It would be a lie if we told you that building a house does not involve lots of time and money.

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It would be untrue as well; if we told you that you are not going to sacrifice great part of your family life in order to supervise the construction progress.

What we can assure you of is, that once your dream home is finished, all those memories about the problems and hassles will disappear as if by magic, and you will enjoy a unique and exclusive home for your family.

If you are about to start your project, and have absolutely no idea of how and where to begin with, please read the following tips carefully, as they will help you to define the first steps to be taken.

We assume that you already have the property and the financing in place. What follows are tips from various architects who are experienced in these kinds of projects.

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The beginning: the first step may seem simple, but it is one of the most tenuous: Defining the cost estimate.

As pointed out by Mr. Rodrigo Bermuez Hidalgo in his book “Construya su casa” (Building your home), at this stage it is vital to “get down to earth”, trying to match dreams with reality. The guidance of a professional is crucial.

Who can help you? The architect Mr. Adrian Jiron recommends a consultant, who either can be a civil engineer or an architect. If you’d like to have a promising future with your project, it is fundamental that the owner be realistic as to the amount available for the building, so that the consultant can adjust accordingly.

The choosing of this professional has to be carefully considered, comments architect Ms. Vicky Adis. She also recommends contacting and interviewing more than one candidate. “The services they offer have to be adjusted to your financial means, insuring complete transparency about fees, extra costs, and the experience,” she adds.

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This will give you the confidence in knowing you have chosen wisely and can help assure a trouble-free project.

The consultant then will have a draft of the project, with which he/she already can determine the various steps to be taken to legalize it, such as preliminary studies, regulatory plans of the municipality, allowable use of the property, health permits, and the contracting of basic services (power, water, etc.).

The building phase:

Both Ms. Adis and Mr. Jiron approved the next step: the elaboration of the four different building plans. These are: architectonical, mechanical, constructive and electrical. “The professionals in charge of each segment will then have their responsibilities clearly defined, which is controlled regularly by the main architect or engineer, once the foundations are laid and the first walls go up.”

Once the specific plans are ready, they go to the different instances for their approval and associated permit. The detailed plans also give the client a better overview of the total costs, thus enabling him to contract a foreman, or a construction company, in charge of finishing the phase of “raw building” or gray stage.

In the gray stage the foundations are laid out, walls raised, floors and ceilings set in place and the sanitary and electric installations set in place.

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Once this step is concluded, the most difficult part begins: the finishes. According to Ms. Adis, this is a very delicate stage, where the true professionals are needed for their completion. Mr. Jiron adds that this is the most costly phase, where precision and experience are of utmost importance.

The mentioned architects recommend visiting the building site regularly, checking that the correct details are executed according to wishes and plans. Watch out for flaws in floors, ceilings, windows and doors, and eventual built in furniture, since these are going to be seen throughout the life of the house.

This step can be a real headache if the client does not watch carefully the finishing of surfaces and installations.

Arm yourself with patience… the home is not finished until you and your family move in, and that every element is functioning to perfection.

The first look:

  • Define, together with your consultant, what is what you are planning to build. Aside from the estimate, it is important to know where the building is to be erected.
  • The location of the property will also influence its design.
  • The client, together with the professional, has to evaluate the pros and cons of the location and its impact on the design.
  • The owner has to take into account variables and legal restrictions that could affect the house, such as minimum distances, access, views, and natural elements which he would like to have included or conserved.
  • The shape and inclination of the property could sometimes require a retaining wall.
  • Remember, that if the property is on a steep hill, this could increase considerably the final costs.


The CFIA, Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos (Federation of Engineers and Architects) abides by the rules and regulations set in the Civil Law of professional responsibility.

This law stipulates, that on a new house, the warranty term is five years.

If it is remodeling or add-ons, a warranty is extended for two years.

The chapter II of the Law of Professional Proceedings also regulates responsibilities.

If in doubt, please contact the department of professional responsibilities at the CFIA.

The best way to insure a hassle-free conclusion of your project, is to bring in these details in writing into the building contract.

The client’s responsibility is to contract only professionals who are registered members of the CFIA.

Source: Architect Vicky Adis

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Our thanks to Robert E. Lee and our friends at La Nación – Costa Rica’s largest Spanish circulation newspaper for their permission to use this article…

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