Hire a Builder

How To Hire A Builder

This article will be exclusively beneficial to those looking for How To Hire A Builder.  We will assume you (the reader) are in the design stages and are needing to prepare for the next steps.  This article will benefit you, and provide you with the tools you will need when interviewing potential builders/contractors.  Knowledge of terms, awareness of conditions will provide you confidence and power towards making the correct decision. By learning how to identify their competence, and management skills of not just construction methods, but also financial budgeting skills.  After all, they are building with your money, and do require skills in money management.  In addition, you will learn to identify their stability.  Which may be required for warranty issues that may arise.  Or perhaps an element installed incorrectly that requires a re-install at his expense.

Building a house in Costa Rica is fun and exciting with all the steps including seeing a vision become a reality.  Especially when making well-informed decisions of your team to make it so.

Analyzing the complexity of your project

Let’s begin with the complexity of your project.  Nevertheless, knowledge of particular elements of your home design.  Will govern the difficulty of your build.


in understanding the design difficulty.  Let me explain by example;  If your design is a prefab concrete home or similar, then the difficulty level is quite low.  These are very common and all workers know how to install these without direction.  It would be a waste of money to employ an architect or builder for this type of project.


for example, you are planning on building a North American-style home.  With typical comforts like air conditioning, granites, porcelain, pool, insulation, and some passive cooling designing, accent lighting, quality wood cabinetry, and finishes.  Then this type of difficulty would require more skills.  As well as supervision, therefore, you may wish to include regular inspections from an architect/engineer.  Your builder on this home should have a history of similar builds.  There should be a reference to their knowledge of North American style standards and precision.

It would be to your benefit if the builder had some branding.  Such as a website, signage, social media, or some sort of roots.  This demonstrates stability at a novice level.  Equally important, you may take a glance at your potential builder’s standard of living.  How stable is his home life?  Credit is very rare in Costa Rica and purchases are almost always done in cash.  Therefore, his standard of living (stability) will reflect his financial management skills.


In brief, your home design has complicated topography with steep slopes, multi-levels, a deep foundation, higher engineering systems.  Of course, any of these attributes will perplex the installation of foundations, wall systems, and roofs.  Likewise, smart home technologies or design elements require importing.  In this instance, you would want a General Contractor.  This would be a company established and rooted.  Most likely owns a shop, owns vehicles with branding.  Accordingly, he would have tools, have an office, and have staff.


Three Methods To Build

  1. First Method: Hire a crew – manage your own purchases, payroll, and inspections.  Payments weekly or bi-weekly
  2. Second Method: Hire a Home Builder – have an architect make inspections.  Payments based on construction advancements.
  3. Third Method: Hire a General Contractor – Office, tools, equipment, professionally staffed, precision results.  Payment construction advancements

Hiring A Home Builder

The most difficult, but also the most exciting process is the designing stage.  Use your imagination regarding what you want your dream home to be.  Create files on your computer and begin to save photos in folders to share with your designer.  Set the bar high, products can be produced in Costa Rica at a much reasonable price than in North America.  Your builder will know this and how to make it happen.  Especially, General Contractors who have their own shops for fabrication.

This house is not only an investment but also your home.  For that reason, this home will generate memories from events and it will be a part of your life. Don’t hesitate to utilize professional engineers and architects who will examine and analyze all aspects of a design. Particularly, home functionality and curb appeal.

Here are some home attributes to consider

What parts of the house will get direct sunlight and more shade.  This information will be a consideration when designing the location of private areas, social areas, and service areas.  As well as, the best location for windows and other attributes affected by these traits.how to hire a builder

Are you entertainers or do you live a more subtle life?  These are huge attributes for designing social areas.  Not just for size but controlling acoustics so there is less disturbance for the neighbors.  This is done by size, the shape of social areas, and materials for reflecting or drowning acoustics.

