The Waiting is Over
Well today is a rather momentous one as I get to show our visitors what is happening after our over two year journey to get to the point to be able to produce the latest generation of cutting edge homes for Costa Rica. We call this a REVOLUTION IN TROPICAL HOUSING OPTIONS from here you will have to just follow along in our path to see if that is exaggeration or just a simple statement of fact. I used to be asked where are the pictures of what you have built and I have had to regularly say, “well just wait that is in process.” So today the waiting is done and we get to show the rubber meeting the pavement. This is an obvious and most valid question for any prospective client or any person curious about tropical construction in the respect of what is possible and shall we say to show you the results of what comes from our methods, materials and designs. However there is another greater purpose in spending this time to not only inform you but also this allows us to assist the long term well being of our clients who will own one of our homes.
To explain before we get into the real show…
What is a Home Diary and what is it worth to YOU?
As you have seen on our site I normally take a lot of pictures and videos to show what and why we have done things on various remodels and rescue missions. This I have always intended for the greater purpose of education and awareness for the consumer in Costa Rica to get a far better deal than is all too often common here. Now we get to make a home diary from all of our videos and photos to demonstrate not just to the casual visitor but also our home owners. I am absolutely adamant that the diary I make of the birth of a home is worth to the owner a minimum of $10,000. At some point down the road most of our owners are going to sell their home out onto the market. So let’s picture this. Sarah and Jason (our first home buyers) go to sell their home X number of years down the road. When they meet with any perspective buyers they will be able to show exactly how their home was built along with details and a running commentary of me explaining not only what we did but why we did it. This of course includes all the dozens of things that are hidden away that not even the greatest of home inspectors could ever prove unless you happen to hire Superman to do such.
So lets say Bob and Jane come to look at this house to buy after a day of looking at many other homes that have no such evidence or diary and often having a total lacking of critical components any astute buyer would be asking for. They then come to this home see the obvious things then leave with a video diary in hand of the birth of the entire home from start to finish that proves all the hidden issues, quality and what was done to prevent problems and maintenance issues. At the end of the day who gets to sell their house? The mystery owners or Sarah and Jason who have the empirical digit inspector proving how well their home was built? Who gets to sell faster? Who gets to sell for a higher price? Since my crystal ball is in the shop I cannot tell you for certain but I feel most confident that the difference for owners selling a home with such credentials will be a minimum of $10,000 in their pocket. This reality is only further fueled by the so common low quality of many home infrastructure issues that we experience in Tico homes. In fact most home inspections would be rendered redundant when the owner has such evidence in their hands. When we and the owner buck these horrid habits and practices the end result is rather predictably superior results when it comes time to move on and sell your home whenever to whoever. That you can take to the bank.
7 am – Feb. 22, 2014 – The Eagle has Landed
Well after a long journey that started in October of 2011 when I started to investigate what would be the best building system for our homes in Costa Rica our first container of MgO (Magnesium Oxide) SIPs arrived at our warehouse here in Platanillo (near Dominical) for the first two homes that we have under contract. One at Uvita and one just several kilometers from our warehouse and Michael’s home.
Pacing out the lot to locate the home site in Uvita for Jason and Sarah Smith.
Cutting trenches for the perimeter beam and rebar cages.
Making steel cages for perimeter and forms.
Eye balling the perimeter to ensure nice straight slab to match walls.
PVC plumbing run to kitchen as well as vent running up through outside wall.
PEX run as well as electrical conduit for under slab, note clean outs on all lines.
More PEX and electrical runs completed
The verrrrrry rate P traps installed in all floor drains, dishwasher etc.
Electrical conduit run under slab for pulling in Romex/Loomex cable later to service area.
Note the glue used to join all conduit so as to avoid water entering into anything that is underground here. This always leads to eventual problems if not done correctly.
Schedule 32.5 pipe used for all sewer systems NOT SANITARY GRADE EVER!!!
