, and lowering a tile into a puddle of cement with a rather... teenage look on his face. 
            He did not, however, stick around.  The most we got out of him was the rest of the tiles cut to size. 
            "I will stick them in myself" Rodrigo said, sniffing in a faintly teenager-ish fashion himself. "The tiles can be wiped clean easy enough, and the grout tidied up after the cabinets go in - if we can get the cabinets installed…”
            "I'm calling the kitchen people now."  I assured him, and Rodrigo went off to greet the painters, who were arriving in a cheerful mob, and Gods bless them, settling down to do some actual painting.
            I called our contact at the kitchen store.
            "Oh, hello" She said vaguely. 
            "We were expecting the installers this morning..."
            "Oh.  Right.  You mean they're not there?"
            "Huh. So do you want them tomorrow then?"

* First we showed Julio the detail design specs and he agreed that they were good.  Then I took a sharpie marker and drew little boxes on the wall where each outlet would go, and he agreed that that was a sensible precaution. Then I wrote “enchufe” (outlet) with my sharpie right next to each of the boxes – and he went and plastered the wall smooth over the top of all of it and had the ceramicist start laying tiles right there.  While he went and rewired the switch for the ceiling lights to run the dishwasher.  I'm not joking.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

White or White or White?

The problem with the tiles is, the ceramicists doing the tiles just won't...come.
            When they are here, they do fantastic work, but in the last week they came once to lay 6 floor tiles, and went away again. The came back once more, for a half-day, in which they tiled half of the darned kitchen, but they've refused to come back ever since.
            It's a protest, you see. They refuse to come, then the general contractor calls them up and gives them an ear-bashing, and they are just SO hurt that they have to protest the mistreatment - by not coming.
            This is sort of awesome, really. Only our general contractor is starting to look sort of strained and undernourished....

Today was all about colors.  My mother-in-law and I went off to the paint store to pick out a few nice warm whites for the walls and ceilings and doors.  I had harbored naïve imaginings of a helpful assistant who would study the floor samples we’d brought with us and then spend a pleasant half-hour walking us through pleasing color combinations.  What we GOT was a double arm load of swatch books and the suggestion that we go outside into the parking lot where the light was more natural, because the fluorescents inside the store weren't doing the swatches any favors.
            I like white.  I like walls that are pale and bright and throw back all the light you throw at them.  I just hadn’t realized how many whites there are.  In a house-painter’s imagination, ‘white’ seems to cover everything from a mangy sort of orange-grey all the way to salmon pink and olive.  And the truer whites tend toward the harsh blue-based glare of a porcelain lavatory bowl.  We spent an hour and a half crouched on the tarmac in a corner of the parking lot, paging through what felt like half a thousand spiral-bound swatch sheets, looking for something warm-ish and bright-ish, and more-or less genuinely white-ish, with neither too much butter-cream or duck-egg, and when we’d found a few that looked, on paper, like they might suit, something a shade or two darker, to tone, and paint the doors and skirting boards.
            Without a native guide, there were more choices than a sensible person could assimilate in a month of painted Sundays. The suggested color gradients on the swatch sheets didn’t help – they went right from porcelain-pan to deep-brown biscuit-colored in one hop. 
            We came away with a car-trunk full of sample bottles of whites and almost-whites and delicate shades of cream, and we shall paint them all over the living room wall and see if there is any infinitesimal difference between any of them.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Construction Happens, and Happens Some More

After all the wishing and planning and designing and ordering and purchasing was complete, the contractor and his maestros (workmen) moved in and things started happening rather precipitously.  In the past three weeks, we have had:  

1) The demolition of pretty much the whole apartment down to the concrete structural walls.  Floors, ceilings, doors, lintels, non structural walls - you name it, we dug it out.
2) Lots and lots of jackhammers. Tiles don't give up easily.
3) One very seasick apprentice who'd been manning a jackhammer in a small concrete space for two and a half days straight.
4) Electricians.  Everywhere. 
5) Ditto plumbers.
6) The original in-floor heating layer was poured funny, and there’s a seven cm slope differential in the living room floor that needs fixing.  Uh oh.
7) Concrete dust, everywhere.
8) Does anyone else smell that smell
9) An unexpected trip to the ER with probable ripped tendons all over my foot, and a very unexpected diagnosis of plantar fascitis.
10) Crutches.
11) Physiotherapy.
12) More Plumbers.
13) That smell can't possibly be real, right?
14) It's coming from the bedroom end of the flat?  Oh God, now we have to take up the bedroom floors, too.  You mean all of them?!?!
15) Rush shopping for new bedroom floors - on crutches.  And there's an eight centimeter differential that needs fixing in the master bedroom as well? How jolly.
16) More concrete dust.  Everywhere else.
17) Ceramicists laying tiles.
18) A seriously unhappy resident who calls the police because the ceramicists decided to use the spare key to come in on the weekend and make Very Loud Bashing Noises waaaaay outside of allowable-noise-hours, and going in person to yell at the ceramicists apparently didn't work.
19) Damage control. Much abasing. With chocolates.
20) Food poisoning. All Saturday night and all Sunday.  Did you know you can move really fast on crutches?
21) Ceramicists who, sulking about being bawled out by their general contractor, turn off their phones and refuse to come in to work on Monday. Tuesday they aren’t feeling quite up to par, so they don’t come in that day either. Burp.

Today the electrician is wiring up the bedrooms, and the ceramicists are back on the job, moving steadily through the kitchen and down the hallway. They do lovely work, but the noise really is incredible. I think the neighbor showed considerable restraint. If I'd heard them doing that above my head at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, I'd have skipped the local cops and called in a S.W.A.T. team. With helicopters.