maureen tease Image
11/09/2009 - 15:26

Hi all,I'm new to the Forum so please bear with me.  I am getting ready to restore a house in Abruzzo and need info and advice on possible good, English speaking architects, builders etc.  I'd also appreciate info on fees which a project manager would likely charge me.  Thanks and all advice will be greatly welcomed.  Thanks,Maureen



I would advise employing a local geometra as your project manager. A good one will be up to date with all building regulations and will be able to deal much more effectively with your local comune than if you were to go alone. I'm sure people on here will be able to give you recommendations but you should check that they are on the list of registered geometra at your comune. A reasonable fee would be around 10% of your renovation costs and also expect to pay IVA on top of this.

I totally agree with Capo's comments - a local geometra is an essential - they know the people that matter and how to 'work' the system to your advantage - timescales for approvals by the commune will be less [although still long]. Some people will recommend using and architect - but I'd suggest that unless you are doing something really 'fancy', a geometra is what you want. Ask your neighbours/estate agent/commune for recommendations - then ask to see some of their work [drawings/plans and actual works] before making up your mind which one to use.  [and check what he/she will charge you] The geometra will  draw up the plans, get the various estimates [haggle when you see them - it works], make the submissions to the commune for approvals, and supervise the works.  A good geometra is worth his/her weight in gold.

Maureen you are better as Allan suggests finding a local Geometra even if you need to hire a translator - our builder tells us that Penne is now overrun with British builders and other tradesmen all working mainly for Brit. It could be that they will all be very well qualified and knowledgeable about all of the various laws that cover things such as building in earthquake zones and will be able to give you the correct certificates at the end of the project. But check first!The above company may well be an excellent one but do not fall into the trap of thinking it would be best to deal with Brits because of the language problems.My advice from bitter experience would be not to rush into anything and make sure that if you do engage someone you get references and go and look at some of their are welcome to pm me if you want some details of Italian builders etc.

In the past we fell into the trap of getting someone English to do the work because it's easier, we didn't speak the Italain and thought that it would be safer, but we were always left feeling that it could have been done better. My advice would be if it isn't urgent ask around and go out and meet local tradesmen. Since doing this we've had some great work done and only wished we hadn't been so nervous earlier.  We've also had a laugh with the locals and made new friends.  Just make sure you take your dictonary with you and you'll be fine, they will need to come and look at the job so they will soon see what needs doing. Good luck

If you have your plans and you have paid for them to be drawn up why use a geometra. He will want 10% of the building cost and may only visit your premises to check the work on an ad hoc basis. If anthing goes wrong he will shrug his shoulders and ignore you hoping that you will go away. If you can find a builder that has all the required qualifications and get the documents and permissions from the commune use him you can use the saved money on the renovations. Not all geometras behave in this way but a lot do. Act wisely and slowly.

I agree that there are good and bad geometras - just as with everything.  Ours couldn't have been further from the type described by edcro - regularly sending photos by email (and this was in the days of steam internet connections!) and having a strong relatiohsip with all the tradesmen so he could call them out at a moment's notice.We were only coming over for flying visits every month - and couldn't possibly have coped without a project manager of some sort.  As said before, geometras have all the local knowledgfe and contacts and good ones make all the difference to the project.One thing I learnt fast - be direct!  If you say, in typical Brit fashion "I would like.....", Italians tend to hear "If you can be bothered, you could do this...".  If you really want something done in a certain way, always say "I want...".  Sounds rude to British ears, but Italians complain we Brits never say what we mean because we are not direct enough.Of course, I'm not advocating intentional rudeness.  And I do suggest you make attempts on the language asap.  A little goes a long way - especially since your best allies could be your immediate neighbours - and you need to strike up a relationship with them.

