New year, new start. Fast out of the blocks? Not quite.
The first week of the new year was punctuated by Epiphany, or Befana. A national holiday in the middle of the week and bad weather kept progress to a minimum.
We did think that once out of the ground the garage and portico would be finished quite quickly. Not so it seems. We have more than a suspicion that work is being slowed down as the beams (travi) for the garage and portico roof are nowhere to be seen. We think they were ordered a bit late in the day, just before Christmas. But what do we know?
At 10½ weeks
The garage is being dressed, but no hat. The portico is being dressed, but no hat.
13 weeks: Roofless in Cartoceto
It’s now exactly a quarter of a year since the build started. The garage is mostly formed but with no roof. The portico is mostly formed but with no roof.
14 weeks: Why bother thinking ahead?
We were awoken by the sound of an angle grinder. It was cutting a channel through recently laid concrete for a drainpipe. As the drainpipe was always on the plan then why not create the channel when laying the concrete? It’s not the Italian way. Build it first, change it later.
It’s the same for the water and electricity supply for the cantina. The hole will have to drilled through from the garage above even though we supplied a plan well before the roof of the cantina was built.
And again for the portico columns. Last week they were finished, ready for the roof. Only they weren’t. The tops weren’t as per the plan, so off came the top two layers of bricks only to be relaid:
We’re still roofless. The wooden beam supplier came round this week for us to choose the colour and style for the portico and the garage. They showed us the options. We made our choices. “Do you want some time to think about it?”. We didn’t see the need. They were simple choices. “You are very decisive, you are not like Italians” he said.
The garage has been rendered. It’s effectively a courtyard. We hope it will become a garage soon when the roof goes on.
15 weeks: Part roofed
The portico has really taken shape this week with the wooden frame of the roof completed by Friday night. The 130kg beams took some manoeuvring, as we discovered when one fell from the crane and crushed a ladder and damaged some of the freshly laid tops of the columns. They will have to be relaid for the third time.
One slight snag. When measuring the thickness of the house walls to decide what size bolts to use for the beams they forgot about the niche in our bedroom and drilled right through. Some more making good to add to the list.
Not wanting to be outdone by the portico, the garage also has a part roof. The beams inside are up and the insulation laid.
16 weeks: Waterproof?
This week was all about getting the portico roof tiles laid and making it waterproof. By the end of the week we had the under tiles, the bitumen layer and shiny new copper guttering. Just as well as on Saturday morning we woke up to this:
17 weeks: Snow stopped play
No workers on Monday. No workers on Tuesday. Colin worked all day to clear the snow from the rooves of the portico and the garage ready for Wednesday.
No workers Wednesday.
At least the two days worked this week resulted in the garage roof tiles being completed.
When the builders said they’d brick up the window into the garage in two steps, starting with the outside then the inside, we didn’t realise they meant brick up the outside then leave the inside for the following week.
18 weeks: Trench warefare
Monday morning started well then came to an abrupt halt. Whilst digging the trenches for water pipes and drainage they discovered ‘dirty’ water. It was from the reed bed sewage system we have used without any issues since 2004. They feared the water was being directed into the well. We said we didn’t think so as we would have smelt it over the last 17 years. No work until Sauro the geometra arrived. We showed him the plans from 2003 showing the course of the sewage pipes. He declared it all clear and work resumed.
The Italian building industry is obsessed with ‘pozzetti’ (small wells). They put one in every so often and every time the pipe turns a corner. In the UK we would just put in one smooth pipe with a slight fall all the way to the sewer with maybe one inspection/rodding hole along the way. Not here. We have pozzetto pandemic. We now have 19 of them around the house!
On Wednesday we discovered two more buried for the last 17 years. They said we needed to raise the level and put a cover over it so we could get access. We asked why when we didn’t even know they were there and everything has worked fine for years. We were told that Italians open their drains every now and again to clean them out of solidified fat etc. We don’t put fat down the sinks. Sure enough when they opened ours they commented “You English are very clean”. Also, a big thank you to all those people who have stayed at Casa Angeletti for not putting fat down the sinks!
The front garden was also dug up for water pipes and the cable for our planned fixed line internet connection from TIM (what a nightmare, but that’s another story). Colin dug the channel up the slope to the telegraph pole but left the rest to the scavatore with the digger.
At least by the end of the day the front ‘lawn’ had been levelled. Just as well we plan to replace the grass with gravel anyway.
The ‘first fix’ electrics went in the garage and cantina this week. The Italian version is very different. All the electric cables are run under the concrete floor in plastic tubes. I’ve never seen so many tubes just for power and light in a garage.
As we’re down to just one worker this week and the first of March is on Monday we had a word with the builder. He promised us more workers so that they could finish off the job next week, or maybe the following week, or maybe……
Let’s see how many turn up tomorrow.
This concludes Part 1 of this marathon build story.
We hope Part 3 will be the sprint finish.
Part 1 : 8½ weeks