Building Brick Boundaries

The future kitchen

The future kitchen

Etruscan wall in Fiesole

The spaces in the living/kitchen/bathroom/laundry area are now shaping up with the construction of new walls defining each space. They aren’t as beautiful as the Etruscan walls just outside of the apartment, but they are in the right direction! In Italy, building walls, even thin decorative walls, is serious structure (but not necessarily structural). Unlike in most areas of the US where walls are studded with wood 2×4 frames and finished off with drywall, the Italian tradition is to use terra cotta brick and mortar. This creates challenges even for the smallest task, like hammering a nail into the wall to hang artwork.

Now that the walls are basically built, chases for electricity, water, and a new gas line need to be carved out of the new and existing walls. Once the wires and tubes are inserted, the trenches are patched with plaster. Gas lines in particular need to be walled-in and secured. Some channels are in the wall and some will be in the floor, after removing a track of the old tiles along the edge of the room. An electrical plan was discussed with the electrician. Even in a small space, you can never have enough outlets!

Initial electrical plan sketch

Because the apartment never included a gas line or radiators, the initial idea to reconcile the heating and cooling was to use an energy efficient electrical split system air conditioner and water boiler. However, the neighbors that live below would not agree to an exterior fan installation near their bedroom window, plus, the local Comune would have to approve of the installation (essentially to maintain regularity and beauty), possibly requiring months to process the request. Thus, at a higher cost, it was decided to install new gas and water lines, and radiators. The decision of where to install the cumbersome water heater (caldaia) was the next big question. An exterior installation would, again, require the permission of the Comune. Even though kitchen storage space will be limited, the water heater will be installed above the refrigerator.

In the kitchen, the rear wall needed to be squared out and a huge steel tie rod had to be covered so that the wall is flat for the kitchen cabinets to be installed. Above the bathroom area, there will be a small storage space. The laundry area will be in the bathroom entry.

Drawing of bathroom on the wall

Drawing of bathroom on the wall

New floor plan

Even though architectural drawings have been prepared with careful measurements of the existing spaces and calculations for the new construction, many of the details are actually discussed and worked out on-site. Sometimes, this causes slight changes to the design, and usually unexpected costs.

Restoring an old building almost always reveals surprises. In this case, the thickness of the floors was extremely minimal, needing to be reinforced by steel and a layer of new flooring, and the old waste water pipes need replacing. Even though these pipes for the acqua chiara (clear water, or sink and laundry waters) and acqua scura (dark, waste waters, ie. sewage) are the responsibility of the entire condominium, we will be replacing just our section, to avoid possible future disruptive repairs. Upon approval of the neighbors, this cost should be divided between the affected condo parties.

In the next post, I hope to share plastered walls and some sanitary elements installed in the bathroom.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s