Mexico Connect
Forums  > Specific Focus > Home, Garden & Construction in Mexico


Rolly


Jan 8, 2004, 8:28 PM

Post #1 of 10 (6779 views)

Shortcut

Building Project Update for 8 January 2004

Can't Post | Private Reply
This week's report is a little early because we're done! I drove away from Doņa Martha's house at 2:11 this afternoon after sweeping the sidewalk any bidding the workers goodbye. I am happy, relieved and sad. Sad to say goodbye to a couple of guys I have worked with 5 or 6 days a week for almost 2 years. But I'm happy that when I wake up a 5:30 tomorrow morning, I can turn over and go back to sleep.

The city gave us the OK to remove one of the two trees we wanted to take out. We got rid of the one that was blocking the new front door. The fee for the removal permit is to give two new trees to the city to plant somewhere else. I think that is a really neat idea. Glad to comply.

The front door is in and the new sidewalk is finished. Looks nice and drains properly. We had a little rain to prove it. We don't have interior doors and cabinets. But they are coming. Stay tuned.

We hauled off all the left over sand and gravel. As usual, we put it in some of the worst holes in the street in front of my house on the other side of town -- the forgotten side.

Since my Mexican building adventure started two years ago, I have taken over a thousand pictures. From time to time I have missed a shot I really wanted, but this week I missed the Mother of All Pictures. We were pouring the new sidewalk when I slipped and fell flat into the fresh concrete. I managed to keep my head up and didn't get any concrete on my new Stetson hat, thank goodness. But most of the rest of me was something out of a horror move -- "It Came from beneath the Concrete" or "Concrete's Revenge" Anyway, I got pretty cold standing in the street washing it off with a water hose, so I could get clean enough to get into my truck and go home. What a mess! What a missed picture! I though about a re-enactment so I could have the picture -- thought about it for a millisecond. I was the only one laughing; everyone else seem too shocked.

This week's pictures are at http://rollybrook.com/R04-01-08.htm

This is the last update until the cabinets are in and Doņa Martha has moved back to her 'new' house.

I wonder what I'll do next. Maybe I'll go on a diet, start an exercise program and learn Spanish. Or maybe I'll just sleep in. In the afternoon I could go to plaza and sit in the shade and doze like the other old guys.

Bye for now.

Rolly Pirate


(This post was edited by Rolly on Jan 8, 2004, 9:12 PM)



ET

Jan 8, 2004, 9:12 PM

Post #2 of 10 (6768 views)

Shortcut

Re: [Rolly] Building Project Update for 8 January 2004

Can't Post | Private Reply
It can't come to end -- start remodelling your house!!!!

Thanks once again for continuing to share. Do the workers have other jobs lined up?


Rolly


Jan 9, 2004, 8:22 AM

Post #3 of 10 (6753 views)

Shortcut

Re: [ET] Building Project Update for 8 January 2004

Can't Post | Private Reply
The maestro does not, but there is a lot a building activity here, so he'll have no trouble finding another job.

Ruben has a job lined up in the city maintenance department of Gomez Palacio (the adjoining city). He has real talent in the building trade, but the lure of a steady, life-time secure job makes him willing to take a less well paying job. From his house to his new job is an hour-long bike ride.

Nani will probably go to work, short term, for Doņa Martha's oldest son who has a very large project in his welding shop (not the family shop attached to the house). Nani is only 19 but already is an excellent concrete and tile man.

In this two-year adventure, I have worked with seven maestros, none of them very outstanding. I've lost track of how many apprentices have come and gone, but Ruben and Nani have been truly outstanding workers -- rare finds! I'll miss my daily contact with them. They have come to understand my terrible Spanish accent, and they do a good job of reading my pantomimes. Ruben has been with us since the second month of the Las Casas project -- 21 months ago. Nani came a year ago. If I were to start another project, they would be my first hires.

Rolly Pirate


(This post was edited by Rolly on Jan 10, 2004, 7:23 AM)


ET

Jan 10, 2004, 8:46 AM

Post #4 of 10 (6726 views)

Shortcut

Re: [Rolly] Building Project Update for 8 January 2004

Can't Post | Private Reply

Quote
Rolly writes:
....In this two-year adventure, I have worked with seven maestros, none of them very outstanding. I've lost track of how many apprentices have come and gone, but Ruben and Nani have been truly outstanding workers.....


Glad to hear the young guys have work lined up. In the back of my mind I had noticed in your website chronicles (are you sure you can't be convinced to take on another project???) some workers had names, whereas the maestros were simply "maestro" but didn't realize that you had had so many turnovers. To your knowledge, is this common on Mexican construction projects (possibly the maestros coming and going depending on the type of work being performed) or a feature of having knowledgeable oversight (you and Enrique as an example) chasing out the less-abled?


Rolly


Jan 10, 2004, 9:29 AM

Post #5 of 10 (6723 views)

Shortcut

Re: [ET] Building Project Update for 8 January 2004

Can't Post | Private Reply
I don't know how common turnover is in general. Our first two left when we complained that they were too slow. They said if we wanted them to work faster, we would have to pay more. Adios. The next one left after a month or so because he had another job that he wanted to do. Another left because he had a personality conflict with some of the other guys. Number five left at the end of Las Casas. Number six, who had been with us for a long time, left during the remodeling for reasons I don't know. He was replaced by number seven who completed the remodeling job.

If I were to do another job (unlikely), I would probably rehire number 6 because I like him personally, and I am aware of his skill shortcomings and thus would know what to watch for.

