Building a Beach House

Jun 1, 2020 by The Old Gringo

Last month’s column dealt with getting a slice of paradise by buying either a condominium or an existing beach house. The third option mentioned was building a beach home from scratch. In my opinion, this option requires the most dedication to beach living.

First, one needs to purchase, through a bank trust (see column from May 2020), a piece of beach front property. Once you have your bank trust, you are ready to begin the process of building your dream beach house. If you have any construction experience, keep it to yourself! Deciding on the size of the house, and amenities you want, should be your first decision.

If you are looking for a simple place for just a couple of people to come and enjoy, you’ll probably be able to find a contractor, or several locals who have the requisite skills, to do the work…and an architect to draw up your plans. Also, these days, Peñasco is requiring building permits, so you’ll need to get your plans approved and stamped as well as pay appropriate fees before you begin construction. If this process doesn’t make you regret your decision, press on!

If you opt to involve yourself in the construction despite my earlier caveat, buckle up! It’s going to be quite a ride! Obtaining building materials, especially finish materials, of the correct type and quantity is going to be an exercise in frustration. As will getting the work done in a timely manner and in anything remotely resembling accepted standards and practices. You will need to keep in mind that this is Mexico and “the way we did it in “Pick-a-Town, U.S.A.” does not matter a whit.

You will quickly become aware of things like water cisterns, pumps, septic systems, leach fields, solar power plants (if city electric is not available, or if you chose not to connect to it), liquid propane storage tanks and the like. Your proficiency in any or all of those systems is not required, but an in-depth understanding of each is a must if you expect to enjoy your beach house moving forward. Locating these things on your plot plan before beginning construction is a good idea to avoid conflicts.

The actual construction is a thing to behold! Building on sand is tricky business and experience in preparing footings of the proper size and strength is required, if you don’t want your dream beach house to crack and crumble in a few years. Cement block construction is pretty straight forward and, usually, happens quickly once the footings have been completed.

Door and window openings are another area where knowing what you are doing matters, and your selected contractor/help should know how to make them in the correct sizes.  Dual pane windows are now available in town and are highly recommended. Glass block is used in a lot of applications for artistic effect, but the insulating qualities are not so great. Doors and cabinetry of good quality are also available locally now and referrals to good suppliers and/or craftsmen are recommended. Do not skimp on quality!!! Anywhere!!! Saving a buck and getting shoddy material will cause you to regret that decision down the road. Plumbing fixtures, water heaters, etc. can be had at places like Kuroda (Blvd. Josefa Ortiz De Dominguez # 322, Centro, Puerto Peñasco) or Expotile (First s/n, Port Enclosure, Puerto Peñasco), but light fixtures are a little tougher to locate, especially if your décor is more than ‘basic.’ Roofing can be either wood, or concrete, covered with an elastomeric coating (which seems to work pretty well).

There you have the general requirement of a basic two-bedroom, two-bathroom beach house. Add a garage to keep your chariot, or toys in, and a Dish or Direct TV connection…a dash of internet in and you’re living the beach lifestyle.

Getting one built will test not only your pocketbook but your patience and, in some cases, your sanity as well.

Assuming you are coming at this as someone who has little or no experience in construction, either by trade or business, and with Mexico in general…or Peñasco in particular, the experience of building a beach house will be like none other you have ever had. If you are married, this will test the strength of that bond.

My recommendation, if you intend to build a larger, more luxurious place with lots of little extras, would be to interview a few local home builders and get recommendations from people who have used them before you choose one. A larger, more intricate home will, naturally, increase your budget but it will also test your ability to withstand stresses that are hard to describe.

The process of constructing a beach house in Peñasco has changed quite a bit since the “good ol’ days,” and it would take volumes to describe the ‘then and now’ aspects of those changes, but if you were to ask me if all of the stress and aggravation is worth it to be able to own, and use, a beach house here in our little corner of paradise…ABSOLUTELY!!

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