Building your home in Belize, the Good, Bad and yes Ugly that can and does happen.

          The journey is finally coming to an end, or so we thought ?

 

When I last posted we had moved into our new house on the beach here in Maya Beach, Belize. Many of the issues were resolved from our original “builder” / General Contractor,  including reversing the large folding doors to the outside deck. We had ordered the new large folding kitchen window from a better source than was previously done, and this time not only will it be the correct window, but also “Cat 5 rated”, like the original was supposed to be. However, it will be another two months they say, until that one arrives and is installed but at least we will finally have the correct window.

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Ac Unit looks pretty, is large, but not functional to todays standards or needs in hot climate.

There are some things that you cannot know is wrong with your house build in Belize, even if you are watching the builders install or build them, until of course, you move in and experience a problem. Our previous “general contractor” had ordered a large “Delta” air conditioning unit for the great room, and a smaller “Delta” for the bedroom. He had explained the larger one would be needed for the large room and high ceilings.

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Units under house that probably will need replacing also.

Well, we are moved in and hot weather upon us. Our living room couch is sitting where it was planned to be, directly under the force of ice cold air from the AC Unit in the living room. You may think that is terrific, but it really isn’t. The fact is the AC unit installed is the “bottom of the line” “El Cheepo” AC unit, that has only one function, blow cold air straight down on the couch. The better units have many functions, including moisture removal, and especially, directional controls, so you can adjust where the air is blown. It’s the same damn thing in the bedroom.

So here we go again, having our “actual builder / contractor” ordering and replacing the bran new AC Units, with ones that should have been installed.

Why did this happen you might ask ? Because the AC Units fell into the “allowances” category with the previous “general contractor”, and he choose the cheep units.

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Instant hot water gas system, “el cheepo”, not what was needed for our house.

So while I am on a roll, let me tell you about the propane system and especially the whole house “instant hot” water system. After moving in and finally having everything connected so we could actually test things out “real time”, we were excited to test our beautiful “outdoor shower” and “rain-shower head.”The only problem is the “instant hot water” system purchased by our original “general contractor”, is to small for out hot water system in our house, and in fact, is a relatively unknown brand. We are waiting about five minutes for hot water in the shower and kitchen sink, and then get about two minutes of hot water before it goes cold again.

When I asked my Builder / Contractor Nelson Montalvo about this problem, he informed me that the instant hot water system was provided by my “ex-general contractor”, and not the brand he is used to installing in his new homes.

Enough said, we are having the unit replaced with the correct one, that should have been installed in the first place.

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New garage walled in, tow wood custom doors, and our glass blocks for lighting at rear

So now let’s talk good things, and the work that’s being done by my Builder / Contractor Nelson. The garage is almost completed below the house and we are thrilled. Nelsons woodworkers build two beautiful doors and installed glass blocks to bring in light from off the sea.

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Showing glass block window and three foot dod wall.

His crew also finished building the three foot wall on the south side of the house and around seaside stairs, for security and dog’s area. All that’s left is installation of white Bayco line.

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The dogs side area as well as three foot wall on south border, awaiting Bayco fencing.

Once the shipping container arrives next week and we get it emptied, Nelson and his crew will proceed to finish the landscaping, add beautiful clean sand on our beach, and Marsha can start planting exotic plants and trees, to finish our building project.

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The beachfront entry, awaiting thatched roof.

It’s been a long road this past year and a half, especially when it was supposed to be completed back before the Christmas holiday 2017. I really don’t regret much of what we have done, other than making the major mistake of choosing my original “general contractor”, and not going with a local experienced Belizean Contractor, that had many years  building in Belize, and had his own building crew. I’m not alone in this experience, as many have started out with a U.S. or Canadian “general contractor”, thinking they had their own experienced crew to build their dream home. The fact is, they don’t, in fact, they farm out for bid to local Belizean builders, and seek the lowest bidder to build your home, and still charge you the higher amount they quoted you.

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New wood wall in front of whole whose generator for sound control and looks.

I actually know Expats on the Placencia Peninsula, who still think their homes were built by a “gringo builder” as they say here, and in fact, were built by my builder Nelson Montalvo.

