Close
Follow all our news on Facebook!

Anyone have experience or opinions on prefab construction of homes?

We are looking to build a home for under $30k. We are finding that to build anything of decent size for that price it pretty much limits us to prefab deals.

So far we have looked at Concrepal and MaderasKodiak.

Concrepal is very Tico in the sense that :
- they have thin walls
- the plans they have are designed with very small bedrooms (though you can use your own plan to some extent or adjust theirs)
- design is basic, nothing fancy
- few windows and not big windows

Maderas Kodiak have some more American style designs but their plans also tend to have:
- small bedrooms (10 feet by 9 feet or so)
- not enough windows nor big windows (though they DO have some designs with big windows)

Can anyone tell me why it is Tico homes tend to have few windows and no screens? Is it that glass costs more than walls? or what? And why no screens? Screens help alleviate the "pizza oven" effect that concrete homes tend to have. But from what I have seen if the area above the ceiling is well insulated and you have windows with screens with cross ventilation and ceiling fans, that can be alleviated.

Of the two prefab companies we are leaning towards Maderas Kodiak because the wood looks nicer. (It's a compressed wood from  the USA called micropro and meets EPA standards etc and guaranteed not to be eaten etc though I haven't looked at the exact wording of the guarantee yet.)

So just wondering if anyone here has known of these companies and what your knowledge/opinion is of these companies (or other relatively low-cost pre-fab construction companies)...

I was looking at SIP panels but I found them to be much more expensive than I thought and we didn't like the builder we were about ready to hire, so we gave up on SIP panels. The builder gave us a design for a 32 sq mt "cracker box" for $36k! That's $1125 a sq mt!

By contrast, pre-fab runs around $650 sq mt. and sometimes includes pretty much EVERYthing plus can be built in less than 2 months if it's not too big or complex.

This is a Canadian contractor who builds Eco homes with mgo sip panels.
I'm not sure what you can get for $30,000
Eco homes with everything, including a super North American septic system could come in at about $80. per square foot.  The standard cement Tico homes with metal roofs are like pizza ovens, and could cost a fortune to keep cool.
http://casasenescazu.com/diary-of-home-2/

Having window screens tends to make cleaning windows, much more difficult....as do security bars, so having both, makes a long job take even longer.  :unsure

Once again I will post my opinion of building cheap...you get what you pay for.

Hello samramon,

You may also refer to the directory under the housing & building contractors in Costa Rica and check if you find anything interesting.

Hope it helps  :)

Bhavna

Edward1958 :

This is a Canadian contractor who builds Eco homes with mgo sip panels.
I'm not sure what you can get for $30,000
Eco homes with everything, including a super North American septic system could come in at about $80. per square foot.  The standard cement Tico homes with metal roofs are like pizza ovens, and could cost a fortune to keep cool.
http://casasenescazu.com/diary-of-home-2/

LOL. That's the one that was going to charge me $36k for 32sq mt or $105/sq ft.
Maybe you got a better offer than I did from him.

Anyway, like I said (was it this thread or another thread?), cement doesn't have to be like a pizza oven if it has ventilation and insulation. I have lived in and visited cement houses that were not hot at all.

Bhavna :

Hello samramon,

You may also refer to the directory under the housing & building contractors in Costa Rica and check if you find anything interesting.

Hope it helps  :)

Bhavna

Thanks for that. But what I'm really looking for are testimonials from personal experience with builders and materials and/or prefab packages.

kohlerias :

Having window screens tends to make cleaning windows, much more difficult....as do security bars, so having both, makes a long job take even longer.  :unsure

Once again I will post my opinion of building cheap...you get what you pay for.

Good theory but I've seen plenty with no security bars but still no screens and still small windows.
???

As to building cheap/you get what you pay for, I'm sure that's true to a large extent but not entirely 100% true in every case.

For one thing there are builders charging $640 sq/mt and some cheaper that I would bet are just as good.

