Finishing floors and bye-bye stone

Weeks eighteen & nineteen of our restoration project in Istria

Basically, it’s been two weeks of flooring! With the flagstones laid, at last the house is finished – sort of. And while flagstones go into the barn downstairs, Toni lays wood floors upstairs. Then attention shifts into the parking area, where we finally say “Bye-bye” to the mountain of stone … and “hello” to several new problems.

 

Fabulous flagstones

As I’d hoped, I arrived Monday morning to find Miro laying flagstones in the house and they look magnificent!

Miro laying the flagstones in the house at Kovaci, IstriaWhen we were planning to restore just the house (and not the barn as well), the division between tavele tiles and flagstone on the floor was meant to define the break between the dining and living areas. Now, as it’s all going to be a dining room, this isn’t necessary – which doesn’t reduce the splendour of the flagstones, but at least explains the strange mixture of flooring. If I’d known then what I know now, that we would end up doing the barn as well, I’d have put all the tavele in the house and all the flagstones in the barn – isn’t hindsight wonderful?

By Thursday, all the flagstones are laid and grouted in the house: work has shifted into the barn and a problem has arisen. “We don’t have enough good flagstones for the whole floor,” explains Toni, “Can we use paving as well?” We debate back and forth about mixing the flagstones with tavele instead, as we did in the house, but in the end I agree paving will be best. “Just put it to the back and edges where it will be least seen,” I say.

Friday morning and all the flagstones have now been laid, so work on the barn floor awaits the arrival of the paving stone.

Sali tiles the barn's kitchen in Kovaci, IstriaWhile Miro’s been laying flagstones, upstairs in the barn Toni has laid the wood flooring. It’s new, so obviously lacks the character of the old, warped floorboards in the house. But it certainly looks better than the underlying, rough floorboards and vastly better than laminate, which I’d feared we’d end up with. “It’ll look even better when I stain it,” says Toni proudly. 

The only non-flooring activity this week is some final tiling. Sali has spent the week finishing the bathroom and on Friday puts up the last ones, in the barn’s kitchen.

 

Finishing floors

Newly laid wood floor upstairs in the barn, Kovaci, IstriaFlooring actions continued into the following week and on Monday morning I arrive to find our furniture pile has moved, so Toni can varnish the tavele tiles. He’s just finishing as I walk in and I’m greeted with “Don’t step there, it’s wet!” So I just stand and admire instead. They look lovely – it’s so exciting how it’s all coming together! The house is now basically finished (bar a snag-list I’m working on); it’s just the barn to go.

Panic wake-up thoughts have become so standard, they’re barely worth mentioning. This morning’s was electricity on the landing in the house. A desk will stand there, which will need a light and sockets for battery charging, etc. When he’s finished varnishing, Toni and I discuss how we can fit this. Our idea is to run a cable from the other landing socket, up over the ceiling and down – it’s awkward, but it’ll work. Coming to see what we are talking about, Miro has a much better solution: “Why not bring it directly up from the mains box, it’s just below!” I guess builders are more usedto thinking in 3D!  

Piles of packaged paving stone at Kovaci, IstriaThe keenly awaited paving arrives on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning, I find the barn’s ground floor almost finished. Miro’s just pouring the grouting. I’m delighted we decided to go with paving as the stones match the flagstones perfectly – which they should, of course, as they’re essentially the same stone, just cut thinner and smaller.

 

Re-homing stone

When we demolished the old cart-shed to make room for the pool, a lot of the stone was re-used building walls. With the end of the project rapidly approaching, there is still a rather large pile left in the parking area. It is top quality stone and beautifully cut, so I want to make sure it goes to a good home – me!

Part of building stone pile, IstriaAt some stage in the future, we’re hoping to build an extension on our house (a very, very long story for another day) and when we do, we’ll need building stone. ‘Why wait,’ I think. ‘We might not need the stone yet, but we will one day and I doubt we’ll ever get any half as good as this’ – it really is top-class stuff.

Although still not sure exactly where we’re going to store it, I ask Toni if we can have it. Sure enough, on Thursday morning, a lorry tips a load of stone into the corner of our driveway, creating a free-form sculpture. I suspect this will be in our front garden for the next few years, but hey, if it’s good enough for Tate Modern, it’s good enough for me!

 

Parking issues

With the stone gone, we can now see the parking area. It’s a good size – room for three cars – and most is flat, ideal for parking. But to one side, the ground slopes upwards towards an unstable wall and Miro’s unsure what to do, as the wall’s too fragile for him to dig down around. My solution is simple: build a raised flowerbed and paint the wall behind, to make it look better. We’ll have to build the bed from concrete blocks and plaster, and paint it to match … as we’d just taken all the spare stone to our house!

Parking area before work at Kovaci, IstriaMore seriously, Miro’s discovered Fiore’s water pipe. I knew it ran across our land, but hadn’t realised it ran so close to the surface – too close. Where it lies, it’s in serious danger of being broken by cars driving over it. It needs moving.

Talking with Toni, it turns out Fiore already has a water pipe problem. His pipe currently runs under a bay tree and the roots have punctured it. “He wants to run this through your garden,” Toni says, picking up a piece of piping sitting next to the bay tree, “to replace his damaged pipe.” I’d seen the pipe there earlier and wondered what it was for. ‘Was he even going to ask me?’ I wonder, but at least it gives me a negotiating point. I’ll agree to his pipe running through my garden, if he’ll agree to the rest of it being relocated under the new flowerbed, so it doesn’t run the risk of being damaged by cars.

I’m not sure who should pay for what or who’s responsibility it is, but I know if we don’t sort this out now and something happens, it will all turn out to be my fault (even if it isn’t) and the bill for fixing will end up on my doorstep (even if it shouldn’t). Knowing it’s best to get it sorted now, before something happens and tempers start rising, I vow to see Fiore about this soon – but not today.

 

Hello sofas?

Miro lays drain while sofas arrive behind, Kovaci, IstriaWhile we were talking about the flowerbed, Teuta’s Dad turned up with the sofas from Hiža. I wasn’t expecting to see him until next week and then it was to fit kitchens, not bring sofas. I spluttered and complained that there was nowhere clean to put them, to no avail: the sofas were coming in. So while Miro installed a drain, sofas came in around him into the barn.

After they’d gone, Miro and I had a mutual bonding rant – him in Croatian, me in English. We felt much better afterwards.

The riddle of the unexpected sofas raised a gentle warning alarm at the back of my head … I thought things were all going too well. And I was right to be concerned: next week I get a worrying phone call.

 

Also see

Restoration diary:

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