Cost to Build and Decorate a House in Limon Costa Rica

Working hours are longer but my dream home on this incredible property in Limon Costa Rica is almost complete.

There has been a zombie apocalypse forming on our farm lately. Our gnarled hands can’t keep a grip to carry things, a cramp in the leg makes us shuffle slowly groaning in agony and concrete dust mixed with how sweaty days have our faces pocked with red pus-filled openings. It’s all for the cause we remind ourselves. The addition of interior lighting has increased our working hours and we find ourselves heading down to the cabin at 9 pm hungry and tired. “Not far now,” we say.

mixing at night

A worker working late to lay ceramic tile

Project by project I am closer than ever to putting this house building project to bed. I recently moved into the completed upstairs and made my first meal in the new kitchen. Would I invite friends over yet? Probably not, but it is time to get on with the Costa Rica life I want. I have lived in a one-room cabin for three years now and trust me when I say that 42 meters or 452 square feet is not a lot of room to include a full kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, laundry and living area. I managed ok, but the lack of space and privacy started to wear on me. I left all of my family and most of my friends back in Cincinnati. The only counseling services are provided by the dogs (who are not the greatest listeners).

husky dog face

He offers no condolences

 Decorating Choices

Living two and half hours away from Costa Rica’s only major city, San Jose has been challenging from a building perspective due to the in-availability of cost-effective, quality materials. Trying to find a wire nut, a concrete anchor or a replacement blade here in Limon is a quest more epic than Frodo’s. So, you can probably imagine what decorating choices are available.

Here is an example of the local choices I had for toilets and for ceramic tile.

colored toilets

hideous ceramic tile

color choices ceramic

Now your taste buds may be tantalized by these graphic options but I didn’t think that I could stomach these in my house for all of eternity. When I went looking for tile for the kitchen countertops I had similar choices available. Luckily for me, the local hardware store was out of the generic, what I thought I could live with tile but said that their store in the city Limon had 93 boxes. An hour later when I arrived in Limon, the tile was not on display and the guy tells me that this tile does not exist at this store. I proceed to beg him to call the other store and that possibly I have the name wrong, marino beige vs murano beige, that type of thing. Turns out my local store had the wrong name on the back of the tile and the 93 boxes that existed were a hideous pullow (puke-yellow) color.  As I waited for the warehouse to confirm that the store didn’t have the tile I actually wanted I had time to wander. And in wandering I came upon the greatest discovery of all…

colorful tile

It’s like skittles but for my counter!

This sample was sitting on top of some paint cans in the painting corner. I fell in love with it instantly so I took it to the tile guy. No, they didn’t have it and he later confirmed with the lady in charge of inventory that none of their stores had it, even the ones in San Jose. I could go on with at least two more examples of wild goose chases and misinformation that I encountered while looking for this tile but the end result is what is important here and the end result is that THIS is my kitchen counter and I LOVE it!

colorful candy tile

 Cost to Build

Even though we are not completely finished with the build we have purchased all the necessary materials. I have a spreadsheet with line items for each expense including hired labor and the purchase of tools necessary to replace ones that broke during the build. I also have noted the colon to dollar exchange rate for each purchase. When we started buying materials the rate was as high as 508 and now it sits at a lowly 492. So in dollars the total cost, minus our labor hours, was…….


of that number the cost of Wood was

Water/Septic was 


Additional length of road was 

the tools were 

Outside labor 


Here are some pictures of the house in its current state.

– Note: it is now a few years since this post and we have the landscaping 3/4 of the way finished and it looks gorgeous. Our fruit trees are producing with some regularity and our herbs furnish us a constant supply of tea. Pura Vida, indeed.

25 comments on “Cost to Build and Decorate a House in Limon Costa Rica”

  1. Kim Deprenger Reply

    Kimberly, your house is amazing but I was shocked at the price of it all. I know CR is more expensive than other countries but seems almost like U.S. prices! Have you had visitors yet so you can earn money to actually pay for it all?

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Kim – I agree with you that a lot of things were the same price as in the US if not more in some cases. Everything here is imported including oil so any gutters, pvc, etc. actually cost a lot more than in the States. On the flip side of that, we searched and searched for a farm in the US with its own water source and long growing season and couldn’t find anything at all under 200K. Taking into consideration that we don’t pay for heat, water and have minimal taxes I think we did pretty well. We could have built an all concrete structure for less but then we would to have paid for more labor. We lived in Cincinnati and had a similar sized house (+ basement) on less than 1/2 and acre and it was much more than our current investment for 3 buildings, free food and most importantly our own water. The fact that there is a toucan in the tree in front of the house is just a bonus.

