Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Odd jobs

All foreigners that buy or renovate a house in Greece have plenty of entertaining stories about it. Some people publish these adventures in a book (Eleni Gage – North of Ithaka, Austen Kark – Attic in Greece, Tom Stone – The Summer of my Greek Taverna), others can fill long evenings with stories about their experience with wayward Greek laborers and the strange world of the Greek bureaucracy.

Thanks to these stories and the problems I heard from several people, we never bought a house to renovate or were planning to build a new house. We are happy in our rented house, although this is a Greek summerhouse and has therefore many deficits.

Since the rains are pouring down these days, our linen-cupboard is upside down, because we need all the towels we have to stop the flood entering through our windows. Each day our clothes line is full of bath and beach towels, like we have nothing better to do as to swim and shower the whole day long. I am afraid all we can do is paddle through the living room.

The windows were renewed only four years ago because the former windows not only were not waterproof but they as well took care that nice gales were blowing inside of the house. So we made kind of progress, but still the windows do not function as a window should do. The problem is that with this experience you do not trust it to place again new windows. Just like we had to replace our boiler each six months, the odds are that new windows are as lousy waterproof as the ones we have now. While each winter there is rain coming down, the Greeks here on Lesvos seem to know to build only summerhouses.

It is good fortune that the Greeks now discovered as well windows made out of synthetics, windows that are a lot more waterproof than those made of wood. But still you keep on hearing people who just build a new house with synthetic windows, who have to mop the entire house after a downpour.

I have to admit that building materials just like the wages are pretty low here in Greece. But the building materials are more than often as well of a very poor quality. When you buy a screwdriver, it will break after turning four screws, when you buy garden shears after cutting the second rose bush you can return to the store. And then they have no building supermarkets, so for the wood you go to a wood store who delivers it uncut (to cut the wood you have to go to a carpenter), for tiles you go to this store, for taps to the other store and for the pipes you go to again another store. Renovating in Greece is not easy, it is more like an obstacle race where you intend not to stop keep on smiling.

In December we thought to replace the shower for a bath tub. However the water pipes were that rotten that our first job was to replace all the pipes. You would think that’s easy. But I am not gonna tell you how often we had to replace pipes, taps and connections. All pipes were of different sizes, there were holes in brand new pipes and connections, we were fooled by buying plastic that looked like metal that exploded when pressured by the water pressure, off course just over a new plastered wall. You ask yourself if the shop does it on purpose. Fact is that we were daily there. So this job took one whole week and then the entire bathroom looked like a battlefield, so we said, why not renovate the entire bathroom.

The bath was delivered on time, but the floor tiles, that were promised to arrive on the island within four days, did still not arrive. Off course there were celebrations, storms, snow and striking days in between, but the four days are now fourteen days, the building had to stop and we still have no bathroom.

So we made something good out of the bad. Because we had no tiles, we pasted stones into a wall, what resulted in quite a beautiful sight. In the shop we saw stones glued to tiles, which cost 200 euro the square meter. Why should you spend so much money when the island here is full of these stones?

The bathroom still is not ready, but as well we have to decide if we replace the windows at the front of the house. We did get an offer of synthetic windows from Germany, an offer that sounds very good. But we still have this fear for placing new windows thanks to the replacement of our front door. One day the laborers came without any warning, they did not give us time to cover anything, they just broke the front door out and placed a new one in no time and left us not only with big holes in the walls but as well with a dust cover of several inches all over the house. So before you can stop them they rip off the front wall, place the new windows and leave you with walls cut in pieces, with openings between the windows and the wall and so you can forget your certificate of waterproof windows.

I am glad we only renovated the bathroom. Although, how will the house look like when they place the new windows? Should we decide then to renovate the whole house because of the tears in the walls, the too old electricity lines that show through the holes and more of this misery? I will keep you informed.

Copyright © Smitaki 2009

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