Friday, July 31, 2009

We've Made the Window Decision

After getting quotes for all the windows and doors in the house, except for the 8 ft French doors in the living room, we have decided to go ahead and get the windows and screens from the company, WinDor, in LA. It will add about 40% to the total cost of the windows verses buying locally, but we feel it is a good investment and a quality product. Plus, we get a $1500 tax credit if we buy the windows in the States, which will offset most of the duties and taxes. Our other local options were from Spanish Lookout, Belize City and Mexico, but in the end, the quality of the work cannot match the quality of the US product. The actual price of the windows is about the same, but it's the duties and taxes that add to the extra expense. The equipment and state of the art technology that the US company provides just can't be matched for the price in either Belize or Mexico. The quarter million dollar vinyl fusion machine alone is way beyond what any company in Belize could afford to spend with such a limited clientele base. The WinDor facility manufactures hundreds of windows a month, each custom made to order. All the windows will be low-E, double pane, argon filled and tempered. It may be more than we need, but we can get a Cadillac window for a Chevy price.

We are going to wait to order the windows until we return this November, but that shouldn't be a problem. The house will be plastered to a finish and it will also give me a chance to physically look over all the windows before they are ordered and installed.

We are also looking into buying and shipping appliances but will probably wait until the big sales happen over the Thanksgiving weekend. Again, with the big discounts that are available during the holidays, it should offset the duties and taxes in Belize.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Our Walls Become Our House

After a couple of weeks of no news on the construction front, we have finally received new pictures from our contractor. The roof pour was done last week, so the house is finally looking like a house and not just a bunch of tall walls.

They started with the bedrooms first and moved to the living room later in the week, after the first pour had set. The living room is a couple of feet higher than the bedrooms, so new forms needed to be made before that pour could begin. As with the previous pour of the support beams and foundation, all of the work mixing and pouring is done by hand, a wheelbarrow or 5 gal. bucket at a time. It is a long, hard day for these guys, but they wouldn't have it any other way. After finishing a roof pour at a neighbor's home, one of the workers commented that it was a good workout. I have suggested using a pulley system to get the cenent up to the roof, but they will have nothing to do with it, even though it would make their jobs easier. I wonder if they are afraid it will affect their jobs, maybe not needing as much labor to do the same pour. There are concrete mixing trucks available here in Belize along with a pumper or two, but with the cost factor added in, good old fashioned hard labor wins every time. Plus, it employs many more people.

As I have stated before, these guys work like ants, going up and down those ladders all day in the hot, humid sun. The 100 LB buckets of cement on their heads, padded only by a hat made from the cement bags, it is an amazing sight to watch. Each guy, of a 15-20 person crew, probably transports two tons of cement up those ladders during the course of a day.

At the end of the day, many of the guys like to take a dip in the ocean to cool off and to wash all the cement dust off their bodies. Once again, these guys have done a great job on our house. I am looking forward to the new pictures showing a completed shell of the entire house. The cistern cover/patio and patio roof/2nd floor patio are the last things that need to be poured and the house will be ready for plastering. We have decided to add coloring to the plaster mix so we won't have to paint every few years. Now we just need to start looking at colors.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bugs Be Gone

While doing researching on the internet for hurricane shutters, I, of course, found myself searching from one site to another until somehow I got off the subject of shutters and was soon looking at mosquito netting. There are times of the year in Belize when the mosquitoes come out in force and a screened room would be a must if you want to be outside. The first week of June this year, after a long dry spell, a few days of rain brought out the mosquitoes, and for almost a week you couldn't go outside without being swarmed. The doctor flies are also a pest that are present at certain times of the year.

After searching multiple sites, I came across this company that makes mosquito netting ( that it is only there when you need it, so you don't need to have a permanently screened-in patio. The netting is attached by Velcro or can be installed in tracks, which allows it to be moved or removed when you don't need it. The pricing doesn't seem too out of line, either.

The white netting gives a classic look to a patio space but only has a 80% see-thru visibility while the black netting has a 96% visibility. It also comes in a standard or heavyweight mesh. There are good how-to videos are also on the site. It will give me some options for our patio.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No News, Good News?

It's been about 10 days since my last update from the construction site and I'm still waiting. I haven't heard from John Harris about the windows or the roof pour, that happened on Sunday, so I have to assume that everything is going OK. So, while I wait for new pictures, there are other things I can do.

I continue my research on hurricane windows and I am now just waiting on pricing from the various places. It looks like there are some good options that won't break the bank. I am also looking for something that is easy to ship, store and install. These are the current options I am looking at, but I hope to hear from friends in the hurricane zone that actually use the products. Not much use for hurricane shutters here in California.
Aluminum Panel
Steel Panel

Polycarbonate Panel
Kevlar Fabric Panel

Pip and Jason, who are building next door, have just sold their home in Canada and are now starting to really plan for the big move. I wish we were to that point, but we're not quite there yet.

The remodeling continues at our Camarillo home, with the hope to sell the house before the beginning of the new year. The market is starting to pick up and the interest rates remain low. There are not a lot of homes for sale in our neighborhood, so hopefully that is a good sign that our house may sell quickly. We are now starting to go over our storage options for our furniture and household goods along with trying to decide what we will bring to Belize. I can already see that January will be here before I know it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Progress Continues Dispite the Rain

The rain in Consejo has been off and on and so has the construction. I finally got new pictures and an approximate time frame of when the plastering will be done. There are still a couple of changes to be made and a meeting of minds, before the plastering will begin. I am thinking of returning to Belize, just to make sure everything is as we want, before the plastering starts. Prices on airfare are not that bad going into Cancun and I could probably get everything I want done, within a week. It's tempting. I will also need to decide on some kind of front door, although I have a design in mind, they will need time to make it.

