This article will discuss what is included in your Custom Home Designing Service. With Finish Touch Enterprises SRL
I’ve written a series of articles that will answer a lot of people’s questions. In the past 12 years of Designing and Building Homes in Costa Rica. I have had my share of questions. Many regarding the Home Designing Service. So, therefore, I will attempt to make clear what is involved and what you will require.
I have structured the business model of Finish Touch Enterprises to be an ‘all in’ and ‘all inclusive’ company. Meaning, there are no unforeseen surprises. Our rates and services include all costs, including permit fees and mandatory insurance.
How Finish Touch Enterprises SRL Improves Your Experience
Finish Touch Enterprises SRL is a full-service Architectural Firm and a General Contractor in Costa Rica. We are a company with continual growth by helping families and investors transition to Costa Rica living. Specifically, our objective is to offer the best solutions with superior results. Including offering the lowest prices with our Building Services and Home Designing Services. This was accomplished by firstly, eliminating the middle man. Secondly, less outsourcing of professional services. Thirdly, equip the company with the necessary tools and equipment.
In most cases, a corporation’s business model consists of board members. Each of them is a professional in their own area of studies. Finish Touch Enterprises SRL adheres to the same format. With a professional designing team, with each of them contributing specifics to their own area of studies. Results with a complete and superior design. Professionals that consist of architects, electrical engineers, structural engineers, interior designers, and more
The following list of Home Designing Service
- An architect: for designs, drawings, elevations
- The structural engineer: for footings, columns, roof design, red steel designs, connects, etc
- Electrical engineer: receptacle and switch locations, load calculations, lumens calculations, service entry design
- Interior decorator: designs for colors, textures, materials, niches, lighting, plumbing, and electrical fixtures
- Permanently employed construction crews: Training men for specific skills
- Heavy equipment for lot preparation, pool excavation, lot access, road building
- Delivery trucks. No waiting, no extra delivery fees
- Full-service woodshop creates custom kitchen cabinets, custom interior doors, custom entranceway doors
- Stone profiling and polishing for granite countertops, stone sculpting and polishing for granite sinks, stair treads, window sills, etc
- Window distribution license direct from the manufacturer, no middle man. Warehouse prices directly to you
- Pool equipment distributor direct from Pentair manufacture, no middle man. Warehouse prices directly to you
- Pebble pool finishes and glass bead aggregates
- Fully insured company
- Lísense with the Colegio Federado De Arquitectos Y Ingenieros De Costa Rica CFIA
Hire an architecture firm for home designing service
To begin, when you are hiring an architect or architecture firm for your home designing service. There will be many decisions to be made. To begin, once your floor plan has been established and elevations. You’ll begin to decide on finishing materials that cohere to the home aesthetics. I call this the lipstick and mascara part. Because it’s about colors, textures, material choices. This can be overwhelming which is why our staff is here to take the difficult decisions.
When entering into a Home Design Service Agreement you will ask what is included and you will ask about costs.
- Which materials and quality of materials will be used?
- Details of the wall material
- What will the roof consist of?
- Flooring material and budget
- Details of the type of windows that are going to be installed
- Plumbing and lighting fixtures and budgets
- Who will be reviewing the project and inspections
- Cost for a complete design and permitting process
Engineered Systems for your Custom Design Service
Important to realize is there are many engineered systems, which are fabricated offsite transported to your property, and installed. Many of these systems claim to save you time and money. But most come with the sacrifice of quality.
If your designer is recommending an engineered system. It may be necessary to do some research as to how you will benefit. It is common for commissions to be paid for referrals. Therefore you will want to validate that the recommendation is towards your benefit. Not for the financial benefit of the one making the recommendation.
The thing that is important for your home design service is quality and function. With being budget conscientious as well. In reality, you are going to enjoy this house for many years. Therefore, it is more than an investment. It is your home where memories will be made and cherished for a lifetime. So incorporating the right systems is paramount.
