Building our House – Week 18

On September 30, I headed back to the States to join Ellen who had been in North Carolina since mid August.  It was great to see our kids and hang out with family and friends.  In addition, I needed to renew my NC driver’s license and we had to pack a container with all our stuff to ship down to Costa Rica.  Look for an upcoming post on that.  Earlier this week, Ellen and I returned to Costa Rica together.

While away, work on the house continued right along.  After the crew finished putting on the zinc sheeting on the upper roof the main focus has been on spraying the concrete (repello) on all of the walls.

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The finishing of the walls is a multi-step process.  About one-half of the material is applied with the first rough coat.

Wall with first coat of repello applied

Wall with first coat of repello applied

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Then, with the second coat sprayed on, the walls are leveled/flattened.  Lastly, a thin layer coating will be applied to smooth out the walls and fill in any imperfections.

This is a wall in the master bedroom after the second coat of repello.

This is a wall in the master bedroom after the second coat of repello.

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Outside terrace by the pool.

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Main living area and stairway up to the guest suite.

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Ellen out by the pool (covered with the plastic tarp).

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Building our House – Week 13

This week, since the house has really taken shape, I thought you might enjoy a walk around video to give you a better sense of how the house is going to look.

One of the most important elements of a house in Costa Rica is the roof.  With the large rainfall and strong sun here in the tropics, you can have major problems if your roof is not done correctly.  The priority of this last week was to work on the roof…starting the framing of the upper roof and getting the lower roof framing almost completed.

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The roof will consist of zinc sheets (the wavy sheets of metal) on top of the purlins (the roof framing) and then a plastic roof tile, which are made to look like the Spanish clay tile.  The upper roof will also have a layer of reflective insulation.

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Here you see a portion of the carport roof with the zinc in place.

Here you see a portion of the carport roof with the zinc in place.

Another view of the carport roof.

Another view of the carport roof.

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A propane lines was installed to feed the stove in the kitchen and also the BBQ grill on the terrace.

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Building our House – Week 12

This week was an exciting one because it was time to install the PEX plumbing.  What is PEX, you ask.  PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene and is a plastic tubing used predominantly for domestic water supply piping and radiant heating systems in floors.  The traditional piping used for drinking water in Costa Rica is PVC.  The problem with PVC, especially in concrete construction, is that it is prone to leaks since it is brittle and does not withstand movement within the concrete, especially at the fittings (think earthquakes or even settling).  So, I knew from the beginning that I did not want to use PVC in our house.  PEX is the perfect solution since it’s flexible and uses very few fittings.  Each point of use (sink, shower, toilet, etc) is supplied by dedicated lines from a central manifold, so there are no connections or fittings – other than at each end.  PEX has been used for quite a few years in the US, Canada and Europe, but is definitely uncommon in Costa Rica.  I could not find anyone selling it in the country.  I did find a Canadian plumber in our area who offers PEX installations (he imports all of his materials from Canada), but his quote to do our house was outrageous.  So, I realized that if I was going to use PEX, my only alternative was to import it myself, study up on how to work with it and assist my builder with the installation.

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Routing the hot and cold PEX lines to the manifold location.

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This is where the manifold will be mounted. We’ll cover it with a nice wooden enclosure.

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PEX lines for the second floor are routed below and will be covered when the ceiling is installed.

PEX lines for the second floor are routed below and will be covered when the ceiling is installed.

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Everything went very well.  We installed all the PEX lines throughout the house in one day.  The manifold will be installed once the wall it is to be mounted on gets its finish coat of concrete.  Once the PEX lines were run and buried, the concrete for the floors could be poured.  By the end of this week all of the interior floors and part of the outside terrace had been finished.

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The laundry room with newly poured floor.

The laundry room with newly poured floor.

Work continued on framing the roof…finishing up the lower roof and starting on the upper roof.

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Here you can see the framing of the upper roof being started

Here you can see the framing of the upper roof being started. The steel beams laying across the walls above the living area are there temporarily to provide a work area while constructing the upper walls and roof.

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Upstairs guest suite bathroom.

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Here are drain lines for rain water from the roof.

Here are drain lines for rain water from the roof.

On a side note, today we had a crew come to give some of the trees around the building site a haircut.  As you can see from the photograph below, this really made a tremendous difference in the view to the north.

Tree Trim - before & after

Building our House – Week 11

So, what’s really handy to have in a 2-story house?  Stairs, of course, and now we have them.  Yeah!  Both stairways were completed, as were the stairs into the pool.

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As the guys were working on the steps into the pool, I thought to myself… why not incorporate a bench seat so there’s a nice place to sit in the pool while sipping your favorite libation?  So, after a quick conversation with the mason, a few hand signals and a couple of measurements, the above photo shows what resulted just a short time later.  That is just one small example of the benefit of being there on site – everyday.  It’s the only way to be sure that what gets built is done the way you want it.  Sometimes it may be a detail that’s not on the plans and so needs to be clarified.  Other times, as with the bench in the pool, being there gives you the opportunity to make changes (hopefully small ones) that increase your overall satisfaction and enjoyment of the end product.  Seeing things for real often adds perspective that you just don’t have when looking at a plan on paper.

