I have just viewed the entire thread with my husband, he is impressed with the work done thus far, he could never imagine himself taking on such a challenge. That you and your family could envision this build is commendable and thankfully you have skills and communication abilities that will help you succeed.
I'm watching this with interest. We have several friends who have purchased then renovated old houses in and near Pátzcuaro, México. I cringe when I think of the hassles they encountered. But in the end, after spending a great deal of dinero, the results are usually wonderful.
We just keep on renting a modest but comfortable house, and are quite satisfied with our arrangement.
Long term rent Don was something we considered. After all, we didn't live there yet year round and even if we did live there all the time it'd take quite a few years to pay the same as buying and doing up a house for what we wanted. I'm still hoping the benefits of buying and the hassle of doing it up outweighs that of just renting and doing bugger all as regards responsibilities. Definitely the mental feeling is different when having your 'own place'.
Now then, the roof caused all sorts of problems between us and the builder. The main problems were that when he costed out the whole job he included in all the calculations for the rest of the work, the roof. However, he must have made some mistakes in his workings out as when we got to the roof, which was the last thing, he started to contact us for much more money. He said that the regulations had changed and this entailed a different design to the one he had costed – thus making it more expensive. Unfortunately for him we were just about to fly out there for our summer holidays, so we could see him face to face. The original idea was that he’d be finished and gone well before we got there. But due to blaming various factors outside his control, he was well behind in the work. In the meantime he started stripping the roof down –
The original pillars were strengthened above the rest of the pillars and floor in the lower floors that had already been done –
You can see a bit of a lean in the centre of the building which needed correcting –
Once corrected new concrete beams were installed across the centre and lined up with a makeshift locating jig –
These then filled with more concrete –
The front and back walls similarly done –
The central pillars were then extended upwards to account for the ‘new regulations’ –
And then came the concrete beams to span across from the front and the back to the centre. But this was another of the areas of friction between us. In short, the regulations he had to abide to were from four years before this was happening (as I found out) – hence, he should have known. Secondly, he’d ordered and paid for roof beams (a lot of them) that were the wrong size. I also pointed out to him that the tiles we’d agreed on, that he’d ordered, wouldn’t clear rain according to their specifications below a certain pitch (roof tiles are not the same and only work properly at certain angles according to the manufacturers specifications. Pitch = roof angle). So a set of longer beams and more expensive ones, had to be ordered and paid for. This mistake he tried to get us to pay for.
But anyway, work cracked on while we sorted this out. He even threatened to take his men off the job and walk away from it there and then.
However, the roof beams arrived and started to be fitted –
We’d specified we wanted quite a thick insulation in the roof and between each beam were thick Styrofoam type blocks. He you can see them lined up for use –
All the beams were ‘stitched’ together and to the house structure by drilling through each end and tying them together with the same reinforcing steel used when concreting. Eventually all the beams were up and the insulation in place –
The top looks the same as underneath until you cover it completely with waterproof concrete –
The tiles were then fitted on the top of this –
You can appreciate the different angles of the roof to the front and the back –
The overhang to the front which is the same as the back –
It was then finished and the house made water tight again –
Next I’ll try and post some views of the inside now it is ready for internal walls building and everything fitting out. Plus it also needs a full set of windows (28) and doors (4 external and two French doors). Then what we wanted to happen with the inside as regards layout and the reasons behind it.
Give it time K2, give it time. It actually looks better than a number of houses near to us that have bright red roofs.
mich, wood is quite expensive in Spain, they much prefer to do as much as they can in concrete. We have a plan for the exterior and the immediate surrounding land, yes. Not really shown yet but in front of the house is a courtyard of 14m x 10m that was covered in old loose stones - a death trap actually when you wanted to walk on it. We need that to be re-done as part of it as well. The exterior work, apart from when it immediately affects what we are doing inside, is to be left right to the end. Same as the outside of the house that needs re-plastering after having all sorts of access holes cut in it and windows put in.
Our roofs are also tiles, rather similar to those on Mark's roof, but not completely. They are never put on concrete, but onto wooden beams.
