Making Outside Improvements – Part 2

Yesterday the final touches to the driveway were completed. It ended up being a bigger project and took more time than we anticipated…and more $$$ as well. We are very pleased with the end result! We have plenty of room to park and turn around. In addition, we are well prepared for the heavy rains.



Front entrance walkway


This gutter empties into a large tube that carries the water down the hill.



Another drain that goes down the hill


Newly planted landscaping on the terrace


Pathway around the rear of the house


A nice collection of plants and cuttings ready to be planted.  These were given to us by our good friends Chris and Rich from their gardens.

Last week we took Olivia and Rusty to the veterinarian in Quepos to be spayed and neutered. In Spanish there is no distinction…it is just called castration. So poor Olivia and Rusty were castrated. Olivia was very traumatized mostly because of the cone. She came home with all sorts of medications.  Rusty, on the other hand, took it all in stride. He was not bothered with it at all and the only evidence of his surgery was silver-like “paint” on his much smaller scrotum. We know that Olivia is looking forward to having the cone removed in a few days.


Olivia and Rusty on the drive home from the vet office.


Olivia and Rusty enjoying the sunset that evening.


At the peak of the sunset. If you look very closely at the far right of the coastline, the little peninsula is Manuel Antonio National Park.

Making Outside Improvements

Now that we have the inside of the house under control, it is time to work on the outside. Installing drainage and improving the driveway are first on the list. The rain can cause major erosion if it is not properly controlled especially since our property is so steeply sloped. Since the rains have started, we have experienced flooding in the carport and a mud pit in the driveway. Talk about a mess!

The two photos below were taken just after the driveway was graded and our move into the house.  It looks good there, but the rains quickly changed the conditions for the worse.

On May 25, the crew arrived to begin the work.  We wanted to concrete the lower part of our driveway and make it larger for more parking and ease of turning around. The backhoe dug into the hillside to create the additional space.


The backhoe operator was impressive and fun to watch!.  It was amazing how he managed get the backhoe to climb up the embankment.  At one point, I thought he was going to tip over. That guy was fearless!

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After the backhoe had finished with the hillside

While the backhoe guy was digging into the hillside, other workers were moving a good amount of the dirt to the side of the house to build up the grade and create a proper slope away from the foundation.  It took several days for them to do this.  Then, they started making the concrete  gutters to help with the drainage.


The guys are installing the main gutter along the driveway


The completed gutter along the back of the house


Stone being delivered for making concrete on site (Concrete mixer trucks can’t make it up our mountain road).

Once they finished with the gutters, some of the guys started concreting the lower part of the driveway and some other guys started working on the pathway that will go around the sides of the house.



Working on the front entrance and pathway

The rest of the driveway will be lastre (a mixture of gravel, sand and dirt). For the pathway, we will spread small river rocks around concrete stepping stones. It should all be finished sometime this week weather permitting.  Lately, the skies have opened up and we have had some heavy rains. The May rain total at our house was 28 inches!


Eddie is planting Vetiver grass on the terrace of the hillside to stabilize the soil


Eddie is installing gutter guards to keep the leaves from clogging the gutters


Of course Rusty needs to be recognized for his many talents.  He is always there to help out!


Our House is “Finished” – Week 39

Well, as you all have probably guessed, we have moved into our house!  Unfortunately, the house wasn’t ready for us, so we have been frantically working on it to make it livable. And, it hasn’t been easy!   This is why we have been off-line for these past four weeks.  The move was absolutely crazy…bordering on chaos.  But, before we get into the big move, let’s get caught up first.


This slice of Cristobal wood is going to be hung on the wall above the kitchen bar.  Eddie is preparing the hooks on the backside of the piece.


A piece of rebar and a notch make a place for hooks to hold up the wood piece.


Eddie uses a template to locate the hooks on the wall.


Workers hoist the wood up the scaffolding in preparation to hang it.  The slice of Cristobal is very heavy.



Success!  Now, down comes the scaffolding.


The entry gate is taking shape.


Manglillo wood is used for the gate.


Eddie is installing a water meter.



Eddie and Marvin are working on the water line from the storage tank to the house.


Eddie is installing the water booster pump and filtration system.


Rusty the cat is checking on the progress of the pool.


The pool is almost ready for water.


This is the plumbing for the pool pump and filter.


Eddie is installing supports for the big shelf above the bar.  Again, Rusty is supervising to make sure all goes well.



A big slab of Cenizaro wood makes a beautiful shelf.