Work continued on the walls of the second floor…putting in the Panacor panels and cutting in the windows.

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The process of going from a roughed in concrete block wall or Panacor panel to a finished wall surface involves several steps… applying (by spray) and smoothing out several layers of concrete (aka shotcrete or plaster).  On the block walls of the first floor, several of the guys were working to apply finishing guides to the walls.  These guides represent the correct thickness of concrete needed to insure that after the initial layer is applied, the walls are straight and plumb.  First small squares are affixed to multiple points on the wall using a plumb line.  Then these points are connected with a raised line of mortar to form a vertical line.  When the concrete is sprayed on, the guides will make is easy for them to finish the entire wall surface so it is flat and plumb.

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Much time was spent on the framing of the lower roof which covers the front entry, the carport and the terrace by the pool.  After some head scratching and working with the roof plan on the computer to determine some key measurements, the framing was mostly completed and is looking very nice.

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The electricians were on site for most of the week working to complete the network of conduit lines running all around the house.  The photograph below shows the main electrical panel.

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Here you can see the conduit for the electric lines to be located in some of the cabinetry of the kitchen

Here you can see the conduit for the electric lines to be located in some of the cabinetry of the kitchen

Also, the concrete floor of the carport was poured as seen in the overhead shot below.

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Overall view of the house at the end of week 11.

Overall view of the house at the end of week 11.

Building our House – Week 10

It amazes me how much progress has been made on the house in just 10 weeks!  Marvin and his crew are working very hard and last week was no exception.  The concrete floor on the other (kitchen) side of the house was completed.

Pouring the balance of the second floor

Pouring the balance of the second floor

Back on the other side of the house, some of the Panacor panels were put into place within the steel frames of the walls.  The panels are placed over and attached to the re-bar anchors sticking up out of the concrete floor.  Then the panels are stitched to each other with wire and also fastened to the top structural member.

The Panacor foam panels are starting to go in the walls of the second floor guest suite.

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Here you can also see a portion of the stairway being formed.

Once the concrete floor on the kitchen side of the house had set up sufficiently, work began to frame the walls.

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The steel framing is being welded together.

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In the photos above, you can also see that the remaining crown beam that runs along the top of the block walls has been formed and poured.  The other addition this week was the fabrication and installation of most of the steel beams that will support the roof over the terrace around the swimming pool.  You can see them in the photographs above and a closer view is shown below.

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This is looking down on the entryway to the front door.

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This is where the other stairway will go (to the guest bedroom and study above the kitchen and bodega). Underneath this stairway will be a small pantry off the kitchen.

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Here the guys are working on the stairway to the guest suite.

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Hasta la proxima semana….Until next week!

Building our House – Week 9

Onward and upward…work has started on the structure of the second floor.  Rather than using concrete block as for the first floor, the second floor walls will be constructed using a steel frame and Styrofoam panels, which are subsequently sprayed with a concrete layer.  The final result will look the same as the concrete block, but is quite a bit lighter weight and does provide some insulating qualities.  The photographs below shows the steel framing being erected on the left side of the house.

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Below is a photograph of the Styrofoam panels known as Panacor.  As you can imagine, building with these panels is much quicker than with traditional concrete block.  Installing electrical and plumbing lines inside these walls is simply a matter of cutting a channel in the foam and fishing the conduit or tubing behind the wire mesh before the concrete is sprayed on.

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The pool equipment room walls were built with concrete block and a concrete roof was poured.  I think the pool pump and filter could withstand a nuclear holocaust in there.

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Over on the right side of the house, the crown beam and floor have been formed and is just about ready for concrete.  A ramp was built for the guys to bring concrete up in wheel barrows.

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This is the temporary support framing under the second floor above the kitchen area.

This is the temporary support framing under the second floor above the kitchen area.

This coming week should be interesting as the second floor walls start to take shape with the Panelcor panels being installed.

 

Building our House – Week 8

Activity over this last week was concentrated mostly on getting one half of the second floor concrete poured, as well as building the walls of the pool.

Upper section of the pool walls are formed and ready for concrete.  In the background the forming of the crown beam be seen on the house.

Upper section of the pool walls are formed and ready for concrete. In the background the forming of the crown beam be seen on the house.

The left section of the house is formed and ready to pour the concrete floor and crown beams

The left section of the house is formed and ready to pour the concrete floor and crown beams

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Routing of the supply and suction lines from the pool to the pool equipment room

Routing of the supply and suction lines from the pool to the pool equipment room

This is the beginning of the pool equipment room which is dug into the front of the plantel

This is the beginning of the pool equipment room which is dug into the front of the plantel

The pool walls have been poured.

The pool walls have been poured.

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Check out this short video of the workers moving concrete up to the second floor.

The second floor concrete is poured and forms have been removed.

The second floor concrete is poured and forms have been removed.

Here are a couple of our wildlife friends that visited us this week at our rental house.

A fiery-billed aracari

A fiery-billed aracari

A green iguana in the tree - to keep away from the dogs!

A green iguana in the tree – to keep away from the dogs!

