Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What is it like to try and build in Belize? (and, first full week of the CBC build/reno!)

My husband Dave and I have been through several builds/renovation in Belize, and it is not quite like the US! People often ask us what it is like, what do we wish we would have known, etc.  When we first moved here almost 3 years ago, we pretty much expected to do the dirty work ourselves, as we didn't have any contacts or knowledge of who we could trust and work with. One valuable tool was talking with our neighbors and new acquaintances as people are generally happy to share contractors that they trust, as it is a win-win - people are usually happy to get more work to good people.

You can get equally negative and positive things said about the same contractor either here or anywhere, so one thing that we highly recommend is to be ON SITE as much as possible. You are MUCH more likely to have a good outcome if you can be here.

It is well known that if you cannot be here, the work is likely to take MUCH longer. If you have very little knowledge or experience of construction, it is recommended that you either buy a home that is already built that you can get some history on it, or else buy in a development-type property (which might put you farther out of the village.)

If you are trying to build during rainy season, it is not dependable....you may have delays because it is just too wet to work in the sand (on the peninsula you are often trying to build on sand.)

One important thing to note is that materials are quite inconsistently available in the village. One should expect that there will be even basic 2x4's or such things that are simply out of stock. As far as lighting, doors, appliances, etc - there is VERY limited selection in most of the country. You will be able to find something - but you may end up with a white fridge, a bronze light, a silver faucet, a black microwave etc. It can be very frustrating if you had a visual expectation in mind and then what is actually available is visually painful when put together. It is well known here, that unfortunately, Belize often receives odds and ends and misfit items from other countries. Belize is not a country of manufacturing, and the duty to bring things in is quite high, so this really limits stock here. You will see that a "yard sale" here brings everyone out of the woodwork - simply putting a used crockpot out there for sale will bring a dozen calls in the first hour.

It really helps to have a truck available to make trips to Cayo, where there is a bit more stock, or even Chetumal in Mexico, where there is a Wal Mart (prices are not that cheap and you'll have to pay duty on the way back in), but it is still not even close to what is available in even a medium size town in the US. There are also limits on paint colors that are available - make sure you can get your hands on an adequate amount of the color of paint you need! It might require a lot of calls to stores throughout the country to get adequate stock. It is worthwhile to research how to ship things into the country - a container or even crates, as even if you have to pay the duty, you may pay the same for less quality items here, and you can pick out exactly what you want. It is expensive and complicated, but well worth it.

Also note that if you are anywhere close to the shore, and you haven't lived near salt water before - there is a learning curve here (we have had a lot of lessons on this!) You must use oil based paints, stainless steel screws for anything that might bleed through and show rust, it is never worth it to buy cheap fixtures that will end up looking rusty in NO time, outdoor lights have to be the highest grade if you want them to work past a few months!, drywall is almost worthless as it molds, wood will warp in an unbelievable way, and you may want to think about having closed up closets as things get moldy when they are shut up at all (open cabinets or at least cabinet doors with cut outs are recommended.)

Also, as unpleasant as this sounds, you can build with wood as it is more economical, but it must be treated wood as termites down here are unbelievable. Although concrete homes take more time to build, they are certainly more able to withstand hurricanes and make termites less of an issue.

We are so excited about the changes we are doing at CBC....we "broke ground" last week on a new pool, two new units, and we are renovating the casita porch to add lounge chairs and more space, and renovating the bathrooms and floors of the cabanas, along with all new paint and art throughout the property. We are upgrading and refreshing the furniture in the units, adding a lot of outdoor hang out space, and there will be a cute tiki-bar style area around the pool for guests to hang out in.

Our new units are already booking up for high season, and they are going to be super spectacular (if I do say so myself!) They will be Mexican-style villas with rooftop decks, and these decks will have lounge chairs, and a table/umbrella set. They will also have a lower veranda with hammocks overlooking the pool. Inside, they will have a modern-beach feel, here's a sample the style:
These are some pinterest images that are the feel and style of the art and furniture:







Here is the basic model we are using for the exterior, our details will be different but the feel will be similar:
Here is CBC before, and the after will have the pool on the left of the sidewalk, with the two new villas on the right, facing the pool:
Our workers already moving plants, staking out the ground, and moving fountains, digging, and moving Bonita's doghouse (sorry girl!), and bringing in the material!
First week:
This week:
Renovation in cabanas (new tile, new floors, new bathrooms!)
Renovation of Casita porch (to enlarge, new cushioned lounge chairs, more open feel to the sea!) All our buildings will be getting new paint inside and out as well - we are going to be going with a more neutral, natural shade that we think will look spectacular!
This will be a long, messy, complicated build, and TOTALLY worth it!!! We can't wait for our first guests to arrive on 11/1!!!





2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the fabulous tips on building (hubby and I plan to build on our Plantation lot in 2018). Looks like your place will be incredible after the planned renos. I wish you luck (and enjoyment along the way)!

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    1. Thank you Veronica! We just took a drive all the way up the peninsula and we were shocked by how many houses are going up!!! It is exploding....congrats on a great choice :)

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