Time to think before acting!

Summer time is here! It’s the perfect moment to start building a home. Right now I am very close to be inspecting the construction process for two of my projects: one small apartment building in Heredia and a restaurant in Samara Beach.

But this nice weather also reminds me Costa Rica has an opposite weather condition: heavy rains. During summer time we are excited getting ready to build our dreams and we don’t usually think about designing and protecting our homes from what may put in danger our structures.

I cannot forget those huge amounts of rain over and homes and buildings from last year. We experienced all those landslides all over our roads and I cannot help but write about a few good architectural and landscape design tips regarding “waterproofing” home building.

Know the soil conditions


Soil test tools

First of all, this is extremly important as this is the only way to know if the ground will resist the loads of what you are about to build. Soil tests help to find groundwater or signs of abnormal behavior of the different layers and components of  your lots soil. Don’t be surprised if you find groundwater. Costa Rica is known to have “relatively” new land composition. Central America was America’s last chunk of land that emerged from the ocean when the continent was just finishing to shape as we know it today. This means that our soil conditions are generally very fertile. That’s great for agriculture but not necesarily good for building. Fertile grounds absorb a lot of water, therefore usually  about 1 or 2 meters ( about 7 ft) of soil need to be removed before construction begins. And a layer of soil replacement ( ballast cement) might be needed underground to sit your footings.

Ask for professional advice when doing earth movements


Slope design and earth movement by architect Gloriana Mejia

Don’t take the risk by having a local back-hoe driver decide over your earth movements and field cuts. This has to be done by a professional that will be able to look fot the perfect cut for your special design. Architecture is an integral specialization  that has to do with landscape design as well. This will not only give security and functionality to your architectural program, but a beautiful integral concept for an overall project.Don’t do earth  fillings without professional advice.

Use waterproofing products over your footings and walls.

There is a wide variety of products available to waterproof almost anything. Sealants for retaining walls, elastic paints ( yes elastic! they won’t let water penetrate the wall) resins, coatings and adhesives are just a few suggestions. Ask your architect which is the best solution for each case. Every situation is different and may require a unique solution, that’s  why you need professional advice.

Enka drain at retaining wall

Another great tip is to use geotextiles over your retaining wall, under slabs, over green roof terraces, or underground construction in general.These products contain a layer that will stop protective elements like bituminous membrane or waterproofing additives from disintegrating. The product on the picture, is Enkadrain , applied in the footings of a mountain house in Costa Rica.

 Channeling rainwater.

If you have slopes on your lot, or your house is located beside a hill,it is recommended to build a channel on the upper level of the slope to lead rainwater just where you want it: not into your house. You can actually have a drainage system using vegetated swales and infiltration planters. If there’s any water left, here’s an idea: recycle! Re-use that water to fill your toilet’s water tank.

Try saving as many trees as possible.

Not only you will be helping this Planet Earth, but there’s something you may not know: oen of tree’s main goal in life ,despite producing oxygen, is to hold the soil together. That’s right, they are the best retaining walls that you will ever have.

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