Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The lot is ready to go.

Our contractor has sent new pictures of our cleared lot. After having many pictures of the property these past few years that just shows the grass and trees growing, it's seems strange to see it so barren and grey. The lot, with its large grassy area, looked beautiful with the water in the background.

But now, it is time to pick out exactly where we want the house to be. Do we want a large front or back yard.

Looking south

Looking southeast

Looking north, towards the road

The contractor also included a few from our neighbors' lot. They are moving right along with the foundation work and the walls should begin to go up next week.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Am I ever going to leave?

Well another delay has pushed back our departure date to April 3/4th. My caravan partner, Hipolito, has encountered some automotive trouble and wants to make sure everything is OK before we set out on our trip. I still hope to arrive around April 8th.

The delay has allowed me to finish the main area of our bathroom, along with a few other chores I needed to get done, before I leave. I'm quite happy with the way the bathroom has turned out and I will start on the shower area when I return from Belize.

The Toyota truck is serviced and ready for the long journey. I still have an issue with a small oil leak, which we can't seem to track down, but it's not enough to delay the trip. The dye in the oil hasn't disclosed where the leak is, but I am going to give it a day or two more, just so I can try and get the leak fixed.
The list of items headed down to Belize in the truck keeps growing. I need to get out of here before there's no more room in the truck. And, I may have to unload all this stuff at the border for inspection.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

False start

After a few weeks of planning, I planned to start my drive to Belize on Tuesday, March 10th.

No, wait. Now, after the new problems developed on our neighbors' lot, that date has been moved back to March 28th.

Delays again? OK, this time I am really going to leave on March 31st. Construction is to begin April 6th... or so.

Now what! Oh, it's Easter week on the sixth, and the contractor has prior obligatons. I guess even the contractor deserves a few days off.

This is it! I'm leaving on April 2nd, no matter what....maybe.

I've sent the original truck " pink slip" to our customs broker in Texas, so all of our paper work should be good to go when we arrive. I hope to be at the border by Aprl 4th or fifth so we can cross over into Mexico early Monday morning. I would really like to be through Mexico in two days but the reality is that even if it did take only two days, we would arrive at the Belizian border too late to cross over. We would still have to get the truck and all the contents inside, cleared by the Mexican officials that handle "transmigrantes". The Belizian customs would also need to be there so we can pay our duties and taxes.

So the drive though Mexico will last three days if all goes well and we don't get lost along the way. That should put me in Consejo by Wednesday, April 8th. The construction is now scheduled to begin April 14th....Belizian time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The clearing of the lot begins

After all the minor delays, the clearing of the lot has begun. The tree stump is gone, the layer of topsoil has been scraped down to the marl and pushed towards the back of the lot.

Once the lot is leveled, we will make the final determination of where we want the house to be located. So far, the grading has gone well, with no problems. Our building contractor is starting to bring in the fill dirt that will be needed for the beginning of the work although I'm sure a lot more fill will be needed. The fill runs around $60US per load of about fifteen cubic yards, delivered to Consejo.

The foundation work has begun on Pip and Jason's lot and it looks as though it is moving along. I am looking forward to seeing their house go up because it will give me an idea of how well we are doing and if we are on schedule. Scheduling starts to become an issue due to the beginning of the rainy season in June.

In the last picture, you can see the walls of the cistern being built. Due to a miscalculation the original cistern design, it was smaller than Pip and Jason had wanted, but John has modified the design to allow for more water storage. The water supply at the community has trouble with water pressure, so I don't know how much it can be counted on. Rainwater storage is critical. I have a great study on cisterns and their upkeep and would be happy to pass it along to anyone who might be interested. It is in pdf form, so I'm not sure how I can post it on the blog site. If you're interested, just e-mail me or post a comment. In the mean time, I will try to find a way to post it online or add the web address.

We are still waiting for the final plans but are not in that much of a hurry at this point

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The work finally begins

The first work has begun on our property. YEA!!! They started clearing our lot today and finally got rid of a tree stump that has been a big problem because of the size. The BIG tree fell over during the hurricane season of '07. They cut off the limbs and the main trunk of the tree, but let the stump fall back into the hole. And with the beautiful Belizian weather, it started to grow again. Not what we wanted. Had the tree not blown over, it would have been a fine shade tree. But once it fell over, we decided it wasn't in the right spot and plan to plant a new tree in a different location. Plus, when you have a cistern for your main water supply, the leaves from the tree become a major issue. We hope to have some pictures soon, but our contractors' computer is on the blink after a recent power surge, so no e-mails.

