Quanto Costa?

Every couple of days our Geometra, A, comes up to us, grinning from ear to ear. “Ho un’idea!” he says excitedly. We listen to this idea of his, and it’s normally a very good idea, but then inevitably have to utter the two words he’s dreading… “Quanto costa?” How much does it cost? His face drops and he hangs his head. He must have known it was coming but it still feels a bit like kicking a puppy. He just looks so disappointed in us.

It shouldn’t be like this, and I really wish it wasn’t. At the risk of sounding like one of Kevin McCloud’s monologues at the end of Grand Designs, it should be all about honesty, authenticity and doing what’s right for the building, money shouldn’t come into it… but sadly that isn’t the reality of renovating. Or it’s not our reality anyway. Much as we’d love to just say ‘Si’ to everything, we can’t. Money matters.

Every decision has to go first through a cost-benefit analysis, and then a do-we-have-to-do-it-now-or-can-we-do-it-in-a-few-years-time-when-we-can-better-afford-it analysis.

The wall of doom is all done now and is back underground where it belongs
The wall of doom is all done now and is back underground where it belongs

Anything structural gets the nod straight away. We went to town on the new roof, floors have been strengthened and beams replaced wherever the engineer advised. And the dreaded back wall got fixed straight away. Damp-proofing and insulation were also prioritised, and we’ve got ourselves some nice new windows on the way.

If something adds character that usually gets the go-ahead too. A large part of the house had its heart ripped out in the early 90s by the previous owner, with brick vaulted ceilings plastered over, stone walls covered up and cheap bathrooms and lighting put in. We’re slowly reinstating the rustic, despite various suppliers occasionally trying to convince us otherwise (it turns out that even the most enlightened Italians occasionally have a problem with character… a metal garage door that looks like plastic that looks like aged wood anyone?).

Letting the professionals reveal the brick vaulted ceiling
Letting the professionals reveal the brick vaulted ceiling

And then there is the grey area… stuff that would be good, but we don’t necessarily need right now. Rooms that we could make slightly bigger, a ventilation system that would improve the air quality, hardwood flooring, sound-proofing, wireless thermostats, custom-made doors and high-end lighting. Where do you draw the line?

Pillar and beam
I’m a sucker for brick pillars and big wooden beams


We’re almost certainly making a few mistakes, when you’re making four or five decisions a day the chances are they’re not all going to be correct, but hopefully by spending big on structure and character we’ll at least have set ourselves up to be able to make smaller changes in years to come without too much difficulty. Regrets? I’m sure we’ll have a few, I think that’s unavoidable, but hopefully they won’t be too big or unsolvable.

In the meantime, I’ve set up a Just Giving page so that you can all make contributions, we just can’t keep breaking poor A’s heart. Please go to: justgiving.com/IvegotsomuchmoneyIdontknowwhattodowithitsoImgoingtogiveittoanincrediblyunworthycauseandatleastmakethegeometraabithappier

Wouldn't you like this room to have some super high-end lighting?
Wouldn’t you like this room to have some super high-end lighting?

23 thoughts on “Quanto Costa?

  1. Richard, great improvements. Do not discard right away what the (nice)
    geometra says. Get Legs discuss this with her father. It’s a unique chance to do a really outstanding job. You are already half way!

    1. It would be nice not to have to prioritise though! And I think Alberto would be a bit happier then too. He’s started telling us how much something will cost now before he even explains what it is!!

  2. Oh if money grew on trees! The blame rests on those home improvement/makeover programs that just want to “high-end” everything. A real shame for what the previous owner did.

    1. If it did, we’d have planted (and harvested) a whole field of them by now! A lot of people don’t seem to understand the desire for character in a home. Functional wins out every time. We’re slowly putting it back though, and saving money wherever we can. I just hate saying ‘no’ to things I know would be cool!

  3. I know the feeling, I think everybody would make different choices if money didn’t matter. On the other hand, isn’t it also a bit of extra fun, trying to make the most of it, without spending too much. I always try to see it as an extra challenge.

    1. I guess it maybe wouldn’t be as enjoyable if money were no issue. You wouldn’t have to think about anything, there would be no decisions to make, it would always just be a ‘yes’. Saving money is certainly a challenge, but I think we’re starting to get good at it, you have to be quite resourceful, don’t you. I’m not sure about fun, but it certainly feels like an achievement when you manage to find a better and cheaper way of doing something!

  4. I don’t have an Alberto. I have PF, and he’s worse because he’s determined to get everything perfect, AND do it himself so that it “costs less”. He’s made a lovely garden shed, which cost several weekends of noise, and double the price of the one I saw at the local DIY place. Such is life. At least it makes him happy 🙂

    1. I think I’m slowly turning into PF… I’ve started saving nice pieces of wood, buying books about carpentry and saying “I can build that much more cheaply” whenever we see anything nice. I imagine it will all end in disaster!

      1. As long as you use the stuff you buy rather than buying it for “one day” and promptly losing it in the huge plie of other “one day” stuff, you’ll be fine. If not, keep your time for Mrs LITL and Bee, bite the bullet and pay somone to do it – unless of course you enjoy the challenge (read: “unless you are a masochist”).

      2. So far I’m only at the gathering stage… we have lots of old stuff lying around because of the building works and I just can’t bear to throw it all out. Rusty pieces of iron and big wooden beams will definitely come in handy some day, I’m sure of it!

      3. And I’m equally sure you’ll still have it parked in a corner in five years’ time, n’all. You’ll be defending it hook line and sinker in the full knowledge that it will still be there another five years down the line 🙂

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