There aren’t any construction standards in Chapala and Ajijic. I’m involved in construction more than anything because that’s my background. That’s why I was always intrigued by how they put up houses here in Chapala. The materials are stone, rock, or concrete. It’s a 12-inch wall; it’s thick and it’s heavy.
I remember when I took my stepson, who was raised here in Mexico, to the disaster area in Louisiana after Katrina to work. When he saw those splintered homes, he said, “Pops, no wonder they’re falling apart. Look, they’re just sticks. Look how they build these things!” All he ever saw in Mexico were rocks, concrete, block, and mortar- all heavy-duty stuff. Nothing’s going to knock it over. A hurricane can blow through here, and it may take off a roof and a few tiles, but it’s not going to move that wall. Water will, but the wind won’t. Up north, the homes are made of sticks. Tornadoes go through there and make them look like a pile of toothpicks.
The construction here in Chapala is heavy, and it lasts for a very long time. Over the last two decades, we’ve seen US standards come in to Chapala big time. You can go to the hardware store and buy a grounded plug, and in some of the old homes, you’re going to see two pronged plugs, and you’re going to think, “Oh my God, really?”
Now, they’re putting in US standards when building here in Chapala. Galvanized pipe for plumbing is a thing of yesteryear. If you find galvanized pipe, it means it’s an old house, and you’re going to rip it. I remodeled my house and ripped out a bunch of galvanized pipes, which are not used anymore. Now, plumbing uses either PVC, or green or blue plastic with a 50-year guarantee, which is good stuff and lasts a long time. Although it’s a little bit pricier, it lasts forever, especially when you put it in a concrete wall, in which case it’s not going to corrode.
Plumbing and electrical standards have improved immensely in Chapala and Ajijic. Mexican builders have also figured out ways to do door jams and window frames, and we’ve quit using wood and plain painted metal that can rust. Everything’s gone to aluminum and PVC. We’ve got new materials.
The only drawback in the construction industry here in the Chapala area is that we haven’t seen enough new engineering. I see Pablo building a house the same way his father built a house, in the same way his father’s father built a house. They still do old time construction, and it doesn’t hold up as well. You’ll see cracked foundations and sagging doors and jams sometimes in the cases where they didn’t learn the new ways to build homes.
I have many architect friends who have been to school and say, “No, we don’t do it that way anymore. This is how we do it.” We use poured concrete- there are actually concrete trucks that you can order who will come pour your foundation in one pouring, and it’s very critical to have a solid foundation to make sure it’s poured all at once and concrete is cured properly.
When you get a good mix without a bunch of dirt, you’re going to get good results. It’s improving all the time- you’ll see old and new construction side by side. Yes, we have subdivisions with cookie-cutter type homes in which you have four different options. But we got some pretty reliable builders who have been doing it for a while. Maybe it’s not the top end, but it’s not going to fall apart on you, either.
The construction in the Chapala and Ajijic area has two standards: there’s one that old dad used to do, and there’s the new standard coming in from Guadalajara that says, “No, this is how we build it now,” and has taken over the subdivisions. Maybe not the villages yet, but it’s taken over the subdivisions where you can see good quality construction that’s going to hold up for a while.