Our lot in early May '06

Our lot, minus the tree, in Jan.'08

Our lot Nov '08, the tree returns

And a note to Sandra. Thanks for your comment and I don't know if you saw the follow-up comments that I had left. 1990 standard 4 cyl Toyota w/130K miles and a straight shell, no bells or whistles, not even air. Duties and taxes? Do they take credit cards?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Neat new blog tools

As I scroll though other blogs and admire their layouts and extras, I am finally starting to add some of these features to my blog. The newest addition, which I added friday, is the visitor counter. You sometimes wonder, who is out there viewing your blog, where do they live and do they have grand dreams as we do. You can look at the countries, the far away places, and envision someone at their computer, thinking of their own silce of paradise in Belize. And I get my 15 minutes of fame, one click at a time.

Some people have contacted me though the blog, leaving comments or sending an e-mail, but most probably just read a little, then move on. But the people who have contacted me all share the same dream. Moving to and building in Belize. I hope I can help some of you on your quest.

There is going to be a big cultural change from where I am now, but that is part of the excitement and adventure of moving to another country. We don't plan on trying to change the country we move to, but want add to the community as a whole. We will share what we learn so that others may avoid the pitfalls.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Getting ready for the drive

As March quickly moves toward the end of the month, I must now start focusing on the task ahead. I plan on driving to Belize near the end of the month and must now figure out what I want, and what I need to bring along with me for the trip. Originally, I had planned on waiting to drive down until I was going to bring the dogs. I didn't want to subject them to flying, especially with connecting flights. And they are not small dogs that I could bring aboard the plane.

But now, I have decided to drive down this time, by myself, caravaning with a Belizian friend, Hipolito, who has made the trip several times and knows all the details on going thru Mexico. This is probably the best way, so I can get a feel for what will be required later when I do transport the dogs. Mischelle is not overly happy with me driving down thru Mexico at this time, with all the trouble that has been happening lately, especially along the border towns. But I plan to cross over in Brownsville, TX and if all works out well, we will try navigate Mexico in a couple of days.
With the new rules in Mexico regarding "transmigrante", I now have to use a customs broker to get my car and belongings thru Mexico and to the Belize border. That involves sending the original (yes, THE original) pink slip to the customs broker so they can forward the information to the US Customs service. I couldn't believe that they wanted the original pink slips (what happens if they lose it?), but a change in policy last year made it so that copies were no longer acceptable. I also need to send a detailed list of everything I am bringing. I won't have any duties due on my car or belongings, but this allows them to track what I have brought into their country and to make sure that is what I have when I leave.
Belize will be another story. I will also need a customs broker in Chetumal to get my car and belongings in to Belize. That is the unknown. How much will duties be? My truck is a '90 Toyota pick-up with 130,000 miles on it. It has just broken in. Lots more miles left on her. The Kelley Blue Book shows a resale value of under $1000. I am hoping that with taxes, duties and enviromental fees, the cost to import my truck from the US will be under $400. With that and all the other stuff I want to bring, I am trying to get thru customs with a bill of under $700. But you never know who is on duty that day, or what kind of a day they have had before I arrived. I have also heard it can be an all day experience at the border. That sounds like fun. Maybe I can cross into Belize and go to the Casino while my car and belongings are checked and taxed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Waiting for the final plans

The plans are in the final stages and the exterior walls have been approved. The interior walls have some leeway but they also are pretty much set as to their locations. Our contractor has been busy with the house going up next door so things are a little slow right now. They started the foundation work on their house and poured the floor for the cistern today. I am hoping to get some pictures to post.

Here on the home front, the bathroom remodel continues. I finished the tile work in the sink area earlier this week and installed the new cabinets on Thursday morning. Late Thursday morning, the granite guy arrived to intall our new granite counter.

Before the Bathroom Remodel
The ongoing Remodel

Everything went smooth, as planned, and they even installed the under the counter sinks. All I have to do is finish installing the bathroom fixtures and hook up the plumbing. One project down and ninety-nine to go.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Money Pit-continued

After looking over the options available to us after the excavation of the money pit, neither is very good. Do we crush in the cavern then fill it with rocks and marl or do we drive pilings and add a substantial amount to the build cost. Our neighbors next door, that were having their lot cleared when they came across the cavern, have decided to use rocks and fill to level the lot so they can start building.

Next door neighbors' lot

We are working on the design for the house, but things have slowed down a bit. With our contractor busy with the neighbors house and the new surprises on our lot, changes will need to be made.

The size of the cavern and the amount of water that was flowing out to the ocean side of our property last November, makes me think if I really want to block that flow of water with rocks and fill. The pictures below show the stream coming out from under our property during the time when I visited in November '08, after heavy rain the weeks before. In the last picture you can actually see ripples in the water from the amount of water flowing out into the ocean. I would conservatively estimate the water flow at 5+ gallons per minute or at least 72,000 gallons a day. That is a lot of water to block or detour.

