Designing a House In Costa Rica

So here you are, Designing and Building a House in Costa Rica! Terrific! I look forward to having you as a new neighbor in Costa Rica’s Pura Vida!

Pura Vida translates into “the pure life” or “the simple life.” It is a commonly used phrase to say hello, good-bye, everything is great, and everything is cool! Pura Vida is not just an idiom in Costa Rica; It is a way of life in Costa Rica.

To enjoy the full benefits of Pura Vida, you must take that first step: designing a House in Costa Rica.

Design a home in Costa RicaWhether you are still in the process of dreaming about Building a House in Costa Rica.  Or you have taken the plunge into Pura Vida and are currently active in designing or building in Costa Rica.  I want to share some trade secrets to save you time and money.

As the founder and CEO of Finish Touch Enterprises SRL. I would also want to help you in laying out and designing your dream home. Your house’s design is crucial. Because the more organized, structured, and knowledgeable you are about designing and building in Costa Rica, the easier the start-to-finish transitions will be.

This article is specifically written as a starting point to create the demeanor to approach Designing a House in Costa Rica

Let us take a moment to digress…please read my articles about the designing processes, the steps involved to progress your custom home design.  Articles of your involvement and what you should communicate and methods of communicating with your architect or designer.  I have also written articles explaining professional involvements to complete a design and permits and what costs to expect.  We at Finish Touch Enterprises feel the best approach to relieving anxiety and skepticism is to educate people to understand the mechanics of Designing and Building a house in Costa Rica.

Designing and Building a House in Costa Rica on Paper

Any design model needs to be built on paper before it can be transformed into a tangible construction.  You should be working closely with your architect and builder to develop details.  That will include concise measures, materials, and delivery schedules.

Realistically, you should allow approximately 4 to 8 months for designing and permitting completion.  As well as attaining the required permits before construction can begin.  Do not rush your design process! This is a common error I see too often.  People want to start building today.  Without a good design and concise details, your project could soon turn into a disaster.  Try not to under-evaluate the importance of a complete and concise design.

Of course, even people who live in Pura Vida in Costa Rica, experience anxiety during this phase. That’s why I wrote this and other articles: to help you design your dream home effectively, efficiently, and with the least amount of anxiety.  This is and should be a pleasurable experience that you want to be proud of, for years to come.

Our Ideology of House Design

Our ideology at Finish Touch Enterprises SRL is to work closely and personally with every client and reduce any stress. One way to allay anxiety and stress is to have accurate, organized, and detailed-design plans, and permits.  Having a staff taking care of all the details big and small.  Sourcing specifics and unique elements, preparing imports if necessary.  Having a team on your side positively certainly reduces concerns, doubts, and fortifies confidence.

Even if you don’t choose to hire Finish Touch, (my personal recommendation), the success of your project directly results from competent, experienced professionals.  I make myself available for any who may have questions on concerns.  You don’t have to be a client to make contact with me in this regard.  With my Canadian background, I am always pleased to help.


Rule #1: You are The Boss when designing and Building a House in Costa Rica.


As I mentioned in a previous article, the people you hire may know all the terms, codes, and methods you don’t, but they still work for you. You have the right to be as involved as much as you want in the design process. Asking questions and holding professionals accountable are “not bothering them;”.  Asking questions and holding professionals accountable is good customer service.  In my past experience, I have had clients who were involved with every nail, screw, rebar, light bulb.  While other clients were, “don’t call me until your done”.  Either way is right.  This is your investment, this is your home, this is your project.  Your architect and builder are obligated to deliver to you results.  Including answering all questions of concerns, doubts, or uncertainty.

You are the boss.

Typical Beginning to Designing and Building a House in Costa Rica

The first professional with whom you’ll speak is a Licensed Architect.Designing a house in Costa Rica

It is the architect’s responsibility to draw the picture of your dream home.  Most architects do not have engineer training; therefore, the primary focus is on aesthetic and cosmetic attributes. The architect will take your ideas and visualizations and create a drawing on paper.

A good architect will work with you through multiple drafts until the visual on the paper matches the visual in your mind.  He will sketch a design with function, spirit, and artistic taste.

Produce a result

For your design to function well after you are satisfied with the general layout.  It may be necessary to involve other professional services.

An Electrical Engineer is mandatory on all Costa Rican house designs.  Also, it’s important if you are able, to participate in the electrical design.  Electrical codes are very much out of date in accordance with our electrical demands.  We have many more kitchen appliances, entertainment center appliances, bedroom gadgets, and we demand more convenient receptacles for charging units.  In addition, there is ambient lighting, task lighting, wall washing lighting, landscape lighting.  As you can see, many elements that you can participate in for the electrical design.

