Renovating My Old Colonial Home in Merida

Renovating My Old Colonial Home in Merida

The renovation of my home in Merida is taking longer than I expected, but this is due to the careful handiwork.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Merida, Mexico

Read more about Mexico in International Living Postcards —your daily escape

As I mentioned before, we are in the process of renovating our colonial home in Merida.

The last few months, the house has been inhabited by a crew of Mayan workers from a small village a few hours from here. They spend the week working and living here. They cook on little makeshift fires on our terraces and sleep in hammocks hung in whichever room of the house suits them best. On Saturday afternoons, they go home to spend time with their families, and they return bright and early on Monday mornings to work.

They are reliable, hard-working, and always cheerful and polite. Still, we want them to move on…

Our architect promised us that the job would be finished by April 15. That deadline has now passed, as has his second deadline of May 1. Our renovation project has taken about nine months. I would have been upset about this before, but living in Latin America has made me more patient. The truth is that although I am at my wit’s end, I know there is nothing to be done and a big aggressive show of anger and frustration will get me nowhere.

Apart from the “ mañana attitude,” there are other reasons for the delay; everything here is done by hand, and that takes time and lots of muscle. Cabinets, doors, and window shutters are built by hand. The holes for water and sewer pipes, and even the swimming pool, were dug by hand. All the stones for the border walls were cut by hand. Every piece of tile and slate is hand-placed with precision. All the cement is mixed by hand, and since the walls, roofs, and countertops are all made of cement, that’s been no small job. Even some of the floors are polished cement.

All of this waiting will certainly be worth it when we come away with a masterpiece that we probably couldn’t afford at home. Laborers here, most of whom are fine craftsmen, make $85 to $100 per week. A good architect is the key to success, as he not only creates your designs and blueprint renderings, but also commonly acts as the contractor. Ours works on a “cost-plus” basis; this means he passes on the material and labor costs and adds 16%. (That’s high, but he’s good, if not prompt.)

When you get to the end of a project like this, anticipation is high and every day seems to drag on and on. We are very anxious to have the house to ourselves…so we can cook our own food on our own stove, sleep on our own pillows in our own bed, and shower in our new jungle-inspired stone-walled shower.

Suzan Haskins
Latin America Insider, International Living

P.S. You’ll find tips and details about working with an architect in Mexico (and much more, including the best places to live and buy property) in the pages of Mexico Insider, the best resource for anyone considering a move to Mexico.

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