      We have had customers but not enough to sustain ourselves yet. I would like to think that it is because we have been to busy building during the last 3 years to really focus on the business. I recently applied to the CR Govt to get our land under a conservation program so that we could at least get recognized for keeping it natural but we were considered to small an area for 2013, maybe 2014? Who knows. If you come across any research grant $’s let us know. We would like to continue being a proper steward of this place but also be able to pay our taxes!

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      OK, after some time to think about it I must say that considering that we our not contractors and didn’t receive any bulk discounts for anything I think that the price is low. In the US a new home in a generic Midwestern subdivision is at least 150K. I would agree that you can get some awesome deals in some decrepit neighborhoods right now in Detroit but we are talking apples to oranges. I would be hard pressed to build a brand new home with hardwood floors and wood staircase right now in the US for 35k. Tell me where you are coming from Kim. Which part do you see as expensive.

      • rhebus Reply

        I have to agree with you Kimberly – I was astounded by the price. I think it would be hard to find anything anywhere for what you have created here. 22 acres with a beautiful home for $75K is a steal – even with all your hard earned sweat equity.

  2. Greg Reply

    Thanks for sharing all this info. I love how, with patience, disappointments and misinformation can lead to something unexpectedly wonderful…like your Chiclets Gum tile. Congrats on the completion of the home.

  3. Don Lambeth Reply

    Would you mind sharing the square meters or sq ft of the house? I’m curious to see the per ft/m for average cost. Also was land purchase expensive?

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Hi Don. We paid $35k for the 22 acres plus the fee of $4000 for the sale/paperwork in 2008, which was a steal for this lovely farm. The house is 8 meters X 9 meters on both levels. This includes the back porch and the upstairs deck. The husband is not here right now but I think that is right. 2 Bedrooms + small office, 2 Baths, Kitchen & LR. It’s small compared to the other expat houses around here but actually a little big for the two of us.

      • Don Reply

        Kim, thanks for your reply. I was back in USA for several weeks so i’m late reading this. I think you are telling me that each floor is approx 775 square feet (8m2 x 9m2) which is a comparatively good sized house here in C/R. I was a General Contractor in North Carolina before I retired and moved here permanently in 2009 with my wife whom is Tica. It seems you have a total layout of approx $78,000.00 for 22 acres and 1550 sq.ft. home? Thats about $50.32 per sq.ft (incl land). So I have to say with over 35 years building upper scale homes in N.C. your total cost was about my rough framing costs. Not sure where other comments about being equal to the states were, but at the height of the construction heyday of the 1993 -2007 I was selling houses at $135-$145 dollars per sq. ft. on a normal 3/4 -1 acre lot. Yes they were all brick etc but……….I’m looking for property on the pacific side and only wish to be so lucky with total costs. Seems you and your husband were fairly astute with the project. CONGRADS!!

        We have a ranch house in Ochomogo de Cartago and have remodeled much of it. Are you planning to rent for tourists or maybe build cabins for rent later in the project?

        • Kimberly Beck Reply

          Hi Don.

          We have two cabins that guests can stay in when they come to take photography courses. Those costs were incurred before the house building and add about 20K to the mix. Side note – The dollar was much stronger when we bought the farm and very low when we built the house so we basically came out even from that standpoint. Although, the sales tax is so high that it is a benefit to make everything we can ourselves.

  4. Jana Reply

    Wow!! You guys have done an incredible job! Congratulations 🙂

  5. carolyn tait Reply

    lovely! will you post the individual pics on facebook, so i can inspect them more closely? you’ve built a paradise!

  6. Scott Reply

    The bit about the inadequacy of the counseling services provided by the dogs made me chuckle inside. Then I saw the photo that followed and I laughed out loud. That tongue hanging out slayed me.

    But wow. The house is beautiful! And I can’t believe you could build it so cheaply. That’s incredible. I know you guys have to be getting pretty excited to be nearing completion.

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Thank you Scott. Smoky is also the entertainment around here. : ) I am a very frugal person. I will do without something if I think the price is to high! So the budget was very important to me.

  7. cinamon Reply

    Kim, How amazing….the sacrifices of the three years was a true testimony…love the story and the ending even better…Cinamon

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Hi Cinamon! Thank you so much. It’s kinda weird that this place feels a tad to big now! I have to buy all this furniture and stuff to fill the space. AGGHHH.

  8. Tracy Inlow Sams Reply

    Its beautiful! Love the ceiling in the bedroom! I will send a picture of myself for your living room wall. Maybe it will help keep the bats out! Lol. Great job you guys!

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