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Seaside stairs and top gate.

So I leave you with this thought, when you start interviewing your builders. When they show you homes “they built”, ask to see their employees, their crew that built it. Ask to see their sign’s, “This home built by …..”, ask to see who’s names on all the heavy equipment used to build those houses.

Find out who is actually building your house, and hire them, and save 20-30 % at least on the cost of building, because the houses here are built by Belizean Builder / Contractors, and that’s a fact. The fact is, my actual builder was and is Nelson Montalvo here in Maya Beach, and not only did he go to school to become a builder / contractor, he continued his school to get a degree in Architecture also.

If only only known this two years ago.

 

Cheers all,

 

The Pirate….Gary

 

 

 

 

 

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Building our new home in Belize, the Good, Bad and Ugly that can and does happen.

Finally getting everything completed on the house, and already starting some “remodels/additions”.

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The pool and pool bar at ” The Placencia” just up the road from us.

After finally getting all power and water installed, plumbing finished up, and actually getting to move into the new house, everything is coming together. Also, addressing the folding kitchen window and mega folding glass door in living room which was a nightmare is getting fixed, thanks to us taking over as the “General Contractor”. Bennies window specialists cane and reversed big glass doors, and the new and correct 6 panel window for kitchen is ordered, and should be installed in a few weeks.

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“The Guys” after they corrected the original error in the big folding glass door”

So as we try to get past the old “issues”, we decided to start some “upgrades” to the house. We decided to continue the 8 foot wood fence to the house, and then switch to a 3 foot cement wall that would wrap around the back of the house and beachfront stairs.

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Needless to say, our Builder / Contractor Nelson Montalvo was excited to put a crew right on this for us. We love this guy and his crews, and the quality work they do.

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The three foot wall which will have the white plastic Bayco in those holes 😉

The 5 foot columns will have above the 3 foot wall, an additional 2 feet of the white plastic wire fencing as added security. The purpose of the wall is to contain an area for the dogs, where they can “visit” unattended.

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See how the fence transitions into the short wall. 

The other major new addition is a concrete garage below the house. We have learned just how harsh the salt air is on anything metal, and especially vehicles. As we just spent el mucho cash-a-mundo on a new truck, longevity can be increased if parked enclosed in a garage.

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Garage built in for Marsha’s new “baby”. There will be a gate to right to contain dogs.

Another fun part of the fencing which takes our “Pirate Theme” to the next level here at the Pirates Paradise, is our new metal gate in front. Martin Galvez, another excellent local Builder/Contractor had his metal fabricators design and build this awesome 16 foot gate.

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Arrrrrr ! Enter at your own risk !

Please keep an eye on my blogs because soon I will start blogging  “Builder / Contractor’s Spotlight Blogs”. I plan to do separate blogs on each of the four Belizean Builder/Contractors that I have found to be honest and quality builders. I will put my six years of research, as well as my personal experiences with all of them, along with references by owners, and photo’s of homes and resorts, that they and their employee’s actually built.

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One of the featured “Builder Spotlight'” Belizean Designer / Builders built many buildings and homes here at the new exciting It’zana Resort and Residences here on the Placencia Peninsula.

Finally, next week, our shipping container is due arriving in Belize City, and being transported to our new house. After everything is unloaded and our home is in its final finished faze, I will be doing my final blog, a kind of sad event, with a happy ending.

The fun part at that point, is I will be editing, and adding a “blog remodel” which will answer the many questions of how and why things changed at the end of our build. This won’t be in this blog format, but rather the my next published book, my third in fact about Belize.

It will be named, “Building your new home in Belize, the Good, Bad and yes, Ugly that can and will happen”, and how to avoid it.

What a surprise, right?  😉

Cheers,

The Pirate …Gary…and his wench…Marsha 🙂

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Building our new home in Belize, the Good, Bad and yes Ugly that happens.

Correcting major mistakes, wrapping things up, and additions already.

