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Back You are here: Home Property Building and Renovating A Bulgarian Build

A Bulgarian Build

Bulgarian houses are built in a very different way to our own back home. Even those advertised as being built to Western standards are not constructed from neatly laid bricks and mortar. For many interested buyers who view property over here the shock of seeing a new build shell meets with considerations about the durability of the build, whilst those who are not privy to the early stages of construction are mesmerized by the low price and colourful render. How sturdy are Bulgarian builds and does the render mask a thousand sins?

Laying the Foundations

The early stages of a new build involve clearing the site and laying a concrete foundation. Little goes wrong at this stage except the soil dug out from the foundations will probably be dumped on unused land neighbouring your property leaving an unsightly mountain. Another thing to note at this stage is the depth of the foundations. Once the concrete pad has dried, building begins at a rapid pace. Houses are constructed using clay bricks with supporting concrete pillars. The pillars are strengthened with metal rods and form the main frame of the house. Builders work from scaffolding platforms constructed from tree trunks – it’s a health and safety nightmare, but nothing that will affect the quality of the build. This is similar to the way apartment blocks were built in the Communist era except that concrete panels were used as infill between the concrete frames whereas bricks are used today. Perhaps the most disturbing site is the huge gaps left between the bricks. Brickies here do not lay neat rows filled with cement to insure a greater degree of insulation, instead speed is of the essence and the quality of the brick frame is considered to be lesser importance. The bricks used are larger and less solid than those used in the UK. Areas left for windows and doors will also consists of large gaps, where sometimes broken bricks or blocks of wood will be used as wedges to keep a window upright. The net result is that this does lead to damp and inefficient insulation.

The Concrete Shell

Once the shell is assembled and the formation of the roof is constructed, the building will be covered with white polystyrene insulation pads. These are glued and then drilled into place with the screw holes covered with dabs of plaster. Older Bulgarian builds will not have this form of insulation, which has gone a long way to reducing heating bills. Once this work is done and the windows and doors have been added, the building is covered in dull grey plaster. The roof is usually the next step with a neat arrangement of lay roofing tiles. Bulgarians seem to excel at this type of work and there are rarely problems associated with the roof on a modern Bulgarian home. Some Bulgarian builders will then sell the home as complete, so when a builder says he will finish to Bulgarian standard this is what he means.
Western standard will include the render - the final piece de resistance to the building’s exterior and this really will mask a thousand sins! Known as Mazhilka and available in a wide variety of colours and textures, render is applied by skilled tradesmen in a similar way to plaster. The end result is an attractive exterior, which hides inefficiencies during the build process.

The Interior

Whilst work on the exterior is underway, the interior will be divided with plasterboard walling, which is then “dabbed” to hide the screw marks. This process can lead to unsightly bulges in the paintwork if it is not done correctly. In the UK the plasterboard would be skimmed with a coating of finishing plaster, giving a smoother, neater look. One thing the Bulgarians excel at is tiling, so any floors and ceramics are likely to be neatly laid, but watch out for tiles in wet rooms as these may look good but may not constitute efficient water drainage (read our article on wet rooms). Plumbing is also relatively effective, but a point to note is that Bulgarians do not use soil pipes to alleviate waste and the main drainage pipes leading to the septic tank can sometimes give off foul odours. You may be required to hire your own electricians, in which case read our article on Electrics before you start. If you are buying a finished house from a Bulgarian builder then you will have to take what is there, which can include sockets three inches from the ceiling! The finishing in Bulgarian builds will require close scrutiny as there are likely to be bits of skirting missing, drips of paint or bulges from the dabbing which need to be rubbed down and doors which do not fit the frames. Bulgarian carpenters are one of the last trades people on the job and there is lots of pressure on them to hurry up and get finished so that the builder can collect his final payment.

The Finished Product

Whilst the garden will have been left like a rubbish dump for builders waste,  the first site of your new Bulgarian home will look wonderful and if you have not project managed the build then you will be oblivious to what lies beneath the render. It’s only after you start living in it that you will start to notice damp patches – the most common issue with Bulgarian builds, windows that don’t close properly, doors that won’t shut and a wet room where the water doesn’t drain away. How can you avoid these issues in the first place? By being aware that this is typical of a Bulgarian build and by getting in at the start with a good builder and an efficient project manager who hounds the building team to deliver perfection!