The new entrance is finished and the electric arm has been replaced (although the arm is missing in the photos) it should make getting in and out so much easier, but only time will tell.
The new entrance is finished and the electric arm has been replaced (although the arm is missing in the photos) it should make getting in and out so much easier, but only time will tell.
One of the things that has really bugged us has been the entrance to the property from the road (Dirt Track). We have had a few attempts at trying to get this right, but until now whatever we have done has just not quite worked fully.
At the start of the construction of the house we just had a very simple post attached to the lamp post at the entrance just to fix the electricity meters to.
When the entrance was constructed properly, the builders only used standard tile type blocks, these proved later not to be strong enough to hold the weight of the fixings for the gates or to defend against the winds that we get at certain times.
The entrance was reasonably easy with a car as the drive was just about level with the road outside and there were no gates.
However, because of the slope (left to right) it meant there was a large gap under the right-hand side, plus a slightly less, but too high gap where the gates met. This resulted in a high stop in the middle of the gates, this proved to be a problem, as we often caught it with the underside of any car we drove in or out and we regularly had to have the stop re fixed.
We also had a problem with the granite cube drive, the slope here was too much and the it had to be lowered to allow for the gates to open. The company doing the gates, adjusted the granite cubes where the gates were to allow them to open, but it left the drive very uneven.
In order to overcome this and to smooth out the drive we had the granite blocks on the drive re-laid to firstly smooth the level out and secondly to raise the drive under the gates to be more even, left to right, and to reduce the gap underneath so we could fit a lower stop in the middle of the gates.
This overcame this issue, except that to achieve this affect it meant there was a steep ramp on the right-hand side from the road. This also proved to be a problem with getting low cars through the entrance, they would ground as you went in and out. It also resulted in the shorter stop in the middle being regularly broken as well.
During this time, if you have read our blogs you would have seen that due to the winds we get on occasions and the poor strength of posts we had to regularly call the builder and locksmith back to re-fit the electric gate openers as the fixing would pull out of the posts.
We finally took the decision this winter to redesign the entrance to overcome all these problems. The idea was to move the gates back from the road, so giving us a larger turning circle to get on the drive from the road. Also meant we could drop the level of the drive back down to road level, removing the steep slope. We also had the posts to hold the gates made from reinforced concrete, so fixings should be stronger.
The gates will also be re-fitted with just a small, even gap underneath, so the shorter stop can be used in the middle, but as there is a gentle slope the bottom of any car should clear it easily.
We could also build a wall down the side of the entrance which should give some extra protection from the winds for the gates. We have also had a bolt fitted to the bottom of the gates, so when it gets windy we can drop the bolt as well if we need some extra strength.
It also gives us an area for parking off the road, whist we are waiting for the gates to open.
All this is currently being done, here are a few photos taken during April, showing what’s happening, hopefully you will be able to see what we are trying to achieve. At the time of writing, the new posts are in place and the granite cubes have been re-laid yet again.
There is still work to be done, the gates to be re-installed, the electrics for the openers and the doorbell to be installed plus the rendering on the walls to be finished and painted.
I will post another blog as soon as everything is complete so you can see the finished product. Hopefully this time we will have got it right. I’ll let you know!
Swimming pool heating has now been commissioned and we have received training from the company that installed it. The new summer pool cover and its spool have been delivered and stored away. It’s still a bit early in the year to use the pool even with heating at the moment, but we are all ready now for using the pool around Easter time.
The land at this time of year is not looking its best, although there is an amazing crop of Oranges, Lemons and Clementine’s, they are all quite small this year as it was very dry last summer and we were still struggling in getting the irrigation working properly. Hopefully 2018 will be a better year both weather wise and the fact we now know how the watering works and we have fitted a grit filter. It was interesting however to see the lemons heavy in fruit yet also showing blossom for the next crop.
We have also repositioned the bird table so we can see it a bit better and the birds seem to favour this area at the moment. However, you don’t see many bird tables in Portugal so we don’t think the birds know what they are, they don’t seem to be too interested at the moment. Have put a good pile of rocks around the bottom to hold it in place as we do get quite strong winds at times coming down from the Estrela. It is also helping to frame what we might do with that part of the garden/land.
Quick update. Looks like the heat pump for the heating of the swimming pool has been placed and installation is well under way. Still some finishing work and commissioning to do, but looks like we may have heating for this year.
Unit is quite big, bigger than I expected, but the company doing the work did say that had to get a slightly better heat pump than originally specified so it should heat the water quicker, same price! Great that it has been installed out of view from the house, so will not interupt our beautiful view.