What is included in your Homes Designing Service:
To begin the home designing service process you and I will begin to have a dialogue. Perhaps by phone or through emails regarding your project. We’ll be discussing the use of the home, whether it is a vacation home, retirement, permanent residence, or a rental income. There are many variables all of which will influence design attributes and elements.
Further information as to your incision of home style. Your likes and dislikes. Must-haves, and necessities. Your lifestyle particularly has a great influence. Do you like to entertain groups of people or do you prefer a quiet lifestyle? Do you spend a lot of time cooking or you don’t cook at all. Again, there are many variables to influence your design.
In addition to a basic conversation for clarity and intention, we will discuss property budgets and all relevant articles.
Btw, budgets are always kept confidential. Which are not shared with the staff. It is best to have them focused on designing without restriction. We will balance the design and budget
As a rule, I will visit the property to perform a pre-evaluation. From there I would be checking for lot access and the ease of delivery vehicles have access. I also look for lot servicing. Neighbors and privacy issues. Lot topography, tree evaluations. I check for sun travel for morning and afternoon shade. Focal points if any, and of course lot access for parking and turning around.
The home designing service agreement schedule includes:
- Preliminary studies of property
- Anti-project of property
- Geotechnical exploration and analysis
- Register Anti-Project to receive IVI reduction to 4%
- Conceptual design of floor plan and elevations
- Design finishes of exterior and interior materials/textures/colors
- Pool design and hydraulic engineered
- Detailed construction budget and schedule
- Detailed construction drawings
- Electric and mechanical design by certified engineers with CFIA
- Approval proceedings before the Costa Rican Engineers and Architects Bar
- Registration of professionals licensed with the CFIA for inspections
- Municipal approval process
- INS insurance (mandatory)
- Permits in hand
Home Designing Service Agreement Details
Preliminary Studies of Property:
- Firstly, to begin with, a visit to the property. This will actually be done periodically through the design process to verify elements. The beginning visits are to determine the location of the house and outbuildings. Lot access, parking, and turnaround. This contributes to curb appeal. Focal points exist or we need to create. Neighbor location and privacy concerns. Sun travel is also considered. The natural lot topography and existing trees. Lot servicing and any other attributes that will influence the design.
- Secondly, is the property amenities. How near is the store, bank, clinic, restaurants, etc? Some of these may have a factor on the design for storage or extra room, etc.
- Thirdly, is an interview with you to discuss the ‘must-haves. What you are envisioning. Your lifestyle and things you enjoy doing. Are you entertainers or prefer a more relaxed quiet lifestyle? A sports enthusiast, hobbies, activities, etc. These attributes will influence living spaces, pool design, bedrooms, etc.
- Subsequently, the results from the above will initiate floor plan production. As well as elevation plans of the house. Including basic furniture layout and home attributes. Which will encumber all attributes from the property inspection.
Anti-Project Of The Property:
- Creating an Ani-Project is basically a layout of your property. We will show lot access and turn around. House location, pool location, and gardens. Basically, you will see social areas and the use of the land. The ani-project will show all construction areas, fences if any, sidewalks, decking, etc. From the approved anti-project, these attributes will be included in the construction drawings unless otherwise stated.
- We have a great deal of information on the Anti-Project. You will find a North pointer in order to determine direction. We include elevations of the building so it indicates the heights of the buildings. The floor plan of the house is detailed so you can see the cohesion of indoor living with the outdoor living areas. Often, we include tables of areas. This gives a better understanding of proportion. Air-conditioned areas to terraces, pool areas to decking, gardens or green areas, etc.
- The Anti-Project is also used for HOA approvals if relevant. Often Asadas request an anti-project prior to approving a water availability letter.
