By Ed Kunze, expert in Mexican architecture and construction
It doesn’t really happen very often, but I have seen homes built on the beach, or on a high piece of ground, with small windows and wooden doors. And, even when homes do have decent-sized picture windows and sliding glass doors, they are insufficient. They should be huge, and lots of them.
In Mexico, due to the lack of wood construction materials and their costs, we generally build with the products which we have in abundance and which are relatively inexpensive: brick and concrete. It’s basically a post-and-beam type of construction, where the load is carried by the horizontal beams (acting similar to a header beam above a window or door) and transferred to the column. The space between the columns, and below the horizontal beam, has no structural significance at all. This area can be filled with brick, a window, or a door.
So, if you have a “killer view”, why not just make the whole area between the columns a window or a multiple paned sliding door? Or at the very least, fill-in the corners with brick and mortar a couple of feet to create a wall to set an entertainment center, or a piece of furniture. Then raise the lower part up high enough with brick and mortar to give you a standard height window sill and put in a huge window with 2 or 3 sliding panels.
Besides taking advantage of your view, large windows and doors create great air-flow passages. The breeze hitting a home simply will not cool it down if it can’t get in or have a way to get out. Large windows and doors create such passages.
Materials used for these large windows and sliding doors are generally coated aluminum, which also have a high tolerance to corrosion (better if your home is near the salty sea air). I do not recommend using vinyl (called PVC in Mexico) windows and doors for these huge openings. The high costs and lack of availability make them a poor choice. If a pane of glass is broken, you will not be able to replace it without ordering another custom-built window or door complete, whereas with the common aluminum-framed doors and windows, a phone call will have a new pane of glass on its way.
If security or damage from storms is a concern for you, there are several firms in Mexico who specialize in remote control vinyl roll up shutters, and many more at the local level who build hand roll up aluminum doors. I lean towards the lighter weight vinyl roll ups as the recommendation. They are not too much more expensive than the aluminum style. Just be sure you know what you want before you start building the walls of your home. This allows you to run the appropriate wiring needed to the correct location, inset the rails into the wall, and mount the covered motor roll-up unit above the windows and doors and hidden from sight.
When you want to take advantage of your view–think big.
Ed Kunze is a professional construction consultant from the USA who has been living and working in Mexico for over 15 years. His eBook: Buy, Build or Extend Your Home in Mexico is a practical and detailed guide; an indispensable tool for anyone contemplating a property investment in Mexico. You can download this outstanding eBook from Mexperience.