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.