But the main thing is, not everyone can afford to build "the best" and sometimes one has to compromise.

https://answers.yahoo.com/question/inde … 222AANIkgC

samramon;
The one thing that you will not get from the previous respondent is a first hand testimonial.  All you get is links to another's blog or post and that must be fact ....... right?

Larry and Cindy Smith have indicated that they love their new mgo sip panel eco home.
http://casasenescazu.com/diary-of-home-2/

Hi, I didn't start this thread for yet another round of bickering between you guys, Try to keep that to a minimum please.

Edward, I know concrete holds heat, LOL.
I would not say that it is the coolest method of building, only that it has some advantages in terms of being solid, keeping out noise, etc.

Again, I have seen that while concrete is generally hot, it can be cool if insulated well above the ceiling, have adequate windows and ventilation, and something put on top of the roof besides metal.

As to SIP panels, please take that to another thread, I've ruled out SIP panels because they're too expensive, especially at the $105/sq ft price I was offered by casa escazu. Okay if you can afford it but we don't want to live in a 32 sq mt crackerbox for $36k. Prefab is about $60/sq ft. so we can build a 42sq mt/452 sq ft  house for $60/ sq ft.

The question of course is, IS it worth building a prefab house at these prices?

Many Ticos say yes. And my American friend says he knows some Americans who have built with concrepal and been happy with it as well.

Another "gringo" friend of mine looked at the MaderasKodiak model home in Alajuela and said he liked what he saw and what he was told and is thinking about building one. (this is compressed wood of this type:
koppersperformancechemicals.com/micropro/micropro-faq.html (dropdown menu under "MicroPro" shows the various qualities and benefits. This is not a sales site, it's just an info site re various types of compressed wood.)

I am not pushing this, only providing info. I am not sure yet if I will build with MicroPro wood or not.

What I'm really looking for in this thread is info re prefab construction reviews or under $80/sq ft construction reviews. If you know anyone who is building with SIPS for under $80 sq ft then I am interested. Maybe even concrete at that higher price (not prefab) if it is substantially better quality than prefab.

We paid $87.50 per square foot for a Sip/mgo construction, but that included everything, legal fees, permits, and a three compartment septic system.  We could have got a concrete home for much less, but the raised floor is actually even better on the legs.  Have a great day.

Hi you might try Superbloque. We used them in building our Casita 6 years ago.
They have some basic designs and of course you can design your own. Their block is thinner and longer than regular concrete block construction.
Good luck
Junglemama

Oh Boy! You seemed to have a BIG hangup about the size of a bedroom. Basically, a bedroom is a place to sleep so therefore Tico homes are designed for a functional use rather than to boost the egos of the owners. Building an American size house is simply trying to show your wealth and perceived status. I say "perceived" because you will learn that you have a very low status in this country. You are, after all, an outsider with too much money to be liked. Your ideas about ventilation imply that you want to live at the low elevations (sea level or a bit above). Living at a higher elevation (above 3200 feet) eliminates the need for air conditioning and putting up with high humidity. I would also like to say that building a "New" home is more expensive than buying an existing home, unless you buy a home from an ex-patriot which will cost you more than you ever expected to pay for a substandard house! My advice: Buy an existing Tico house, remodel it to your likes,.Also, you must remember that there are two prices in this country. One price, the more real price, is the Tico price. The other price, especially for a house, is the Gringo price. Unless you already live here you are in for several shocks when you do come here. The first shock is "Culture" and the second is getting around the Gringo prices. Keep your $36K and rent for a year or so until you can properly educate yourself about this country. I could go on for many more paragraphs, but you probably don't believe me so far anyway so telling you what is really going on here will only add to your dismissing my ideas and suggestions. I do wish you good luck in your pursuit of life and your dream of building a prefab house here for $36K! We all have hopes and dreams and I have found mine here, so I wish for others to find their own.

Wow, del, you are the king of assumptions; and false ones!
I assume you mean well so thank you for your feedback!

