Diaries - Travel

House Story Home

Between House And Barn Projects
The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects

October, 2005

October 1, A New Month Starts

On the last days of September,the team had rescued the tower on the right side of the gate from its brick cover. The Einbecher workers also completed the "Hof" or yard, between the house and barn. This part of the project was getting close to done and this was VERY encouraging.


Meanwhile, Axel had sent us the latest plan for the floors on the ground level. The kitchen would be tiled with a yellowish tile and a blue accent. The living room and office would get oak floors, in a traditional "Frankish" pattern. The hall in the middle would be terrazzo, again with a traditional pattern. The bathroom floor was still undecided between terrazzo or tile (the shower area would be small, non-slip tiles in any event.)


The reality was still a bit rough. The shower area looked like a narrow brick closet. This WOULD be better, I was sure. Upstairs, the bedrooms were shaping up. The rough plaster was all on and we were told the finish plaster would go on pretty soon. In the upstairs bath, however, things were not looking so good. The beam under where the tub will go was rotted. I wondered why it was staying up but, no matter, by I now had faith that our team knew about fixing these old places.


October 5, Just Checking

A few more days had passed so it was time for a quick check. The most obvious event had been the tilling of the backyard. Our farmer neighbor, Mr. Zuerl, had come as promised and tilled under all the weeds, so we have a backyard that looks like a backyard now. Of course, between now and next Spring, we need to know how to keep it from becoming a jungle again.
Meanwhile, inside, the place looked like a regular workshop. Mr. Gumbrecht had set up a small plumbing operation so he could make progress on the heating and water systems. For the first time, we saw water inside the house!
  Upstairs, the center post from the old stairway had returned, giving just a hint of the future elegance of a landing railing and staircase handrail. Just a small hint.  

October 9, More Plaster

This morning, I had stopped by to see what the day was going to bring. Mr. Keidel's crew were busy setting up the plaster pump and promised progress on the first floor. When I came back in the evening, there was indeed plenty of new plaster. The downstairs bathroom got a heavy layer in the shower room and it made me wonder how our bread-oven niche will finally look!

In the kitchen, the plaster was starting to cover the red brick, but it was clear that there was still a lot of work to do.

October 14, A little More Plaster

It was Saturday and Marianne and I were both on the inspection. Just as before, there was measurable progress on the plaster. Sometimes it seemed too slow, but other times we got the feeling that the walls would be soon done. The living room was making progress, with the rough plaster covering most of the red brick.

Out in the kitchen, the gray plaster lets us start to imagine a bright and cheerful kitchen. We knew we would need to start the process of finally deciding on colors. So far, the ideas had been general, but soon painters would need exact shades. (This is a Marianne duty since I have no fashion sense when it comes to colors!)

Even though this was Saturday, the electrician was connecting the spaghetti of wires. This big box just outside the kitchen houses both 20+ circuits for power in the house as well as a half-doyen TV cables leading from out (future) satellite dish to selected rooms.

We hope that, in the end, our house will look old but "function new".

October 23, Weekly Check

Outside, things didn't look different. The scaffolding was still there. It would be nice to see it gone before the snow arrives!

The attic had almost been completed, or as completed as it would be. An original idea had been to use this space, but the cost and complication didn't seem worthwhile. Now, I wonder.

Out back, Marianne got her shoes dirty in our farm field. We still had no plans, but hoped to get inspired before the next Spring.

October 27, A Quick Check

This Thursday morning I stopped by the building site before work. Our architect Axel was there too, giving instructions to several craftsmen. This would actually be the last work by our "carcass" contractor, Einbecher Bau. It would seem strange not having cheerful Wolfgang on the project any more. He and his guys were the ones that did the hard work of fixing the foundation walls, the floors, all the red brick walls, the concrete outside, the driveway pavers, the buried gas tank, etc., etc., etc. It's a sign of clear progress that this first contractor has now finished.


One last challenge was the wall between the kitchen and the living room. All the sandstone blocks had dried, except for three facing the kitchen. These were still moist and a chemical analysis of the moisture revealed relatively high levels of nitrides (nitrates?), a situation that will require special formulations of plaster. This was just one more reminder of the complexity of restoring old buildings and the value of an architect and craftsmen who were familiar with the right details. To me, plaster is plaster, but we've learned that it's much more complex, as we see different formulations go into different layers and locations.


Frau Berlenz, our terrazzo contractor's wife, brought over samples of the hall floor. The red will be the outer border, bordered by the black and white squares. The inner field will be the colorful mix of stones. We were told this is a very traditional color scheme and pattern for baroque homes in our part of Germany. Axel and I debated if Marianne would like this particular red. We both agreed she would prefer a bit more yellow. Two days later, she proved us wrong (again) and said she loved it all. We, of course, bowed to finer judgment.

Outside, the stucco was going on the outside kitchen walls. This process was going much faster than I would have thought. It seems that cleaning the walls had been the time-consuming part. Adding the layer of stucco is quick and smoothing it seemed almost instant, when done by an experienced hand.



October 29, Color Selection

We started our working Saturday with a check of paint samples. After that, it was up to Axel's in Bamberg by 9:30 and more planning and decisions about colors and decorative details. The three of us have a very democratic process: Marianne gets 3.1 votes, Axel two, and I get one.

Then, we shopped for plumbing fixtures until the plumbing supply store closed. At least we were successful and had settled on all the bathroom hardware. After that, it was back to the big housewares store and two more hours looking at lighting fixtures. Visits to lighting stores are painful - as bad as looking for a new car. I'd had it with lighting fixtures and we hadn't made a single decision yet on any of the 42 lights in our little house.

All this had become our normal routine: Saturdays spent getting frustrated, and we will be glad when it's over. But, I suppose we'll miss the challenge of it all too.

The outside colors are a "salmon" and an off-white called "onyx". Later, Marianne, Axel, and I agreed that this particular fish needed to be brighter, so we will try again next weekend.
Inside, the kitchen color seemed OK to Marianne and me, but Axel didn't seem happy. That's when voting counts.
For a last-minute check in the (cloudy) sunlight, Axel looked through his color patches for a brighter salmon and a unanimously-agreed kitchen color. Tough job.

October 30, End of the Month Status

Marianne and I did one final check of where our project stood at the end of the fifth month of building. Day by day, things change a little. Month by month, they change a lot!

The living room walls had their coat of smooth plaster, except for the window niches and the then-dry back wall. Heating pipes in red insulation snaked around the floors. The kitchen walls also had a good deal of their final plaster, but not all. Here, pipes and wires on the floors would be covered by six inches of insulation, a heating system, concrete, and tile, but not before the new year.

Upstairs, the bedrooms were getting closer. Walls and ceilings were all smooth plaster. Wire and heating pipes had been placed in or near walls since the original floors would stay.

Outside, the stucco was going on and even the hugely uneven back side was looking good. Each window would get a plaster frame, made to look like the original sandstone. Now we were trusting in the German weather to hold out long enough to allow painting. Maybe. The last days of October gave us a wonderfully colorful backdrop for our project. It was becoming easier and easier to imagine living here, sitting on the patio, sipping wine, and admiring Fall colors. Remember, you're invited to join us.

So, that was the status at the end of October. We've finished the rough construction, including our driveway, and we've got finished plaster on a majority of the walls. We have been promised that November will see installation of windows, a heating system, and completion of all the plaster walls. Then the fireplace goes in and the paint goes on, inside and out. We'll see.


Diaries - Travel

House Story Home

Between House And Barn Projects
The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects