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  • Catherine Green

Mexico City

Our very own Norm Kaswell recently traveled to Mexico City to assist in their embassy building’s renovation project. In this blog post, he shares his travel experience, along with some insight into work he did aboard.

Here's the scoop on my trip to Mexico City


I arrived on Sunday, April 16 to a pretty old and uninspiring airport. Very old, very dull, little color, and lots of people. Caddell did what they promised. They sent two fellas to pick me up. They drove me to my hotel, and we agreed they would pick me up Monday morning at 8:00 am, so I would be on the job by 8:30 am.

The next day I was taken to the jobsite, a huge complex of buildings, inside a chain link fence, with lots of security guards, with guns, protecting the premises. To get in I had to surrender my cell phone and drivers license. They gave me my official badge, and I was allowed to walk in. I had been instructed to report to Bahar Kismet.

To enter the construction grounds, I had to change into the protective gear they provided to everyone. I had to wear boots, a yellow jacket so I could be easily seen, and a hardhat to mess up my hair. We walked and walked on very dusty unpaved dirt roads surrounding all the buildings. There are several. You can't miss noticing the stone slabs on the outside of most of the buildings. Sandstone from India. They told me how many containers of stone panels came to them from India. I forget the exact number of containers, but it was more than 500. I kid you not.

Once we arrived at what will be a major entrance we went in, down several corridors, and had to climb two flights of stairs. I asked for an elevator. They told me there was one but a longer walk than we just did, so I pretended not to care. Climbing the stairs was awful. They were steep and many. But, I did it, though one step at a time. Once we reached the top we walked down several corridors, seeing more of the sandstone panels, past some of the most beautiful oak trims and bench seats in what will be a cafeteria. The oak was superior in appearance than any oak I had ever seen. The oak was also from India.

We finally arrived at a small room, approximately 400 sq. ft. where they intended to start the installation. The concrete was fine, although resurfaced in several places. I suggested the first row begin at the entrance, and however we hit the back wall, we'll cut in as needed.

The team had a 9 block sample panel clearly made by Kaswell, with a label on the back, with essentially no spaces between pieces except some slight shrinkage. The panel was finished with water based urethane. I told Caddell, and Caddell told the owners that the blocks must be spaced apart to insure prevention of issues of expansion.

We showed the owners 1/811 width spacing, and they liked it. Caddell sent out for 1/811 spacers. When the spacers arrived we started the install using the Mapei 980. The installation was slow and Caddell then realized they were going to need "an extra11 to cover the increased cost of installation labor. We had 5 workers, spreading adhesive, laying blocks with spacers, and cutting in at the end of the row. We completed about 1/3 of the room, and it was decided to shut it down. They all agreed enough had been accomplished in the field on day one.

On day two at the constitutions grounds ownership wanted a meeting. Every seat was filled and ownership was well represented. There were local Spanish speaking architects there, Caddell was there, and a fellow named Mario who I was introduced to as Caddell's flooring contractor.

Ownership grilled all of us about the installation, and most of the discussion was about how to finish the flooring. I recommended Woca. No decision had been made during my stay. After the meeting several in attendance expressed real thanks that I was there. I was asked if I could stay. I said no, but I could come back. There really wasn't much more I could do since they didn't have any Bona AmberSeal that I recommended. They didn't have any Bona sealer, but had one unit of Bona HD Traffic finish. They didn't have any Woca Oils. They did not have any granulated cork, though I brought a small quantity with me, and I showed them what it would look like. They liked the idea and appearance of the granulated cork.

I was then escorted back to the room where the flooring was being installed. The workers had installed an additional 1/3rd of the room, and had stopped because someone decided it was time to hook up the drum sanded and get that operation started. They had removed all spacers from the portion of the flooring installed on Monday, and so on my arrival to the room the drum sander was hooked up electrically, but no one had ever run one before. The machine they purchased was made in Mexico, but ran well. They had sandpaper there in various grits, but they had to cut it both lengthwise and widthwise. They did not have a template so cutting to fit the machine was a task, and very time-consuming each piece, but they were able to cut it and put it on to the drum as we would without machines. I told them they'd need another machine, but Mario said no. Good luck to Mario! The machine did not come with a belt to wrap around the operator's waist, so I made one for them out of rope. It worked better than not having anything. I demonstrated and taught one man how to operate the machine. They did not yet have an edger. I took them through 40, 60, 80, and 100 grit drum paper, and I told them and showed them that if they were careful, that the results could reduce to almost nothing the extent of disc-ing needed. They had a disc machine but with the wrong paper. I told them the only reason to disc sand might be just to eliminate fiber pull.

Overall it was a positive trip and I was happy to offer my expertise on this exciting new project. We will be sure to keep you posted on updates as construction progresses.


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