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How NOT to Get Ripped Off


in Latin America

15 Commandments to follow to bring forth GREAT Construction

Tips, Tricks & Traps to avoid Owning a Money Pit

Secrets to Building a 21st Century Home





The 15 Commandments

1. Cement Blocks, What  – Only Over my Dead Body

2. Insulation is Most Critical in the Modern Tropical Home

3. Concrete = A HORRIBLE Home = Massive Environmental Offender

4. Why a SMART Home Builds with MgO SIPs –  

         (Structural Insulated Panels skinned with Magnesium Oxide sheets)

5. Building Green Homes = Better Homes = More Economical Homes

6. Electrical System – Only by the CODE

          – Don’t Mess with Your Nerve Center

7. A Cheap Tropical Roof – No Such Thing Exists

8. Fire Suppression Systems – the Latest Big Change in Safety

9. Plumbing is the Boss of the Home

10. Environmental Protection & Waste Disposal

11. Communication Systems –  Pivotal to Building Smart Homes

12. A Modern Home SHALL BE a Safe Home

13. Infrastructure Issues Outside of Your Home

14. Excellent Materials are a Major Challenge yet So Critical

15. Beware of Professionals or Be Aware



Commandment #1

Cement Blocks – What?

Only Over my Dead Body! 

Commandment # 2 

Insulation is  MOST Critical

In a Modern Tropical Home

Reflectex Reflective foil Insulation



Commandment # 3 

Concrete = A HORRIBLE Home

And a Massive Ecological Offender

Leaks and cement walls do not get along much better than gypsum in this wall both were equally bad but the cement was harder to repair.

Leaking Concrete Walls


Commandment # 4

 A Smart Home Builds with MgO SIPs

Subtle sign of termites in gypsum wait to see

Termites can and do eat gypsum board as seen here

Paint removed from termite infested gypsum board - what we saw from the back.

MgO SIP Panel sections

Joining of 2 SIP Panels with MgO board skins

SIPs edge view showing lamination of panels













Very Large Traditional SIP Home - Style of SIPs is limitless
Modern Style of Home Made out of SIPs 

High Energy Efficient Home in Australia using MgO skins from MgO Board Corp.


Floor and Laminated Beam - Acacia

Glu-lam Laminated beam to make rafters and joists.

Acacia 4" beveled wood siding


Commandment # 5 

 Green Homes = Better Homes

= More Economical Homes

Close up of Stainless steel Manifold Pipe and male brass connector, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Eliminating Plumbing Hell Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica.
27 Fittings removed each can cause plumbing hell
Replacing 27 fittings with one distribution system, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

PEX Pipe Manifold Distribution, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica


Secondary Distribution center, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica
Plastic utility box to cover stainless steel manifolds for distribution network of PEX, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Replacement of Entire Shower, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

300 meter roll of 5/8" PEXc pipe, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica
Certification of Quality for PEX Pipe in Costa Rica

PEX tube as it appears after I heated in on a gas burner - Note it turns transparent but does not burn, Montana Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica






Commandment # 6 

Electrical System – Only by the CODE 

Don’t Mess With Your Nerve Center 

No GFI - Ground Fault Interuptor, dangerous electrical work, Escazu, Costa Rica

No GFI on plug beside a sink - No GFI alado de lavo de manos, very dangerous electrical plug, muy peligroso electricidad toma

No GFI in what I think is a wet area since it is 8" from a sink



No GFI Circuit - example of bad electrical installation, Escazu, Costa Rica

Light Switch wired by blind Electrician Sept 2012, bad electrical work is very common

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Commandment # 7 

Want A Cheap Tropical Roof?

 No Such Thing Exists!

You may as well look for unicorns. 

How to Make Eave troughs correctly - Como hecho canoas correctamente, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

New Canoa or Trough made to protect your home versus the old that flooded the home.

