New Year Review: Before and After


We are almost a year into our Spanish home adventures. With the New Year coming up it’s time to review what we’ve been up to. We’ve been busy!

The first time we viewed our house in Oliva I knew the mop water white tiles and stained grout in the living and dining room wouldn’t survive. They were the first thing on our to do list. I tried to resurrect the grout, but it wasn’t grout. The stuff wouldn’t budge. A conference with my daughter, Alyssa, a former flooring estimator, convinced me starting over was the best option. The other option was buying a skill saw and a special blade and grinding between every sickly white tile. My knees, back, and Donna thought that was a stupid idea!

Malcom Burt was hired to put new tile over the old stuff. A trip to Manises to buy decorative tiles was all that was66DC834D-9EE3-4D8E-9FEE-0A2870B8FCAE needed. Our living and dining room are completely out of square. Putting in a tile floor that looked right would be a challenge. Malcom surveyed the room and knew exactly how to proceed. The results exceeded expectations.


In the middle of installing the tile in the living and dining room, Malcom discovered a leak in our main bathroom. The leak was repairable, but the lead pipe was old. Leaks could spring up anywhere. The lines were buried beneath tiles and plaster. The cold water line was near the floor. The hot water line was waist high. Replacing the lines without gutting the bathroom was the challenge.

Google searches brought up photos of externally mounted copper pipe. We decided to copy the best examples we found. Copper would become a design element. From there replacing damaged tiles with large copper toned tiles started to make sense. The trick was to make the repair solutions look intentional.

We came back to Spain with a suitcase full of secondhand store copper objects. It’s either our new awareness, or copper is making a comeback. Keeping the copper bright will require making a paste out of salt and vinegar, or investing in a commercial copper cleaner.

An added bonus of exterior mounted copper plumbing is that it retains some heat after you take a shower. It’s just enough to take the edge off, or give you warm socks on chilly mornings.

Painting the exterior of the house presented the biggest challenges. Permits took forever to go through Oliva’s idiosyncratic system. A long history of water intrusion problems created blowouts in the plaster. We thought it was confined to the lower portion of the front of the house. The entire front of the house was compromised. The plaster on the side of the house looked solid. It wasn’t. Scraping the house down to bricks revealed doors that were no longer doors, the house’s original roof line, and windows that had been hastily filled in. Everything, including a roof drain that was connected to air, had to be repaired.

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Turning a 150 year old former horse stable into habitable living quarters has involved three owners so far. Finding a highly skilled crew was a blessing. The wok that’s been done has given the building a new lease on life. It’s also made a house feel like home! It’s been a wonderful year!!!

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