A simple trick that I NEVER see done on any job other than my own. cardboard wrapped around a toilet drain so as to facilitate a flange entry later down the road taking minutes instead of hours to accomplish.
Video showing all the underground or under slab plumbing highlighting vents, clean outs, P traps and system flow eliminating any and all 90 deg. turns. I have never seen a single Costa Rica home that is plumbed to IBC codes.
This is finished result so now the cardboard is easily removed leaving behind a space for the flange.
Screeding the last concrete out.
Our crew on the happy day of completion of concrete work and first tour of work on this site.
Angel, Amilkar, Isaac, Mikcol, Jose, Yefrin, Rene.
First thing to get started on the second tour is get the panels on site to work with.
Offloading panels to site.
The laminated wood plates are all treated for insect protection which is not likely needed since they are sealed into the wall with Manus Bond but for the added security of the client.
Anchoring the base plate to the foundation as well a Manus Bond to ensure no entry of insects or water or movement of wall on slab.
Cutting of splines for joining sheets with the cutter we invented for this purpose.
Stack of panels prepped and ready to go with tracks for top and bottom plates, side splines to join panels and electrical chases as well.
First wall section is up and we are off to the races.
Corner panel is now installed with a wood stud to make a solid connection and of course absolutely everything is heavily glued together with the Manus Bond.
Intersecting interior wall. Note the heavy coat in grey of Manus bond.
Cutting out the electrical outlets with router and template.
End result a very tight and secure fitting of all boxes.
View of back of house after day 3 of panel erecting phase.
We are now back for our third tour of work on this home and the continuation of wall erection and preparations.
The master bedroom window opening is complete with channel cut in panel to accept window buck once again treated wood.
These treated window bucks are what will hold the window and provide a base to anchor it or any decorations or moldings around such.
Corner beads applied to all openings awaiting acrylic cement mud to be applied.
Shower control and PEX lines stalled in panel. The flexible lines are a major bonus in panel construction.
Cutting MgO splines for making the connector joints between panel.
Stud prepared and ready to insert into a panel end.
Inserting stud into bed of Manus Bond – this house will use 160 20 oz tubes to glue it all together.
Inserting a header with glued splines already to go.
Gluing up a divider wall in mechanical closet.
Setting wall in place ready to be fastened to plate on floor.
Right view of home with walls completed.
Left view of home with all the walls up.
Front view of the home.
Crew at work getting ready to glue something.
Close up view of front entry with taping of joints started.
Tape and mud going on just as you would drywall but here we use an acrylic cement base coat that will not absorb humidity.
Master bedroom with first coat of tape, mud and corners done.
With walls done we are now tying them all together with a top plate of the same laminated material.
This is a shot of the lap joint joining the pieces together to make a continuous ribbon encircling the home.
Close up of lap joint.
The laminated plantation grown kiln dried melina wood is anything but soft as compared to what is used in most countries for this purpose and never have seen anyone use a laminated wood whose advantage is they come perfectly straight and will stay like that for centuries once encapsulated in the MgO panel.
So this is where we left the house at the end of our third tour of work. We are currently waiting for all the Teak rafters to be completed at the saw mill and once ready we will return to construct the breathing roof system that will go on this home. It will be quite a show piece of tropical hardwood construction along with a rood designed for optimum performance of breathing in this tropical climate at Uvita Beach.
Upon our return to Uvita one of our big missions was to get the septic system installed and functioning so as to make like a little more convenient.
This is schedule SDR 32.5 Durman tube meaning it is thick enough to withstand the future demands a system will place upon it. We do not use typical drain tube as most would use a weeping tile or French Drain as it is called in the USA. This is not a good idea for two reasons, the holes are too small and can easily plug up with silt or organic matter plus since it leaks out water immediately the front of the field gets waterlogged while the distant parts get nothing. Here you can see we drilled 5/8″ holes spaced 8″ apart going down each side of the tube at 4 and 8 o’clock positions. What this allows is the tube to act as such until it gets full then as the water rises it will exit all the drain holes all the way down the pipe that has been installed perfectly level to accommodate this function reality.