Geotechnical exploration and analysis:
- Geotechnical Studies are not mandatory in Costa Rica and I’m not sure why, because they are extremely important. These are soil studies on the property for density and perforation. Importantly we want to know what lays beneath the home. Often vegetative soil is about 12” on the surface of the property. Which should be scalped off where construction will take place. Then we need to know the density of the stabilized soil. In order to calculate footing size. Which is calculated by the weight of the house distribution over the soil density. Also, we want to check soil up to 5 meters deep or to bedrock.
- Perforation test tells us how quickly soil will absorb and drain water. We will design your stormwater management based on these studies. As well as septic leach beds if applicable.
- Because these studies are not mandatory, many people believe they are not necessary. For this reason, Finish Touch Enterprises has made Geotechnical studies a part of the design process and is included in the design fees. They are important, and therefore, are included in your design file.
Register Anti-Project to receive IVI reduction to 4%:
- This is fairly new to the Costa Rica permit process. Costa Rica has initiated a goods and service tax of 13%. Before, it was only a sales tax of 13%, but now it applies to all services in Costa Rica. Of course, this was met with resistance from us architects and builders and for that reason, Congress temporarily suspended this tax for Architects, Engineers, and construction services. In order to receive an exemption, a project needed to be registered with CFIA to receive an exempt number from Hacienda.
- September 1, 2021, this exemption was revoked and now a 4% service tax IVI will apply to construction services including designing. However, you still must register the anti-project to receive the 4% reduction. We include this process and registration fees as a part of our Custom Design Agreement
- It is also worth noting here that as of September 1, 2022, the 4% will increase to 8%
Conceptual Design of Floor Plan and Elevation:
- Conceptual meaning starting point. From all the data collected from the site visit, interview, and studies. We will then begin with a preliminary design. This design will be more detailed towards function, aesthetics, and budget conscience. Much of this was completed for the anti-project. But now we get into the details.
- Following the floor plan, we then design elevations. This includes wall heights, ceiling heights, architectural ceiling designs if applicable, roof design, window, and door placement, sizes, and designs.
Design Finishes of Exterior and Interior Materials/Textures/Colors:
- Our designers will then add some color, texture, and materials to the design. This is a part when things start to get exciting. I call this part the ‘lipstick and mascara’ part. As now house develops a personality reflecting its owner’s visions. There is a cohesion of ceiling designs, floor tiles, feature walls, cabinets. All of which set the mood. From rustic to elegance.
- For visual reference, we create 3D renders to best communicate with you the aesthetics. With this technology, it is as close to reality as we can get. Of course in real life, there will be deference to a degree. But it best depicts the end goal with reasonable accuracy.
- With the conceptual drawing and renders, we can more accurately calculate costs. As we now have a drawing for material take-offs for exact measures of flooring, cabinets, block, concrete, etc. As well as, renders for material choices, placements, and measures.
Pool Design and Hydraulic Engineering:
- Pool designs and engineering are critical components of a home design. This is a whole field of its own and requires much care and consideration. The pool area will most likely be the area most used in a home design. You will spend more time here than anywhere else in the home. Not just for usage, but for visual serenity. Often the pool area is seen upon entering the home for the ‘wow’ effect. Knowing this, we at Finish Touch Enterprises, take much care and professional adherence and dedication to your pool design.
- To begin, the pool design should be a part of the house, not an add-on. So we try to incorporate some home attributes and elements into the pool. To give an adhesion between the two. Also, size in proportion to the house and number of occupants. All pools are custom designed and not pulled out of a book. So we can include many features and conveniences to suit the families’ preferences. Example; beach entry without steps, water cascades, infinity edge, bubblers, seating areas, light show, firewater, swim-up bar to an outdoor kitchen. etc.
- For more detailed information regarding the pool design. We recommend reading this article Pool Design and Construction
Detailed Construction Budget and Schedule:
- Collectively, this is a document that jointly goes with your construction drawings. The construction drawings give you details of measurements. Locations of attributes, and construction details of material quality. The Detailed Construction Budget and Schedule are more inclusive of what you will receive. Budgets on flooring, granites, taps, plumbing fixtures, lights, fans. Most often builders don’t demonstrate what quality they use on these elements. But we give you a 15-page document of all material breakdown quantities and cost
- The budget begins with relevant data. Between the property and Finish Touch Enterprises. This data is regarding Finish Touch Enterprises address, contact info, and General Contractor license info.
