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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Stimulus Plan With Lots of Remodeling

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Смеситель: faucet

No one can accuse me of not doing my part to help Russia in her hour of need. As you all know, it’s an official no-no to state baldly that the country is in the midst of an экономический кризис (economic crisis). We are merely experiencing a few кризисные явления (crisis-like phenomena). But whether the crisis is big or small, the only solution is to spend your way out of it.

And so — always willing to do my share — I’ve turned into a one-woman engine of the Russian economy. I’m doing ремонт (remodeling).

In Russian there are two basic types of ремонт — косметический и капитальный. Косметический ремонт is what we’d call cosmetic repairs, home improvement or, if it is minor, touch-ups. Капитальный ремонт — often abbreviated to капремонт — is what we’d call major repairs or home remodeling. I’m doing капремонт, which should really be translated as a long, incredibly expensive and multi-stage nightmare.

The nightmare begins with освобождение квартиры (emptying out the apartment): упаковка мебели и имущества и их вывоз на хранение (packing up furniture and possessions and putting them into storage). Then you choose your строительная бригада (work crew) and spend hours detailing what you want done with the прораб (the foreman, or what Americans would call the contractor).

Next, if you have signed up with a reputable company (and you’d be a lunatic not to), you will be given a смета (estimate) or even several of them: for демонтажные работы (dismantling: ripping out all the old fittings, wallpaper, tiles); подготовительные работы (prep work: evening out walls, introducing the concept of the 90-degree angle, putting in new pipes and wiring); and отделочные работы (finishing work: wallpaper, painting, light fixtures, floors). You’ll also get two more estimates — расход чёрных материалов (cost of building material — the boring stuff: plaster, wires, pipes) and расход отделочных материалов (cost of finishing materials — the fun stuff: wallpaper, paint, paneling).

After you’ve recovered from a heart attack and signed the contract, the crew turns your apartment into a filthy slum. Meanwhile, you order your kitchen. The first thing the salesperson — often called технолог (specialist; literally, “technician”) — asks you is: Сколько погонных метров? (How many running meters?) To which you reply: Чаво? (Huh?) It turns out that in the kitchen context, погонный метр is a price estimating tool that is the linear measure of where the kitchen cabinetry will be — say, three meters along a wall — and includes all the cabinetry and fittings from floor to ceiling.

The next thing to understand is that conversational Russian distinguishes cabinets: base cabinets — anything below the countertop — are usually тумбы (тумбочки), and wall cabinets — anything hanging above) — are шкафы (шкафчики). You will be asked to decide between ДСП, aka древесно-стружечные плиты (particle board) or массив дерева (solid wood); pick out фурнитура (a catch-all word for accessories, including everything from door pulls to shelving); техника (appliances); столешница (countertop); мойка (sink) and смеситель (faucet). And what, you might ask, is the difference between смеситель and кран? Смеситель mixes (смешивает) hot and cold water; кран is a spigot or valve for just one stream of water. The stuff you learn in a kitchen salon.

I’ve also discovered a key cultural difference concerning remodeling. When I tell Americans I’m doing over my apartment, they cheer: Cool! When I tell Russians, they sigh: Бедняжка! (You poor thing!) Once again, the Russians are right.

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.