Metal Roof Installed Incorrectly - Zinc Teja Metalco con malo instalacion, Escazu Costa Rica
Metal Roof Installed Incorrectly - Zinc Teja Metalco con malo instalacion, Escazu Costa Rica

Metal Roof Installed Incorrectly - Zinc Teja Metalco con malo instalacion, Escazu Costa Rica

Metal Roof Installed Incorrectly - Zinc Teja Metalco con malo instalacion, Escazu Costa Rica

Damage caused by Metal Roof Installed Incorrectly - Zinc Teja Metalco con malo instalacion, Escazu Costa Rica

More damage from Metal Roof Installed Incorrectly - dañar desde Zinc Teja Metalco con malo instalacion, Escazu Costa Rica
Metal Roof Installed Incorrectly - Zinc Teja Metalco con malo instalacion, Escazu Costa Rica

Bad valley

The disastrous valley before we started that caused a waterfall to come down on top of the owners bed.

Destruction of ceiling caused by both an extremely bad valley and ill fitting zinc teja and malfunctioning eaves troughs
Soffit damage caused by frequent leaking from bad fitting Zinc Teja
New valley triple capacity of the old and wide open for debris to wash down

Ribbed roofing fit

Zinc Teja is one bad excuse for roofing and is very delicate hence it requires a lot of support or you get this lakes all over the roof

Trough or Canoa with 5 years of oxidation working on it - Stay away from galvanized

Tile Roof showing Black Mold - Techo teja con hongos, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Plastic Tile Cladding - Teja Plastico, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Teak Shingles several years old - Cuñas de Teka algunas anos viejo, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

 Luxury Roof Detail - Lujo Techo con Cuñas en Teka, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Shingles made of Acacia, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica



Commandment # 8

Fire Suppression Systems

 The Latest Big Change in Safety


Commandment #9

Plumbing is the Boss of the Home


Large Home no vents and black tiles - Casa Grande sin ventilacion tubos, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Whole project of shingled roofs with air vents but no plumbing vents to be seen. Entero proyecto de tejas asfaltico con ventilacion de aire pero no hay tubos de fontaneria, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Large New Home no vents, note the metal awaiting a Tile cap - Casa Grande nuevo sin ventilacion tubos, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Very expensive home over $800,000 yet no plumbing stacks either. Casa $800,000 plus pero no hay tubos en la techo. Montaña Paraiso, Costa Rica

An example of an architects house yet I see no vents here either. Casa de architecto sin tubos de ventilacion, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Vent lines being installed in renovation 1" tube by arrow provide air for two lines here. Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Vent Lines providing air to two toilet drains here as well as tying in one sink as well, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

PVC sanitario tube is horrible quality and only lasted four years PVC sanitario es malo calidad y funciono solo 4 anos. Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Horrible quality of PVC tube called "PVC sanitario" Malo calidad PVC sanitario grado, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

PVC comparison of Sanitario to Schedule 40, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Flex Pipe compatible with PVC to eliminate elbows. Tubo flexible por eliminar codos, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Mold on drywall where there was little air circulation Hongos en gypsum sin ventilacion, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica


Mold growing in a corner of drywall with poor ventilation. Hongos crece en esquina de gypsum con malo ventilacion, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica



Commandment # 10

Environmental Protection & Waste Disposal


Commandment #11

Communication Systems

 Pivotal to Building Smart Homes


Commandment # 12

 A Modern Home SHALL BE a Safe Home



 Finished Acacia staircase with 5.2 meter (17 ft) long stringers (support beams) Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

 Staircase 3

 Constructing a Wood Staircase piece by piece, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

 Staircase 1 Staircase 2 Staircase 5


Commandment # 13

Infrastructure Issues Outside of Your Home

Base of cut bank shows just how close the cliff and water fall was to the house, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

View from the top of our foolish cut bank, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

road cr s

Leaking Concrete Walls


Commandment # 14

 Excellent Materials are a Major Challenge

Acacia 4" beveled wood siding

Laminated Plastic floor crap, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

New plastic crap floor lets sit back and watch just how long this lasts then we can laugh at the stupid architect who put this in, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Windows a major function to any home and a significant investment / expense in any budget –


