Learning Uruguay

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The Pocitos headache

Posted by urufish on May 31, 2007


I’ll bet you never heard of this one.  Neither did I, until this morning.  It was 8:07am.  I was still asleep.  Since I don’t work any more (not on a consistent basis anyway), I sleep in until I feel like getting up.  Anyway, this morning I awoke with a headache.  May not sound important to you, but I can count on one hand the number of headaches I’ve had in my life.  So it’s a big deal to me. 

For the first minute or so I just lay there, just feeling it.  Like I said, it’s an extremely rare event so I wanted to savour it a bit.  Commit it to memory so to speak so I’d have it to draw on in the future should I need to recall what a headache feels like.  After that, I started thinking about what caused it.  Didn’t take too long to figure that one out.  THE BANGING did it.  What banging?  Well, the Pocitos renovation banging of course.

For the first 18 years we owned property here, we lived in a house (summers only) atop San Antonio, in Piriapolis.   For years, the closest neighbour was so far away, you couldn’t see him from any point on our property.  The only noises we heard were birds and sightseeing buses that drove by our house on the way to the tourist attractions on top of the mountain.  When we moved into our apartment in Pocitos, that changed.  Now we had neighbours on both sides of us and below us.  Several months later, the neighbour to the East of us moved.  A few weeks later, the banging started. 

For those of you that live in condominiums (privately owned apartments) or row houses, the following may not come as a surprise to you but for those of us who lived in Canada or the USA in houses or rental apartments, it’s a whole new world. 

Since we moved into Pocitos in 2004, we don’t have a long history to judge from but what we do know for sure is that a lot of renovations have been going on these past few years and they show no signs of stopping any time soon. 

When the people next to us moved out, the new owners did a complete renovation.  A complete renovation in Pocitos means you remove all the water pipes, electrical and phone wiring and ceramics.  What that means is 30-45 days of hammering.  It begins shortly after 8am and goes until 6pm, Monday to Saturday.  Since your immediate neighbour is about 30cm from you, it’s a whole lot of fun when they start breaking the wall on the other side of your bed.  The rooms with the most banging are the kitchen and bathrooms, usually.  But that can change depending on many factors.  In the case of our apartment, that reno went on for 3 months.  The last month is usually finishing and the banging is not as loud and it’s more sporadic. 

After the neighbour’s reno, we had peace for a while.  Then the 9th floor started a bathroom renovation.  Bathrooms in condos here have shafts that travel vertically through each washroom.  We know this because we knew what our neighbours are making for lunch by sniffing the bathroom closest to the kitchen around 11:30am.  So when a bathroom is being reno’d, everyone in the building can hear it.  Of course, if it’s several floors away, it’s not annoying.  But if it’s within a few floors, your peaceful and thoughtful trip to the bathroom isn’t.  Singing in the shower can even be a challenge if the guy hammering doesn’t keep a decent beat. 

After 6 months of on and off renos in our building, we finally moved into our new house.  Like most houses in Pocitos, your house shares walls with your neighbours on as many as 3 sides.  Ours is a corner lot without a backyard.  We have two walls that meet each other that have houses on the other side.  The day we moved in, our neighbour to the south of us greeted us and said he was leaving for 3 months.  He didn’t want to be home during the renovation.  What renovation?  Well his renovation of course.  Of course.  I said it’ s only fair that after we banged on his walls for 6 months, he should at least be able to bang on ours for 3.  Well, that was December.  It is almost June and they’re still banging.  Turns out the architect convinced him that the roof and the sanitary system (piping) was falling apart (when they opened up the walls) and he agreed to replace it all.  Then they decided since they were opening the walls and floors, why not do the electrical too.  So now it’s a full reno.  If we’re lucky, the banging will stop in July. 

So how does one adjust his life to this.  Well, some people really dont.  I read a post somewhere else that someone was moving because of a reno next door.  In our case, we have learned a few things.  Waking hours:  Wake up and eat breakfast before 8am.  That may mean going to bed earlier but it’s better than being awakened to banging or what we find even worse, someone hammering on the wall a meter from where you’re eating breakfast.  Eat out for lunch or move your lunch area to the other side of the apartment or house if possible.  We tried the latter.  it didn’t help.  Sound really travels with this type of construction.  Dirt:  Keep your windows/doors closed as much as possible.  Concrete dust is tough to get rid of.  It covers everything.  We had to have locksmiths come twice during this reno to clean out the cylinders on our outside locks.  Damage:  It’s common for the reno next door to damage your house or apartment.  If they’re exposing outside walls (happened to us in 3 places) you’ll get water coming in.  If they drill a bit too far, they can nick or drill through your piping or wiring.  In they’re doing the next door roof, they can damage the seam between the two roofs.  If they put up scaffolding, they may affix it to your house, causing damage.  Trash from their worksite often falls on your property.  Mortar and cement being used on their property usually ends up on yours.  Most people are responsible.  If you show them what they did to you, they’ll fix it.  Make sure you tell them before their trades leave 🙂

If the idea of months and months of banging concerns you, and you’re going to rent (or buy) in the future, you should investigate your immediate neighbours on either side and above you.  (if an apartment), to see if this is likely to happen during your time there.  

Although what is written above sounds bad enough, there is a lot worse that can happen.  You could rent or buy next to a site that can be zoned for an apartment building.  If that happens, you’re totally messed up.  Not only could the banging last for years, you may find you have no sun or light afterwards and if your lot isn’t big enough, your resale value goes down.  If you’re buying or going for a long term lease, it wouldn’t hurt to pay an architect to research that one for you.  DO NOT ASK YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT.  Having lived through 3 next door reno’s now, I sure would. 

