Construction Project: "El Refugio"

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This website contains hundreds of photos and other images. Although it can be used with a smartphone, it is much better to use a computer with mouse and large screen.


I built this house through an architect in 2006/7, and lived in this property happily for over 8 years. It is in a beautiful location with marvelous views, and has given us much pleasure. However, we came to feel that it is more than we need (especially since there are only two of us). In particular, while offering a great deal, it also made considerable demands, especially in maintenance of the garden.

Consequently we built a smaller and simpler house more tailored to our requirements. We now live in this new house, and "El Refugio" has been sold. This website was previously used to advertise the property, but now serves as a memento of old times.

There is also a website on construction of the new house "La Esperanza" with myself as architect and my wife handling administrative matters. This website contains valuable information for those thinking about self-building in Mexico.


Click the image on the right for more details on the location, including its position in Google Maps.

The property is situated in a rural location by the village of Chaparaco, yet only a few minutes drive from the center of Zamora; also nearby is the town of Jacona. The location is very convenient for both local and long-distance travel by both bus and by car, being close to both the main bus station and the freeway.

In the photo can be seen the hill "La Beata" and just a little further along the highway is the Lake Camecuaro national park. And the village of La Planta also to the South is a pleasant walk along the canal.

It is hard to find a property in this situation with escritura (i.e. privately owned) since nearly all land in this around here outside the established city areas is ejidal (i.e. having a right of use for agricultural purposes only). Privatization has been refused for neighboring land, and all new housing is being constructed the other side of Zamora. So it appears highly likely that this area will remain unspoiled by future development.



Click the image on the right to see a detailed and accurate map of the property.

The total land area is about 3000m2, occupying over 100m along an irrigation canal. There are superb panoramic views to all sides over agricultural areas, with urban areas beyond and mountains in the distance.

The land was privatised in 1996, and there have been two previous transactions with title via notarios públicos.

Services include a 2-phase 18kW power supply, and a telephone line with DSL. There are two irrigation stations feeding hoses, sprinklers and nozzles.


Click the image on the right for a tour of the garden with photos.

This contains about 1800m2 of Saint Augustine grass. By the driveway are four mature Montezuma Cypress trees. From the gates, a path leads to the casita, with bougainvillea lining the north wall. The extensive patio is well shaded by five weeping fig trees. The area to the North and West of the house is mainly lawn, with a tiled well and several trees. To the South there are numerous fruit trees. Irrigation is from the canal (no charge is applicable), with plenty of water all year round.

Main House


Click the image on the right for a house tour, including numerous detailed photos.

This has two floors, and contains 276m2 of fully-enclosed space, plus several semi-open areas giving a total floor area of about 350m2.

The lower floor contains a large entrance hall, dining area, kitchen, half bathroom, cloakroom, large split-level living room opening onto covered patio, a smaller sitting room (which could alternatively be used for formal dining), and a room under the stairs.

The upper floor contains three bedrooms, including a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom and dressing room plus large balcony, a study (which could alternatively serve as a fourth bedroom), a shared bathroom with "Jacuzzi" type tub, a large sitting area, laundry room, and drying patio; bedroom 3 and the study open out onto a terrace, and to the top of the stairs is a covered balcony.

All three bedrooms, plus the cloakroom and laundry room contain built-in closets. The entrance has double wooden doors that are both curved and arched; the living room and sitting room have arched wooden doors. The sale also includes all light fittings and curtains/blinds as seen in the photos.

The flat section of roof accessible by staircase provides drying space, antenna connections and superb views; there are tiled sloping roofs either side.


Click the image on the right for a comprehensive blog on the construction, including nearly 300 photos.

The construction is much more substantial (and costly) than that typically employed, from the 2m deep reinforced concrete foundation up to the azotea. The main walls are of either double or 3/2 standard thickness.

Roofs are a mixture of flat and sloping, with the flat section being 30-40cm thick. Boveda ceilings with steel I-beams are used throughout; those of the sloping sections are of type Catalana, whilst the flat sections are of the thicker de Cuña (wedge) type.

Throughout are sliding aluminum doors and windows with mosquito nets, and the design gives excellent cross-ventilation. All doors and windows to the South and West sides of the house are of green-tinted mirror glass. This, together with the substantial build quality, results in the house being cool even in the spring.

The waste plumbing system in the main house is vented by 4 vents on the roof. There is a pressure system, and a 250L solar water heater giving pressure also on hot water. This is supplemented by an on-demand gas water heater in the drying patio.

Planning & Design

Click the image on the right to see the main house plans.

The house was constructed though an architect; all necessary permissions were sought and obtained for the construction work done on it, and procedures (such as IMSS payments) followed correctly.

All power outlets in the main house are grounded. There are several service points in the house for servicing the cabling. All electrical fittings in the house are made by btcino. The house has 14 communications points each supporting Telephone, Ethernet LAN and Antenna. The main house breaker box has 23 installed circuits, with a further 5 circuits in another breaker box in the casita.

Water is provided by a well containing a submersible pump, with a control unit in the casita. This feeds water to the main 1100L tank on the roof of the house. There are two secondary tanks of 450L each on the casita and building off the patio which are fed from the main tank (with a shutoff valve by the house). There is internal drainage of rainwater from the roof and terrace to a rainwater drainage well. A substantial septic tank was constructed for foul water drainage.

Other Construction

There is a casita with bathroom at the North end of the property opposite the gate, which could be used to accommodate a maid and/or gardener. Other outbuildings are a half bathroom with storage room adjoining the patio, plus a storage house and storage room at the South end of the property.

There is a well that provides water to the main tank on the house, plus two subsidiary tanks. There is a 17,000L septic tank with 4 easily-accessible chambers giving output of clean water to the canal; there is also a drainage well for rainwater.

The entrance to the property is via iron gates rising to 3.5m high; beyond these is a a driveway of about 220m2 surfaced in pink and black paving stone. Off the driveway by the house is the 330m2 river stone and concrete patio, which is screened with fig trees and lit by stainless steel post lamps along the edge. There are three patio shelters, all with lighting and power outlets; two with tables and benches for dining, and a kitchen with gas stove and sink. A stationary 300L gas tank by the driveway supplies gas to the house and the patio kitchen.