Nov. 15-21, 2004 // CONSTRUCTION LOG # 6
Earthquake: Sat. 2:10 AM:
All is fine. I was actually raiding the refrigerator at 2:07AM
looking or something non-alcoholic when the quake hit. The
6.2 quake lasted perhaps 4-5 seconds (plus numerous smaller
after shocks) --hard to tell time when everything is shaking.
There was no damage to anything that we've been able to determine,
not even any cracks. This seems to have been the strongest
in some 10 years or so and certainly the strongest one I've
ever experienced. The center was at Quepos, a city on the
beach. As the crow flies, not too far from us. The new seismic
code upgraded the size of reinforcing steel to be the equivalent
of 1/2" and 5/8" and when you take a look at the
photos you'll see that we are using a lot of steel.
As in previous weeks, several new people are being added
to the mailing list this week. If anyone, doesn't wish to
receive this, then let me know and I'll remove you from the
The container arrived and was unloaded. I'm now able to include
pictures to those who have mailbox capacity. The government
did open and unload the container. It was completely repacked
and was delivered on Tuesday morning. Everything appears to
be there and nothing appears to be damaged. The shipping company
did a fine job; the people on the front end and back end here,
did a lousy job. If anyone plans to ship anything here, I
will tell you who I would NOT recommend at this end-there
are too many unanswered questions and as I said before, a
number of non-transparent charges which I question-and this
was not a CR or Tico company but operated by North American.
I'm including pictures form Wk 5 and the current week. For
those of you wanting a more complete picture history of the
project, let me know and I'll send it to you starting the
the first excavations, septic and rainwater, layout and early
footings (exiting stuff).
Correction: In Log 5, I stated that we paid $113 Cu Meter
for concrete and pumper truck. That was incorrect. We paid
$90 cubic meter.
On Sunday we experienced a couple showers but other
than that, it has been dry and unusually cool (for here) around
23 or 75 degrees during the days. Perfect for building and
living. We've started irrigating.
This week saw the rapid advancement of the house framing.
Monday the footing forms were cleaned up, temporary
anchors to hold things vertical were removed, and vertical
guides at wall junctures were installed in preparation of
laying block. We started laying block around noon on Monday.
By Saturday noon, we had probably laid around 3,500. The equivalent
of 5 houses have all the walls laid up to the first collar
tie. I expect that by the end of next week all the columns
and collar ties on these 5 will be poured and the equivalent
of the two remaining houses will also be up to their first
collar tie. (A "collar tie" is a poured in place
reinforced concrete beam which ties the walls and corners,
and structural columns together).
For those of you not familiar with construction methods here,
I'll describe a couple things I found interesting the first
time I saw it:
Laying block walls is only part of the job. Finishing them
is a major task in itself. The traditional way is to form
vertical level lines every meter or so and then use these
as screed board lines for the"repello". Repello
consists of several steps-first a very wet mixture of course
sand, cement, and water is thrown by trowel onto the walls.
This dries and the next lay is applied. This layer is a finer
texture of sand, cement, and water and is again thrown onto
the wall by trowel and built up to a thickness which will
result in a smooth vertical wall. This is a messy process
and has to be wetted for a week or so such that it dries slowly
and adheres to the wall. This layer is then overlaid with
a finishing material which makes it very smooth and ready
This time, we used a product for finishing which was wonderful,
fast and not very messy. It took less than 1/2 the time for
this stage than using traditional materials. This same company
has a product for rapid build and is designed to be applied
as the first coat onto blocks. It goes on fast, does not require
slow curing so therefore no water, and with minimal waste.
Using this material, we should save about two weeks by using
this material. What is the product? I don't know exactly.
The provider of the material, only says it is a cement based
product and maintains the formula like Coke-it's great but
I'm not going to tell you how to make it. We've got 300 -
50lb. Bags coming next week.
They do not have "mortar" here. They use sand,
Portland cement, and water- no other chemicals or ingredients.
Normally the sand is not uniform enough to be used. (As a
matter of note, the sand is absolutely black.) It has to be
screened such that the larger grains are eliminated. This
is done by creating a rigid form over which a certain size
screen is placed. This frame in turn, is placed on an angle
against which shovels full of the raw sand are thrown against
the screen; the smaller grains go through and the larger ones
do not. The smaller particles are then used for "mortar
and the larger ones are either used in concrete or in forming
the final lawyer of gravel before pouring concrete. We were
using two people to do this work. We have subsequently upgraded
the sand (not normally done on job sites) and now have those
two people mixing what passes for "mortar".
We bought an additional cement mixer from our neighbour who
is nearing completion of his construction project and also
bought a "jumping jack" compactor. We will need
both over the next five months and I believe it cheaper to
buy and then resell vs. leasing for that long a time. One
of the electric cement mixers we bought burned a motor as
soon as a load was put on it; $75 to rebuild it. Fortunately,
from my previous experience I knew exactly where to go to
have it done.