Oh yah.. forget to mention that our neighbour to the west passed away last month.  For sale sign went up last week.  Yup, it’s an old house. 

Special section for those of you who like to find interesting things in pictures……

Bags on street:  In front of the driveway.  That’s what construction folks use to block off parking areas so they can bring their delivery trucks in.  They put debris from the reno in them.

Bin:  Same as we use up north, but in most house reno’s here, they put debri in bags.  That’s usually because they have to remove it by hand, up and down stairs.  But it also allows them to fill up the bins well above the top.  Pay for less trips to the dump site this way. 

2 white signs in 1st floor window.  Every work project has to show the BPS sign.  This shows you have registered the work with the national government.  You pay workers taxes every month based on the hours worked on site.  In this area, inspectors visit you most months.  They get the names of all people working on the site and check the ‘book’ to see if they’re listed. 


Window/Door security:  They put bars on the most accessible windows.  They feel that shuttered windows dont need bars. 

Construction company sign:  It says Casa Abierta.  I’ve seen people walk in thinking it actually means ‘open house’. 

Fachada appliques:  One house has a recessed virgin.  The other one has the familia’s coat of arms.  These houses are protected by heritage laws.  You cant make changes to the front of the houses without permission from the municipality, which is rarely given. 

Red paint on driveway:  You’re not supposed to park in the red areas.  If you do, the owner can call the municipality and have the car towed.  They come quickly. 

Sidewalk:  It’s made of square tiles laid on a thin layer of cement.  The owner is responsible for the sidewalk in front of their property.  If the city rips it up for maintenance, they fix it…  with a different colour tile. 

Lot lines:  The grey house has a ‘0’ front lot line.  He’s built right up to his lot line.  Mine (the pinky) is set back… He has a back yard.  We have a front yard.  The side of our house has a ‘0’ lot line.  People stop by and look into the master bedroom all the time. 

If you notice something else, let me know.  I love picture puzzles.   


5 Responses to “The Pocitos headache”

  1. Brazzie said

    Nicely told. I think my head is starting to throb too.

    I guess this would be an argument for buying an apartment in a brand new building. It is unlikely to undergo major construction for another decade or longer.

    To be honest, the zoning thing alone scares me so much that we would not consider buying a house in Pocitos. My wife and I talked about this last time we were walking around in Pocitos. If you look around, you can see the future: more apartments. As you pointed out, if construction of a tall building starts next door, the value of your house goes down dramatically; not to mention your quality of life for the next two years.

  2. urufish said

    In a brand new building that isn’t next door to an older building or an empty space that could become a new building. It’s a bit of a crap shoot… Until a few years ago, it wasn’t a big deal. But the economy for the past few years has been red hot here and it seems that everyone is renovating now. Just count the number of bins on the streets.

    Before we bought property, we did a couple of days of field work. All the houses on the block south of us are in good repair, recently renovated or about to be and presented no risk whatsoever of a tear down. To the west of us, our neighbour was over 80 years old, house was in disprepair and we knew it was just a matter of time. Didn’t know it would be this soon though. But the lot is narrow… Impossible to put an apartment building there… The house beside it could become a teardown because the lot is wide and deep enough to put up a building. But it’s on the other side of the sun, separated from us by the neighbour’s house.. The good news is the area to the west and south of us is on the other side of the sun. On the sun side, we already have buildings and used to the shade.

  3. Enzo said

    We have definitely taken note to your precautions about noise pollution due to construction/renovation. I read the same warnings on Fubarrio’s blog as well, unbearable noise during construction/renovation.

    Your place and the neighbors look great. Do you have any other photos from along your street/neighborhood? How about of the one that is for sale? I really like that stucco/tile look of your house, very nicely done. How many stories is your neighbors house, more than 3 above ground?

    What about air pollution due to all the outdoor grilling? This is a problem for us here as we live downtown in very close quarters as well (lots of 0.04 acres / 1,742.4 square feet = 0.016 hectares / 161 square meters). So when someone fires up the grill, with lighter fluid and charcoal, they are not vented and the smoke/fumes linger and eventually force us to close our windows. I don’t mind the smell of the meat cooking, it is the grill, ligther fluid/gas, and burning charcoal which is really offensive, and possibly deadly, CO2. The buildings are tall, we have 3 stories above ground, so there isn’t much circulation except for windy days.

  4. urufish said

    Ahhhh.. I think it was Fubarrio’s blog where I read he fled the scene… because of all the noise… Thanks for reminding me..
    Coincidentally, I started preparing a blog today something along the lines of ‘this old house’… I’m taking shots of all the construction points that differe from up home and show them in detail. Also going to include ‘this old neighbourhood’ with shots of the interesting and unusual houses/aptos within a block of the house.
    I should have part of it up tomorrow…
    Smell is not an issue here… I’ve never heard of it.. BBQ’s are all wood.. started with wood… all you will smell ever is wood. and not much of it depending on where you live.
    and since I’ve got your attention, what free or shareware application is the easiest to use to reduce (without affecting quality) the size of digital photos. Believe it or not, I had a person for 10 years who did that for me and I never learned for myself.

  5. urufish said

    Updated June 7. We sat down to eat lunch today and about 5 minutes into it, they started up a hammer drill on the other side of the eating room wall. That’s exactly 1m from my left ear, 1m from both of my wife’s ears. She sits with her back to the wall. We had to actually yell to hear each other. Both of us headed for the Tylenol Extra Strength when we finished eating.

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