Tuesday, October 20, 2015

HOUSE UPDATE: What wasn't in the Blueprint was always bound to be a mishkila & 4x4ing tile from UAE

So, walls for all the floors are built. Ceilings are there. That's something right?

It looks like an ugly grey cement house.

They all look like that in Oman, just a pile of cinder block and grey streaked cement drying in the sun, and then suddenly they're all plastered and painted... and look great until someone adds some ghastly stained glass or weird tinted windows and fake stone or all-over bathroom-shower-style shiny marble, am I right? {Shudders.}


Serriously, I wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night sometimes and imagine someone has covered my house in mismatched iron railings and bad fake stone with stained-glass peacock or ships-sailing windows.

I remember driving up to see a house a realtor recommended to us, back when we were thinking about buying rather than building, and seeing the owner/construction-company-owner who built-it drive up to show us where said house was in the most horribly ghastly car you ever saw. I told my husband from that moment we should run. If the man had money and chose that car to drive around for himself, for sure the house he built for re-sale would be filled with terrible design decisions. And it was, oh it was... I wish I had taken photos to share with you, but at the time, I was crying, that we'd never find a house in Oman that I liked that I could afford in Muscat...

I still feel that way, even I am now in charge of designing and overseeing my own home. I am haunted by all the things that can go wrong yet in the process, ugly facade choices, aside.

We are still telling the site engineer about where we want things, like ACs placedment, and plugs, switches, and sockets, and lights, and like, no showers in the living room's bathroom... because, like, I don't think my guests need to have showers unless I know them well enough for them to like, go upstairs and use the family bathrooms. I dunno. Guess I am not Omani-enough to do the odd extra sink for hand-washing, or shower in the living room/majlis room...

Good thing to know for the future, is ALWAYS ALWAYS always always force the engineering office to include where you want pipes and ACs OR check with the site engineer BEFORE the ceilings get poured or support beams go in places. They were all like, oh you can change all that later with your site engineer... But that's hard to do, a lot of work for the site engineer, hard to read on pencilled-over-crossed-out floor plans after the fact. It'll always be easy for the site manager to pass the blame onto you when he's confused and does something wrong, because, like, you didn't get it into the blue prints.

Better to get EVERYTHING into the blue print in the beginning. Because after a certain point, if you missed it, and you will, because you can't expect your site engineer to have amazing memorization or mindreading skills, there'll be a number of mishkila you need to deal with. I am still not Omani enough to deal with "mishkila" on stuff I'd already told someone about once. I have plans, and I keep them. So I can respect people who follow the blueprints and ultimately DO blame myself that I didn't insist on puting our changes INTO print from the first place.


I wanted to, but my husband was like, go with it, it'll be fine.

Everything in Oman is "it'll be fine" until it is,  "mishkila".

Ever read "Angry in Oman" s blog? She did a hilariously true post about getting curtains made and that being a mishkila.

Building a house is like 100x that ammount of mishkila, usually. I have a good Omani engineer/architect (but his office staff I like a little less---they didn't want to make any changes for me after the fact) do the floorpplan and he was a good listener, a good responsible construction company (which means they cover the expense of their own mistakes and deliver on time), and, miskeen, a rather confused site engineer, who like, got yelled at by my kitchen cabinetry designer (She's a Westerner) and by me (a Westerner) in the last two months. I have all these things better than most people I know working on their houses, and still, I have mishkila to deal with.

Case in point, I didn't want an AC on the wall on one side of my house, even a split unit, because of how I intend to use the space. And the architect and engineer for the blueprints are like, yeah put it right over that super expensive feature window the family are puting in because THAT'LL LOOK JUST GREAT!!!!! Aghhhh....

Ok, so we could scoot the AC over a little, and I could live with that, and save the window treatment I had planned, but it looks (will look) less nice now for sure.

But again, I could swallow that, because I should have got it put into the blueprints, and I didn't ask the site engineer about it until it was too late.

But, a couple of things we couldn't change...

I bought my kitchen cabinetry from out of Oman. I like real wood, not aluminum, and I am getting it and my appliances delivered. Appliances are coming from Germany I think? And cabinets coming from US, and Turkey... Fan placement for the kitchen, sink placement, counter-placement, are all different in my kitchen design than what an Omani architect figured in the blue prints. As a result I had to change my kitchen layout and put my oven right next to my sink... not what I wanted but I get to have proper ventilation.

