Property Upgrades 2022-July

Project Work Dates:        Friday 7-1-2022 through Monday 7-11-2022

Costa Rica Work Crew (July 2022)

  • Jairon              Crew Leader
  • Jonathan         Sr. Level Multi-skilled craftsman
  • Baltazar           Jr. Level Multi-skilled craftsman
  • Austen             General Labor – multiple skills and projects
  • Yaskyn             General Labor – multiple skills and projects
  • Jose                 General Labor – multiple skills and projects        (Also – cousin of Austen)

Project Goals for the July 2022 trip

The primary project goals for this trip were as follows;

  1. Screening of the front balcony/porch to fully enclose this part of the house from insects
  2. Construction of shelf furniture units for the shipping container
  3. Painting the exterior of the Bodega Garage that was constructed during the previous summer 2021
  4. Clean up and maintenance of the of the cuneta and alcanteria drainage system at the front property entrance that is now confronted with a new erosion issue that originates from the main Lagunas Road
  5. Other General property clean-up of lower jungle growth with machetes
  6. Pressure washing of concrete walkways

Note on the side: An electrical repair to an exterior outlet was required.

Screening of the porch balcony

The porch of the house was constructed as an open-air structure.  It is quite nice during the daylight hours but had become uncomfortable to completely unusable at times after dark due to the insects – which are relentless and sometimes large and scary.  To address this matter, we did some studying of various porch enclosures at the houses of different friends in the US and Costa Rica and developed a plan to fully enclose the balcony/porch with screen.  Our plan for the screening process followed several steps.

  1. Create a framed structure or cell for each screen panel.  To do this we cut standard 2×4 Pressure Treated wood in half and these units at roughly 1.5” x 1.5” form the individual square or rectangular cell
  2. In three window bay sections of the balcony/porch, there was too much open space to mount screen and safely assume that no damage would occur by routine use.  In these large rectangular open-bay sections, a vertical support was dropped to split the cell.  Consequently, one large cell was split into two more manageable units.
  3. Once a cell had been constructed and then painted with mahogany colored stain, then the screen could be stapled into place.
  4. To cover the staples, a veneer of trim molding created from 0.75” flat stock panel wood was used to cover the staples.  The trim molding was pre-painted with a watered-down blue paint.
  5. All areas of the porch on the upper perimeters were closed off with wood
  6. A new door and frame structure was created specifically for the entrance to the porch area

The screening of the porch has proven to be successful and has now created many new possibilities for this area.  The porch can now effectively function as an extra bedroom if needed and is a nice dining area.  Though the project has been successful, there were some regrets noted at the end of the construction that will have to be addressed on a future trip;

  • The screen itself is of a mediocre quality and has a silver/grey sheen.  It’s not too bad, but still not quite as nice as a black screen that provides a clearer window to the world just outside.  The screen was only a $25 USD investment.  All of this screen will therefore be removed and replaced with a higher quality screen.  The original screen purchase will not go to waste.  The decking of the porch has slat openings of roughly 5/8 of an inch and bugs and insects can and still do enter from these openings.  We did not know this until later until after the screen surround was completed.  That is typically how things go on these projects.  On the job learning. Therefore, this low-quality screen will be removed from the window bays and will be repurposed to be used underneath the porch to fully close off these slat openings.
  • After fully enclosing the porch, we concluded that having the ability to open one or more of the window bays would be far more desirable than being permanently closed in. The ability to have open access to the outside is nice for mundane simple things like admiring the view on a beautiful day and to be able to take better photography of the wildlife on the property.  Therefore, the two center-most window bays will be revised on a future trip to have shutter doors constructed that can then be opened and closed.

It should be noted and emphasized that another goal of this screen project on the balcony/porch was to produce a system that could more easily be repaired to replace damaged screen.  This a problem for the entire house.  During the original construction of the home, the builder used large sheets of screen that were simply stretched over the wood and stapled into place, then the seams covered with trim.  I’m sure that this was a quick and rapid way of getting things done, but the problem now is that it is never easy to repair and replace screen in a specific isolated section that gets damaged.  There are some real complications that are difficult to describe and articulate, but the end result is massive frustration and many wasted hours when trying to do something so basic as to repair or replace damaged screen in a specific window bay.  It’s seemingly never easy in Costa Rica.  The unpleasant fact is that screen will get damaged constantly, due to the climatic elements, various objects that penetrate the screens accidently, etc… etc… Really too many countless scenarios to list.  Therefore, a more effective system had to be developed for the repair and replacement of damaged screen.  In that regard, the new system on the balcony/porch is quite effective and some day in the future the rest of the house will have to be upgraded to the same standard.

