I’ve never been a handyman, but considering our accommodations, I’m pretty sure that I could be the Bob Vila of Europe. Here are a few contractor tidbits we’ve learned during our stays:
1. ADA is non-existent. The staircases leading to our flats are always uneven, risers ranging from 4 inches to nearly a foot. Invariably, one of us will take a controlled fall, luckily, no one has been hurt. Wheelchair ramps don’t exist, but if they did, they would have to be hundreds of feet long to meet the grade requirements with the huge hills around here. We have seen people in wheelchairs who seem to be getting along just fine.
2. Electricity is at a premium. Our first task at each flat is to locate the circuit breaker and practice finding it with our eyes closed. That way, when we blow the fuse – and we will – we’ll be able to find it in the dark. some common causes of circuit overload include:
a. Lights on in two rooms
b. The combination of a hair dryer and any other electrical device
c. Recharging in excess of 3 mobile devices
3. Caulk is structural support. Caulk seems to be Europe’s Duct Tape. If a floor joist is missing, caulk it. If there is a gap anywhere between tiles, fixtures, or trim, caulk it. Roof leaking, caulk it. I’m going to look into buying shares of stock in caulk (and rail lines) when we get home.
4. Tired of the home improvement project? Just call it good and walk away. Our Bordeaux flat has a prime example of this. When the stove hood was installed, it was adhered to the wall (no doubt with caulk) and plugged in. The beauty of this installation is that the vent pulls stove top emissions through 6 inches of sheet metal and blows it directly back into the room.
5. Speaking of the room, this flat has a loft. Unfortunately, this means that the kitchen has about 5’10″ of clearance.
I can stand straight up if I am between the joists. Upstairs has a similar clearance as can be seen in the picture below. Jumping into the shower lessens the clearance to about 5’4″. Brody is the only family member who can stand in the shower, all others squat, kneel, bathe, sit, or go for the thigh workout.
6. Plumbing lines should not be hidden. It’s a lot easier to work on these lines if they’re not covered up by drywall. Our current bathroom is a fine example of this fact. All of the copper tubing is visible and easily accessed, so local plumbers can get in and get out. We had a plumber visit us on Monday night at 10:30. I was sleeping, but Elizabeth wouldn’t open the door and told him to come back Tuesday morning. He did, and without a single tool in hand he “fixed” the leak in the kitchen. It should probably hold until the next visitor arrives.
So there you go American friends – the next time you feel bad that a do-it-yourself project hasn’t gone perfectly, just remember that you could be the Bob Vila of Europe!