Again...I can live with that. I have to suck it up.

But what I couldn't live with, and had a major major major freak out on the site engineer, is we told him we wanted two large chandeliers (no ceiling fan---no ceiling lights in the corners---and no spot lights) in the living room, and we even got him to mark their places with chalk and the electrician taped where to put them. It was actually a lot of work because I had to work out couch placement, TV placement, to gauge where exactly the light should go to have classical symettry but still work for lighting the space. We said the same for the kitchen, and lo and behold, both kitchen and living room had spotlight placements, and ceiling fan placements, and no chandelier spots from where we actually wanted lighting in our rooms.

For example, my kitchen has a dining/island area. No lights are above it, at all.

I freaked out. The site engineer was like, "Your husband said-"

I was like, "I don't freakin' care what my husband said! I told you! I measured it for you! You marked it down, I remember! This is my house! I am buying it understand? NOT HIM!" and the poor engineer went so quiet with these big scared sad eyes, and I stormed off site.

The construction company owner came to the site. He was like, "can't you just put two small chandliers and one big chandelier?"

His suggestion would have made me insane!

If we took his suggestion, not only would our lighting still be terribly terribly wrong for placement, but, it would also be a hell of a lot more expensive, because it would mean buying more expensive lighting (in Muscat good chandeliers are not cheap, and anything I like is in the 200-1000 OMR range depending on size).

So I am mentally like, I am so going to hit him! and my husband is like, "uh, no. We bought the lights already". We did. We went to China and bought chandeliers, and other lighting. Way cheaper there. Anything 200 omr here is less than 150 USD there. Shipping still hurts a little. We bought a lot for our home so paid for two containers... original budget was just one container.

So now we have to do "tanzeel"/gyps for the ceiling. Thankfully, our construction company is decent, and they'll pay for the gyps, since covering a whole ceiling in the smallest room is like another 200 omr, and then I am like, there would go the new cupboard for my daughter from my budget (I have a budget for everything and no space to move on it since my kitchen is expensive).

And we technically told them the changes on that BEFORE it was too late for it to be our fault. Although, technically, could have gotten it put into the blueprint before the ceiling was even in, just saying...

So, yeah... and the first thing that has to be finished for electricity, plumbing, plastering, gyps work, and tiling, is the kitchen, because I get charged every week that the cabinetry company has to store it in Oman before installation. This is my next big worry. The deadline for this is December 1rst.

Wait and see for that. Right now there is a giant hole in the floor of the kitchen so plastering? Don't know when that's happening.
Random Mosque we stopped at on the road trip for tile from Sharjah in the UAE. Because this is the closest I have gotten to a kid-free vacation with my husband in two years;)
Next on the list, 4x4ing tile from the UAE:

On the trip to China I bought a lot of things... but not tile for my kitchen. I just didn't find anything and I only had a couple of days. In Muscat, I have literally been everywhere and like absolutely nothing. Not that what I was looking for was that special either...
Kitchen wall (and backsplash) wall tile samples
Kitchen floor tile
I did however, go to Sharjah in the UAE multiple times and found some options I liked there in Etihad center and along some of the side roads [Torch Building Materials, in the Union Mall/Etihad Centre, is where I eventually got my kitchen tiles].
So a couple of weeks a go I made my husband borrow a friend's pickup and we drove to Sharjah and I dropped only 200 omr for tile I think rocks with the colour of my cabinets, and a few other things, we forgot about, like faucets for some of the sinks, and showerheads... I would buy from China, but I like some brands... and I would buy in Muscat but a lot of brands are overpriced AND fakes. So, yeah, Sharjah.
I don't know why, but the store for the tile place was a million miles in the opposite direction of the tile showroom. It was also way off-roading (lots of trucks were getting themselves stuck in the sand) and as we were being jostled around, trying to find the place, we were like, woah! How are we not going to break our ceramics out here? That was our biggest fear... breaking our tiles since they weren't porcelain and not that thick. That, and the Torch Building Materials store site closing...before we got there... Say, we bought our tile at eleven, it took one hour to drive to the industrial storage area where the tile store was located, and the store closes at one, and after one we still hadn't found it (although it was open when we got there because we kept lying on the phone to the guys who worked there saying we were five minutes away when we had no idea where we were). It was just that hard to find.