But let me respond please:

del12k :

Oh Boy! You seemed to have a BIG hangup about the size of a bedroom. Basically, a bedroom is a place to sleep so therefore Tico homes are designed for a functional use rather than to boost the egos of the owners. Building an American size house is simply trying to show your wealth and perceived status.

I have no "hang up" about bedroom size. I simply prefer to have one big enough to comfortably move around in. If you like a small bedroom (is that your "hangup"?), fine. I prefer a bigger one; not a huge one, mind you; just bigger than 9 x 10 feet.

del12k :

I say "perceived" because you will learn that you have a very low status in this country. You are, after all, an outsider with too much money to be liked.

Now you're really off - base! "Too much money"? The reason I am posting this thread is because I have barely enough money to move to  Costa Rica and build a livable home on property I already own because I scimped and save to buy it.

del12k :

Your ideas about ventilation imply that you want to live at the low elevations (sea level or a bit above). Living at a higher elevation (above 3200 feet) eliminates the need for air conditioning and putting up with high humidity.

Again you have made a false assumption. My property is at 2850 feet. Ventilation is an issue no matter where you live in Costa Rica! I don't need a.c. and don't want it.

del12k :

I would also like to say that building a "New" home is more expensive than buying an existing home, unless you buy a home from an ex-patriot which will cost you more than you ever expected to pay for a substandard house! My advice: Buy an existing Tico house, remodel it to your likes,.

Again, wrong assumption. I need to build a home on a lot I already bought years ago.

del12k :

Also, you must remember that there are two prices in this country. One price, the more real price, is the Tico price. The other price, especially for a house, is the Gringo price. Unless you already live here you are in for several shocks when you do come here. The first shock is "Culture" and the second is getting around the Gringo prices. Keep your $36K and rent for a year or so until you can properly educate yourself about this country. I could go on for many more paragraphs, but you probably don't believe me so far anyway so telling you what is really going on here will only add to your dismissing my ideas and suggestions. I do wish you good luck in your pursuit of life and your dream of building a prefab house here for $36K! We all have hopes and dreams and I have found mine here, so I wish for others to find their own.

Again, wrong assumption. Been visiting  Costa Rica for 20 years. Lived there for about a year and 6 months. Have traveled all over and lived in 4 different parts of the country.

I appreciate your intention of helping me; just wish you wouldn't make wild assumptions that paint me and my situation completely different than it is.

Welcome to the forum! Sounds like you have a lot of experience in Costa Rica...

Encantada Guest House :

Hi you might try Superbloque. We used them in building our Casita 6 years ago.
They have some basic designs and of course you can design your own. Their block is thinner and longer than regular concrete block construction.
Good luck
Junglemama

Thank you much! Found it on google and sent for some info! Appreciate the feedback!

You are correct. I had to make many assumptions because you failed to explain yourself. When you ask a question, be prepared for an answer that matches the level of your question. Don't get angry with me because you don't explain yourself. Did you say that you owned property here? Did you explain that you were familiar with Costa Rica? I gave you answers to your questions. Good luck to you, you will need it here!

del12k :

You are correct. I had to make many assumptions because you failed to explain yourself. When you ask a question, be prepared for an answer that matches the level of your question. Don't get angry with me because you don't explain yourself. Did you say that you owned property here? Did you explain that you were familiar with Costa Rica? I gave you answers to your questions. Good luck to you, you will need it here!

Sorry if I got angry but for a new member to come in with a lot of attitude and assumptions of a negative sort is rather off-putting.

If you aren't sure what someone's experience or status is you can always ask first rather than jump in with wild assumptions.
Therefore your answers to my questions were pretty useless. There was certainly no indication, from my original post, that I needed to educate myself about Costa Rica. I would think that a person mentioning 2 Costa Rican companies that build mostly Tico homes probably had an idea about Costa Rica. If there was any doubt you could have also looked at my profile or previous posts. See that little icon of a tucan on the left that shows I have 377 posts?  Just saying...