For many months now I have talked about the folding door to deck, and folding kitchen window to the deck and cook center. As you probably remember, they were both terribly wrong, both in specification as well as installation. Bottom line was, for months I said the big folding door was installed backwards, and could possibly be turned around, opening out to deck. Additionally, when they installed it, they didn’t leave keys, so it couldn’t be locked or unlocked from outside. Our biggest concern was “Hurricane Spec’s)” specify doors need to open outwards, not inwards, so they don’t blow in.

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 Notice door opens incorrectly inward.

The large folding kitchen window was just ordered wrong, and not to our architects specifications. It had three large panels instead of the six that was specified, and it opened inwards over sink, instead of outward over counter. Adding insult to injury, if you tried to open them, you would hit the faucet as well as overhead lights. Add to that, there was no locking system, inside or out, so anyone could open from outside and crawl in. Not at all acceptable in Belize.

These doors and windows were ordered and installed by a Guatemalan Company. Over many months when we asked our former General Contractor about getting them fixed / replaced, he told us the company wouldn’t respond to him. Finally he did tell us that he didn’t think they would be doing anything about either of them

 

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Installers from Benny’s in Belize City, removed and flipping folding door to re-install correctly.

So, fast forward a few weeks to present. Marsha and I decided to take over as our own “General Contractor”! We contacted Benny’s in Belize City, who sent their window guys down to see what was up with our door and window. They found that indeed, I was correct about the big folding door, and would schedule their installers to come down and flip and re-install correctly.

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Rick Castillo and crew, Pat & Tyron dismantled and rotated door swinging outward, correctly like it was supposed to be !

They examined the kitchen folding window, and determined that not only did it need to be replaced with a six-panel window, folding outward, but it was the incorrect configuration for the opening. The correct window should have a “low profile” bottom which would match exactly the inside and outside granite counters. The one ordered and installed was raised about 3-4 inches. They also noted that the window was not “Cat-5” Hurricane glass windows like specified in original plans. They also took a look at the large glass door between bathroom and outdoor shower, which has a 3 inch sill on bottom that can easily be tripped over. They told us that door was also ordered incorrectly, and should have been a flush bottom door. For now we will deal with it.

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Hard to see, but look closely, if those three large windows opened inward, they would take out lights above and faucet.

We have ordered the correct window from Benny’s, and paid for it, the second time for this window. Well, at least when it is installed it will be correct this time

We also took over all ordering, installation and payments for our wood countertops and cabinets, as well as all the inside and outside granite. As those are all in their finality of building and installation, I will hold off on pictures of those for the next issue of this blog. Stay tuned because they are beautiful beyond belief. I will tell you that all our granite is being designed and installed by A.L. Construction Limited here in Maya Beach. All our wood counters and cabinets is being created and installed by an excellent woodworker, Conrad Lewis in Hopkins, Belize. If you decide to build here on the Placencia Peninsula, you should take a look at what this artist does.

counter

A “little taste” of whats to come. This is the 17 foot, 18 inch wide counter Conrad made for me.

On a brighter note, our new Belizean Contractor’s have completed the final plumbing and electric inside the house, and we have “final approval” from our Bank Manager at Atlantic International Bank. There are still some minor things, like most of the light fixtures that will arrive in our ocean shipping container next week. Yipppppee!

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New “security wall” entrance for beachfront stairs.

Now for the additions, a new garage under the house, and a “security / dog area wall” on the side of the house.

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Garage under house almost completed. Just doors and windows left 😉

As we just purchased a brand new Izuzu D-Max truck a couple weeks ago, it quickly became obvious that parking it all night every night on the sea, would turn it into a “rust bucket” within a year or two. Therefore we decided to build a garage for the new baby. At the same time we decided to have our Belizean Contractor build a short wall along the side of the house and around the back staircase. This would allow the dogs free access to a major space and keep little Oliver from running to Alaska.

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Our “new baby” !

As you might remember the plan was to have a pier built off our beach for our new boat. After over a year our previous contractor was un-able to obtain a building permit for the pier, so we decided to use that money and have our new contractors build the garage and wall.

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Coming home to port, with my honey Marsha and “little Oliver”.