Jelousie or Celosia Window, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

PVC slider window with transom above, slides with ease, most economical design, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica
PVC Slider Window operates smoothly - entry level window at low cost


PVC and steel reinforced exterior door
Three Way Casement window with GU hardware and multi point locking system, Montaña Paraiso, Costa Rica

High quality patio door trackless German hardware, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

High quality wood windows with GU (German) hardware that allows three ways operation of the window and multi point locking system. Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica
Curved casement window, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica


Corner sliding door with post, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Millwork –

Acacia decking

Commandment # 15

Beware of Professionals or Be Aware

Roof lacking the critical ridge beam to carry weight to the walls. Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Useless steel structure built outside of concrete pillar, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica
Steel posts positioned in front of concrete pillars. Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Foundation details for excessive overkill - thickened slab for no reason

Meter wide footings, 10" pool floor and 12" thick pool wall = insane

Colosal Engineering Screw Up at EPA Escazu, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Brilliant engineering applied when they did not sustain these earth banks hence mud slides, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica

Consulting, Inspection  and Design Services


Cross section of first and second floor design, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica
Design of typical web joist of 5.1 meter span, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica
Softwood Web Joists ready for shipment, Montaña Paraiso, Escazu, Costa Rica


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How Not to Get Ripped Off — 21 Comments

  1. I believe this E-book is the most comprehensive book of its kind of construction practices to include and avoid when building in Costa Rica. I wish this resource was available when we built our Costa Rica dream house in Guanacaste in 2005. Trevor Chilton’s book covers various topics such as energy efficiency, insulation, mold avoidance, plumbing, roofing, etc. We’re now unfortunately revisiting all these major building systems just seven years after completion of our home.

    For all of its beauty Costa Rica is a place where one often learns through hard knocks. For the last eleven years Trevor Chilton has developed and managed properties in Costa Rica, incorporating best and green tropical building practices from around the world, and then packaged this knowledge for others. This book is technical but very readable, not fluff. Don’t attempt a residential construction project in Costa Rica without first reading in entirety.
    – Bill Drewes, San Juan Capistrano, CA

    • Well Bill all I can say is Thank You for those kind comments. It will indeed be a pleasure to serve you and help you get your home to where it should be and never have to revisit the water, mold and heat problems ever again. For the readers info. none of these are problems from use and/ or wear and tear like it would be if the wife was saying, “dear I think we need a new color of … or something was looking poorly from use” (sorry Pat no intention to pick on wives) all of these problems are basic elements to a building that should NEVER NEED replacing let alone in 7 years.

  2. After spending this fine Sunday afternoon riding my recumbent bike around False Creek for 2 and 1/2hrs. I came home intending to “skim” your book more thoroughly, which has turned into a 3 hr read.
    Last time I spent 3 hrs reading, was an all-night comic book reading session at a friend’s house back in the early 50’s.
    You have dropped a brick on my toe, and now you have my attention.
    Let me say I enjoy your candor.
    I guess what has impressed me the most, is the zeal you show for what you are doing. Good on you. World needs more Zeal!
    Now for your book. Again most things you covered in it, were the questions I had asked about, to various people I met in CR ie: venting, insulation, roofing, windows, etc. Never seemed to get much satisfaction from their answers. You pretty well covered them all, just as though I had asked you. Kudos!
    I am going to the next step. I will send you a plan of our house, as well as a 3d mock-up.
    Take a boo and see if they might interest you and how they might fit your ideas.
    If they seem a tad interesting and you might like to investigate further, you can reply, and we can go from there.
    Just want to thank you for dropping the brick regardless how far this takes us.

  3. Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really loved surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing on your feed and I hope you write once more soon!

