Property Upgrades 2021-July

Project Work Dates:        Tuesday 6-29-2021 through Friday 7-16-2021

Costa Rica Work Crew (June-July 2021)

  • Jairon              Crew Leader
  • Jonathan         Sr. Level Multi-skilled craftsman
  • Julio                Master craftsman
  • Carlos              Sr. Level Multi-skilled craftsman (new guy Carlos)
  • Austen             General Labor – multiple skills and projects
  • Yaskyn             General Labor – multiple skills and projects
  • Pedro               Basic Labor
  • Luis Piojo Backhoe/Bulldozer operations


Base Material: A mixture of course sand and small stones.  The base material is delivered to the property in large quantities – typically either 6-cubic meter loads or a full truck load at 12-cubic meters.

Cement:  A binder material used for construction that sets, hardens, and adheres to other materials to bind them together.  The cement that we purchase locally is very strong and is sold in 50KG bags.

Concrete:  A composite material composed of both the base material and the cement combined together.  When mixed correctly with the appropriate portions of base material and cement, concrete can last for centuries.

Cuneta: These are concrete pre-cast forms that have a U-Shape and are used to capture and channel water flows.  For Casa Armonía, typically the 8-inch version of cuneta is the most practical size and therefore the most commonly used throughout the property.

Alcanteria: These are pre-cast concrete forms that are a full concrete pipe.  Alcanterias come in many sizes and are used when water needs to be channeled under the ground surface.  On the property we typically use the 6-inch, 8-inch or 12-inch versions depending upon the situation. 

In addition to the countless things and tasks that have to be done constantly, and involve the use of machetes, shovels, axes, saws, etc.… that cannot be discussed on this page, the June-July 2021 trip achieved three primary objectives:

  1. The completion of the line of alcanterias that move rainwater from the house on the high slope of the property down to the terminus of the Casa Armonía property line
  2. The electric line that leads from the main road power poles to the house was previously attached in a meandering semi-straight line which was connected to forest trees as opposed to designated posts specifically designed for this purpose. 
  3. Construction of a two-car garage (Bodega)

Alcanteria Line and spillway at terminus

As noted in the previous page, during the January 2021 trip a total of 62 1-meter length 12-inch diameter alcanteria tubes were installed.  To reach the near end of the property and the ideal place for wastewater to finally exit, an additional 28 alcanterias were installed in July 2021.  Achieving this objective is the same process as previously described; the backhoe removes all dirt in the slit trench and then will assist the crew with setting each alcanteria in its place.  After that, the dirt that was removed is replaced into the trench.  The cumulative total of 90 alcanteria tubes that now forms this line equates to just over 295 feet.  This was not the original plan that we had, which would have been far more cost effective in every way. But this alteration was a necessary adjustment that had to be made.

At the last alcanteria tube of this long line of tubes, a small spill way was constructed.  The similar method now used throughout the property was employed for the construction of this new spillway.  Three 1-meter length cunetas form the channel, with the side walls constructed out of the 16x16x1.5-inch pavers.  The entire structure is then welded together with an incredible amount of concrete (thirty-five-wheel barrel loads!) and close to a cubic meter of stone.  The rain drainage water finally exits the spillway and falls into bowl of loose river stone. 

This is a significant investment of time and money for erosion control.    But the property would be a muddy mess without this intervention.

The Electric Line

During some rather intense bush clearance and tree trimming during January 2021, we discovered that the electric line that leads to the house from the primary power poles on Lagunas Road is attached to various living trees as opposed to being linked to common poles/posts that are better designed for this purpose.

Attaching electric lines or fiber optic lines in this manner to cross jungle topography is efficient for time and costs to confront the impediments imposed by the local terrain and vegetation.   But the significant downside being that the solution is always only temporary.  Everything grows at astonishing rates in the rain forest, and everything eventually topples and falls. 

To correct this issue, four pressure treated pine post/poles have now been set for the electric line to proceed from the house to the centralized location where all electric boxes are maintained at the Finca Lagunas front entrance.  Each new pine pole has a height of 9 feet remaining above ground. The other 3 feet or so being buried below the ground surface and then solidified into place with concrete.  The electric line now attaches to these poles instead of trees. 

