My husband and I have recently become new homeowners to a crumbling, abandoned villa in the beautiful hills of Oltrepò Pavese. Getting to this point took a lot of patience as we dealt with indecisive owners, negotiated with contractors and signed a million documents at the bank and notary public. You can read up on that on Part 1.
PLANNING STAGES OF BUILDING A HOUSE
The basic layout of our house has been finalized and the demolition and construction company has started working on our villa. Since this is my first time involved in an overhaul and renovation, there are a few things I recommend to consider when you are in the planning stages of building a house:
- Exterior Insulation and Finishing System – This is the most efficient way to insulate your home. It is basically an external solid wall covering the exterior of your home. There are different materials that can be used for the insulation but the best is to use hollow bricks that allow air to flow between the walls of the house and the exterior insulation. The same idea is used for double-paned windows.
- Work Triangle in the Kitchen – If you want a functional and efficient kitchen, you need to apply the work triangle. It’s a concept from the 1940’s but is still applied to modern kitchen planning: The three points of reference on the triangle are the stovetop, fridge, and sink. The distance between these three points should not be smaller than four feet nor larger than nine feet.
- Stairs – Our house had one set of stairs. They were in really good shape but they were steep. There were two reasons why we decided to demolish this set of stairs:
- Since the bedrooms are on the upper floor and the laundry room is on the lower floor, we will be using the stairs a lot. Worrying about tripping and falling on these steep stairs with a basket of laundry in my hands was not something I wanted to deal with.
- We have a baby boy. These stairs are a safety hazard for him and his future siblings.
- Solar panels for heating and electricity – Renewable energy is the way to go in Italy especially with all the tax deductions you can receive. At the moment, you can get back 50% of the cost of the system through tax deductions over a 10 year period.
- Battery for the accumulation of energy – Without a battery, all the energy produced during the day has to be consumed as it’s being made. At night, without the sun, you don’t produce anything and so you have to buy energy from the grid. If you happen to produce excess energy during the day, you can sell that to the grid. Without a battery, you cannot accumulate energy produced during the day.
With a battery, you can be completely independent of the grid. It is an investment, but like most investments, it will pay off. The investment costs 20k-30k on average for a 3-4kW home.
- Radiant Heating and Floors – Do you have radiant heating? We are planning to install radiant heating but also wanted to lay hardwood floors. The problem here is that because wood is a living material, it will expand but readjust again with any change in floor temperature. Because of that, we are looking to install fake wood ceramic tiles instead. The advantage of hardwood is that it is warmer on the feet and gorgeous. Since we have radiant floor heating, warm floors aren’t an issue. Also, you can find ceramic tiles that look like real wood and cost at least 40 Euro less per tile.
When considering floors for the kitchen and bath, make sure that they aren’t porous. I have a friend who has tiles that are stained and can’t be cleaned thoroughly because they’ve absorbed the stains. You also want to consider a colour that will not easily show dirt. In general, make sure that the floors you install are low-maintenance, easy to clean and are compatible with radiant floor heating (if that is what you have).
- Roof – If you have to redo your roof, you have to consider the time of year and the weather. Replacing your roof is ideal during a season with minimal rain.
NEXT UP: INTERIOR DESIGN IN THE KITCHEN
So, what’s next on our to-do list? Collecting information and quotes for the heating and electrical system, flooring, and tiles. Part 3 will be about our kitchen inspiration as we search for the perfect balance between urban-industrial and minimalist styles.