So you see. some things do work out quite well. Even when you think everything is going well, there’s usually something not. Being “on-site” during the building of your new home in Belize is like I always say, extremely important. I have been here the entire time, with the exception of three weeks over the past year and a half. And still things happened that I didn’t see until it was to late. Your choice of who oversee’s the building of your house is of the utmost importance, Ordering the correct major parts for your house is also extremely important, and seeing that they are installed correctly too. I will go into this more in the first chapter of my new book, which is based on this blog, publishing by end of 2018.

Until the next post, and pretty much finished interior, I leave you with one thought, it’s all about “no worries” here in Belize. At least at some point I hope.

Cheers,

 

The Pirate …..Gary

 

 

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Building our new house in Belize, the Saga Continues, Good, Bad and yes Ugly!

New Captains at the helm…

When I last posted, we were in a “stuck position”, with the entire shell and interior of the house basically completed. Of course, final work, like installation of lighting, ceiling fans, finished plumbing work was being held up by major issues. Notably, delays in the finished install of cabinets, which has held up the install of granite countertops, followed by plumbing, like sinks and faucets.

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 Sunrise from the Peterson Beach Home, who says sunsets are the best ?

Of course, the kitchen counters and granite were not the only issue in the kitchen, as you probably remember. The incorrect and non- functioning folding windows and doors that were ordered needed to be replaced by supplier from Guatemala. For well over two months, all I heard was “they won’t answer my calls”, they won’t reply to my emails”, and finally, “I don’t think they are going to replace them”!

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Ceiling Fans installed by Nelsons Electricians, but no power to test them yet

Enough is enough, and Marsha and I have taken control of tis situation by ordering the correct folding window for kitchen, and folding large doors for living room, from Benny’s here in Belize. Marsha has taken great pains to send them all the spec’s, including legal drawings created by our Architect Tracy, so they order and install the correct windows and doors. And these will actually have the ability to lock!

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Cabinets arriving and ready to be installed

I would highly suggest that if you plan to build your house in Belize, you personally take control of specialty orders, and if possible, get them ordered and installed by a reputable Belize company.

One good thing that gave us a ton of relief was the delivery of all our appliances, ready to install.

appli

Appliances arrive to be installed after cabinets are installed, and we have electric to house ?

The past few days things have started to get better and we see finality to our building project. In addition to taking control of the window/door issue, we also took total responsibility for all granite costs and install. Lucky for us our granite is coming from a supplier right down the road from us here in Maya Beach, A.L. Construction who are  personal friends of ours. In fact, we paid in full for all the interior and exterior granite, and they bumped the installation ahead of those with only deposits.

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Granite counters arriving for install in kitchen.

Issues with payments to our cabinet maker / woodworker Conrad Lewis in Hopkins, Belize, were eliminated when we arranged to take over payments for that too, and he has already installed all kitchen cabinets.

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Cabinets installed and ready for granite install.

On another note, you probably remember our large mounds of “lagoon sand” that was finally spread over the property. Well, regretfully the guy who was not our regular bobcat guy working for Nelson Montalvo, mixed the beautiful beach sand that was set aside, to be placed on top of the lagoon sand on our beach. The result is hard packed, full of debris, crappy beach sand. Definitely not happy with this.

But, there’s always a silver lining if you know where to look. We had a meeting with our builder Nelson Montalvo the other day, and went over our list of everything that needs to be completed or repaired. Nelson will be having his bobcat “expert” come back and fix what was done, moving some good sand to the beach after scraping off the bad. If needed we will also have him bring in some clean river sand.

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Whole House Gas Generator installed.

Our electrical stuff is all installed now, and Freddie our electrician / plumber that works for Nelson, even installed our Generac “whole house” generator, with oversight by the local Generac dealer, Belmopan Aggregates and Hardware. This system will kick on so fast in an outage that we won’t even notice lights flickering!

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After a year and all electric installed, the power finally run to house.

Surprise! As I am writing I realize there’s a strange motor outside, and it didn’t sound like a vehicle. I head out to the porch of the cabana, and low and behold, the generator is on ! It ran for ten minutes and shut off, obviously an automatic self test. Sweet!