The carpentry crew are installing the interior wood doors.

So, you have seen that we have been very busy these past few weeks.  Ellen has been cleaning like crazy.  Dust is everywhere!  It’s a never ending battle trying to keep up with it.  The next installment will be about moving day.  Stay tuned!

Building Our House – Week 35

These past two weeks have been extremely busy as we are coming into the final stretch!  There are still some major things to do like hooking up the water and electric.  We are hoping all those things will be done this week.  Then, the house needs a major clean up.  There is dust everywhere!

The guys finished installing the septic system, applying another coat of paint and starting the clean up of the building debris.  The construction of the entrance gate on the driveway is well underway.

This week the electrician and his crew are installing the ceiling fans, lights, etc.

We hope that the house will be ready enough so that we can move into it sometime next week.  It will be a bit like camping.  The mattress will be on the floor.  The granite for the bathroom vanities isn’t ready yet, so we decided we could make do with just the laundry room sink.  The kitchen cabinets won’t be ready until the end of the month, but we can hook up the refrigerator and we have a grill.  I’m sure we can make it work.  It will be wonderful just to be in our own home!

Marvin Montoya and his sons of Cherepo Construction have done a great job building our home.  If you are looking to build a house in this region of Costa Rica, we recommend that you talk with Marvin about your project.  He can be reached by email at



Our front door with a carved butterfly


Working on the columns for the gate


The septic tank being buried


This is the door from the living room out to the terrace


Lots of cleaning to do!


The vanity in the guest suite is installed


The two 68 inch fans installed in the living room






Building our House – Week 33

After a 10 day break for the holidays, the workers returned to our house all rested and ready to finish up the project.  They have completed the ceiling and it looks beautiful.  The tile work throughout the house is almost finished.  It looks awesome!



Guest suite bathroom and shower with glass partition

The guys are working on laying the Coralina limestone around the pool and are pointing up the interior walls.  They are close to putting on the final coats of paint for both the interior and exterior of the house.  The electrician is getting ready to install the outlets, switches, ceiling fans and light fixtures.


Last week, the window company installed the windows, sliding door in the master suite, folding door from the living area to the pool and the glass shower partition in two of the baths.  Next up: installing the septic and water tanks, and building the gate.  We are coming into the final weeks!  Yea!!!


We are so eager to move into our new digs that we have decided to make the move  before everything is finished.  The kitchen and interior doors won’t be ready for several more weeks.  The same goes for our bedroom furniture, sofa and TV cabinet.  Guess we’ll be sleeping on the floor and cooking on the grill for a while!


This is the panel for the front door being carved with a butterfly


Another pretty sunset from our new house

Our Vision Becoming a Reality

So here is a fun little thing that I put together… during the course of construction, I’ve periodically taken photos of the house construction project from the same vantage point.  In time-lapse fashion, I put a series of these photos together to show the progress of the construction from the beginning until now.  Hope you like it!

Building Our House – Week 29


A lot has happened theses past two weeks!  The roof tile has been installed along with the solar hot water system.  The solar company originally was scheduled to install the system in January, but they had a cancellation and asked if they could do the installation this past Friday.  Fortunately, that part of the roof had already been completed, so it worked out for them to do it.  Interestingly, they came prepared to install the system on a flat roof not a tile one.  Not too many people have flat roofs here, so Eddie was surprised that they weren’t prepared.  Our workers saved the day.  They welded a frame on which the solar panel could rest.  It took quite a while to construct.  As a result, the system installation took longer than they anticipated – an all day affair.  Eddie came up with a good idea to protect the PEX lines from the sun by using air conditioning line insulation.  The next day, he climbed up on the roof and did that work himself.

Installing the solar water heater.

Installing the solar water heater.

All connections are complete.  PEX lines (red & blue) to get covering to protect from UV rays.

All connections are complete. PEX lines (red & blue) to get covering to protect from UV rays.

The pool tile has been installed as well and now the guy is working on grouting it.  It looks awesome!  Our foreman’s young son has been up at the house this past week.  He told me he is excited about swimming in it.  He wanted to know when it would be ready.


Eddie and Edgardo (our foreman) installed the PEX distribution manifold for the water lines.  Eddie has been teaching him how to work with the PEX system.  Edgardo and his father have expressed an interest in using PEX in some of their other projects.  Eddie told them he would help them with ordering, importing and installing.

PEX distribution manifold for hot and cold water lines.

PEX distribution manifold for hot and cold water lines.