With our neighbors deciding to fill their lot, it will push that water to one side or the other, or both. If we fill our lot, that would only add to the blockage and push it further on to our neighbors lots. And our future neighbors may also opt for fill, which would only seem to compound the problems. Could there be enough water to undermine the rocks and fill? Nobody seem to know for sure. Are we willing to take a chance that it won't? I don't know right now.

But if we decide to go with pilings, it adds to the cost of building and may also bring the wrath of the neighbors who don't want pilings driven at the Shores. But it can keep our house stable and not affect the flow of the underground river. It will require a redesign of the plans to incorporate pilings, so that will also add to the cost factor. We will seek opinions, but in the end it will be our decision to make.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

We Found the Money Pit

Yesterday, our contractor, John Harris, started grading the lot next door to ours, taking off the first foot of top soil to get down to the solid ground. Today they were digging the hole for the underground cistern and found much more.

The Consejo area is built upon a foundation of limestone. And after milleniums of water soaking through and eroding away areas of limestone, they leave soft spots, caverns and caves. Depending on what you find, may influence what you build. The closer to the sea, the better the chance for a cavern or cave. With our lot right next to the sea, there was a chance we could be affected.

While digging the hole for the cistern, they came upon this.

I think we have found the actual money pit! Phil Freytag, our soil inspector said he could see 50-100 feet back towards the road, and it extended to both lots. Not news we wanted to hear. Our options are limited but it looks as though we are going to driving piles to support the house. The up side is the house is very stable. The down side is the cost. The approx. cost to drive piles is around $500US each. That includes the pile, the pile driver, transportation costs and cutting to final size. The bad news from Phil was that the current design will need 25-30 piles to be driven. Not the news I was hoping for.

The neighbor building on the lot next door is down there for the construction, but it looks like there may be a redesign of their plans, so he may spend a good amount of time just waiting for things to happen. I have no idea how long it takes to order and receive pilings. Phil still needs to look at the engineering of driving piles and attaching them to the main structure. Will I need them for the garage as well? If I do, should I go ahead and drive them now while all the equiptment is there on the property? A whole new list of things to think about. As it looks now, my drive down has been moved back to around the first of April.

I also need to make the septic water drains to an evaporation mound and not percolate thru the ground to the caverns. I don't want to be swimming in septic water! The house foundation is three feet above the gound level so we should have the area and slope to make an evaporation mound work. Another thing to look up on the web.

I'm glad to have a little more time before I leave for Belize. I am remodeling the master bathroom in our current home and I am just laying the tile floor. The tile needs to be in so we can install the cabinets, and the cabinets need to be in so the granite fabricator can take the measurements to cut the granite. And the granite guy will be here this Thursday!

I have faith that I will finish it in time. After the granite guy comes by, I will need to start painting. Mischelle is busy stripping the wallpaper from the bathroom walls. When she finishes I will add a orange peel coat to the walls for texture then go ahead and paint after that. The granite bath counter should be back and installed by Monday.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Not So Fast

Monday has arrived and they have begun to clear Pip and Jasons', lot next to ours. We have spoken to the builder, John Harris, about moving our house back from the road about 75 feet. He is concerned about the caves and soft ground under what will be our patio and cistern. We requested that he meet with the person who did our soil tests, Phil Freytag, to determine if we can move the house back from the road where we would like it. The land under Pip and Jasons' lot has a lot more soft areas than ours, so we are crossing our fingers that the land under ours can support the structure.

John is concerned with the structure failing at some point in time and would rather error to the side of caution but we will find out if he has changed his recommendations tomorrow after he has consulted with Phil. We are trying to avoid driving pilings. We have decided to delay having our lot cleared until we make a decision on the house location.

We have also heard thru the grapevine that our original contractor is constucting a new job at Wagner's Landing. I don't know if it was a job that was previously bid or if he is back in the construction business. I'm thinking that he doesn't want to deal with some of the people in the Shores, but I hope that's not the case.

I continue to get ready for the drive to Belize. The tankless water heater is due to arrive on Thursday. I found a Rheem tankless water heater that will handle two showers and a washer all at the same time. It is a commercial model that should last for a long time. After searching the internet, I found this Rheem GT-199XP using LP for $897 with no tax or shipping. And it comes with a $300 federal tax credit, so the actual cost in $597. Such a deal. I have also found out that propane and butane are virtually interchangable. There is almost always butane mixed in with the propane. Butane just doesn't work well in freezing temps, but I don't think that will be a problem in Belize.

I am also bringing down some artificial turf so I can design a putting green. I have ordered cups, pins and flags and I am reading all I can find on how to build a green. At some point in time I would like to help restore the greens at the Consejo Shores golf course. It is a large undertaking, but I'm sure I will get help along the way.