Whatever. Thanks for your feedback and I'm happy to start over now that we've got that sorted.

Hello del12k - Who are you talking to?  Your post does not indicate who your comment is directed to.

Hi Del,  I just read your "Oh boy" post, you are right on and your truthful and factual information is appreciated.

Hello samramon in San Rafael de Heredia there is a gringo that paid to build a pre-fab,after all the $$ he spent he wishes he'd build  that house out off cinder block.Best wishes

tiowi :

Hello samramon in San Rafael de Heredia there is a gringo that paid to build a pre-fab,after all the $$ he spent he wishes he'd build  that house out off cinder block.Best wishes

Hi and thanks for the feedback.
I'd love to know who he is (pm me an email or info?) and/or at least what company he used to build with and when he built.

This is because I think they've gotten a lot better over the years, and of course one company does not represent all companies.
Also, do you know WHY he wished he had built with blocks instead of with pre-fab concrete walls? This is perhaps the most important info I would like to have as I could then use the info and ask the prefab co. I might build with about this issue and see if it's been improved or eliminated.

I do not think you can build anything worth the trouble of living in it for $30k, but when you see people living under a carton in NY, LA or here, then probably $30k will do for some. Have you considered houses made from containers? check them out on the internet, Then consider the price of land. The cheapest land I have found has been for $10 a square meter but you have to buy a hectare or more. If you plan to get a 500 sq meter lot or smaller be prepare to pay 100 to $170 per square meter. and that is around where I live. I do not know prices on other places.

MauroN :

I do not think you can build anything worth the trouble of living in it for $30k, but when you see people living under a carton in NY, LA or here, then probably $30k will do for some. Have you considered houses made from containers? check them out on the internet, Then consider the price of land. The cheapest land I have found has been for $10 a square meter but you have to buy a hectare or more. If you plan to get a 500 sq meter lot or smaller be prepare to pay 100 to $170 per square meter. and that is around where I live. I do not know prices on other places.

MauroN, I do appreciate your opinion.
But is it just opinion or is it based on knowledge of Concrepal or MaderasKodiak or ??
If you could give some info as to what your opinion is based on, it would give me more confidence in what you are saying and more to base my decision on.

As to land, that is not an issue. I have it already. There are more 1.5-2 acre lots at the same location - ocean view land (distant views of Gulf from San Ramon) at $7.50 a square meter. Titled with electricity and water available.  I'd be happy to sell you some.  ;)

Hi. I do not know anything about Concrepal or similar business, but my comment took into consideration the purchasing of the land as well. But without the land you could built a 100 sq mt place for 30k, yes. Not big but good enough, I guess. I have been offered land for around $7/sq mt between Palmares and Atenas but I would have to drive 2 kms on dirt road. No dirt road for me, though. And yes, I´d like to see the 1 acre lots, which is 4046.856 sq mts. you mention That´s what I said, land goes cheaper when you buy an acre or more. Where is your land, is it on a paved road?, when can I see it?
. The business in San ramon selling prefab houses offered me some lots also, near San Ramon, on the way to Punta Arenas but it is too far from my kids´s school.

Moderated by kenjee last year
Reason : For security reasons please do not give over phone numbers on the forum

Hello everyone, I own a property of 3 hectares about 4 km from San Ramon downtown, paved road, nice views, etc.  we have already subdivided the land into 5 parcels of 1.25 acres average each one, and two lots facing the public street,  I am planning to build a cabins project to rent for expats, long term (3, 6, months)  they are going to be about 2 cabins per lot, that is why I am following this forum, it is very interested to see all the options that you can get in construction, I personally would like high ceilings and a rustic touch, the builder we already start talking with, says building  with Concrepal, will be the fastest and cheapest way to build. but... we are going to raise the walls with wood, and the ceiling with wood also underneath, the price will be around  $ 580 per Sq. meter. if there are any opinions or suggestions will be highly appreciated. ,

Building with wood will mean expensive and consistent maintenance. Especially in the San Ramon area where it does get a lot of rain and low lying fog, meaning humidity is high.

del12k - "Oh Boy! You seemed to have a BIG hangup about the size of a bedroom. Basically, a bedroom is a place to sleep so therefore Tico homes are designed for a functional use rather than to boost the egos of the owners. Building an American size house is simply trying to show your wealth and perceived status. I say "perceived" because you will learn that you have a very low status in this country. You are, after all, an outsider with too much money to be liked."

