Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Face Lift: The Old House Gets a New Look


It took five weeks, but it was worth the time invested. The facade of my house is finished, and I suspect that the place has not looked better since the day construction was completed 90 or so years ago.

It started back in September, when I signed a contract with the "Programa de Rescate de Fachadas del Ayuntamiento de Mérida" (The Facade Recovery Program of the City of Mérida). In the contract I agreed to buy all materials for the renovation of the front of my house, with the city supplying the skilled labor free of charge. When the work crew appeared as scheduled in mid-October, the supervisor brought me an itemized materials list, with retail prices, and we talked about the details of the unfolding project. Scaffolds went up immediately, and under the hammers of the work crew, the cracked and crumbling original facade of my home was quickly obliterated, chunk by chunk.

As this began, the head albañil, a soft-spoken middle-aged Mayan man named Luis, began measuring and hand-cutting cardboard templates of the architectural details so they could be accurately reproduced as the wall was resurfaced. Despite careful placement of plastic sheeting on floors, windows and doors and constant cleanups, the entire house, along with those of a few of my patient neighbors, was enveloped in a thick cloud of fine, beige Yucatecan dust.

New concrete was mixed with modern adhesives to assure that the carefully-applied layers of the reconstructed facade will adhere well and be long-lasting. First, a rough coat was thrown onto the now-naked mamposteria stone walls. When this layer had cured sufficiently, a finer layer was troweled and smoothed on, to be followed when dry by the finish coat of silky-smooth white cement. At the same time, the facade's adornments were recreated using molds cut from sheet steel following the cardboard templates.

Every few days, Luis or the supervisor, an engineer named Marcos, would notify me of the materials needed for the coming stage of work, and I would walk five blocks down to the nearest building supply store to place and pay for the order. The materials would be delivered the following afternoon.

Which brings up the topic of patience. When materials were delivered, they were piled into my front sala, or living room, which had been emptied of furniture for the duration of the project. The sala also is where workers kept their tools and works clothes, and where often they ate lunch and rested out of the sun. When a homeowner decides to participate in the facade renovation program, he/she agrees to provide work space, storage for materials, a source of water, and a bathroom for the workers. They take over part of the house. They were polite and careful, but still there were half a dozen strangers in the house for more than a month. Doing the facade correctly is a painstaking process, and patience is required.


The house had been painted pink with white trim and ironwork when I bought it, and it remained that way for ten years. I'd decided to give the house a more dignified color scheme with the renovation, and am very happy with black metalwork against a white and cream background. The results give the place a more traditional, colonial appearance. My costs for this project were about $9000 Mexican pesos, or a bit less than $700 U.S. dollars.

Following are a couple more images of the final results.






Read an earlier post on the facade project here.


Text and images copyright 2013 by Marc Olson

15 comments:

  1. really lovely! all your friends will walk right past and then have to back track foir a while when they come a callin!

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    1. I suspect that a few friends (and maybe the pizza delivery man) may pass it by once before realizing there has been a change. But I do think it looks nice.

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  2. The facade is beautiful, but the color...not so much. It's about the same color as my house here in northern California; I am finding it less "dignified" than gloomy as the years go by.

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    1. Christine, I love traditional colonial neighborhoods in their traditional color, which was mainly whitewash tones long ago. I've been in a number of historic districts where color use is more strictly enforced. I like the traditional look. But it's only paint, after all.

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  3. The house looks great! I am sure that you are glad to have the upheaval of the renovation completed, but it was worth it. I like the bright colors of the houses in Mérida... colors that would look garish in a neighborhood in the U.S. seem to work in Mexico. That said, if I were to have a house in Mérida, I would go with a color scheme more like yours. Congratulations!

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    1. Actually, having visited some old neighborhoods in other Mexican cities, in Colombia and in Spain where all the buildings are white, that's the color I wanted. But the INAH does not allow plain white in Merida for some reason. I chose the next best thing, a pale off-white.

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  4. I drove by a few days ago and almost missed your house! Love the work that these men have done. Lovely!

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  5. Since when is pink not dignified? It's the navy blue of India, after all. And it's the precusor to red. All right, maybe it's not right for a man to live in a Barbie house, but i'd be chary about mentioning that in public.

    En serio, you've got yourself a great deal for the money. And you ought to take that house off the market and enjoy the upgrade.

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  6. Each time I walk through town, I've marvel at the various façade projects going on. It's very nice to see you choose traditional colors. The finished project is wonderful! I'm looking forward to restoring the façade at my place next year.

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  7. That's a very informative post, Marc. I'm sure many other Centro folks will find the info useful.

    For your peace of mind, I'm glad it's completed. Only today I read about a Centro "derrumbe" which could have caused many injuries. It's too bad that there isn't a way to channel funds into the needs of some of the vacant properties.

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  8. It looks great.

    I have become rather accustomed to strangers coming and going through my house. Between the maid, the gardener, their relatives, and assorted repairmen, I seldom go a day without someone on the property. It is almost like living in a hotel with no revenue stream.

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  9. Great value for the money, looks wonderful!

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  10. The house looks great, and I'm amazed at how inexpensive it all was, even the materials. It's also rather surprising that the city isn't charging something, perhaps based on a sliding scale, to do the work. But it's fantastic they were able to provide workers who really knew what they were doing.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    DF, Mexico
    Where we fantasize about real estate projects, but have yet to take the plunge.

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  11. Your color choices are so pleasing, and the house "jewelry" especially so.

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  12. It looks really nice, Marc. I wish I had seen it prior to the renos so I could know just how great the improvement is.

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