- The summary page of areas and costs of areas per meter squared. What is included in the proforma and what is not included?
- Individual material quantities and costs. This area is generic so when you read a ‘0’ in a quantity column, you know your house does not have this item. However, if you choose to want this item, you will know what the cost is upfront. Example. If you did not want a hot water tank and preferred hot water on demand, your proforma will show the cost upfront. We provide no surprises and total transparency.
- In addition, the proforma has labor costs to build this home which includes government responsibilities. There is summary pages where you can view all cost collectively.
- The final pages show a schedule for the installation of the materials with a flow chart. Followed by a monthly/weekly chart of costs during the progression of the construction.
Detailed Construction Drawings:
- You will receive a complete set of construction drawings physically and digitally. These drawings usually consist of 20 to 25 pages. Each page will have the approval seal of CFIA. Meaning they are certified and approved before the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos de Costa Rica Bar (Federal Building Department).
- The drawings will include all relevant laminas to construct this home. Sections on architectonics, elevations, cut sections, structural sections, electrical sections, mechanical sections, window/door schedules, areas, etc.
- Note: In addition, for your information purposes, with the construction drawings you can solicit builders for pricing or price comparisons. We recommend you keep the proforma private for your personal comparisons. With these two documents, you are best equipped for asking the correct questions. Of course, we hope you continue with Finish Touch Enterprises as your builder.
Electric and mechanical design and blueprints:
- After the approval of the conceptual drawing, we then get the engineers involved to make the design work. Mandatory Electrical engineer and Mechanical engineer will be for every project. There may be additional engineers required depending on specifics.
- The Electrical and mechanical engineers will firstly design to code and function. Logically, this means we can see in the dark and water runs downhill. Secondly, we continue these designs for function. This includes 3-way switches at strategic points. Location and heights of tv receptacles. The convenient location of shower taps to showerheads. And many other functions and features. Thirdly, is aesthetics, our designers and engineers work together to finalize this stage. This includes ambient lighting, wall washing lighting, task lighting. Perhaps the vessel sinks with cascade taps. Bathroom shower features. Kitchen island features, and more.
- There are also careful considerations for HVAC designs. Placements of ducting and returns for constant climate control. Engineering for passive cooling is involved in this stage as well. Telecommunications designs and any security considerations are done at this part.
Approval Proceedings before the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y de Arquitectos de Costa Rica:
- At the beginning of the project in step 1 above, we mention the collection of permit documents. By the time we completed all the steps including the detailed construction drawings, we should have collected all required documentation for permitting. We then submit the package to CFIA
- The package is examined and notification is sent that it is complete. Should they require further documentation they will request it at this time. Once the package is determined complete, it is assigned a reviewer
- The reviewer analyzed the drawings to confirm they comply with all Costa Rica Federal Building codes. Which include seismic stability, structural safety factors, wall systems, and other systems that are Costa Rica certified.
- Within the CFIA are also additional departments that will review the plans. This includes the Ministry of health for any black water designs, the Fire Department for egress designs, the Ministry of environment for environmental concerns, and so forth.
- Once all departments have approved the designs, we are sent an invoice for permit payment which is paid by Finish Touch Enterprises. All fees are included in the Architect Agreement between Finish Touch Enterprises and the Client.
Registration of professionals licensed with the CFIA for inspections:
- On all laminates of the Construction Drawings, there is a section on the right side that we call the Canteen. This area is where the CFIA will stamp a seal of approval. This area also shows the page number, which section it belongs to, property owner name, project name. Most importantly, it shows the names and license numbers of the designers, engineers, architects, and builders. These license numbers are verified by CFIA for validity as only licensed professionals can apply for permits. These are the professionals responsible for the construction accuracy and perform inspections weekly.