The things I noticed in all of them are a casual attitude toward following the dimensions shown on the drawings and a total lack of interest in using a square. The result is we have irritating errors in sizing and locations of some walls and windows as well as corners than aren't square. Many of the non-square problems would be unnoticed if we had carpet on the floor, but tile really points up the errors.

These are cosmetic issues -- important, but not dangerous. The problem that really worries me is the concrete work on beams and columns. In the USA, and probably most other countries, concrete pours are vibrated to be sure there are no voids. I have never seen a vibrator being used here. We had a guy with a piece of rebar jabbing into the pour. And that only because I insisted on it. Even so we ended up with columns having voids and poor joints. I nearly had a stroke when I saw one corner column with a two foot gap in the concrete. Thank goodness it was almost at the roof line, so there is little stress on it. Also thank goodness this is not earthquake country.

I think it is most unlikely that I would undertake another building project. This has been a great adventure, and I am very glad I had the opportunity to do it, but now I want to get back to being retired.

Rolly Pirate


ET

Jan 10, 2004, 10:58 AM

Post #6 of 10 (6714 views)

Shortcut

Re: [Rolly] Building Project Update for 8 January 2004

Can't Post | Private Reply

Quote
....The things I noticed in all of them are a casual attitude toward following the dimensions shown on the drawings and a total lack of interest in using a square. The result is we have irritating errors in sizing and locations of some walls and windows as well as corners than aren't square. Many of the non-square problems would be unnoticed if we had carpet on the floor, but tile really points up the errors....


Interesting! I've noticed the careful installation of small pieces of tiles to fill in gaps between a full tile and the wall, and marvelled at the attention to detail. It never clicked on me that this is probably the root cause problem. It's also consistent with the idea that construction practices change in a place where labor makes up smaller percentage of total construction costs and you can afford to have somebody carefully scribing, cutting, and installing tile fragments.


Quote
....TThe problem that really worries me is the concrete work on beams and columns. In the USA, and probably most other countries, concrete pours are vibrated to be sure there are no voids. I have never seen a vibrator being used here. We had a guy with a piece of rebar jabbing into the pour. And that only because I insisted on it. Even so we ended up with columns having voids and poor joints. I nearly had a stroke when I saw one corner column with a two foot gap in the concrete......


And more enlightenment! I've noticed voids and spalling, as well as what appeared to be much faster aging and deterioration of concrete work. After reading your pages sort I sort of chalked up to casual mixing and contamination, but this would play a major factor. People are going to love it when during my next visit I go climbing up next to failing concrete to better examine the exposed edges.....

I have seen a pretty frightening concrete failure on a large construction project in the US. With all of the carefully spec'd out mix and additives, drawings, and equipment, I saw the results of an underwater pour where the crew got lazy (it was the last couple of columns for the day, and no inspector could get to the site without being spotted about half a mile away) and pumped the concrete from too high up, allowing the concrete to fall through the water within the form, rather than pumping it to the bottom and moving upwards. When the forms were removed a few days later, a couple of the columns crumbled dramatically, as the cement never properly set (and in some areas completely washed away) and the aggregate sorted out by size as it fell through the water. The contractor's insurer ended up paying of a very expensive demolition job, as well as the cost of the replacement construction and pours.


Rolly


Jan 11, 2004, 3:23 PM

Post #7 of 10 (6689 views)

Shortcut

Re: [ET] Building Project Update for 8 January 2004

Can't Post | Private Reply
I just got an e-mail from a Lerdo expat living in the USA. He's been following my building sagas. He wants to return to Lerdo and build a house. He asked if I would be interested in being his architect/supervisor.

No rest for the wicked.

Rolly Pirate


bournemouth

Jan 11, 2004, 5:03 PM

Post #8 of 10 (6681 views)

Shortcut

Re: [Rolly] Building Project Update for 8 January 2004

Can't Post | Private Reply
That's wonderful Rolly - we can then enjoy more construction updates - I was already suffering from withdrawal syptoms.


Rolly


Jan 11, 2004, 5:53 PM

Post #9 of 10 (6673 views)

Shortcut

Re: [bournemouth] Building Project Update for 8 January 2004

Can't Post | Private Reply
We'll see. My guess is nothing will come of it. I just talked about it because I thought it was funny. What a remarkable thing the internet has become.

Rolly Pirate


TomG

Jan 18, 2004, 10:51 AM

Post #10 of 10 (6635 views)

Shortcut

Re: [Rolly] Building Project Update for 8 January 2004

Can't Post | Private Reply
Rolly, your series has been one of the most remarkable things on the Mexconnect. Your series exhibited the best qualities in the engineering character so well described by Alexander Solzenitzin in his books (he trained as an engineer).

In your retirement I hope you will publish articles with your informed overview opinion of various areas of Mexican building practice, utilities, labor, construction economics, and all manner of issues that came up and you solved on the spot, or lived with.

i.e. Your concrete experiences - screwy concrete practices are not funny in earthquake country; but I think what goes on here in Oaxaca is worse than you see up there. All sand is hand dug, tossed at a screen, and hand loaded from the river bed and it is filled with contamination. In this form delivered it costs at least as in the USA for washed and graded sand; but here it has to be second-screened by hand on the job by the more careful. That said, it still unwashed and very contaminated with clay (opinion confirmed by a local maestro); then the problem of the screwy hand mixing on the street by the kids, and the pour problems that you describe. I'd hate to use my money on this kind of crap shoot down here in Oaxaca.
 
 
Search for (advanced search) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.4