PREPARING TO RENOVATE
The renovation of a property of the size of Pechrigal was a serious problem but very simple arithmetic:
I had quotes of $2 million to $3 million for the repairs only, to the main building only. And I did not have nowhere near that kind of money for the repair, improvement, and remodelling of the castle itself and of about 8-10 outbuildings
I went to see a French Bank, the Credit Agricole to see how much help they could provide. The answer could translate into one simple word: None. They even had the guts, indecence, or inconscience to ask me to deposit in the form of CD's or similar a sum of $500,000 so they would lend me $150,000. F.......(orget) the Credit Agricole.
So the problem became simple: if I could not secure outside financing, I had to provide all the funds and, since I did not have them, I just had to find a way to renovate Pechrigal at a fraction of the cost without compromising the purity and authenticity of the place.
The first problem was obviously labor.
I thought I had the solution: Haitians
Haiti is very close to Florida so it was easy for me to fly there and to recruit the help that I needed. In addition, Haitians speak some sort of French, belong to an ex-French colony, and are starving to death. So, I thought: great!, I shall ask a few Haitians to come to France to help with the renovation, I shall train them, give them a competence in construction and help them get a decent job in France. Alas, the French embassy in Haiti had other objectives and thought it was better for Haitians to starve in Haiti rather than have a chance to learn a trade in France. So, The French embassy refused the visas. So much for the pledges to help poor nations, common in socialist French political rhetoric.
Plan B consisted in recruiting construction workers from a country belonging to the European Community or having an immigration agreement with the EU. I looked at Poland, Yugoslavia but, in both cases, the visa issue remained unclear.
So, in the end, I decided to recruit workers from Portugal
Portugese construction workers have an excellent reputation in France: they are competent, hard workers, frugal and. best of all, they can legally work in France without a visa.
So, in the end, I ended up recruiting a very competent Portugese team supervised by Joachim Cardoso. The whole team, but Joachim Cardoso in particular, proved to be an invaluable asset.
Please refer to The renovation Team for more information.
The material needed for the renovation ranged from doors and windows, to fireplaces, to stone meneaux windows or floor tiles, to locks and hardware, to electric materials, to plumbing etc, not to mention furniture which could represent a huge budget by itself. Prices in France were, in most cases, prohibitive and way outside my budget.
. all labor intensive materials would come from third world countries and,
. all hi-tech materials would come from countries where they were mass produced.
These materials would be purchased by the container load and excess material would be sold at a profit to offset renovation costs.
After careful review, the construction materials needed for the renovation were purchased as follows:
From the United States
. roof insulation (80 per cent saving compared to French prices)
. high gauge electrical cable (66 per cent saving)
. electrical panels and breakers, television, phone and network outlets, switches (50 per cent saving)
. copper and PVC piping (40 per cent saving)
. dry wall (studs, sheet rock and compound) (30- 50 per cent saving)
. alarm and telephone system (70 per cent saving or more)
. pressure treated lumber and plywood (50 per cent saving)
. hand made floor clay tiles - a specialty there (66 per cent saving)
. reproduction and patio furniture (80 to 95 per cent saving)
. doors and windows (90 per cent saving)
. stone tiles (60 per cent saving)
. all cut stones: fireplaces, meneau windows, attic windows, stair steps etc (80-90 per cent saving)
. all wrought iron (90 per cent saving)
. some parquet (80 per cent saving)
. stained glass items (90 per cent saving)
From mainland China
. bath tubs
. shower enclosures and equipment
. some bathroom appliances (30-40 per cent saving)
. boiler and hot water tank (savings to be determined)
. radiators20-30 (per cent saving)
. ancient roof tiles (which could not be found anywhere else)
. cement and stucco, concrete blocks
. oak timber for the roof structure
. radiant floor components.
. pool and tennis materials
. plants and seeds