DIY - not for everyone

We took a route that some might regard as an unequivocal sign of insanity. We eventually chose to do much of the work on our own home ourselves as well as working alongside ‘muratori’ on important aspects such as roof and foundations that need the help of professional artisans.

When we moved to Italy in November 2003, a year after first deciding to relocate we found that prices had risen dramatically and, clearly, our budget was going to be severely stretched. We made friends in Bolsena where we were living and renting over our first winter. Then, through a series of serendipitous encounters, we found that we could save a considerable sum of money by taking on all the supervisory work, ordering materials, paying bills and hiring builders and artisans when needed. At that stage we realised that we would do some work ourselves. But then, as needs dictated, we did all the woodworking, a lot of plastering and a myriad other tasks. The fact is, none of it is ‘rocket science’ it just takes time, effort and an inclination to learn. And, of course, when it is your own home and your standards are uncompromising you can make sure that things get done exactly as you want them.

This route is certainly not for everyone – many people are not inclined towards the practical or if they are they have busy lives that cannot be left behind. We moved, lived on site and spent our first winter (an extremely cold one) in a house where some windows did not have glass. Character forming you might say - and we still shiver remembering. Obviously, we could never have done it this way from a distance.

Working with builders, having to deal with suppliers and technical folk and waiting endless hours in offices for paper-pushers to sign, gave us valuable first hand experience. We certainly made mistakes, but not too many and nothing serious - part of the Italian mentality is to find ways around problems....

Soon, friends and acquaintances began to ask Lois to help with their projects knowing that she spoke fluent Italian and had acquired a wide technical vocabulary and knowledge of Italian building practices. They also knew that Lois’ firm but diplomatic approach to dealing with builders and others got things done and that Paul was learning Italian fast – not always the polite kind but the universal language of the building site!