First step was to cut, drill and dry assemble the main feed to the field so it would all go together easy out in the field.
Principle settling tank awaits it new hole in the ground. Note all the circles on the side of the tank. Each of those is a cross member support to ensure a tank will never collapse but even then it is just wise to keep a tank full so that it has weight inside it greater than the soil outside of it.
Setting our level line with the laser to establish where the base for the tank is needed.
Leveling the sand base mixed with cement and tamping it down for the tanks new bed.
Just about ready to drop the tanks in and here is where the light weight tanks are a life saver as 4 guys can easily drop them in the hole with zero equipment required.
Tank is now in the hole and is being slid up to the line from the house.
Levels are double checked to ensure all is correct.
Both the primary settling tank and the bio-digester are set in place and connected together.
Here we have carefully back filled the tank and are using a small rounded stone that will not puncture the tank, offers great drainage and acts as a big shock absorber around the tank, a rather important issue in seismically active zones.
Here the crushed rock has been dumped into the trenches to make the base that goes under the tubes that feed the field.
One of the piles of Teak lumber that will be going into the roofing system of the home. Currently we are edging and sanding all of this to finish it prior to installation into the roof.
This is the electrical service that is installed into this home that is worth under $100,000.
You may have heard of this brand? There is a 100 amp main breaker locked away behind this door.
Let’s compare this to the previous. Would you like your electrical service to look like this to save $35? Take note those lines heading into the throw switch and screws that hold them in place are A) live so if you touch them you will light up like a Christmas Tree and B) anyone walking down the street can cut off your power with a half second flip of the wrist. This photo was taken in front of another client’s home we are currently working in at Atenas that is worth north of $300,000. No doubt this French Canadian developer tells all his clients he builds to American Standards. Would you agree? Do you think this would pass a Canadian Electrical Code inspection?
Speaking of standards for the 10 year life of this home the dishwasher has never fit into the hole in the cabinets simply because the fools installed the electrical and plumbing up in the zone of the washtub hence the machine would not slide into the hole until those were lowered down so as to avoid this collision. Is it strange to expect your appliances to actually fit under American Standards????
Just thought some cross comparisons between work sites might be a bit educational as well as amusing to all readers.
Until the next chapter in this birth.
Well a long overdue update to report the progress of the last few tours to Uvita. Several have commented directly as to why there has been no updates on the site. Simple, not enough of me or enough energy to start writing and posting after a day of building at the beach. Sorry doing things has to take priority over talking about doing things, At any rate the 1’s and 0’s in the data have not gone bad so here we go into more video and photo updates of the progress.
The first mission of this tour was to solve a big nagging problem, RAINY SEASON. You may have heard we have such here that they dare call it winter. Many have asked us how we can deal with rainy season. Now I always felt that compared to battling -40′ and 6 feet of frozen ground in Sask. that this was indeed a rather minute problem in severity. Now this has two answers, if a building site has ugly roads then we simply can’t start in rainy season if there is much in the way of concrete and its weight to deal with in mud and mountain roads so for those sites they have to wait until it is dry to start. If you have good access as Jason and Sarah have here then no really big problem and you can start any time. I just sat on this issue for a couple of months trying to think of a workable and affordable solution. Once the rain started I had to come up with a solution as the lost time, wet tools and worse wet materials had to stop. Now with that said there is actually an even bigger problem or time thief and that is SUN! Sorry now human can work hard at construction all day under a boiling hot sun at the beach! Anyone suggesting otherwise is a few bricks short of a full load. Add that the fact that this old man sure did not want to be frying his butt off at the beach. Hence a solution was desperately needed to solve both of these problems that often occur during the same day. Getting fried and flooded within a couple of hour stretch is anything but unusual.
