Building in Costa Rica is very different from North America and most of Europe. Located between 9 and 11 degrees latitude above the equator, Costa Rica’s tropical climate comes with its own special considerations.
There are four constants in Costa Rica: sun, rain, wind, and … more sun, rain and wind! Unlike Northern Hemisphere homes designed for freeze-thaw cycles, Costa Rica’s eternal tropical climate deals mostly with varying levels of humidity. Then there is all of that amazing tropical biodiversity – think: termites, ants, beetles and millions of other insects. Of course, being bisected from top to bottom by a chain of volcanoes, and sitting on top of shifting tectonic plates makes for a great deal of seismic activity.
Building a custom home in Costa Rica is one way to get exactly what you want in your home. Many times it is more cost effective to start from scratch than to remodel an existing structure, depending on the work being done, advise Costa Rica realtors Dennis Easters and Gerardo Gonzalez Porras with Pure Life Development of Atenas. Easters and Gonzalez have been successfully helping customers buy homes for sale in Atenas, Costa Rica, and do home construction in Costa Rica for 10 years.
Here are some top points for building a home in Costa Rica. The country’s microclimates vary greatly depending on location; these tips are focused on the Central Valley area, specifically in Atenas, Costa Rica. Learn all about Atenas in this super handy guide to living in Atenas from Pure Life Development of Atenas.
- Construction in Costa Rica typically uses cement cinder block, because it fares better with high humidity and reduces the risk of termite infestation compared to wood. Homes built mostly with wood also require higher maintenance with a humid climate.
- Steel framing lasts longer than wood, but must be galvanized steel or have several coats of anti-corrosive lead paint.
- No need for insulation or central heating. In hot tropical Costa Rica, you don’t want heat trapped in your house, and you definitely don’t need a heater!
- Use drywall sparingly. High moisture levels in Costa Rica lead to mold with drywall. Interior finishes that withstand high humidity include high-gloss paint, concrete, stone, and treated hardwoods. However, add realtors Easters and Gonzalez, this is a tropical country, so mold will grow, period!
- Cross-ventilation for air flow is the key. Tropical homes use breezeways, French doors and lots of windows to keep air circulating for cooler temperatures and to evaporate moisture. Be sure to have screens and screen doors to prevent bugs from entering your home at dusk, and at the time of year right after the first rains when they suddenly populate by the millions. Houses also should include ceiling fans for additional cooling and air flow.
- Cool your house with lots of shade. Extended roof eaves, wrap-around porches and plenty of plants create natural shade and are ideal for tropical living.
- Traditional Costa Rican construction is solid. The foundation, walls and roof are all tied together with rebar and concrete with seismic plates for better stability.
- Swimming pools can be built with concrete and beautifully tiled – for a much lower cost than in the USA. Or the latest trend is pre-fabricated fiberglass pools, which are low-maintenance and flexible – perfect for a seismic country like Costa Rica.
- Eco-construction options in Costa Rica: use sustainable woods like teak; roof tiles made from recycled plastic banana bags that look like terracotta tiles; solar power and especially solar hot water heaters.
- Whole-house voltage surge protection is a valuable investment to prevent high-tech electronics and appliances from being easily damaged during electrical storms.
Article by Shannon Farley
Costa Rica Realtors Chamber
Tours in Costa Rica
Pure Life Development of Atenas is a full service tour company. We feature full vacation packages and day trips for the family. Our tour director Nelson Conejo is very experienced and provides a personal service and attention to detail second to none in Costa Rica. Please write Nelson or give him a call to arrange your next Costa Rican vacation at (506)2446-0447 or
Retirement Living in Atenas
Interview with Pure Life Development co-founder and certified realtor Dennis Easters, about Costa Rica ranked by AARP as "one of the best places to retire abroad".