Tuesday, September 20, 2016

House Repairs

All through August, the sound of men’s voices talking, laughing and even sometimes disagreeing filled the house.  The deep rumble of the cement mixer, the jackhammer’s pounding and the puffing of the painters’ compressor frequently drowned out the voices, but somehow the cement mason’s radio managed to blare out advertisements and popular songs above all the other noises. This cacophony began promptly at 8:30am and ended abruptly at 5pm every workday. Although our ears ached by the end of each day, the noise was proof that repairs were being done on the house – and we are immensely thankful for the way that the Lord has blessed and directed in this big step!

Our house before repairs.

Our house, number 63 on Rua Hygino Langhi, was built in 1998.  Ten years and several coats of green paint later, we moved in. Over time the green paint faded and someone added spray paint to the décor, but these were least of the problems that we set out to fix last month.

Zaccheaus and helpers mixing cement.
Sr. Renato our realtor and civil engineer introduced us to the necessary workers.  Zaccheaus, the cement mason, was the first to start work on July 29th.  He immediately rented a jackhammer and began breaking up cement in three different places.  The sidewalk was the largest and hardest area that he had to work on. The original sidewalk was a thick layer of concrete covered by granite tiles, but by the time we moved in the granite tiles had been covered with another, thinner layer of concrete.

New sidewalk being laid. 

Time and use cracked all three layers of the sidewalk in a variety of places and it was beginning to crumble. Zaccheaus spent two and a half days removing the worst part of the sidewalk and then mixing cement and laying a new one. He then gave us the responsibility of "watering" the sidewalk several times a day to prevent the top layer of cement from drying out quicker than the bottom layer.

Work on the ramp.

Zaccheaus also broke up a narrow swath of cement on the back veranda, as well as almost half of the ramp which goes from the garage to the downstairs. Our house has two floors and there was a long crack along one side of the veranda and various cracks in the ramp that were allowing water into David’s bedroom and the catch-all room, which we call the shed.  

Laying the asphalt.

Once Zaccheaus had these areas broken up and leveled, Sr. Renato sent Valdecir out to lay a “blanket” of asphalt which permanently sealed the cracks. Zaccheaus then went back over these areas spreading a layer of cement and laying new granite tiles on the ramp and ceramic tile on the veranda.

The "shed".
Speaking of ceramic tile, the tile throughout the house is eighteen years old and it is impossible to find the same or even similar tile in our modern world.  Breaking the veranda tile gave us two options: 1. Spend extra to replace all the tile or 2. Put in mismatched tile. We opted for the mismatched look until I discovered stacks of tile in the back corner of the shed. Most of these stored tiles didn’t belong to this house, but there were 43 tiles that matched the veranda tile! Zaccheaus eventually used 42 of these tiles to patch the veranda.

Reinforcing the outside wall.

As he was working on the ramp, Zaccheaus also spent time reinforcing the outside wall. This wall reaches well over eight feet high in some places and separates our property from the empty lot next door. The wall’s foundation has gradually settled and caused cracks in the wall. To keep these cracks from becoming worse, Zaccheaus chipped off the cement around them, embedded rebar into the wall and then covered it all with new cement.

Chipping off cement in Mom's bedroom.

Once he was done outside of the house, Zaccheaus moved inside to work. He spent several days working on a wall in Mom's bedroom that had a serious humidity problem. He manually stripped off the  wall’s outer layer of cement until the bricks were showing, applied a special sealer and then covered it all with a new coat of cement. While this wall was exposed, we called in our electrician and had him redo the wiring on that side of the room. It is a blessing that this bedroom now has four dry walls, as well as electrical sockets and switches that work.

The bathtub.

Zaccheaus’ last job was to remove the bathtub from the main bathroom. This poor bathtub had a sorry existence which began with being installed incorrectly and ended years later with cracking and leaking water into the downstairs area. The bathtub was already unusable when we moved into the house, but we could stand in the tub and take a shower so it met our needs for a number of years.  Eventually, though, the sand under the bathtub shifted causing the bottom of the tub to crack and making even showering impossible.

Leveling the floor.

Considering that bathtubs are uncommon in Brazilian homes, Sr. Renato suggested that we remove it, lay ceramic tile and make a simple shower box, instead of installing a new tub. Zaccheaus brought some helpers with him and did just that! As the shower floor neared completion, we again faced the dilemma of matching old ceramic tile and this time the stacks of tile in the shed failed us. Thankfully, I met a helpful saleslady at the construction store. She helped me find a new tile which complements the existing tile in the bathroom. Now that the new tile and shower box have been installed, the bathroom has a modern air about it – just as the saleslady predicted it would. :)

The new shower box.

Zaccheaus and a plumber he knows removed the bathtub and its pipes on a Friday afternoon. The next morning the water reservoir in the attic began overflowing. Since our plumber couldn’t come out until Monday, we went the weekend with the water shut off at the street. Monday morning early the plumber arrived and replaced the buoy which controls the incoming water. Later that afternoon, he changed the buoy again because the reservoir continued to overflow and run off the roof. This second buoy still did not solve the problem, so we called the plumber who had removed the bathtub to see what he could do. He wasn’t sure what was causing the overflow, but a colleague of his eventually found a pipe in the bathroom that had been left open and was allowing water to run through the pipes and back up to the reservoir. Moments after the pipe was closed, we sighed with relief as the street water was turned on and the reservoir DID NOT run over. A few hours later, though, the reservoir was still doing just fine but we discovered that the hot water system was dry. Guess who we had to call again? The plumber came out one last time, removed air from the hot water pipes and since then there has been water in the pipes where it should be and no water running off the roof where it shouldn’t be! 