To the rescue came bamboo, one verrry big tarp and a bit of construction know how. Actually the solution turned out to be rather simple and cheap especially for the benefits gained. What you are about to witness is a first as in 14 years I have never seen anything like this done anywhere in Costa Rica. Actually I kicked my ass for not coming up with a solution sooner as we could have avoided all that baking at the beach during summer. Once again I found that common practices of the industry lack a bit of ingenuity or a big lack in running a calculator to see what it costs a typical construction site during rain as well as the cost of workers dragging their ass as the sun sucks up their energy. In no way am I suggesting my workers are lazy, they sure as hell are not but lets get real the human body does have very real limitations!
Building the ridge beam to make up our unique bamboo tent structure. I had investigated renting a tent but most just are not high enough to get above even a single story house but my friend bamboo came to the rescue with it’s super strength, light weight to erect and long lengths. Nothing made out of steel or wood could accomplish this let alone on a $700 budget. I would dare venture on any modest home such as this a roof will save anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 of time and materials. So not a bad ROI I would say.
Rafters going in place all connected together with ready rod and wood blocks.
Structure erected in under two days and ready to pull the big ass tarp in place.
Roof up and we are under COVER! YAHOO!
We did not even get the last tie downs done and the shower arrived right on schedule and we got 3″ dumped on us but nothing wet for a pleasant change.
Here is another point I would like to make. Most employers really do not give a royal shit about worker safety and or comfort here. If you think otherwise here is a perfect example. One day just before we put up the roof we called it quits earlier than normal due to rain. While driving back home I passed this truck on the road then we both pulled into the same commercial strip. So I thought it a moment to capture for posterity. Take note this truck is wide open yet workers were packed in it like cattle, no roof, no top nothing but an attempt with pieces of plastic doing one piss poor job. I have no idea who they are but I could not help but take note of the message. A rather striking difference as compared to how we go to the effort to put up a roof yes to save time and lost materials but it was most certainly driven by logical and reasonable comfort for workers on the work site. Who ever this boss was that no doubt sees this as perfectly acceptable I would not piss on if he was on fire. If I had to treat employees like this to be in business here I would not be! Might also explain why I have only had one employee ever quit on me.
The first lot of our teak rafters has arrived. This came from 30 plus year old trees hence it is a nice brown color and very heavy. This had been sitting in the yard of the sawmill for 3 years drying naturally. Mature teak like this is totally bug proof since they don’t like its flavor at all which is far more important than the actual hardness.
These are our very long 2 x 8 hip rafters hence they had to be joined together to get them long enough 23′. Here you can see the join and the plugged screws that maintain this large finger joint. Excellent quality of work by the way.
If one wants longer beams than this you have to go to this Eucalyptus which can be cut as long as 25 feet due to the fact that it grows as straight as an arrow as you can see from this truck load of logs. No other plantation woods grow this straight hence it is near impossible to cut longer lengths without a massive waste factor which of course double or triple the cost of the actual wood you would receive once this feet was accomplished. Hence we basically design our houses around the limitations of what we can build the roof out of. All laminated beams have to stick to 20 foot maximums as that is the length of all the presses that I am aware of.
Belt sanding all the teak to get out the planer marks as well as to smooth the finish.
A final dress sanding to get the rafters to furniture condition and all were router edged first to round off the splinter prone corners prior to spraying hem with polyurethane.
First goes up the frame for the cupalo after we had assembled it on the floor. A tad heavy in one piece considering it covers 296 square feet of floor space. All wood was pre-finished prior to it being installed which is another unconventional approach here. Finished woodwork after installation just does not provide a good finish and it takes way more time to apply that finish in the air versus on the ground. Note the pocket cut in the ribbon beam to receive rafters tight and strong.
Installation of assembly completed.
Common rafters now being installed into the pockets over the living room.
First hip rafter is up and installed that connects the cupalo frame to the outside corners of the home.
First jack rafters in children’s bedroom are in place.
