The pace quickens … and off comes the roof

Week two of our restoration project in Istria

Work progressed very quickly in the first week of our Istrian house restoration project. Will things continue as rapidly and smoothly in week two, when the plumber and electrician arrive on site, the roof’s replaced and the sink debate runs on?


One sink or two?

Vlado and his drainage pipesWeek two started with me investigating bathroom sinks … as you do. We have the space, so I would like to put double sinks in the family bathroom. Miro had been planning on just one and, as the plumbing involved is different, last week I was instructed: “Make up your mind – one sink or two? And quick!” A tour of Porec’s bathroom shops showed me the amazing range available – in both styles and prices. I quickly realised stylish, double-sink units were prohibitively expensive, with large, designer, single sinks only slightly less so. Ever the penny-pincher, I quickly opted for two attractive standard sinks – they’ll look great in a polished, wood surround (I hope!).

When I got up to the house, I quickly saw why Miro needed to know so urgently. The plumber (Vlado) was installing the main drainage pipe and would soon be moving upstairs to the bathroom.


Exposing the stone

Old façade's gone from our Istrian houseArriving at the house, I saw Toni had finished stripping the old plaster off the front of the house and while it looked wonderful, it seems there is a problem with some of the stone. We’d always known this might be a possibility, but until the old façade had been removed, we wouldn’t know the extent of the problem. It turns out most of it was fine, but some lower areas are too old and soft to be left exposed. The builder’s opinion (they have lots of those) was the house had originally been an animal shed, extended upwards in the 19th Century. This means we’ll have a mixture of stone and plaster on the front and, while a little disappointing, it’s not unusual. “Don’t worry,” said Toni. “It’ll look great.”

Looking outside, I also noticed the roof on the old shed had disappeared (it’s being demolished to make space for the pool.) Without its roof, the back wall looks extremely tall – is this going to be a problem, I wondered?  


Where’s my roof gone?

Skeleton of the oof against a blue, blue Istrian skyAfter rain stopped play for a day, the Wednesday dawned gloriously warm and sunny and, when I got to the house, I was greeted by a mountain of broken tiles – the roof had come off! I arrived at 11:00, marenda time (Istrian builder’s lunchtime), and everyone was sitting outside enjoying the sun. So while they finished eating, I set off over the tile mountain into the house, to take photos. The roof looked particularly impressive, a skeleton of beams against the blue sky. Rubble was now everywhere, upstairs and down. And Vlado and Tomo (the electrician) had been busy – most of the electricity and pipes are now in downstairs.


The Great Airco Debate

Toni, Miran and Amir relax after lunchBack outside, the discussion turned to airco. Miro wanted to know where the airco units should go, so they could install the pipes and he sent Miran and I back over tile mountain to decide. I didn’t want to disfigure the beautiful, exposed stone at the front of the house with a modern metal box, but where else to put the outside unit? Ideal would be on the back, pointing onto my neighbour, Fioré’s land, but I couldn’t see him agreeing to that. Luckily for me, Fioré met me as I arrived with a request: he wanted to install airco in his rental house and would I mind if he put his outside airco unit pointing onto my land, and I could do the same with mine? I was delighted – I had the solution I wanted, without needing to ask for it! 

pile of rubble on the staircase in IstriaNot having airco at home, I know very little about it. According to my local experts, one unit with two inside outlets would be more than enough for a house our size, but where did I want them? To me it was very straightforward: the master outside extractor unit would go on the top floor – pointing onto our neighbour’s land – with the inside units at pretty obvious places on the top and middle floors near the bathrooms, so the piping could largely be hidden in the bathrooms’ suspended ceilings. Miran reported back and a heated discussion ensued, gradually involving everyone except me (it was in Croatian after all). The upshot was I was wrong. “Come lady, I’ll show you,” said Vlado and back we went over tile mountain. “Where you want it?” he asked. I showed him. “Sounds OK to me,” he said and told Miro, who had just arrived with Toni. Miro nodded, Toni nodded. Problem solved. Why didn’t they just believe me in the first place?


Yet more on sinks

Plumbing installation in groundfloor in Istrian houseDiscussion then moved again onto bathroom sinks and more specifically, sink surrounds. On Saturday we’d agreed on wood. Today, Vlado decided wood was a bad idea: as he said, “wood and water don’t mix”. Miro was back wanting marble (he seems very keen on marble), but I was holding tightly onto the purse strings and wondering why wood, if properly treated, was such bad idea? We have it in our other house and it still looks great after five years. Then Miro had a ‘eureka’ moment: “Why not ceramic tile? We’ll build a unit and tile the top.” Perfect – problem solved. I’d have preferred wood, but I wasn’t going to fight over it … sometimes it’s just easier to do what the builder wants!


The roof starts to re-appear

I guess you need to move quickly with roofs. Everything came off yesterday and today, it’s almost back on. Amir has the wood panels in place, insulation on one side and tiles stacked waiting to go on.

Roof back on our house in Istria and clean atticDownstairs, things are also moving forward. All the piping and electricity cabling is now in place in the floor, with a metal grid on top: it’s just awaiting the concrete. And with the plaster removed, a small, bricked-up window has emerged near the front door. It would make a fantastic feature, if I could get it opened up again. I asked Miro, who looked sceptical and sucked his teeth (an expression common to builders all over the world). I looked pleading and the outcome was, “We’ll see.” Usually when he says that, he finds a solution.

My wake-up panic last night (there’s at least one most nights) was electricity sockets. Do we have enough and are they in the right place? A quick double-check put my mind to rest: just need one more socket in the kitchen – you can never have too many sockets in a kitchen.


The week winds down

On Friday, inside the house looked much the same as yesterday. But that  was inevitable, as now we’re moving into the The barn with Toni & Miran in Istriareconstruction phase, which is always a lot slower than the destruction!

With less to see in the house, my attention drifted to the barn. Are we wise leaving it as a project for a later date? Surely then it will make a huge mess over our newly-created garden and probably cost more? Also, if the pool and garden are in place, will the builders be able to get their heavy gear in to work? I tried discussing this with Miran and asked for the price for just the ‘dirty’ heavy work, leaving the finishing touches for when we have more money. Don’t think he really understood what I was asking: we’ll see if we get a quote.


The roof is finished … the plumbing is not

Toni lowering tiles to earth in IstriaWhen I arrived on Saturday, Miro, Toni and Amir were lowering unused tiles, so I guess that means the outside of the roof’s now finished. Just the interior insulation and panelling to do.

Inside, Vlado was hard at work installing the plumbing for the family bathroom. I’ve always taken bathroom plumbing for granted and never really thought about how it works. Watching him, I realised it’s a fiddly job. He says he’s still got another 3-4 days worth of work and, by the way, do I need a taxi driver? It turns out in the summer, Vlado the plumber turns into Vlado the taxi driver, ferrying holiday-makers to and from the airports – a useful man to know.



End of week two and everything still seems to be progressing smoothly. Watching these professionals at work I feel confident we’ll have a beautiful house (eventually – it’s all coated in dust and rubble now!). But will my confidence continue into next week when Miran, my translator, disappears?


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