Tag Archives: building in Mexico

A bit of remodeling–The stairs and backroom

Pictured above you can see the stairs and back room when they were just the stairs and back porch.  This was our son’s fifth birthday party.  A number of the attendees are no longer with us, sadly.

In the remodel, the stairs were more time consuming than the huge expanse of floor that made up the upstairs living area because of all the angles and cuts.  There was also a limit that could be done each day which was the reach of my husband’s arm.  But little, by little, he tiled the stairs.

We had decided on the wooden handrail, but we had to wait a bit for that.  Carpenter Harley’s business was booming and he couldn’t get to it right away. When it was finally ready, my husband changed his mind on where he wanted the first post to be.  I had to work so I let them duke it out on their own.  My husband won the battle but the railing is one post short.

The stairs after we made a room out of the back porch.

The railing was sturdier than I imaged it would be for the price Carpenter Harley charged us.  Of course, installation took all day.  It didn’t help that the carpenter left all his tools at home and had to go and get them before he and his son could even get started. Despite all that, I am so pleased with the finished result!

No, these are not Christmas lights.  The steps are very dark at night and in lieu of actual electricity, I ordered a string of solar lights.  My husband installed the recharging panel outside and ran these little lights through a hole in the wall.  Now, there are twinkling (or not) lights at the top of our stairs to aid in ascent and descent.

The backroom

We mostly used the backroom for a lot of junk storage.  We don’t have any closets and some things (like my school supplies) are just too costly to replace.  So the room was piled high with boxes of stuff.




My husband and son made some awesome bookshelves a few years ago for me.  Before that, my books were in piles around the house.  (No closets remember?)  He added some doors to the top shelves for a new storage space. My husband left a gap between the bottom of the bookshelves and the floor for that tile we were going to put down someday.


Well, that someday finally arrived. As you can see, the tile on the lower floor is not the same.  I think they complement one another.  I have hopes of having French doors installed right here at the intersection of flooring, but that will have to wait.  Maybe a throw rug at the junction of the two floors?  


The back room needed some additional work before we could call it done.  This is the area where the boila (hot water heater) is located.  Remember, this had been a porch before.  Now that the upstairs was closed in, the gas fumes gathered on the second floor when we lit it to heat water for a shower.  Not good.  So my husband installed an air outtake tube. I also ordered a carbon dioxide sensor to install upstairs, just to be on the safe side.  The boila still wasn’t pretty, so we asked carpenter Harvey to make a cancel (screen) to hide it from view.

The door also had to be altered to allow for the tile to fit underneath.  This entailed getting another power inverter since the previous one had fried.  With the power inverter and his handy-dandy tools, my husband fixed it right up.

Of course, the room was repainted too.  It really has a nice homey feel to it now!





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A bit of remodeling–Wood work

Our nearly ready bathroom needed a door.  Plus we never did get around to having a door installed for our bedroom downstairs.  We called our Harley driving carpenter for estimates. (He drives a Harley and his ringtone is Sweet Child o’Mine–not your typical Mexican in these here parts.)

Once the door estimates were agreed upon, we asked about a frame for that gaping hole that used to be an exterior window in the laundry room.  The price was acceptable, so we added it to the list.

I also wanted curtain rods and while we were at it, a towel rack for the bathroom. Measurements were taken.  Wood stains were discussed and agreed upon.

We also asked for an estimate on a handrail for the steps.  It was a bit pricey so we told him we’d have to wait on that, at least until the steps had tile on them.

A few weeks later, the order was ready and he and his ponytailed son came out with a generator.  Since he also owns lots in La Yacata he knows there isn’t any electricity here yet.

The generator was placed on the back porch.  It didn’t have any oil to run.  So a trip to town was made for the oil.  

My husband asked if he could use the generator as well.  A few weeks ago the power inverter that we used to run things from the truck battery burnt to a crisp.  As it served us more than 10 good years, it was only to be expected, but it left us without a way to run hand tools.  The carpenter was reluctant.  He had borrowed the generator from a friend.  My husband offered to pay for the gas it used.  Ok, then.  So while the carpenter installed the doors and his son installed the curtain rods, my husband drilled 4 holes.  Two for the shelf my son made last year in carpentry class and one for my picture of Pandora’s box. Everyone who sees it asks which saint is represented in the painting and look at me oddly when I tell them it’s Pandora.  I guess she isn’t on the Catholic calendar of saints.  The final hole was for the mirror in the bathroom.  More on that later.


When it came time to install the window, my husband wasn’t happy with the way it looked.  There was some tense testosterone discussion with the albañil (bricklayer) who built the house casting doubt on the quality of work done by the carpintero (carpenter) and the carpintero casting doubt on the quality of the work done by the albañil.  Finally, the carpintero caved and went home to get some more tools to modify the frame.

Yet another trip to town was undertaken when the son discovered he had forgotten to pack the bag of wall anchors.  This time the carpenter brought back drinks for everyone.


I was assigned to help the son while my husband appointed himself main carpenter helper.  I handed things up the ladder and moved the cord so the drills would reach.  Only in moving the cord, I knocked over the carpenter’s beer. AHHH! It’s thirsty work you know.  