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    We have had some interesting dialogue as of late with new clients who are a bit baffled with conflicting information and advice from supposed authorities or friends that are sadly ill informed. Some of the comments coming from professionals and contractors has been nothing short of ignorant if not blatantly STUUUUUPID with zero science to back them up I might add. Back to back I have had 3 new clients all get into this debate with us especially because our advice is in direct conflict with others or pre-conceived ideas. Assuming you have read our e-book here you already know I am a firm proponent in insulation in the tropics. In fact it is without doubt one of the greatest shortcomings/problems with tropical construction where the typical consultant, constructor (even some from northern climates) and consumers think this is something that is only important in northern climates since insulation is only for the cold. Yah right! And I have some nice Florida swampland for you too.

    If this goofy idea had any validity what so ever, then can anyone explain to me why the building code regarding insulation standards for Las Vegas is the same as Saskatchewan? Indeed very different climates yet the same materials and code is enforced in both localities. Why? Actually it is quite simple building science, thermal protection is a two way street, not one way, as many who enter this debate think. You are either trying to keep heat in the home or out of the home those are but the two choices since we seldom have a perfect outdoor temp of 22′ hence 90%+ of the time we are battling this fight to get as close to a comfortable living environment as possible. The same materials and methods will do both. Here in Escazu we can even be trying to accomplish both of those tasks in the same day. At times of the year during a nice warm tropical day we want to keep that heat from ever entering our home, especially through our roof, yet later that same day we may get a cool night of 17′ C so we want to trap some of that day’s heat inside by preventing it from leaving our home hence keeping us comfy in our beds at night.

    Can anyone suggest how it is that all the building codes of North America are just plain wrong and are demanding we need to do something that is without point or frivolous. Energy conservation (something almost unheard of in the tropics) drives these building requirements as whenever you are fighting this attack from heat or cold it is going to cost you and the grid that is providing you with gas or electrical supplies. Hence why these codes and intelligent building science place these demands upon everyone involved, contractors, professionals and owners. Here is my simple advice and summary. If you have to debate any of this with those involved who try to argue with this science and common sense or fail to include it in their plans and/or methods you know immediately your are dealing with someone who is not actually a real professional, more a placebo, and definitely one who does not actually study! Nor do they have your best interests at heart. For me this is a black and white issue no grey areas unless of course your mission is to live in an oven or a refrigerator. The sad thing to all of this when this critical component is missed out in construction is that it is cheap, in fact it never costs the owner it pays them back in comfort and saved electricity in an environment of ever escalating energy costs. Worse yet is that most of the time it is very expensive to try to fix this post construction and sometimes basically impossible unless you plan on renovating with a Caterpillar.

    Here is a perfect example of one such dyslexic story that is really sad for the owner. One absolutely horrible engineer to one of these clients now under construction has pissed away $25,000+ on a foundation that will support 4 stories of a concrete building when in reality the home is a one story home using light weight coventec insulated walls. Meanwhile the plan was (until we arrived) to put A) a metal roof on the home B) not to insulate said roof because the Decora metal roof did not need insulation C) the owner does not like A/C. I would laugh if this performance was not so pathetically ignorant, clueless and incompetent. Meanwhile this same totally clueless engineer has pissed $25,000 of the clients money yet thinks spending $2,000 in insulation is frivolous! Your roof under a tropical sun, especially near the beach as this is, is the main culprit for heat gain. This home has wide eaves as it should so most of the walls are protected from direct radiant heat yet those walls are made of insulated panels but he was going to ignore the existence of the roof. So what they were planning was to insulate 15% of the problem meanwhile ignore 85% of the real problem area. That is preposterous. In fact it would give STUUUPID a bad name. I am near speechless in just trying to describe this insanity.

    Then to add to the comedy they are suggesting because they glue some grains of sand onto a crappy tin roof it magically becomes insulated and a good roof. Dah is there some reason we make frying pans out of metal? This is also near the beach so there is salt in the air so anyone suggesting you can eliminate corrosion on metal because of any coating is dreaming in technicolor it only slows down the eventual destruction it does not remove it. I have been on top of way too many problematic tin roofs here to even remotely consider them to be in the good roof category. In reality what they are instead is noisy as hell during rain (this home is in a 4.5m annual rainfall area) or expansion creaking every morning as they heat up, rust prone, hotter than hates and damage easily in either installation or post construction maintenance. Again I have been on roofs that look like they have gone through a war after workers have walked on 26ga metal skins. Versus when we compare to the plastic tiles that I can jump up and down on and not affect them on iota.