The vertical wall rebar (#4 or 5/8") which goes into
the center of the hollow block wall, is approximately 8'-10'
hi. The blocks have to be hoisted up on a "T" type
of tool they make, the block is then speared by the re-bar
and then lowered and set into place. Following which the cavity
is filled with a wet mixture of concrete and tamped to ensure
Below the floor, horizontal #3 rebar (1/2") is used
between each layer (row) of blocks. Above floor level, this
horizontal re-bar is placed in every second row. It is wired
to each of the vertical re-bar and at the structural poured-in-place
columns, the re-bar is fastened first to the rebar reinforcing
cage and then all is formed and filled with concrete to form
structural beams (collar ties) and/or columns.
The net result when all is finished is a structurally integrated,
On Wednesday we had to alter the hours of work. CR
and Honduras were scheduled to play soccer at 5pm, the normal
quitting time. So we started a half hour early so they could
get to where ever and watch the match. Starting time and quitting
time here are punctual. There is no personal "clean up"
time at the end of the day; people begin putting the tools
away and cleaning up when the whistle blows at 5pm. Other
construction sites shut down entirely. (The game was actually
a 0-0 draw but for some reason CR got the credit and can advance.)
We currently have 46 people on the payroll. I think we could
use some additional people once we get working on the remodeling
of the older units and when we start the three additional
houses-121, 122, and 123.
On Monday we started work on the west gate. The gate
itself was made off site by a welder and brother who worked
for us before and will probably work on renovating the original
units. It is now ready for installation; final painting (antiquing)
will be done once it is installed. The columns will be poured
on Monday and ready for the installation on Wednesday.
Two more telephone lines
A follow up: after Mike, the property manager, having spent
about 5 hrs. at ICE begging for additional phone lines and
being told that none were available in the country, the installers
showed up the following week and in stalled two additional
The year end accounting is virtually done. In CR, all corporate
year ends are Sept. 31 and filings have to be made in November.
The accounting system we had this past year underwent continual
improvement but still lacked some important elements. I wanted
to get it into a useful information, reporting and tracking
system for the new fiscal year. I have settled on an accountant
who will work with the bookkeeper when required; both are
located in Santa Ana. Hopefully the new accounting system
for the property management side of things will be fully operational
soon and we can begin to get experience with it such that
when the condominium corporation takes control, it will have
a record and a system in place. The construction side of the
accounting system is in place; we just need time to get things
reported -they are being recorded and printing a statement
will not be difficult as soon as the bookkeeper gets the government
fillings taken care of.
Internet service upgraded
We have upgraded our internet service from 512 to 1 mega
bite by switching from Cable Tica to RACSA ADSL line which
wasn't initially available either but subsequently seems to
have become available. We didn't get the service we order
initially and had to go back several times but now we seem
to have the full speed. The reason why we switched is that
we were advised that as more people sign on to our LAN, the
network speed will degrade. In addition, I wanted to ensure
that the system could handle VOIP service and bypass RACSA.
Changing door's company supplier
We have experienced warping and swelling problems with some
of our doors which were installed in the previous five units.
I knew this issue to be a problem here so I made a particular
effort to search out a company which could demonstrate how
they addressed this problem and provided a guarantee. The
result of my research was a company (Portico) which said they
had solved the problem and had great story to support their
claim. They also provided an excellent guarantee. This company's
doors were / are expensive but this was an important issue
to me so I was willing to pay. In the States which is their
primary market, their room doors sell for about $600 and the
entry door we purchased sells for about $1,800 installed.
They supplied 280 doors to the Four Seasons 5 Star development
in Papagayo, Guanacaste; so far, they have replaced 260. We
have a slightly better record than that but it's still very
high. I can give them credit for honoring their guarantee;
I understand the production manager has been canned and they
now have their problems under control.
We have resolved the safu with the original site plan not
working for units 121 and 122. This has resulted in having
to tear down the existing, older unit (124
on the site plan on the website) and replacing it with
a new unit. It seemed not quite right to have an older unit
sitting on a prime location especially when the original configuration
did now work and the redesigned configuration works very well.
We will reuse some of the components of the older unit in
the remodeling and in the construction of the warehouse.
Hugo: he's now a successful "bat" hunter. He didn't
say if it tasted good or not but I didn't have a lot of feathers
around afterwards. The bats are small. It's the only thing
he's caught that flies. I keep hoping he's going to get the
parrot one day.
The parrot: no change in her mean, nasty disposition. I've
been busy getting motors fixed, saw blades sharpened, tools
repaired, buildings located, and renovation plans finalized
so I really haven't been around much to observe the parrot.
About two weeks ago, the local people started their annual
love affair with mostly Nicaraguan made fireworks-guess they
have a lot of gun powder there. As soon as dusk hits, (5:30)
the cherry bombs and the roman candles start. While this is
all small scale and informal, it drives the dogs MAD-barking
by all -a total cacophony, our guard dog included.
The Christmas lights, mangers, and seasonal decorations are
beginning to appear. Within our area, there are several homes
which really have very intricate and extensive lighting and
decorations. People from all over drive by to look at these.
Lots of hard work and $$ has gone into them -I'm sure the
electricity company (ICE) loves them. The reward is from the
Lita's karaoke machine is still with our friend in Toronto.
It can't be repaired there but could be replaced for $300
only to be dropped a few more times and be in the same situation.
I'll try to have it repaired here by soldering some connections
together and if successful, wrapping the whole thing in foam.
We had a wonderful dinner at our friend Terry's on Friday
night only to be rudely awakened by the earthquake at 2:10
am. -that was a very moving experience.