Thursday, January 31, 2013

It's Only Concrete

Once we finally had the official ownership documents for our new Casa, we had to work quickly as we had only a month before it was time to leave Mazatlan and head north once again. We had a crew lined up and ready to go, and they were at the house the day after we had possession. There was so very much to do, it was hard to know where to start but our contractor, Jesus Guadalupe Castrejon Sanchez (he also answered to Chuie, Jessie, Maestro or Jefe)has done many homes in Centro and knew everything that had to be done. But Mike always was at the house asking him what was going on. He has worked with gringoes in the past so he was prepared for our pestering.
The first, and most important, issue for Mike was the height of all the doors. Each and every door was at least 4 inches shorter than he is, which was involving a lot of ducking, and the occasional very painful head bang. We really had no idea what would be involved to raise the heights of the doors, and were a bit apprehensive until we heard Jesus, our contractor, utter the phrase we would hear over and over again: "No problem, it's only concrete". He wasn't kidding. Out came the sledgehammers, and after a very noisy day, Mike was able to walk into every room without endangering his life.
Concrete is the main building material in Mazatlan, that and bricks. We arrived at the house early one morning to discover that the bricks necessary for building the walls on the roof top had arrived and were piled on the street in front of the house. How did they get upstairs? One by one, tossed up by one crew member to another.
The concrete and mortar are all mixed by hand. The sand and gravel required had also been delivered and they were piled in the corner of what would, someday, become our living room. We had no plumbing in the house at that point, and so an immense tank filled with water had materialized in the future kitchen. The sand, gravel and water were loaded into 5 gallon pails and were carried up the stairs to the second floor and then out to what would become our terrace.
The materials are all carried up a flight of stairs, the concrete is mixed by hand, it was hot, and they worked at it for days, with just a short break for lunch. And they still smiled at me when I arrived with my camera, and laughed with Mike as he attempted to 'help'.
Mike tried everything. He swung a sledgehammer (said it was very very heavy), laid a brick (somewhat crooked) and attempted to apply mortar to a finished brick wall (more mortar on Mike than the wall). Mike is very talented, knows how to fix toilets, install light fixtures, install drywall, just about everything a good Canadian man should know about basic construction techniques. He has discovered however that building a house in Mexico is a whole different story. Despite Mike's efforts at assistance, work processed smoothly, and we were still pretty much on schedule by the time we were ready to leave for Winnipeg in April.

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