Life in Poland

Get the lead out!

Renovating an old farm house is something that sounds like fun when someone else describes it. Usually that someone else has an eye for style and deep pockets. We have neither.

Our house renovation is a never-ending story. We started from the roof, changing the original cement roof tiles circa 1935 to blachodachówka – brown sheet metal which mimics the look of tiles. Some people think that this is a blasphemy and if you are a renovation purist, you will not like my home. I have antique next to IKEA and I don’t give a shyte. When we did the roof, we also needed to replace and rebuild the top meter and a half of the chimney. The workers also cleaned 09052009(020) (640x480)out the chimney. Our next door neighbors got back an iron frying pan and a set of grocery weights that they had lost about 15 years before. They were in our chimney. Don’t ask. We also have a przybudówka (a porch addition) that needs to be torn down and rebuilt. For now, I’ve just decorated it (like lipstick on a pig) with a wind chime that my mother gave me. It is just like the ones my mother has at home so every time it chimes I think of her and home (sniff, sniff). We decided to install wooden windows but now I think plastic might have been a better idea. After that, we did rozpierducha totalna 😉 (complete gutting) and removed all the plaster on the walls and removed the floor/ceiling exposing the beams. We put wooden planks upstairs and built an open space room, a bedroom, a bathroom and an open attic/loft. Downstairs, we put tiles in all rooms. The tiles are dirt colored which is quite handy with 2 kids. Each room has 2 doors so you can go around our downstairs in a 09052009(012) (640x480)circle from room to room. We have all the original doors except the bathroom door (here on the left) which we had made because there was not a bathroom before. We still have the original stairs and we are debating to keep them or change them. I wanted finished concrete stairs, kind of industrial looking but not one single ekipa (work crew) will make them for us. “09052009(013) (640x480)People don’t make stairs like that. You’ll never sell your house.” I hate that kind of unsolicited advice. It was the same thing when we wanted to put the bathroom upstairs next to the bedroom. Everyone advised us to make a przybudówka downstairs. You can make one up to 20 square meters without a building permit if you are adding a bathroom (the first one) to your house. Our neighbor politely inquired if it wasn’t going to be burdensome traipsing upstairs and tracking in mud when I am working in the field in my Wellington boots. I wanted to ask when have I ever been known to work in the fields but instead I replied that in that case I would do my business behind the barn or take off my Wellies first.

Our house renovation is at a standstill. We are at the stage of just thinking about what to do next, not in any “designer’s” kind of a way, more in a “we’ve run out of money but when we get some what are we going to do next” kind of a way. We have to do something about our old doors. I really like that we have old doors. They make a nice contrast against the fresh walls and exposed beams.

09052009(001) (640x480)kitchen door09052009 (640x480)living room door

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living room door (other side)

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playroom door

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playroom door frame after sanding

The one problem is that paint is in very bad condition. I even like that look but in some places it is peeling off. My plan was either to scrape off the worst places and paint a clear sealant over it or to sand down everything and then wax them. As I scoured the internet looking for info about paint removal, I noticed a lot of warnings about lead in old paint. I had some students in the US who were affected by lead poisoning as children so I really started to get scared. I found some information that lead paint was banned in Europe for home use in 1930 and my house was built in 1935 but that is no guarantee. I didn’t want to sand the doors and door frames down making potentially toxic dust. I also didn’t want to scrape off the paint and put it in the regular garbage. I began searching for a laboratory who could test the paint chips. Thanks to the recommendation of some fellow English teachers on the Gazeta Wyborcza forum, I was able to contact a laboratory to test the paint for 146 złoty. If you are one of those teachers, thank you again. We are waiting for the results.

pictures from upstairs

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