51. The Remainder of Week 1 of Construction

Little by little, step by step we keep moving forward on this house build. Right now, that is what our main focus is, getting this house moving and hoping to be moved into it as soon as possible. Yes, I have been working some and have been leaving a lot of the administrative house stuff to Ramie, but my work is very flexible and I help make decisions regarding house stuff when a decision needs to be made.

Wednesday 11/3- The next thing on our list to go do now that we have our official permits is to get the water hooked up. For this we have to go back to the water office or ASADA that I had mentioned in a previous post. First we needed to stop by Geiners office and get the official permit from the Muni, then headed to the ASADA office. Unlike the guy we had spoken to at the electric office or ICE, the people that work at the ASADA don’t speak much, if any English. This makes things a little bit challenging at times. Today’s mission was to go to the ASADA office, give them the permit information showing that we are legally able to build, Pay for the water meter, and get them to schedule the installation of the meter so that we can get water at the house. Since we are morning people, we try to do stuff like this early in the day when the offices open, that way if we are missing something there is a possibility of going home to get it and returning later in the day and we still have a chance of getting it done the same day. So, the first thing on our agenda today was to try to get everything submitted to get the water hooked up. We showed up at the office and tried to explain what it was we were trying to do. The person there seemed to understand what we needed and went inside to get the proper forms to fill out. (Oh, by the way, since the beginning of COVID, Asada has put a small desk and a couple of chairs outside their front door for meeting with people, you are no longer allowed to go inside of their building). After a few minutes he came back out with a form and had us fill it out. This form looked very similar to the one we had filled out last time when we were trying to get the location switched over to our name from the prior owner’s. It didn’t seem quite right, so we asked in the best way we could if this was the right form. The person went back in and was gone for a while, then a different employee came out with a different form for us to fill out. We had filled out the form with the information that we knew and gave it to the employee who seemed satisfied and would do whatever he needed to on his end. Now he told us that we have to go to the bank, pay for the meter and installation, and come back with the receipt showing it was paid. Ok, this was different, but it definitely sounds like the way things would get done here in Costa Rica!

We went to the bank, which as we’ve mentioned before, always tends to be a very long process. It probably took us over an hour to wait in line and make our payment. After we had the proper receipt, we went back to ASADA to show them we had paid the amount that we needed to and figure out what was next. (See, this is why we do things early in the day!!). The person who came out was someone different than the prior people who helped us, so we explained that we were here earlier to get the paperwork filled out to get hooked up, we went to the bank, and we now have the receipt. He then went inside to find our file.

Meanwhile another guy showed up and was waiting in line for us to finish so he could do his business with ASADA.

When the employee came back out we tried to ask when the anticipated hook-up date was going to be because our builder was working and would need water to start doing the concrete work. The employee didn’t seem to quite understand what we were asking so went back inside yet again to get someone else to come out and help us. The 3rd or 4th different employee of the day came out and she seemed to speak even less English than the prior people. Luckily for us, the guy waiting in line spoke Spanish and English, and apparently (from what we gathered) was a contractor of some type as well. He explained to us that typically it takes about 2 weeks to get the water hooked up after we put in the paperwork and paid for the meter but it could be as quick as a day or 2. It all depended on how many other projects they had and if there were any major issues that the installers got called away to work on. Ok, well, at least our part in this is done! Now it was just a waiting game with the government, and we all know how that goes!

After we were finished at ASADA we figured we would stop down at the house since we were down in town anyway. We got there and the guys were working hard on digging the ditch for the footings of the house. There were 6 guys digging in groups of 2. Each group on their own side of the house. They worked facing each other. One guy cut the initial ground and dug the ditch to the rough depth and width. The other guy would clean up the ditch and measure from the string line they had installed (which will be the top of the block, to the bottom of the footing). This is so that the ditch was perfectly level all the way around the house. It is so crazy to me that they are able to do this all by hand! They don't use the excavator that is sitting on site, because the ground is too soft and moving it around the property would cause it to be a gigantic mud hole, not to mention the entire house is string lines right now. It's easier, faster and cleaner to do it by hand. They basically have to dig a trench around the entire perimeter of the house so that they can pour concrete footings to hold everything in place. Since they don’t do basements here, they don’t have to dig the hole for the whole house, but they do need a perimeter that is about 2 feet deep and a foot wide filled with concrete for the footings and cement blocks on top of that. Each support post is also welded to the rebar footings and has its own poured box around the post which ties the entire foundation and structure together. This is also done for seismic activity. We don't want our house falling off the foundation during the first earthquake. 


Today while we were out at the lot our intention was to look at the 2 possible places we wanted the pump house for the pool to be built. We were going back and forth over whether we should do it on the side of the pool or the back of the pool. We looked at and measured each of the spots and were trying to visualize how each would look. We discussed the different options with Geiner and asked him for his thoughts, and after much careful consideration we made our decision and told him he could go with it.

