welcome to emmas housethought

building update

Weather report: fine, fine, fine, fine, fine!
Injuries to left hand: 5 Injuries to rest of body: 2

All those injuries are perhaps the best indictor that I’ve been working hard. But to explain where I’m at, I’ll start from very beginning.

My annexe, behind the house, is a cute little 20sqm room which used to be a storeroom with a stone oven at the rear. Here’s how it looked when I bought the house.

the annexe

The annexe is destined to be a bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, which I will move into while work continues on the main house. I spent about 7 months of last year making the hole for the bathroom. There was a whole lot of bedrock to dig out, and for a long time I resisted using a jackhammer, so much of it was done by hand! Gallery of pictures click here.

Eventually, the hole was deep enough. I put down agricultural drainage and laid a concrete base and walls to compensate for the lack of foundations under the existing walls. Originally those walls sat on a ‘flat’ base of bedrock, but since I have sliced the bedrock so that it forms the lower part of the walls, the stone walls have a lot less supporting them. Hence the reinforced cement sides.

annexe-wall the annexe floor

As part of the oven demolition I removed the back wall of the annexe. So my next step was to repair the holes where the back wall met the side walls. I did this as a part of repointing the two adjacent walls (see productive days). In the last week I have finished the top of the neighbours wall, to secure the loose stones and fix them so that they drain water away from my bathroom-to-be. I think it looks quite nice. I’m sure the neighbours (who ran away to Brazil during the Salazar years) would be happy, if they knew.

annexe mortar

Next I slapped on a treatment which is meant to stop ‘salitre’ or ‘saltpetre‘ which is the mortar degrading via salts being pushed to the surface… we don’t want this even on an unseen wall because it will fill up the air space between old walls/new walls with salty dust and will clog the drainage.

Next, I’m going to lay some bricks… Say goodbye to the neighbours’ wall. It’s the last time it will see daylight for a while… going… going…

neighbours wall


  1. ian June 22, 2009 11:14 pm Reply

    What a delight to read! Your humour thread is much in evidence as you chronicle your renovation project. I think Portugal is great too 🙂 I’ll pop back soon.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 24th, 2009 at 2:09 am

    Thanks Ian, I’m hoping to get back to some building sometime soon – I’ve got some lovely bags of clay and fancy sand types to play around with…but I’ve been busy cutting grass and preparing for visitors and being sick. Dammit!

    [Reply to comment]

  2. Anna Walter July 3, 2009 8:53 pm Reply

    This is a wonderful find.. your blog. Emma. I live herein Portugal too. A kindred spirit..without a current building project .. but with you in spirit..

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 20th, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Thanks Anna. Viva!

    [Reply to comment]

  3. Arthur May 18, 2010 7:00 pm Reply

    Hi Emma.. I first read your site over six months ago.I had found it by accident after returning from Portugal then i lost the whatever the thing is called on the computer.I am an absolute dinosaur with this little Grey monster,but it has its uses. But tonight again by accident I rediscovered you,,,. I too fell in love with Portugal.I had been to Lisbon over twenty years ago and six months ago myself and four friends stayed with on of my friends relatives in Ansaio.Seriously did not want to return to oz,( better tell you right up front,I am a Fiercely patriotic Brit as well as Queenslander ) Big Trouble lol. I returned to Portugal last Feb and brought a place near Areias between Alvaiazere and Figerra dos Z ( still cant spell it ). back here in Bris, saving like crazy to get back and start my renos,hope to stay on little patch for at least three plus years.. Please keep adding snippets on building etc.. I think sourcing things and building workers may be fun but also I fear it will have more than its share of headaches,, apart from a few people i have meet I will be in the deep end..(hope its just water lol)not to worry small price to pay.. With finding my place i was lucky to find the services of Sarah and Fernando at PP-Portugal. Keep writing regards. Arthur.E.Grice..

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: May 23rd, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Thanks Arthur. I am on the verge of a bit of building (my licence is running out so I really must do something)… so building updates there will be…. stay tuned… 🙂 oh and “Zezere”. I can write it but not say it…

    [Reply to comment]

  4. Eva March 1, 2012 12:17 pm Reply

    Hi Emma,
    I just came across your blog and enjoyed every word. I am of Portuguese decent with my father being born in Valenca da Minho the Northern part of Portugal. I have been to Portugal twice and fell in love with the country. I live in the the USA in Rhode Island, 50 miles from Boston, Ma.
    I have to give you a lot praise for undertaking such a big project, but I know it will be beautiful in the long run. Good luck and God Bless.
    Ps. Will be looking forward to seeing your up dates.

    [Reply to comment]

  5. Gonzalo July 27, 2012 3:50 pm Reply

    Hi Emma,

    I chanced upon your blog serendipitously while searching for a Portuguese chicken recipe. I love it. The blog. And the recipe. I was born in San Francisco but grew up in Southeast Asia, and for years I have been thinking seriously of doing the very same as you have done–buying a fixer upper somewhere in Europe (your story is sort of like the Portuguese version of ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, and ‘A Year in Provence’) and living the life!

    I will now share this site with my wife as she has the same dream as I do, and hopefully your entertaining chronicles will push us into finally making the move. Thanks for letting us into your wonderful world! Cheers

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 27th, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    wow gonzalo thanks! nice to meet you!

    [Reply to comment]

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