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Old 04-11-2013, 11:21 AM   #1
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Building new house in Costa Rica. A few questions...


Hey Guys,

First, I am new here - so Hi. Been browsing a bit the last few weeks...and now here I am.

Second, I will be building a new farm house on a ~10 acre piece of land in Costa Rica my wife I just purchased. I am from New York, but I having been living and working here in Costa Rica for the last 7-8 years or so.

I have a bunch of "newbie" questions, hopefully you guys can help me answer. In return, I promise to make a detailed thread with photos, updates, etc. of the project build to help others and give back to forum here.

A bit about myself & project:
I will be building this house by myself, aside from most electrical, plumbing work, and I will have some help with the foundation as well. A bit about me, I have never built a house before however I have been doing carpentry and basic construction work since I was a kid with my father, family, along with being a weekend warrior during the weekends with my own house and all that good stuff. I am definitely an amateur - but I think it will be a fun learning project and really looking forward to doing this.

Some side notes:
  • There are no inspectors, regulations, etc. Of course there are, but this type of stuff is really relaxed here. Especially since our farm is way up in the mountain and semi-remote, no one bothers or cares.
  • Most housing construction here is made from concrete block, I will be doing USA style construction (wood framing) as this is what I am familiar and have experience with.
  • This is not our main house, just a weekend house for our kids to have fun, hang out with chickens, pigs, horses and all that good stuff.
  • I am hoping to break ground in the next ~30-60 days. Of course still much planning to do.


My Questions:
  • Windows! Is it a good idea to buy them first and store them in the garage to have exact measurements?
    .
  • Roof: I want an open style ceiling where you can see wood beams and all that good stuff rather than covering up ceiling with sheetrock. But using plain old 2x4s aren't so pretty, so what are my options? Attached below is a guess standard roofing trusses, but what are my other truss design options?
    Link here: http://www.oas.org/cdmp/document/cod...es/fig-a-8.gif
    .
  • Exterior: Along with plywood being extremely expensive here, and us going for a log-cabin style without the well...logs - we will use a wood style like the pictures below. Either vertical wood over lapping wood like the first picture, or a stacked horizontal style like the second picture. So my question is: With the wall frame do you think I just place the wood directly on the wall exterior studs, or do I need something behind them?
    First Picture: http://files.encuentra24.com/19/29/1929908_e8dc7b.jpg
    Second: http://www.disfrutaloresort.com/p/rana-new.jpg
    .
  • Fireplace: Do I have to run a brick chimney all the way up to the roof, or can I do it like the picture below? What is this metal tube called so I can use Google to figure out how to do this?
    Picture: http://www.vermonttimberworks.com/We...%20-hi-res.jpg
    .
  • Floor: We are still debating to throw down ceramic or to use a wood floor. If I do perhaps use a wood floor, can I throw wood/sleepers down directly on the foundation concrete and then build out the hardwood floors there? The ideal was to put the wall studs directly into concrete foundation slab, and the foundation would, well be my subfloor. Or am I an idiot?
    .
  • Foundation: I cannot not find any great resources on how plumbing should be done in foundation! Does anyone know of a book, site or anything that explains how this is done, requirements, etc.?
.
And guys, thanks in advance and hopefully I can get at least one of these questions answered - I know it's a lot ask!
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Old 04-11-2013, 11:56 AM   #2
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Building new house in Costa Rica. A few questions...


You may want to re-think the way you are building the basic structure. Using masonry is probably to take advantage of thermal lag, and it is usually wise when in Rome to do as the Romans.

If I was you I would use large timber beam trusses, and install a tongue and groove structural wood deck. You can open up the spacing of the trusses to about 6 feet, That would look great indoors.

Take a look at Timberpeg kit homes.

Just a couple of opinions for you.
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Old 04-11-2013, 10:57 PM   #3
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Building new house in Costa Rica. A few questions...


I agree that you should look at what the locals have done and learn from them. Doesn't take long to learn how to lay concrete block.
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Old 04-12-2013, 07:41 AM   #4
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Building new house in Costa Rica. A few questions...


Americans unbridled at all by building codes can do some strange things. Just take a look at some really serious construction disasters in Belize. Just because you are not bound by standards and inspections does not mean you should ignore sound practices.

I would see if you can find a set of plans you can buy. Or maybe even a kit home or cabin you could import and get to the site. Architect doing prefab down there? You have important foundation issues just to start.

I would enlist the help of a local contractor to at least serve as your guide and even if you pay him to nap under a plam tree while you do all the work. I can assure you you are likely to encounter situations you are not prepared to deal with and you admit not having experience building a home/cabin or whatever from the ground up. Just to start, from some experience in Central America, your applicances, fixtures and things are not going to be found until some moola changes hands and as you know, customs charges are a flexible concept down there.

You will have some infrastructure needs like electricity, sewer, and water and again, do not be shocked if you find yourself on a 5-10 year waiting list until you grease some wheels with you know what.

As for stick construction from dimensional lumber you do not see a lot of it where you are because of the weather, the constant humidity, the bugs, etc. You do see some nice open beam timber construction and, as you mention, concrete and concrete block homes. Some, even little mountain homes, can be quite beautiful with some thought to design.

I do not mean to totally discount your skills but all kinds of red flags went up as you described your approach to this. Add to that being a foreigner and I think you run the danger of being way over your head here.

As for whether to get windows ahead of time? Ordinarily it should not be necessary so long as you know the dimensions. In Belize, things like windows obviously just sitting around and not being used are free game and tend to walk. It is not theivery and people will usually give things back if you ask for them. I wouldn't order your windows until you need them.

However, find out how long it is going to take to get them.
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