January 2011 - We are moving house and workshop

Finally it is happening!

Work has been started on the new workshop rooms and what will be our new home in the future.

We would not have thought we ever would leave our lovely little home in Moenchengladbach behind which always was Brigitte's hometown and became mine when I moved to Germany in the late 1990's.

It all began in the summer of 2009 when "THE neighbours from hell" in our little street decided it is now time to also pick on us, so they complained to our local town council saying they were disturbed by whistle playing from my workshop on a weekend in May.  That particular weekend ironically was one of the first weekends in the year I was not in the workshop at all but I did play whistle in my living room which was and is totally alright to do. The problem was that when the neighbour built an illegal conservatory onto OUR house they did not sound proof or insulate it in any way shape or form so it behaves like a big stethoscope to what is going on in our house.

Officially the noise complaint was proved to be unfounded by the council but we were told that my workshop was 5 meters too far in our garden and therefore cannot be used for making whistles any longer. Would I be repairing lawn mowers or tractors or set up an agricultural business like a veggie shop in there, then there would be no problem but musical instruments are non-agricultural.

After that, German bureaucracy kicked in and eventually it all went a little mad on us. The council told us we could build a new workshop where our garage stands. To be able to do this, we were told to involve an architect and got handed a list of tasks that needed to be fulfilled. It took 10 months and thousands of Euros to work through that list so we could hand in building plans for the permission. When done, a week later the council informed us that they had "found" an old covenant saying that nothing can be built on the place and there is no other option for a workshop so we have to expect to be shut down at any time soon and they said they can do it  from one day to the next. The only solution we then could think of was to sell up and move on. This was not an easy decision to make and Brigitte was very sad over this.


The consequence of that is that I had to work double shifts often 7 days a week for the last year and a half to make this all possible and funnily enough working all these hours the neighbours from hell did not hear or complain a second time. All the other neighbours in the street are sad to see us go as they really liked what we are doing. It has been really tough work and our social life and health has suffered a lot in this time but we are really happy now to leave the old place behind and start afresh.


The house search started immediately in summer 2010 and after many, many places we had looked at, we found a very nice house just 10 minutes away by car from where we are living, in a little village called Rath-Anhoven. All documents were signed just before the New Year......... Yippeeee!

What I love about Germany is that it's housing market is not solely designed for speculation like in England or the USA which means that house prices are very stable and cheap by comparison. For example, in my home town of Watford in England for the same money this house cost you can barely buy a 2 bedroomed flat or a 2 up 2 down terraced house in not great condition.

The house we bought was built in 1850 and has been a pub from 1890 until December 2010.

The main body is a "Niederrheinischer Bauernhof" in U-shape, having timber framed outbuildings  along the left side (30 meters in total length, house + workshop)  and another building along the back side of the house, on the right hand side is the back wall of the neighbours outbuilding, giving space for a very private courtyard.

It is in very good condition and lots of the old building specs like the typical ceiling structures have been kept to the original design. We only need to change a little bit on the room layouts to have it how we want it.

The whole roof including timber was made new just 4 years ago and will last many years to come. Some of the outbuildings which previously were used as horse and goat stables will be my workshop and these rooms are in need of total renovation which has already started in the week after Christmas 2010. They are basically empty shells which need new floors, roof, windows, doors, dry-walling, new electrics, etc.

What got me straight from the beginning is the lovely private court yard with timber frame building and the back garden big enough to host a small festival :-) 

The rooms in the house have all high ceilings, lots of light and are spacious. My testing for the acoustics with some whistle playing was really nice and inspiring.

Finally we will have a proper business and music area and we are looking forward to host musical instrument workshops.

Of course starting with whistles but eventually would love to make it a base for other instrument workshops too. The layout of the downstairs even will allow to have small house concerts occasionally.

Most of the ground floor will be for the business and we will live on the first floor which in itself is bigger than our old house, which is cosy but really too small to live and have a business comfortably but somehow we had managed to do that for the last 12 years but now I cannot await living and working in the new place.


