When we first moved down here for good back in September, we knew that we were going to build a small, simple house as quickly and cheaply as possible. We thought that in 2-3 months the structure would be up and we’d be all moved in by early 2014. We had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted, we just needed to get blueprints made up of our ideas and we’d be all set…..
5 months later we finally had the design worked out, blueprints in hand, and all the special stamps required for the building permits. Construction team was in place, and they estimated 3 months to have the house ready to move into.
Yep. We have a foundation and the beginnings of the first floor. That’s it.
Why is it taking so long?
Well, let’s see. The foundation took WAY longer than they expected (or told us) because there was a lot of difficult rock to remove to be able to put in the concrete posts. Then there were things like Easter vacation, a whole week off for everyone. And for the last month, NO WORK has even been done on the house because the wood that they need to do the next step is caught in some version of bureaucratic limbo and can not be transported until it has all the necessary papers with the right stamps on them. First we were told they just needed one paper and that paper would arrive “manana” (which literally means “tomorrow”,but here it seems to be used to mean “sometime in the future”). The following week a new paper needed to be sent, and who knows if that one even arrived. The next week they said the wood was coming any day, and this past week they said they need one more paper that should be there manana and the wood will arrive the manana after that…..
So at this point, who knows?! The wood could really be here manana, or it could be 2 more weeks!!
Soooooo……welcome to building a house in Central America! Pura Vida! Now I understand why when we first started our building process and were telling people who have built houses here before that we were going to have our house done in 3 months that they all laughed at us.
A note on the excessive paperwork for the wood….because we are using wood that has fallen naturally in the jungle somewhere it needs extra permits because they need proof that it was not illegally cut from a protected forest. If we were just buying cut lumber from a lumberyard we would have our wood already. As frustrating as it is, I appreciate the local regulations around not over harvesting rare trees. Also, it is theoretically possible our house could be done in 3 months if we had every little detail taken care of before construction started and were going with a larger construction team. We are taking care of some parts of the general contracting ourselves and no doubt things could be done more efficiently than they are.
So now that we are on the “one year plan” for completion of our house, I’m starting to relax a bit more about the whole process. It was hard for me to let go of the time estimate we originally had, but clearly that is lesson number 1 in building a house (it always takes longer than you think.) Or is “it always costs more than you hoped” the number 1 lesson? Anyway, we still have a lot of design decisions to make about the interior of the house and this give us more time to really consider details that we want and source materials for the next stage of building. And, it just so happens that we are in a big cash flow crunch, so it’s all perfect. (grrrr….)