Tag Archives: construction in mexico

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Road Construction

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Last year I got my solar light hopes dashed by the installation of a huge, green, interstate highway size sign at the crossroads.  Well, this year, the powers that be decided that the two-lane slightly crooked cowpath that runs past La Yacata needed to be as spectacular as the new signage.

The entire construction process was hair-raising, to say the least.  Every day, huge construction vehicles rolled up and down the road that I, on my piddly little motorcycle, used daily to get to town.  Sometimes hot oil was spraying off the side, sometimes stones were pouring from the back of dump trucks, sometimes the backhoe was swinging its huge arm over my head.

So where were the construction guards, those guys that are supposed to signal danger ahead with little flags? Over there, in the shade of the mesquite.  It was too damn hot to stand where they could be useful.

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For weeks, it was always a surprise to come home after dark.  See, in the afternoons, the huge dump trucks poured the next days’ rockpile on the road.  Even if you thought you could jump the first mound of rocks, the piles were graduated in size, each progressively higher.  Since these rock piles were not there when I went to town, the trek home after dark was a full-fledged adrenaline rush as I wove and swerved and attempted to stay somewhat on the road or at least keep from crashing. I suppose we should count our lucky stars that there were only two fatal accidents during the whole revamping.

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The intersection has become this behemoth entranceway, fully capable of funneling at least 8 lanes of traffic.

After months of work, they have finally finished.  Since completion, there have been four fatal accidents, one involving a donkey and his rider, at the intersection because THERE ARE NO LIGHTS!  I can hardly wait to see what new improvements the benevolent government will bestow on us next year.

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A room of her own–fixing the roof

With the rainy season fast approaching, it was imperative that the roof was fixed.  It wouldn’t do to arrive and find that the beds and computers got wet.  My husband agreed to do the work and even called the owner to name his price.  So the arrangement was instead of paying rent this month, I would buy the materials and pay my husband.

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The roof had already received a coat of impermeabilizante (waterproofing), hence the red color, but as there were holes in the cement, a layer of paint wasn’t enough to keep the water out.

First, the roof needed to be swept and the accumulated debris disposed of.  The house was not constructed very well.  The rainwater pooled at the sides and over the years corroded the roof, leaving it in its current dilapidated condition.

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This cement tinaco (water storage container) is at least 20 years old.

Next, the holes in the ceiling were filled in.

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Then the chipopote (tar) mixed with gas for easier spreading was applied to the worst spots.  It’s possible there will still be one or two minor leaks, but we won’t know until the rainy season arrives in full force.

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Finally, the ceiling received another coat of plaster.  I wasn’t so worried about the cosmetic appearance, but my husband thought it should at least look passable.

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It’s been more work than I imagined getting the place into a comfortable state for working and I’m not finished yet.  The bathroom still feels icky and even though we don’t use it for showering, it’d be nice to fix it up a bit. It certainly is better than it was! I have to keep in mind that this isn’t my house though.  It doesn’t pay for me to invest in unessential repairs.

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Chim Chimney

Do you ever think that maybe some skills should not be lost through the generations? I’m all for forward progress and all, but really, what if we find out that (for example) eating GMO food causes cancer and we want to go back to organic farming. Nowadays, even the farmers seem to have forgotten how to go that route.

Another useful skill that has been lost is how to build a fireplace and chimney. Not so long ago, people would build their own houses around a central hearth, so somebody in the village knew how to make chimneys, probably a good many somebodies. Why hasn’t that skill been preserved?

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An outdoor fireplace my husband built in the States back when we had a different life.

As you probably know, we have a fireplace and chimney. My husband built it himself. Nobody else in La Yacata has one. The few people in nearby Moroleon that have one don’t use them because the smoke comes back in. My husband seems to be the lone chimney maker hereabouts, but nobody seems interested in having one installed. Why? Electric heaters. Gas heaters. Hot air electric heaters. Space heaters. All of which were totally inefficient and impractical for us so the fireplace was the way to go.

Is it difficult to build a chimney? No more than any other type of building I suspect, although every site that gives directions on how to build one tells you it just might burn your house down. What a bunch of pessimists! Our house is made of brick, stone and cement so it would take quite a fire to completely destroy it.

We didn’t have a fireplace in mind when we build our house, but after the first winter, we decided it would be a great addition. It does get cold here in Mexico, not so cold as say, Canada, but cold enough for a roaring fire to be just the thing some days.

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So since the chimney wasn’t in our design, the first step was to make a hole in the kitchen wall. My husband started from the ground and made the first section. About halfway up the first section is where the actual fireplace is on the inside of the house. He used cement sewer pipes that are readily available here in Mexico for the inside tube of the chimney, cementing it in place with a round of bricks.

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The second section up has a smaller cement sewer pipe so the outer wall is not as big. He is planning on going up another floor because our second floor now has a roof and may be inhabited one day. Therefore, the third section will have another yet smaller cement sewer pipe and smaller surrounding brickwork, to be topped off with some sort of little roof so that the rain doesn’t get in and drown out our fire.

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Ignore the wire, it’s not part of the chimney.  We run a wire from our DVD player to the car battery out the hole when we want to watch movies.  Obviously not when we are using the fireplace!

The hearth has an air hole that he made from a car tailpipe. It’s about 8-10 inches from the floor of the hearth and the purpose is to allow the air to circulate and go UP the chimney rather than back into the room. Seems those chimney builders in Moroleon neglected this little step giving fireplaces such a bad rep around here.

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Our toasty fireplace

My husband finished it off with a seating area made from stones we plucked from our backyard. It’s lovely!

For fuel, we use dead mesquite branches we collect from around La Yacata. We can also use corn cobs (with the corn already removed of course). The fire burns faster with the corn cobs but most years we have plenty to keep it going. We could also use poop. Yep, dried cow patties or horse poop burns a long, long time. We don’t light our fire often enough to use up the mesquite branches or the corn cobs, so we haven’t had to go out and collect dung to burn yet, but hey, just in case, it is certainly good to know.

I’m sure that I’ve made it seem simpler than it actually was. There are measurements and bricklaying and figuring involved after all. It took about a week of work too. But it isn’t such an impossible task as one might think.

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