Property Upgrades 2022-December & 2023-January

Project Work Dates   

  • Wednesday      12-21-2022
  • Thursday          12-22-2022
  • Friday               12-23-2022
  • Tuesday           12-27-2022
  • Wednesday      12-28-2022
  • Thursday          12-29-2022
  • Monday            1-2-2023

Costa Rica Work Crew (December 2022)

  • Jairon              Crew Leader
  • Jonathan         Sr. Level Multi-skilled craftsman
  • Austen             General Labor – multiple skills and projects
  • Kendal             General Labor – multiple skills and projects (brother of Jaskyn)
  • Joseph             General Labor – multiple skills and projects
  • Sondro             General Labor – multiple skills and projects

United States Work Crew (December 2022 and January 2023)

  • Anthony Seta
  • Mark DeJong

Project Goals for the December 2022 trip

The primary project goals for this trip were as follows;

  1. Front Entrance
  2. Screen Project (Part 2)
  3. Shutter bay doors for the front deck porch
  4. Railing Repair due to termite damage
  5. Roof Housing Units for Motion Sensor Lights
  6. New shelving unit for the shipping container

Front Entrance

In January of 2021, a system of underground pipes (i.e. concrete cast 16-inch diameter tubes referred to as alcanterias) was installed at the front entrance.  This line of subterranean tubes was installed to rectify an issue of serious erosion that was occurring at the entrance to the property.  The results from this construction worked well, but then a new problem manifested itself.  The entrance to the property connects to main Lagunas Road, which is a large incline that ascends several kilometers upwards from the valley in Barú.  Lagunas Road is a macadamized road that is composed of plowed dirt with multiple layers of lastre gravel on the upper surfaces.  The surface of this road is constantly subjected to tropical rains and downward flow of water from the road network constantly creates new erosion problems by pushing mud and lastre gravel downward.  The negative effect of this erosion is that the entrance to the underground alcanterias was getting filled with lastre gravel and becoming blocked with every powerful rainstorm.  This situation of continuous new blockage necessitated that Jairon’s crew devote time and effort (several hours each month) to digging out this gravel from the entrance port.  This was costing money for each clean-up and was potentially ruining the original work plan that was completed for this part of the property roughly two years prior to the December 2022 project.

The primary objective of this trip with Jairon’s crew was therefore to create a system of retaining walls with the objective of preventing the lastre gravel from entering the entrance port to the subterranean alcanteria tubes.  The only thing that should be entering into the tubes is flowing water.  Any other materials that would enter can become stuck and deposited internally which would require a far more extensive repair. 

In January 2021, a line of six cunetas was installed with the intention to channel downward flowing water into the port entrance.  This line was extended with another four cunetas, for a cumulative total of 10 cunetas which is roughly ten meters in length.

Retaining walls of local river stone were then raised on the dirt side of the drainage line and on the road side.  The roadside barrier being the most important in this case, as the primary issue to be rectified was the lastre gravel from the Lagunas Road.

A large amount of material was purchased for this project;

18 cubic meters of river stone

18 cubic meters of sand/gravel “base” material that is used for mixing with cement to make the concrete

50 sacks (50 Kilograms per sack) of cement

Screen Project (Part 2)

During the July 202 trip, the front porch balcony was fully enclosed with screen.  The screen barrier proved to be effective against insects, but the screen material that was purchased had a grayish-silvery coloration that refracted and reflected sunlight in such a way that unfortunately provided for a diminished view to the outside.  When this type of screen was purchased and examined in the hardware store, it was not known at the time that this particular screen would have this particular problem.  The cost for the material was only $25 USD, but the labor to install required two persons and roughly 6+ hours of cumulative work to enclose all eighteen bay panels plus two additional panels for the newly constructed front door. 

Given that we could not live with the grayish screen and the altered view provided to the outside paradise, it was decided to remove the gray screen and replace it entirely with black screen.  This proved to be a good decision and was well worth the additional expenditure of funds and the additional hours required to remove all the original screen and replace it with black screen.  The black screen is nearly transparent to the human eye and at times it is difficult to ascertain if there really is any screen.  That was the desired effect.

One immediate benefit of the new black screen is that this material is of a higher quality that is more robust and heavy duty.  The material holds its shape well and now one person can install this material, rather than this project being a two-person job that requires one person to stretch the fabric and the other person stapling that material to the wood frames.  In the long term, this is a very welcome benefit for the future repairs and replacement of damaged screens that will inevitably occur.

Additionally, there was no financial loss as the original gray screen was not thrown away, but rather was repurposed and stapled on the underside of the porch.  The porch balcony is manufactured of standard 6 x 2 planks with a ½ inch gap between each plank.  This design being beneficial for the drainage of water.  And as we discovered, insects could find their way through those gaps to then enter the protected enclosure.  The gray screen that is now placed on the bottom of the balcony closed this final entry point for insects and the balcony can more accurately be described as fully enclosed.  And during heavy rains and/or cleaning that involves water and mopping of the floors, the water can still be evacuated from the balcony deck as the screen is permeable. 