Depending on the size of the home, you may not be required to employ a Structural Engineer.  But having a Structural Engineer on-hand to review your preliminary plans before the detailed drawings are prepared benefits you.  This would include, a comprehension of the soil studies for footing size.  Lintel calculations, rebar sizes, frequency of rebar, structural roof design. etc.

Your Architect will generalize your structural footings, columns, and tie beams. In other words, that glass wall you envision may need some structural reinforcement.  Even the Architect’s final drawing is ill-defined without the engineering reviews.

House Designing prerequisites:

Because soil tests are not mandatory, people often overlook soil tests.  However, do yourself a favor and get soil studies on your lot. You, your engineer, and your builder need to know the structural characteristics of the ground, water dynamics, and filtration.

Also, you could even go a step further and ask a Structural Engineer to review the soil-studies results before designing a house. I personally have more than 40 experience in construction.  Have I got stories for you, from those who chose to skip certain engineering steps.  We at Finish Touch Enterprises SRL include soil studies in our Architect Agreement.  It is a part of your package and we also send the results to CFIA when submitting for a permit.

Note References for Designing and Building a House in Costa Rica.

Designing and Building a House in Costa Rica or any place is a complex process, which should not be executed by one person or a single architect. Pura Vida really does take a village.  Hiring the right team to make your dream house in Costa Rica a reality will make the entire journey easier and more cost-effective. Designing and Building a House in Costa Rica is your first step toward the Pura Vida.

There is no sure way for putting together your team of designers.  Every case and situation is a bit different.  You don’t want to hire someone overqualified as it is an unnecessary expense.  But on the contrary, you don’t want to hire someone underqualified.  As your end result could cost you much more than money.  Finding that sweet spot is knowing how to choose the team in the first place.  Not just the yellow pages, (that don’t exist in Costa Rica either).

There are articles on this website that if you take the time to read will give you the tools for choosing your team.  Take notes to what is relevant to your situation, know the right questions to ask, and know what answers should come back.  This can be fun and exciting as you will begin a whole new friendship.  Make sure to include Finish Touch Enterprises on your list for interviews.

Attributes of Designing and Building a House in Costa Rica

If you’re reading this article, you are probably considering designing and Building a House in Costa Rica.  Or at least, dreaming about designing a house in Costa Rica.

Lot Attributes;

Let’s talk aboutCosta Rica Architect Firm some essential design and property attributes.  This is the first step of putting together a vision.  That is the attributes of your lot.  To name a few would be; the lots focal points, topography, trees age and species, neighbors, sun travel, mechanical noises, or possible nature noises, rivers, any existing attribute that may influence the design elements.  More details here

Personal Attributes;

Having your personal attributes on hand makes the process of designing and Building a House in Costa Rica enjoyable and less stressful.  We recommend preparing by creating a “Designing a House in Costa Rica” Binder with Photos and Notes.  Not every attribute I discuss will be relevant to you.  So in keeping with the Pura Vida, jot down only those notes that are relevant to you.

Taking notes and creating a binder will not only help you stay organized but also help you see your dream become tangible. You can designate specific sections, such as designs, permits, soil studies, photos, expenses, electrical fixtures, plumbing fixtures, and schedules.  Also, you can even incorporate my articles in your binder for easy reference.

Have fun with your Designing and Building a House in Costa Rica Binder! Decorate or stylize your binder to reflect your aspirations and ideas. If you have not already done so, please, read the article: Costa Rica Architect Firm, which will explain what Finish Touch incorporates into every one of our designs.  Including your home and budget.

In your quest for the Pura Vida home, Two Attribute Categories deserve consideration: Property Attributes and House Attributes.

Designing and Building a House in Costa Rica: Property Attributes

1) Existing Topography in Costa Rica

When designing a home in Costa Rica, Property Attributes come first. What are Property Attributes? Primarily, existing topography (i.e., slopes, hills, terrain, and angles).designing a house in costa rica Americans often refer to the Western United States as God’s Country.  Costa Rica is also God’s Country.

Industries and prefabricated housing do not dominate the landscape. Nature created the land in Costa Rica, and Nature does not make mistakes.

Therefore, to fully enjoy all the beauty that Costa Rica has to offer, you probably want to keep the main features of your property as they are.

Topography analysis provides engineers with the necessary information they need.  For creating property access, including a place to park and maneuver vehicles.

Your actual home design may naturally conform to the side of a mountain or hill.  Understanding the basic topography and property elevations contributes to the home-design layout.

Which may include two stories, a basement walk-out, a raised or non-raised bungalow.  Or split-levels. Knowing the topographical benefits and limitations ultimately dictates how the house, perimeters, walls, and stories will be laid out.

Why do you have to know all this stuff? Knowledge is power and power is confidence. From a design point of view, you want to minimize the cost of your house’s foundation.  Or having to use budget funds for retaining walls.

