Building a house in Costa Rica is different than building in the USA or other countries you may be familiar wtih, in that standards are often different, materials are often different, and even if you know nothing about building you should probably read up a little and just BE there – at the building site – every day if possible – to make sure things are being done right.
Here are some examples I have heard of things being done wrong when the clients were not there:
- windows put in the wrong place (you don’t have to be an expert to look at the Plan and know where you have asked the windows to go)
- doors not made to fit right
- light switches being put in odd places
- sink being scratched up by the workers
- security light being installed too high up to work well
- ceramic being put in very sloppily – uneven, or not level
- plaster not being done well so that it does not look good or is not smooth, cracks being left in the wall
- leaks under the sink
- door installed upside down
- etc etc etc
So it pays to be on site when you are building a house in Costa Rica, even if you have never built a house in your life.
It also helps if you are there to choose options – so that for a little more money you can choose better quality materials. If you are there, for example, as you build your house in Costa Rica, you can ask the builder what’s next on the agenda.
By knowing what’s next you can then ask questions about materials and ask if there are any options you can choose. Here are some examples:
- Structure – you may want to add some reinforcement to your home structure – an extra steel or aluminum post; or you may want to have your builder use longer and more screws in the roof if you live in a very windy area, or just for reinforcement
- Ceramic tile – you can choose the color, pattern and surface – rough or smooth, shiny or duller, bigger or smaller tiles, mixing 2 types of tiles, using some fancier tiles here and there for decoration (as in the bathroom or kitchen) and so on
- Kitchen and bathroom fixtures – when it’s time to install these you can probably choose the faucet and sink you want. For a little more money you might get a much nicer faucet, sink, toilet, etc.
- Lighting – you may want to choose LED lights to save money on electricity. For just a little more money now you can save on electricity for years to come. Definitely worth the investment, and better for the environment too.
These are just some examples. If you work closely with your builder on a daily basis you can make sure you get to choose all or at least most options and if your budget doesn’t include it you can probably make a deal to pay the overage on higher priced materials.*
If you do choose to use higher priced materials, and have agreed with your builder to add this or that, make an agreement as to what the overage is going to cost and get it in writing! Not doing so may cause you to end up with a surprise after all is said and done, and the builder tells you the cost is much more than you thought!
There are many types of materials used when building a house in Costa Rica. Some of these are:
- concrete (most common)
- SIP Panels
While concrete is the most common it can also take a long time and require a larger crew than the other options here. Also concrete can end up being very hot (think “pizza oven”) unless you insulate it very well, especially under the roof.
Wood is great – light weight and easy to work with and quicker to build with if the design isn’t too complex. However make sure you use wood that will not be eaten by termites, or that it is treated or else you may end up with a house that becomes insect food.
SIP Panels are light weight and can be pre-cut to your design. The advantages of SIP Panels are:
- They are lightweight so easy and cheaper to transport
- They are less prone to earthquake damage than concrete
- They can be cooler
- They should be cheaper
- Building with SIP’s should be quicker than concrete
These are some of the things to consider.
I hope this has been helpful and please feel free to post any questions you may have regarding building a house in Costa Rica, below.