 Can anyone help.  We want to have our windows made and installed before we plaster the entire inside of our house but we have been told by the builders that we must plaster the house first.  Is this true.  It is causing a bit of a problem at the moment as we need to make our house as airtight as possible.  In England you can have windows put in first.  So we naturally assumed you could do the same in italy.  Are the builders in italy trying it on or are they being honest. 

 or however it goes...  anyway you can do it whichever way...  because you are the bosswhat would normally be done so your builder is not trying it on is that you would put in the frame that you hang all the window fitments off and then plaster... reason being ... real life measurements taken of the gaps ..for the new builder cannot be told afterwards he got it all wrong.. but practically a house with lots of airflow dries out so much quicker... the builder also has no worries about damage whilst doing the internal plastering...which here in general means for a property that has unstable walls several sprayed layers of cement mix and then maybe a couple of plaster coats depending on the finish you are looking for.. the amount of water held in all that will make your house like a tropical rain forest if you seal it all in ... so you will need dehumidifiers running full it can be done ..your builders are not trying it on... because normally it would be the way they say...i  

My plasterer husband says you can do it either way but here (as Adriatica says) they plaster first, then fix the windows in using an expanding foam. Then the excess foam is cut back and you fill/point around the gap and there is no need to replaster, it will be ready to paint.

In reply to by maureen tease

 as capo says any grants are a benefit only to national tax payers.the other thing you should consider is the kind of house large,very large,small then it's foreseen use.if you intend living there all the time in average to largish house which means 120 sq. metres to a little over 200. then it would definitely be worth your while using a wood fired heating system ( remember however that you'll need a lot of wood,need to store it and feed constantly your fire/stove/boiler thats a lot of wood to move around.if however you're intending to use it mainly for a holiday home ie. in the summer and perhaps just occasionally in the winter then i would suggest a standard gas fired system.if you are are in a remote area using GPL or if available methane.these are in any case efficient and can heat your house very quickly when and where necessary and gas is pretty clean and it's a pay as you go system.You may think that after having spent not a small amount on having a lovely 100 years plus roof restored that you actually wouldn't want to cover it in dismal solar panels...anyway i wouldn't    

  Maureen, I would doubt very much there are any grants available but I'm sure I could be corrected here. There are tax deductions available for solar but to take advantage you must be an Italian taxpayer. (Reduces your tax bill in Italy, but does'nt help if you are an non Italian taxpayer).

  Maybe we throw this debate open, but I'm on sebastiano's side. This is the pure economics as I know it. To install a potential production of just under 3kw from solar, costs around €15,000 (Correct me if I'm wrong.)  In Sardinia (where 300 days of sun is expected for the year, local producers advertise that 3kw of panels will generate an annual output of 4,000 Kw. (Their figures not mine). At say €0.23 per kw from Enel, the cost saving is €920 per year. (4000 * €0.23). So with an initial outlay of €15,000  the payback time is just over 16 years. (€15,000/920). Tax breaks can bring this situation down, but you must be in a position to take advantage of them. Obviosly if Enel prices change, so does the maths....

  bunterboy, where is the 8 year payback coming from? I don't see it on your site link. I can see production capacity for each region but not much more. I realise that there are tax breaks (but I would guess, many people on here don't come under the Italalian tax regime). How do you justify an 8 year payback period?

Ciao, ENEL pay 43.1cents per kw for starters.Regarding the web site, click on your region and then select the options you want, you get a customised report for your own circumstances.Are you registered with ENEL on-line? It could be you need to login first. I'll give it a try myself and repot back.

 I think it would be good to make clear that wet solar panels do not cost €thousands.. about €2,000 actually - and they are very effective partners to wood burning stoves, leading to almost ZERO GAS systems. The PV panel deal is also good because of the cash returns... I have a 4.6Kpa car port so I have already jumped through all the hoops.... I have promised to report back when I am sure that my entire system is indeed ZERO COST. I have described how this is done on  Before that chap complains again I really don't mean this as a commercial plug... my goal is just to make everyone aware that there is a better way to think about the topic... and for the record - I have been taking the time to help on this forum for a long time and never made a penny from it.

Quite so. I have found Sagraiasolar's posts very informative. Solar power really is a no brainer- but, and I suppose it is a BIG BUT. What is the life span of the various components? Will vacuum tube collectors last as long as manufacturers say? Will the PV panels last 25 years or be redundant in 10? How long will a grid tie inverter last? In the end we are essentially forking out for "consumer durables" and this cost (depreciation) has to be taken into account.Changing your solar panels very 9 years would be a bit of a fag- only time will tell. Remember what was said about how you could eat your dinner off a CD -if only!  Time to take the dog for his last walk of the day....