What considerations for the number of people, size of family, and children?  This will help the designer with common areas and create different areas for socializing.  12 people don’t usually gather in a group when socializing.  Perhaps only at mealtime.  Generally, they break off into groups.  Therefore, we need separate areas for seating and entertaining.  This is true for children as well.  They don’t usually ‘hang out with the adults.  They break off for their own fun.

You are the boss when Hiring a Builder

I am mentioning these attributes in this article because it becomes relevant to a builder during construction.  These are the areas that will most likely receive the most changes (based on my personal 40 years of experience).  We make the designs and blueprints as accurate as possible.  However, in real life, it takes on a new perspective and in most cases, you, as an owner, will ask for changes.  An experienced builder will spot early an area that would serve you better and bring to your attention before construction advances too far.  Making a change to the budget by debit or credit is more simplified.

As the owner, you will review and approve all design and architecture recommendations and changes.  You will want to be able to communicate with your builder at a high level.  If there is a language issue, then make means for interpreting.  The most common excuse I hear from crews when a major mistake/error occurs is “They didn’t say that I didn’t understand”.  At that point, something got more expensive.  Communication – Important when hiring a builder.

Personal Traits of Hiring a Home Builder

As you read the articles, you may wish to take notes and write any questions.  Contact me anytime, and I will be more than happy to answer your questions.  Knowledge is understanding and understanding brings power and confidence!

At Finish Touch Enterprises SRL, I want to help you with every step of building a new life in Costa Rica.

Generally, Home Builders in Costa Rica will fall into a couple of categories.  When you interview your builder, you are going to want to analyze which of these categories does he apply.  I personally use this method when I’m hiring new staff or crew members as well.  You will recognize these categories from your personal life as well.

Category One

People whose 1st priority is to earn money.  Their main focus is what is owed to them, and the second priority is the project.  The traits you will see in this type of professional or employee is:

  1. Calculating earnings regularly and frequently.  How much is owed to them at that moment?
  2. Watching the clock frequently.  Not wanting to work an extra second that does not have pay.
  3. High price for services.  Often over-evaluating their service.  Perhaps a little narcissistic.
  4. Frequent payment discussions.  Every communication will not end before some part of the conversation is about payment.
  5. Calculating holidays and work hours.  Every employee becomes a professional lawyer and accountant to what is owed
  6. Consistent lateness.  Coming late, leaving early, longer breaks.  More energy is spent on not working than actually working.
  7. Providing a service or report is an effort.  Any changes or requests will be met with resistance.

Category Two

People who love their job.  When someone likes what they do, they can’t help but be successful at it.

  1. Often take work home.  Their mind continues to work on how to be more efficient, complete a task, or make conditions better.
  2. Commonly staying late.  To be attached to a task with emotion and wants to see if finished with gratification.
  3. Being available for questions or tasks.  After-hours responses and weekend involvement.
  4. Represents themselves or the company to clients, vendors, and staff with pride.
  5. A positive attitude towards life.  Often smiles and laughs frequently.  Fun to be around
  6. Commonly involved in community engagements and/or sports.
  7. Committed to clients.  Whether it’s a deadline or concern, they put themselves in the other’s place.

Which Category Do You Want To Hire?

Let me share with you a couple of stories I witnessed in Category Two:

  • Staff working late:

Often, I will visit sites after working hours to inspect and review advancements. On many occasions, I pull into a site well after 5 p.m. I may find my truck driver washing the dump truck or crews working past “business hours” to finish a wall or section. This work is all with no pay. I do not pay overtime, so these people are working on their own time. Dedication and Integrity.

  • Staff working as a team:

My office staff wanted to participate in a sandcastle building competition as a Finish Touch Enterprises Team in Santa Theresa. My architect declined to participate; she wanted to complete construction drawings over the weekend, so she could submit the final draft for permits on Monday.  I remember the office staff was annoyed with her. 

