What’s with that cement furniture in Mexico?

Cement bases for beds and sofas used to be quite popular, and many homeowners still prefer them. Photo: Courtesy
Cement bases for beds and sofas used to be quite popular, and many homeowners still prefer them. Photo: Courtesy

If you have been looking around to purchase an older home in Mexico, you most likely have seen built-in sofa and bed bases made from concrete or cement. The public appears split on their appeal.

Cement used to be a very common frame for living and bedroom furniture. The bases were topped with cushions or mattresses so that they would be more comfortable. For some, this type of furniture is an exciting and different design style that speaks of Mexico. For others, as soon as they have purchased their house, the concrete or cement bases are the first thing to go.

The use of cement in Mexico dates to the end of the nineteenth century. By the 1920s, cement was the material of choice, not just for the exterior of the home but also for some interior furniture. Maybe that is because it is one of the most economical construction materials or because it can withstand earthquakes.

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Although concrete and cement are words we tend to use interchangeably, they are different. Cement is an ingredient of concrete. For over a hundred years, houses and some furniture in Mexico have been made primarily of reinforced masonry — brick and cement blocks, reinforced with concrete and rebar.

Why did cement become so popular? The raw materials for producing cement are common here in Mexico. Cemex and Apasco, the two main cement companies, did a fantastic job promoting the benefits of using concrete in the early years.

They promoted the durability and longevity of cement over other materials such as wood, which is prone to decay. They communicated the benefits of its hygiene and health. Cement is easy to clean and, because it is smooth, prevents the buildup of microbes. As a third benefit, they showed how cement could be used to create lower-cost decorative elements such as columns and arches.

Along with doing philanthropic work in the communities and creating popular training documents (akin to graphic comic books), these companies did a great job ensuring cement became the building material of choice.

For those wishing to keep their concrete bases, periodic re-application of a sealer will help avoid cracks. To keep concrete clean, wipe any stains immediately.

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For those looking for more comfortable bases, it can seem like a daunting job to remove a concrete base. Whether doing it yourself or hiring someone to do it for you, always start with covering doorways and windows with large plastic sheets to contain dust. Make sure to wear protective gear.

Using a sledgehammer and crowbar, begin by breaking up the concrete into smaller pieces. Most older concrete furniture bases use blocks or wood for frames. Be cautious – you may find some metal in the structure. For removal and disposal, it is best to hire an independent contractor to ensure that the material ends up in the right disposal site.

And for those looking to add a few statement pieces, concrete is making a comeback with countertops, tables and outdoor furniture.

Sheryl Novak is an expat from Canada who has owned a home in Mexico for over 10 years. She is the owner of SOLutions Mexico, an online furniture store and an expert on sourcing all styles of furniture, for all budgets, in Mexico. Buying a home in Mexico? Email furniture@solutionsmexico.com to get a free home inventory list.

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