The plan is to renovate the workshop area and when that is finished I can relocate my workshop and then move the household stuff over. We will also try and redecorate the house simultaneously which will be easier when still empty. This will be hard work but when done we will be over the moon.


I will try and keep some kind of diary going and add photos as work progresses. In the meantime emails and whistle building will be a bit erratic in the coming weeks so please bear us on that.



27th December 2010

Wanted to start work on the roof but had over 20cms of snow on it so scraped it away  and put gas fires in overnight to unfreeze the tiles as they had all stuck together.


28th December 2010

Work started......   tiles were taken off  the roof and putting breathable felt on and after putting new battening on put the tiles back on.

29th December 2010

Got a company in to start work on the floors. They dug out by hand over 15 cubic meters of earth and old bricks from workshops 2 and 3. I had to number each of the rooms to make identification easier for us when we are talking about them. The biggest room 18 m2 which was the old horse stable is now workshop no 1 and from left to right on the red brick building is workshops 2 and 3.

The roof of the workshop was insulated but as the windows did not turn up could not be finished. Brigitte got into full swing and completely washed down and cleaned the kitchen and had brought over a few things that we are not using here anymore.

Cut my finger when opening the passage way door for the first time when the bolt would not move and suddenly gave way... ouch! Eventually went to the doctor and had a tetanus jab in the back side which seemed fine to begin with but after about 8 hours it became a real pain in the ass.

30st December 2010

Work started on the floor of workshop 1, this was harder as the floor was partly concreted over already which also had to come out as well as a horse trough which was built into the wall. This all went well as the last couple of days were sunny with no wind but cold.

I wanted the ceiling pulled down in order to raise it up nearly a meter in order to put glass in between the timber frame. The guys had to cut some of the beams but 2 HAD to stay in as they are holding the walls together. I did tell them at least 10 times so what happened.......? they cut through one of these beams...... Great!!    not. That finished the day and back in on the New Year. I discovered German workers like to swear in English... F***k was often heard.

31st December 2010

Completely exhausted from the whole of the year so stayed in and took it easy and had a quiet one.

3rd January 2011

Plan for today was to fix the beam that was accidentally cut last week, to cut down another beam and take the remains of the ceiling away which consisted of battening, clay and straw which should have been easy enough. The concrete was scheduled to be delivered at 11 am. 

The first beam they cut fell down onto an old water pipe just in the only place possible to fracture it and water started flooding the room. It got a bit hectic until we finally located the right stop cock in the cellar after closing down a few more on the search through the house. Not knowing the plumbing system did not help... Luckily the local plumber was quick to hand and sorted it out in less than half an hour after it burst.

As Brigitte always needs to see things for herself she went to have a look at the offending pipe and when stepping into the room sank down immediately into the mud/water with her brand new Keen winter boots, not impressed would be an understatement.

Cement is now delayed until tomorrow between 10 am and 12 pm.

4th January 2011

Early in the morning work started on putting in the roof windows.The weather during all the time we have been working has been great considering....... this was also so, sun shining, no wind although cold, today -3 c. Cold yes but could have been a lot worse. By the time the workers for the floor turned up at around 11.30 am windows were in. The next few hours went fast, 2 lorries turned up, one with cement and the other with a pumping system. Pipes were laid down from the front of the house through the passageway and up to the workshop area. The concrete was warm (30 oC) and has metal already in to stabilize it and was pumped into the rooms.It all went as it was supposed to go in the end which was a relief.

The floors when dug out were leveled, filled with gravel which again was leveled out, insulation was put down and a plastic sheet over the top of that. Concrete was poured in at a thickness of about 15 cms and then the whole thing leveled out once more. I had wondered for a bit what would happen to the concrete left in the pipes once the room was filled and had visions of a big pile of concrete emptied out somewhere that I would have to later get rid of. I had some concrete delivered years ago and the extra was also left behind..... I did not have to worry, the lorry sucked what was left all back again. Excellent! I forgot to take any photos while that was going on unfortunately.

