For decades, concrete blocks with steel-reinforced solid concrete columns and tie beams, commonly referred to as Concrete Block Structures have been the most common construction method in Costa Rica. And the majority of the tradesmen here fully understand the installation methods and all required construction materials are available at most building suppliers throughout the country.
Additionally, concrete block structures are preferred by most people because they provide the owners with greater real estate appreciation, and the majority of buyers are more confident in concrete structures because they are fire and wind proof as well as anti-seismic and energy efficient.
When concrete block structures are constructed using thick concrete blocks, they are more stable and deflect the transmission of heat caused by ultraviolet radiation that is a serious consideration here in Costa Rica where we are located less than 12 degrees from the equator.
The typical concrete block construction method involves installing concrete blocks and reinforced concrete columns with overhead beams, to form compression load-bearing walls, placed on top of the foundation structure using surface-bonding cement mortar to adhere all the components. Additionally, when steel rebar’s are installed in the horizontal foundations and beams as well as inside the vertical block walls and columns, the weight of the entire structure is transferred and distributed evenly to the ground below. This construction method provides the ultimate protection against fire, insects, wind and seismic events.
When concrete block construction is not practical and light weight methods must be utilized, the best alternative is Steel-Stud framing, finished with imported exterior wall laminates like; Durock and finished with Basecoat, when a stucco finish is desired.
Additionally, a durable exterior siding like; Plycem can be used instead of Durock and it doesn’t require the finish materials or labor as with cement based stucco products.
Imported exterior vapor barriers like Tyvek and fiberglass insulation like Owens Corning can be installed inside the framed walls in order to provide additional energy efficiency. On the interiors, Sheetrock walls and Plycem ceiling laminates can be installed to add more energy efficiency and sound barriers, plus they provide desirable aesthetic qualities.
The steel-stud construction method takes less time to frame the structure, but only a few local tradesmen know how to install the proprietary plasters and accessories necessary to finish the imported products up to quality standards. Whereas, most local tradesmen know how to finish traditional concrete block construction up to the satisfaction of most owners.
The bottom line is that most purchasers are more confident in concrete block construction. During my 24 years of inspecting construction in Costa Rica, I have witnessed several purchasers walk away from housing that was built with other construction methods.
My personal preference is steel stud framing with Plycem exterior siding because this method is less labor intensive, can be easily insulated to real world standards and requires less maintenance for the homeowner.
The writer, Tom Rosenberger has lived and worked in Costa Rica for 24 years and from his travels throughout the country inspecting housing and land, he has acquired a wealth of knowledge about construction here.
If you have any questions or concerns you can click here to contact Tom.