We are going to discuss what is involved to build a Costa Rica Custom Home with Finish Touch Enterprises SRL. Also, what is included in the cost of building a custom home with Finish Touch Enterprises?
One of the first questions that I am consistently asked is: “What does it cost to build a custom home in Costa Rica”? Surprisingly enough, this is a difficult question to answer. Because there are many variables that affect the price. So in this article were going to explain some detail that you may consider. In the event, your design and/or property have one of these variables that affect the price.
This article will go into detail about Finish Touch Enterprises standards. Which is what will be included in our building quotations. When an sq. ft price is given, it only represents a ‘general’ idea of cost. It is not until there is a design that an ‘actual’ price can be determined accurately. Whereas, from a drawing, we can calculate material quantities.
Costa Rica Custom Home Builders: Our Material Standards
- To calculate safety factors, we use North American Standards. North American SF is 5. Costa Rica safety factor of 3,
- An R-rating is sufficient to keep the house climate-controlled comfortably with little aid from air conditioners.
- Passive cooling engineering in our designs for keeping the house naturally cool and economic savings
- Our standards include inhibitors for mold and insects from inhabiting the house structure.
- The exterior wall construction of 8″ block with 2″ additional cement finishes
- High-performance windows with tinted glass and low E2 glaze
- Seer 16 medium-efficient air conditioners.
- Our standards include maintenance-free exterior finishes that resist mold and withstand UV from bleaching color.
- Granite and marble countertops.
- High-performance porcelain tiles.
- Generous allowances for plumbing/electrical fixtures.
- Electrical designs and installations North American standards.
- North American standards for mechanical and plumbing designs.
- Team of professional supervision of house construction. Employed by Finish Touch Enterprises.
- Our business model provides house construction prices lower than typical builders.
Take some notes as you read this article
This will help you create questions you will want to ask your architect and builder
This article explains the materials and methods that are standard in premium Costa Rica Custom Home Builders designs. I am going to explain the quality of the paint job.
I don’t subscribe to engineered wall systems, as, I have yet to see a system more superior than what we are using in our designs. Our methods have been taught for generations.
From fathers to their sons and to their sons. These methods are common practices throughout Europe and Central America and South America, which are still being practiced to date.
Furthermore, we are combining proven old building technologies. Together with new building technologies bringing you the best of both worlds.
Firstly Costa Rica is a small developing third-world country. Many material and fastener products that we take for granted in North America are not available here.
Therefore, it may need to be imported. Otherwise, we will improvise and manufacture our own. Even concrete trucks are scarce and usually, we need to mix the concrete by buckets.
Costa Rica Materials
There are no modifiers or fortifiers for building material products. Such as water-reducing agents, fly ash, accelerants, or retarders. Most products are raw materials. Sand, stone, cement.
Very rarely will you see laser levels or laser technology that almost every tradesman uses in North America. Equipment for precision is also almost non-existent.
These construction methods here remind me of when I was a boy. Following my father to a job site (he was a concrete contractor) and witnessing that tradesmen were actually craftsmen. Cabinets were made on-site, stairs were made on-site, plaster walls, hardwood floors. In today’s standard, these are now engineered systems, made off-site, and later delivered to be installed.
Also, things like decorative ceilings were done by hand with a sponge. Now, all these jobs have been replaced by engineered systems and machines. Craftsmen have been replaced by technicians.
In those days, they did things by hand. Carpenters would create carving tools from broken saw blades. As well as plasters would hammer their tack lathing to plaster crown moldings. Commonly, this is how things are still being done in Costa Rica.
No modern tools or equipment:
Without giving away my age, I have been old schooled for house designs and building quality. Through the years I have adapted to new and modern technologies.
In addition, I have been certified in 18 decorative concrete applications. Consequently, I have been credited with projects in Disney World, Busch Gardens, Universal Studios. Namely many resorts and residences throughout Florida USA. You can read a few of my qualifications at: About Us
Now I am bringing skills for Custom Home Building with the same old-school construction technologies. Adapting to natural elements, with no modifiers or chemical inhibitors. We all see that the older homes last forever. Adapting to these methods will make your Costa Rica custom home a treasure for a lifetime.
