Monthly Archive for November, 2014

And the renovation story continues….

Attention, if you do not like the use of coarse language, you might best be off skipping this article – I guess I let myself go in places 🙂

Well, I guess it has been a while again since my last post. Just so busy everywhere lately.

So where was I last time, yes, the flooring guy had just finished and Ina and I had to fix up a section of that floor. Well, since then we have had the following done in the following order:

  • Found antique door that matches the front door to install in guest bathroom
  • Guest bathroom door removed, frame made bigger and moved as far left as possible
  • Floor heating laid where the slate was to be laid (entry/guest bathroom/kitchen area)
  • Guest bathroom finished off (if you could consider that)
  • Decided on a colour scheme for the entry/kitchen area
  • Started installing kitchen
  • Had electrician come in to install floor heating amongst a million other things

The list doesn’t really look long, but geez, that is no representation of the time, stress, and hard work involved. Both Ina and I are pretty beaten down and worn out. I mean, I did intend on plastering this weekend, but I just can’t stomach the thought today I’m afraid. So instead I’ll write a blog post about what we’ve done, and what we will do!

The door we found for the guest bathroom was a real score. We needed something narrower than the front door since we just didn’t have the space for anything wider, but at the same time much, much higher. The door that was originally there when we bought the place was about 5ft high – literally. And I am not keen at all on bumping my head on the doorframe on a daily basis – trust me, I have been down that path before. And although we managed to make the guest bathroom bigger by ripping it apart and all, it still isn’t huge. And for the tiny space (approx 2.5m2) a door the width of our front door just wouldn’t have worked out. So perfect. But man, what a search. I guess you can imagine, with so many apartment buildings in Berlin reaching way into their second century, and a lot of those buildings having been ripped down or completely renovated since the war, the choice is quite large. We went to one antique shop just on the outskirts of Berlin which is – get this – situated on over 20,000 square meters. Yes, you heard me, 20,000. Safe to say they had a lot of doors there, and we were overwhelmed by choice. Quite literally, thousands of antique doors.

Anyway, after the door was selected and brought back to the apartment we could get on with the job of the carpenter ripping out the current tiny door and door frame, so the bathroom guys could continue with building the bathroom. The bathroom guys moved the hole in the wall so the door frame could then be installed as far left as possible, and after the bathroom had been plastered (well – not my choice, they used plasterboard) the carpenter came back and installed the frame and door.

Now our tiler could come in to do the entry/guest bathroom/kitchen area first with the floor heating unit, and then tile over that with the slate. We chose a grey/green slate. It is actually just a pretty light grey with a very faint hint of green which we both really like. I love slate, but having a really dark colour in this apartment – especially over the winter period – is not something I was too keen on. Anyway, the slate went down and he did a great job. As seems to be typical of any labourer no matter what they are doing, they always start off the job really, really well. But seem to always run out of time and go in fast-forward towards the end. Meaning you’ve got a bunch of fix-ups to look forward to. This is for every single builder/labourer you have through – seriously, every single one. Anyway, fixing his stuff was rather minimal and didn’t piss me off too much.

One thing that really did upset me is one corner wall in the kitchen. I have been struggling ever since we bought the place to get this piece of wall as straight as possible. And I had prepared the floor before the slate was to be laid absolutely perfectly – nothing sticking out from the wall hindering his way from completing the job without hassles. Well, as I said, and as is typically the case, he was rushing towards the end and obviously cut one piece of slate used for the skirting board a little too long – around 10mm. What do you think he did, shave that 10mm off and then mount it – no – he mounted it to the wall 10mm too long – meaning there was a gap between the wall and the skirting board – right at the place I had been working on so hard to make perfect. I was actually so pissed I rang him and asked him what the heel he’d done. He gave a bullshit excuse that something was sticking out of the wall and that’s the closest he could get it. Yes, absolute bullshit – I did that wall myself, I know for a fact everything was perfect and straight.

Anyway, what do you do? Well, there is no way I am living with a 10mm gap between wall and skirting board – so I just built the wall out 10mm with plaster – it’s still not finished, as you’ll see in some pics – but it will be so good you’ll never notice what I’ve done….at least that’s the plan 🙂

After the floor had been laid we were really happy, the majority of the really messy, dusty work had been done and we could finally clean and keep the place relatively clean. Up until this point in time Ina and I had essentially been living  out of our bed. There was just no other place in the apartment where we could sit. Upstairs was full of our combined stuff, and downstairs was a complete work-zone where nothing was safe. It’s also too cold to be outside now, so the rooftop terrace we have is useless, and we up until very recently we had no heating due to the guess bathroom still being incomplete. Oh, good times I tell you. I don’t want to mention how many times I’ve looked over the edge of our terrace looking down to the ground far below thinking how easy it could be to end it all – no cause for alarm, I wouldn’t do anything rash – but you know what I mean!?

So, after the slate was laid, the bathroom could be finished off – which they just did this week. Well, if you could consider it to be finished off. There are, as per fucking usual, quite a few tasks in there that I need to take care of. The power points are crooked, two of the sockets require the wall to be plastered and painted behind since the electrician was not practising his gentle touch that day. And there are the pipes coming out of the wall for the washing machine that have a metal plate over them that are completely crooked – which drives me mad, mad I tell ya!!

I guess that’s all just to be considered polishing – but geez – fuck polishing I say, I am so sick of it. If I did my job like these guys do theirs, the software on your computer would only work 90% of the time and would look like shit. You think I’d keep my job – no, nor me. I guess you can tell be the use of expletives that I am somewhat over this.