Mark, was this work done during or after the bust in the Spanish construction industry? If during, the contractor was probably happy to have the work and certainly wouldn't have walked off the job anyway.
Yes Mark, I assumed there would be alot of red roofs, why I do not know. The softer yellow/brown tone you have chosen will also not attract the heat as much as the red does.
The wood would be expensive there, I do not see much around. Our product applications are so different. Even our new Hospital is constructed with a lot of wood. I will take pictures next week and show you that even in industrial applications we do use much wood.
We do use concrete block for foundations for homes but never for walls. Commercial builds will use block though for exterior walls.
bjd, it was happening the spring/summer of 2010, so after the downturn started. He would have been a fool to walk away from it but he had a reason in that we weren't going to pay him any more money apart from what we'd agreed no matter what extra problems he had. It could well be that he'd actually save money by stopping as soon as possible.
mich, I'd much prefer wood but there are problems with it for some reason of the climate in that region and many people who have had wooden window frames put it regret it as they seem to warp and stick a lot.
Admirable and astonishing an endeavor...I took quite a bit of time in the last 2 days reading this and wondering many of the same questions asked. I'm glad you didn't go down the demolition route as I would have laid claim to the very same attitude of maintaining the bare bones character and overall aesthetic. What a pain to have to deal with though, long distance with bureaucratic crap and sleazy contractors,language barriers etc. I somehow have in it my head that being what appears to be so very remote an area and isolated,you would somehow be able to escape having to deal with all the umpteen permits,variances etc. that many urban areas are more stringent about.
I can certainly see from the pics why the fig tree had to go,having been neglected and allowed to grow rampantly with no pruning would certainly cause problems with the structure of the building and invite vermin etc.
Is the style of the house of a particular era and are there other houses in the area in good condition to do a comparable with and perhaps get some advice about your renovation?
Casi, we always knew that it wouldn't be easy because of my language barrier and the distance. We went into that with ours eyes open so these problems were not unforeseen, but we treat them with the respect they deserve and also with a little chuckle as though to say, "I told you it would happen".
The permits are less strict than in an urban area but we still have to obtain the same kinds of ones, just they are granted a little more easily. One strange thing is we knew we'd need a permit for the septic tank. We went to the planning office to enquire about it and apply and the three souls in there asked us where we lived, looked at the maps/register and told us, "Not to bother. No-one ever applies for one anyway."
The original part of the house is about a hundred years old, bits have been altered and added over the years and it is roughly as old as quite a few in the vicinity. None though are in a particularly good condition, those that are, are a lot younger and if we feel we need advice we'd certainly ask a few people. As it stands though for now we are doing ok and overcoming anything problematical. This we actually did at one time to find a new builder, a local one. I'll mention that later as a bit of a story as well.
The UK builders had eventually finished the late summer of 2010. And good riddance. It is a cliché to say they spent all day supping tea, but that’s what they seemed to do. They’d turn up around 8am and be gone again about 3pm with frequent breaks. The lads were nice enough and I got on well with them, but had little work ethic. They worked as they would in the UK and I’m not surprised they never had any work from the locals, they relied on expats to provide the business. And as there aren’t that many around us................
That left us in the position of needing someone else. Now the initial hard work and major work had been done, the building was structurally built like a tank and a bit of a blank slate. A local cafe had been renovated and we were regular customers (free wifi etc, the owner spoke excellent English as well). We were in there one morning when we were admiring the standard of workmanship. We asked him who had done it and he pointed to a man sitting at a nearby table with his family – he said he was the local builder and if he was still welcome then he couldn’t be dissatisfied with what the builder had done.
We politely interrupted him and it more or less carried on from there, we set him on to do the next parts we required with the thought that if he’s no good then there are still plenty of them available. We met with him in his office the next day and my wife detailed what we wanted, he spoke no English. He came and had a look, submitted a quote and when we met him again I asked what would happen if he encountered problems, any problems at all, halfway through or whenever, that cost extra time and materials. He replied that is then his problem. The price is fixed, it won’t be cheaper, but on the other hand it won’t go up by one cent. I told my wife I love him and want to have his babies. She didn’t pass this on though.