My wife and I were out later that night, and when we passed by the office, the lights were on.  Curiously, I peaked in the window.  I was overcome with pride to see the entire office staff helping the architect finish the final construction drawings,  so she could participate in the contest.  The sandcastle building contest’s theme was global warming; the Finish Touch Enterprises Team with my architect sculpted a polar bear hugging the world and won first prize. Teamwork during and outside of work

  • Dedication to completion

A particular building job called for a flat concrete roof.  The concrete must be poured monolithically, or all at one time to avoid cold joints. Concrete needs to be poured consistently wet-on-wet, but the morning of the pour the electricity was out, and water pumps couldn’t supply water. Our solution? We poured the concrete using buckets and buckets and buckets of water from the river, which significantly slowed the process. Although we had high hopes, it soon became obvious: we could not finish the pour in one day. My Field Manager solicited 30 men from other working crews, and 80 of my employees volunteered to help.  The electricians set up lights on a generator, and the men worked until 10:30 p.m. We got the job done.  Of course, I supplied plenty of pizza, chicken, and refreshments. Dedication to quality completion.

These anecdotes are some examples of employee hiring, professional hiring, or hiring a builder.  These characteristics speak volumes about an individual.

Whom do you want to hire?

Even if you choose not to hire Finish Touch Enterprises SRL, I want to offer you the tools and knowledge to help you through the process.

Read through the article series below and after reading the articles, you will be confident to ask the right questions and know what you are required to do.

I took the time to write these articles to give direction to people who are considering: Designing and Building in Costa Rica.  Hiring an Architect Firm, How to Hire a Builder.  What questions to ask!  Knowledge of construction methods.   What to expect, and what to look for.  Once you have these skills, you are sure to enjoy the entire experience of Designing and Building in Costa Rica.

How To Hire A Builder: Prepare An Interview

An analogy: If you try to explain to a mechanic how your car works,  he will know whether you know what you are talking about, or not. On the other hand, if a mechanic explains to you how your car works, you will probably not understand what he is talking about.

However, you will be convinced the mechanic knows what he’s talking about because, well, he’s a mechanic. In reality, you will not know if he is a good or bad mechanic until your car is fixed well or fixed poorly. To learn if that mechanic is honest and is good at what he does.  You first have to interview him.

How to Hire a BuilderKnowledge is to understand and understanding gives you power and confidence. Similarly, your personal skills are compared with your competitor’s skills.  You will recognize, good quality, bad quality, correctly done, incorrectly done.  Subsequently, because you are qualified to make those assumptions.

Most importantly, it is to your benefit to know about the design and building process in Costa Rica to Hire a Builder.

The disadvantage of not understanding.  Will allow the opportunity of an unqualified person, probably from category 1 from above.  Too dazzle you without content.  Similar to a mechanics explanation of a complicated system.  Therefore,  Let’s even the playing field and give you the knowledge, power, and confidence to hire a builder.  With the tools to separate those who can and those who can’t.  When it comes to hiring an architect or how to hire a builder.

Hiring a Builder: Prepare A Questionaire

Knowledge is power and confidence, so you already know (from this and the other articles) what questions you should ask potential employees and contractors, including hiring a builder.  You are also going to feel confident in analyzing their responses.  Additionally, you are able to fairly evaluate the candidates’ competence, their abilities to successfully complete your project, their stability, and their character.

Just from this article, you know how to spot Category One or Category Two characteristics.

Whoever you may choose to design and build your dream house.  Keep in mind, you are the boss.  What you say, they must follow.  Not the other way around.  It’s okay to question potential employees and contractors. You should conduct interviews before you hire a builder and analyze every builder’s and contractor’s professionalism, competency, and experience.

Here is a questionnaire template to help you hire Home Builders in Costa Rica.

Unfortunately, I cannot write these questions for you because not every situation is the same. This template is an excellent place to start.