So my husband wanted to just hire someone to drive what we bought back to Oman, but total cheapo that I am, I was like, think of it like some "Top Gear" adventure, that we are totally off-roading and over-loading the poor pick-up in a challenge to get the tiles unbroken and to Muscat in the next six hours for the cost of only gas and a lot of coffee.

I honestly didn't trust anyone to care about my stuff as much as I did.
...And I was right to think that way.

I don't think many Omani women go to industrial area construction storage sites, but in the end my husband was glad that I insisted on driving my own stuff (I simply trust competance in the GCC to be  a 0.0001% ratio on any given day) and I noticed that they were loading the right model of tile for me, but the wrong colour. [So if we paid someone to pick up and drive our stuff, I'd have paid to have delivered the wrong tile, awesome]. I also noticed, when the guys in the store loaded broken tiles, and so, by watching them, I got what I wanted, and made sure it wan't broken before we left to drive through sand and bumpy dirt roads with it, anyways.
How Omani are we?! Rockin' the faux sheepskin, tissue box on the dash, i-phone car charger, plug-in bukhoor burner ;)
Amazingly, nothing broke. Not even the truck. And it wasn't even, like, a strong truck (it was a Great Wall). But it was super slow going. And we had to go to Dubai first to get a car part for a friend.
Best lamb tangine I have had in FOREVER! Oman so does not have options when it comes to Moroccan food.
Best thing ever though, was going for dinner at a nice hotel in Dubai and someone valet parking the poor Great Wall LOL!

But no one will steal your stuff in a nice hotel restaurant's private garage area. Knowing that, we could sit back, relax, enjoy something other than schwarma and Yemeni mandhi before reaching Muscat. {Why is it, that on the road from UAE to Oman, there's like nothing until Sohar, and in Sohar, you've got, like pizza hut and McDonalds?????}.

We still had Arabian;) but it was Moroccan. I love Moroccan food.

Back to the house...So I have all my building materials now, until after the painting stage, or stuff for the yard and balconies. Getting the plastering done, everything properly wired and plumbed, and then starting on tiling, is next.

Agh. Worringly, Site Engineer still has a place for a shower marked on the wall in the downstair's powder room... that's a mishkila waiting to happen...



Nadia said...

Ok, so you're my new hero. I'm in the designing phase of the house, we're just about to approach an architect to make the design official in 2D and 3D. Then I guess we need to find a contractor. I'm TERRIFIED. Like T E R R I F I E D.

I want things to be perfect, but an American friend told me to prepare myself for being permanently-pissed during the entire building phase.

I have a zillion questions to ask you ... namely where you designed your kitchen (I want wood! an island! a nook!).....

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Nadia: a good contractor is the most important! That and an architect who listens to you (I went through a dozen who sucked).

I didn't bother with a 3d floor plan, what I did was made myself on just posterboard, a small scale model of each floor in the floorplan, that way I could play with window placement, door opening and closing, and furniture placement with real furniture I wanted to buy to make sure everything fit perfectly. They charge way too much for 3D stuff in Oman. I'm cheap. Old school works just fine. All you need is poster board, a box-cutter, paper, labels, a ruler or metric stick, and a calculator for measurement conversion for the scale (and write down your scale so you've saved it in case you change your mind later about shower-to-a-bathtub ect). My husband says I should buy the software to make 3D designs for people, because it shouldn't cost as much as it does... but lol, no thanks. People in Oman have some crazy ideas about what a house should look like and how it should function that I don't share.

Whenever shopping for any building materials, I photograph them, take the model number, the price, write down the shop, and contact information, and the measurements of the item (and shipping information if required). I kept an online file of all my dream materials , that way I could work out a budget what I could afford and not afford. If your contractor chooses all the materials, you don't have to do this, but will get a more cookie-cutter type of bathroom ect... or tiling.