This builder has now continued through various phases with us. He understands we don’t have the money to do it all in one go and is happy doing things as we require in fits and starts when the finances permit. My problem is the obvious one – I can’t communicate with him in Spanish, but my wife can fortunately. This is ok when she is there with me, but I do go very often without her. However, we do communicate through drawings. It is a bit of a universal language in that I do plenty of detailed drawings and pass them on to him and we both understand the materials used in the building work. There is very little then that he needs to question and when it does happen we sketch a few more things or do a bit of charades to get the point across.
Working from then on, in the house, is usually just a man and his lad. The man is highly skilled and the lad keeps him topped up with bricks and mortar, plaster etc. Sub-contractors are also used from time to time mainly to wire and plumb the house up, but not often. They turn up at first light, whatever the time of year, have half an hour break in the morning, have an hour siesta from 3pm and then work through either until just after it is dark or 8pm whichever is the sooner.
When it was all just a building site we, or I, tended to camp there –
The open shed/lean to type thing had been blocked in and secured for the batteries and water tank –
The outside crap house, missing the ‘porta potti’ at the time of the photo –
The steel erector building the temporary stairs –
Originally there was a stair way from the ground floor to the middle floor and then another one from there to the top floor. We had to decide what we wanted for the house – the layout more or less. We decided that the ground floor would be made in to two guest bedrooms, each with its own entrance, not connected and most important of all, not connected to the rest of the house. If, in the future, these would be rented out we didn’t want guests to be able to wander willy nilly around our part. Mainly though they were to be used for relatives (especially her mother). This meant that the staircase was removed and blocked in making just a separate ground floor. The stairs from the middle to upper floor needed replacing anyway but it wasn’t the best idea to make new ones and have them ruined by builders working and messing them up. So we had temporary steel ones built that will last until all the top floor is completed.
This is then how the ground floor looked after concreting, insulating and the access into the big open area blocked up and the stairs removed –
I then started to layout on the floor where the bathrooms would go. It’s all right measuring up and doing a drawing, but far better if you can lay it out in real life to see if when you have a shit you can reach the toilet roll –
Still a bit dark in there but better when the new doors and windows are fitted –
To give an idea here is what it looks like on paper empty –
Just to mention, if you remember the front of the house, it has steps outside from the courtyard up to the middle. Eventually these will be torn down and the entrance door will become just be French doors one floor up with no access. To get into the house there will be two doors at the rear, one into the kitchen and one into an entrance hall. To get there, there will be steps around the side of the house but these will be one of the last things we do whilst the builders need access.
To give an idea of the middle floor this is part of the rear of the house that’ll become the kitchen. The floor is what was the old large open space. Again, it’s quite dingy because no windows were yet put in. You can just about see the holes for the rear windows to the left which are necessarily small because of the thickness of the wall in that area – it’s just over a metre thick –
This is a representation of what the middle floor looks like at this point with the window holes put in –
The top floor, with the steel stairs and no windows looks like this –
And a representation –
The building stayed like this the whole winter to dry out and settle and the next thing was to put windows and external doors in.
Windows and doors – I wanted wooden ones. The builder didn’t. Nor did anyone else for that matter. All the advice we were given was, don’t have wooden ones. We spent ages looking at every building we could find, at the windows - wood, aluminium, plastic, steel whatever. What we also didn’t want was those uPvc type white ones that were cheap and user friendly, but not really in keeping with our view of what the house should look like. Many buildings seemed to have those steel ones found on 60’s council estates in the UK, many had uPvc and many had wood – but virtually every wooden one we opened (usually surreptitiously) stuck in one way or another. Some had aluminium, some even had wood effect aluminium. These were a reasonable price, had the right feel to them, looked fine after a few years – but looked a bit cheap and shiny when new.