Work in progress… but the contrast between the gray-silver screen and the newly installed black screen is easy to see
The front of the the house with black screen fully installed

Shutter bay doors for the front deck porch

When the installation of screen for porch/balcony area was completed in July 2022, all open bays were fully enclosed with screen in a stapled stationary and immobile manner.  Simply stated, once inside the porch, the only access to the outside was through the new screen door.  The problem of the screen with the grayish-silvery sheen has already been discussed.   But even if the screen was black, the matter of being fully enclosed was less appealing the more we adjusted to the project.  And our friend Brandon pointed out to us that the lack of a clear view of the outside was a severe limitation for photography.  These were sufficient factors to convince us that shutter doors would be necessary.  The two upper bays in the center were decided upon for the placement of the new shutter doors.  These two bays were nicely sized at roughly 44 to 46 inches in width and similar height.  And for overall symmetrical design purposes this decision to place the shutter doors in the center was most appropriate and logical.  The hardware for the doors (i.e. hinges, handles, window locks, etc.…) were purchased in the US and hand-carried in checked bags to Costa Rica.  Our friend Mark DeJong constructed these doors, which ended up being a far more time-consuming process with many angled cuts and precision calibrations than was originally presumed.  Before Mark began this carpentry project, the wood material had been milled to size, then painted with diesel fuel and further painted with two coats of mahogany stain.  This was a lot of work.  The primary building assembly of the door units occurred in the bodega workshop. There were many attempts with rough-in fit up, which required the carrying of the frames to and from the bodega to the house – a trip of around 80 to 100 meters each way and much of it walking up or down slope while carrying the not-so-heavy but awkwardly cumbersome door frames.  We are very grateful to Mark for his work on this project and are extremely pleased with the ability to now open these doors to have the full benefits of a Costa Rican morning or afternoon, and then being able to shut the doors at dusk for the evening hours to prevent the intrusion of the usual suspects of the nocturnal insect swarm. 

Railing Repair due to termite damage

Sometime in early 2022, termites found the railing at the stairs that lead to the house and began to do what termites do, which is to tunnel and eat wood.  The situation was first discovered in July of 2022, but nothing was completed during that trip to rectify this situation due to so many other pressing responsibilities.  Again, for this specialty project our friend Mark DeJong provided the carpentry expertise to fix this damaged railing.  By this time in January of 2023, the railing had been completely devoured at the lower end and was completely frayed and collapsed under the slightest stress of light hand pressure.  Mark removed the damaged wood and replaced it with new material – 2×4 inch pressure treated pine.  Once the new pine had been cut and installed, all the new wood was painted with diesel fuel, then two coats of mahogany stain.  The rail top itself was also painted with exterior polyurethane to protect the wood from the effects of weathering and splintering and to also have a nicer and smoother finish for the many human hands that will now be using this handrail. 

Roof Housing Units for Motion Sensor Lights

Scattered throughout the property are solar-powered motion sensor lighting units.  These lights are purchased from Cost-Co in the US and then transported to Costa Rica in checked baggage.  These units are for the most part of a medium grade to high quality construction and perform quite well for many years in a temperate latitude environment that receives the standard normal rainfall on an annual basis that is typical for such latitudes.  The complication with the Costa Rica environment is that this is a tropical rainforest with heavy rains of long-term durations that last for roughly 6 months of every year.  Unfortunately, many of these motion sensor lights are failing and are being prematurely destroyed due to the heavy rain.  To preserve the longevity of these lights, which are very necessary for security purposes, small housing units were constructed for six (6) separate lights.   These lights are placed at strategic locations along the driveway that leads from the front entrance to the house.  Three of these lights are in the back driveway so that this area can be saturated with light during the evening hours.  The houses are simple roof structures constructed from pressure treated pine that are mounted to 4-inch posts.  The roofing structures cover the top of the motion sensor lights, with the goal being that the effects of heavy pounding rain do not damage the lighting units themselves.  It’s a goal that is well worth the time and effort to construct and the expense for materials.

Light post prior to blue paint and protective roof

New shelving unit for the shipping container

During the previous trip in July 2022, two (2) three-tiered shelving units were constructed for the shipping container.  Previously storage boxes were placed onto planks of wood that were constructed with concrete cast blocks for the tiering.  In December 2022, an additional three-tier shelving unit was constructed.  The fastening of all planks and beams is fulfilled with exterior screws that are purchased in the US and then transported to Costa Rica.  This shelf new unit is slightly smaller than the other two, but still constructed with the same building techniques with 2×4 wood beams for the main structure and 1-inch flat stock panel wood for the storage areas.  2.5-inch caster wheels were brought from the States to be attached to the shelf to provide the same mobility as all other furniture builds.  Additionally, as with all furniture now being constructed for the property, the wood is painted (or saturated) with diesel fuel as a protective measure against wood consuming insects.  Finally, this shelf unit was painted blue.  The blue color is produced by water-based paint that is further diluted with additional water.  This technique allows for the paint and water mix to penetrate deeper into the wood grains rather than exclusively being a film veneer that adheres to the surface only.  This paint application was initiated for both decorative aesthetics and as an experiment to determine how effective this painting technique endures in the tropical climate.