Sunday 21 June 2015

Interior Design Day (Bemusterung)

On Friday we went to Heinsberg for the "bemusterung" which basically means we get to view samples of and choose all the interior deco. We travelled the 450km the day before and stayed in Hotel "am Park" in the neighboring town of Hueckelhoven.  The hotel room was large, clean and up to the standard you'd expect from a 3* hotel, and they remembered to set up a cot for Sophie.  Dinner was also on Allkauf by way of a €30 voucher.  This more-or-less covered the food, which was very good although the schnitzel was a bit on the greasy side.  After Friday breakfast we set off on the 15 minute drive to the "bemusterungs centre" in Heinsberg.

We were greeted in the car park by the Allkauf representative who helped us unload the car and set up the pram. We then headed in to the centre where he gave us a brief overview of the agenda, then we got started.

First up was the bathroom suite.  There were two sinks to choose from included in the price. One was more rounded and the other squarer.  We chose the squarer one for the upstairs bathroom along with a matching toilet.  There were four standard taps to choose from so we selected a fairly standard one from Hansgrohe.  Also included in the base price was an accessories set including a toilet roll holder, towel rail and mirror but we decided not to take these as we could easily get better ones for less elsewhere.

Bathroom Sink and Tap

Also in the standard price of the house was a "wellness" bathroom suite including a freestanding bath. We considered for a while whether we really wanted this and decided instead to go for a corner bath for practical reasons. Firstly it would be a pain to have to always clean behind the bath tub and secondly, once Sophie gets to the age she starts to enjoy splashing in the tub it will be easier to mop up around a built in corner bath. There was very little difference in price so by changing the bath we only saved €10.

Free standing bath out...
...corner bath in (without the jacuzzi feature)

The "wellness" suite also includes a wet room shower unit complete with a rainforest shower head.  For an additional €50 we also upgraded to glass coated with a water repellant layer for easy cleaning.  The shower floor will be white stone (see photo below right) with the rest of the floor in grey tile. The side of the bath will be done with a mosaic effect in the same grey and the wall behind the bath and shower will also be in grey. The rest of the wall will be in white using the same tiles as pictured above (behind the corner bath).  These were not standard though and cost an extra €700. Generally the tile selection for wall and floor was excellent with something for every taste.

Shower (left)      Floor tiles (right)

For the downstairs bathroom we decided on the more rounded sink but smaller (55cm) than pictured below as the room is quite small (just 5m²) saving us €100.

Large version of the sink for the downstairs bathroom

A shower in the downstairs bathroom was not standard but we had already added this in during our meeting with the architect.  We decided on a standard Hansgrohe mixer tap for this. Unlike in the upstairs bathroom, the shower will have a basin at the bottom but we can set this into the floor by not laying the final layer of substrate.  This means it will only have a lip of a few centimeters above floor level (as long as we remember to do this later).  The walls will be in standard white tile and the floor will be the same as for the rest of the ground floor (below right)

Downstairs shower (left)      Floor tiles for the ground floor (right)

Next up were the interior doors with around 10 to choose from in the standard packet.  We decided on the door pictured below left with the handle shown below right.

Following on from the doors we were taken to the laminate section to choose the flooring for the bedrooms. There was a limited selection of 5 available without extra cost so it didn't take us long to decide on the design second from bottom in the below picture.

The front door was next.  We can't remember exactly how many there were to choose from as the Allkauf representative could only show us the closest model to the door we already chose via the architect.  They didn't have the exact model, or any door in the same colour.  The only change we made was to upgrade the handle to the one shown on the door below for an extra €20.

In the same section we could see a mockup of the roof tiles, windows and walls.  We already knew we wanted to go for a traditional Black Forest style of terracotta roof, wooden windows and doors and white walls but for some reason in the paperwork they had listed a dark "bordeaux red" roof tile.  The Allkauf representative was of the opinion that the dark red looks better but we stuck with our initial decision and went with the lighter red.

Roof, window, wall combination with terracotta & bordeaux roof tiles

On to the stairs, these are in solid wood from the cellar up to the 1st floor. Allkauf has two options to choose from, metal or wooden rails.  We went with the metal ones as pictured below.

That was it.  Now the Allkauf team just had to calculate the costs.  They estimated it would take about an hour and a half to do and recommended we go to a Chinese restaurant for lunch while they do the working out. We wandered down to the restaurant (which turned out to have a rather good lunchtime buffet) feeling positive about our choices but apprehensive about the extra costs.

On returning to Allkauf the representative asked us how much extra we thought we would have to pay. We cautiously guessed €1,000 so were surprised when he told us we only have to pay an extra €75! We assumed this was due to the €500 voucher we received from Allkauf when we bought the house but when we asked if this is the case it turns out he had forgotten about the voucher! This meant we had €425 still to spend as they don't pay this out.

We decided to upgrade the tap on the upstairs shower to one with a built in thermostat that allows a maximum temperature of 38°c for €150.  We also chose a letterbox for €275.  We normally wouldn't pay this for a letterbox but thought we could splash out just this once. Now with the voucher we still only had to pay €40 extra.

