Sorting Out the Windows and Doors

windows and doors spec package
Revised windows and doors package
Click image to view

In response to yesterday’s questions about the windows and doors, Kevin came back from the supplier with a much improved specifications package. It addresses nearly all the open issues and includes attachments that show clearly what the windows, doors, and hardware will look like. It also includes a dimensioned drawing of a sample door.

On the cost front, they removed the interior door that had been added to the budget by mistake, which lowered the total cost to €29.7k from €30.6k.

As expected, as we got more information, it raised a couple more questions. There are three important ones:

  • The windows and doors need to have true divided lights. Are they budgeted that way?
  • The plan has eliminated the arched window above the front door. Kevin says this is related to the need to have a single panel door, as the opening is not wide enough for a double door. (We had discussed this in December.) I’m confused why the two issues are related.
  • The design of the upstairs terrace door was not specifically addressed.

I expect we’ll get this all sorted out and ready to sign tomorrow.

Drawing of a simulated divided light window
Simulated divided light window
Drawing of true divided light window
True divided light window

Window images source:

Redoing the Road

We’re still waiting for water at the site, but now the trench for the water line has been dug. I hope this means the line can be completed and connected soon, so Francisc doesn’t have to continue to truck in water.

After all the rain and snow in January and the work on the trench, it was time to regrade the road and the driveway. It’s great to see the structure of the house at the end of the driveway.

House construction site at end of driveway
Down the Driveway to the House
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Reinforced columns complete
Ground Floor Columns Complete
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Here are all the pictures.

A Little Confusion About the Doors

Specification sheet for windows and doors
Windows Spec Sheet
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We made the major decisions about the windows and doors in December and received a cost estimate, but we hadn’t yet received a detailed spec sheet and the contract. That came today.

At first glance, all looked in order. Then I looked more closely at a drawing of the front of the house and noticed that the kitchen door was drawn as two panels, opening in the middle, rather than a single door hinged on the side. (This door is marked ③ in the drawing below.)

Drawing of front of house in Le Marche
Windows and Doors on Front
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Then, looking at the back of the house, I noted that the three large doors, which we had been calling “French doors”, had three panels instead of two. That means that two of the doors need to fold together to completely open the door. (These doors are marked ⑤, ⑥, and ⑦ in the drawing below.)

Drawing of rear of house in Le Marche
Windows and Doors on Back
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In both views, the designs were what we’d seen before. I think I may have overlooked the specific door designs before because the drawing has exterior shutters, which we aren’t using, so I didn’t focus carefully on the doors themselves.

I wrote Kevin to ask him about these doors.

He said it all depends on the size of the openings and thus the needed size of the doors. The kitchen opening is 114cm (45in), so the spec sheet planned two doors with widths of 57cm (22.5in). Kevin said the maximum practical size for a single door is about a meter (40in). Get any larger and the door gets heavy and hard to keep in place, and since the doors open inward, the door takes a lot of space inside. He proposed that we narrow the opening slightly to 90-95cm (35-37in). Then we can use a single door. This solution also gives us a small amount of additional wall space inside. (Even at 90cm it’s a wide door. The front door in our house here in Wilmette is .)

Similarly, since the openings for the rear doors are 2.34m (7.5ft) wide, we can’t go with just two panels in each opening. We need to have three panels, each 78cm (30in — the standard US door size). These make for nice sized doors with lots of glass and when open and folded, don’t take too much space inside the room.

Here’s a photo of the three panel doors from Kevin’s house.

Three panel French door
Three Panel Door
Click image to enlarge

A remaining detail is the use of muntins on the doors. We want to divide the doors horizontally in four sections, the top three glass and the bottom one wood. (This will be similar to the windows, which we want to be divided horizontally in three sections.)

I realize that we need to have a dimensioned drawing of the windows and doors so we can understand and visualize the sizes of the various pieces and how they fit together as a whole.

The spec also included 9 total interior doors, but the plan only has 8.

Beyond these two issues, I had a number of small questions about the specs and the attachments.

Next step is to ask Kevin to get the supplier to provide the needed clarifications.

Budget Summary

Here’s a budget summary by component. It does not include installation, which is in the primary contractor budget, or taxes.

Component Amount (€000)
12 windows €5.3
3 French doors 4.5
Portone 1.8
2 other exterior doors 1.4
Window and door screens 3.2
Window and exterior door hardware 3.0
8 pairs window scuretti 1.9
9 interior doors 6.8
Other 2.8
Total €30.6

Chopping Some Wood

Besides the dozen or so olive trees on the property, there are two fruit trees we want to save, one fig and a double-trunk cherry. All of the trees need pruning, but the fig and cherry need it badly.

Pippo, who acted as the agent for the previous property owners, is also a landscaper. Kevin said he’d be the guy to do some tree pruning.

We’d asked to get it done in December, while the trees are dormant. The bad weather postponed the work until last week.

I was expecting some serious pruning, but what we got was really serious pruning. The fig, which had been about 15-20 feet tall, was cut back to about 6 feet, leaving just the trunk and the start of a few large branches. Likewise, the cherry was cut back to just its core.

Here are some before and after pictures.

Overgrown fig tree
Fig Before Trimming
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Pruned fig tree
Fig After Trimming
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Overgrown cherry tree
Cherry Before Trimming
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Pruned cherry tree
Cherry After Trimming
(in foreground)
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We’re expecting that the pruning will help the trees start producing fruit again.

Regarding the olives, Pippo has moved the ones that were in the way of the construction. Later in the spring, he’ll prune all the olives as well. I hope they won’t need to be cut back as much, so we may see a few olives this year, as long as the olive fly, which decimated last year’s crop, stays away.