The Raw Materials….

The construction phases and processes

A moment of inspiration…. So the original plan for the trim molding that would encase the screens was to just leave the wood in a natural state or maybe brush on a light stain. Our neighbors Eugenio and Gabriela very kindly invited us to dinner one night. Great food!! During this visit we could not help but to admire the property and their house, which had a fair amount of the trim work painted in blue color. So we therefore adopted this color for our own project. The photo below is of one of the doors on the home of Eugenio and Gabriela.

Pre-painting the trim molding and the new door with the blue paint that has been watered down…

Shelving Units for the Shipping Container

The shipping container is a standard container box that is 20 feet in length that is universally used by cargo trucks across the globe.  The shipping container was purchased in July 2019 and is used as a primary storage facility for expensive tools, non-perishable food items, towels and bed linens, cleaning supplies for the house, and other miscellaneous recreational stuff for scuba diving, etc…

Prior to the construction of the new shelf units, storage within the shipping container has been addressed with tiered layers of concrete cast blocks with wood boards to function as the shelves.  In addition to being unattractive and immobile, these make-shift shelf units do not even provide for sufficient space to accommodate many of the plastic storage boxes that are used to keep items preserved from insects and moisture.

The new shelf units are three levels, with a width of 30 inches and length of 5 feet.  This is a larger amount of space that will fully accommodate the common plastic storage bins that are acquired from hardware stores, etc…The new shelf units are constructed of standard pine 2×4 boards, and also have castor wheels (six wheels per unit) mounted on the bottom to allow for easy movement of the shelf units for future cleaning of the storage container.  The shelf units have also had a deep soak painting with diesel fuel, which is the common method in the tropics to provide wood furniture with a protective defense against the many tropical insects that devour wood.

Due to the shelf units having been painted with diesel fuel, it was decided to let these things reside in the Bodega for 5+ months so that the petroleum smell is dissipated and these two shelving units will be moved into the shipping container in December 2022.

Painting the exterior of the Bodega

The two-car Bodega garage was constructed in July of 2021.  The full description of the construction process is detailed on the page titled “Property Upgrades 2021-July”.

The concrete panels and posts that form the structure of the Bodega were later covered with stucco by Jairon’s crew.  The sole purpose of the stucco being to cover the seams of each concrete wall panel and to provide for a smoother finish.  This stucco-coated exterior looked nice in this semi-finished form, but stucco does stain easily from dirt, mud and other jungle stuff that creeps and crawls onto all surfaces.  Therefore, it was decided to invest funds into a five-gallon bucket of paint to give the exterior of this building a nice and clean finish.  The paint color selected is a greenish-bluish color that both complements the shipping container and does not clash with the natural environment. 

Some general cleaning and maintenance at the front entrance

The front entrance of the property that connects with Lagunas Road is constantly subjected to intense erosion.  The road surface is composed of the standard gravel lastre that is commonly used throughout Costa Rica, but due to the intense slope at this part of Lagunas Road, large amounts of water, mud and rock are constantly damaging the entrance to the property.  At one point several years ago, it was becoming difficult to near-impossible to cross over this erosion-prone zone without a 4×4 vehicle during the rainy season. 

To rectify this matter, a system of alcanteria subterranean tubes (15 tubes total for 45 cumulative feet) were set into the ground with the intent that the water pass under the tubes and drain directly into the jungle, sparing the entrance from being continuously damaged.  Reference page titled “Property Upgrades 2021-January” for full details regarding the construction projects for that trip.

Unfortunately, though the concept of channeling the rainwater underground does work and is logical, but the zone is still subjected to intense erosion that is now clogging the entrance hole from the road surface that leads directly to the alcanteria tubes. The photos below provide an illustration of what is going on.  Regrettably this will require the expenditure of additional funds to construct new stone and concrete barriers to protect the cuneta drainage channels from being constantly filled in from the erosion materials from the road during the intense tropical rainstorms. As of this writing in October-November 2022, Jairon’s crew is having to clean out this entrance every two weeks or so.  The situation is not sustainable, in terms of potential damage to the front of the property and the continuous costs for labor, therefore the future trip planned for December 2022 will be primarily devoted to fixing and correcting this situation.