Thursday, December 1, 2011

Barra de Navidad (House Building 2)

If you missed the other parts you can catch up on

How this whole thing started
Building the dock on the canal for Sea42
Building the House Part 1 and finding the property

Now that we had the land title in our name and the dock for the boat sorted out, we turned our attention to building our winter home.

The local architect/builder Alejandro Lazareno was recommended to me by Pepe Padilla, the realtor we used. He knows the area very well and used to be the mayor of the neighboring town Melaque. He had built many of the homes I liked in the area and this gave me the opportunity to talk to other home owners about their experiences. He builds a mixture of traditional mexican features with modern lines using lots of curved walls where other architects prefered more boxy designs.

We worked with him ofr many months, visiting other homes and choosing materials. There are a lot of items in a new house if you start from scratch!
There are many horror stories about building in Mexico, mainly they involve the builder running out of money as builders tend to underbid jobs in order to get work. Having a solid contract and ensuring the builder has considered all aspects/costs are vital. The builder I chose had completed over 50 homes, my 2 direct neighbors houses had been built by him and they were very happy. I felt I stood a good chance of getting what I wanted.
Completing the building contract took over 6 months as we had to wait for our title from Bancomer (Mexican Bank) and also because it took that long to design the house we wanted and to get the contract details correct. We first spoke with the Architect in February, by September that year we were ready to sign the contract and wire the deposit. Luckily the exchange rate moved in our favor in September as the US economy crashed, so we are glad it took so long. I just checked our gmail log for emails to our architect and counted 178 messages!

Breaking ground for our new house. Alejandro (our architect on left) discusses details with the main contractor. Sea42 is tied up at our newly completed dock in the background. October 2011.

As this is an earthquake zone (like San Francisco) I had specified a large foundation built on piers sunk into the ground.
We had all our plans checked by a structural engineer. Ill let you know how it works out after our first big quake. To add to the excitement of starting the house, hurricane Jova hit Barra de Navida directly 2 days after the photo above was taken. (the hurricane season in central Pacific Mexico runs Jul-Oct). It caused damage in the nearby towns and to some beach front properties in Barra. Our boat was spared as its really protected in the canals. I even got an insurance waiver to keep the boat in Barra during the hurricane season.

Damaged property on the sea front in Barra from hurricane Jova waves. No damage in the canals luckily.
Ground floor plans. dock/canal and pool on the left

First floor plans. Large round area is an outdoor palapa.

The nearly completed foundation. All this part is underground.

Looking from the street at the front

The foundations are sealed and filled with sharp sand

A dump truck fills in the palapa area. The drivers son supervises
Once the sand is tamped down, plastic barrier sheeting is placed with steel rebar in preparation for the concrete floor. PVC piping for the bathroom is laid out
The foundations are nearly complete. The orange conduit is for electrical wiring.

Ready to start first floor walls

Mixing concrete for the foundations

The first floor begins to take shape. On the right is the garage. TV room in the center. Kitchen at back.

Ingenious method to hold the pillar forms in place.

Cardboard tubes are placed over the steel rebar before they are filled with concrete. These will be the pillars that hold up the palapa.

The kitchen wall. A reinforced concrete lintel runs around the entire floor to provide support for doors and windows.

Looking through the hallway out the front door.

The forms are in place to pour the first floor.

Palapa and balcony pillars in place

Master bedroom balcony forms

The forms are ready on the first floor ready to add the steel mesh

The opening for the spiral staircase

Tying the rebar mesh together. Note the conduit to the light fittings.

All the wiring and piping in place before the floor is poured

First floor complete

Concrete is dry, so start on the 2nd floor walls

Very few machines, everything is done by hand and using locally available materials

I fly down in late November to check on the progress. There are already 4 yachts anchored in the lagoon.

Front of house. Office above garage on left. Kids bedrooms above kitchen on right

View of boat/canal from master bedroom shower.

Hallway to entrance. Kitchen on left

Spiral staircase from hallway. Entrance to garage on right.

Upstairs office/guest bedroom and balcony

2 tons of blocks and a 55 gallon drum full of water on the upstairs floor 10 days after it was poured. I'm not worried about it being strong enough now.

The palapa area and the master bedroom balcony take shape

Overlooking the marina from the master bedroom balcony

My neighbor dropped by after he caught this 100lb yellowfin tuna. He spared me a slice for dinner.

Checking the Jeep will fit in the garage. Should be enough length to fit 2 cars or the Jeep and a small boat.

A thin concrete coat is rendered on the walls. 4 coats will be applied in total. The final finish will be smooth and flat.

The 2nd floor walls in our master bedroom are almost complete.

The roof is nearly ready to pour. All in under 3 months.

The lower walls after 2 of 4 coats of concrete.

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