    Okay so enough of my blast for today so what I am going to do is throw this conversation into the lap of a client who had exactly this kind of roof, leaky, dinged up with dents and a home hot as hell. I think it more productive to let Bill a victim of such construction nonsense explain in his own words what it was like to be the victim of such wise guidance by a constructor as it has played out over 7 years of ownership as well as what it has been like to be repairing such foolishness.


  6. Thank you for your rapid reply Trevor. Please find below post.

    Hello, & thanks for writing your ebook! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your “mantra” per say. I see that you all are involved w/ your own projects but am curious if your schedule allows the undertaking of side jobs, w/ regard to a house design & possibly more? I have two designs that I found online that I like & the links are below. My schedule allows me a month in the country every two months, which is not a lot of time to accomplish very much. You guys are my new found heroes & I was/am so excited in reading your book about the possibilities of professional, common sense building practices.
    My property is in the very south of the country just outside of Pavones & I’m in search of someone to aid in the finalized design & permit process for the below design examples. I’m also interested in using pretty much everything you discussed in your “mantra” as well. I will stop here for now, but am very interested in your thoughts & ideas, should you decide to have a go at taking this to the next step. My fingers are crossed that we do! It was like winning the lottery finding your add & subsequent ebook! I am in the states at the moment & will be until the 8th of June. Afterwards I will be returning to work. My mobile # should you be inclined to call is:
    954 326 3554.

    Best regards & thanks for your time.

    • Noel,
      Thank you so much for your kind comments.

      Yes I have my own project which is why I started this out as a report in the first place however it was outside work especially rescue missions where I have been helping people solve problems in older homes that demonstrated that there was a much greater need out there. It was these older homes that brought about many of the lessons front and center that shows people like yourself how not to build as well as how to do it way better than what is average here. From that start the report took on a life of it’s own and grew and grew and grew into the heavy sized e-book it is today that just keeps on growing. That is the beauty of an e-book it never has to stop growing just to meet a publish date.

      I first started on this mission exclusively to find what to use in our own homes and then as it developed it only made sense to offer our services and products to any client no matter where they are. Once you have all the logistics down it is far more efficient to just expand to help as many clients as possible. Plus be aware of this fact from our extensive experience when you want to build where you do. The worst rip offs we have seen are all exclusively located at the beach or in rural areas where the quality of work so often really goes into the sewer and just plain sucks. Sorry I can’t explain exactly why that is just that it has been so universal that I now always expect the worst when I do an inspection of such locations. Right now we have quotations to do for a big project at Cortez, Perez Zeledon, Esparza, a project at Samara, 2 homes at Ojachal, La Garita, Liberia plus one home is under contract at Uvita. There is a serious need for affordable homes of high quality hence I get calls on a steady basis from people just like yourself who are looking for a much different paradigm. As it stands now we are doing more work offsite than onsite as our own land/product sells slower because A) I refuse to bend to Tico materials/methods hence many Ticos won’t buy from us due to their programming which suits me fine . I either build my way or no way when it comes to the basic structure, electrical and mechanical systems. The right client appreciates that and the wrong client is repelled by that. Thank goodness!

      We actually best like having a client at exactly your stage just at concept but no one else in the picture. I do not especially like working with Tico professionals that I do not know as they can be such time wasters as well as very frustrating with head butting for us from the first world to deal with in all respects just as I explained in chapter 15. Plus we have a great team together so we do not need to experiment and we know what we can and will deliver to you with no surprises at a guaranteed price. Clients that know the deal always really appreciate not having to put all this together and take those risks ESPECIALLY those who do not live here full time. Michael will take your general idea in these two models and then modify those to deliver to you your exact perfect home. Plus to build with panels requires some tweaks to anyone’s standard plans to make them work so it is just easier and more efficient if he does all the design work and then hands off to the arch/engineer team to provide the working drawings and permits.

