Two Types of Bars, Wood Walls and Natural Supports

Our cottage in the woods – Building a two-story house on our farm in Limon Costa Rica. We have pictures that show how we hid electrical wires in a single panel wall, how we added decorative, natural supports and our hand-built rock bar.

This is a picture taken a few days ago of our soon to be house. The top-level is crafted from local woods and the main floor is made of concrete and portcullis style iron windows. Our dog, Kimba,  photo-bombing you in the bottom right hand corner of the picture was beyond our control.

Wood Block House Single Panel Wood Walls and Electrical Wiring

It is important when building a wood home in the tropics to keep things visible, such as roof support beams and floor supports. These are all things that you want to be able to inspect with some regularity. As I have said before, any nooks or crannies will be filled with an assortment of creatures if you don’t have visual access to those spaces and/or are unable to clean them. Therefore, when building with wood it is hard to have an interior and exterior wall made of different materials. So we chose single panel wood walls.

Electrical Wire in Wood Wall

One part of our house we did not want to see was the electrical cabling. The ceiling wires were easy to conceal. We ran the wires underneath the interior wood ceiling and drilled holes for the fans and light fixtures to connect into. We then had the switch wires hanging down our single panel wood walls.

As you can see in the picture above there is framing on one side of the wall and the cables are stapled together in the corner. We will insert planks of wood, approximately 5 pieces, against the framing horizontally and add a second wood frame to the opposite side to make the wall. The pieces of wood are cut to length accordingly to butt up against the wiring but also to have the ends concealed by the frames, as shown below. Barry then, using the same wood as the walls, builds a wooden box to hold the electrical box and switch plate.

Panel Wood Wall

 Natural Supports

In the first photo in this article, you are able to see stacks of wood. This wood, a tropical cedar, will be used to finish our walls on the second level. The space in which the wood now occupies will become our outside lounging area (think brewsky and hookah). Since it is all open space in that corner, the only support the roof has is from four posts made from an incredible hardwood called guachipelin. In order to extend the supportive capabilities of each post we added a natural, kind-of 45 degree angle. These same angles help to support the canopies of these trees in nature why not our roof?

Natural Wood supportsRed Split-faced Block, Windows & Doors

We used a type of concrete block called split-faced. It is called split-faced because that is precisely what it is. A  double concrete block is split down the middle with a big hammer to form two separate blocks that would fit perfectly if placed back together. This gives a rough but decorative exterior texture to each block. Red, yellow and green were the colors available to us. I chose red for two reasons. One, I liked it and two, it matches the color of the soil surrounding the house. Using regular concrete block requires a “finish” to the exterior and interior walls that can get dirty or peel. By using the split-faced block I can simply rinse off the exterior with a garden hose after a hard rain splashes dirt.

colored split faced block

Just mix a red tint with the concrete mortar mix to get the joints to match. 

We chose a portcullis style for our windows and doors as hopefully a theft proof barrier and as an open air design. The windows and doors are made of angle iron and flat-iron. We bought the material and hired someone to build each window and door based on the size of the openings. We saved money by cleaning and painting the iron ourselves. We hung the windows off of every available rafter to make painting easier. We brushed on a layer of marine varnish to the outsides to add protection from sideways rain.

Iron Window Painting

Living in this climate means never having to close your windows. I will add curtains to add a homey feel to the interior. I had seen this style somewhere in the past and have always liked it. The bonus is that now I can now say “Fezzig, the portcullis!” while reminding Barry to shut the door. We will get screens made to fit in the windows and glass panels will be put in the bottoms of the doors to keep critters out. 

Building a Rock Bar

We used local river rocks to build the bar in our kitchen. After the concrete floor was finished we used wood to build up a form that reached out to our wood support post. We curved it just at the end so that it wrapped around. I had been saving my favorite rocks for this project ever since house construction began and it was finally time to use them! We placed the big ones in first, strategically, and then fit the little ones in where we could. We then, level by level, poured mixed concrete in between the rocks so that the structure would be solid.

Our camera broke sometime during the building of this so I don’t have step by step instructions. Sorry. I have asked Barry to make me a herb garden using the same concept so maybe later on this year.

After four levels we reached our correct height and left the bar to dry for about two weeks. We removed the wood form and cleaned the rock face with Muriatic acid. When all the sanding is done in the house I will clean the bar again and varnish the front to make it shine.