That aside, my husband has a book in Arabic that tells you all the stages of building that really helps to let you know when you should check things in-process with the site engineer... made for Oman. Canadian house building stages is sooooooo different. I miss HOME DEPOT;).I'll write a blog post about it if I can. Thing for me, is I am trusting my husband to keep on track of stuff for me, when really, let's face it, he's not a detailed keep-a-schedule-100% kind of person.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

For kitchen cabinetry, I'd totally say it depends on your budget... Islands are easy, so long as you get the plumbing and electricity points for them figured out so you can tell your engineer/architect... Wall fitting cabinets are harder for measurements... Nothing is ever exact, so like, how a site engineer will plan for cabinetry placement even with an exact kitchen lay-out, is different than how and cabinetry specialist will want points placed (my designer refused to tell the site engineer her floorplan in exact centimeters and made the points more general, that way they couldn't screwed up by anyone and if they were she would be to blame and her company would eat the cost not me). Generally, if you don't want a traditional Omani cabinetry lay-out (3 walls at least, totally covered in cabinets) you have to tell the engineer, that like, you intend your sink to be in this area, you cooking hob, and oven, these areas. Those things matter in the original bluepint, as does ventilation. Same with, where you want acs. With bedrooms, think of where you want beds to face and how you like your ACs, and where cupboards are to go/fit (mention general sizes---most Omani cupboard sizes on a master bedroom are NOT like, Western Ikea cupboard sizes;) ). With bathroom, mention tub sizes, showers, ect... I changed mine after the fact and have to squeeze some things. How you want windows to be placed... which way doors should open. Window way openings can usually be decided later but doors should be done in the floorplan. Be tough with the floorplan designer... they often have their own ideas about what is best for you (mine told me I mean to my relatives lol because I didn't want a seperate majlis area).

I bought cherry wood cabinetry from Linea Decor (Hera model) and Frank appliances. They didn't have a lot of selection though on their wooden stuff. Franke has a dealer in Ruwi (my counters I will get done myself since it costs less outside the dealership) and also with the deisgner I used. Linea decor has a designer in Al Bahja mall. My kitchen designer is named Despia. It is a bit expensive for what it is though... if you are really really good, in China, I know a Chinese Muslim who helps business people find building materials and he knows some gorgeous kitchen cabinetry makers... if you had your exact kitchen designed there and shipped here, in wood, you'd save a lot but risk having bad installation of it in Oman... I have a few carpenters in my family so it'd work for me (unfortunately none of them are permanently willing to move to Oman to open an affordable wooden cabinetry business with me lol). I also liked American Kitchens in Al Athaiba but realized their brand cabintry could be purchased independently from the US via container, and cost less (installation would still be the trouble). So I went with Linea Decor and stressed how not-modern my design ethic is. May still buy a pantry cabintry from American Kitchen later... if I have any money left over.

Anonymous said...

Ahem. I am Nadia's friend that warned her of being pissed off during construction. Ha. I am on building house no.3.

Might be too late, but....we did the whole wood cabinet thing. 3 kitchens worth in one of the villas. My advice to others who havent ordered their cabinets yet - do aluminum for the 'cooking kitchen'.
Better yet, if you can afford it - industrial stainless. If you have a maid (s), give them a year and that wood will be destroyed. First to go are the doors under the kitchen sink. And yes, i have a dishwasher but they still managed to water log everything. Also you may think you can be tricky and save money by not tiling behind cabinets. Well remember our walls here are concrete and there will be moisture content no matter what. Just buy cheap white tile to go behind base cabinets and go all the way with your backsplash! We did German kitchens (3 again- yes, i love kitchens) in one villa (shop in qurum next to my cupcake). Lovely, but overpriced. Majorly.

Dont fret over the lights - before i read that your builder is 'fixing' his mistake with false ceiling I was saying to myself, 'she just needs to do false ceiling and voila'

My other advice:
1. Dont skimp on plumbing pipes.
2. Dont put sockets half way up the wall.
3. Dont put switches 3/4 up the wall.
4. Test your waterproofing!
5. Watch out for filling hollow blocks with newspaper.
7. Record keep stages of construction. If you dont have a penalty clause for delay in your contract, well, good luck.
8. Faucets - grohe. The end.
9. Doors - do ones like at Faham. Termites suck.
10. Pressure pump - Davey
11. Windows - UPVC all the way
12. A/Cs - General
13. Put 2 water tanks, one for reserve
13. Good quality tile. Can't stress it enough!
14. Keep all receipts for everything. Waterheaters dont last forever. Same for switches. Same for everything else. Use the warranty! Seriously.

I could go on and on.

P.S. You have a pic of my house on one of your posts. Ha!

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Nadia's friend: Thank you for you advice! I never thought socket placement could do something wrong... what happened wrong if the sockets are placed up in the walls?

For our contract if the builder is late he pays our rent basically (which is more than the housing loan costs). I was just mad about the false ceiling since it would be from our end not the builders if he said he wouldn't cover it. I am not okay with mistakes people don't take responsibility for.