View of front door.

Looking north, from the ocean, with bedroom on right getting ready for a ceiling pour.

Looking east across both bedrooms and living room. The far bedroom has forms set up for the roof pour.

The bush poles that will support the ceiling while the cement is being poured.

Our soon to be view from our living room couch

The windows look like they may be a good deal, but John is still working out the quantity and pricing. I hope this does work out because the windows are well made and can be produced rather quickly.
I have also been looking into hurricane shutters and the good news there is that there are many more options to look at other than just plywood. Some of the options look like they may be a good deal, with all the improvements in technology. I am expecting to get pricing tomorrow from a company in Jacksonville, Florida that uses Kevlar fabric as a hurricane shutter. Very easy to store and install.
The new polyurethane panels, that can be a cheaper alternative to metal shutters, are available at Lowe's. Easy to store and transparent, light can get through the panels so the house isn't dark as it would be with metal or plywood coverings. I'll post more information as it becomes available.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rain Stops, Construction Continues

The daily rain has stopped and construction continues, with the walls getting higher by the day. The new pictures that John has sent reveal some things that need to be changed, and is one of the reasons I had hoped to be there while the construction on going. Even though they are simple changes, the less changes, the better. The ceilings above both bedrooms and bathrooms should be poured later this week or early next week. No real changes can be made after that. The living room and kitchen ceiling will be poured at a later date, after the walls get raised to 11ft 6in.

Looking south to the front door

East side of the house

Looking back to the living room, from the pool and cistern

The west side of the house

The doors leading to the patio from the living room are set for a 6ft 8in door, and we have since changed that to an eight foot French door. The bathroom windows also need to be changed to high level windows, because I don't think Mischelle would like windows in the shower that start at waist high.

John is sending out the order for his windows this week, so I am looking forward to seeing the pricing info that he received from WinDor. Hopefully these will be the quality windows we were looking for.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Kid in a Candy Store

This week, my contractor, John Harris, came to LA to check out windows, security systems and electronics for his new house and others he is building. He spent a good part of last week in Mexico, searching for a quality vinyl window manufacturer. What he found was that most of them have them manufactured in the US and then shipped to Mexico. So not only are you going to pay for shipping and duties in Belize, but you will have paid for the shipping and duties, plus a middleman markup, to get the windows into Mexico. And the windows that were made in Mexico were not the quality the John was looking for.

So, while John was here, we went to a couple of window manufacturers, a couple of window distributors and a home improvement store.

At the home improvement store, John was blown away at the prices of the windows and granite counters. The windows were one third the cost of Belize, with US standards. Same with the glass sliding doors. Two by ten foot granite counters, with bull nosed edging, for between $150-$250 each. John estimates that same granite counter would be a thousand dollars or more, in Belize. Same with the bathroom counters. John has estimated that with shipping and duties, he can still bring the windows and granite into Belize cheaper than he can buy it there, with much better quality.

Next, we went to a electronics wholesaler, where John was able to pick up all his security equipment in one stop, also at a huge discount. Unlike Belize, you can do one stop shopping here in the States. John figured that the money he has saved, on just the items he needed to buy, has paid for his whole trip.

The next stop was the window manufacturing plant. WinDor ( custom makes every window, so there are no extra charges for odd sizes. The quality was far superior to anything we have seen so far and the prices were the same as the windows he was getting from Spanish Lookout. And, they can make the 8 ft French doors that I am looking to install in the living room. I was very impressed with their displays and they even gave us a tour of the manufacturing facilities behind the showroom. A very clean, modern, well run manufacturing plant. John is planning to order all the windows for his house to see how much the shipping and duties will add to the final price of the windows, and if it is a reasonable alternative to offer his clients. He seems to think that with the quality and price, even with the duties, it would be worth it to purchase them here, in LA.

From there it was off for a liquid lunch at a local sports bar. John got to enjoy a cold Guinness, on tap. I enjoyed a real nice lager from the tap. Something you can't get in Belize. We discussed what we had seen and where we going to go next. This is where a kid in a candy store begins.

Our next stop was Pacific Sales, a wholesale seller of kitchen, bath, TV's and appliances.

John and Mischelle at Pacific Sales

John was drooling soon after entering the store. Of course, the first things you see as you enter the store is the TV's. Plasma's, LCD's, large and small. Prices were also pretty unbelieveable. The prices for TV's has dropped so much, it's almost worth it to pick up a spare TV. After prying John out of the TV area, we entered the kitchen appliance area. Again, so much to choose from. Stovetops were the main items we looked at, with over 50 different types on the showroom floor. The prices varied widely but there were some excellent bargains, especially with the holiday so close. Some of the items were up to 70% off. Mischelle and I are thinking of going back this weekend to purchase some things for our home, even if we do end up paying shipping and duties, because the prices are so good.

After spending an hour at Pacific Sales, it was back to seal the deal on John's electronic equipment, then off to dinner. We went to a nice steak place, figuring John doesn't get to have a good steak very often. We had a wonderful dinner, then dropped John off at the Bicycle Club casino so he and his friend could play cards.

It had been a long day, but we got a lot accomplished. We found a window and door supplier, picked out our kitchen appliances and had a good conversation with our contractor about the status of our home.