Costa Rica Custom Home Builders: Construction methods
Costa Rica has a building code safety factor of 3, and our Costa Rica Custom Home Builders engineering uses a safety code factor of 5.
Meaning, our constructions are double the Costa Rica federal building code. Let’s keep in mind that a building code is not about quality.
A building code is setting minimum standards. Meaning you cannot go below this. Therefore, it is advantageous for you, your family, your investment to exceed these codes.
Homes built from solid concrete and steel contribute much weight. Which the weight of the bearing will need to be supported by reinforced concrete footings. The bearing rebar is placed ¼ depth from the bottom of the footing.
Costa Rica’s seismic conditions also contribute to uplift situations. So to protect the home from structure damage we also place reinforcing in the footing ¼ depth from the top of the footing.
As a result, the footing is reinforced top and bottom with continuous bars. The amount and size of bars are variable and will be calculated by the structural engineer.
These continuous bars are supported by stirrups that will be placed approx. every 12”. And this directly strengthens the tensile horizontal motion.
Dowels and columns and tie-beam:
We begin designing concrete columns, which will tie to the footing and to the tie beam (tie beam is the same as footing but at the top of walls).
These columns are strategically placed in all corners of the house by our Costa Rica Custom Home Builders crew. Also on each side of an opening (windows and doors). If a wall does not have corners or openings. Then a column will repeat no less than 3 meters apart. The number of continuous rods and stirrups will be designed by a structural engineer.
Also, tying into the footing are rebar dowels with a dogleg. These dowels will be tied to the footing every 2 ft., which will enter the center of a block cell that will be filled with concrete. These dowels will continue to the tie beam.
The footings, columns, tie beam. After this, we only need to place patrician walls. In addition to the heavily structural ‘bones’ that I mentioned.
Moreover, our Costa Rica Custom Home team continues to keep your family safe by using the 8-inch blocks on the exterior walls. Also, install horizontal rebar on every third course of the block. Which is 24″ separation, and the dowels are at 24″ o/c as well. All together is cemented solid.
On our designs, we avoid designing long straight walls. Not only for better attractive aesthetics. But also for reasons structural. The more corners we have, the stronger the structure will be. This was the description of our structural system.
Walls and roof:
There are many wall systems, with each having its own advantage. Varying in price and quality. The west coast of Costa Rica has high heat and high humidity, rainy seasons, together with seismic activity. Therefore, we need to choose a wall system for these conditions.
We at Finish Touch Enterprises SRL use 8-inch blocks on exterior walls and 6-inch blocks on interior walls. Our closets will be steel studs and drywall. The block walls will receive 2″ additional inches of cement scratch coats and finishes. Resulting in approx 10″ final wall thickness.
Costa Rica Custom Home Builders: Advantages of Block Walls:
- R-factor for keeping the house cool. Firstly block has a higher heat resistance (R) than other building materials. Secondly our 8″ block together with the finishing materials. Results with a finished wall thickness of 10 inches.
- Acoustic value for blocking exterior noise (excuse the pun). This may include traffic noises. As well as nocturnal animal noises. There are seasons when frogs croak very loudly. As well as seasonal bugs like crickets are noisy and disruptive. Therefore, by using acoustic benefit materials, you can sleep more soundly with less interruption.
- Structural strength for an earthquake for both vertical and horizontal.
- Security, much more difficult to make a hole in reinforced concrete than clad wall systems.
- Natural vapor barrier that allows the house to breathe. A very important factor for controlling humidity. (control humidity=control mold)
The foundation begins with a block stem wall from the footing to finish floor height. This height will be set by the architect and engineer to ensure a positive flow of stormwater management.
We then backfill the inside and outside of the home. Followed by the crew will then begin installing all underground services and service entries for electrical, plumbing, low voltage, potable water. Inspectors will pressure test pipe fittings and check for leaks before the crew prepares the concrete floor.