We were told not to walk on it for a couple of days. A lot of time was spent cleaning up and washing away the concrete from the paving slabs as the guys had been walking around in their wellies from one room to the next. It will take sometime to clean the rest of the courtyard as when I was at the doctors the other day the workers had thrown all the old concrete and bricks from workshop 1 and dumped it onto the snow (on top of the grass) without putting any tarpaulin/ sheeting dow first. Some of it is already frozen in so will have to wait until it thaws out a bit.

5th January 2011

Every time we have been coming over we have been bringing boxes with bits and pieces that we do not necessarily need at the old house,  so far mainly kitchen stuff. We will buy the kitchen that is in there and will do fine for another few years. Brigitte has already taken over with doing a total wash down of the cupboards. Now, where are the cups again? When buying a house or even renting an apartment/house in Germany, kitchens are not included and you have to bring your own one with you.

We had been given a large corner sofa before Xmas that we had put in storage in a friends hall as we did not have full access to the house at the time. It is of white leather and made by Schillig which is a good make, black would look nicer but am happy we have something. This was dropped off today and put in what will be the show room. We actually don't have much furniture as our old house is small so we are on the look out for pieces we will need.

8th January 2011

A couple of friends, Herco and Daniel came round to help out.

We had a good look at the walls in workshop one....... yikes! At the moment there is just a small window in there (not much light) and for the last weeks when we have been around everything was frozen now the thaw has come we realize the back walls are wet and quite a bit of mortar has fallen away between the bricks over the years making it look not so good. Had also noticed that the level inside the room is much lower than outside so decided to dig away the ground down to the damp course as the dampness is going straight through the bricks. Now don't think there is a damp course after digging down quite a bit, will keep the soil away from the walls to let it dry out a bit and wait until a friend who is wise in these things come along to give some helpful advice.

Spent a lot of time filling in Mortar between bricks to strengthen the walls in preparation for dry walling.

Anyway the electrician found aluminium wires wrapped in cotton cloth, plug sockets with no earth wires and saw most of the house is relying on 1 fuse with the trip switch not working. I think the last electrician spent more time wearing big hats carrying around a lasso and hanging out with big animals than studying electricity. It now looks like 2/3 of the house has to be rewired.........

In the evening with the help of Daniel (and his big transporter ) we drove to Bad Godesberg to pick up a sofa we bought via Ebay. A 2 seater leather sofa bed in very good condition and very good quality with a very good price. We have been looking for a sofa bed for a while for the music room so if we have guests over they have something comfortable to sleep on. We also need something for ourselves if we work late and decide to sleep there in the meantime before fully moving over.

9th January 2011

Clearing the court yard from the rubbish left behind by the workers including gravel, old stones, broken tiles, concrete etc. Ended up having to use the broom on the grass to get it all off, o.k., there is still a big pile of bricks on there that needs to be used for filling up the hole the horse trough left behind. Tried hosing down the paving slaps but quickly blocked up the drain so had to scoop out the water and Brigitte volunteered for taking out the all the gravel/mud that was blocking the way. The only rubber gloves we had were in her size :-) When cleared just hosed clean the way from the house down to the workshop so not to drag lots of mud into the house. Will wait until it dries out a bit more to brush the rest up. 

10th January 2011

Today the concrete floor in workshop 2 was planned to be sanded down but the machine to do it was not available so delayed this to tomorrow. 

11th January 2011

The big machine was not available again so the company who put in the concrete floor came with a smaller machine and did it mostly by hand. What a dust this sanding creates and again I was surprised that handworkers seem to not use protections neither for their hearing nor for their breathing, even though I offered them protective gear. Took them all day to get it nice and smooth. Now it is ready for the next step which is the epoxy floor paint. Will do this when the dry-walling has been done. Being the "big machine" room which hosts the lathes it needs to be a solid floor that does not allow vibrations.