Moments later I  knocked over the frame for the bathroom door.  I resigned my position of carpenter’s assistant’s helper and took a seat on the sidelines.

It was a particularly clumsy day for me all around. Earlier in the morning,  I had a spectacular fall in the bathroom while moving the mirror from the bathtub where my husband had placed it for safekeeping.  I missed the step and fell, knocking over and breaking the chair I had been using to wash the windows.  Much to my surprise, I did NOT break the mirror that I was clutching.  I did bang up my shoulder and both knees though.  And then there was the broken chair.


We asked if the carpenter could repair chairs.  He could.  We asked if he could refinish the table which was a wedding gift from my mom but had gotten banged up over the years.  He could.  I asked if he could make me a bench for my piano.  He could.  

I was delighted with the “new” dining room set, however, the chairs came back shorter than they were when they left, although now usable.  This meant new chairs had to be purchased.  This project has become WAY over budget.


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A bit of remodeling–The upstairs bathroom


With a teenage son now and plans of a multigenerational home in the future, (ok, so I can’t wait for grandchildren) we decided that a second bathroom would be nice to have. Since this bathroom was on the second floor, it needed to be raised up to include the plumbing underneath which meant making a step for my short legs.

My husband thought we should have a bathtub, which is a rarity here in Mexico.  After pricing the fiberglass tubs, he decided he would make it out of tile.  So he did.  Again, because of my short legs, another step had to be built.  

We had another search for suitable tile to go with the cream and brown color scheme. We found some creamy beige tile that seemed like it would be ok and ordered 12 boxes. When the delivery guy arrived, there were 9 boxes of cream tile and 3 boxes of other tiles.  Of course, my husband didn’t notice this until all the tile had been unloaded.  He refused the order.  He and the delivery guy loaded everything back on the truck.

Over the course of the next 2 days, my husband went back and forth to town to try and get this resolved.  There were only 9 boxes of the cream tile to be found.  So he accepted the 9 boxes and the store manager deducted the cost of the 3 boxes of hideous tile.  Then the 9 boxes were delivered a second time and work could commence.

Because there were now only 9 boxes instead of 12, there was not enough tile to do the bottom of the tub.  His brother B was also tiling his house and had asked to borrow the truck for tile pickup so when they went to pick up B’s tile, my husband bought 2 boxes of brown tile to finish the floor.  I can’t say that I really like it, but it’s not like many people will see it.  It’s at the bottom of the tub.

Then there’s the issue of the tub not having a faucet.  Our shower downstairs has a faucet on the wall, but no tub. I’m not sure why that is.  So, lieu of a faucet, we opted for a shower nozzle on a flexible hose.  I figured it would be just the thing since my son washes his hair every single day but doesn’t always shower. In the event of an actual bath, we could always fill the tub with buckets.  My husband even assured me he would heat the water on the outside cooking grill if need be.  Ok then.  We do plan on getting a boila (hot water heater) eventually, but it will have to wait.

We had a toilet and sink left over from one of my husband’s remodeling jobs.  He installed them but the toilet wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. It had a broken tank cover and was white which so didn’t go with the overall cream and brown classic look I was going for. I know, so picky!

We shopped around a bit, not precisely for the color although that was a big factor, but for a toilet that had a smaller tank. Water conservation is still our number one concern. We found a cream one reasonably priced and brought it home.  

The next step was getting another tinaco (water storage container) and installing it.  Some heaving and ho-ing got it up on the roof.  An afternoon’s work and it had a base. The pipes took a few runs to the ferreteria (hardware store), but it got done.  As it’s on the second floor and not the first floor, it is against regulations for the water delivery truck to fill it, so we are considering a water pump.  Until that happens, ‘algo pa’la soda’ (a little donation towards the purchase of a “soda”) should get the tinaco filled.

The sink faucet was a hassle.  We went hither and yon looking for something that would do.  After we made our choice, my husband installed it only to find that it leaked.  Back we went to return it.  The shop gave us another model.  AND it leaked too.  Remember, water is sacred.  There will be no leaking in our home.  Third time’s the charm I guess.  No leaky faucet with the third model.

The tub ended up being too big for just one shower curtain.  It was a good thing I had bought two, thinking to change out the downstairs shower curtain as well.


Our Harley carpenter made a wooden towel bar the matched the wooden curtain rod.  More on him later.  A mirror positioned just so to reflect back the light from the window and a plant artistically arranged and the bathroom was done.




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A bit of remodeling–The fireplace

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, my husband made chimneys.  It’s a skill he mastered and was able to use when we added our own chimney. (See Chim, Chimney). When we began the second floor, he had the foresight to begin the chimney base.  Now it was time to finish that baby.

A job clearing a lot in La Yacata became the perfect opportunity to gather the rocks he would need. He and our son worked diligently for about a week cutting brush and small trees while at the same time scouting for rocks which they then loaded into the truck.   A very short ride later, the rocks were tossed up on Joey’s roof for further examination.

Doing a little bit each day, my husband was able to finish the chimney in about a week.

 Looks gorgeous, doesn’t it?



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