We also had a number of criteria – they must be able to have shutters and must be able to have mosquito nets. Eventually after an exhaustive search, these were the type we had to settle on, the aluminium wood effect types. Plus there was a local firm that manufactured them, which was a bonus. The doors we needed all had to match as well, this also could be done and the firm were willing to adapt any design they had so that we could have the mossie nets, the shutters and with the doors, a split window where the top opened plus shutters/mossie nets as well if needed.
No matter how secure they were we also needed a security grill/door on the outside. This spoils the look somewhat but is necessary – and is traditional. So – these were the type of windows –
As mentioned before we need quite a lot, of various sizes, plus several doors. A price was agreed on, a delivery date and the builder was perfectly willing to put them all in. In several places the external wall that was left was not strong enough to support the window so an internal wall had to be built. This was also insulated between the two. This shows one of the three insulation boards placed in each one for that purpose –
The finished window from the inside. Obviously the wall isn’t finished, it needs a scree of plaster. On the inside of the windows are shutters and when the window is opened an external mosquito screen can be pulled down –
From the outside, with the security grill it all looks a bit grim, but functional. I’ve now painted all the grills with Hammerite (special hard wearing anti-rust paint) in a dark green colour and they look better than in the photos. Note the steel door in the first photo –
Note the French door/window in the middle of this one -
And then again in this one. Where the external steps are and the silver aluminium door, the steps will be demolished and a French one put in there as well –
This was one of the sides of the house –
Looks a little different now –
The doors at the front into the ground floor. The arch above the second is part of the external steps and due to be removed –
At the rear of the house on the middle floor (rear right as looking at the front) is the access to what will be the kitchen –
We had one door left to go. The main entrance door at the rear into the entrance hall. Where the steel door was in the above photo. This also needed a shutter and a mossie net – but I put my foot down – I’m having a solid wooden one whether it’s good for me or not. I also didn’t want the security steel grill outside it for aesthetic reasons. So it had to be solid, fitted well and securely and capable of stopping a charging rhino. Cost a thousand Euros, but I hope will last me out (still looks a bit new though. It needs some kids scuffing it up and banging it shut a few times) –
I’ll just mention the back patio. This is what it looked like –
Quite nice actually but not wide enough, it didn’t extend to where the door for the kitchen would be and most importantly, sloped the wrong way. When it rained all the water would run to the rear wall and stay there, soaking in.
Something had to be done. So it was.
First of all we got a man with a machine in to dig it out –
He asked me if I wanted the big rocks taking out at the end as well. No, I said, we’ll clean them up and paint them white – and build the wall around them.
A concrete base was put in sloping away from the house –
Question – how do you over the length of something like a patio, determine an exact horizontal so that you can build a gentle slope with a drop of about 10cm from one end to the other? And also a slope away from the house wall – in effect it slopes in two directions.
Answer – you get a clear plastic pipe, like a hose pipe, that is long enough, plus a metre or two and that will stretch from one end to the other. Get two men, one at each end to hold it so that the ends are about at chest height at each end of the patio. Gently fill it up with water (using a funnel if you want) – it will run down the pipe which is resting on the floor (ends are up in the air). When it’s filled to about waist height – stop and hold it steady up against a wall (the back wall of the house in this case). Each man marks on the wall the exact level of the water as accurately as possible.
These two points will be exactly horizontal. Join them up using a stretched taut chalk string line, twang the string carefully and a perfectly horizontal line will be marked on the wall. Measure up and down from this (the datum level) to get the slope you want.
Here endeth the smartarse lesson for today.
Build the retaining wall (they love concrete) –
Clear the building materials off it, find an old broken plastic picnic chair and contemplate eternity in the gentle setting sun. Actually contemplate how much you need to clean it so you can dress the concrete properly with tiles or slabs –
Then walk round to the front of the house to find it’s bath time for the kids –
I have one question about the grills over the windows. When I was going to university in Los Angeles, I lived for a year in a "Spanish style" apartment block which had nice strong grills over the ground floor windows. This was a must in that part of town, which was a high crime area. One day, there was a big fire at the other end of the building. It had started in the kitchen, which had quite greasy walls from insufficient cleaning, and the fire was fierce. A woman and her children were trapped in a bedroom and could not get out due to the grills over the windows. We could hear them screaming for help as the firemen tried to get the grill off. The firemen succeeded, but it was a close call.
