Homeless at Home : A Tale of Expat Renovations
Our apartment renovations are still ongoing, although slowly getting there. I decided a few years ago that I liked Germany as a life base and purchased an apartment. In order to afford the section of town I liked I had to settle for a “renovations needed” place. I have been slowly having windows replaced and the wiring replaced. The big gorilla in the apartment was the bathroom. It was old and tiny and cramped. I knew this was something that needed to be done. We planned this for the 3 weeks that I was in the US to get married so I wouldn’t have to find another place to live. Didn’t work out so perfectly…
The day before I left for the US, they had torn the bathroom back to the bricks. When I got back, it unfortunately didn’t look much better although a lot of progress had been made. The bathroom still had no tiles and one wall was still brick. The pipes had been replaced and the walls had been plastered, but they were drying. Wiring was in a similar state, another room done, but still not all of the apartment was done. This was annoying especially knowing that I still would have to get the walls fixed after.
No worries, I can stay with friends. And I have been blessed by the friends that I have been able to stay with. I am however getting tired of not having my own home. I guess this means I’ll not become an eternal nomad traveling for years out of just a backpack. I am awed by those that can, but I am happier having a place to come back to and be stable between trips.
Things I have learned…
Bring your own pillow!
Always bring your own pillow when sleeping more than one night on someone else’s fold out couch. I would assume this would apply to couch surfing too. Fold out couches aren’t really designed to keep you comfortable for days on end. They are a convenience and an occasional thing. You have them for occasional guests. Sleeping on them for 2 and a half weeks has been far better than staying in my construction site, but still not 100% relaxing.
Legally Defined Professional Pride
German workmen are proud of their workmanship to the extent required by law. I mean this as partially a joke, but a serious one. The 2 week delay that is mostly to blame for why I was sleeping on a couch was due to insurance paid workers that had to reconstruct a wall. This wall was ripped out 7 weeks earlier due to a burst pipe over Easter. They apparently had to come back 3 times over these two weeks to fix the wall. Each time not fully to the satisfaction of my tile guy. And while I trust that the tile guy was honest in saying that I deserved a properly built wall, he was at least partially worried about his own tile. For by German law, if the wall falls in or the tile is damaged within a reasonable amount of time he is still on hook to fix it. As told by my friend who was here monitoring the project, the final nearly right wall was built as soon as the tile guy asked the wall guys to sign some legal thing taking responsibility if the tile got damaged. Ahh yes legally proscribed professional pride.
All (well almost all) jokes aside, I have been really impressed with the level of work and care that these guys have done in my bathroom, even though I have yet to enjoy the fruits of it.
Summer has already been planned
Vacation is already planned. And while the summer is a good time to get things built because the plaster dries much faster with the window open, not to mention my heater is sitting on my balcony, it is also the center of the holidays. Holidays where workmen cannot work. Holidays on Thursdays which bleed into Fridays. Vacations where people that need to do something are not around for 2 weeks. This is partly why I decided to take that time to go home because it saved vacation time to go near holidays, but it also caused issues on the project. In addition, some of the finishing touches need decisions that can’t be made until other people come back. While I appreciate that other people need vacations, it is inconvenient that hierarchies do not tend to let others make such decisions.
Pushed schedules due to delays mean that your project starts hitting up against the projects that were already planned and should not be impacted due to your misfortune. Thankfully the bathroom project has not been affected by that, but the electrics has. Other projects mean I cannot be sure when the guy will be free to come back and install the plugs and lights.
And another one bites the dust..
Or chokes on it. German architecture, at least mine, means for very dusty renovations. Bricks often need to be drilled through. Wall plaster ripped out and put back. Doors that cannot be fully closed due to extension cords plus wonderful cross draft through the windows means that a layer of dust is on everything. This was the prime challenge before we could move back in. The goal being enough of it gone so that we can sleep without getting a noseful causing sinus issues.
I took a half day off with a friend of mine and we cleaned. I spent a full lunch time trying to understand vacuums and spent a bunch on one that really sucks well. Seriously having a vacuum that sucks is important. We cleaned for 5 hours and got the place back into a state of likableness.
It is who you know.
I want to dedicate this post in thanks to my friends who have helped. My friend Sandy helped me clean and did laundry so we could have clean sheets. She also had the contacts to a handyman who has really gone out of his way to get the walls fixed, carpets in and doors fixed. He did this so fast, which has rally made a difference. Thanks Achim. I am thankful to the other workers that have been in and out of the place too doing work. Without them, this project would probably have killed me of stress.
Despite the delays I am happy that things are working out. It is really nice to see that we might have a home again. There are still a number of things to do and we are making steps, but Ali and I have been living here for a week. It is a bit more like urban camping than we would like, though it is nice to have a home. I know we talk about newlyweds building a new life together, but this is a bit to literal. And seriously remember what I said about bringing your own pillow when going to live on a couch for a while.
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July 22, 2011 @ 6:18 am
It will definitely make for an interesting story later on down the line?
July 24, 2011 @ 4:38 pm
Right. We laugh about that too. Being able to laugh about camping out in our own home.
July 17, 2011 @ 8:02 pm
The bathroom is looking nice!! Good luck with the next stages of renovation and happy moving in to Ali!
July 24, 2011 @ 4:38 pm
Debbie @ European Travelista
July 17, 2011 @ 6:41 pm
Why is it that renovations anywhere seem to go on and on and on? Although I do have to admit yours seem to take longer than most but it looks like you may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! The tile was worth the wait – it looks great.
July 24, 2011 @ 4:38 pm
Exactly.. the eternal fixing of things. Thanks for the vote of confidence. It really is getting closer every week.
July 17, 2011 @ 6:20 pm
Good to see that things are coming together. I remember the initial photo that you showed so glad to see some progress. I am sure not what you wanted to come home to but hopefully this will get done soon. Where’s the German efficiency when you need it right? 🙂
July 24, 2011 @ 4:37 pm
Thanks. Yes, far beyond that first picture of the bricks. I am beginning to think though that German Efficiency is a myth. Planning and expectations are definitely core, but that does not always translate to efficiency.
July 17, 2011 @ 4:34 pm
What a relief to finally get that tile in there! It’s beautiful. However, it doesn’t seem as if you have a toilet anymore. Or am I missing something?
July 24, 2011 @ 4:35 pm
The picture was taken before they added the toilet and sink back. It is all put together and we have been using it for two weeks now. Just without shower walls, they come tomorrow.
July 16, 2011 @ 4:18 pm
The bathroom is so cute!! Even if it was a headache. Besides I heard that newlyweds won’t notice anything anyway! 😉
July 24, 2011 @ 4:34 pm
Thanks. It is nice to finally see it nearly done.
July 16, 2011 @ 1:53 pm
Good luck with the rest of the renovations! I agree – I could never live forever out of a backpack and will look forward to finding a new home wherever we land next year.