Quality construction at Lake Chapala begins with a stone foundation and red brick walls which are strengthened with interlocking upright and horizontal steel-reinforced castillos (hand-made concrete beams).
While the brick boveda ceiling/roof structure is readily visible to homeowners, the material used inside the plastered walls of their homes is not as apparent. Given the opportunity to make the choice, I’d select ladrillo (fired red brick) rather than locally produced bloque (hand-poured, solid concrete block) for the walls of my home.
Mexico Insights Note: You can see bloque being made in an open field just above Doñas Donas in Ajijic. Forms are placed on the ground and filled with concrete. After a brief setting-up period, the forms are removed and the blocks cure in the sun.
We’ll talk about how bricks are made in local brickyards in tomorrow’s post. Those are the brick being sold from the line-up of huge trucks near the Ajijic Cemetery. It may surprise you to see how those bricks are loaded into the contractor’s truck for delivery to your house.
Workers throw stacks of five bricks (each weighs about a pound) bucket brigade-style from the huge truck to the delivery truck. At your house, the process is reversed as workers throw the bricks from one to another to bridge the distance from the truck to the stack of bricks they are keeping in reserve for the job.
(Left:) A worker stretches to catch the stack of five one-pound bricks that is thrown to him. Did you notice that the bricks separate mid-air and you can see spaces between them, making the stack even harder to catch? (Right:) Surprisingly, as long as the rhythm of the throw and catch are maintained, workers seldom drop any of the bricks.
What’s the Difference between ladrillo and bloque?
Developers producing homes for sale in a development and individuals building “spec homes” (homes built for profit, with the intention to sell them during the construction process or shortly thereafter) often build with concrete blocks. The blocks are less expensive to purchase than brick and because they are larger, it takes less labor and less mortar to construct a wall.
Blocks can be used to create a wall that is strong (if the builder includes several rows of bricks after about three feet of block height). If the developer cuts corners and uses only one or two rows of brick instead of three or four rows, or saves brick and money by waiting until the wall is four or five feet tall, the strength of the wall can be compromised.
While the quality of the finished home can be affected by the use of brick vs. concrete block, my biggest concern is with the insulating quality of the two materials.
Keeping Warm in the Winter and Cool in the Spring Heat
North of the border homes are insulated as they are built, and additional insulation is added to older houses. You’re familiar with the need of insulation to help keep the house warm during the cold months and cool during warm times.
Its very different in Lake Chapala-built homes. With no attics, crawl spaces or hollow walls, we depend of the building materials to insulate us from the more moderate climate here – and choosing the right one (along the best alignment of the house for cross breezes and direct sunlight) can make a big difference in the temperature inside your house.
1. Adobe. The best insulating building material of all is old-fashioned adobe. While I only know of one home built from hand made mud adobe in the past 15 or 20 years, I’ve lived in two old homes where most of the walls were adobe covered with plaster.
2. Local Brick. Locally made and fired traditional brick insulates very well. it can be even better if the walls are build in the old-time method, making them 1.5 bricks thick. Bricks are readily available, made from local deposits of clay, and are reasonably priced.
3. Concrete Block. Concrete block is nearly always used for locales (small storefronts in strip mall-like buildings), other commercial buildings and in cheaper construction.
How are these natural clay bricks are made? How is the process different from bricks made in Europe hundreds of years ago or in Canada and the US in the past two centuries?
Next -- Brick: Lakeside’s Cornerstone: Part 2 Making Bricks
Learn the ancient process of making and firing bricks
Then -- Brick: Lakeside’s Cornerstone, Part 3 Making Arches
How are arched windows and doors constructed?
And -- Brick: Lakeside’s Cornerstone, Part 4 Domes and Vaults
Learn about the domes that crown many local homes in the old Moorish style the Spanish brought to the new world in the 1500s.
Ahhh -- Brick: Lakeside’s Cornerstone, Part 5 Boveda
Ah, the key to making those arched ceilings so common at Lake Chapala. How do they do that?
And Then – Brick: Lakeside’s Cornerstone, Part 6 Brick Designs
See the variety of designs that used in side walls, boveda or domes…and learn the names. This is a valuable reference piece.
To Wrap up the series, there’s a Bonus Post – Brick: Lakeside’s Cornerstone, Part 7 The Roof
After all, the whole point of that strong boveda, vault, arch or dome is to create a safe, dry roof over the living area of a house. See what happens next.
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