So -- my question -- is there any way to get the grills off in case of an emergency?
bjd, the internal walls, just on the inside of the external ones, were built with holes in them for where the windows would be placed. We then had to knock through the external wall as in many places the wasn't a window in that place or it was too small. E.g. on the top floor an internal gable end was built for the extra weight of the roof. Here you can see the opening for the window with a concrete lintel -
This wall butts up against the original external wall where there was no window opening (just a small hole). When the window was fitted the old part had to be knocked through. So in the views of the outside, like the difference one above, what you initially see is the old external original wall where there was no window. To the left you can see pillars but no holes. This is, between the pillars, the old external wall that never had holes in it anyway, they are not new, only the pillars are.
In the second photo of the windows post you can see the state of the old external wall and the new one built inside, with a window sized hole in it, to support the window. None of the new walls were built without a hole in it for the right window - only the external old one had to be punched out. Is this what you mean?
The external walls will be tidied up with plaster and white paint - when the time comes in a few years! Spanish lessons - hmmmm - you have the same idea as my wife.
K2, the short answer is no. And I am aware of it. In the ground floor the grill over the door opens and in each room is the only exit. In the middle floor the grills over the (what will be) two French windows at the front will open for exit and to jump on what will be a small roof for shade across the front of the house at that level. The rear of the middle floor has two exit doors. The top floor will have a window grill at each end on each side that will open (four in total) but the five on the front and rear walls at the top won't. It's about the best I can do.
At this stage of the renovation we have a more or less empty house, just a centre wall and outside walls with a few holes in them. It was some time before this point where we decided what we wanted as to arrangements of rooms because of the locations of the windows and on the ground floor, where the drains would be when concreted in.
The basic layout was made for all the floors, but on the top floor we had to make some changes. The original plan, after talking to the Spanish builder, wouldn’t work without some effort (and cost) because we’d put the bathrooms in a place whereby the drains from them would be difficult to run out of the house. Mainly this was because we’d wanted then towards the centre of the house when the best place, especially for the toilet, was on an outside wall. So I had to re-design the layout and produce new drawings for him.
The builder initially wanted to know just where the internal walls would be – this he quoted for us – and the next stage would be to fit the rooms out with flooring, the bathrooms with showers, toilets etc and what tiles we’d want in there. But he did want to know where these would be so he could pipe them up accordingly. He also wanted to know where the lights and switches would be so he could ‘chase out’ (make channels in the walls) to run the wiring. The procedure is to build a wall out of block or brick, cut into it then for the pipes and wiring, then plaster the finish.
So I sent him some plans. These are an example of what was sent. The ground floor was easy enough, it just wanted measurements for the walls of the two bathrooms. But I also sent him separate drawings of the lighting and location of the toilets, sinks and showers – plus a general picture so he could see what the final idea looked like. The walls and the final idea (bear in mind the tiles/colours were yet to be decided, it was just an idea) –
The middle floor with the kitchen representation for location, the entrance hall toilet, the rooms between the two which will be a TV room, at the front will be a living room and bottom right corner will be our bedroom and bathroom –
The top floor was more complex. On the ground floor would be two bedrooms and bathrooms, the middle would be as stated, but the top floor would have four bedrooms and bathrooms (or maybe three bedrooms and a study with a bathroom) plus a storage room. We have three kids, they need three bedrooms, so they’d get one each and we’d sleep on the floor below out of their way (yippee!). One room would be the study and occasional guest room. This necessitated a large number of drawings, even of the centre wall to get the sizes right. Here are just a few of them for an idea –
Then, as before, an idea of what each bathroom would look like but not with exact tiles as we needed to be in Spain to select what was available – but it gave an overview –
So, he soon cracked on and started to build the walls –
The entrance hall was tidied up and a bit of plaster thrown on before the new window was put in –
And this is what I mean about chasing out the walls for the electrics –
That was very interesting Mark - thanks for all the photos showing the detail. There is only one thing I would not bother with - the bath. It's so darn hot here we only shower AND in cold winter we like to shower too! I must tell you one of the most romantic bathrooms we have ever used in a hotel had a DOUBLE shower with one shower-head a little higher than the other ;D There were also no walls only a slightly sloping floor, and all part of the main bedroom........ How are you going to position the taps around that bath?
