Monthly Archives: May 2014

The wood will arrive “manana”!

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.

That was 3 months ago and this is what our house looks like now:

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….)

Wood for our casita

Well hello everyone! I know, it’s been awhile since we wrote. Lots has happened. Maybe someday I’ll get around to the full update here on the blog, but in brief, we had a baby, moved to Central America, and now we are building a house! So it’s not like I wasn’t writing because there wasn’t anything going on!

Today I’d like to start writing about the construction process of our wee house. A little house is called a “casita” in Spanish, and so I’ll be referring to our wee casita. Our casita is indeed wee, coming in at a whopping 500 sq. feet (plus a bunch of storage in the basement) You may think that is small, but it’s HUGE compared to our sailboat! One of the long term advantages of having lived on a very tiny sailboat is that everything else in comparison is so big!!

As is the tendency, we do have bigger dreams for the future. The long term plan for our casita is to live in it while we plan and build a bigger house on the same lot that will eventually be our permanent home, and the casita will be a guest house or rental when people like YOU come to visit us! But first things first. Right now just getting the casita done feels like an extraordinary task, given that this is the first time we have ventured into the realm of house building and we are doing it in a foreign language with almost no money.

One of our main priorities in building this house is that the materials be sourced from local, sustainable materials. We are building our house in a newly forming “eco-village” and the entire community is focused on sustainable, green design, which we are very excited about. Luckily for us, in our community there are some people who are amazing resources for us to find materials that are not commonly available on the larger market. Through the connections of our building manager and neighbor we are getting amazing tropical hardwoods that are all sustainably harvested. Almost all of the wood is coming from trees that have fallen naturally on their own, so we are not contributing to any deforestation through our choice to build our house with wood. Some of that wood is even coming from right down the road. We recently went to visit the site where some very large trees were knocked down by a flooding river several years ago. These trees are now being cut and hauled over to our building site, where some of them will become our roof rafters!

Here is a video showing some of the boards being hauled up from the river by some very hardworking men. They had to cross a tricky river with large rocks, go under another large fallen tree (I had a difficult time understanding why they didn’t cut up that tree first so it would be easier to get the wood farther down the hill out. They had some reason that didn’t make sense to me in Spanish) and up a steep hill to bring the wood to the road where it would make the journey of about 5 miles to our building site.

DSC 0912 from Wee Happy on Vimeo.

We will be posting more soon about the interesting, sometimes arduous process of building a unique house in a foreign country! And we’ll post cute pictures of our adorable baby too! Just not in this post….