The concrete floor is slab-on-grade, which is reinforced with mesh and a vapor barrier. The base is compacted to no less than 88%. We also make the terrace (back porch, lanai, veranda) at the same level as the house floor.
When we open the bi-fold patio door, these are on a recessed track. And this makes your interior living room a part of your exterior living space all at the same level.
This has a striking effect when the same tile is transitioned through. Which increases your space of outdoor living and indoor living.
Now that the floor is poured, the walls continue to tie beam height. All receptacles, switches, plumbing, low voltage, venting rough-ins are installed by our Costa Rica Custom Home Builders team during the construction of the walls.
At the same time, the horizontal block rebar is protruding in the column cages, followed by forming the columns to tie beam height and pour the concrete. Continuing with forming the tie beam (viga corona in Spanish). This would include reinforced concrete lentils that will be poured over every opening whether it’s arched, elliptical, or square.
The reinforcing continues up to the tie beam. This includes the internal walls that will be of a 6-inch block with a tie beam that will connect to the external tie beam. Closets will be of light structural steel and drywall. Or will be made from wood from our manufacturing shop.
There is no Promax wire here in Costa Rica, which is used in North America. Similarly, install conduit, and later we pull each color wire individually.
I have seen many electrical installations with TSJ wire which is like extension cord wire. This wire has a very high voltage drop and a much higher heat rating. It is not recommended to use this wire other than connecting a series of lights like pot lights, which should never be used as feed wire or for receptacles.
It is very important that we take into consideration the blueprint’s electrical layout. As receptacles and switches are cemented into the walls and they cannot be changed later. Nor adding new ones. I will speak more of the electrical systems later in this article.
All the cement walls and concrete beams are trued by installing a scratch coat on both sides of the wall. This is called repello grueso. Which will make the walls perfectly level and the corners at a perfect 90 degrees.
The interior wall will receive an additional coat called repello fino. This repello prepares the wall for a smooth plaster, which will prepare the wall to receive paint.
Your finished wall dimension will be 10 inches thick. With tons of protection from elements. I don’t know of any engineered wall system equivalent that will return you the same results.
The home begins to receive a white clean color:
Also, many insects and frogs do not like calcium as it burns their feet. Thus, protecting your home further from those unwanted critters from coming in or nesting.
Houses can be unoccupied for several months at a time with no fear of mold generating. Make a note of this as most Costa Rica Custom Home Builders do not use these types of products.
The iron will be red steel or galvanized depending on the location of your property. If you are close to the ocean we recommend galvanized, which is corrosion resistant but light in structure. Accordingly needing additional perlings as galvanized has less structural strength.
Therefore, the red steel is much stronger and does not require as many supports. Consequently being a little less cost-effective. We also, coat red steel with primer and corrosion-resistant paint.
Roofing dry in finishes:
On top of these trusses, we will put a layer of reflective insulation. The reflective installation is 97% effective and prevents heat from transferring into the house.
The reflective layer is on one side of the insulation. Therefore, it also allows heat to escape from the attic, which is exactly what we want. On top of the insulation, we dry in with a metal laminate.
You can read more of our engineering to keep your house cool here: This will save on your electric bill. I won’t go into detail about roofing material, our standard is decorative metal laminate. There are recommended material upgrades depending on the budget.
Should your home have clay tiles (optional upgrade) our Costa Rica Custom Home Builders crew will install them on top of the metal laminate. When installing clay tiles we put a rubber hose nailer for the tiles. This allows as a buffer shock absorbing for when we have minor quakes. A solid nailer would cause these tiles to break.
Costa Rica Custom Home Builders: Beginning of the Finishes
We are now getting into the easy and fun part because we are leaving the structural part of the construction. Thereupon we are entering into the finishing part of building a custom house.
The finishes for the best curb appeal and comfort will be a major part of the budget. Beginning with the ceilings, whether flat, sloped, cathedral, or architectural.
We install furring strips and drywall backers. Before drywall is installed the electrical connections will be completed. Ductwork installed. Air handler installed.
