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North American Construction Standards in Costa Rica

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North American Construction Standards in Costa Rica.


Many people ask; "What are North American Standards?"


These are the standard building materials and installation methods that the majority of the people from the USA and Canada are accustomed to growing up with.


If you have not spent much time in Latin America, you may not initially notice the lack of amenities that you have taken for granted your whole life.


Many times it isn't until after a foreigner has purchased a residence in Costa Rica, and had the time to live in it for a while, that they realize the amenities they are missing.


Down here, there is much less attention paid to finish details by the local contractors and architects. The average Latino feels that many of the following amenities we include in our homes are extravagant and unnecessary.


• Hot Water from all Faucets

• Vented Plumbing

• Drains with Traps and Clean Outs

• Sufficient Electrical Outlets

• Screens on Windows that Open

• Shower Sprays located above our Heads

• Garbage Disposals

• 8' Minimum Ceiling Height

• Interior Doors that are High Enough for Adults

• Countertops that are Large Enough to Work On

• Cabinets Finished Inside with Sufficient Storage

• Ample Closets with Cleanable Surfaces

• Insulation in Walls, Ceilings and Attics

• Contiguous Roofing, Facias & Soffits that Prevent Rodent Intrusion



Most local contractors and architects, have no intention of following up with their clients after they think the job has been completed. They did not grow up with guaranteed products or work and the above amenities that you take for granted, are not things they are accustomed to having or installing. They do not like detailed inspection services performed by foreigners, because if defects and missing building components are revealed, the client will expect them to perform more work to complete the construction to higher standards.


So most of the local contractors and attorneys will recommend that you to use one of their local friends or family, who can perform the Latino version of an inspection, supposedly on your behalf.


The Costa Ricans are very compassionate and extremely loyal to their families. Here everybody is related to just about everyone through various parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. Once you can speak Spanish, you will begin to listen to the conversations of your local Latino friends and understand their culture and how they support each connected family member. It's an admirable trait, except when you're the one with the short end of the stick.


For instance; when local attorney Juan, has a foreign client who needs architectural work, he recommends his Cousin Jose. Even though architect Jose just got out of college, according to Juan, he's the best in the country. Their web of relatives goes on and on, but the foreign client who does not understand the local culture, because they cannot speak or understand Spanish, usually takes the attorney's recommendation and hires architect Jose, who proceeds to spend many months more than anticipated to complete the work that could have been completed by an experienced professional in half the time and for less money.


It is wise to seek experienced professionals for any project you are considering in Costa Rica. A smart investor looks for someone they can communicate with in their native language and preferable a person who was raised in North America and has construction experience. A professional with these skills will understand the type and quality of construction you are accustomed to and expect.


The couple written about in this article are retired Americans who speak Spanish and the wife was born Costa Rican.

Edited by TicoGrande
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