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SPANISH CONSTRUCTION METHODS ON THE COSTA BLANCA (1)

Foundations, Brickwork, Roofing, Carpentry and Plumbing

Foundations: Costa Blanca land is usually fairly rocky providing a good natural base for a villa. Old fincas often had their walls constructed directly on this stone and earth and are still standing after hundreds of years even if they lack a damp proof course. Modern Costa Blanca construction is based on a steel reinforced concrete foundation that runs under all the load bearing walls of the villa. This is very strong, especially when combined with the ring beam that runs round the upper exterior wall. Should either of these be broken you will see major cracks (that you can put a pencil in) and it is not a property to buy. In special cases on steep plots or loose ground, concrete pillars will be driven down to rock to provide a stable foundation platform for construction.

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Brickwork: Apart from old fincas, most Costa Blanca properties are constructed from strong cinder blocks that can comprise all the walls of a villa or only the lower floor with the upper floor being double ceramic air bricks with an insulating layer. This will usually be polystyrene sheeting that works well to keep a villa cool in summer and warm in winter. On older 1970's properties the brickwork can be haphazard and obviously done in a hurry but the houses are quite sturdy all the same.

Roofing: Typical Costa Blanca roofing is the famous Mediterranean red tiling that is laid over insulated ceramic brick and cement on concrete roof beams. Older villas may have wooden beams that are usually painted with dark pitch and are mostly problem free. Red tiles hold up well to the weather and can last for a long time without any maintenance, however you may lose an odd one in a storm and it is better to replace it as soon as possible. Roofing quality can vary with the highest quality properties having heavier moulded tiles and ornate decorative brick eaves. One unusual problem that can occur in all properties, is that when the plentiful Costa Blanca pine trees drop their needles each year, nearby overhanging branches can drop a thick mat on a roof that it's best to clear off. Older roofing here will often turn an attractive browny red as it weathers.

Carpentry and Windows: The local timber of the Costa Blanca is Mediterranean pine and this is traditionally used for doors, windows, cupboards and wardrobes. Properties from the 1970's will usually have dark stained, paneled"Castilian" style woodwork with decorative black ironwork handles and fittings. More recent construction favours clearer varnishes with brass fittings and in the last 15 years or so new woods have appeared like imported straight grain pine and oak, and white paint finishes have become popular. There has also been a big switch away from wood carpentry windows to high grade plasticized aluminium and P.V.C. with reinforced double glazing or security glass. An advantage or disadvantage here, depending on how you look at it, is the reduced need for, and disappearance of the traditional wrought iron Spanish window grills. Kitchens and bathroom cabinets have partly switched over to modern modular fibreboard construction but pine is still common. A typical Spanish feature in kitchens are stone work surfaces that are nowadays cut from granite. These may be white marble in older properties but this has mostly been replaced since it's fragile and doesn't react too well to orange and lemon juice. Granite is a quality feature and in top end construction you may find attractive double finished imported translucent blue Labrador or Brazilian green types. On more recent properties you may find a new composite called Silestone that gives a more modern look but is less practical.

Plumbing: In the late 1970's most Costa Blanca properties were fitted with the familiar copper type installation with properly lagged pipes. Prior to this, ironwork plumbing was the norm, and plenty of this can still be found that is working perfectly, although one day a joint will go and it'll be necessary to replace all of it. Fortunately, this is not too big an undertaking, as most properties from this era have at least a semi-underbuild construction that gives good access, and of course, in Spain, you don't have to take out a mortgage to pay a plumber. While he is down there is also a good idea to ask him to check the drainage pipes from the property to see if these are the original ceramic type. These will almost always have been replaced some time ago (they let in tree roots) but if they haven't it's advisable to do it and replace them with problem free P.V.C. ones.