Sunday, 23 March 2014

Another leak


Thursday morning and DH surprises me by telling me that he is going to move all his tools and toolboxes, bicycles and gardening equipment into the bodega, (about time, I hear you say. No? It must just be me then?). This will mean that we can finally use the front entrance to our house, without tripping over ourselves and all the 'stuff' that has accumulated in the porch/passageway these last few months.

The terrace extension.
Nonetheless, my happiness is extremely short-lived as it appears that the terrace is still leaking. Same place as last time, where we extended it to be precise. Not only that, but the tiles have cracked as well. It's just too hot there, even with the dappled shade from the palm tree. 


Yet another set-back and a new dilemma, namely what on earth shall we use for the floor covering now? After all, it is only half of the terrace that has to be altered; rather than try and match the ceramic tiles that are already in position, we rack our brains trying to decide on a contrasting material, in the hope of making a 'patched-up job' look like a 'design feature' A whitish ceramic tile perhaps? Decking? Shingle? Maybe even some kind of fake grass? None of which 'float my boat'. Dark grey pebbles are a possibility though.

So, on Thursday and Friday, the builders set about lifting the tiles off the offending area, for a third time. They re-enforced the floor again with zinc sheets and yet even more cement. 

Meanwhile DH went in search of roughly 12 square metres of 'piedras de bolas', ball stones. The labourers that he took to help him, were all in favour of digging the pebbles up from the river-bed, as is so often done here in CR. However, DH chose what he thought would be an easiest solution and decided to buy the rocks instead. 

Scattered sacks of 'ball stones'.
On arriving at the stone-works though, DH had the choice of either a digger emptying boulders into the pick-up (BOULDERS not stones mind-you, which would mean us breaking them into smaller pieces) or hand-pick the pebbles himself, load  into sacks and then onto the truck. Hmm, decisions, decisions! So back breaking work ensued, picking over and loading individual pebbles , all 12 sacks of them - a bargain price though as only $30 for the whole lot!

Next week, the fun begins when we ask the builders to lay the pebbles into the concrete evenly. Should be entertaining. I'll report back on their progress!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Making a Laundry Room.

Everyone needs somewhere to do their laundry right? 

A place where the washing machine can be stored. Somewhere to house the hoover (sorry, vacuum cleaner for my non-British friends), the broom, the mop, the bucket, the ironing board, and all the paraphernalia that is associated with housekeeping. And as I love housework so much (not), I prefer to keep these items hidden from view, along with my ironing pile so that I can't see it spilling over the top of the basket, or hear  it gently whispering that it needs doing! 

Having said that, this little area has always been my domain in our house, and had to be included in both the planning and construction of the two major house renovations we undertook back in Blighty. Similarly, the first place that we lived together, a little cottage in the sticks, had its own laundry room: attached to the back wall of the kitchen, you had to access it from the outside - not much fun in the winter, I can tell you. Even here in Costa Rica, when we first arrived and were looking at properties to rent, the kids always joked when seeing the laundry rooms  "Oh look, that's Mum's room". (DH, quite wisely, is not brave enough to say such a thing!). You may tut-tut at the sexist jokes that amuse my boys, as do I, but it does actually mean that I have my very own private space, right in the middle of the house. A spot that I can call my own and that I can go to and hide from arguing kids and grumpy men. A zone, albeit a small and possibly invisible one, where nobody ever manages to find me! I'm assuming such a space is a dream place for most women and/or mothers because in Mallorca, where we had a large, communal laundry room shared by a number of apartments, it didn't matter what time of day or night you ventured down there, you nearly always found some mum or other hiding from their family on the pretence of doing the laundry!

The Before and After shot, but the wrong way round!

Anyway, here at La Casita, the plumbing for the washing machine, along with more than adequate lighting, was already installed in the hallway inglenook, so it made complete sense to utilise the area and turn it into a laundry room. I mean why make more work for yourself by moving all the fixtures when all that's needed is a little imagination? But being in the hallway, close to the front door, the problem was how to hide the proposed laundry area from view. A decorative curtain, beaded or made with shells that we have found on the beach perhaps? Most likely too much hassle, as the strands would be forever getting in the way whilst trying to load the clothes into the washing machine. Bi-fold doors even? No, all the products we found in the various DIY shops were far too flimsy for a rental property. So wooden sliding doors were the sensible option, not necessarily my favourite choice, but ideal for the space.

With no windows in the alcove, we decided on louvered doors, which would allow the air to circulate, preventing any horrid smells that may arise from lingering, damp washing. Three pine doors were purchased along with the runners to make the sliding frame. DH, happy to have a project, set to work rubbing down. As we didn't want to make the hallway too dark and dingy, but still wanted them to contrast with the white of the interior walls, we decided on the 'weathered' look. So as to avoid any runs or paint brush marks, DH, keen to use his paint gun and compressor again, sprayed all three doors with a white paint-wash (a mix of 50:50 paint to water). Me, as a finished product, I would have liked them left a little rough around the edges, but DH is not so inclined and sprayed a final layer of sealer on top - "makes them easier to clean", so he says - and thankfully they still look matt and not shiny.