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The first set of palm trees installed.

I will close with a shot of our first group of Palm trees delivered and planted. Things are really starting to come together, finally, despite the “bad and ugly”.

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Palm trees being delivered, who says size doesn’t matter ?

We were very lucky to have Nelson Montalvo and all his guys and equipment on our house build from day one. They are excellent at what they do, and with his constant attention, and working hand in hand with the cabinet and granite guys, we should be in our new home in a week or so.

And this time, I will say with confidence, that week or so will occur this month.

Cheers all,

The Pirate….Gary

 

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Building Our New Home in, the Good, Bad and yes, Horrid that can and will happen.

A new “deadline” in set for “move in day”, at end of January 2018…Place your bets !

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A side vie of house taken by our neighbor and friend, Jessica, notice beach sand spread !

When we last “spoke” there were more delays, doors and windows were installed that were incorrect, and virtually we were at a stand still on our build. During the holidays my crew was shut down for two weeks for the holidays by my builder Kevin Brodsky. I totally agree that everyone should have the opportunity to take time off with family and friends during the Christmas Holiday, and include over New Years for some.

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During the holidays we started getting visits by a local celebrity 😉

 

The crew on my job site since day one, and the ones who have build our house, work for a local private Belize contractor, who is working on many projects. I found out after the shut down, that my guys here actually choose to work through the two week holiday on another job site. I say this to bring into light the work ethic of local Belizean builders and their crews. These construction workers work hard, long hours, on my job site, they work ten days on and four off. They and their families are used to being apart for long periods of time, because these guys live to provide for their families. Sure, there are Belize holidays that they do take off, but usually no more than a couple days.

We obviously are “Not in Kansas Anymore”!

 

So after the “holiday shutdown”, my guys were back to work on my building site, and taking over where they left off. One of the first things needing to be done, was to continue spreading the “lagoon sand” piles left on our property, spreading over our beach.

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Oh boy ! Our specialty ceiling fans being delivered !

As we found out that finally our special weatherproof ceiling fans from Minka that had arrived a month earlier in Belize City, would be delivered and installed this week. Our electrician Freddie was due to the house to finish installing switches, and the fans. He also was going to finish and prepare for the company in Belmopan that we purchased our “Whole House” generator, to install it.

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Freddie our electrician installed the new “moisture guard” Minka ceiling fans.

One interesting fact at this point, is that although we have had all utilities to the  pedestal and Cabana the underground lines had never been run to the house, which was completely wired already.We were now at the point that this needed to get done to finish installs and testings.

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Freddie also installed the pendant lights in front of kitchen windows. Another reason windows are wrong, and need to be replaced, we can’t open windows, because they would break the lights 😉

And then there were utility trenches.

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Trench to run electric cable…whenever it finally arrives ?

Freddie the electrician and his helper spent two days installing fans, running the water lines, and other fun stuff.

And then there was a major excitement day for me…my crew started building my barbecue center on the deck.

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Outdoor barbecue center is coming along fine, awaiting arrival of my two smokers, grill and “adult beverage refrigerator” 😉

The weekend is here, and the heavy electric cable that was supposed to be delivered last week to hook up electric from pedestal to house, on a Benny’s truck, never showed up. So  we appear to be back to “it’s coming this Tuesday”, and hopefully they mean in two days?

When they do we can have the installers set up and install the generator.

Kevin our builder also told us all our sinks, faucets, and various plumbing supplies will arrive early this coming week, as well as all our appliances on separate truck, from Bennies in Belize City.

As I write our cabinet maker is on the way with our cabinets for kitchen and bathroom, so plumbing and granite counters can be installed next week.

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My cabinet builder Conrad’s guys arrived just now with Kitchen cabinets. Yipppppee!

As we enter what should be the final stretch, and everything is coming together, it is fair to say that we are thrilled with the workmanship on our new house. The crew are very conscientious, detail orientated, skilled and hard working. Our house is beautiful, and we have daily complements by both locals as well as vacationers to the area. Although there seemed to be many “bumps” in the “building road”, some large some small, and some still happening, we know the end result will be awesome.