Building our House – Week 7

Wow, things are really moving along quickly!  Week 7 was a busy and productive one, so there are many things to show you.  The last of the concrete columns within the first floor walls was completed and the remaining re-bar of the crown beam was put into place.  Then work started on installing the steel beams that support the concrete floor of the second level.

(As a reminder, you may click on any of the photos in the blog to see an enlarged version)

Steel beams going in to support the second floor.

Steel beams being installed for support of the second floor.

Steel support structure for the floor of the second level

Steel support structure for the floor of the second level

All of the re-bar for the crown beams has been put in place

All of the re-bar for the crown beams has been put in place

On top of the steel beams, a zinc sheeting is put down upon which the concrete floor will be poured.

Second floor decking being put in place

Second floor decking being put in place

The second floor decking above the kitchen area

The second floor decking above the kitchen area

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Before pouring the concrete for the crown beams and the second floor, the plumbing and electrical conduit is run up through the floor as shown in the photograph above and below.

A view under the deck of the second floor guest suite bathroom of the plumbing lines.

A view under the deck of the second floor guest suite bathroom of the plumbing lines.

Framing of a master bath window

Framing of a master bath window

Marvin Montoya and his team of guys are doing a great job.  Everyone seems to enjoy what they are doing – always having fun, joking around or singing.  They know how to build a quality home and are really working hard to make it happen.  Costa Rican men are generally not the biggest guys, but they sure are strong.  For instance, the other day when the delivery truck came with a load of materials, including 70 110-pound sacks of cement, they unloaded it like it was nothing.  During the week, some of the crew lives on site – in very modest accommodations.  They have a small “house” with some bunk-beds built in and a small kitchen with a sink, gas cook top and a refrigerator.  Outside there is a shower and an outhouse.

Here is the kitchen sink and shower for the workers next to their quarters

Here is the kitchen sink and shower for the workers next to their quarters

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El Baño nestled in a private, shady location among the trees

Much progress has also been made on one of my favorite things… the pool!  The concrete floor was poured and the walls started.  Of course one needs a sheltered place that is out of the way to locate the pool equipment, mainly the pump and filter.  We decided to put it at the front of the plantel (building site) dug down into the earth, so it will be hidden.

The pool is taking shape

The pool is taking shape

The pool equipment room is dug

The pool equipment room is being dug here at the front edge of the plantel.

A view across the pool looking at the first floor master suite

A view across the pool looking at the first floor master suite

We have also started to look at some finishes, such as floor tile.  There are a massive number to choose from, but we managed to find one that we really like for use in the majority of the house.  It’s a porcelain tile with a nice natural stone pattern and texture, so it will not be slippery or show the dirt much.  For the bathrooms, we plan to select something different.

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

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

A view into the carport

A view into the carport

In the carport, above is the floor structure of the guest bathroom on the second floor.

In the carport, above is the floor structure of the guest bathroom on the second floor.

Construction of a circular column...re-bar reinforcement inside the white plastic form.

Construction of a circular column…looking down at the re-bar reinforcement inside the white plastic form. Ready for concrete.

View of the house at the end of week 7.

View of the house at the end of week 7.

On this beautiful day as I sit at the computer putting this blog post together, this is the view I have to look at out my window….not bad, huh!!!

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Building our House – Week 6

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Overcast skies were predominant during this week.

There was a little more rain this week, which made the building site a bit muddy, but it didn’t slow down the workers too much.  These photos were taken today (Saturday), so none of the construction crew was there.  They normally work 6am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, and have the weekends to recuperate.

View of Manuel Antonio

View of Manuel Antonio

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Work continued this week on forming the structural columns in the walls.  Re-bar cages which reinforce the crown beams have been placed at the top of the walls.  Next week the forms will be constructed which will shape the crown beams.

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In addition, the swimming pool is taking shape.  The re-bar of the pool floor and walls was bent and put in place.

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This is looking into the entryway of the house from the carport. On the other side of the half wall on the left, we will have a nice landscaped/garden area.

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We found this little guy on one of the railing posts around our pool at our rental house.  It was finally determined that it is a Boa.  He hides underneath a wooden plank on which we put bananas for the birds.  Not sure if he is thinking about his next meal…

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Building our House – Week 5

We are at the end of the fifth week of building and progress continued to be strong.  Most all of the block for the first floor walls has been set.  Some of the plumbing waste lines and electrical boxes have been roughed in.  Forming and pouring of the structural concrete columns within the walls is underway.  The house is really taking shape now and you can see how big the various rooms are, rather than trying to imagine it when looking at the floor plan.  Eddie has been spending time at the property every day keeping an eye on the details and answering any questions that come up.

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Most of the first floor walls are up. A concrete “crown” beam will be formed and poured across the top of the walls.

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Kitchen wall with cut-out for microwave and cabinetry.

Several waste lines are seen in the wall. The one in the center is for the outside kitchen sink.

Several waste lines are seen in the wall. The one in the center is for the outside kitchen sink.

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A stairway will go in between the two walls. The main entrance is on the right.

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This is the kitchen area.

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Another stairway will eventually go up in this area with a half bath under.

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Master BR looking towards the living area.

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Master bedroom and bathroom.