Building Costa Rica – Obtaining Permission to Project Start Part 3
The waiting is over. We are finally starting our house building project. This article covers the steps we took to get permission, how we prepared the posts to go directly into the ground using re-bar and images of the site after the first day of work.
We had applied for permission to start building at the end of September 2012. At that time were told that we should know something by October and as most things go here in Costa Rica, it is the end of January and we recently were handed a paper to post on the building site that stated that we could start the project. The official charges were:
Engineer – $600
Insurance Policy – $550
Municipal Tax – $440
Various Fee’s – $100
So about $1700. I believe that these should have been less but I missed a critical piece of information early on in the process. The College of Architects and Engineers had given the project a monetary value, actually it was a colon value but it didn’t have a $ or a C symbol. So I assumed that they valued the small project at $22K when actually they valued the project at $44K, which is well above my budget and should get us a house about double the size. When I asked the person at the Municipality if everyone who builds this size house has the same value he said “No”. Now given that I had taken a neighbors advice and said that the house was only going to be about half the size (all Tico’s do it he said), I couldn’t exactly complain. If I had submitted the entire plan the amount would have been about the same. So we didn’t save any money and I have the guilt of fibbing. A different worker in the same office told me later that “People with foreign names don’t build small houses”. Game, set, match.
Building with Wood using Post & Beam
In a previous post (Building Part 2), I showed you the Manu Negro posts that we will be using for the structure. As these pictures show, the first step of our process was to plane the post with a hand planer and then to insert 3 pieces of re-bar into the end of the post that will be in the ground.
We then put the posts in the ground using a very rough mix of concrete and a layer of rocks around the bottom so that water can drain through. The bottom of the posts are touching soil directly. The concrete in the middle is basically just giving it a bigger surface area and adding a little bit of weight.
A couple of notes on building in the country or maybe it’s just Limon. I can’t be sure.
1.) The closest hardware store never has the blade, screw, part that you need. But, you still have to spend 20 minutes greeting and talking with everyone in that store before you can leave. Be prepared that “runs” take a lot longer than an hour and use a lot of gas.
2.) Tico builders aren’t known for thinking ahead. So if you just ran into town yesterday to get 50 screws he probably forgot to tell you that you also need some nails for today.
3.) Every time you buy something for the house you MUST talk about how expensive it is and how Costa Rica is so poor because prices and taxes are so high. If you end this conversation with an Eye, Yi, Yi and a head shake you gain points with the workers.
I love the comments that this series has been getting so if you have any advice or have comparison numbers for building in other countries we would love to hear about them.