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Our Casa: Construction

In 2004 we sold our house in Capistrano Beach and started building in 2005

on our property in San Felipe, Mexico, near the Sea of Cortez. To say it has

been an interesting experience is a gross understatement but in the end we

have been satisfied with the results. I designed the house, had a Mexican

architect draw up the plans and a Mexican contractor build the house. I opted to do some of the finish work myself, which in hindsight may not have been the best decision. What I thought would take me six months to complete is now going on two years and I still have the master bath to do. Fortunately, retirement takes the pressure off of getting things done.

Rather than describing the process ad nauseam I will let the photos tell the story. As to the various construction mishaps and frustrations, I will keep this on a positive note and let other people tell their building horror stories. Everyone down here has one.

This first series of pictures were taken from the roof of our “vintage” RV which we used as our base during construction. The first photo shows the layout of the house on the clay base which was dumped and graded over the desert sand. The Honda Element is parked in front of the future garage for scale.

This photo shows the foundation, which is a series of box beams molded into the soil.  When the slab floor was poured, a wild burro ran across it that night leaving hoof prints in several rooms.

The walls are 10” thick blocks made from concrete and recycled Styrofoam. They are stacked, reinforced with steel and concrete is then poured to create an internal grid. They have an R factor of 50 and are many times stronger than a standard wood frame wall.

In this photo the rear patio roof has been framed with old beams. The patio faces the sea, which is about two miles away.  Behind the house are the tallest mountains in Baja, reaching over 10,000 feet.

The rear patio roof has been tiled. We later added an outdoor island with a grill and sink. The stairs at right lead to a roof-top deck. Shortly after this photo the RV was removed, revealing a rattle snake that had secretly made his home under our temporary home.

This is how our house looked from our nearest neighbor’s roof. As you can see, we don’t have a lot of houses nearby, although this was taken in 2005 and there are a few more visible these days. We like it that way - it keeps the desert more natural looking. We were the third house on our block, now there are seven. Our lot is on the end of a cul-de-sac and beyond that is a 500-foot green- belt (well, not really green, more like a greenish-brownish-tan-belt).

Rear patio, during construction and finished. We plan to extend this space to the left of the photo and add a low wall to keep the sand and the critters out.

Our Casa

· Construction

· Exterior

· Interior

· San Felipe

Front view, during construction and finished. The gatehouse encloses an entry courtyard. In the finished view you can see a low wall off to the right of the gatehouse which we added to enclose a vegetable garden. The picture on the right is from three years ago so now there is some nice landscaping grown in.

Roof tiles stacked and waiting for installation. These were hand-made in Mexicali.

The day after the slab pour, showing the wild burrow hoof prints made that night.

Another contractor loaned us his uncle, Noel. He is installing the drain line from the guest shower that now waters a palm tree. Water is not wasted in the desert - even condensation from the AC units is put to use watering trees.

A worker hand-chisels out the slab for the patio door sill.

The entire house is tiled, including the garage. Here a tiler installs baseboard tile.

Back patio with cooking island.