Saturday 11/6- We decided that since it had been a few days since we were down at the lot, we wanted to stop by and see what type of progress had been made. When we got there we saw that no one was there, so we laughed about calling Geiner and asking him why no one was working. We didn’t ACTUALLY do that, but since we’re so excited we would just love it if they were down there working all of the time. It had rained earlier in the day and Geiner had told us that if they get rained out in the morning they take the rest of the day off, so we were somewhat expecting this. Since no one was there, we got a chance to look around and snap a few pictures. We saw that there had been some pretty good progress made in the last few days! All of the footing holes around the perimeter were dug, the re-bar was in place, AND the driveway had been graded so that it was a nice smooth hill from the road up to where the future carport would be. To all of you reading this, these things may sound small and insignificant, but to us it’s progress and it’s exciting! We messaged Geiner and told him we stopped by to take a look. He responded that if it isn’t raining on Monday morning, they will probably start pouring the concrete for the footings!

All of these footings were dug by hand and all of the rebar was welded on-site


Monday 11/8- Construction work starts here early, even though we are early risers we would never make it down to the lot when the guys start working. And that’s fine since there really is no reason for us to be there when they start. We are guessing that they start around 6am. What that means is that by the time we get up, do our normal morning routine of coffee, our walk, and just take it slowly to start our day, they already have a few hours of work in. Unless Geiner specifically wants to meet with us earlier, we would probably never stop by to check things out until at least 9:30 or 10am. That’s about the time we got down there today. When we got there the first thing that we noticed was a dump truck stuck in the mud on the side of the road right across from our driveway. We wouldn’t park up that close to the lot anyway since that’s where all of the workers park and it is quite muddy, so it wasn’t in the way of where we would have gone anyway. We watched for a while to see what was going to happen, but everyone was just kind of standing around waiting. Eventually after a little while Geiner showed up, hopped into the excavator, and pulled the dump truck out of the mud, but not in a way that you would expect! Instead of trying to connect any chains or anything like that, he just used the bucket of the excavator to pull on the tail gate of the dump truck. It didn’t take long and they got the truck unstuck so that it could back up our driveway and dump a load of gravel for the guys to start mixing the concrete for our footings. 




What? Mixing concrete for the footings? Oh yeah, I may have forgotten to mention… big ready-mix cement trucks aren’t really a thing down here. We were told that part of the reason is because there are so many steep hills that they would only be able to deliver half a load otherwise the concrete would spill out the back on the way up any of these hills! So instead, they use portable cement mixers and mix all of their concrete by hand, and then wheelbarrow it from the mixer to wherever it needs to go. This is just how it works down here! And that’s not only today for the footings, that’s for the whole construction, the slab for the floors, the deck, the pool, all of it! These construction guys work dang hard, let me tell ‘ya! 




Tuesday 11/9- Today was the last day we’d get to check out the progress on the house in-person for a few weeks, so of course we had to go down there for one last look at the build before we left to go back to the US for three weeks. Today they were getting farther along in the process of pouring the footings. Since we saw it yesterday they had added the corner posts for supporting the whole house and poured the concrete around them. They were also starting to add the first layer of cement blocks on top of the poured concrete footings.

Here’s an interesting fact about building in Costa Rica: Our house would have 2 layers of cement blocks laid directly on top of the footings around the perimeter of the house to raise everything (house, deck, and pool) about 16 inches above the rest of the yard. This is so that when it rains so hard during the rainy season your house doesn’t flood. It is also protection in case a neighbor comes in and adds a bunch of fill to their yard raising it above yours, effectively making your yard the low-spot where all of the rain drains to. (There are no rules against this. This is also a reason why some people with small yards very close to other houses have ditches or drainage running around their entire yard at the fence line. We will have ditches like this on 2 sides of our yard). So, they raise the whole perimeter of the house, they fill in the house-sized hole with dirt, and then they pour the cement slab on top of this. By filling the “hole” underneath the floor with dirt, it also helps with stability in an earthquake because the dirt can shift against itself, as opposed to concrete remaining rigid and cracking under stress. So, for now there will be a step or 2 to get from the yard (currently mostly a muddy mess) into the house, but once everything is complete they will landscape it to be a slight slope from the house down into the yard instead of steps. 

 They have only been working on this for a week now and we are shocked at how quickly things are moving already. We mentioned this to Geiner and he said that he plans to have the roof on by the time we come back from the US. (At the time we laughed because we thought he was kidding, but looking back on it I actually think he was serious!)


We tried to commit to memory what it looked like today and took some “before” pictures. I asked Geiner if he could take some progress pictures while we were gone so that I would have them for the blog and, of course, so we could watch their progress. It will be interesting to see what the “after” pictures look like when we come back in 3 weeks.

Hasta Luego House, see you when we return!

Oh- we also dropped Breeze off with Stuart and Gem tonight since it would be an early morning to get on the road tomorrow. I hope she learns to get along with their dog Jet and is good while we’re gone!!