14th January 2011

The last couple of days clearing the workshop rooms and preparing for when a friend "brickie" Chris comes over to help with building work. We had a full days work ahead of us.  
I want to have windows between workshop 2 and 3 so light coming in from the skylights can cross over into the other workshop and give as much daylight as possible. We had to first support the main beam of the roof from each side to carry the weight, cut the wall from both sides down, take out the old beam and place the new one on the wall, leveling it up with cement and waiting for it to dry out a bit. In the meantime back in w/shop 1 we filled the hole that used to be the horse trough and supported the wall until it dries out.
In the meantime back in w/shop 1 we filled the hole that used to be the horse trough and supported the wall until it dries out.

We slept in the house over night for the first time so I gave Chris the sofa bed and I went for the air bed. Chris slept through the whole night while I was tossing and turning round and felt like a vice was tightened around my chest no matter how I lay. Unfortunately I forgot to blow up the big air bed until I was shattered and needed sleep, the electric or any sort of pump of course was left back at the old house so after 10 mins of blowing in without any change to the flat state it was in I found a compact camping mat one which was easy to blow up but still hard. I could have let air out and tested it more but was not inclined to do so. If I had not had the glass or 2 or 3 of Jim Beam I might have spent more time making it comfortable....

15th January 2011

Got up tired from lack of sleep and had breakfast. Bakery is just a couple of hundred meters away from our house and they have a nice selection of rolls, cakes and bread. Had a couple of guys turn up from the local Schuetzenverein brotherhood to take away the cabinet on the wall which hosts their flags from one of the rooms downstairs. Our house has been their headquarters for a long time possibly the last 100 years, at least since after the war. The cabinet has been there since the 50's and still had the original wallpaper underneath it....... wonderful.

Brigitte tries convincing me to leave some of it visible when the dry walling in this room is done, giving it a kind of picture frame to look into the past of the house but I am not really interested in that idea as another cabinet of some sort will go there anyway.

Back in w/shop 2/3 the new beam could be put in and the bricks knocked out underneath. Instantly more light !! :-) and gives it a bigger feel.... Surprisingly it all went well with not any unexpected surprises. When the horse trough was knocked out a few rows of bricks above also fell out as the mortar holding the bricks together was mainly sand. Here all went smooth, what a relieve.

The window in workshop 1 at the back wall, looking into the garden, was cut but the local DIY shop did not have a lintel the in the right size so no more could be done with that.

The door arch between w/shop 1 and 2 had dropped an inch so that had to be raised, got a support and was re-mortared.

The door arch between w/shop 1 and 2 had dropped an inch so that had to be raised, got a support and was re-mortared.

Work was then also started on the ceiling of workshop 1. The frame went in. I am having this made at 3 meters high as I want to end up putting in glass between two of the timber framed sections, the only problem I see at the moment is that when I take off the corrugated bitumen from the outside it will open a bigs can of worms so to speak and may be a big money pit so that will be done later. It is a high ceiling!! I may have the ceiling at 2 different levels having light coming in from the high windows and lowering the ceiling at the other side to keep heating bills down.  I am thinking of having a storage space on that side?? will think about that later.....

16th January 2011

Spent the whole day re-pointing the outside of workshop 1. This will take forever.. you really have to force the mortar in as it has been falling out for the last hundred years or more. We spoke to some one who reckoned in the old days when they where building the houses there was a pile of sand in one part of the garden and they waved with a handful of cement somewhere else and hoped with the aid of the breeze that would do the trick!

17th January 2011

The ceiling floor was put in on workshop 1. I now realize that all the inside walls high up are also in desperate need of mortar. I can see this being my new unexpected hobby for the next year or two :-(

18th January 2011

My birthday........ and like with nearly all my birthdays it was a cold and wet one. If I bet money on how the weather would be on this day every year I am sure I would not have to work ever again. 

As it was I spent the day outside pointing the wall of workshop 1. This was the part 40 cm under ground level so had to bend over all day. In the words of Giles Wemmbly Hogg "Brilliant, just Brilliant"

We did drop in on our favourite Turkish restaurant on the way home for some wonderful food. That was nice.

The next days no doubt more mortaring to do. I am getting good at this lark now.