Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Latest on the Central Heating

I hope those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I hate those whinging ex-pat blogs that are too frequent. They make you want to ask, "If you dislike the country and its people so much why did you move here?" I also dislike those ex-pat blogs, which seem to think it necessary to justify their move by attacking their motherland. So it is with caution and regret that I have decided to blog about the painful experience I have had with dealing with Czech contractors, but I think it is only fair on anyone else who is starting out on the path of restoring a house here.

Following on my post on the central heating a month or so ago, my electrician eventually turned up. He managed to botch together a solution to the hot water problem (he needed to bring a new switch so for a while the existing switch had to be held together with a piece of paper). In so doing he broke the seal that electricity supplier had put on the electric meter setting. Of course he says all the problems are electricity supplier's fault, but because he broke the seal we can't prove it! As for the central heating, well he couldn't help me there, I had to get the central heating company in. As the electrician had been the project manager for all the first stage of work – including the central heating – this should have surprised me, but after three years here it didn't.

The date arranged for the visit of the central heating engineer came and went, another no-show. Then on the Wednesday, miracle of miracles, both the heating engineer and electrician turned up together. It turns out that the central heating is to the wrong spec and could never heat the house in these conditions. Add to that the clock in the electric box is faulty, with the result that such heating as there is isn't charging properly. It has taken three years of complaining about the heating and sky-high bills to get this far, but at least (I hope) the problems have been identified and we might just have agreed the steps towards getting them fixed, perhaps not completely but enough.

So what have I learnt (the hard way) about employing Czech builders?
1 Well for starters they will tell you what they think you want to hear (see my post on When Yes Means No) rather than the truth.
2 If you don't ask for something, the Czech craftsmen won't do it for you and they won't suggest it either. No matter that they are the experts, you are still meant to know. No matter too that it is a task so obvious one would think it unnecessary to ask, it won't to get done – eg if you ask them to fit a sink, ensure they also fit a waste pipe!
3 Czech tradesmen never seem to finish anything properly, and certainly don't do the necessary checks when they finish (see my August post about the dryrot in the kitchen).
4 Get everything in writing.
5 Even when you employ someone as a project manager – don't assume they will take responsibility if things go wrong.
6 Ensure that the builders include the cost of cleaning up after the job otherwise you will be left with piles of rubble.
7 Get a Brit to do it (only joking, well maybe not).

Have I just been unlucky and am making unfair generalisations? Conversations with other ex-pats and indeed with Czechs confirm that I am not alone in my experience. Is it just another example of the Czech attitude to work that I spoke about it in a previous post? Probably and if so there's no hope for us. Not that I am for one moment suggesting that one does not have bad experiences in England, just that they seem almost the norm here. Ah well, I just have to remind myself how much I love the house and the countryside around it.

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