Looking forward to trying it all out.
Welcoming in the New Year was a bit of a wet affair this year. We did however get one really nice day when we were able to do some pruning on the vines and cleaning around the roots of the olive trees. I was also able to cut the grass around the house and swimming pool.
We had some family staying with us to see in the new year this year, but they had unfortunately booked the early morning return flight instead on the evening flight, which meant we had to drive back to Lisbon airport during the early hours and Teresa and I had a full day to do something until we could fly back in the evening.
We decided to drop the rental car back as soon as they opened, and then head into Lisbon City on the Metro. We walked around for a little while and found a small café for some breakfast, croissants and coffee. We then took a tour bus, but by now it’s raining so hard it was difficult to see anything much although the commentary was very interesting.
After the tour and lunch in Starbucks, yes it had to be done, the rain just got too much and we decided to head back to the airport, at least we could stay dry there, by now we were soaked through to the skin.
Well the gates were still attached to the posts, but only one would open with the electric control, one just refused to open and we had to do it manually. So once again we still have problems with the gates.
We did get the locksmith to call eventually and he said the engine on the gate was faulty, so he will have to take the arm away and get it to a man that could fix it, but he was still on holiday so it couldn’t happen until the next week. Will be interesting to see if he comes next week as promised.
All this, along with the fact that slope from the gate to the road (dirt track) is just too steep, we have decided to redesign the gate entry area.
We can get our car in and out without too much problem, but the turn in is very tight and when we have a rental they are much lower to the ground and can on occasion just scrape the gravel around a bit.
More on this to follow in the coming months.
Swimming Pool Heating Update
The guys who are doing the swimming pool heating system, turned up at the house early this morning, I think they dropped off the heat pump and laid the concrete base. However, I don’t think they could do too much as it has been raining hard all day.
At least something is happening, looks like we should be able to start swimming earlier this year.
We will have heating.
More updates to follow.
We had a swimming pool constructed a couple of years ago and at the time decided not to include heating as wanted to see how it would work without, after all we were in Portugal and it’s a lot warmer than the UK and everyone was telling us at the time that we would not need heating. We did however ask the builders to make sure that we could add heating at a later date if we decided to do so.
Research on the internet seems to guide that the optimum temperature for a pool is 28oc. We have been monitoring the temperature over the last two years and whilst it is warm enough, in the summer (June/July/August) maintaining a heat of around 25oc it is still only just warm enough and on the days, we saw 26oc we could see how those extra couple of degrees could make all the difference. Any time outside of that period it is was just too cold for us to enjoy, although we did try on a few occasions.
As we are intending to spend more time at the property and already want to extend the period that we can comfortably use the pool we thought we should start to find out more about adding some heating and at get some idea of what would be needed. We really want to be able to use the pool from end of March to the end of October as a minimum each year.
As with anything, nothing is ever simple, there seems to be a whole range of ways in which we can add heating and it is not just a heater that is needed. Heating the water is one thing but of course you want to try and keep that heat in the water, so need a “summer cover” which can be put over the pool at night.
The option we are being recommended is to fit a “bomba de calor” (heat pump), this has to be powerful enough to heat the water within a reasonable time, say roughly 2 days. It runs on electricity so running costs also need to be considered. I am lead to believe that the one we would need uses 4 kilowatts per hour when running so based on the rate we pay to EDP it is about €0,71 per hour (inc IVA), not too bad but of course it depends on how long it is running. If it takes 2 days (48 hours) then that is about €35 to get it up to temperature, but after that it would be a lot less to maintain the temperature. This explains the need to use a summer cover to retain as much of the heat as possible when not actually using the pool.
There also seems to be a wide variation of covers, and in turn a wide range in price, so need to investigate more why, there must be a valid reason for such a large variation. We also need to bear in mind that it seems that these covers may only last 3 -5 years so will need to be replaced, maybe that’s the reason for the variation of price.
Then it seems it is advisable to get a spool/spindle thing on wheels, a bit like a long cotton reel, to help with getting the cover off and on again.
So, the shopping list at the moment is:
We also took a poll on Facebook, Life in Portugal group, for people’s opinions and thoughts. It seems there are many that have invested in heating and all agree that it is quite expensive but there is a real payback when it comes to how long in the year the pool is usable. We are based north of most of the people we had feedback from and the further north you go the cooler it is, so it just confirms the needs.
That’s where we are, currently negotiating with the pool company to see what deal we can get, but we think we have reached the decision to go ahead.
