So we thought we were buying a house that was pretty much up together and just needed a lick of paint here and there. Wrong! We have by no means purchased a ruin or renovation project but there are several DIY jobs to do around the house and garden. As Adrian works Mon-Fri this leaves me to tackle a lot of these tasks single handed. Many of these tasks require pure strength or heavy lifting that I really struggle with as I have a bad back – failed surgery to remove coccyx in 2012. Despite this I do try and take on board a task every day and I have husband’s help on weekends. I have started to measure my DIY success by the level of my injuries and how often I hammer my thumb/hand e.g. day one of removing old grout I hammered my hand 32 times! Day two = 19 times so some level of success! Ha Ha. Regarding painting – I am a messy painter and usually get more paint on myself than the walls! I have currently cut my finger and also managed to get acrylic spray paint into the cut! Here are just some of the DIY jobs we are taking on:

  • Rendering/plastering a bedroom.
  • Painting floor tiles which are beyond repair.
  • Removing old grout & re-grouting floor tiles – top tip – don’t try and put grout over old chipped floor tile grout. I spent a whole day re-grouting floor tiles with some old grout I found in the shed only to find out that it’s not waterproof and cracked within a day. Old grout not stored properly will contain moisture. I was trying to save time but now have to take all the grout out and restart over. Don’t cut corners and preparation is the key. To anyone who is a professional tiler – you are amazing! Grouting is the hardest job ever. It looks so easy on all those Youtube videos.
  • Replacing broken floor tiles.
  • Painting all walls in every room.
  • Replace post/mail box.
  • Replace a toilet seat – it didn’t have one. The Portuguese love a coloured bathroom suite they don’t like a nice neutral white suite. This means that over the years you are unable to match up the colours and fittings so you end up with a mix match of colours – in one bathroom we have a grey bath, beige bidet, tan back toilet cistern, roll on the day I can afford to replace both bathrooms with delightful white suites.
  • Replace broken taps in bathroom.
  • Extreme weeding and maintenance/clearing of the garden including extreme pebbling and building 2 raised beds.
  • Saving trees – untangling a vile weed which has weaved itself around whole tree trunks and is slowly strangling the life out of our lovely trees.
  • Turning the spare room into an office space.
  • Re-doing the cement in between the crazy paving patio in the garden.
  • Removing dead old tree stump and relaying paving slabs in the patio garden.
  • Turning the little ruin in the garden into something cool – maybe a chicken coop or a playhouse for grandchildren.
  • Painting varnished old built in wooden furniture including desk and MDF bedside cabinets.
  • Clearing out the shed.
  • Dismantling built in wardrobes.
  • Clearing out the loft.
  • Painting the outside of the house (exterior).
  • Fixing the damp downstairs from shower leak upstairs.
  • Cleaning roof tiles of moss.
  • Building a compost bin or buy one.
  • Paint spraying curtain poles and rings.
  • Fixing old bar and moving it to the lounge for feature point.
  • Fixing and re-painting garden bench.

One huge task we were faced with is removing a huge amount of stones/pebbles. I have named this task ‘Extreme Pebbling’. I kind of like the ritual and routine of this task, it’s very repetitive but enjoyable whilst listening to the radio. The area is a huge border which was overgrown with weeds so bad you could not see much of the pebbled patio area. We had to weed the area which was covered with decorative stone/pebbles but the plastic sheeting to prevent the weeds growing through was all ripped and had tons of soil on top. We decided that we wanted to use this area to grow crops and have a couple of raised beds with a pebbled path in-between. It was a huge task to sieve the pebbles from the soil and remove the plastic sheeting. We then re-laid some new black plastic sheeting to prevent weeds growing back and constructed 2 raised beds. Then shovelled the pebbles back for a pathway. We really wanted 4 raised beds but there was solid concrete under the soil further up the boarder so we have 2 which is fine. We just need to buy some top soil to fill up the beds. Gotta love a before and after photo.

Upcycled garden bench – new screws and fresh turquoise paint with a matching flower pot

Sieving pebbles is a huge tiring repetitive back breaking job but worth it as the stones to buy can be costly. I quite enjoy doing this in the garden with the butterflies, birds and sound of the running stream and randomly saying good morning to passers by. One top tip is we used garden sieves which quickly broke. We also used galvanised sheets of metal ½ inch holes which were great for a while but randomly sliced and cut my arms and easily broke from the weight of the pebbles. Our absolute top tip would be to use a plastic container/box with handles. We have purchased 3 from Agriloja DIY shop in Viseu. The smaller ones were around 2 euros each and the larger one with smaller holes was around 5 euros. I never thought plastic would be as sturdy or better than metal but they are epic, so strong and come with handles.  

What I struggle with is we currently have several jobs on the go all at once. I have OCD, related anxiety and am a perfectionist so I like to do a job, finish it to the best of my ability in a timely manner, tick it off then move on to the next job. You can’t do this here as some jobs need time between stages e.g. plastering, or you can’t finish a job because you need help and can’t get that until the weekend or the weather delays some jobs you may have started or you need to go to DIY store to buy equipment. This is actually good for me as I am learning to be more laid back (the Portuguese way of living) and not to stress about things as much. It’s all a juggling act and so far most of my plates are spinning on the sticks except for a couple of casualties! Did I mention we are really clumsy? Well as a couple we are very clumsy and can quite easily break things or destroy things in minutes. 

Below are photo’s of another area we have completed below the balcony. We weeded the area and removed all the stone slabs and replaced plastic sheeting. We then used decorative pebbles we salvaged from front boarder and some decorative bark. Lastly we planted some flower seeds in the circular stone pot.


Upper front garden transformation

When we first purchased our house this area was full of weeds 6ft high! I wish I had took some photos. We cleared all the weeds, removed old plastic sheeting from pathway, removed pebbles and replaced new plastic sheeting and pebbles for a easy walkable weed proof pathway. We then fixed the stone boarder, removed the stepping stones and and the half dead prickly pear – there is a separate post on the prickly pear because he so deserved his own post. I also chopped down a dead tree with a Chainsaw (and survived), planted a lemon tree and cabbages at the end where the prickly pear used to live. We are also going to have a further vegetable patch and some fruit and vegetables growing in tubs along the pathway. This was a huge job as there were so many stones and they are so heavy but it was worth it as it looks so much better.