      From here we can have a discussion via skype and from that Michael can determine the exact size of home that fits your needs and budget as well so we do need to have a conversation to get to those answers. Then we can provide you with a design/architectural/permitting contract that would then allow us to produce working drawings hence the exact pricing of course. This could all be done prior to your return and would be ready for our first in person visit. Do you have at this time a construction schedule and ideal delivery date of your home? Pricing of a home is extremely subjective once you get past the three pillars (structure,elec.,mechanical) hence the costs can vary wildly starting anywhere from $700 for good quality to $1,200 a meter for luxury once the finishing costs come to roost. It all depends on what your expectations are which of course is why we need these discussions.

      What I can and do say to all clients is this, YOU CANNOT BUILD A HOME CHEAPER THAN I CAN! I would think that my book more than demonstrates these realities as I have way too many tricks up my sleeve that any layman simply can not compete with. I never saw anyone in Canada who succeeded in doing this and it most certainly does not happen in Costa Rica. Building here is not for the feint of heart which is rather redundant to the subject of the whole book. Everyone who I have ever seen that has tried this has spent more money than I would and typically received a product way below my standards. Not to belittle anyone’s abilities it is just that it is not logical that a layman can outdo a professional in this race that just does not make sense or add up and that rule is on steroids in Costa Rica for certain.

      Indeed a pleasure to hear from you.


  7. My business partner are in process of acquiring just under 5000 varas in Managua. We will subdivide into 10 or more lots and build to a very high standard at prices. A semi retirement project for me.

    I am familiar with passivehaus techniques in Canada but some ideas (requirements) are not cost effective.

    I found your ebook while looking for a supplier of magnesium oxide board in Managua. Our architect uses structural steel and covintec so I hope to replace covintec with SIPS. I have been talking to IADDIC Systems about making our own polyurethane SIPS.

  8. Hi Trevor,

    After reading all this information again, it sounds like a mine field that you have made it through. Why would anybody want to buy a house from anybody else but you?

    Simple question, If I purchase a lot on your site today, when would you start construction, and more importantly when would I get a c.o. to move in.

    Great article, good information, I would like to meet with you guys when I get back to costa rica in September.



  9. Very good material. I agree with a great deal of what you have stated; what I might take issue with are minor things. I do have one question: you are recommending asphalt (or asphalt/fiberglass) shingles, but not plywood, and I agree. So what to you nail the shingles to? Do you use a 3/4″ deck on the roof of acacia or some similar wood?
    I’d love to have a discussion with you some day in person about some of the things about which I’m not in 100% agreement. (For one, most jurisdictions in the States require the plumbing vents to be the same size as the pipe that they are venting; reduction in sizes are normally not permitted. Two, a metal roof, correctly fabricated, installed per specs with the correct accessories, is a great, long term roof IF insulated and allowed to breathe properly. And there are more…. AND I just ran into Ferromax, a company with a number of locations in CR who make roofing panels with a combination of alum/zinc coating on steel, baked on finish, with proper accessories, AND they fabricate the panels to order for the specific lengths needed, saving on material significantly. They also sell purlins with the same coating.) Please send me your email address.

    • Dennis,
      Thank you for your visit and contribution of questions and clarifications.