 

If all the planet aligns, lady luck looks favorably on us, and I step in a steamy lucky pile on the beach, all this will be accomplished, and we can move in by Feb. 1st, 2018.

Stay tuned for the update.

The Pirate…..Gary

 

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Building your new house in Belize, the “Good, Bad and yes, sometimes ugly !

via Building your new house in Belize, the “Good, Bad and yes, sometimes ugly !

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Building your new house in Belize, the “Good, Bad and yes, sometimes Ugly !

                                        “Dead in the water in Belize!”

 

You may have noticed that for the past three weeks there have been no blog posts from “The Pirate”. You may also remember that we were supposed to be in our new home by the Christmas Holidays, and by contract, in by December 31st !

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House from the water

Three weeks ago my builder shut down his business and went on vacation, returning yesterday, the 4th of January. Not sure if this was good or bad for his workers, but at least they got to spend time with their families. Kevin took off for the holidays last year as well, and I am not begrudging anyone from taking a vacation with family and friends. I am however telling you that some things about building are out of your control no matter where you choose to build.

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A recent visitor to Pirates Paradise 

So here we are, two days after his return, waiting for the crews to show up and take up where they left off. The half leveled lot still has a few large piles of lagoon sand to spread, no underground utilities to the house, although they are at the road and cabana.

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Piles of lagoon sand, waiting to be spread

During the “shut down”, we purchased and had delivered a whole house gas generator, which needs to be raised up on a wood platform on the concrete area we had poured before the guys shut down.

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Whole House Generator waiting for install

Now we get to the “fun stuff”, doors, windows and cabinets for the house. You may remember me talking about the large folding glass door to deck, and the folding window over sink area. This matter is yet to be resolved, and in fact, the company in Guatemala has yet to confirm that they will actually come back and replace both of them.

During the “break” we had our architect come and measure the kitchen window area, and where the existing window is installed, and she finds them unacceptable. In fact, they are not what she got approved with the Central Building Authority of Belize, who set standards. The windows are three large glass panels, but should be six panels and should fold outwards over the deck. The ones installed are fold inwards over sink, blocking access to where sink and faucet will be.

Another issue she found was the fact that the window was installed to low and will cause issues with the kitchen counters when installed. As we do have more time to resolve this issue, because of delays with cabinet maker, we are hoping when cabinets arrive, the correct window will be installed and in the correct height.

Until the kitchen window is correct, we also have had to wait to build the outdoor barbecue center, because it needs to match the kitchen counter and window height.

So you see, we are truly “dead in the water” so to speak, until the window and door issues are resolved.

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              The water we are “dead in”, still warm enough to swim 😉

Yesterday we had a surprise visit from Belize International Bank, who is financing the house build. They were quite impressed with the house so far, that is, until we got to the folding door and kitchen window. They were not very happy with whats going on there. The fact is, before we can accept the house as ours, and complete payments Atlantic Bank must do a “Final Approval” of the finished project, and it must be according to approved plan.

On that note, I will say that even though we could have waited a bit to start the build, and not financed the project with the bank, its a great advantage. All along the way during the build, Atlantic International Bank, has done inspections of the house before releasing funds. This is a check and balance on the builder, to see if what your builder says he;s doing, and asking for funds, has actually been done.They literally send a bank approved Architect down from Belize City to inspect the house.

As so many projects go wrong here in Belize, and many private home builds will see multiple builders before completion, this could really be in your favor, and you might look into it. The fact is, to the best of my knowledge, Atlantic International Bank is the only bank that will give you a construction loan, once you own your building lot.

So, Kevin my builder said the equipment and crew would be here to finish leveling our lot today, so that the rest of the issues that can be worked on could be completed. And that’s where I will start off my next blog post.

Remember and heed my words, if you can be here during the building process, you will experience two things, hair loss and accomplishment. The first from pulling it out when occasionally frustrated, and accomplishment when things finally get done, correctly.

Cheers and Happy New Year !

The Pirate….Gary

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