One of the things that I find myself doing is adding more things to this house. Anyone that’s built a house knows this will add significant costs to the total. At first it was going to be a 2800 square foot enclosed house and then all of a sudden it became 4000 square feet. No one to blame but me on this.
One of the things they do in Panama when calculating construction costs is to include, in addition to the entire foot print of the house, any covered terraces and paved or finished ground like the area around the pool, which amounts to about 3000 square feet. So, it’s not so surprising to hear that the final size of the house that I have chosen to build comes in at about 800 square meters or just over 8000 square feet in total. This might not be so alarming until you find out that builders in Panama bid on jobs based on a per square meter price and this almost always includes every square meter that has something on it. Building a house in Panama I’ve discovered is costing me as much or more than what it would cost me to build in my own home town.
One of the reasons is the geographic area I have chosen to build in Panama is relatively remote, about 40 mins from the largest real town of Chitre. The pool of available workers and craftsmen is not great. True craftsmen are a rarity and in high demand in Panama. Timelines are completely blurred by inconsistent and unreliable trades who make promises they cannot keep. I’m beginning to learn that things get done at their own speed here. God forbid there’s a holiday, you’ll have to spend the next few days rounding up your workers at some outdoor bar. It’s a fair comment to make and it’s universally understood in Panama and most of Central America including parts of Mexico and S. America that finding talented, committed tradesmen that take pride in their work is a rare animal. I think one could surmise that there are probably both good and bad workers but in my case I can honestly say that labor is cheap if it’s done right the first time. After the second and third time labor is very expensive in Panama. More on this later, much later as in Maniana!!
After the foundation has been poured and cured, three courses of 8 inch concrete block are laid and filled with cement and rebar. This is another example of the issues that I encountered when it came to pricing. The concrete is much cheaper if you hire a bunch of laborers to mix the concrete using a mixer and then pour via a wheelbarrow into the foundation. Of course it takes forever, but they are used to working this way. It was decided by the contractor to use a concrete mixing truck and a pumper. This upped the cost by almost double. The argument is that you get a better quality concrete and a better pour. Its also a lot faster but the price is prohibitive and another example of if you want to go with something different from what’s normally done by laborers in Panama it’s probably going to be more expensive than what you would pay back home. It’s a tough choice to make but the quality of this house is important to me. I don’t want to skimp here.