When my parents built their house in northern France, how they would have loved to have (me using) architectural tools to indicate what was to be done. They had to do it all the old way, with ruler, paper and pencil.
Very impressive planning, but it is almost sad to see those wonderful large spaces be eaten away such mundane things as bathrooms.
Clearly, I am going to have to look up some of my parents' construction as well as my own endeavours when I claimed the attic of my building, but that will have to wait since I do not have a working scanner at the moment.
tod, I'm English. I need a bath. I'll have showers in the summer but otherwise it's a bath for me. It's positioned so that I can see out of the front window. The tap(s) will be a single mixer, as indicated, on the end furthest away from the toilet.
K2, it's a constant balance and compromise between open space and necessary rooms unfortunately, isn't it?. I do regret that after starting with such open spaces they are then cut down so I can go to the toilet in privacy. Maybe an open barn conversion next then.
The ground floor has been completed and in fact we were living in this last summer. There are two rooms with their own bathrooms, unfortunately my camera is not good enough to do justice to them as all I can get in the frame is a wall and part of the floor. I need one of those special lenses that can get it all in. Before we cleaned it all up here are the sink units we had built –
I found some odd bits of pipe laying around so I whipped up a small desk for something to do while the kids were mopping out. Don’t know what I’m going to do with it though –
The entrance hall with the new window is coming on all plastered and fitted but needs floor tiles and painting, and the toilet –
The kids decided they wanted the TV room on the middle floor at the side of the kitchen to be this colour (I’ll no doubt change it later) but it does have a floor in it –
The kitchen is finished but looks a bit bare and rectangular. It needs all fitting out and a coat of paint. At the end by the window will be a pantry in the corner with a door on it –
Our bedroom and bathroom is all but finished apart from, again, a coat of paint and a good clean –
Our bathroom works well for me –
Going up the temporary stair to the top floor landing –
A couple of the rooms are finished upstairs apart from the floor and bathrooms need fitting out –
This will be one of the full height bedrooms, probably for my son, and we’ll set up the bed on top of the bathroom/store room for a bit of a change –
So that’s about it. Hopefully the rest of the inside can be done this year and we’ll start on the outside. The courtyard at the front will be easy enough, just wants tiles or slabs laying. We need though new walls around it and a proper gate for entrance. The main problem at the moment is that we’ve developed plans for where the swimming pool will be and the outside patios, but it seems one of our neighbours has dropped us a low ball – necessitating a re-think.
He says that part of what we thought was our land, is his land, at the immediate side of the house. This was not unexpected as there are frequent boundary disputes in the countryside and we thought one or the other might try something. He is adamant about it and says he bought the land quite a few years ago and it runs up to our house wall on one side. Rumours have abounded about us for several years in the village, the main one is that as my wife is entitled to be called ‘Doctor’ they’ve understood her to be a medical doctor – which she isn’t, she has a Doctorate but not in medicine – we are going to open a hospital in the house. Other rumours are a little more weird in that it will be an orphanage or......... or........etc.
Anyway, as regards the boundary, we have deeds showing it. These are registered as required and copies are at the local and area offices for such a thing. We’ve been to several of these offices to enquire as to the situation with their records. None have details of what he is saying, they only have on record ours. He states he’s done everything legally and has deeds and it is registered. We’ve told him there are no records of it at the proper offices. We’ve also told him that he needs to bring to us, or meet us somewhere, with his proper authenticated deeds (that do have a map on them as standard) so we can see them as at the moment they appear to be fictitious.
This was last summer and we’re still waiting for him. The other point is that, without getting too complicated, the law in the area states that he would not be allowed to buy the piece of land he says he did because it is too small a parcel for the non urban area and not attached to his other land nearby. So we’ll see what happens.