Things are really moving along now with the interior space.  The tile guys finished working on the master suite bathroom and have started working on the guest suite bathroom.  Eddie and I are very pleased with both the tile selection and its installation.  The guys are doing a fantastic job!  The other day they started tiling the main floor both upstairs and downstairs.  It’s looking beautiful!

Master bath tile work underway.

Master bath tile work underway.


This is the floor tile going on the floors, other than in the bathrooms.

This is the floor tile we are using in most of the house.

The metal worker making our banister for the staircase that leads up to the guest suite came by on Monday with his crew.  It took them all day to weld the wrought iron pieces together, attach it to the stairs and paint it.  It was painted black and then a bronze finish was applied.  It’s absolutely gorgeous…a true piece of art!

Wrought iron stair railing has been installed.  It will have a wood hand rail as well.

Wrought iron stair railing has been installed. It will have a wood hand rail as well.


The workers continue to put up the wood tablilla on the ceiling.  They are now working on the two story section of the house.  It’s a lot of space to cover.


Last week, we visited the cabinet maker who is working on our kitchen, both bathroom suite vanities, interior doors, side outer door and the main door.  He and his workers have completed the frame for the kitchen island and both bathroom vanities.  They had some of the doors and drawers finished and were in the process of sanding them.  Everything looked great so far.  Eddie asked them to begin working on the two outer doors next so that they will be ready when the windows and the patio doors arrive and are installed.  That way we can secure the house.

The bathroom vanity frames are in process.

The bathroom vanity frames are in process.

Got drawers?

Got drawers?

Raw lumber (Cedro Amargo) for the doors.

Raw lumber (Cedro Amargo) for the doors.

When Eddie drives up to the lot to check on things, he usually parks his truck a little further up at the entrance of another lot that is right below our friends Toni and Gib’s house.  Gib is quite the comedian and the ultimate joker.  He always has something humorous to add to the conversation and we recently discovered that he likes to pull pranks, too.  Last week when Eddie pulled up, there was a handicapped sign in front of his parking spot!

Eddie's usual parking spot.

Eddie’s usual parking spot.


Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Meow-y Christmas!

Meow-y Christmas!

Building Our House – Week 27

These past couple of weeks, the house has kept us quite busy.  We have spent a lot of time choosing just the right color of grout for all the tile work, colors of interior and exterior paint, and looking for bull-nose Coralina for around the pool.  Eddie spends several hours a day at the house supervising and helping out.  The next big project there will be to install the manifold for the PEX water system.

Some paint samples for the exterior.

Some paint samples for the exterior.


The PEX manifold will go in this cavity and be covered with some wooden doors.

The PEX manifold will go in this cavity and be covered with some wooden doors.

The 4 tons of tile from Santa Ana was delivered, finally!  The tile company doesn’t have their own delivery, so they get bids for you from delivery companies.  The delivery company that was deemed the most reasonable in price ended up being not so reasonable.  They held our tile “hostage” for more money when they realized exactly where we lived.  Then, the driver wouldn’t drive it all the way up the hill.  Eddie thinks he was scared because he is a city boy and not used to driving up steep hills.   The driver stopped 150 yards short of the property.  So, Eddie and a couple of the workers had to off load the tile into smaller trucks and take it the rest of the way.  It took took seven trips!  You can just imagine all the cuss words. Pura Vida.

Porcelain tile "delivery". The driver just wanted to get the tile off his truck and go.

Porcelain tile “delivery”. The driver just wanted to get the tile off his truck and go.

The guys continue to stain the tablilla (wood panels for the ceiling) and have begun installing it.  They installed the sheet rock for the ceilings in the kitchen, master suite, bodega and side entrance.  They have been working on installing the roof tile, installing ceramic wall tile in the master bathroom, prepping the pool and the stairs for the tile work.  There is always a lot going on at once.

Tablilla installed in the guest suit bathroom.

Tablilla installed in the guest suit bathroom.

And here in the entryway

And here in the entryway

Roof tile installation has started.

Roof tile installation has started.


Yesterday, we received word that our windows and sliding doors are ready for installation.  That will happen the first week in January.  It will take five days to install it all.  The solar hot water system is scheduled for January 11.  We are coming into the home stretch now!


This small closet will house the water pressure booster pump and the water filtration system.


A few steps leading to the pool equipment room were built.