      Well when I started on this mission I was more in favour of shingles than I am now due to longevity, heat conduction and reflectivity. This however often comes down to being a great deal more about a style versus functionality question where honestly many times people throw good common sense out the window in favour of the look they want. For those who want to have shingles then I would simply strap the roof by spacing a nailer in the nailing zones with the worst grade acacia that we have as looks are of no importance what so ever. This is way stronger, faster, breaths way better, is bug proof and muuuuch cheaper. The second option now that we are importing MgO sheeting is to sheet with that but NEVER NEVER OSB or worse yet plywood. This is both a question of cost but even more so it would be putting up a “Diner” sign for termites, which is of course colossally stupid. Another thing that does concern me on the longevity issue is under our constant tropical sun is how long even good shingles will last when the reflective foil is bouncing the heat back to the shingles. Will this cause them to dry up and curl up prematurely? Like the 30 year shingle then only lasts 15 years. I don’t know but it sure is not something I am about to guarantee to you or anyone. Alternatively avoiding this potential problem by eliminating a reflective roof is blatantly insane unless you have an incredible heat tolerance or love A/C and want to buy ICE out every month with a power bill exceeding a mortgage payment! Anyone with such a desire is definitely not one who belongs to the group that constitutes our desired type of clientele. At any rate that is how I would fasten shingles down if a client insisted on such but it is not a product I would use on one of my houses. The style is fine but lacks the required rewards of efficiency. I personally would never park my brain solely for the sake of style especially considering my dislike of extreme heat.

      Dennis I am well aware that most jurisdictions would not permit the reduction in vent sizing however this is where one needs to use the brain to adjust common practices in northern climates to accommodate the realities of tropical climates. The only reason for the size of those vents is to prevent winter time freeze up caused by the condensation hence we start with an oversized stack to remove the probability of a total freeze up at the height of winter. That sizing has nothing to do with what is required to make the vent actually function it is oversized to protect against that condition. Well since it is more than rather unlikely we are going to have that problem in Costa Rica there is no point in oversizing something to protect against something that does not exist. I just pray so see people install any kind of vent of any size first then we can debate on size but as my pictures demonstrate I have as yet to see a functioning vent system other than ones I have personally modified to make them so. If any client wants to pay for the extra materials for me to oversize then fine otherwise I would say save your money for something more important.

      Well I hope after this information we will not need to agree to disagree on any version of a metal roof. I absolutely believe they are horribly inferior and in fact royally suck in the tropics especially at the beach. Here is your 3 strikes:

      #1 Let’s first talk NOISE!!!!! Sorry but this software does not let me blow that up to make my point. Until you have lived under a metal roof in the tropics I doubt you can fully appreciate just how ugly of a living environment they make. I lived for a period during my early days here under one of these and cursed it during every heavy rain when you could not talk on the phone, watch TV or at times even talking became a challenge. Worse yet at the right time of the year this happens every day. Liken this to having a garage band do their set in your house every day. Thank God your kids will grow out of that phase but if you make this mistake in a roof you get to live with it FOREVER!

      # 2 Then it is just plain one hot bloody roof since metal conducts heat so nicely. AFter all that is why we use it to make frying pans right. Yes the metal manufacturers come up with all fancy footsteps to try to camouflage this reality but this fact remains.

      #3 It rusts and no matter what protection it has it will only do that in time without fail. Now if you elect a near coastal location that lifetime can be very short.

      #4 Some versions like the ever popular zinc teja here leak like a sieve. As I clearly demonstrated in the chapter on roofing.

      #5 I will even give you a double bonus fifth strike and that is eco friendliness. Well metal is a major environmental offender so for me even without the first four major faults this is the slam dunk. I will be quite diplomatic as I always am. :-) You want a metal roof fine then go find a different builder. I have no problem with giving any client options to choose from however if it is an option that strikes at the core of building a great home then I can and do dig my heals in and say forget it should a dose of education and experience not solve the issue at hand. However most of time it is just a lack of options or sufficient education and that we can easily handle after all that is why the book exists in the first place!

      Also you have entered into an area where a new option in roofing has entered the ring and it is a knock out in the first round. We are just about to put this into our first container and that is a roofing made out of guess what? Laminated MgO! This product eliminates all the strikes your metal has against it plus blows its natural qualities right out of the water. It does not rust, you can actually walk on it, it is double reflective both out and into the house, it is quiet and it does not conduct heat at all. Bare with me and stay tuned I have not had time to write the full article yet. Oh and by the way it just happens to be a fraction of the price of what all these high priced metal roofings are that are all fighting like hell to defeat the naturally bad qualities of metal. You can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.