Writing this out makes it sound too easy.  Before any holes could be dug or posts set, the pathway had to be hacked out of the jungle – a path maybe 4 – 6 feet wide and up to 30+ meters in length.  All tools and materials then had to be hauled into position with difficulty.  The concrete had to be carried in five-gallon buckets through muddy and slope prone terrain, because a wheel barrel was impractical to impossible to use in this setting.

A primary takeaway lesson for future reference would be to review these types of things more thoroughly before purchasing a property.  Not that such a thing would ultimately influence a decision of that importance to a significant degree but having better knowledge of things like how the power comes to house is just a good thing to know.  This fix to the power line was cost-effective in terms of materials and labor, but it was still some tough work to get it done.

Poles set with electric line no longer attached to any trees.

A few Painting projects

One gallon of a beautiful oil-based green paint was purchased, which was used to do two things:

  • Paint the top of the shipping container
  • Paint the concrete posts (8 total) that now distinctly separate and differentiate Casa Armonía from the boundary line of Edge of the World

The Garage (Bodega)

After reviewing the pluses and minuses of various construction possibilities for the Bodega, ultimately it was decided to build the garage out of prefabricated concrete panels.  The roof is constructed of metal corrugated panels, supported by a Monopitch Truss assembly of 16-gauge rectangular steel tubing. 

The garage dimensions are 27 feet wide, and 20 feet in depth to match the depth dimensions of the shipping container and 9 feet in height. *Nine-Feet being the point at which the concrete prefab panels end and the steel truss work of the roof assembly begins.

Prior to being able to fully establish the perimeter zone for the bodega ground layout, it was necessary to remove all jungle and bush on the slope and to have Luis Piojo use the backhoe to expand the zone by removing dozens upon dozens of tons of dirt.

The construction of the bodega was fascinating to observe.  It is now quite common throughout Costa Rica to see homes constructed entirely out of the prefabricated concrete cast panels.  This is a great method to produce a high-quality home, in a very rapid manner.  In the case of this bodega, this is basically a house with two large front doors to allow cars to enter rather than a typical front door. 

The basic step-by-step construction method is as follows:

  1. Clear the land for the building
  2. Set up perimeter of building with a string line
  3. Designate zones where posts need to be set
  4. Dig the post holes and set the post into the hole, then fill void space with concrete
  5. Once the posts are set, then slide the prefabricated panels into the posts that are designed with slots for this purpose
  6. Build the roof
  7. Pour the Concrete floor
    1. The floor for this bodega was poured in five separate lanes
  8. Finish out all the trim work with both concrete and metal

In addition to the 27×20 feet of floor space in the bodega, the space between the bodega and the shipping container (5×20 feet) was also filled in with concrete.  This was an afterthought that emerged during the construction process that just seemed like the logical thing to do.  Sometimes it’s too difficult to see too far ahead in the process. In this case it just became self-evident that a concrete walkway between these two structures would be far better than living with jungle muddy ground.

The work crew, eating a late dinner on the porch of the house. This was a special moment really. Long story, but all automobiles were out of commission on this day. These guys stayed and worked on the property until after 9pm. The drive home to Puerto Cortez is roughly 1.5 hours. We were not expecting the crew to show up to work the next day. What a wonderful and unexpected surprise that every single one of these guys went home, slept a few hours and were back on the jobsite the next day – arriving at just after 6:15am. Truly phenomenal!
Pouring a “lane” of concrete
The worksite
How to make a softer more refined version of concrete
“Lane” #1 inside the Bodega
Perimeter observations…. Mud.
The first cuts from the backhoe
Backhoe work on the slope
Pouring concrete
Mixing and Moving
Necessary finishing touches to the Bodega foundation
Begin pour group for “lane” #1 inside Bodega
Post and Panels
Concrete Mix routine
Doors and Hinges, Luis Piojo moving Cascaho
Cutting 16 gauge tubing with a 4-inch grinder
Sliding panels into place
Backhoe on the slope
Panels all in position, beginning construction of roof trusses
Cuneta repairs and improvements
Deliveries from La Jungla (el Colono)
Rain on the worksite, July 2021. Ruined day of work.