Our new kitty Rusty is growing.  He has gained about a pound already.  He has such a cute personality and we’re having a lot of fun playing with him.  Rusty loves to be outside playing with sticks, little bugs and Lopez’s dogs.  He tries to play with Pacho, Lopez’s cat, but Pacho won’t have anything to do with Rusty.  Perhaps that will change when Rusty is a little bigger.

IMG_3756a IMG_3748aIMG_0702a

Building Our House – Week 25


In the foreground of this photo, you can see the roof tile and some of the gutter pieces.

Things are moving along!  The guys continue to work very hard.  These past two weeks, they have sanded the wood tablilla for the ceiling and are now in the process of applying the stain and polyurethane.

Sanding the tabilla

Sanding the tablilla

Finishing the tablilla

Finishing the tablilla

They finished the rework to the front entrance and the applying of the final finish coat on all the walls.

This is where we had a portion of the half wall torn out to improve the entrance to the house.

This is where we had a portion of the half wall torn out to improve the entrance to the house.


The gutters have been installed and are in the process of being re-painted.  The first coat of paint didn’t match the roof tile very well, so that had to be adjusted.


All the shower valves were plumbed and the walls patched.

The shower valve for the guest suite is plumbed with PEX tubing.

The shower valve for the guest suite is plumbed with PEX tubing.


This is the outdoor pool shower

Soon the guys will begin installing the roof tile and tiling the pool.

On another note, last week we woke up early in the morning and found that there were three dogs outside our door!  Turns out that our caretaker Lopez, adopted another dog from a friend.  Her name is Olivia and she is about eight months old.  She is very shy and sweet doggie.  Olivia is a Tico mix…we think she has some Chihauhua in her.  She is best buddies with our new kitty…yes, believe it or not, we adopted a kitten shortly after Olivia arrived.  It was a spur of the moment decision.



Already best buddies!

Already best buddies!


Eddie and I were talking about finding an orange cat as they seem to be excellent hunters.  Not sure if that’s really true or not, but our daughter has an orange cat that is an great hunter and Lopez has an orange cat that is an awesome hunter.  We just happened to stop into the pet store in Uvita a week ago and there was an orange tabby kitty waiting for us.  We just couldn’t resist…and so we adopted him.  His name is Rusty (already given to him) and we think he is about 9 weeks old or so.  He is so cool!  Rusty has an fantastic personality.  We really enjoy playing with him and so do Olivia, Paloma and Chiquita.


Time for a nap!

Time for a nap!

Building our House – Week 21

After quite a few weeks of applying repello (concrete) to the walls, they are just about finished now.  The walls have been filled out and made straight and all the door and window openings have been squared up and adjusted to their final sizes.  A thin final finish coat is now being put on to fill in any imperfections and the walls are really looking beautiful.


Walls and windows in the living area are finished.

Walls and windows in the living area are finished.

This is the kitchen window with the wooden guides still in place.

This is the kitchen window with the wooden guides still in place.


These walls have been the final finish coating.

This wall section has had the final finish coating applied.

This is the tongue & groove cedro tablilla that will be installed on the ceilings.

This is the tongue & groove cedro tablilla that will be installed on the ceilings.

As with any construction project, we have had to make some adjustments or changes on the fly.  Looking at two dimensional plans or even 3D models on a computer is never as good as seeing the actual bricks and mortar.  So, invariably there are things that you discover during the construction process that either just don’t work or could be improved upon.  For example, in the kitchen, there will be a section of bar-height counter top and the plans call for three pendant lights to be hung over the counter.  However, as things came together, I realized that the ceiling in the kitchen does not extend over the counter.  That means that the pendant lights would have to be hung from the upper ceiling which is over 20 feet high.  This is not what I had visualized and I don’t think small pendant lights hanging from that high would look very good.


The solution we came up with is to install a large shelf on the wall above the bar counter which will extend out about 16 inches from the wall.  We will then hang the pendant lights from the underside of the shelf and they will be positioned correctly above the counter top.  I have made notations on the photos here to try to explain the situation.


Also, when Ellen came back from the States and saw the progress on the house after being gone for 2 months, she noticed another situation which we are going to change.  Entry into the front of the house, as drawn on the plans, requires walking through the carport.  While this may be fine for us, it is a little odd for guests coming into the house.  See the photograph below.


So, in order to create a more inviting entrance to the house, we decided to remove a section of the half wall at the entrance walkway so that there will be a direct path from the driveway to the front door (without having to go through the carport).  This is a definite improvement to the design.


We never get tired of looking at our view.  Here is the view from the upstairs guest suite.