When we bought Casa Campestre four years ago, we had a survey done – a very British thing, as many people in Spain don’t bother, but important for us to know what we were getting into. Having been introduced to an architect (who doubled up as a surveyor), we went ahead with a full structural survey. There were only two big things that came out: the roof in our bedroom was sagging and the lintel in our sitting room was made of wood not concrete and needed urgent replacement so that it wouldn’t collapse. We also wanted to change the access to the roof terrace with a new staircase and tiling the terrace and patio area. So we asked the architect to recommend a building firm and were looking forward to a quick start. This was before we understood the impact of Spanish building regulations….
For almost all home improvements you need to request a building licence, either a licencia de obra major (for improvements that result in an increase of space or number of rooms) or a licencia de obra menor (for any other renovations and improvements). There’s a cost involved and a visit to the ayuntamiento, the town hall, to get all the paperwork sorted. Thankfully, our architect took care of that, and he had to apply for a licencia de obra major because of the roof terrace changes. All good, we had to pay a small percentage of the overall cost of the building works to the town hall, but were ready to go and talk to the builders. And start choosing floor tiles – by far the most interesting part of the whole project (to me, anyway!). Things don’t move that quickly, though, and we had to wait for around six months for the licencia to be granted. Home and dry, we thought …
Water, what water?
The building company seemed great, I had chosen my tiles, and we had the licence. Nothing now to stop us. But there’s always something. The architect explained that when he submitted the planning application and drawings, the water authorities had written to him to say that we now needed their approval before going ahead. Reason? Apparently if you have work done on the outside of a house that is classified as ‘obra major’ and that is within 100 metres of a river or stream, the water authorities need to inspect the area and provide a licence, just in case the works impact on the flow of rainwater. But we had not ever seen a river or a stream near our house and were totally mystified. Our architect tried to argue the case, but there was no moving the water authorities. This is where the architect used this most useful Spanish word for anything that goes beyond comprehension: ‘Absurdo!’ And it proved to be a magic word, because the water authorities gave way, and we were allowed to start the work.
We may have been very unlucky with the licences, but on the plus side, we’ve been extremely lucky with the builders. They worked hard! The team started at 7.30am, working through until 3pm with only a short break mid-morning. They would then have lunch and a 30-minute kip (on our very hard tiled sitting room floor), and then continue until 7.30pm. And all that in the blistering August heat. I have never seen builders so committed, cheerful, professional and simply lovely! All they wanted from us was to put their bottles of water (lots of them) in the fridge. A great experience overall and I’d be happy to have them back in our house any time.
As our house is in an area of natural beauty, we are not allowed to build a swimming pool. I’ve talked with the architect many times, but apparently this is not possible, and no manner of ‘absurdos’ from me will change their mind. I won’t give up, though! Somehow, sometime, we will get there. Though I’ve realised that I’ll need to be very patient …