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!

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.

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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.


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.


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


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.


Outside terrace by the pool.


Main living area and stairway up to the guest suite.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


Upstairs guest suite bathroom.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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