Houses, Apartments, Water, Humidity and Mold in Loja Ecuador

Window condensation from high humidity in Loja Ecuador
The 'Life in Loja' team is often called upon to assist expats with finding housing, whether it be a small apartment or a large house in the city, or a finca (farm) in the countryside. This article will explain in depth a major consideration any renter or buyer needs to aware of - water, as in, too much or not enough. 

One of the aspects of Loja that makes the city especially beautiful is the year-round greenness. The eastern mountain ridge that separates the valley from the Amazon forces humid air coming from the east to rise up and condense so that Loja experiences episodes of misty showers and/or rain at some point almost every day (or night). Great for the vegetation but something to consider when looking at housing.

"Modern" Loja uses brick, cement blocks, poured concrete and stucco for much of its construction. While these materials can be very solid or durable, "old" Loja used adobe bricks with a mud plaster which allowed their enclosed spaces to breathe. Instead of trapping moisture inside, the adobe transpired the excess humidity to equalize with the outdoors.

Modern Lojano construction (brick, concrete, etc.) often ends up wicking moisture through the walls, ceiling, or floor. In fact, one phenomenon you might hear about is called "rising wet" which will be seen on ground-floor walls inside, and even, outside. The construction materials wick up water from the soil because proper vapor barriers are rarely installed to prevent that action. The surface coating at the bottom of a wall may start to bubble or delaminate and create a stain. The extra moisture can encourage the growth of mold.

Rising wet at bottom of wall
Mold may appear almost anywhere in a Loja home because of the high humidity. You will notice that most people air out their homes every day - windows wide open and catching the breeze. The climate of Loja's valley (with the nearly daily infusion of precipitation) results in outdoor relative humidity levels between 60 and 95% (averaging 77%) - even in bright sun! So you can see how moisture inside an enclosed space might become a problem.

Windows in Lojano houses and apartments are almost always single pane instead of the insulated double pane a North American might be used to seeing. When the temperature falls at night then the glass can see quite a bit of condensation - even to the extent that by morning the panes may have little "rivulets" of water running down and dripping onto the windowsill.

In addition to moisture wicking up from below and the generally humid air, another possible source for too much water is the roof. Many buildings in Loja have flat roofs instead of pitched. Even though drains are installed during construction there can be problems with drains becoming clogged over time, or water might also penetrate through cracks or joints to areas below.

As you can see, a careful inspection of any potential residence should be done to determine if excess water has been present, or may become a future nuisance. But there is another situation that might crop up, and that is too little water. We'll speak about that next.

Living within the city limits of Loja allows hookups to the municipal water system (see our blog on drinking water in Loja). In North America, government-run and taxpayer supported water systems are usually a given. Newcomers to Loja and Ecuador need to consider carefully what the water supply arrangements are in the area they would like to rent, purchase, or build a place to live, otherwise, they may find themselves critically short of water.

The countryside or 'campo' near Loja has many charms for those seeking a quiet and uncrowded lifestyle. Because of large-scale agriculture coming in during the 20th century, such as the big sugarcane growers, some of these areas have government-built water sluices that are aging but functioning. You will notice them running alongside major roadways in the mountains. Outside the city, natural rivers appear to give abundant water supply to their locale. In rural areas, it is important to see what kind of agricultural demand is placed on these community supplies. A farming operation could move in upstream from your home and slow your torrent to a trickle. Wells are not a common remedy for this type of shortage in these parts.

If you have found your dream home or property on the riverfront, you must also consider what "El usufructo" (usufruct) statutes are in force there. This is the right, adopted from European law, of the public to enter your property and have use of the river. If you are in a rural setting where city dwellers have weekend homes, you may also come up short on water when they all arrive at the same time and decide to fill up their swimming pools.

As you can see, buying, renting, or building in Loja requires one to be observant and cautious in regards to water. And water is just one consideration among many when looking for a place to live. Our 'Life in Loja' relocation service helps you do due diligence because we represent you - not the seller or landlord.

If you would like to know more about our relocation services or custom tours then contact us by email or phone/WhatsApp at 593-098-674-5994 to begin a conversation.


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