Handmade Rock BarThe party atmosphere of the bar is enhanced by the straight outta the 80’s “Outsider” boom box! The boom box was lent to us by the ladies so we could have a little music relief while we worked. The bright yellow color of the “Outsider” not only jazzed up the job site but romanced our builder who couldn’t stop talking about how great it was.

1980's yellow boom box

Also worth mentioning is this BBQ grill made out of a truck rim. We had the extra rim (from our septic project) and extra parts left over from the windows and doors. We asked the guy with the arc welder to make it for us and he said no problem. It was his idea to make the re-bar into spiral handles so they wouldn’t be hot to the touch.

Grill Tire RimI will address the costs in my next post including but not limited to the electric (electrician + cabling), plumbing, wood, etc. I have an ongoing spreadsheet that has every single item on it. Are we in within our $30,000 budget? Find out next time.

 To see our posts leading up to this one click the building link on the right.


15 comments on “Two Types of Bars, Wood Walls and Natural Supports”

  1. jill Reply

    you guys are amazing…thank you so much for sharing all of this…you make what i’m about to do seem almost possible…

    but i have a question…do you have any idea how to find out about getting building permits in beach front properties? or properties that are i biological reserves? i just want to see if it’s a) impossible b) marginally possible c) possible but it’ll take 25 years…

    thank you so very much,


    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Hi Jill. Thanks for the kind words. I know that CR has a maritime zone and there is some conflict, especially on the Caribbean coast, in which the CR Govt is trying to reclaim the beach front property. They have actually torn down some peoples houses and hotels. The issue is on hold and in the courts now but it is a messy situation. As far as a biological reserve your best bet would be to contact MINAE which s the Ministry of Environment here in CR. If you want to share your goals here be free.

  2. Betty & Jack Schmitt Reply

    I have been watching your website as you have been building & so has my son John looks good, lots of work but it will be worth it. I hope I get to see it finished before I die. John says he is just too busy to take a trip for quite awhile & we coulhn’t make it without him. Best to you both. We have had so much rain the past 2 weeks & more to come, I feel like we are living in a rain forest too.

  3. Lisa Schultz Chelini Reply

    Hi Kim, Lisa from California here. Right now, I’m fantasizing about our first trip to visit you in CR. We’re sitting at your hookie bar, with a hookie pipe and a hookie wookie cocktail, BB-Q’ing and reminesing about our Club Med and Lake Havisu vacations nearly 20 years ago. Nice pad! I love it! I can’t wait until I’m living out my fantasy in CR.

  4. Glen Tibaldeo Reply

    Love the post! Thank you! You brought me flashbacks of a house we rented near Dominical. It had no screens. Yikes! Critters the size of tea saucers :-).

    I guarantee you if you got some more of those BBQ grills made, they’d sell like hotcakes.

    Thanks again for the post, and absolute admiration to you for succeeding through a housing project in CR!

  5. kim deprenger Reply

    Kim and Barry, what a change since I met you not much more than a year ago. I am still in Ethiopia but will head back to U.S. in August. The house is beautiful!

  6. Kim Reply

    Hi Carolyn. I did look at that link and I think the concept is awesome. The only problem is that this won’t work for us. Our herbs grow into big bushes even with use and trimming. I have big and small leaf oregano that is about to take over one of our parking spaces! So while this may work for someone who lives in beautiful Taos, I don’t think it will work for us. Send me some hillside designs if you find some, will ya? : )

  7. Erin Van Rheenen Reply

    I LOVE this place! You guys have done an amazing job. I want to lounge in the lounge with a brewksi and a hoohah, petting Kimba and eating Kim’s banana& chocolate pancakes.

  8. marlene & caryn Reply

    Your cottage ROCKS!! we love the rock wall and the grill is da BOMB!! WOOHOO for you two!! cocktails on the patio soooon!!!!!!!!!!!!! xoxoxo your BFFs

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  9. Joseph Reply

    Wow, you and Barry are doing a great job! It’s looking fantastic! I enjoy seeing the process and getting the inside information as to the construction issues and tips. Thanks for sharing! Also, I love the bar, wire hiding and clever rim grill.

    What are you going to do with the exposed wood in the interior? Are you going to stain it, varnish it or put some other type of treatment on it? Or does it not need any of that?

    Keep up the great work!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Thanks so much Joseph. We will be sealing & varnishing all the wood in the house. You are more than welcome to come and help me! Please : )

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