Real Estate

Wood Decks and Open Space Living Areas

Wood Deck in a Garden

By Ed Kunze, expert in Mexican architecture and construction

Many places across Mexico enjoy a year-round mild climate, conducive to spending a lot of time outdoors and in open-air spaces within the home. In fact, many Mexican families spend most of their time cooking, eating, and socializing on an outside terrace or covered patio of some sort. A few high-end architects take this aspect of Mexican living a step further by creating huge open areas within the home for the family kitchen, dining, and living rooms. Generally, only the bedrooms would then be air-conditioned, and then only in hotter zones and near the coasts—with a savings on electricity costs being one of the advantages.

However, open spaces created within the home can be very expensive.

Essentially the cost per square foot is not lowered very much, because the only thing missing to close it up would be a few large picture windows and sliding glass doors. And, to make the open space more realistic, the size of the home must be increased. Several thousand dollars spent to increase the size of the home would take a lot of electricity usage to finally break even.

There is a way to take full advantage of the outdoor living experience, reduce the size of the home, and lower the cost of your price per square foot at the same time. You just make a wood deck with an attractive roof that follows the design motif of the actual roof of the house. And depending on your local year-round climate and how much you like outdoor living (versus being cooped-up inside a house), the actual size of the house can now be reduced. Your dining area and family/living rooms can be reduced, and you can plan on using them only during inclement weather.

An excellent example of this is a two story house I am built on the beach in Zihuatanejo, a town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, about 150 miles northwest of Acapulco. It’s a small, 2-bedroom and 2-bath home with essentially only 750 square feet upstairs and another 750 downstairs. It’s unique because it has an open, but yet covered, outside kitchen and dining area downstairs; and in case of inclement weather, a small kitchen upstairs.

The home is accented throughout with large picture windows, and large 3-panel sliding glass doors. The two 3-panel sliding glass doors downstairs open to where you step out onto the wood deck on both the front and side of the house. For the upstairs and downstairs, the main entry doors are on the back side of the house and made from solid parota wood.

To not take up any available living space, the stairway is covered, but attached to the outside of the house on the back side, where the covered stairway is shielding the entire house, and the wood deck roof is shielding the first floor of the house on the west and south sides—with only the cooler early morning sun hitting the downstairs rooms from the east side.

The wood deck is about 830 square feet and wraps around two sides of the house, with an unobstructed view of the ocean. All wood materials are made from coconut palm wood, a very low cost option on the coast when compared to other wood types. The roof was finished with clay roofing tiles, matching the roof tile on the second story roof.

The total costs are about US$15 a square foot, whereas the house came in at US$65 a square foot. This approach reduced the total cost of the home (including the deck and stairway) to about US$55 a square foot.

The sun is intense here in Zihuatanejo, and the tiled deck roof gives additional protection to the downstairs rooms in the house. This will help lower air-conditioning costs, give additional protection against adverse weather, and actually be a labor-saving aid because the windows and glass doors will not need to be cleaned as often as they are protected from the sun and weather.

In summary, you do not need to build a huge house, spending thousands of extra dollars for additional construction costs to get the true open-living Mexican experience.

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 Improve Your Home in Mexico is a practical and detailed guide; an indispensable research tool for anyone contemplating a property investment in Mexico.

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  1. Sonya says

    We were quoted $198,000MXN to construct a 300 sq ft (mas o menos) wood deck in our terraza. I asked if they were adding a bathroom and kitchenette!!!
    That is NOT an affordable way to add living space, in my opinion
    The second quote I got came in at $125,000MXN!!
    Gringa pricing no doubt but nevertheless…

  2. B. Buckman says

    I cannot speak to the Zihuatanejo area but where I live in the Los Altos de Jalisco one would be hard put to find adequate materials for a wooden deck. Specifically I mean pressurized lumber. I have done some interior remodeling work, kitchen cabinets, etc. on our home and had a devil of a time locating sound, straight pieces of lumber and plywood.

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