We also weld ceiling fan supports to the rafters. Once all electrical/mechanicals is completed, wires are pulled. We will close with drywall ceilings.
The receptacles and switches will be installed (not cover plates). Panel box breakers installed. Floor tiles installed, baseboard installed (using floor tiles). Cabinets are installed. Granites are installed. Second coat of paint installed. Light fixtures and ceiling fans installed. Plumbing fixtures installed.
Air conditioners are installed, and all touch-ups and cleaning are completed. Finally, the last coat of paint as we back out the door.
The exterior will be completed concurrently with the interior. Stucco finishes and stone veneer (if any) will be installed.
A maintenance-free PVC tabla will be installed for eaves. Decorative angled facia or facia and eaves trough will be installed. Either feature will be reviewed for each design individually.
Costa Rica Custom Home Builders: Notes on electrical
Electrical codes have not changed for the past few decades. However, our electrical conveniences have overwhelmingly increased. New kitchen gadgets and gizmos that require additional outlets. Entertainment centers usually require extra outlets. Phone charges are becoming common attributes to be installed in outlets.
When we do our electrical layout, there are considerations about where the entertainment center will be located. To accommodate outlets as well as low voltage systems.
Knowingly we’re going to require a few extra receptacles for TV, surround sound, modem, router, PlayStation Etc. In addition, we will include enough outlets in the kitchen as we have many kitchen appliances.
We will include a few extra outlets in the bedrooms and on the back Terrazas. Also, we will put an external panel box at the pool equipment house. This panel box may serve for landscape lighting, Rancho outlets, or any other exterior electrical requirement that you may wish to add on later.
Electrical switches; we generally plan three-way switches as we come in the front door and get into bed without being in the dark. Meaning you come in the front door, turn one light on at the end of the room you turn it off, and turn the next light on at the end of the passage to turn it off turn and so forth. Our bedrooms have 3-way switches that once you’re in bed you can shut the light off.
An important factor to study:
The reason I feel it is necessary to write a few paragraphs on the electrical layout is that most inexperienced Costa Rica Custom Home Builders outsource to an electrical engineer.
This engineer will layout your electrical design to code. He won’t include any convenience switches or outlets. Often you will never meet the electrical engineer to discuss your electric requirements. The result could leave you very dissatisfied. Our electrical demands have increased exponentially over the years. Receptacles with USB for chargers, motion switches, dimmer switches, rope lighting, accent lighting, ambient light colors. LED’s, incandescent, halogen, sodium, florescent.
The electrical layout and engineering is a key component of your home’s design. Equally for function and aesthetics. Therefore, a contributor to your Costa Rica custom home design.
- Seismic engineered foundation installation:
- Uplift, bearing, and horizontal reinforcements.
- Wall system
- Acoustic, R-factor rating, security, mold, and insect inhibitor.
- Generous allowances
- High Standard Flooring
- Plumbing Fixtures
- Lighting Fixtures
- Door handles, Switches, Receptacles
- Medium efficiency air conditioners.
- High efficiency tinted windows: Akaria and Europa with Plex bi-fold doors.
- High R-value rated reflective insulation.
- Solid wood cabinets made from:
- Cedro, Guanacaste, Teak (all the same price).
- Solid wood doors.
- High ceilings, and decorative architectural ceilings
The purpose of this article is to equip you with the tools to make your search for a builder more understandable and to help you prepare your interview questions to control your Costa Rica custom home.
We encourage you to read the series of articles in chronological order to have the best results when working with Costa Rica Custom Home Builders:
- Hire a builder
- Costa Rica Architect Firm
- Designing A House In Costa Rica Attributes
- Home Designing Service Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Home Builders
- Methods Of Building
- Building Services Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Custom Home (this article)
- Costa Rica General Contractor
- Interior Designing A Home In Costa Rica
Finish Touch Enterprises SRL is a team of experienced Costa Rica Custom Home Builders, and we would appreciate being a part of your homeownership dream. We welcome you to include us in your designer and builder search and we hope to hear from you soon with your details.