2) Your Design’s Focal Point

Hire a builder costa ricaThat underlying beauty and variety of landscapes in Costa Rica create natural-design focal points. Which vista do you want to keep with your morning cup of coffee? Would you prefer a canopy or an oceanic view?  In the evening when you are sipping an adult beverage on the pool terrace?  If such a view does not exist on your property, then we will design and make one.  With tropical lush flora.

Do you even want a veranda? Knowing the focal point of your house design allows you to plan for particular house attributes. This is your dream—and Costa Rica is the most spectacular place to live out your dream.  So take advantage of every property and house attribute you can when designing and Building a House in Costa Rica.

3) Sun Travel On Your Property

There is an abundant amount of sun in Costa Rica.  Which is probably one of the main reasons you want to escape North America.  We have approx 8 hours of full sun rays per day compared to approx 3 hours of full sun in Canada and the northern states.  I shouldn’t have to explain the health benefits of the sun.  We’ve all learned a lot about the natural vitamin D and benefits of vitamin D against the covid calamity.

In addition, this amount of sun allows us to harvest its rays to produce electricity.  With an average of 8 hours of direct sun rays, the payback time for alternative energy of Photovoltaic is less than 5 years.  Wow, just imagine, free electricity for life.

The path the sun travels across your property can help you optimize your living space.  From a design point of view, sun travel considerations for windows locations, window sizes, location of bedrooms.  Sunsets, sunrises, sunny areas, and shaded areas.  Most people take this for granted.  Nonetheless, we use it to your advantage.

4) Privacy Considerations

Even in Costa Rica’s Pura Vida, you may want more privacy. When you’re having fun by the pool, or entertaining people for a bbq.  Perhaps a romantic moment with that special one.  In any situation, you want to feel secure, safe, and with complete privacy.  The list could be endless for reasons wanting your own personal privacy.  Therefore, your designer needs to analyze the best way to achieve this.  From house layout, house positioning, live fence, elevations, windows, or if necessary a wall.

If there is an adjoining lot with no structure, then your designer would have to make an educated assumption as to where a structure would be constructed.  There is also noise pollution that may be a part of this equation.  Not often, but sometimes we need to pay attention to outside noises.  If this is so, then we would consider a water feature to drown out sounds, or plant trees that attract certain birds.

This is an attribute that can be easily overlooked.  It is a simple issue and can save a lot of future frustration if taken care of early.

In Summary

Property studies are essential in designing.  Eliminating some house attributes to accommodate existing property attributes will save you a ton of money.  If necessary get several observations from various professionals.  Or consider an Architectural Firm like Finish Touch Enterprises that has a full complement of professional designers and engineers.

So, before you embark on designing and Building a House in Costa Rica, understand your property advantages and disadvantages beginning with the conceptual design.

House Attributes

1) Purpose of Designing and Building a House in Costa Rica

When designing and Building a House in Costa Rica, you will want to consider your house’s purpose. Is your home: an investment you’ll be renting for extra income. Or is it a part of a retirement plan.

Let’s not forget the ideal purpose of aDesign a house in Costa Rica permanent residence. Would be to accommodate a work schedule and retirement plan.  But still have the relaxing and welcoming humbleness.  I place to feel accomplished, and create new lifelong memories.

Or perhaps a vacation get-a-way for the family.  A vacation home can generate income if you choose, or be reserved specifically for your family and friends.  When escaping the cold climates, or big-city hustle and bustle rat race.  Where better to hang your hat than in a tropical, serene setting in Costa Rica, where it is summer every day of the year.  Coupled with a refreshment.

Each of these purposes contributes to design attributes.  An example would be that vacation homes would want to focus more on social areas and outdoor living.  Smaller closets and storage, outdoor kitchen, and so forth.  We may also recommend for a vacation home is to have two master bedrooms and two guestrooms are beneficial.  Because two families often travel together.

Or perhaps you are planning on a house exclusively for retirement and family visiting.  Then, you may want to incorporate more luxurious elements like a serenity pool, an impeccable garden landscape, and outdoor lighting.  Budgets would be higher on finish elements and decorative elements.  Like, architectural decorative ceilings, gourmet kitchen, smart home technology, etc.

This truly can be your dream home, do not limit your imagination or life. Pura Vida!

2) Lifestyle-Activity and Impact Ratio

Once you communicate the purpose of your house.  Especially if the home is for your personal use.  Then you’re going to find it easier for choosing your home’s attributes and elements.  Beginning with, assessing your Lifestyle-Activity Impact Ratio. Meaning, are you very active, sports-oriented, competitive.  Or more sedative, relaxed, laid back, more visual for gardens, water features, birdhouses.