A couple of friends came over to help last weekend and we brought our two couches down to the living room, and all the kitchen items, and started putting it all together. Roman and Bartek are very handy guys, and we actually had a nice sunday of constructing the majority of the kitchen – thanks guys! And now we have a kitchen, albeit, all show no go, but it is on the way! Now is probably a good time to mention another one of the many fuckups – I mean, I could tell you so many stories about the ridiculous things that go through builders heads, it’s just amazing. There is no way you could predict some of these things and say to the builder beforehand, for example “We know the front door frame isn’t touching the floor at the moment because we dropped the floor 100mm, don’t worry though, we will extend the frame, so please don’t stick slate skirting boards under this tiny section.”. I mean, you would never think of saying something like this would you – but that’s just what happened – we now have slate skirting boards very carefully cut so they run under the front door frame along the section where the doorframe no longer touches the floor because we dropped the floor 100mm. Yes, batshit crazy stuff like that happens all the time.

This fuckup however is so impressive due to the high frequency of fuckups that this one single builder is responsible for.

When we bought the apartment, a builder was in the process of installing a new kitchen. Ina and I quickly realised this was not what we wanted to do and told him to put a stop on it. At around the same time we realised that the work he was doing was pretty damn dodgy, and we would prefer other builders do it really. But yeah, back to the kitchen. He had contracted all the units and attached legs. Ina and I disassembled the entire kitchen and moved all the units we could upstairs – but there were two units that were just too large. At the time we really wondered about the legs, they seemed so poorly attached, and far too weak to handle all the weight of a kitchen. Albeit, it is an Ikea kitchen, and Ina and I have very little experience in the realm of kitchens – so we really had no idea and just accepted that the legs could potentially fall out, and were rather on the weak side of things. Both of the large units are 195cm high, and one contains the oven, so instead of taking them upstairs, we moved them to the living room to allow the plasterers/builders access to the entry/kitchen area, and then moved them back to the kitchen to allow the builders/plasterers access to the living room, and vice versa a couple of times.

Well, the last move was from the kitchen back to the living room again to allow the tiler access, and on this fateful day one of the legs of the unit holding the oven fell off. It was one of those moments where things happen in slow motion. We say this huge 195cm unit containing our oven go crashing into a freshly plastered wall, on its way into our brand-new, and awaiting installation basin for the guest bathroom. Just an awesome moment. I tried to save it as much as possible, but the thing buckled and broke apart, allowing the oven to basically fall out. Again, I tried to save it from hitting the floor – which I was majorly successful at doing, but it still took a bit of a hit. An when we installed the oven with Roman and Bartek, and plugged it in, I immediately noticed somewhat of an electrical field emanating from the oven – no matter where you touched it. No one believed me though, everyone else, including Ina, touched it and said it was fine. That was until I grabbed an electrical screwdriver that has a glowing bulb in it to indicate when there is voltage, and touched the oven with it. Yes, the bulb glowed brightly, indicating our entire oven is live. So we need a replacement, but before we can take this back to Ikea, we need the receipt for the kitchen – which this bloody builder has somewhere. So our kitchen cannot be finished until this idiot pulls though. Did I mention we transferred 1000 euro across to his account in order that he could purchase a dishwasher and fridge to complete the kitchen, which he didn’t buy, and now we need the cache back so we can buy them – but he still hasn’t transferred the cache back either? Oh, and that in January he is moving to Kassel in January. Yes, just great. Pretty sure I hear the crisp sound of notes being placed in a solicitors hands to sort this one out. Oh well.

And finally, just yesterday we had our electrician in to connect the floor heating, move a bunch of power points around, connect the light at the top of the stairs that we were unable to turn off etc. And he also did a great job apart from connecting the stovetop. I was quite concerned about the power situation. The stovetop is a induction, which although is very energy efficient, uses a lot of it when it is on. It needs either a 2 x 16A circuit, or a 1 x 32A. Power in Germany is 16A per circuit, so it means we needed to use two of those. And for the stovetop it can either be 230V or 400V. Anyway, he said we would be fine, we have a 5 core 2.5mm2 cable running through the wall which is capable of carrying 3 phases and supplying enough current. He said he’d create two new automatic circuit breakers to supply the total of 32A. Well, I came home yesterday to find that although he has hooked the induction stovetop up, it is still connected to the same 25A fuse that it always has been. I do not feel safe about this at all – not at all. I do not want to risk an electrical fire just because some idiot is putting too much load on cables that were never intended for such a load. Oh well, another phone call next week I guess. The joy!

Suzie was over this way last week too, and was actually the first person to stay here. Thank god we had a living room that was semi liveable to hang out in, otherwise things would have been tricky. She was doing her European tour, and played a few gigs in Berlin as part of that.

But that’s about it, that is all I’ve been up to – well, apart from work that is. And work is a freaking nightmare currently. My department is super overworked due to some internal changes, which means that our workload in the last 2 months has jumped by more than 100%. Something I could never have anticipated, nor my forecasting, by use of the last 5 years worth of metrics, could ever have told me. What does this do if no change is implemented – well, we all know don’t we? People leave is what happens – and I was blocked from hiring – so was put in a very difficult position. This has resulted in two people from my team recently handing their resignation in. If I don’t find replacements pretty soon I’ll be in some hot water……just awesome.

And above all I am flat broke. I mean, as Dave Chappel would say “I’m broke bitch!”. This place has gone a little over budget I guess, and I am really looking forward not having to fork out thousands each month to give to some builder/labourer who is working on the apartment who I am not entirely satisfied with anyway.

But you need some pics to whet your appetite and understand on a visual level what we’ve been up to. So without further ado, here you go (I’ve tried to put these in order):