A hidden laundry space. 
Next, a small false wall had to be built from the ceiling down, so that the top runners had something to attach too. The builders did this for us and then set to hanging the doors: firstly one of them was hung upside down, so it didn't match the other two, and then the wrong way round! Another small detail to test us!

Hey-ho, not to worry, Pura Vida etc., etc.! They are finally hung correctly and look (and of course feel) pretty smooth - nice work DH. 

Now all we need to do is put up some shelves and then furnish it with exciting things like a washing machine. 

Yippee! Can't wait!!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

Snagging List Summary.

From this ...

... to this.

When we first started this project, Jose and his team predicted that they would be finished by December, and to be honest, the speed with which they first started working, we thought that they may well be! Then the problems with Napoleon took hold and kind of destroyed the rhythm. The kitchen delayed things and other problems cropped up that just have taken an age to be fixed.
We have now into the month of March and I think we have been working on the snagging list since half-way through January! Builders and constructors Jose and his team may be, but finishers and detailers they are not. I think that they will be just as pleased to finish this job as we will to see them go. 
So for a roundup of February:

The Complete:

  • Air-con is in and boy, it works well. One in each of the bedrooms and one in the kitchen. Nice and cool. 
  • Pool appears to have had no more leaks for a week. Hopefully that is that problem solved. 
  • The awful stench that appears between 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm each day, (the one that I have failed to blog about as no words can describe the fetid odour), has been fixed: not only have we had the cesspit cleaned out, but new pipes installed and so-on at the end of last week. The result, no foul smell when the sun hits the front of the casita mid-afternoon. Only taken two months to sort out that little dilemma!!

The Not-So Complete:

  • Leak from terrace into bodega below ... still needs a little more work!
  • A complication with the front door. For security purposes, it does not work properly, so we need to re-think and re-hang. 
  • Not happy with his worktops in the kitchen, DH has decided to rub them down again and apply another layer of stain. 

Looking back over the photos though at least you can see the progress that has been made. One day, I am sure we will say it has all been worthwhile. 

But for now, we have both had enough and are unable to believe that it will be finished soon!

And from this ... that.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Kitchen.

After all the problems we had with Napoleon, we had to find a new carpenter to make the kitchen. As I have mentioned before, it is virtually impossible to purchase a kitchen 'off the shelf' like we do back in England: no Ikea nor Homebase for a start. The ferreterias and such like do sell basic free-standing units, but not of great quality and there is very little choice available. Plus, aesthetically speaking, the units that are for sale are not much to look at to say the least!

Alejandro's Workshop and House.

So a new carpenter, Alejandro, has been found, in Belen, about 40 minutes drive from here. Nice guy, looking after 2 kids on his own; very humble and modest. His workshop adjoins his small Tico house. Chickens roam free throughout both living and work areas, whilst mango trees surround the property, allowing for much needed shade in this flat and dusty area.

The Happy Couple

Freshly Laid Eggs and Hatched Chicks

To help keep the costs lower, and to keep himself busy, DH offers his services and works with Alejandro and his trainee,Eduardo, for a couple of weeks. DH is given the job of rubbing down the woodwork for the cabinets and worktops. I just hope that they are not primped to within an inch of their life, like the front door to one of our old houses: DH rubbed down the wooden door so much, that it was as smooth as the shell of a car and looked more plastic than plastic! I guess you can take the boy out of the car body repair industry but not vice-versa!

The Sink Hole cut ready in the Worktop before DH works his magic.

DH plays the role of carpenters assistant for about a fortnight and is happier than he has been in weeks - back in a working environment enjoying workshop banter. Every evening he shares little snippets about his day, relishing the fact that he is occupied again, keen to impart a funny tale or two. 

Consequently, the kitchen is built, painted and installed in a relatively short pace of time - and it looks fantastic, if I do say so myself. 

The Bare Shell a Few Months Ago.

The Wooden-Topped Breakfast Bar.
Custom Built and Hand Painted Units.

Installing the Worktop.

Everything and the Kitchen Sink.

The Finished Kitchen - Finally!

OK, so we still need to finish off a few things, like the tiling on the back-splash. Oh yes and get some white goods and install the taps and ... well the list goes on. But, this kitchen has been a right pain in the proverbial and I for one am thankful that it is nearly all done!!

Add a Splash of Colour.