More to follow………
Quick update the gates have been repaired. Everything looks good, except no centre bolt has been added will have to follow that up.
There is very little construction or major improvement work going on these days, but of course there is always something to do maintaining the property. Of course we are making the most of the property and enjoying the results of all the work over the past few years.
This year has been a horrible year in Portugal, there has been some tremendous fires and it has been a very scary time, an incredible amount of land has been devastated or destroyed. We have, however, been very fortunate, which we are extremely grateful for, the nearest fire to us came within about 10kms, which is still too close. We try never to be complacent and do our very best to reduce the risk by keeping our land clean, plus keeping the land around the house as damp as much as we can and making sure there is water available should anything untoward happen. We are lucky as well that we draw our water from our own borehole and to this point we have always had water, but in a number of areas water is sparse. The long period with no rain and that much of the water available has been used in the fighting of the exceptional numbers of fires has affected availability. We will continue to do as much as we can, where we can.
We are still having problems with our main gates, because of where we are, we do get quite high winds at certain times, which is lovely for a bit of relief from the heat, it does put a strain on the huge metal gates and once again the electric arms have worked loose from the walls and the close stop has been ripped out of the ground. So, we are back to manual operation until the corrective work is completed. It is all well under way; the walls and gate stops have been repaired and we are just waiting for the locksmith to come back and refit the electric arms. We have also asked for a bolt to be added, that will go into the ground to hold the gates better when there are high winds or we are away for any period, it should help to stop the issue happing again.
We have also made the decision that we need to add heating to the swimming pool, whilst it is fantastic as is in the summer, we would look to use it earlier (Easter) and later in the year (October) unfortunately the water temperature is a little too cool at those times of the year, we are not getting any younger so need it warmer as we really do want to use it as much as possible. We know it will also add running costs, but we don’t need to have it on if it’s not needed eh! We have requested a quote to add heating from the guy that originally built the pool for us, so we will keep the blog up to date with how things develop.
We thought it might be a good time to post a little photographic tour of the property so you can see how things have progressed. There are still lots of things we want to do, but we like to see how things develop and then use that as a basis to decide what we want to achieve.
View up the track towards the village, shows our fence and up to the garage.
We still have to find some more to add.
We are continually looking for a more various items of interest to add, maybe an old pump and a few older pots would be nice, guess it depends on what we find.
Also here is “The Cactus” mentioned in many a post, was originally on the bank of the track to the fruit farm (Quinta) and we were determined to keep, but with the work that was done, it was too near the edge and eventually fell out, luckily, we were there at the time and managed to rescue it and plant it at the main gate, to start it looked a little unhappy but you can see it seems to be doing really well now. This has pleased us immensely as it has almost become a trade mark of the property.
Here you can see down the side of the house, the road shown earlier is on the left, and you can see how the planting on the bank has taken, this is holding the bank together really well and stopping any washing away, when the rains come.
When we had the house build there was originally 3 old cherry trees in a row, two we had to lose as it was where the house is now, but we wanted to keep the remaining one, you can see how we have incorporated it into the drive, it seems to be happy enough and gave us a good crop of fruit this year.
Further down the track we can see the channel / drain we had installed to take the water away when the rains come, without damaging the land to much. Over time we are sure this work will blend in better with the natural surroundings.
As we go down the hill to the farm area, here you can see a spot where we had a nice surprise a week or so ago, after walking up and down a few times we suddenly found a small water melon growing. How it got there we don’t know, either the seed blew in on the wind or maybe a bird had dropped it, either way we didn’t plant it, but that area obviously is very suitable and it was a lovely surprise. It wasn’t large, but a perfect size for two of us to enjoy over a few days.
We move down further to see the stream, now with it high banks and clear of undergrowth. If you read back over our blogs you will see about how we had problems a while ago with floods and the stream bursting its bank, we shouldn’t see that again, eh! However, we do have to keep the stream clean, else debris washing down from the mountains/hills and other areas where farmers have/have not cleaned their property, will collect and block the pipes and cause a problem. A small price to pay.
Here are few photos around the property of the trees, wells and views. The wells we are going to seal over in the coming months to make them safe, but for now we just clearly mark with warning tape.
Lastly, one of the wonderful things we do get to see around the house is the wildlife, some more unusual than others and certainly things we don’t see a lot of in the UK.
Spiders, mummy and babies.
That’s it for now, keeping checking back for updates.
Well finally at the end of May we got our official completion certificate from the Council, which means we now officially have a house. The upside is that everything is now legal, including the swimming pool that we added. The downside is that we will now have to pay annual council tax. We have been paying tax on the land but not on the house.