Our construction workers lives on site. They're really nice:). We have insane neighbors, so, sometimes they have do deal with people we know trying to steal stuff lol.

I bought good piping, and tiled the whole kitchen (makes measuring easier for ordering cabinetry before plastering anyways).

Good doors got 'em. I like Faham too. Good doors were important.

I don't like UVPC, because I like shapes to my windows... but UVPC is good. Otherwise you just need really good quality fixing for moisture and sound. That's not hard at all and can be done best before house is done, but even a DIY job after it works;). Wood of course, doesn't work;).

No maid;). If I got a maid, I'd have to switch out the bottoms of our cabinetry.... which looks ugly. But I'd do it if I was renting out my home to save the kitchen.

My husband bought some Grohe... I bought Moen in Europe. I like it better. I also bought Franke, it's German but way expensive, I'd not do it for the sinks all.

I don't think good tiling is important unless it is an areas that sees rough useage (kitchen floors) or you don't visit the site to check. I know how to tile myself. A lot of builders here slope floors, or don't make even surfaces. If you want a slope on the floor for drainage you need good tile. If you don't you just need to take care with installation being perect. I can oversee that so I am okay with that. For my SIL though, we made her get good tile;).

Other important thing is framing with metal the corners of cement walls before plastering so they don't get chipped later.

I made my sockets as you told me not to do... I need them like that. But I hired a real electrician (had to pay for that outside my construction contract).

I may still pay real plumbers to do the upstairs bathrooms... I don't know yet.... As I don't want floor drains and can't afford to have pipes breaking in the walls.

My husband wanted panasonic acs. I honestly know nothing about Acs* jsut that every Samsung appliance or electronic I ever bought did not work... so defeinately not them;).

My land has its own water since it used to be a farm* and I have two water tanks;) and a pump and a filter ect...... I also keep a "warranties" and "reciepts" book and binder in my house out of good practice always in Oman, not just for construction but daily life as well.

I went into German Kitchen but the overpriced-ness of it drove me to photo something then leave;).

Filling hollow blocks with Newspaper? You mean in the building walls stage? No I am sure didn't see any of that and I visit site randomly every couple days.

MashaAllah 3 houses!!!! And I am curious which one? lol I don't love many houses in Oman:).

3 kitchens? Wow, that's a lot. I guess I'd do that to if i was planning to have a maid. My home isn't a maid-friendly design...or if I was sharing with family... for privacy.

Anonymous said...

Curious... But how can u own a house if u r not omani.
You do know that if you put it in your husbands name and he dies... You are not entitled to inherit it. Wifes can not inherit land or property under omani law.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anon: Wives can inherit land and property... but the property is usually divided up between children first. Unless the husband has more money than the value of the land/house to divide as required in Islamic law, to sons, daughters, then wives ect....

However, the land is not in my husband's name, but my daughter's. And I am the investor so I have legal papers saying how much is to be paid to me, before the property can be sold.... which effectively means I own what it is worth now... land costs will go up I am sure, and I wouldn't benefit from THAT, and I am in the process of applying for citizenship (it takes a long time) so I hope to have it in my name. If not, it goes to my children.

Even my co-wife (she's a property owner too) the land and house are entirely in her name. Effectively nothing is in our husband's name but our cars;).

Anonymous said...

Omani princess... I didnt say women cant own property. I said wives can not inherit land or property or even take the proceeds. But as the house is in your daughters name that wouldnt be a problem. Is your daughter and adult or is it possible for miners to own property?

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anonymous Oct. 25th: I am pretty sure Omani women CAN inherit property because I know over five Omani women (wives) who did inherit land and houses from deceased husbands. It does ammount however, to his net worth, in how all assets are divided between children and then spouses ect... It is based on Islamic law and in Islamic law they totally can.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

*By wives do you mean foreign wives? Because that would make sense with laws in Oman.

Anonymous said...

I meant all wives. Omanies and non omanies
Omani law.. Not islamic.
Maybe the cases you know where a wife inherited the land had divided the estate without the help of a lawyer? Maybe its an ibadhi ruling? Shiate also dont allow the wives to inherit land or property.... based upon a hadith (classed as weak)

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Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anonymous: yeah all cases went through family not the courts. And the estaste/will dude was Ibadhi;).