Our new "high-end" letterbox

Finally we just had to sign all the paperwork and then we received our free iPad. After a shaking of hands we set off home, happy that we had made the right decisions.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Show Home and Garage

As the sampling day is this friday we drove up to the show home display in Fellbach (where we originally bought the house) on Sunday to look at some of the interior decorations of the show homes.  There are about 40 in total so we expected it to take a while!

As we were walking in we saw our Allkauf salesman and went over to say hello.  He immediately invited us for a coffee and a chat to see where we were up to with the build.  We explained the current situation and mentioned about the garage issue and the lack of clarity as to who will do what.  His wife immediately wrote an email to Allkauf central office about it and they said they would let us know what the outcome is.

We spent a couple of hours looking at various show homes (most of them in the obligatory white and grey style that is the current trend here), but there were a few designs and colour combinations we liked so we have some idea of what we would like to go for.

Shortly after arriving home (on Sunday afternoon) we had a call from the architect regarding the garage.  He said that we only need a foundation and that the cellar company should be able to do this for us directly so he will talk to then to arrange this.  We do have to pay for the foundations though but it isn't as much as an entire floor.

We're very happy with the service from Allkauf so far.  I hope they are as proactive and quick to resolve problems as we get to the more intensive building phase. Time will tell.

Here are a few colour combinations we like:

Saturday 13 June 2015

Site Meeting 1

Yesterday we had our site meeting with the cellar, ground worker, and water companies. Following a fairly strict protocol from Allkauf, the guy from the cellar company went over the details of what needs to be done and who will be responsible for what. They discussed everything from where the pipes should enter the cellar, to the depth of the hole and the location for the crane.

There were a couple of important points for us that we need to organise from our side that are not done by Allkauf:

1. Road closure & signage for the cellar build (min 1 day costs about €60)
2. Portaloo, site electricity and site water supply (will be about €200/month)
3. Arrange for someone to lay the foundations and floor of the garage (est. €5,000)

We were slightly annoyed about point 3 as we had assumed that when we were sold the garage the foundations and floor would be included but Allkauf haven't sent the cellar builders a contract to lay these so it looks like we will have to organise and pay for this. He estimated €5,000 extra costs but we can't contract him directly as he is already contracted by Allkauf. This means we will have to contract Allkauf to contract him, which will inevitably increase the cost. We'll call Allkauf on Monday to see if we really do have to pay for this ourselves or if it was a mistake their end and it should be included in the price. Fingers crossed.

While we were on site there was a lot of work going on opposite our plot where they are now digging the cellar for one of our neighbours houses (also from Allkauf). There was also work going on on some of the other plots so it won't be long until a few more houses are up.

At the end of the meeting we asked about timescales and found out that the official planning permission was approved on Thursday but there is now a 4 week "cooling off" period where we can't do anything. The cellar builders also won't start work until we have the final price of the house and the confirmation from the bank that they will cover this. This will add a couple of weeks delay as we can't get the final price until after our sampling appointment next Friday. He estimated we would be able to begin in 7 weeks but it would depend on his and the ground workers workforce and their holiday plans too. We are pretty sure now that we won't be moved in until early next year which is a shame but not entirely unexpected.

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Design Appointments

On Saturday we received an official invitation from Allkauf to visit their "sampling centre". It's in this appointment that we can select everything from the colour of the roof tiles to the type of door handles we want (they basically take us to their local DIY store specifically for people or companies building a house). We already knew the invite was on its way as they called us last week to let us know that someone had cancelled their appointment and to ask if we could go up on 19th June (next Friday) at 8:30am. Obviously we said yes as we don't know how long we would have to wait otherwise.

The DIY centre is in Heinsberg, which is northwest of Cologne and not far from Mönchengladbach. That's about 450km/280 miles away. Allkauf will pay for us to stay in Hotel am Park in the neighboring village of Hückelhoven and have sent us the booking details of our double room with a cot. Breakfast and dinner the night we arrive are also included.

Another important appointment is now also planned in for 24th July. This time it's to visit Impuls-Küche to plan our kitchen. The house comes with a basic L shaped kitchen comprised of three wall cupboards, one corner unit, two standard cupboards and a sink/drainer unit, along with white goods, oven and ceramic hob from Bauknecht, and worktops.

Obviously we will need to make adjustments and order further units to build our ideal kitchen and this is of course possible. Our plan is to have a larger "U" shaped kitchen with an induction hob overlooking the living room. Impuls have planned in four hours to complete the plans!

Here's a diagram of the basic kitchen included with the house:

Planning Permission Progress

On 29th May we received a call from the Planning Office in Tiefenbronn to let us know that the planning permission has been provisionally approved and we are now in the two week wait while the application is publicised and potential comments or complaints can be made.

She also let us know that the architect had sent her some amendments to help speed up the process (he also called us to let us know this was going to be submitted). Unfortunately the new documents also needed to be signed by us so she put them in the post and we received them the following day, signed them and sent them back so there would be no delay. All going well we should receive the final planning permission this Friday!

After reviewing a few different offers we have decided on a groundworks company local to Lehningen that was recommended to us by others building their house in Lehningen. They also prepared the entire building site so know the land well.

Soon we should finally be able to start building!