Costa Blanca property: Construction methods
Foundations, Brickwork, Roofing, Carpentry, Plumbing, Electricity, Central Heating and Swimming Pools
Foundations: Costa Blanca land is usually rocky and provides a good natural base for a villa. Modern houses have a strong steel reinforced concrete foundation that runs under all the load bearing walls, combined with a ring beam running round the upper exterior wall. Modernist syle villas may be built around a steel reinforced concrete frame (like an apartment block) with the loads carried by this structure.
Brickwork: Most Costa Blanca properties are constructed from strong cinder blocks on their basements and double layers of ceramic bricks on their upper floors. These are lighter and give better insulation. They also make a double wall with a central insulating layer (polysterene sheets or foam injected) for better heat and sound insulation. Modern ceramic bricks are better in both these respects.
Roofing: Typical Costa Blanca roofing is the Mediterranean red ceramic tiling that is laid over an insulated ceramic brick base on concrete roof beams. The ceramic layer will be weather sealed with asphalt sheeting or rubber compound paint. Tile quality tiling varies with the better ones being heavier, with better interlocking properties and having more decorative finishes (e.g. some traditional coloured porcelain finishes) often combined with decorative eaves (brickwork or moulded).
Carpentry and Windows: The local timber of the Costa Blanca is Mediterranean pine and this was traditionally used for doors, windows, cupboards and wardrobes. Now, for windows, it's almost completely been replaced by aluminium double glazing with some PVC products. Options are security glass (removing the need for iron security grills), tipping windows, and all with the usual range of quality/price. Kitchen and wardrobe carpentry has mostly changed to modern modular fibreboard combined with granite or synthetic worktops (e.g. Silestone). Granite prices vary with imported types more expensive.
Plumbing: Modern installations are all copper with lagged hot water pipes, with about equal use of gas boilers (butane and propane) and electric immersion water heaters. Houses often have a semi-basement with visible pipework helping installation and placement of the boiler and flu. Modern waste pipes are all made of PVC and give trouble free use. They either connect to the mains sewage in town, or septic tanks in the urbanizations.
Septic Tanks: Septic tanks give few problems and don't require the same maintenance as UK systems. They work on the soakaway principle and can go for 10 years without being touched. When the solids do eventually need emptying, a specialized lorry carries out the procedure in 30 minutes with no problems. It's not necessary to add chemicals or do any special maintanance, although it is worthwhile knowing where the opening covers are situated, on purchasing a property, since the covers can easily become overgrown or covered by earth.
Electricity: Most older properties have been rewired with E.E.C. standard sockets and switches, and new property (or renovated) need a Boletin form a licensed electrician, certifying that the installation meets modern standards (including a new fuse box with a voltage regulator). An owner will opt for a contract with a suitable number of kilowatts for their anticipated energy use (less for a small apartment and more for a larger villa). The Costa Blanca does occasionaly have strong electric storms with big voltage spikes and power cuts, so in this event it's advisable to unplug most electronic equipment (including washing machines and dryers). Battery surge protectors are not enough to protect computer equipment.
Central Heating: Higher value properties will usually have water filled central heating radiators in most rooms, with a central gas or diesel burning boiler. Gas is the most common with the system usually running from 8 or 10 large gas bottles housed in a cabinet on the street. A gas delivery lorry is called when new bottles are need and they are paid for on delivery. Alternatively the house can have a gas tank near a street wall which has sufficient storage to provide gas for most of the year. Some modern construction (particularly apartments) rather use ducted hot/cold air conditioning although central apartment gas supply is also found. Higher grade modern properties may have piped underfloor central heating to avoid visible radiators.
Swimming Pool: The usual pool size is 8x4 meters with a few 10x5 meters or bigger, and they are usually combined with a surrounding sun terrace, either tiled or more recently wood decking. The structure of the pool is a steel reinforced shell, that is then tiled, with PVC pipework, and a separate pool house with a pump, filter and electrical controls. A pool cleaning service is usually contracted on a yearly basis that will provide all the equipment and chemicals needed along with the cleaning, and extra visits in the summer months. Not all properties come with pools, but it's usually straightforward to build one. An architect's project and building license are needed and the pool can be situated up to the boundary of the property.