The delay has all been due to the builder, firstly not completing all the relevant documents that the council require, then by not signing the blue work book. Our architect and Project Manager has been working tirelessly with the authorities and suppliers etc. to get all the required documents and certificates together, all things the builder should have done, this has taken a ridiculous amount of time to organise.
So, one would have thought that it should be simple from this point, just need to tell the finance people so they can send us the taxes for the year and of course register with the land registry that we have a house there now. Huh! Let me tell you a story, things that if you are doing a project like this you should be aware of.
So, armed with the completion certificate and the Project Manager, with all his paperwork, plans etc., we met up on Thursday 1st June at a café around 9:15am in the town. We had a leisurely coffee and discussion before setting off around the corner to the Department of Finances.
This was the most important job as it has to be done within 60 days of the date of the completion certificate.
At the Finances office, we took the next number from the machine and took our seats, after a short wait of about 20 minutes we were called forward. Paulo our Project Manager explained to the lady official why we were there and she began entering everything on to their computer system.
Worth taking a pause here to explain that the Portuguese finances computer system is not the most modern, they are still using old CRT monitors and everything takes several minutes to happen.
After a series of questions and answers it was explained that there was a gap in our dates, due to the reason discussed above, e.g. the builder not submitting the documents on time, so we may receive a fine. What happened was, we had a licence to build the house which was issued on 05/03/2014 and ended on 06/03/2015. The house was completed by that date, but it had taken 2 years (can you believe it) to get everything done to get the Completion Certificate, which was issued on 18/05/2017. However, because we had not been in trouble with them before, e.g. no previous fines, they agreed to waive the fine.
Worth noting here that the fine would have been €300, €150 for each year.
We were advised that the paperwork would now go off to the relevant department in finances and they will set the amount of taxes that they think. We will get a letter in a few weeks advising us of the amount. In Portugal, the taxes are paid in arrears so this would be the amount due next April (2018). We will have the right to appeal the amount if we think it is not right, but Paulo advised that they are usually about right.
Everything done we set off for the Court building across town to do the Land registration change.
At the land registry office, we obtained the next ticket to take our turn, and was called forward almost immediately. Again, after several conversations between Paulo and the Officials we were advised that we couldn’t register the house because the land was still registered as “Rustic” and therefore the house could not be registered. The status of land had to be changed to “Urban” and only the Finances office could do this.
So back across town to the Finances and pick a new ticket to join the queue, of course by now there are lot more people, so we had almost an hour wait before being called forward. Again, Paulo explained to another official everything, and the official started the process. However, because we hadn’t changed the status of the land when the construction licence ended, in 2015, we would be fined! Paulo wasn’t aware of this rule, so it was a surprise to him as well. Why they didn’t tell us this when we registered the house earlier in the morning was also questionable, but not worth arguing. Paper work done, computer system updated and a €75 fine paid, yes, we had to pay this one, we set off once again across town to the Court, Land Registry office.
So, I think you may be getting the routine now, yep, take a ticket, join the queue and wait, lucky the wait was very short this time. So, we all sat down with another different official, and started the process. Then, guess what? Yep another problem. This time was the local council where the house is, has been combined with the local council next door and all the registration numbers of the land have changed and they can’t update anything without official notification of the old to new number conversion. The lady official tried to call the Finances office to see what could be done, but there was no answer. So, we still couldn’t change the registration.
We started to head off back to the finances office again, but before we got back to the car, we met the lady from the land registry that we spoke to the first time. She advised it might be best to wait for the paperwork from the finances, with the taxes, as that would have all the right numbers etc. and that changing the entry at the Land Registry was not critical, as long as it was done before if and when we wanted to sell it would be fine. As we are not selling anyway and we had by now, lost the will to live, we took the decision to stop and wait. It was now 2:45pm, so we had been at it for 5 and a half hours.
If fairness the official’s in both the finances and the Land Registry tried to be as helpful as they could, it was just the bureaucracy of the Portuguese system that was creating all the issues.
So, we are now all official, we have the Completion certificate and we are all legal with the taxes, we just need to change the land registry when we can, by the way it costs €60 to make the change.
If you are doing a similar project at any time it may be worth digesting all this, perhaps you can avoid some of these issues or any possible fines, if not you will at least be aware of having to allocate at least a whole day to the process.
As soon as we have any more details from the finances on what the taxes are or the land registry process, we will post another blog entry on the subject. For now, we have done what we need to, to be legal.