It can’t be sunny all of the time

What I’ve learned from Irish weather: it often rains, but it rarely pours. If you let the rain stop you from doing things, you won’t ever do anything at all. The sun will come out again, eventually. And when it does, seize the day, literally. 

A more talented writer might connect this weather metaphor to her current situation more obliquely. But I’ll just tell you about the sucky renovation set backs we’re facing before we’ve even started building. And how I’m trying to stay positive about the changes we’ve been forced to make. 

I was so eager to receive the bids from the contractors so that we could make a choice and get started on the renovations.  They were due April 11, and I was anxiously anticipating them. Only one arrived on time.

We knew that everything included in the tender would likely be beyond our budget, but costing everything out would help us plan for the future. The figures we got back were astounding. More than what we paid for the house in the first place.

It’s been a bit of a shock, honestly. But we’re determined.

Take out the highest bid. Ask the remaining two builders to revise their quotes.

What can we live without?

The heat pump is out of the question. Even skipping the underfloor heating and going with all high efficiency radiators doesn’t save us enough. It will be a regular old oil system – very disappointing. But we can do the high efficiency rads, which means we could upgrade in the future (when we have an extra ten grand lying about, ha!) We can take out the ensuite and all the guest rooms will have shared baths. We can build the vestibule connecting the movement & visual arts studios ourselves. We won’t knock the side entryway and replace the utility room door with french doors right now. We can postpone the second fix for emergency lighting until we have filed for change of use and need a fire cert. Reflashing the chimneys can wait until we replace the third story windows in the future. We won’t wall off our office – I can use a wardrobe instead and wallpaper the back of it. We can’t put a wood stove in the sitting room, but we can keep the open fire.

Anthony, our engineer, revises the drawings.

April 28th, we received the revised quotes. We’re still over budget. By a significant amount. But we know which builder we’re going with. 

The VAT (Value Added Tax, at 13.5%) alone is brutal.

We will do as much as we can with what we have. We will reuse what we can. We will have to ask for help. (Has anyone ever installed & refinished reclaimed wood flooring?) Because there will be a lot of DIY. And that’s okay. 

Now, what must we sacrifice? We walk through with Anthony and the builder.

We won’t dry line the dining room, but the windows and door must be replaced. The limestone flagstone floor will stay as is – we can seal it instead of taking it up and putting a moisture barrier underneath. All interior doors will stay for now. We can’t reconfigure the master bath, which would have created space for a new guest bathroom. We can only fit a W.C. where the hot press is, though we can add a shower to the bathroom downstairs. We maintain the same number of facilities, but loose the convenience of both showers being on the same floor as the bedrooms. Not ideal. The writer’s den doesn’t shrink as planned, so the upside is it can double as a fifth guest room as needed. Most of the first floor won’t be dry lined, nor the ceilings replaced in those rooms for now. Five windows won’t be replaced (and they really, really need to be.) Repair will have to suffice for now.

It’s disheartening. I can live with the postponements. And secretly, I’m delighted to keep the stone walls in the dining room as is (fingers crossed it maintains enough heat and isn’t too damp to stay that way!) The concessions regarding windows and the bathroom facilities worry me more. But the hardest thing has been scrapping hours and hours of work I put into the new layout. I poured over graph paper, drawing walls, cutting out bath fixtures from little pieces of paper. Looking at the best ways to use the rooms. It was all for naught. A pointless exercise. Almost none of my ideas remain.

I tell myself I should be used to this, as a choreographer. Sometimes you work and work on material that never makes it to the performance. But usually these omissions strengthen the work as a whole. I’m not sure that is the case here. I tell myself it was an important part of the process – other ideas arose from it that we wouldn’t have arrived at otherwise. I’m angry we were allowed to get our hopes up – that we were dreaming, waiting to see, and we were so off the mark with what was actually possible. But who is there to be angry at?

Tomorrow we meet with the builder again to finalise plans, set a start date (early June????), and rough out a schedule.

Despite the setbacks, I’m still excited to get going.   

Enforced patience. Sideways thinking. No one said it would be easy.

I don’t doubt that we will be open in 2017.

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