Series #5 When Can You Call Your Home Finished?
There is a saying in Mexico that your home isn’t finished until it has weathered its’ first torrential rain here, what I call gully washers. That’s when you know if you have a sound house or not.
If three of out of seven of your ground level floors flood, or if you have rain coming through the doors and windows, you aren’t finished with construction. That’s how we weathered our first storm after letting our crew go and returning from a much needed week of vacation. Fortunately for us, in spite of the late hour, our builder rushed right over to survey our problems and consider solutions. Our biggest problem was the amount of water cascading down from the second and third floors into the center courtyard. Rain gutters and downspouts are unheard of here as are Anderson doors and windows.
To compound our problems, once water hit the courtyard, it drained into—rather than away from–surrounding buildings. This fact alone proved my Dad’s observation while visiting here at Christmas, “I see your crew constantly using their plumb bob and level, but I’m confident they don’t know what they are doing or how to use them.” How could the grading be off when they checked it so often during construction, I wonder? I can’t imagine the mess or the cost to tear out the courtyard and reset the stone. So while I’m considering solutions like French drains and weather stripping, my builder has even more innovative ideas.
Amazingly, these remediation measures (about 3 days work), combined with weather stripping the doors and windows, solved about 95% of our problems. To correct it completely, we’d need more conventional windows and doors from the states. Here the hierros make them out of iron to fit your opening, but no matter how much you pay, I’ve never seen one that didn’t leak during driving rain. A much cheaper solution than Anderson-made products, and one we’ve all come to accept, is to make or buy sand filled snakes that work as sandbags around doors and windows but are a lot more attractive. During our rainy season June-August, these tubular additions are invaluable even if you are reptile-phobic.
Another discovery we made during our remediation work was that our wood burning fireplaces (we have two) were venting smoke into the house, rather than up the chimney. Most builders choose to make gas vented fireplaces rather than wood burning, due to cost. Wood is hard to fine in SMA and therefore costly so few maestros learn how to properly construct them. Since one of our two is in the teaching kitchen and is to be used for cooking, it was imperative we find a solution. The standard fix is to raise the chimney, and while that solved some of the problem, it hasn’t solved all. Our next option is to reduce the opening size of the fireplace, which makes it difficult to cook in. I wish I could tell you that we found a solution, but we haven’t. We’ve given up for now. As we approach winter we’ll try again perhaps with a different maestro. One important lesson we’ve learned is to hire a specialist if your crew can’t get it right. This one seems to confound them and after two attempts, it’s time to move on.
It’s been about two months now since the crew has gone and we are finally enjoying our home, but as luck would have it, the home just in front of ours sold and is undergoing a year of reconstruction. So the unbearable noise is back, cement rains down daily on our beautifully designed stairs and main entrance and we find ourselves pleading with the owner, not to obstruct our newly completed view on the second floor by building higher. We thought we’d come a long way in the last three years, but it feels more like starting over…………….
In my final article, I’ll share with you the costs to custom design our 5,000 square foot compound and what it is valued at today, as well as some lessons learned to make your building experience in Mexico more enjoyable.