Property Restoration Rules

Clients often ask me about the rules regarding property restoration, citing that there’s so much conflicting information in the public domain. Often they’ll turn to people on forums who moved to Abruzzo many years ago and although well-meaning; things change and these people may not have the up to date information.

One important thing to say is that the law changed back in April, (22nd to be exact), meaning it’s no longer necessary to obtain permission as long as the restoration you do to your property has no impact on the environment. For example building extensions or another storey will have an impact on the surroundings and will therefore require permission. 

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Below are the main works as listed in the ‘Infrastructure decree’ which you do not need to seek permission from the comune before undertaking:

Ordinary maintenance works:
• Installing, but also repairing or replacing, railing, security grilles or grates.
• Replacing external and internal flooring,
• Resurfacing internal and external plasterwork,
• Renovating gutters and downpipes.
• Changing doors, windows, stairways
• Installing an air-to-air heat pump, provided that it has a heat output of less than 12 kW. These appliances offer also a “green” alternative for air-conditioning houses as they use renewable energy such as air to heat or cool rooms.
• Installing (but also repairing or upgrading) lifts, but only inside buildings and provided that this doesn’t involve altering supporting structures.

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Works to create a comfortable living space outside your door:
• Installing barbecues, tool sheds, fountains, planters and benches, kennels for dogs and cats.
• Installing gazebos and pergolas within certain size limits and when not permanently fixed to the ground
• Create a garden play area for children
• Installing partition walls in the garden as long as they are not masonry walls

Home renewable energy systems:
• Installing, replacing or renovating solar and photovoltaic panels, wind turbines generators or parts of them

Architectonic barriers:
You can remove architectonic barriers, such as stairways and lifts, if they don’t alter the existing structure of the property.

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The only other advice I’d add is, if you’re unsure then ask. A trip to the comune only takes a short time and could put your mind at rest. Also feel free to copy and print out the above infrastructure decree to take with you just in case the person behind the desk has not been aware of the changes.

Buon lavoro.

Renovation Road

It’s been seven months since we started the renovation of our house, the final two windows have now been fitted by Nino and Graham has made a fantastic job of the rendering. I think we’ve achieved so much in a short space of time. We started with a shell of a building and now apart from completing the outside space, which is coming along nicely under Seppe’s instruction, all we need to do is fit interior doors and start painting walls.

The seven months of work has had its ups and downs. We’ve had good moments, like when we discovered that the crack in the wall you could put your hand into was not a potential, structural nightmare, but a redundant fireplace. We also had a few bad times, like when the old fossa turned out to be blocked and so we had to install a septic tank, and we also had a real dark moment, when we discovered our builder was a liar and a thief. We’ve gone from spending a night in the car, to squeezing everything into one room and then onto the luxury of two-roomed living. We went from washing in the outside sink to finally having a fully functioning bathroom and also went from using the outside steps to go to bed to eventually having interior stairs.

Casa

I never realised that house renovation was organic and changes to our fixed plans happened. The bathroom was re-sited and bigger than originally planned, the en-suite idea was dropped and the third floor was removed to give us a airier brighter kitchen. Some plans didn’t occur, the original mezzanine idea for the kitchen had to be abandoned when the architect told us the walls wouldn’t take the weight without ugly metal RSJ’s being fitted, and the upstairs door onto a balcony idea also bit the dust, and we downsized from three bedrooms to two. Overall, it’s been an enjoyable seven-months but I’m not sure I’d want to go through it all again, especially living on site as the work takes place.

But we can now sit back and as the end of this year approached we are secure in the knowledge that the roof no longer leaks, rain doesn’t come under the front door anymore and insects can’t squeeze under the gaps in the kitchen windows. This said, we’re no where near finished though. We still have boxes that remain unpacked, we have clutter everywhere that needs sorting and putting in its final resting places and my office needs to be set up properly.

So as the iPod shuffles and Lily Allen sings, He Wasn’t There, I decide to make a start on sorting out the box on my office floor labelled, stationery and office stuff. It’s nice to be finally getting to the end of the renovation road.

Cucina Rustica

We are finally getting to the end of our house restoration, I can hardly believe that only five months ago our place was literally just a shell. There’s still a lot of small jobs to get finished, like the window fitted where the second front door used to be and the kitchen. Of all the rooms in the house the kitchen has undergone the greatest transformation, the room above has been taken away, the roof has been replaced and it now has a new floor. During these changes our cooking facilities have changed many times. When we first moved in everything was on boxes, with all the electrics being endless extension cables.

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Then as the roof and room above came down, the kitchen was installed in the corner of the living room with the fridge freezer standing beside the fireplace. Now the floor is in, we’ve reinstalled our rustic kitchen. No more microwaves balanced on boxes, or electric rings on top of old floorboards. It’s still a work in progress, but it means we can have a few days with space in the living room before we move it all out again to finish it off.

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Learning to live without a working kitchen has been trying at times, especially when it comes to cooking. I coped with washing dishes in the outside sink, but wanting to bake bread when you have no oven came test your patience. At some point this week we’ll plaster where the electrics have been installed and hopefully next week the laminate flooring will have been laid and we can begin assembling the cupboards and get the new cooker delivered from Casoli.

Once finished, will I yearn for my cucina rustica again?

I doubt it.

Fitting a Sun-Roof in a Panda

Renovating an old Italian house can be a source of frustration and anxiety but can also lead to moments of complete madness that reduce you to great gales of laughter. I had an incident recently that had me hugging my sides as I shook with mirth; it was one of those, ‘you had to be there moments’.

Our house is ancient, built originally from stone and adapted over the years with bricks, concrete and all manner of materials. It began it’s life as two houses, both of which consisted of a living space for the humans with a space for animals below. It’s hard to imagine a whole family, living in just one twenty square metre room. We’re not restoring our house with any romantic notion of turning it into a pseudo Italian farmhouse: The kind, that are featured in movies and pasta sauce adverts. As we have a more contemporary taste we’re modernising where we can, and anyway, as it’s an old contadino home, (peasant farmer) it would have been built for practicality not aesthetic charm. So during this process of renovation, rather than restoration we are replacing the old windows with brand new, cream coloured aluminium ones, and wonderful they look too. It’s this window replacement that led to much hilarity one Wednesday evening.

We were sat outside with our friends Viv and Seppe, (Seppe is fast becoming a Life on Shuffle celebrity). Olive the dog was running around with Ollie, Viv’s dog as we chatted about life and watched the evening creep in. I mentioned to Seppe that we had taken the window frame out from the second bedroom and if he wanted it; as he’s recycling our old windows, he could take it that evening. So before leaving I helped my friend put the window complete with shutters onto the roof rack of his Fiat Panda.

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What an odd sight we must have seemed to our neighbours who watched as we loaded first the frame onto the car, we laughed as we said that we were fitting a sun-roof to the car. The laughter continued as we then had the job of fitting the shuttered windows, a passing car slowed to see the two men struggling. First we fitted them the wrong way round, then we had them upside down, then the wrong way round again and with each mistake we laughed more. (I did warn you that this was a ‘you had to be there moment’.)

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Eventually we had the windows fitted to the frame, we turned the handle and they closed beautifully, all that was left was to secure them to the car. Then of course came the joke that you could tell the car had an Italian sunroof because it had shutters, not a particularly funny line, but it had me howling with laughter. You see I’m easily entertained and when Seppe is around, laughter follows in close proximity, as he’s naturally funny and quick witted.

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The perfect accessory for all Italian cars, a sun roof with shutters.