Finally, once all the complications and headaches had been put right again, we decided the wall at the rear made the whole of the pool area look grubby - it looked kind of grey and 'cementy' in contrast to the crisp white exterior walls of the house. So back with paintbrush in hand, we applied a new colour to freshen up the border. 

Much better! The bright blue walls enhance the neighbours beautiful pink shrubs too, don't you think?

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Jacuzzi that Grew into a Pool.

When we started this project, we always knew that we wanted to incorporate a small pool, or possibly a jacuzzi; after all, if La Casita is to be rented out to holiday makers, or as a long-term rental when it is completed, I am pretty certain that a warm, relaxing pool will be a welcomed bonus. Where to position the pool was easy and it really was the starting point of the terrace construction, as the lower ledge of the original terraced area was begging for a water feature; bathed in sunshine nearly all day long, it really was the ideal spot.

Just the right spot for a small pool!

So even though the jacuzzi was the first idea, it was to be the last project undertaken, as never having built a pool before we were not really sure where to start! We had already demolished the steps that led to the terrace area, as ultimately they would have led into the jacuzzi walls. The next task was to flatten the base area, which meant the stone steps in the allotted space had to be removed and the top layer of concrete had to be dug up and re-set. Then the walls had to be built, with yet more concrete and steel mesh. It is at this point that the small pool seemed to grow by a few feet, as the curved back wall had to be positioned differently than originally intended.  

Steel mesh on the base.
Steel rods to support the concrete blocks used
for building the walls.

The back wall was made much taller so as to allow some privacy between La Casita guests and ourselves. Whereas on the terraced area, a smaller wall was built-up, as it is more space-saving in comparison to a walk-in pool.

The pool walls.
The rear wall from our back garden viewpoint.

One of our pool quandaries was, only being about a metre deep, it really is a jacuzzi rather than a swimming pool, and in jacuzzi's there is always a seating area (which can also act as an access point). However, if a bench was built within the pool, around the base edges, it would leave less area for floating and relaxing. So, float and relax or lots of seating? Or perhaps both maybe? We opted for the compromise and built three stone 'stools', that could be used for seating or for a stepping stone to get into the pool.

Take a pew.

I know we had done away with the steps that originally led up to the terrace, but we suddenly thought of access: how would we clean the pool if there were people staying at La Casita? We could not really walk through the property with all the pool cleaning equipment, could we? So new steps had to built, and in a better position so as to be less intrusive into our garden. Pumps, filters, lights, all of that stuff had to be taken into account and positioned correctly too, and the new metal staircase allowed for a new cupboard to be built underneath to house the pump. 

Next on the list, how to finish the pool? Small ceramic tiles all over would be the ideal, but unfortunately, as in the UK and I suspect most other countries, these are expensive. Instead, we opted for ceramics on the seating and around the edge of the pool. For the rest, we blasted with a kind of concrete-paint mix, white with flecks of blue.

First coat of the special pool paint.

More fiddling around with lights and stuff (yawn yawn) making sure it is watertight and so on before the moment we were all waiting for ... putting the water in. Of course, nothing ever goes to plan, and once the water was in, we found leaks in various different places. I think the making right on the pool took at least 2 weeks; something was fixed then another problem appeared, that was sorted and then another issue popped up and so on. 

The water is in!

After a a week of constant filtering and cleaning the water, the pool was almost ready. Time to test it out. All four of us jumped in to the new pool and it was absolutely gorgeous; cool and refreshing, lovely. But, new leaks appeared in new places! DH and ES clambered out of the pool and the leaking pipe stopped dripping; they got back in and it started seeping all over again. Arrghhh, so frustrating. What use was a pool that would only allow 2 people in it before losing water? 

Back to the drawing board and another few days waiting for the technicians to sort out and play the blame game with the builders. 


Thursday, 23 January 2014

A quick update for January.

 A whole load of ceramic tiles and two toilets later, the bathroom is pretty much finished. Why two toilets? The first one had been manufactured incorrectly and appeared to be leaking. The smell it gave off was disgusting to say the least. Trying to get the faulty product replaced was a difficult task in itself, but after a great deal of sweet-talking by DH, a new and fully functioning toilet has now been put in place.

The shower door has now been installed too, although it was a struggle to get it to fit properly. 

Just needs the shower door and a good clean-up.

Although DH has spent two or three weekends on the interior doors, he is not happy with the end result. The doors are just too ... well just not right. So he may well take them down, strip them back to bare wood and start all over again. 

The kitchen, is still waiting for its cabinetry and worktops, and has been since before Christmas (see my earlier post). It looks sad and lonely with only a base for the breakfast bar in it, but hopefully it won't be too long before the new carpenter has built all the required kitchen furniture; DH is in fact painting the units that are ready as I type.

Tiled, painted and ready for some units.
Not bad considering it really was an empty shell three months ago.