Category Archives: Germany

Osterfeuer

In Germany, it is a tradition among many homeowners and green thumbs to burn garden clippings on Easter Saturday. Brush, leaves, compost, sticks, weeds, whatever. Just throw it in a big pile out back and fire that mother up. As with any dangerous activity in Germany (I’m lookin’ at you, Schützenfest!), there is alcohol involved. The weather was still just cold enough that we felt a bottle of Glühwein was in order.

When we move into the new house (more on that enormous clusterfuck later), this might be the motivation I’ll need to do yard work. The more grass I cut, leaves I rake and bushes I trim, the bigger the next Easter fire will be.

osterfeuer2

osterfeuer1

Breaking Stuff

There are many Gewerke going on. Heating, plumbing, electric, Innenausbau, etc. There is not so much I can do at this point in regards to that stuff. However, in the Altbau I can help save money by prepping rooms for things to come. Need a new ceiling? The old one has to come down. Room gets a new floor? The old one has to come out. Need a new wall? Oh Yeahhhhhh! I’m busting through the old one like the Kool-aid Man. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that.

Anyways, here are some pictures of me breaking stuff. I have more that I’ll add at some other time.

An Update!

Things are happening fast. The windows are in. The roof should be finished soon. Electric is almost finished. Almost all of the drywall is up. Pipes were installed last week for the ventilation system. This week the pipes for the floor heating will be installed and then the Estrich (screed) will be poured.

It’s interesting how the floors with wiring and pipes are done in Germany. I can only speak about how things are being done in our case. First, the cables for electricity, telephony and climate control are laid out. What I have seen in the US is that cables are threaded through or behind wall studs in order to get where they need to be. Here they are laid out mostly along the floor where it meets the walls and then is threaded up to where it needs to go. I’ll post some pics as soon as I get them.

After the wiring, the pipes for ventilation and floor heating get installed. When that is all done the estrich is poured. Estrich is a kind of concrete that is poured right onto the floor encasing all the wires and pipes in it when it dries. This is a bit weird to me. It seems a bit final. If you want to do any remodeling in the future and you need to bust up the estrich for whatever reason, it could quickly get very expensive and labor intensive, but that is the way they roll over here.

Putting in the windows…

Putting in electric cables…

Ventilation pipes…

Fussbodenheizung…

Estrich…

More to come…

Holzwurm & Hausbock

You can’t have this kind of project without having a few problems. The biggest problem so far has been the discovery of Hylotrupes bajulus & Anobium punctatum, otherwise known as Hausbock and Holzwurm, respectively. These are types of beetle larvae that love to get inside wooden rafters and party it up. They do nothing except eat wood and poop sawdust. In doing so they cause a lot of damage to houses and other wood-based structures. They can make a massive wooden beam look like Swiss cheese.

You mainly see this in older houses (like ours) that were built before modern techniques for curing and treating wood were introduced. The rafters in the Altbau were previously treated for this sometime in the 50’s. We were aware of this, but it seems that they were not all killed back then. There was no way we could see how bad the damage might have been beforehand, until we took off the roof.

The house-builder came across a heavily damaged spot while removing the old roof tiles. I think he discovered it mainly because his hammer ended up going through a rafter with a minimum of effort. I could get into a lot of detail about the stress and worrying involved, but I won’t. I will say that we had at least 2 experts take a look at the damage and the prognosis is that, with the exception of a few rafters, whatever was there is no more. Regarding the few rafters in question, they had to be specially treated and sprayed with borax. So we just ended up spraying the whole roof, just to be sure. The damaged rafters will be reinforced and that should do it. Hopefully.

This weekend I removed a ceiling and got rid of a lot of the damaged wood. I was pulling the removed pieces apart to see if I could find any larvae, but I couldn’t. So, I guess that is a good sign. They seemed to have moved on to greener pastures.

I also removed an old rainwater basin in the cellar. Back in the day, it was used to collect the rainwater in the basement for a variety of things, the main one being washing clothes and maybe for drinking water for livestock. I was half considering using it for a reverb chamber, despite the fact that running the send and return cables all the way down to the cellar and back again would be a pain in the ass. It probably would have sounded cool though.

However, that is now a moot point. It was in the way and the electric crew couldn’t run their own cables. So it had to go.

It was made of concrete reinforced brick and was about 4 feet tall X 3ft deep X 5ft wide. I had planned on using a power hammer to get it done, but that proved to be quite a challenge. So I had to bust out the sledgehammer and get John Henry on that mother. Like golf, it’s all about the swing. I’m sure I’ll be feeling it tomorrow.

Richtfest

On Saturday we had the Richtfest. In English this is known as the “Topping Out“. The house builder hangs a special wreath from the roof and then recites a poem punctuated with shots of schnapps. Then we climbed up on the scaffolding and said a few words. After that we partied.

Eigenleistung

“Kosten sparen durch Eigenleistung” = Trying to save a buck through DIY

In order to reign in costs, we have to do a few things ourselves. In the Altbau, this includes stripping wallpaper, knocking down walls, tearing out baseboards & window frames, hammering out old bathroom tile, etc. in preparation for internal isolation (Innendämmung). There will be pictures of all this eventually, don’t worry.

For the Neubau there is not so much we can do right now. Eventually we’ll be doing a lot of painting, wallpapering and a whole lot more. Last weekend we had a chance to save a few beans by painting four soon-to-be exposed rafters with paint primer. It didn’t save a lot, but the small stuff can add up.