- Should the client hire another builder to construct the home, these registered responsible would resign and the new builder would register his professionals if he has any. Otherwise, the Client would need to sub-contract new professionals to be responsible for the build. This is a bit of a hassle but is not uncommon.
Municipal approval process:
- Upon receiving the CFIA approval, the plans may then proceed to the Municipality. The Municipality has a couple of obligatory reviews for the plans.
- Firstly, they will review the anti-project for building setbacks and lot coverage. The federal building code has federal bi-laws. the Municipality has additional bi-laws. These are usually presented to us when we receive the ‘Uso Suelo’ (Use of Land) document. It usually stated, how high a structure can be for that zone. Property setbacks. Amount or percentage of lot coverage. The municipality does not check for structural compliance.
- Secondly, the approval stamp from CFIA will have a value of construction. The Municipality considers this value as an improvement to the property. They then include this value in the property value to calculate your new annual property tax amount.
- Thirdly, the Municipality will confirm there is construction insurance valid.
- Once all the above is valid and verified, we are sent an invoice for permit payment which is paid by Finish Touch Enterprises. All fees are included in the Architect Agreement between Finish Touch Enterprises and the Client.
INS insurance (mandatory):
- INS is an acronym for Instituto Nacional de Seguros. Costa Rica has government insurance for homes, vehicles, and life. There are no in-country insurance companies. Any insurance plans you may consider from any company outside of INS, then you are purchasing insurance from an American Company or some other country abroad.
- Nonetheless, INS is a mandatory insurance requirement for construction. The amount of insurance to pay for your project is calculated from the value stamp of CFIA. INS claims that 35% of that value is labor costs. INS is 3.6% of labor costs. Therefore, proof of this payment must be declared to the Municipality before they issue a permit. All fees are included in the Architect Agreement between Finish Touch Enterprises and the Client.
- NOTE: Should the Client employ other contractors, then the contractor must provide his own INS for his employees
Permits in Hand:
- This is the end of the pre-construction stage. We now have all permits to proceed with construction. You have certified approved construction drawings, you have a 15 page detailed proforma of all materials, and budgets for finishes, as well as a timeline for construction. You have federal and municipal permits and construction insurance. Ready to begin construction. The Architect Agreement is complete and ready for a Construction Building Agreement. Hopefully with Finish Touch Enterprises SRL.
Federal Building Permit and Rates
You will see a copy of a physical federal building permit. In the yellow highlight, area are two boxes above one another. The upper box list architects’ duties before construction. The architect checks the box for which he is responsible. The box below is the architect’s duties during construction. Again, he’ll check the boxes which are relevant.
Besides the duty description is a % of the fee for which an architect will charge. Some of these are mandatory to be checked while others are suggestive. Depending on the firm you are dealing with, the architect rates can vary from 8% to 13% of the project value. Once the CFIA stamp with a value is received, then, these %’s are calculated to actual fee values and are sent to Hacienda.
Finish Touch Enterprises SRL is a General Contractor in Costa Rica. Our objective is to get you to the building stage as soon as possible. For this reason, our rates are less than the minimum rate. Our rates begin at $25,000 and increase by 8% after a budget of $300,000. All-inclusive: fees for federal, municipal, and INS fees. We also include the cost for soil studies. We include all costs for electrical and mechanical engineering. As well as additional staff for Interior Design/decorating.
This is what separates us from all other architect firms and general contractors. We have a very simple all-inclusive, no surprises business model.
Enjoy these articles to learn about designing and building a home in Costa Rica:
- How to Hire a Builder
- Costa Rica Architect Firm
- Designing A House In Costa Rica Attributes
- Home Designing Service Costa Rica (this article)
- Costa Rica Home Builders
- Methods Of Building In Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Custom Home
- Costa Rica General Contractor
- Interior Design In Costa Rica
- Finish Touch Furniture SRL