Creating the Kitchen, Finishing the Bathrooms and Keeping the Bugs Out

We are saving money by using a few Tico tricks, a bit of American ingenuity and improvising.We are currently working on ‘finishing’ type projects and I’m even considering (dare I say it) what my drapes might look like. This post shows the bathrooms, building the kitchen cabinets, re-finishing the ceiling fans we brought down in our luggage 6 years ago and the screens we had made. 


We have two bathrooms. One is upstairs and the other is downstairs. The first picture is the shower of the downstairs bath. We found some sheets of glass tile on sale for only $3 a square foot which is the same price as most “non-specialty” tile here so we bought as much as we could. It fit out the shower stall perfectly. We are going to have a dividing wall made on the right hand side to keep the water contained.

glass tile as wall

The upstairs bath was a little more complicated. We had to get a drain from the U.S. that allowed us to add a vinyl liner to the shower floor. We haven’t been able to find grout sealer in Costa Rica yet so we were extra worried about water seeping through the concrete floor. Barry put down a thin layer of mortar then cut up our old vinyl shower curtain liner, laid it in place and then put additional concrete on top. This led to an extremely thick floor so it is a good thing there are two concrete walls that meet directly underneath of it. This method should ensure that no water drips on to the wood ceiling of the bathroom below.

The backing board is a concrete board that is widely available here, not drywall or green board.

make a shower pan liner


We used concrete blocks to frame out our cabinets and to help support the soon to be tiled counter tops. We see this in every Tico home we go to. It saves on time, wood and cost. We plan to mosaic these fronts and sides with tropical images made out of small bits of tile. I’m thinking about a coconut with a small sprout, baby turtles hatching or colorful birds. We want to make sure that our house isn’t overly “Americanized” in neutral tones and in the opposite vein isn’t an explosion of Caribbean color.

We have 3 flats worth of broken ceramic that we bought from a local hardware store for less than $1 a square foot. We will use that to tile the back walls and floors inside of the cabinet areas to save money.

wood cabinets in kitchenmaking wood cabinet

Finishing Touches

The wooden second floor is completely varnished and only needs a door to make it habitable. We are having our doors made by a local craftsman and we are expecting them next week. Another project that we contracted out was screens. We don’t have glass windows only metal bars. So we needed screens with independent frames that we could place into the window openings. The local glass shop owner came out and measured and brought back pretty decent work. I say pretty decent because not every screen is pulled super tight. Could they have been better? Probably, but it would have been hard to find really nice screens around these parts. In fact, we are the only people in San Miguel, that I know of, with screens.

My only option for keeping the screens snug to the windows were magnets. Chris & his lovely wife Melissa were coming down to stay with us and asked if they could bring anything. I bought some potent but small magnets and wa-la the screens stay in place even during windy days. Chris made the point that I could have just attached screen material to the metal and not had the frames made. Stupid me I hadn’t even thought of that. I could have saved $600!

use magnets on screenvarnished room

Ceiling Fans

So obviously no glass in the windows means no plans for A/C. But on hot days when there is no breeze we really need fans to move the air around. On our first trip down after buying our farm in 2008 we brought four ceiling fans complete with lights. Each one fit easily into an army duffle and at that time the airlines didn’t bitch about luggage like they do now. We had found all four fans at one garage sale. They were $15 a piece except for the fourth one that was missing the decorative casing, that one was free. So 4 ceiling fans for $60 all with light fixtures! Those fans sat packed in this humid climate for 5 years and every single one still works.

They are all in good condition but I did have to sand a few rust spots where the paint had been chipped during the move. All I needed to do was change the ‘nursing home white’ paint and we could use them as intended in the new house.

paint ceiling fans

Armed with my new paint sprayer I changed each one from freakish to fabulous. I painted the metal parts black and the already textured baked on paint left each one looking like wrought iron. The blades are now generic brown so while moving will closely resemble the wood ceilings. Score!

black ceiling fan

I know that I have promised to talk about the budget and actual cost of this house project. I will address it soon. I want to make sure it is a true number and unfortunately the costs continue to mount.

Fans are Harbor Breeze brand so kudos to you Harbor Breeze for making a good, long lasting product.

9 comments on “Creating the Kitchen, Finishing the Bathrooms and Keeping the Bugs Out”

  1. Cindy Reply

    It is all coming together! It must be well as exhausting. Thanks for sharing this experience, I am looking forward to the ‘finished’ ( ha, ha ) house.. Brave lady you are!

  2. Kim Deprenger Reply

    WOw. Can’t believe that it was only 2 years since I saw you and only a shell in the woods. Remember Grandpa? yeah. He was still living there then.

  3. carolyn tait Reply

    kim and barry, i’m so impressed! it’s so beautiful. i can’t wait for the day when i tell you i’m coming down to visit (or to stay – ha ha!).
    lots of love from carolyn

    fyi – the first pic under ‘finishing touches’ didn’t load.

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