      At any rate I do appreciate your comments and intelligent questions to add to our mix here even if I don’t agree with your suppositions but that is often how we start the ball moving forward. Have yourself a great day.



  10. Hello.
    I’m near retirement, have been to Costa Rica Guanacaste region 3 times in the past 5 years, and am very serious about retiring there. The house I live in now, I built myself with the help of a carpenter master. I am an experienced woodworker, in fact, I have a collection of industrial woodworking machinery that could be used in construction. They will travel with me, without a doubt.
    I would seek a place where I could retire and enjoy my passion of woodworking. I would need a large out-building with ample electricity to power my 3-7.5 HP machines..

    I am a computer systems analyst/developer by trade, about 5 years from retirement. If I could find the right situation, I would pack up and move to COSTA RICA tomorrow.

    So, how about helping out a kindred spirit?

    Jim Peterson

    • Jim,
      Good to hear from you. Your message is indeed a tad different than most that I will say.
      If you want to do a lot of your woodworking efforts and with you being the the scorching hot Minnesota I have to seriously question the choice of Guanacaste or any beach location for that matter. When you are working you are going to literally sweat like a pig in those temperatures without A/C in a shop. Ouch! I would look for higher country for a piece of land like this and not on a steep mountainside when one wants space for a workshop. I have one place in mind that is developing a perm culture in a small project of 10 lots with space for such. The owner is also from the construction industry and has a good sized shop of his own so you may well want to get to know Dennis when you come down again. This project is way down south a long ways from Guanacaste but beautiful country and very green all year long. Lots of wood in that area to. These 1 1/4 acre lots run $50k to $65k.

      Meanwhile send me an invite on Skype and we can have a conversation.



  11. So I am a bit confused… Are you a new home builder or someone who tries to remediate poorly built structure? I am very interested in discussing having you build my home in Atenas but I cannot determine if that is what you do! I loved your eBook, and have sent the link to a friend who will be my next door neighbor there. And we ant to visit with you if you indeed build homes up there.

    One note: I read nothing about using solar to get away from the outrageous prices from ICE. I want to be primarily powered by solar while being tied to the grid for those cloudy days. Your thoughts?

    • Good day Tim,
      Well I am trying to break that bad habit of going in to save people’s asses from others.
      Not sure I would say never again but I most certainly am trying to say never as we move into only new home construction where I don’t have a million land mines to worry about.
      I am just finishing the last of those up in Atenas where we are fixing a ten year old home built by the French Canadian at Atenas and lets just say I have nothing good to say about him.
      Not sure if you went into New Home Diary as that is where I show our SIP home currently under construction.

      Actually I do discuss solar a bit in our new home standards and yes you are quite correct a Net Zero system does pay for itself quite fast at these rates in the 6-7 year range assuming no more increases from ICE. I have been in discussions on these systems with 3 different suppliers but no owner has yet been real serious about making the investment.

      Trevor Chilton

      • Well I am completely serious about solar – as is my future neighbor. Not doing so would be short-sighted.

        Please contact me via email and let’s talk about setting a time to visit when we come in August if you are interested. I can give you the details, at least to the point we are at now.


  12. I am a builder, built two homes in Costa Rica and now live in Nicaragua where I have built 4 homes. Many of the things in your book I was aware of, but I actually learned some things. Excellent Ebook

    • Jerry,
      Thanks for the compliment and certainly more valid than a typical consumer.
      Well if you get the urge to build again you should consider one of our packages.
      We can easily send such across the border.
      I am more than confident in believing we have one of the best panels on the planet at a good price.

      Trevor Chilton

  13. Trevor,

    Warren Buffet has been quoted saying, “A wise man does in the beginning what a fool does in the end”, alluding to the fact that experience is the best teacher of all. You, sir, have the unmistakable mark of real-world experience, and it shows.

    I don’t live in Costa Rica, and my construction projects have never been more than interior decorating. But this book should be required reading– People could learn more about how the world really works from listening to you tell stories by a campfire than they will learn in four years of high school and six in university.

    Thanks for sharing,

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