I live in Abruzzo & although I do not live in The Penne area I'm close enough to have recieved some insights into the goings on there. The Penne area is awash with brit builders trying to get work from fellow brits to restore their houses. Some are bound to be genuine, reasonably priced & competent. Some are bound to be complete chancers that will leave you with a screwed up house, little money & a bad taste. Unfortunately, as is the way of the world, I have only heard tell of the latter, so proceed down this avenue with extreem caution & only contract a brit if he can take you to several completed of his jobs to inspect his work & talk to the satisfied customers. His close family members & freinds don't count. Electrical & gas work, as in the UK, has to be signed off if you want the work to have any legal status. I'd actually recommend using Italians, working through an Italian Geometra. There are so many very good Italian tradesmen but the big problem is finding a Geometra that knows his arse from his elbow & has not climbed aboard the Brit gravy train. Go to your local comune, try to strike up a rapport with the Tecnico by introducing yourself, telling him about yourself, where your house is & what you hope to do to it. Take an Italian speaking freind. Ask for recommends for Geometras. He might be reluctant. Persist with good humour & patience. If he only recommends one be aware it might be his cousin. Do a similar thing at the local bars & with your neighbours. Eventually a name will keep cropping up &, so long as everyone is not taking the rise, he will be your man. He will not be cheap but will have a team of good tradesmen at his disposal who, & this is the important bit, rely on this Geometras good will for the never ending supply of work he puts their way, & are therefore good, reasonably priced & will turn up when they are supposed to. You need to have some power over the guys doing the work. A smile & a promise means nothing. The geometra that controls their work-flow is the man to kick arse. The Geometra will charge you 10% + IVA for his work but that will include drawing up plans, liasing with tradesmen, suppliers & the authorities. Get him to confirm, in writing, not just the all-in price but every tiny detail of the work (your house may still be painted red when you asked for yellow) & the completion date. Get him to sign it. If you don't live on the job, or nearby, expect considerable delays. Make sure you or an Italian speaking friend pesters him as often as possible. Sub-frames are standard procedure. They are put in prior to external & internal rendering. The windows & doors come after.  NB. "Plastering" is the british technique of applying a thick plaster backing or roughing coat & then a thinner finnishing coat over that. The universal use of sand & cement renders as an internal wall covering is, coupled with there being no recognition of the need for ventilation, the main reason why Italian houses feel so uncomfortably damp in winter. You can specify plaster base & finish coats but it is not the norm & you'll have to fight. Ask any local Italian what heating he'd put in & he'd say Termocamino. Heats all the rads, hot water, nice glass enclosed jolly flickering fire you can roast half an ox on & will take massive logs. If it's a top floor tiny apartment then maybe a pellet stove is for you. Pilch

that a termocamino is the obvious choice, a log fire is nice, leading water through the radiators, and when you don't have the fire going, you may switch to your normal gas boiler. You may also connect a solar heating system, if you have good exposure to sun. They are not expensive nowadays. PV is also an option, but only for electricity, not heating. The rather large initial cost (now on 4.500 euro/kWp installed, meaning 13.500 euro for a typical 3 kWp need) and the GSE incentives over 20 years however is an investment, that is only relevant if you know that you intend to live here for a while. Payback for installation in 2010 is 7-8 years. In 2011 it will be going up to 10-12 years again due to GSE revising their feed-in tariffs. Of course for Solar heating and PV you should check product warranties, but at least for PV I don't see any problems with finding quality modules/inverters. As long as you don't accept the cheapest chinese brand on the market... Liz

it has all been said already: Get an Italian geometra from the local area who knows both the local situation and the local tradesmen and suppliers. If they are English, be very wary of them unless they are established in the area themselves for several years - check them out with the tecnico at the comune as well as the local bar. Just because something is done in a particular way in the UK doesn't meant that it is either the correct or the only way to do something here in Italy. Likewise, someone's idea of a perfect house will not be the same as anyone elses idea - talk to as many people here as possible and remember that houses here must have seismic protection measures incorporated in them - for your own protection. Good luck.   Beery.

Unfortunately, many italian builders & geometras still see English as folk that will pay over the odds & not be able to do jack about it when the bills double. I know this from experience & speaking to many other brits. Obviously all cannot be tarred with same brush. But if you have the luxury of dealing with a "good" british builder, then apart from having no language barrier & also no middle man to delay your instructions, you will also save at least 10%, because you need to remember that the more expensive the job the bigger the cut for the Geometra, hence their common theme of over speccing a job. Some jobs will require a geometra to sign them off. For jobs that dont require this, I know which way I would go.