Boy indeed. Jump right in with the negativity del12k. Talk about "hang-ups". Personally, not being native Tico (lived here for 15 years), I don't like closed bedrooms at all. It helps to live by yourself of course, but I want open plan, completely. divisions with low panels, plants, and furniture. Let the light fill the place from end to end, that's what I came here for. "Trying to show your wealth and perceived status"?? No sir. There's something approaching shame in this idea of a little room to sleep in, another tiny room for bodily functions, I suppose a tiny shower too. Certainly generations of tradition.
Try interior landscaping. I built a shower-temple that gives me a glorious view all over the valley and is still private.
I found this string when I Googled "Glass panels in pre-fab construction". I want my next house to be an aquarium. I will have distant views on 3 sides and I want to enjoy that rain or shine. A long-time expat friend who has built 4 houses for me told me that the cheapest way to cover a given wall area is . . . glass!
So any input on a glass-prefab combination would be appreciated. I'm talking larges glass panels, with maybe one concrete baldosa at floor level.

I realized just now I never updated this thread.
We did build with SIP panels after all but bought directly from Panacor who have been doing business in Costa Rica for many years, and we hired a Tico to put it together for us and supervise all the other work - plumbing, electrical, and so on.

Though we hired a Tico everything was done to American standards.

As for SIPs we have been in this house for a year now and we love it. It's not too hot when it's hot outside. I've been in cooler houses but also been in much hotter ones so I'd say these particular sips and our particular design lands us somewhere in the middle.

We plan to use Panacor SIPs again when we supervise another house. Panacor was very good. However Panacor's plans do not call for a very strong structure so we added steel beams to the corners and other points around the house. Steel is pretty inexpensive right now and I highly recommend you use it with any SIP panels you use. If you need info on how to do that contact me via pm here.

By using SIPS we did build our house for a much lower price and much quicker than concrete or any other type of construction we investigated. They are strong and we've had no mold problems and there are no termite problems with SIPs.

We talked to Maderas Kodiak and we found them to be overly high and were also not totally convinced their wood would be non-toxic since it's treated to resist termites, and that it would not impart chemicals to the air. We have no evidence that it would, but we also were not convinced that it would not. But also their price for the same size house we built - actually smaller - was more expensive.

Concrepal also was more expensive than the Panacor Sips built by a local and I do know someone who built a Concrepal house that is very hot. Are they all hot? I cannot say.

Toucanoman :

del12k - "Oh Boy! You seemed to have a BIG hangup about the size of a bedroom. Basically, a bedroom is a place to sleep so therefore Tico homes are designed for a functional use rather than to boost the egos of the owners. Building an American size house is simply trying to show your wealth and perceived status. I say "perceived" because you will learn that you have a very low status in this country. You are, after all, an outsider with too much money to be liked."

Boy indeed. Jump right in with the negativity del12k. Talk about "hang-ups". Personally, not being native Tico (lived here for 15 years), I don't like closed bedrooms at all. It helps to live by yourself of course, but I want open plan, completely. divisions with low panels, plants, and furniture. Let the light fill the place from end to end, that's what I came here for. "Trying to show your wealth and perceived status"?? No sir. There's something approaching shame in this idea of a little room to sleep in, another tiny room for bodily functions, I suppose a tiny shower too. Certainly generations of tradition.
Try interior landscaping. I built a shower-temple that gives me a glorious view all over the valley and is still private.
I found this string when I Googled "Glass panels in pre-fab construction". I want my next house to be an aquarium. I will have distant views on 3 sides and I want to enjoy that rain or shine. A long-time expat friend who has built 4 houses for me told me that the cheapest way to cover a given wall area is . . . glass!
So any input on a glass-prefab combination would be appreciated. I'm talking larges glass panels, with maybe one concrete baldosa at floor level.

