Thursday, July 14, 2016

Concrete Houses

A new neighborhood is going up just a few blocks from the botanical garden.  It will be a gated community with prices from 3 million to 5 million pesos.  They are working frantically to get the perimeter walls up so that when people come to few the plans they have an idea of what things will look like. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a concrete house built in Mexico.  Here in the south they use bricks that are made with wooden molds and fired in ovens where they burn just about anything including plastics.  Most of that practice though is coming to an end. 

Concrete block houses are labor intensive as well as a huge waste of materials.   I know, we built a house in Monterrey.  It was three stories and 390 sq meters.  It’s quite impressive to watch the construction.  The walls go up fairly quickly.   We watched the construction day by day thinking, wow, these guys really work fast.  Then came the big shock of shocks.  They began doing the wiring and the plumbing.   The walls and roof are on and it looks great.  A bit sloppy because they are going to cover the outside with a cement finish.   Then it began, all new to me.  They started chiseling through all of that newly set concrete block that we paid good money for.   They chisel canals for the electrical and plumbing.   The plumbing for the drains and water were already set when they did the foundation.   All those good blocks being destroyed.  

Then they began to plaster the walls.   They say good yeseros (yeso is plaster and the plasterer is the yesero) work best when smoking pot.   I wasn’t happy about visiting and smelling pot but hey, that’s what they do and I stayed out of the way.   The plaster is spread on the walls and then leveled.  They use a plumb line and it looks great.   For every kilo of yeso, about ¼  gets thrown out the window.  They scrap and level and once the excess hits the floor it can’t be used.  And don’t let anyone tell you that termites don’t work on concrete houses.  They do!  The plaster is mixed in big wooden tubs that have been used for years.  Scrapping and slopping around the mixture causes wood fibers to get into the job.  We had termites.  They have to drill holes in the walls and floors and inject the poison.
Today there are many alternatives to block.  New cement materials that make what we call thermal blocks that are better for insulation.  Concrete houses have an insulation factor of about an R -5.  The only true insulation is the Styrofoam blocks that go into the ceilings to reduce the weight.  They have even developed a cement block that is translucent and light can pass through it.  They look like cloudy ice cubes. 

At the end of this story, the workers up the street are finishing the outside walls of the gated community.  They have beautiful columns that are made from brick.   There are also mechanized brick companies but those bricks are made for aesthetic exterior use.  After the bricks went up, they covered them with a rough cement.  Once that dried, they chipped away at the cement to put a finished coat of cement (more wasted cement).   The decorative bottoms and tops went on which required chipping off the two coats they just put on.  Well, you get the idea.

If you’ve made it this far on this long and maybe uninteresting read, you wondering why I wrote this.  I’m sitting here waiting for the plumber to come and fix the toilet.  So if and when we build our final destination, we are using the narrowest block and putting metal framing, insulation and sheet rock on the inside.  

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting read. Always enjoy learning how things are done elsewhere.