Painting begins!
Four days after Zaccheaus began his work here at the house, Silvano and his team of three painters arrived to begin their work. It was interesting - and frequently stressful - to notice how Zaccheaus and his helpers were the polar opposite of Silvano and his group. Zaccheaus is a good worker, but exceptionally slow in everything he does. His helpers were just like him. Silvano, on the other hand, is an energetic little man who keeps his team hopping from morning to evening. The painters came to the point several times of working right on the cement masons’ heels. Mom and I could tell that this frustrated Silvano, but thankfully he was consistently patient.

All the metalwork.
It had been about eight years since the house had been painted last, so Silvano and his crew had a lot of work to bring things up to par. They started off painting everything that was metal. This included windows, the guardrail along the side of the upper story and the heavy gates at both ends of the garage. The front garage gate had several places that were rusting out at its base, but the painters expertly filled these places with a plastic paste, sanded it down and then painted over it. We chose to keep all the metalwork white. That first day it was so nice to see dirty, rusty paint, sanded off and then covered by coat after coat of fresh white paint. That afternoon, though, I was shocked to see the new paint speckled with tiny black insects. I asked one of the painters about it, and he matter-of-factly responded, “Oh, they like the smell of paint. After the paint dries and they die, you can wash them off with a sponge.” 
He then added “There are also some larger bugs with long wings that are attracted to wet paint too.” I am happy to report that the larger insects never arrived and the smaller ones did wash off easily!

Truck full of books.
Let me rewind just a little and say that before the painting started, Joy and João Carlos came over and picked up the last of the books that we had stored here. These were books that Dad had printed and now Joy and João are selling on their online store. I thought moving the books would be pretty simple, but it took the better part of a day (and a lot of sweat!) to move all the boxes out of the downstairs storage rooms, up the ramp, load them into a truck and then unloaded them at their new storage place.

Empty storage room.

Having the books gone made it much easier to paint and later clean up the downstairs area, and it gives us less to move when the time comes for that.

The foam and I.

Right about the time that the books were being moved, I spent two days removing the acoustic foam from the sound room’s ceiling and walls. A good part of the foam pulled off the walls in complete panels or at least large chunks, but there were several places where I had to scrape it off inch by inch.

Removing glue in the sound room.

When the painters moved in to paint the sound room, they spent almost two full days scraping and applying chemicals to remove the remaining glue from the walls. Their efforts paid off and the sound room looks very nice now.

Applying water repellent paint.

There were three other walls in the downstairs area of the house that also required extra attention from the painters. One of these was the back wall of David’s bedroom. This wall runs right along our property line and since there is no house built behind us, it is completely exposed to the weather. During the dry season, the paint on this wall tends to peal and the rainy season makes the pealing even worse. Silvano, the head painter, did two things to mitigate this problem. First, he applied water repellent paint to the outside of the wall, and then he had his men texture the inside of the wall before they painted it. The texture adds a nice accent wall to the room, but most importantly it helps the paint adhere better. Hopefully it will be able to withstand the sun and rain of this coming year!

Wall with ongoing humidity.
The other two problematic walls downstairs have long-standing infiltration problems. Our road runs along the side of a hill. The lots across the street from us are all higher than the road, while the lots on our side of the road are below street level. The man who built our house went ahead and built the downstairs below street level and the upstairs even with the road. Whoever built our next-door neighbor’s house filled in the lot to bring it up to the street level before they built, and as a result we have two downstairs walls that are against dirt and constantly damp. There is no easy way to solve this problem. Sr. Renato said the best way to deal with it is to regularly repaint these walls. The painters invested extra time and effort to scrape all the bubbly paint off, then apply texture and several coats of fresh paint to these particular walls.

Repairs are finished!
Just as Zaccheaus and Silvano were finishing up our house repairs, we had a weekend of rain. It laid the dust and calmed our allergies, but it also leaked in on one dining room wall. Silvano very kindly went up on the roof to see what the problem might be and found that the gutter was cracked and holding water. Since then, we have had Claudinei, the gutter man, out multiple times to repair the old guttering and add on some new where necessary.

Mom and I

These house repairs have been physically and emotionally draining on Mom and I, but words fail us to express how wonderful it is to have them done! We sincerely appreciate all who pray for us and also give to meet our needs!!  Our house is now officially for sale. Sr. Renato has taken pictures and will be putting an advertisement in the local paper as well online. We look forward to seeing how the Lord will direct and provide in this next step, just as He has up until now.


  1. I am so glad to see your blog and the pictures and details concerning renovating the house for the market. Some years ago I enjoyed quite extensive correspondence with Bro. Gardner, and found him to be indeed "a kindred spirit." Now he is rejoicing with his Lord and Saviour, and we pray God's continued watchcare over his family who are left behind. Someday you'll join him, by God's sovereign grace and power. Till then, labor on! Keep your eyes on the Goal, and may God richly bless each of you. Where are your sons now? Wylie (Whitaker) Fulton, Forest City NC - USA.

  2. "Where are your sons now?" perhaps more properly should have read "Where are your BROTHERS?" wwf

  3. The work is never done.I'll pray for you.

  4. So much sounds familiar! Glad you finally had the repairs done.