Thanks for backing up my own comments re that poster.

I don't know anything about constructing with glass, unfortunately but it sounds nice if you can make it work.

My concerns would be if it would hold up against strong winds and rains with strong winds, and I assume you'd have curtains to completely cover each wall when necessary or else you might end up feeling like you're in a dry sauna - or perhaps a steam room.

But as I said if you can resolve any such issues it sounds like a great idea!

Years ago, here in CR, a Tica friend and her American husband purchased some land outside of Cartago and built a beautiful octagonal shaped home, with glass as the exterior walls. All was fine until the rainy season when the humidity made everything damp with water dripping from the ceiling. So, if you intend to build in a drier part of the country rather than in a humid area, it can work.

Our own home had a wall of windows on one side but had a 6 foot overhang to protect it from rain.

kohlerias :

Years ago, here in CR, a Tica friend and her American husband purchased some land outside of Cartago and built a beautiful octagonal shaped home, with glass as the exterior walls. All was fine until the rainy season when the humidity made everything damp with water dripping from the ceiling. So, if you intend to build in a drier part of the country rather than in a humid area, it can work.

Our own home had a wall of windows on one side but had a 6 foot overhang to protect it from rain.

Good point. And even with a 6 foot overhang, doesn't the rain come in horizontally at times? It does here, but did not cause a problem, thank goodness!

Samramon - "My concerns would be if it would hold up against strong winds and rains with strong winds, and I assume you'd have curtains to completely cover each wall when necessary or else you might end up feeling like you're in a dry sauna - or perhaps a steam room.

But as I said if you can resolve any such issues it sounds like a great idea!"

I live up in Bijagua de Upala and am looking at a high mountaintop lot with no neighbors in sight. So curtains are a low priority. Maybe some sliding shoji panels using white polybicarbonite on a light grid. I've done that. And of course strategic planting. One fear I have is that birds fly into glass and it's a birdy area. That's a head-scratcher. I will plan on considerable roof overhang. The wind is something I will have to look at, it can be gusty.

To better understand my aquarium fetish, I've Googled Philip Johnson house, if you don't know it already. He's the master, I have no illusions about my modest attempt here. Appreciate the feedback!
https://goo.gl/images/VwfkL0

My note re curtains was not re neighbors but rather about the sun turning your glass house into a green house or sauna.
Then, as you point out, it would depend on the wind. We have no windows on the back of our house (except a small celosia) because of the windy season. I have heard of windows being knocked out or broken from the wind in some windy areas. Maybe some types of glass are more resistant...?

This tech has advanced quite a bit  in recent years and l am now considering the sip system you speak of, it looks fine. Will you please advise me tho what m2 house you got and the approx price. I appreciate the help.

Well in my opinion sips are the way to go.
I sent you a pm with some info.

Hello Samramon,
                                 I found this forum looking for information on Panacor wall panels. My wife and I are starting the process of building home on our land in Dominical area. Panacor was suggested to us for the construction material by a local contractor. My question for you is did you use Panel I or Panel 3D from Panacor? And why did you choose the panel type you did?

Thanks

We used Panel 1. We used it because it seemed the most like the SIP panels I had seen reports on, and was affordable.  I sent you a PM.

New topic

Expatriate health insurance in Costa Rica

Free advice and quotation service to choose an expat health insurance in Costa Rica

Moving to Costa Rica

Find tips from professionals about moving to Costa Rica

Travel insurance in Costa Rica

Enjoy stress-free travel to Costa Rica

Flights to Costa Rica

Find the best prices for your flight tickets to Costa Rica