How to Hire a Builder – Questionnaire Template:

  1. Prepare 4 Experience Questions
    1. What are the builder’s schooling and post-schooling experiences? Note more than 10 quality years of work experience trumps schooling. Schooling teaches theory,  whereas, physical workings present issues that require resolutions. Designing and building a home has 24 specialty trade requirements, so it’s more important than your professional has first-hand knowledge in:
      1. Structural aspects of the ground, concrete, steel, etc
      2. Electrical and mechanical aspects with a good working knowledge of codes.
      3. Material options for aesthetics and finishes and engineered systems and how to install them.
      4. Engineering systems for roofing
    1. What is the builder’s main course of work and its relevance to your project?  Often a builder will have a primary or secondary income.  Perhaps he owns a hotel and builds on the side.  There are several variables on this subject.  But you should know how your project is prioritized by the potential candidate.
    2. What are their problem-solving skills and methodologies?
      1. Schooling is based on theories, introductions to new technologies, and software programs;  however, it is not a perfect world.  The real world requires a builder to have the ability to problem-solve unforeseen circumstances.  A professional tradesman knows how to resolve issues with superior results.
  1. Ask your professional to describe one of his most difficult projects and listen to how he resolved issues.  We all have our stories of what happened one day.  Of course, we all love to talk about (maybe brag a little) about ourselves.  Pay attention to the story of the issue and of the resolution.  Try to determine if there is an exaggeration to the story or how accurate the details are that he’s explaining.
  1. Prepare 4 Management-Skills Questions

    1. Ask how your professional organizes work crews.  Often a builder will hire friends and family before hiring qualified tradesmen
    2. What is his method of calculating material?  This may be a bit difficult, but, more than often the list is much longer than necessary.
    3. How does he coordinate sub-trades, like a window, cabinetry, flooring, etc. manufacturers?
    4. Much of this work must be organized several weeks before breaking ground. What are his methods to accomplish this prep work?
  2. Prepare 4 Company Stability Questions

    1. Is he licensed with CFIA?
    2. Has the company developed professional branding of web and social media presence?
    3. Does the company have the necessary equipment and tools?
    4. Is he rooted?  Is there a dedicated office, workshops, storage bodegas, etc?
  3. Prepare 5 To 10 Questions About Your Specific Expectations: (Remember you will know these answers before you even ask the question.)

    1. Which professionals design the home and which professionals inspect the home?
    2. What attributes have been or will be influencing your design?
    3. Does the company provide security for the project?
    4. When and how frequently will you get progress reports?
    5. Can the company supply the documents you need: license, insurance clearance?
    6. Can the company provide detailed proforma of material take-offs and construction schedule advancements?
    7. What is the “finishing allowance:” windows, flooring, cabinets, granites, doors, plumbing, light fixtures, etc?
    8. What quality-control systems does the company implement?
    9. Ask the company to explain all guarantees and warranties offered, including arbitrary-resolution process
    10. Finally, what is the company’s chain of command, beginning with each professional’s responsibilities on the project

Additional Sources For Hiring Home Builders in Costa Rica

You can contact me at any time with any questions or concerns.  There are no consulting fees. My objective is to make the building of your dream house in Costa Rica an exciting and awesome experience.

Whether you hire Finish Touch Enterprises SRL, I want you to use my experience in your favor.  Just fill in the Contact Form and let’s talk. I may even have some pizza and refreshments at the office. Again, you don’t have to be a client to speak with me; my goal is for you not to become a statistic.

If you read and take notes on the following articles, you will have a much better understanding of the entire house-building process and be able to proceed with confidence.  Again, contact me at any time for further information.

Thank you,


Founder and CEO of Finish Touch Enterprises SRL; 40 years designing and building


  1. How to Hire a Builder (this article)
  2. Costa Rica Architect Firm
  3. Designing A House In Costa Rica Attributes
  4. Home Designing Service Costa Rica
  5. Costa Rica Home Builders
  6. Three 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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