Designing A House In Costa RicaMany elements are reflected in the pool design.  A pool can be a play pool with lots of splash and spa exercise.  Or a pool can have cascades, infinity, fire, and water features.

The surrounding area of the pool can be active with an outdoor kitchen, casita, studio, area for horseshoe competitions, or other lawn games.  Or the pool can have interesting terrace level characteristics, serene lighting, bar, chalupa, hammock, or other relaxing themes.

Besides lifestyle characteristics, there is age can be included.  Are there children or grandchildren that should be considered in the design attributes?  This can be especially important for vacation rental purposes.

In that binder, you are going to have fun making.  You may wish to designate a section for Lifestyle-Activity, Impact Ratio, so your architects, engineers, and builders can adequately accommodate your needs. Communication among you and those professionals working for you is crucial. Remember what I said earlier: You are The Boss! Ultimately, your home should be designed to your standards of comfort and reflect your traditions.

3) Spirit of the Home

A house, no matter how innovatively or luxuriously designed.  It is still just a house until it is lived in and the inhabitants give their home a Spirit.  You want your house to have a personality, which reflects you.

Designing A House In Costa RicaWhat curb appeal do you want your home to have?  A Mexican-Spanish façade with a modern interior, Columbian or Mediterranean architecture with a more traditional interior.  Or simply a modern beach house.

Do you want stone-work featured walls, more natural-rough woodwork, or a low-maintenance stucco finish?  Don’t forget Costa Rica’s mountains lend themselves to Mountain architecture or even vertical-building designs.

When your home has its own spirit or character, this will dictate how you feel when you’re in the home.

This is why you want to communicate clearly to your designers, engineers, and builders what kind of home and specific features you want. Even if you end up with an over-stuffed binder with many ideas.  Including notes, photos of houses and environments (especially helpful to designers), drawings, and scribbles, I would much rather sift through many ideas with you.  Discovering what you like.  Rather than your asking me or whomever you hire to make those decisions for you.

What spirit do you want your home to have and what kind of spirit do you want to live in?

We, at Finish Touch Enterprises and all other quality architects and Costa Rica home builders, follow systems for designing and building houses.  Only you can make a house a home filled with joy, sharing, and wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. Let us help you build you a “home” beyond just a constructed house.

4) Budget

The final house-design attribute is budget. The budget may be the most critical aspect of designing and Building a House in Costa Rica.  Because you can get so much more for your money in Costa Rica than in North America.

With that said, I understand that nobody wants to “break the bank” in building their dream home. The lower cost of a higher standard of living is probably one of the reasons you are designing a house in Costa Rica.

Conveniently, we utilize “Thumb Calculations” of what things generally cost per square foot or square meter as a starting point. A detailed list of costs is outlined in these two articles: Home Designing Service and Customizing a home in Costa Rica.

“Thumb Calculations” help us determine the size of your home, pool, Casita, garage, outdoor kitchen. Once we have established a preliminary design, we can calculate material quantities, such as linear feet of cabinetry, porcelain tiles, number of showers, ceiling fans, and other plumbing and light fixtures.

With this information, we can accurately calculate how much building your dream home in Costa Rica will cost. From the preliminary drawings, we can make adjustments until the design and the budget balance.

Again, whether you hire us or not, please contact me at Finish Touch Enterprises. I will be glad to answer any questions and help you find a place to start if that’s what you need. My only regret about moving to Costa Rica is that I did not move here 10 years earlier. I want you to experience the incomparable Pura Vida in Costa Rica.

Conclusion on Building a House in Costa Rica

With information from the 4-property attributes and the 4-house attributes, you can compose an anti-project design, which enables us to propose preliminary designs andhow to hire a builder budgets.  This proposal, which can be adjusted to balance the design and budget, is for your review.

  • Anti-Project of the project overview
  • Lot-access and parking
  • House position and foot-print layout
  • Pool position and foot-print layout
  • Outbuilding position and foot-print layout (i.e. garage, casita, pool, outdoor kitchen, etc)
  • Landscape-preliminary design
  • Floor plan including kitchen, closets, bathrooms, and furniture layouts
  • House elevations and 2D exterior views of the front, rear, right side, left side with proposed finishes
  • Preliminary budget with finishing and overall building details.  We offer our clients style, unique design, custom finishes, over 20 years of experience, free consultation, and a full staff of professionals.

Follow our series of building articles to empower you toward the success of your project’s completion:

  1. How to Hire a Builder
  2. Costa Rica Architect Firm 
  3. Designing And Building a House In Costa Rica Attributes (this article)
  4. Home Designing Service Costa Rica
  5. Costa Rica Home Builders
  6. Methods Of Building In Costa Rica
  7. Costa Rica Custom Home
  8. Costa Rica General Contractor
  9. Interior Design In Costa Rica
  10. Finish Touch Furniture SRL

 

 

 

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