Here’s an album of the tree pruning pictures.

Transfer Problems

Last week, Kevin asked me to make payments to the geometra Jimmy and the contractor Francisc. They have both been doing a lot of work in advance of payment as we waited to get the final construction contracts signed.

Kevin sent me the bank details for the transfers and it all seemed very straightforward.

Foreign currency wire form
Currency Transfer Form
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The only tricky piece is getting the correct SWIFT/BIC codes for the receiving bank and the IBAN code, which determines the bank and the receiving account at the bank. (This second one is the place where it can be easy to make mistakes, as it is of variable length and can be up to 28 characters. Here’s and example: IT57O0570469010000000013861)

The transfer to Jimmy went smoothly, but on Friday afternoon I found out something had gone wrong with the transfer to Francisc. Apparently, one of the codes was wrong.

This created a bit of a problem for Francisc. Apparently, he had told his bank the money would arrive within 72 hours. Kevin told me that if it didn’t, he’d have to pay penalties and fines.

We scrambled to get some document to them explaining the problem and promising a transfer as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the following Monday was a bank holiday, so the transfer couldn’t go out until Tuesday.

Again, when I prepared the form, I was told the SWIFT code was wrong, even though I’d used the exact code for a successful transfer in December.

So, we’re still struggling to get the money over to Italy.

An Update

It’s Tuesday and we’re still having problems. I checked all the codes and numbers against the paperwork I got from Francisc and resubmitted the transfer. We still were told the SWIFT code, BPSPIT3S is wrong, even though we had used it before.

I searched online for the code and it still seemed right. Finally, I found a source that used BPSPIT3SXXX. It said the XXX represented the branch, but I don’t have a branch code.

I looked at the successful transfer we made to Jimmy and his bank’s SWIFT code ends in XXX. So we’ll try adding the XXX and see what happens.

Another Update

It’s a day later and the problem still is unsolved. Adding the XXX didn’t help. We’ve exhausted all options from this end. I asked Kevin to ask Francisc to contact his bank and explain what we’ve done and see if they can enlighten him and then us.

A Final Update?

Let’s let Kevin tell the story of what we hope is the resolution of this mess.

You’re getting a dose of Italian incompetence at its BEST (WORST?).

I went with Francisc to the branch today where we were told to send the transfer to that other BIC your guys discovered yesterday. The director then called him after we had departed to say that the regional direction in ANCONA had confirmed to her that in the last 10 days they had INDEED executed a change and that with the release of February statements they would be communicating this change. Can you believe that?? I can’t even imagine the chaos created over 10 days for all their commercial customers doing business with foreign clients.

So, the attached has the CORRECT, UPDATED, NEW BIC/SWIFT CODE…please use this and disregard all other communication on same.

The bank has waived all fees and penalties levied against Francisc due to this being THEIR error.

While clearly this is completely out of our control, I am nonetheless VERY sorry that you and your transfer people have had to waste so much time on this crap.


Finally, ten days after we started the process, the transfer went through.

Revealing the Columns

On another gorgeous February day in Le Marche, they began removing the concrete forms from the columns. They had poured the concrete last week and let it set for three days.

They also showed us some of the building materials they recovered from the ruin, which we hope to use in the new house.

The views across the valley today are excellent, and you can meet our geometra Jimmy.

View of column forms and panorama
Column Forms with View
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Geometra and Columns
Geometra Jimmy with Columns
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Here are all the photos:

Pouring a Little Concrete

We got just a few pictures today of them starting to pour the concrete inside the forms for the ground floor columns.

It’s great to see that the sunny weather continues after a long cloudy, snowy spell.

Italian Stonehenge

Finally a sunny day in Le Marche as work continues apace on the ground floor columns.

Yesterday they started erecting the steel rebar frameworks of the columns and began building the forms around these frameworks for the concrete to be poured. Today saw this project nearing completion.

We got some good pictures today, and one in particular caught my eye. It’s a closeup of the base of the steel rebar framework of one of the columns. You can see how solidly built the columns will be, given this framework which be encased in concrete. This is an example of the construction practices they are using to strengthen the house against earthquakes.

Close up of reinforced concrete column base
A Close Look at a Column
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Once they had erected the columns and put the forms around them, we had an impressive grid. Kevin dubbed it, “Stonehenge.”

Stonehenge in Italy
Our Own Henge
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One other issue arose today. Anne noted that the slope above the house is fairly steep. She asked about protection from flooding as water cascades down the slope in a heavy rain. (This problem would also affect the pool, as there is a similar slope above it.)

Kevin responded:

We’re very early in the plan execution…so the earth around the project is chopped up and not at its best.

The earth will be moved as per the agreed-to plan for levels, etc.

There will be some hard landscaping that achieves drainage and in the actual landscape plan any particular drainage issues will be addressed.

So we’ve identified the issue and need to be sure it’s addressed appropriately. We certainly don’t want water pouring through the front door, much less front windows!

Here is the complete photo album from today’s work.

Movin’ On Up

The title and content of today’s update come straight from Kevin.

Some photos from this morning. You’ll start seeing some real progress from this point on. Things will MOVE.

And then later:

More progress. Structural engineer onsite too, checking and directing. Ciao.

Here are the photos.

Back to Work

After 3 weeks of holiday break and over 4 weeks of weather conditions that prevented work at the site, Francisc and his team got back at it. They had some of the rebar columns they had built off-site delivered and they prepared to attach them to the existing rebar.

Here are three photos. Notice the cloudy weather, a dramatic contrast from the beautiful sunny weather in December.