We are now installing the small gable pieces that fit between each rafter to create a tight socket for each one to extend from.
The interior gables that extend the wall from 8 feet now take each of this up to the cathedral roof line, are now installed since we have been able to establish the actual roof level.
All the rafters are installed leaving only the open terrace at the front of the house to deal with. First off we need a post to hold up the glu-lam beams that replace the walls in this instance. Here we have selected a very special post, no two of a kind, call Cara de Tigre or Tiger’s face, and no I have no idea how the heck it got it’s name. Sure does not make me think of a tiger but none the less most beautiful and unique once we dress the ugly brute up. The lines have been marked to show the cut lines for the socket that will receive the flu-lam Teak beams.
Rounding off the sharp corners with a router bit to give it a finished look and one that won’t give anyone slivers.
Beam ready to be cut to length to fit into the wall sockets that tie all the structure together.
Take note that this trunk starts out very rough and crude.
Take note as to how white it is turning as we dress this brute up.
Socket is now cut thanks to having good tools all ready to make it a permanent home for our new beams.
Meanwhile part of the crew is finishing the roof structure off another has advanced ahead to install a while polyurethaned bamboo ceiling on all the interior areas of the home. They did select Teak for the eaves and entry to the home but that is as yet waiting to be pre-finished prior to arrival on the site.
Hip and dormer structure over the master bedroom area.
Joining together the 4 x 6 flu-lam beams that will support the terrace roof.
Lap joint completed and ready to lift in place on our post.
Post and beams in place. Not exactly what you find at Home Depot?
Cutting all the rafter tails straight.
Above the bamboo ceiling we are now attaching the very critical component reflective foil insulation to bounce the beach heat out of the house before it gets to enter.
Completed terrace roof structure just waiting for a T & G Teak to arrive from being sprayed and of course refinished as all material has been.
Cupola walls now built up from the main roof and its opening that makes up the cupola frame work.
View from above as we complete the structure which is of course all built from SIPs.
Here we have applied the first two coats of stucco over the panels with a heavy fiberglass mesh is embedded into it. Done prior to the roofing go on so as to avoid the mess on a finished roof.
View from below of the ventilators that make the cupola perform its task of letting the hot air escape from the home.
View of roof with nailers installed over the reflective insulation ready for the installation of plastic tiles.
Teak T & G installed for the eaves.
View of the Teak from above about to receive its nailers.
Ridge beam and first rafters installed over the cupola.
This is how a seat is cut in each hip rafter so that it fits over each corner of the walls.
View of the cupola with all the rafters installed.
Now with all panel work done here is what we are left with for garbage from a 1,500 square foot home. I will have to take a picture some day from the garbage left to dispose of from a typical concrete block home. It is massively greater!
The sunset at Uvita as we left work today July 17th, 2014.
Installing the nailers that the roofing tiles will be screwed to. Actually maybe then these should be called screwers then do you think? These are installed over top of the ever critical reflective foil insulation especially here on the cupola where we want the heat going out and most certainly not into your home. We start in this case at the highest point so as not to be walking on the finished roofing any more than the minimal. Also this stuff is not easy to walk on at all however it is tough as hell and you could literally dance on it and do no harm other than to your ankles. Certainly a big difference from the all too common low grade metal roofings.
Roof structure over our little false dormer. This serves no purpose other than a cosmetic feature to the curb appeal of the home as you will far better further along in our picture story here.
Installation of the plastic tile over the cupalo is nearing completion. In the fore ground you will notice the raw face of the teak T & G ceiling boards over the front entrance, terrace and eaves around the home.
Cupola roof finished as well as the south face of the lower roof is ready to do its job.
View down the length of the south roof.
View of roof from the back of the home. Not long now before the big unveiling.
View from front of house.
View down side of house.
View from back of home.
Okay now I just have to catch up with 4 videos to add to this collection of photos.
Take note we were never contracted to finish this home we were always only taking it to lock up stage as per the clients’ wishes.